Dark Pines by Will Dean #BookReview

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SEE NO EVIL

Eyes missing, two bodies lie deep in the forest near a remote Swedish town.

HEAR NO EVIL

Tuva Moodyson, a deaf reporter on a small-time local paper, is looking for the story that could make her career.

SPEAK NO EVIL

A web of secrets. And an unsolved murder from twenty years ago.

Can Tuva outwit the killer before she becomes the final victim? She’d like to think so. But first she must face her demons and venture far into the deep, dark woods if she wants to stand any chance of getting the hell out of small-time Gavrik.

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star three and a half

Dark Pines is the first instalment in a new series where Tuva Moodyson takes the lead. Tuva is definitely an interesting character, not only because of her profession – she’s a journalist – but because she does this job, quite successfully, while she’s also deaf. It just doesn’t seem an obvious combination and I’m happy she put in me in place by showing me there’s nothing extraordinary about it. I was positively surprised she never comments on her deafness in a negative way. Even better, she tells she’s able to cut out all the noise and work in perfect silence and describes it so lovingly that it almost feels as if she’s to be envied. Wonderful! Being deaf really doesn’t hinder her in life apart from always having to think about having extra batteries for her hearing aid with her. She’s in fact much less positive about her life in Gavrik and would rather live in bustling London. Unfortunately, she’s stuck in this tiny town because it’s allowing her to be closer to her bed-ridden mother and the local paper happened to offer her a job there. The things she considers negative are what other people would consider positive and the other way around really, but you can always move of course, her condition is much harder to deal with. Much as I admire her for this, I did feel she was defined so much by it, it makes it harder to come up with other traits she has character wise.

I had one or two other things I would have perhaps changed a bit as well. The first is that the story was sometimes a bit too repetitive. Tuva drives up the hill so many times and she also turns around so many times from when she’s going to visit her mother that it frustrated me a little. Did I mention I don’t have a lot of patience? I couldn’t help it, I just wanted her to get it over with and visit her mother. The second point I’d like to make concerns an incomprehensible train of thought Tuva had which involves going into the big dark forest all on her own. If there’s a killer out there on the loose, I really don’t know why anyone would think it’s a good idea to walk in the woods alone ‘to confront your fears’. It felt utterly foolish and it was also too soon in the novel to start thinking she could be killed so it didn’t immediately create a lot of tension for me ;-).

That being said, I really enjoyed its wonderful cast of suspects. There are 5 houses on the hill and each resident seems kind of dodgy. There’s a hoarder, a taxi-driver with kid, two woodcarving sisters of creepy trolls, a ghostwriter with a checkered past, and a couple where the husband might have a hidden agenda. Every single one of them presented the possibility of being a ruthless killer. They kept me well entertained and I made two guesses where I soon knew I was on the wrong track, before I finally made the right one nearing the end.

I think Dark Pines is a good debut of the series. I’m definitely curious to see where Tuva Moodyson will take me in the next novel, Red Snow and I look forward to getting to know her much better.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

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The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts #BookReview

YOU’LL NEVER FORGET THE FLOWER GIRLS

The Flower Girls. Laurel and Primrose. 

One convicted of murder, the other given a new identity.

Now, nineteen years later, another child has gone missing.

And The Flower Girls are about to hit the headlines all over again…

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The Flower Girls is a novel that largely centers around Hazel, a woman with a haunting past. Even if she can’t remember anything of it she’ll never be able to leave her past behind. She was only 6 years old when her sister – only 10 herself at the time – murdered a little girl and although Hazel received this new identity there’s always that fear that she might be recognised. And now Georgie, a little girl, is missing and she was in the vicinity… even after almost 20 years she knows it’s only a matter of time before she’ll find herself in the eye of a media storm again.

The plotline mainly highlights the impact of such a crime through the eyes of several people, each with their own personal angle. There’s a writer Max, a policewoman, and also a victim’s rights advocate who also happens to be the aunt of Kirstie, the murdered girl in 1997. The aunt, Joanna, really resonated with me and I enjoyed those entries most of all. She wants her niece’s killer to stay in jail forever, never getting out on parole, she doesn’t believe in rehabilitation.

I enjoyed reading the different angles but I missed hearing from the killer herself for most of the novel, what are her thoughts now, looking back on the events and why did she do it, what did she think then? The novel isn’t really about what happened exactly almost 20 years before, but I still kept wondering about what had happened for 90% of the novel and it’s only in the last pages that I finally received some answers about that eventful day, be it still quite briefly. I wanted to find a way to understand her reasoning or what made her do this in the first place so that I could take my own stand in this but I didn’t get to hear much of her for most of the novel. It didn’t make it any easier to find absolution. I didn’t hear the motive in both cases so I guess I have to assume it’s a matter of nature and of a person born evil. I know a lot of killers are just born bad but it didn’t feel as satisfying as I wanted it to be because I didn’t know all the facts. Of course in real life we don’t always get these answers as an outsider either and only learn what we know from reading the paper. Yet I still wonder if it would change my feelings. If this novel is anything, it’s certainly making you stand still and really think it through.

The Flower Girls definitely felt more psychological than thriller, maybe I’d even go so far as to call it an interesting study. It’s a novel that sets you up to think about accountability at a young age among other things, and how it can mark a person for the rest of their live. It makes you think about the real cases, what sort of lives the child killers lead now and if they’re also still looking over their shoulder.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Before I Find You by Ali Knight #BookReview

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Maggie is a husband watcher. A snooper, a marriage doctor, a killer of happy-ever-afters. She runs her own private detective agency specialising in catching out those who cheat. And she’s very good at it. Until Helene walks through her door.

Helene is a husband catcher. A beautiful wife, a doting stepmother, a dazzling presence at parties. She counts herself lucky to have married one of the most eligible men in town – Gabe Moreau. Until she sees something that threatens her little family of three.

Alice is a perfect daughter. Apple of her father’s eye, a kind stepchild to Helene, a tragic daughter of a dead mother. She lives a sheltered but happy life. Until she finds a handwritten note on her father’s desk: ‘You owe me. I’m not going away.’

All three women suspect Gabe Moreau of keeping secrets and telling lies. But not one of them suspects that the truth could result in murder . . .

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star three and a half

I was lucky enough to read Before I Find You via the Pigeonhole app installed on my tablet, so I received one stave each day over a course of ten days.

Before I Find You is a story dominated by women, very strong women to be exact.  I can’t say I felt much sympathy for any of them, unfortunately. Helene, the woman who suspects her husband Gabe of cheating, was too snubby and composed for me to like her. I hate to say it because there really shouldn’t be any excuse but in a way I could even see why her husband might have done what she suspects him of. Alice, the daughter, is a spoilt little brat who I wouldn’t want in my house and who happens to be smart beyond her years. I knew not to underestimate her. As for Maggie, the PI, who I would have expected to like and love, well she didn’t seem like a bad person but even she’s quite rude and standoffish. I also knew she was hiding something about her past so that didn’t make her very trustworthy either.

Aside from the characters, the storyline was quite good and kept me on my toes. The start of the story was a bit of a slow burner but it really kicks into higher gear when the murder happens. I quickly became engrossed and hooked from there. I didn’t know who to put my money on from thereon and if I thought it would end here, well no no.. the author had a brilliant twist up her sleeve that really lifted the story up to a higher level. I very much enjoyed the last part of the novel and I’d give it 4 stars easily for the ‘where the hell did that came from’ plot but I’m afraid the characters influenced my rating in this case more than I wanted. It’s still a good read though so I’m sure to keep an eye out for another one of her novels.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via The Pigeonhole. This is my honest opinion.

For the Missing by Lina Bengtsdotter # BookReview

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She must find Annabelle. Before it’s too late.

THE MISSING
Nora’s daughter Annabelle has disappeared, last seen on her way home from a party.

THE LOST
Gullspång’s inexperienced police are wilting under the national media spotlight – and its residents desperate for answers.

THE CLOCK IS TICKING . . .
Stockholm DI Charlie Lager must return home to find Annabelle, and then get out of town as soon as she can. Before everyone discovers the truth about her.

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Two detectives from Stockholm are sent to a Swedish rural village to investigate the disappearance of a 17 year old girl Annabelle when she didn’t come home after a party. If you’re looking for an interesting police procedural with focus on two very talented detectives with great deduction skills then I’m not sure you’ll be satisfied. Much of their progress actually comes from one or two witnesses who eventually tell them something useful. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to get invested in a character-driven story which relies heavily on an interesting backstory, all of which happens to be a police detective, then this is worth your while.

DI Charlie (Charlene) Lager fled from this same village 20 years earlier and she’s not looking forward to revisiting her past. The story’s focus is predominantly on Charlie and I got to know her first as someone who drinks, who’s on some sort of medication and who leads a promiscuous lifestyle; getting it on with a married colleague doesn’t even stop her. Not the most admirable person I believe but she is very intelligent and no detail escapes her so she has her good qualities too.

Throughout the story there are many flashbacks to her past which show a very unconventional upbringing by her mother Betty. She keeps calling her Betty all the time which felt a little weird but maybe it was just another sign of how different a family they were too. There was never a label on her mother’s mental illness but I believe she did have one, probably a manic depression of sorts. In any case her mother didn’t really raise her how she should have, although I do believe she loved her daughter in her own way. At the end of the story it made me understand better how Charlie became so messed up with the childhood she had. It took me a long time to understand why she never returned, I couldn’t really define her exact emotion, but in the end I think she was consumed by guilt. It might have been better if the author had made this more clear right at the start, it would have heigthened the intrigue even more from the beginning.

Besides the succint investigation and Charlie’s youth with Betty, there were also two little girls Rosa and Alice in other alternating chapters. These chapters didn’t seem to be related to the rest at all so I was all the more curious how they fit in. I didn’t like the way their friendship was evolving at all and I had that imminent feeling that something was wrong early on in the story but I was still surprised how important their role comes into play.

I enjoyed reading the past sequences most of all because they held most of the mystery. The ongoing investigation was a bit slow and as soon as a key character came into the story I knew it was a likely suspect. Even though the ending was still surprising, I would have been more satisfied with a big climax revealing her murderer, now it fizzled out a little bit for me.

Overall a commendable debut where I especially enjoyed reading about Charlie. You’ll definitely have a feel for this detective in this new series and it’s great to know where she came from.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia #BookReview

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There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.

Purchase

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This was the first novel I read by Mindy Mejia. I had heard plenty of positive echos about her first novel The Act of Hattie Hoffman and I was also very attracted by Maya’s occuption as a language therapist. It’s an uncommon job and it triggered me, wanting to know more about it.

I was also very drawn to the story of father and son disappearing. What were their reasons and how did they survive? The wilderness and threats of the Boundary Waters were vividly depicted, the nature described in a beautiful manner but from an outsider’s point of view. I would have loved to read scenes of their way of life (as in The Marsh King’s Daughter), their hardships and the struggles of a young boy with his father but the story’s setting doesn’t involve the past but focuses on the present, from the moment Lucas is arrested for breaking into a camping store.

Maya and Lucas’s interactions were interesting and I understood how Maya’s past made her want to help Lucas. Maya was left behind by her mother when she was little and I felt for her. Her past intrigued me and I could really see how this formed her character. The girl who doesn’t want to bond with anybody starts to get an unhealthy interest in Lucas though. She then becomes a bit of a loose cannonball and I raised my eyebrows when I saw what unprofessional conduct she shows. There was definitely a YA vibe in the second part of the novel which came as a bit of a surprise to me and then it seemed to change course once again when Maya and Lucas find themselves in a bit of action as well. It bothered me just a little bit because I was mostly interested in the mystery and I felt I was being kept away from getting to the heart of the story.

In short, I enjoyed the first and last part of the novel where the different pieces of the puzzle fall into place and everything was all brought together brilliantly. It was maybe a bit of a different read then I was expecting but I enjoyed the reveal of Lucas and Josiah’s reasons for taking off and I was satisfied how it was all wrapped up in the end.

I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Did I Mention I Love You? (DIMILY trilogy, book 1) #BookReview

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When sixteen-year-old Eden Munro agrees to spend the summer with her estranged father in the beachfront city of Santa Monica, California, she has no idea what she’s letting herself in for. Eden’s parents are divorced and have gone their separate ways, and now her father has a brand new family. For Eden, this means she’s about to meet three new step-brothers. The eldest of the three is Tyler Bruce, a troubled teenager with a short temper and a huge ego.

Complete polar opposites, Eden quickly finds herself thrust into a world full of new experiences as Tyler’s group of friends take her under their wing. But the one thing she just can’t understand is Tyler, and the more she presses to figure out the truth about him, the more she finds herself falling for the one person she shouldn’t her step-brother.

Throw in Tyler’s clingy girlfriend and a guy who has his eyes set on Eden, and there’s secrets, lies and a whole lot of drama. But how can Eden keep her feelings under control? And can she ever work out the truth about Tyler? Did I Mention I Love You is the first book in the phenomenal DIMILY trilogy, following the lives of Eden Munro and Tyler Bruce as they try to find their way in an increasingly confusing world.

amazon uk amazon com

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star three and a half

I know that reading young adult novels is not related to age but there was at least one time I couldn’t escape the thought of ‘I’m too old for this’ flashing through my mind.

Would you feel attracted to a moody teenager who can’t say a single nice word to you? Me neither but when Eden arrives at her father’s new place and meets his new family she can’t help being very interested in Tyler. Too much for her own good btw as he’s a) already taken and b) euhm.. family. She must have seen something in his eyes that I obviously didn’t share because I couldn’t immediately see past his arrogant, egotistical attitude. I had my eyes on another guy right away, someone who was more of a gentleman but of course Eden has a penchant for a bad boy type of guy.

I get it though, Tyler’s mysterious ways are a serious X-factor and of course he’s not the incredible badass that he claims to be. I did enjoy the story in the end and my own feelings towards Tyler started thawing when he finally gave some insight into his behaviour. The last part has a few twists in what was otherwise quite a straightforward storyline of slow burning attraction between Eden and Tyler, and made me race through it to know how they would handle their ‘situation’. Would they end up together or not?

If you enjoy dark brooding guys, a somewhat taboo relationship and a good dose of instalove then this is definitely a read you don’t want to miss. Even though I didn’t really fall in love with this read, the guy was too wishywashy for my taste, I am actually a little curious about the sequel, so you never know that I give it a chance in the future anyway.

I won a free paperback copy of this novel via a giveaway. This is my honest opinion.

My holiday reads reviewed

I took 3 reads with me so you’re getting 3 reviews in one go. I compared them to each other too and that’s why you get a 3, 4 and 4.5 star review ;-). I’m showing them in the order I read them btw 😉

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She has a loving marriage.

But she has no friends.

Everyone knows her name.

But no one will speak it.

Why?

Cornelia Blackwood is about to do something very wrong, for reasons she believes to be right.

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The Flight of Cordelia Blackwood was a poignant novel with a tragic tale at the heart of it. The genre of novel was different from what I expected it to be but it was a gripping read and I really enjoyed reading it. Even without the experience of being a mother myself, I was drawn into the story right away and I could feel Leah’s agony and longing for a child.

The story is told via alternating chapters and shows Leah meeting Adrian in the past, going through some of life’s tragedies together and a new storyline that runs from the present onwards and hints at something bad happening in the past that made her lose all credit, all of her friends too. The author deftly steers the story in a certain direction and it’s impossible to miss where the answer lies. I couldn’t help conjuring so many worrisome thoughts and I held my heart at least a few times when I read about some of Leah’s life changes, but the author made me squirm in my seat with all the twists and turns in the story before getting to the exact heart of it.

I just couldn’t compute Leah’s treatment with the image that I was building of her in my head… surely she wasn’t capable of doing anything evil? Her story reads as one tragedy happening upon another and made me feel sad for her. But how did she end up so injured and broken, walking around with a cane, and why is she getting these looks? I was trying to get an idea how things added up but it was a well-kept mystery until the end and given her deteriorating state of mind I knew something was coming but I never expected that.

The Flight of Cordelia Blackwood was a story of grief and love and that feeling when it just all seems to be too much. It’s sad and heart-breaking at times and that ending, it left me reeling.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I had the intention before I left to leave one good read behind so I left my copy in Kos for another reader to enjoy :-).

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After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home. Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.

Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before?

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I expected a mystery but I had no idea the story would hold SO SO many secrets and lies. EVERYBODY here is hiding something or other and I absolutely loved all these surprises that follow up at warp speed. And then there is the lie of all lies.. I had no idea who’d turn out to be the biggest liar of them all so around midway the most stunning twist just happened that put everything into a new perspective. I had absolutely no idea and didn’t expect the direction this story was going in. It’s just the things you take for a truth and don’t question that can surprise you the most if they turn out to be a lie, isn’t it. I guess that’s also why we are surprised when someone tells us they don’t love us anymore, right?

The story kicks off right away with Daisy’s abduction and when the police question Jess, who was babysitting, and her parents, Emily and James, there’s already some little white lies here and there about their whereabouts and the circumstances. It starts small but after a while I couldn’t help wonder why they would lie about anything at all and then before you’re even very well aware of it one stone after another is thrown at each other and my paranoia was all over the place. I do love big happy families who come apart like that :-). You can really trust nobody here and I was keen to keep it that way too. Someone did earn my sympathy and trust little by little, and I also started to loathe another character quite vehemently at the same time when my feelings turned out to be viable in the light of some actions.

Little Sister turned out to be not only a story about abduction, the opening storyline even takes a backseat for a while when another timeline is followed taking place during the teenage years of Jess and Emily, but about what happened between the two sisters so many years ago as well. The picture becomes clearer with every flashback about the nature of their sibling relationship and the reasons why Jess left home at the age of 17.  This plotline was just as riveting to read and had its own shock-factor too.

If you’re talking about authors who can deliver an amazing twist then I have to count Isabel Ashdown among them. It took me by surprise how much I enjoyed this one and I already look forward picking up another book from this author. If you have any of her books you want to swap for something I have, you let me know!

I received a free copy of this novel from another blogger in a book swap. This is my honest opinion.

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Dr. Irini Harringford was given away by her parents just before her fourth birthday. Although she has spent her whole life trying to convince herself she doesn’t need them, deep down Irini longs to understand why she was abandoned, while her parents kept her older sister, Elle.

So when Elle gets in touch with news that their mother has died, Irini reluctantly agrees to return to the family home. But she is ill at ease. She and Elle are not close. Irini knows only too well what Elle is capable of. Inexplicably drawn to her enigmatic sister, yet terrified of the sway she holds, Irini tries to protect herself even as she is sucked back into her family’s toxic web of secrets…and soon realizes that the past is more complicated than she imagined, and that her very future rests upon discovering the truth about why she was really given away.

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Irini’s haunted by her past and this has serious repercussions for her love life as it makes her doubt the person currently in her life. Just thinking about what her parents did, giving her up at the age of 3 and keeping her sister, Elle, made me instantly sympathetic and cautious of her parents. Was it because she had a handicap, was it because she was unlovable, she never knew the reasons. What she does know is that she doesn’t want to have children of her own, that’s how big the toll is because of their decision in the past. Truth be told, there was one member of the family who wanted her in her life, her sister has tried to find her again and again and she also succeeded. Isn’t it ever so strange though that she ran from her sister so many times then, going so far as moving and changing her phone number? I was wondering what happened right away. Now that Elle finally caught up with her again Irini decides to take the opportunity and find out the answers she’s always been craving.

This need to know her parent’s motives and the reason why Irini would run from her sister are at the core of the novel and there’s a lot of darting around the answers throughout the story. It was a bit transparent for me though why her mother and father sent her off and the biggest mystery was discovering why she and her sister have such a dysfunctional relationship and what happened in the past between them to cut all contact.

Sister relationships are always interesting to read about and the push and pull between the two sisters was no different. Their interactions make great waves and especially the domineering personality of Elle over Irini. Even though I sympathised with Irini at first and how she was hurt like that, the feeling waned and I can’t say I liked either of the sisters in the end, but Elle really is the worst character I’ve come across lately. Elle’s issues make her very manipulative and controlling and Irini is of course the perfect victim. It was impressive what Elle was capable of and fascinating to watch their interactions.

However, I didn’t always understand why Irini just went along with everything and not once stood up against her or told her off. I knew quite soon that there was something off about Elle so why she got so much credit from Irini I never fully understood. I also found it slightly unbelievable that nobody told her anything throughout her life about the reasons why her parents made the decision and in hindsight also why they didn’t even follow up on her from a distance, they could have at least sent a birthday card each year, right?

There were quite a lot of events unfolding in the last part of the novel and that’s the part that I really enjoyed best, the more you read the better it gets. I’m still not entirely sure about Elle in the end though, is she evil or disturbed, I’m still doubtful. Maybe a bit both.. you’ll have to make up your own mind.

I received a free copy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

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