A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland #BookReview

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Esther Solar’s family is . . . unusual. Her father hasn’t left the basement in six years. Her brother is terrified of darkness.

Esther isn’t afraid of anything – because she avoids pretty much everything. Elevators are off limits, as are open spaces, crowds, family pets, birds, needles, haircuts, dolls and mirrors.

But when Esther is pickpocketed by her cocky old classmate Jonah Walker, Esther and Jonah become surprising friends. Jonah sets a challenge: every week they must work their way through the world’s fifty most common phobias. Skydiving, horse riding, beekeeping, public speaking, reptilehouses – they plan to do it all.

Soon their weekly foray into fear becomes the only thing that keeps them tethered to reality, and to each other. But each is keeping a secret from the other, a secret that threatens to rip them apart.

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P.19 (a description of the three friends Hephzibah, Eugene and Esther): “A ghost who couldn’t speak, a boy who hated the dark and a girl who dressed as someone else everywhere she went.”

Who the hell tapes all the light switches and lamps in a house in the on-position, or dresses like she’s on her way to a costume party every single day? What did I start reading? Quirky novels and me, we don’t always (usually) gel well and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be such a novel but the characters were too endearing from the start to let them go and so this novel is the exception on the rule. There’s also just something about knowing someone’s vulnerability, being allowed to read about their fears, it’s just impossible not to feel for them.

Even when it’s all part of a made-up world – too unreal because there’s just too many fears and quirkiness to truly believe it – I’m sure there are people who are afraid of the dark and who see black cats as an omen. The author magnified this only a thousand times. At first sight it only seems like a crazy, bizarre and funny read with Esther tackling her bucket list of fears, but it’s definitely not all it is.

There’s also a little bit of magical realism in the story that was pulled off really well and it kept me wondering throughout the novel if Death really was a person or not. Esther thinks to know for sure as she sees how The Curse spoken to her grandfather by Death himself during the war holds her entire family in a grip. He told them they would all die from their biggest fear or phobia and so far it all came true. She doesn’t want to become like them though, so she’s trying to lure Death to her by confronting her fears instead of avoiding them like she’s done for so many years. I loved following her challenges, they start easy and are funny enough but become more serious further down the list. There are even a few I’d pass up on myself.

It doesn’t take long though to understand there are many layers beneath the bizarre spectacle, some obvious and others harder to see through. The novel has some deep messages about mental health issues, depression, loss, but also personal growth, being yourself and seeking help when you need it. The funny quirky characters help to keep it light enough so it has exactly the right amount of balance. And Jonah was the perfect person to bring out the best in Esther, he’s so creative and attentive and I wish and hope we can all have a Jonah in our lives.

Overall a very enjoyable debut novel that makes me wonder what else she has in store. I can recommend this novel to bookworms who read or are interested in reading Turtles All The Way Down.

I received a free copy from this novel through a giveaway. This is my honest opinion.

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Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney #BookReview

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My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me.

1. I’m in a coma

2. My husband doesn’t love me any more

3. Sometimes I lie

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

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I purchased an ecopy of this novel at the release because many blogfriends recommended it to me. Of course I needed the publication (and purchase) of the second novel by Alice Feeney to finally bump it up my readlist. I’m happy I finally got round to reading this because I really enjoyed it.

There are no less than 3 plotlines in this novel but this was never confusing and I actually like it when there’s a lot going on as was the case here, it keeps me turning those pages. One of the plotlines follows Amber when she’s 11 years old, another one follows her in the present a few days before she finds herself in the hospital and the last one is the one with Amber in a coma. Well she isn’t actually in a coma, she can hear perfectly fine what is going on around her, she just can’t react in any way. As if that’s not enough, she also can’t remember what happened to her. It’s all rather terrifying and her paranoia towards her husband and sister really rubbed off on me :-). It’s not easy to figure out who to trust when you can’t ask any questions. Someone did this to her and I was ready to crucify them myself!

It made sense that there’s a plotline leading up to ‘the event’ but it was puzzling what the plot about her younger self had to do with the story and how she ended up there. It focused largely on her family situation and her friendship with a girl named Taylor when she was a young girl and I had no doubt there was a meaningfulness that totally escaped me; Taylor wasn’t mentioned in the present at all.

The author built up the tension in the days and hours towards her hospital admission and surprised me with a major twist of category 5 (I know, I just decided to have my own rating for twists and this one is of the same order as being told the earth is flat). So many things are actually connected but invisible to see at first sight. The past did have an effect on the present and to understand the present you have to know about the past. I might sound as if I’m talking in riddles but you just have to read it for yourselves if you want the full detail! I’m impressed with this author’s clever writing and I seriously had to wrap my head around that twist.

In conclusion: a wonderful debut that will keep you guessing for a very long time. Read it, it’ll keep you very entertained! 

I purchased an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Sixth Wicked Child (A 4MK Thriller Book 3) by J.D. Barker #BookReview

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Hear No Evil

For Detective Sam Porter, the words “Father, forgive me” conjure memories long forgotten; a past intentionally buried. For Anson Bishop, these three words connect a childhood to the present as he unleashes a truth concealed for decades.

See No Evil

Found written on cardboard near each body, these words link multiple victims to a single killer—discovered within minutes of each other in both Chicago and South Carolina—clearly connected yet separated by impossible miles.

Speak No Evil

Chicago Metro and the FBI find themselves caught in chaos—a hospital on lockdown, a rogue officer, and corruption at the highest levels. When Anson Bishop, the prime suspect in the notorious 4MK serial murders turns himself in, he reveals a story completely unexpected, one that not only upends the current investigation, but one that will change the lives of all involved.

Do No Evil

With unrelenting tension and pulse-pounding suspense, the past unravels at breakneck speed as the truth behind the Four Monkey Killer’s motive is finally revealed in this masterfully crafted finale.

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Wowza, what a novel! A brilliant and perfect ending to one of my most liked book series. There’s so much to take in and wrap your head around in this one, it seriously had my thoughts in a twist. I really had no doubt it was going to be good but I didn’t know it was going to be this good. The Sixth Wicked Child might be the third and last novel in the trilogy but all three novels have very strong plotlines and every one of them is a thrill to read if you like your reads very dark and about a really disturbed killer.

Just like in his previous books, there are also more than 500 pages in this novel but it was never boring, not even for a minute, not even slightly, it was in fact a right exhilirating read from start to finish.

The Sixth Wicked Child mainly brings the background story of a young Anson and about detective Sam Bishop’s past as well. In the present both characters are set up against the other in the most wondrous way. The author really messes with the readers in this one, in what to believe, making us wonder from the very first pages if we actually really know without any doubt if the 4MK killer is all that he seems. Is the bad guy really the bad guy and the good guy, the one we so cheered for and held in our hearts (because he’s a bit of an underdog after all), all that he claims to be? Isn’t there a little bit of bad in everyone? All registers are open, everything is possible and while I didn’t want to believe it could be any other way, surely, knowing this author’s capabilities I knew better than the rule the other possibility out.

In the novel there are multiple plotlines once again, which means there’s a lot to follow and try to work out in your head. You have the FBI working the case with Metro (Nash and Frank Poole) and then there’s a team working at the hospital (Clair and Kloz), and then Anson and Bishop each have their own agenda as well.

I finally received all the answers and hearing the truth in this novel really gutted me. The reason why 4MK drops 3 boxes with every victim, and the reason for all those murders is suddenly pretty plausible. I loved the diary entries from a young Anson again and I couldn’t help feeling touched when I read everything he and Kristina, Tegan, Libby, Vincent, Paul, Weasel and The Kid had to go through. I didn’t know how Bishop would fit in with this story for the longest time though, or how this story was going to end because one of them, Anson or Bishop would be the last one standing, in my mind. The author kept me in suspense, only to deliver a phenomenal ending that I didn’t see coming at all in the last chapters.

I received a free ecopy of this novel via the Read Now section of Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

Twisted by Steve Cavanagh #BookReview

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BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:

1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.

After you’ve read this book, you’ll know: the truth is far more twisted…

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Soooo many people told me how much they enjoyed reading Steve Cavanagh’s novels. I really can’t think of any (good) excuse that explains what kept me so long from picking up one of his novels. When I heard Twisted was a brave new standalone though, one with such an intriguing blurb (the shorter is sometimes really the better), I finally caved, so now I don’t have to feel FOMO any more, yay! And I’m truly happy I finally FINALLYYYY discovered Cavanagh’s unbridled talent of writing plot twists.

I can’t think of any other title for this novel that would be more perfect, because the story is indeed Twisted with capital T. I believed I knew how the story was going to go down but I was so wrong about my ideas. The story is totally unpredictable because there are some big game changers along the line. When you read this then don’t underestimate any of the characters in this novel, they all try to be the most clever one and take a run for the money (literally). There can only be one of course and I was eager to find out who would come out on top of the game. Cavanagh was able to reshuffle the cards throughout the novel a few times to keep the reader on their toes. The only constant is the danger for life :-).

The reason I didn’t give this one the full points in the end is that I did not really like any of the characters more than the others. At some point or other I liked and also disliked every one of them, so there were a few moments that I didn’t know who to root for anymore, if any. None of them are really good people, Maria, Paul and Daryl are all deceitful and oh so very greedy (as if there’s nothing else to live for)… oh and then there’s dirty secrets, lies and deceit involved as well of course, everything you want from a great novel really ;-).

I can’t say any more about the plot in case I talk too much, but I also noticed that I hadn’t written anything down about the story when reading. This makes it abundendly clear the whole story was so absorbing I didn’t even think of it. I loved the twists and that the novel’s about an author whose identity is a mystery. You’re constantly searching if you’re reading about a fictional character called JT Lebeau or about the author talking about himself. I’m sure the lines blurred occasionally :-). All in all, this was a very surprising novel and it’s definitely not the last novel I will read by Steve Cavanagh! Highly recommended!

I bought a paperback copy of this book. This is my honest opinion.

Endgame by Daniel Cole #BookReview

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A locked room. A dead body. A secret that went to the grave.

When retired police officer Finlay Shaw is found dead in a locked room, everyone thinks it’s suicide. But disgraced detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes isn’t so sure.

Together with his former partner Detective Emily Baxter and private detective Edmunds, Wolf’s team begin to dig into Shaw’s early days on the beat. Was Shaw as innocent as he seemed? Or is there more to his past than he’d ever let on?

But not everyone wants Wolf back – and as his investigation draws him ever deeper into police corruption, it will not only be his career on the line – but the lives of those he holds closest as well…

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star three and a half

My rating might come as a surprise to you and I can tell you, I wasn’t expecting to give anything lower than a 5 star rating myself because my god, I loved the first and second novel in this trilogy SO MUCH. But, yeah here it is.. my opinion of this novel is colored by a few small details that made such a mark on my reading experience that it became too difficult to see past it.

You see, I have the feeling that the main thing I will remember about Endgame in a few months time will be my frustration and struggle at the start of the novel and which lasted way longer than I wanted. The author made it clear that he doesn’t want to rehash what happened in book 1 and 2 and that you really need to read the series in order, but guess what, I did read the first two novels (it’s been 2 years since I read about Wolf though) and I was STILL at a loss about the characters, about what happened in the past and the relationships among the members of the team, as there really isn’t any reference point to before. I didn’t like this feeling that it’s on the tip of your tongue but just out of reach. Why was Baxter so mad at Wolf? It didn’t feel it was merited. I vaguely remembered how book 1 ended but that didn’t ring a bell at all. And was Christian a character from the first novel too because I didn’t remember him? The only one who I really had no trouble remembering was good ‘ol Edmunds. So yes, this irritation overshadowed my reading pleasure quite a bit. What didn’t help either was that my ecopy had some poor formatting because there weren’t any paragraphs dividing the scenes, there wasn’t any blank space. One minute someone’s handing over a coat. A brief fullstop and two words later someone’s smiling in a camera in a very different scene. That constant change without any warning at all took lots of energy to follow the story. I’m sure the finished copy won’t have this though so you don’t have to take this into account, but it’s where I’m coming from ;-).

As for the storyline itself, the suspected non-suicide of Finlay formed the base of an entertaining mystery, especially since he was found in a locked room. It’s clear that the answer must have something to do with one night a lot of years ago but it takes a while to get to the crux. In this story finding out the suspected murderer of Finlay didn’t form the biggest thrill for me, no it was actually seeing how Wolf would find a way to prove it. The last part of the novel, with a sublime twist, was therefore definitely the best part.

Overall, this was a good read but it didn’t match the first two novels (except for that amazing twist). It’s also fairly different reading experience compared to the previous novels where lots of people are targeted and plenty of grisly murders, where the focus here is on Finlay (there’s definitely no big cinematic show here). If you’re going to read this, then I certainly advise you to read the three novels around the same time, I’m sure this will be a whole other experience then!

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

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager #BookReview

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You’ve been offered a luxury apartment, rent free. The catch: you may not live long enough to enjoy it…

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents.
These are the only rules for Jules Larson’s new job as apartment sitter for an elusive resident of the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile private buildings and home to the super rich and famous.

Recently heartbroken and practically homeless, Jules accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

Out of place among the extremely wealthy, Jules finds herself pulled toward other apartment sitter Ingrid. But Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her. Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story – but the next day, her new friend has vanished. And then Jules discovers that Ingrid is not the first temporary resident to go missing…

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Sometimes it’s not only an author’s reputation and his previous books that create high expectations, sometimes it’s the book itself that raises the bar high from the opening chapter, which is exactly what happened when I started reading Lock Every Door. This novel is bound to convince his loyal fans and new-time readers.

I loved Riley Sager’s two previous novels, they were both very atmospheric (one includes a dark and frightening forest, the other a summer camp on the grounds of an old asylum) so I already started this novel – given the rather scary title Lock Every Door – with some trepidation. It didn’t help either that as soon as I opened the novel I was introduced to Jules who was brought into the hospital. She had blood on her and scratches on her arms and body which already raised questions but above all that she BEGS the doctor not to send her back to the Bartholomew. He hooked me right from the start with this! I had to know what had happened to her to make her feel so scared of that building since she set foot in it, which was – hold on cos you’re not going to believe this – only 6 DAYS EARLIER.

What can happen in 6 days, right? Jules Larsden is a very likeable character who had her share of hardships in life even if she’s in her early twenties. She’s quite down to earth and even laughs away all those creepy stories about the building being cursed. The gargoyles even have a charm for her that escapes me entirely. They don’t look like gothic protectors to me at all but little horrifying monsters. If she’s definitely not the type to get scared easily then what on earth unnerved her so much that it made her run out on the street and make her forfait the first paycheck as an apartment sitter?

It’s a slow burn at first but as the days progress, the tension mounts. You know that something is going to happen and the Bartholew felt off all right but I really couldn’t put my finger on it what it was. I could feel the danger around Jules but didn’t know where it was going to come from and I wrecked my brain to explain the disappearances, I came up with a few theories even, but the truth was a real shocker! If you want a novel to surprise you, then you’re always safe reading a Riley Sager novel. There are a number of twists in this novel of course but two that are quite sensational, and I loved that there was much much more to discover after what you think is ‘the big reveal’, I even think I liked the second big twist more than the first!

Now even though I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, it was atmospheric, eerie and daintily unsettling, I think I still prefer the woodsy areas of his first two novels a tiny bit more :-). I was also a teensy bit disappointed that a small subplot in the novel involving Jules’ family which intrigued me quite a bit, didn’t really give me all I wanted. I can’t help it that I always like everything neatly tied up and solved. This is only a minor detail though so certainly don’t pass up the opportunity to read this very engaging novel!

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

Vox by Christina Dalcher #BookReview

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Silence can be deafening.

Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins.

Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman.

Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write.

For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…

[100 WORD LIMIT REACHED]

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This book! Have you read it? Well if not, why haven’t you? It’s an incredible novel and it feels so friggin’ real (well for the most part but I’ll get to that later); it is actually a super scary thought that this world Jean lives in is something that could actually happen. 

From p. 370: “The only thing necessary for triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

The novel made me think a lot about the world I’m actually a part of and about this fictional one and I couldn’t believe how easy they made it sound to change the world in such a small amount of time. Even without any dead bodies (okay, maybe a few), it really got under my skin.

I was planning to not do this but it’s just inevitable, so yes I’ll have to bring up The Handmaid’s Tale. Vox is set in its own frightening world: one where women are not ‘surrogates working as servants’ no they can stay with their own family, if they’re married, but they really don’t have to talk too much. Shut your mouth is to be taken pretty literally in this novel. At least in Atwood’s novel the women could talk on stolen moments, there was solidarity and friendship. The world building in Vox (‘Vox’ being the Latin word for Voice) is very different even if the domination of women is the main goal in both novels. Women and girls can’t talk, or barely. What’s a hundred words? It means no bedtime stories to your children, it means not replying even when you know the other person is wrong or lying… Take away someone’s voice, take away the communication (reading, writing, nor signing is allowed either of course) and you isolate people, you make them docile. Those first two chapters really came in and I felt for Jean instantly.

Jean (or Gianna, both names are used because she’s Italian) isn’t just anybody though, she’s a linguist who did ground-breaking work in the field of brain repair. Now they suddenly come to her because they need her help. She doesn’t want to help but there are some incentives. I loved the dilemma’s she faced throughout the novel and one of the biggest was whether she would choose to stay or flee the country, leaving her family behind if it ever came to it. It might seem like an easy choice but it really wasn’t.

One of the most poignant storylines were the conversations she has with her daughter Sonia and her son Steven. Steven, aged 17, was subtly influenced through school and it was so disheartening and frustrating to hear him change. It was equally heart-breaking to hear how proud Sonia was of her achievement and how she is used to this reality. The world is all wrong and they’re too young to get it.

OK so the novel was brilliant, I’m sure you get it by now BUT the second part of the novel was the part with the blazing guns and the action so to speak. At one point towards the ending the author must have thought let’s crank it up a notch and see how crazy we can really make it. The whole thing with the monkey and that other dude was a bit nuts and I wasn’t really sure what the purpose was to be frank, I wanted to shout at them for being so dumb.

Honestly, I loved the concept and this was such a chilling and thought-provoking novel, a very impressive debut. Oh and lest you not forget: ‘We will not be silenced‘, damn right :-)! This review consists of 608 words and I’m not taking any of them back.

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