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 Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths #BookReview

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Clare Cassidy is no stranger to tales of murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, she teaches a short course on them every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an R.M. Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

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The novel starts off with with an excerpt which had me hooked me right away. I was actually ready to read a whole story told by the man on the train and was grumbling when the storyline jumped quite abruptly to Clare but soon enough I was invested in both stories and I didn’t mind switching between them. I enjoyed how Ms. Griffiths wrote this book into a book and not only that but the Victorian tale and the gothic elements also bled right into the other storyline. I liked how she incorporated these elements of the Victorian tale also in a present day setting and the cross-references unified the whole story. It’s only at the end of the novel that the police procedural work really takes over and it lost its gothic feeling a bit but I didn’t mind at all. Even though I really should have known, I obviously didn’t think it through enough – probably too caught up into the story or that’s what I’m telling myself – and missed the clue about who the killer was completely.

I believe this is my first read of a gothic novel and I quite liked the literary elements of the genre. There are some sightings of a ghost but it was all left very mysterious and in uncertainty so she certainly got away with that on my part, there’s the mysterious family history of R.M. Holland, there are abandoned and dark buildings for extra eerie and spooky atmosphere, oh and Clare’s cute little dog also happens to be mentioned in the story The Stranger.

The present story is told by Clare, Clare’s daughter Georgia and DS Harbinder. Three very different and distinctive characters. I enjoyed and sympathised with Clare the most although I also liked how she and Harbinder seemed to connect over time. If it weren’t for Clare’s new love interest I would have thought she was actually interested romantically. I didn’t really understand at first why daughter Georgia was involved as a POV or what she could contribute to the story but I soon realised that she opened up lots of possibilities and suspects with her interest in the supernatural, her ties to a woman known as a white witch and her dodgy classmates.

I don’t know if this is a novel for everyone to enjoy, it is quite special and it wasn’t even easy for me to rate this but the more I think back on it, the more I appreciate it. Overall I found this an interesting and puzzling read and the author definitely showed her love for the gothic genre. The mix of a past and a present gothic story was really well done, and she kept me guessing till the end about the mysterious messages appearing in Clare’s diary.

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

Verity by Colleen Hoover #BookReview

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Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of the night their family was forever altered.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Sexy. Twisted. Consuming.

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I wanted to read this novel as soon as I heard about it. I’m a longtime fan of Colleen Hoover’s romance books and I happen to be quite a bit of a thriller lover too so this combination of my fav author writing a suspenseful novel was all I needed to hear!

This might be her first novel in the suspense genre but she obviously doesn’t look at the world hearty-eyed all the time and has a pretty wicked mind as well. It was much darker than I expected and I really appreciate that she didn’t hold back at all just to appease some of her readers who aren’t used to this.

While Lowen is staying at the Crawford residence where she’s meant to finish Verity’s manuscript, a woman who became paralysed after an accident, she stumbles upon a manuscript. Intermittent to Lowen’s presence at the house are chapters of this manuscript which slowly reveal a pretty disturbing secret.

It might be an upsetting topic for some readers but it’s CoHo’s trademark to make you feel emotional and I can say that I did feel very strongly about Verity, her actions seriously made my toes curl. Lowen is feeling increasingly disgusted and so was I. Should she tell Jeremy the truth about his wife or not though, that’s quite the dilemma.

At the same time it wouldn’t be a CoHo novel if there wouldn’t be a bit of romance in it as well although I really wouldn’t catalogue this novel in or even near the romance genre. There’s a lot of attraction and it was addicting to read the interactions between Lowen and Jeremy. There were a few too many graphic scenes in the novel for me if I’m being honest, be it with Lowen or the scenes in the manuscript with Verity, but in the end it seems that they kind of served a purpose so that makes me more forgiving :-).

The ending is absolutely worth mentioning the most! It’s one of those endings that I’ll remember in every detail even in 5 years of time. I saw one part of it coming and I felt myself already quite clever but I had no idea there was more! There was another part and it caught me completely off guard. I was quite stunned by this development to say the least. I don’t know if everyone will agree with me and will like hearing so but there’s plenty of room to question the ending and to decide on what you think has happened. It is designed to make up your own mind and I quite liked it.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Verity, the plot was clever, the novel was quite sinister and played with my mind. I truly hope she writes more novels in the genre!

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

Never Tell by Lisa Gardner #BookReview

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A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.

D. D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman–Evie Carter–from a case many years back. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many.

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim–a hostage–and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad’s murder.

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?

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This novel is on fire! It has a burning hot cover and there are actually quite a few fires to put out in this novel as well ;-).

I read a few of the previous books in the series (nrs. 5 and 6 and one in her other series too) and looking back on those reads (I gave Love You More five stars) I was very tempted to read Never Tell even though I didn’t know if it was a good idea to jump in at book 10 again. I took the plunge though and I’m so happy I did. Never Tell is another strong and fabulously suspenseful thriller and can be read as a standalone perfectly. The only thing you won’t really fully experience is the story of Flora at the time when she was held captive in a present narrative (which is a plotline in another novel). In Never Tell she’s looking back on it which was chilling and unsettling to read but makes me want to hear even more as well so I think I’ll go back and pick up that novel later.

The story itself is told in alternating chapters by the woman who is suspected of killing her husband, a detective and this Flora. The latter helps D.D. Warren professionally as an informant but she’s also an important link to the murder because she saw the victim, Conrad Jones, when she was held captive in conversation with her abductor. She tried to bury what happened to her but now she’s feeling strong enough and is determined to unearth Jacob Ness’ secrets and lies with the help of one of those true crime buffs on the internet and to find out who Conrad Jones was and what he was hiding from his wife.

I loved all three characters although Flora, whip-smart and headstrong, is probably my favorite. I don’t think one of them was less than the other two though, they were quite evenly matched. Evie was mysterious and I felt a little unsure about her. She’s the underdog of course, suspected of murdering her husband but on the other hand she might be holding some secrets too. I knew she was smart and resourceful right away, the way she was trying to find out what her husband was hiding in the months leading up to his death and I couldn’t help finding her initial reaction, shooting a computer, quite strange too and certainly enough to raise my eyebrows. I loved hearing about her past as a young girl and how she loved her brilliant father so much but at the same time it also made me wonder even more about his death. What lead to his death, and was it an accident after all?

If you enjoy reading police procedurals then you should definitely put this one on your list, there is excellent investigative work in Never Tell. 

The story is one spidery web of secrets and lies, taking you deep into Flora’s history and Evie’s past and as I said already, it sets quite a few fires alight along the way to the action-packed ending. Surprising twists and a great cast make this a brilliant page-turner that I can recommend to everyone.

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

Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox #BookReview

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They left four children safe upstairs.
They came back to three.

On the fifth floor of the White Caps Hotel, four young boys are left alone while their parents dine downstairs.

But when one of the parents checks on the children at midnight, they discover one of them is missing.

The boys swear they stayed in their room. CCTV confirms that none of them left the building. No trace of the child is found.

Now the hunt is on to find him, before it’s too late – and before the search for a boy becomes a search for a body…

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This is the 3rd novel in a series but I hadn’t even noticed until I saw it mentioned on Goodreads after I finished reading it. Gone by Midnight scored highly for me both on the mystery and the wonderfully crafted characters. Oh and of course I want to mention the glorious setting of the Australian outback with its croc-infested creeks as well which made me feel happy as can be for once that I wasn’t actually there.

But the first thing that made me want to read this novel was the blurb of course. Seriously, how good does this sound?! Can you tell me how on earth a little 8-year old can disappear into thin air while he wasn’t caught on camera anywhere and the other kids claim they haven’t left the room at all? No? Me neither, no matter how hard I thought about it, and even while I was reading it, I still couldn’t come up with anything that could explain it or tell me where the child could be. If we’re talking about puzzling stories then this one’s definitely on top of the heap.

I adored Ted and Amanda, the two detectives on duty. They were such a contrasting pair, Ted rather straight-laced and Amanda quite the opposite, but they were both big personalities and so great together. They both have a lot of baggage though with lots of unpleasant memories in the last years. Ted was wrongfully accused of a crime and goes through life still having to bear sideway glances. He’s divorced and has to find his feet juggling the new case with the care for his 3-year old daughter Lillian who’s come to stay with him for a short time. Amanda is a tattooed biker woman – and the last woman on earth I’d ever associate with a fairy btw which makes it so funny she’s called a fairy – but she has a knack of seeing details others miss and I was in awe of her deducting skills. It took me a bit longer to warm up to her –  she’s so extraverted and disliked by so many people so don’t hold it against me that I didn’t want to hand over the prize for Ms Sympathy either – but then I found out they were actually both huge animal lovers and that kind of sealed the deal. It’s so endearing to see how much Ted loved his dog Celine and his geese (he has named them all too and they’re even quite prominent in the novel) and Amanda is the crazy cat lady of service.

There’s a lot going on with both of them and their personal stories were as fascinating as the search for the missing child. There were a few red herrings thrown at me and even though I was rather sceptical of the plotline the author lead me to believe, I had only a feeling to go on and I didn’t have a clue how it would play out. I enjoyed the last part of the novel but I did feel that the transition to the final stage was pretty brusque and a big revelation was kind of dropped on me out of thin air. I was surprised yes, definitely, but also confused about the lead up to the revelation, as I didn’t see any good reason for it. Apart from that one gap, it had a great ending that made me really cross my fingers and hope for the best. The danger can come from where you least expect it ;-).

It wasn’t hard to see where the idea for the novel originated from and even though Ms. Fox changed quite a few details, the disappearance of Madeleine McCann immediately sprang to mind when the boy disappeared. She made it her own story though and put a great spin on it. I can definitely recommend this novel!

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

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides #BookReview

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I love him so totally, completely, sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me.
Sometimes I think-
No. I won’t write about that.

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

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‘Grasping at vanashing snowflakes is like grasping at happiness; an act of possession which instantly gives way to nothing.’

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If you haven’t heard about this novel by now, I really don’t know where you’ve been hiding. The Silent Patient is promised to become one of this year’s bestsellers and I think they are RIGHT, this novel really has bestseller written all over it!

Alicia Berenson was a very intriguing character because she kept quiet from the start, not saying another word after she’s been caught and arrested for the murder on her husband Gabriel in flagrante delicto. We know the facts, her husband was shot 5 times in the head and he was tied to a chair but what we don’t know is WHY she did it. I wanted to, no needed to know why she did it so badly in the end! The author kept me very much in suspense though and the slow build only added to the story.

The fact that she’s not talking forced me to guess her motive constantly. Her profile just didn’t fit with the murder but I knew she did it. It was very conflicting and I couldn’t flip those pages fast enough to find out more. I also couldn’t understand why she wasn’t talking, the only clue she left was a painting she made. I’m not a big art lover or expert but I was quite fascinated about the meaning behind this painting which name refers to an old Greek tragedy; it made it even more intriguing.

Before there were answers there’ll be a lot more questions and silence though and luckily psychotherapist Theo Faber comes along and is determined he can make her talk after 6 years of silence. In other novels the therapist often remains an authority but in this novel I really got to know Theo, I heard his own thoughts and became familiar with the struggles he’s facing in his personal life as well. I liked him, it was easy to connect with him and it was there from the start. I wished that he would be successful and would be able to get Alicia to talk. As a reader you’re sooooo waiting for that moment to happen!

To help the story along he’s aided by Alicia’s diary entries and this clever literary tool let me hear from Alicia even when she’s keeping quiet. Layer after layer there’s more to be discovered about her life but I was still totally blindsided in the end and I almost had a whiplash inducing shock when all the puzzle pieces fell into place without much of a warning. I was stunned. What the… how the hell did this happen? It all makes sense though when you think about it and I loved the twist. My initial outrage at her was gone, just like that. I understood why she did it, how she was pushed over the edge. It was a brilliant end scene.

If you enjoy psychological thrillers I’d definitely put it on the list like NOW! This is an absolutely amazing debut with an unbelievable stunner of twist! It’s perfect for fans of Jo Spain who read The Confession (also not a who but a why dunnit novel).

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

Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen McManus #BookReview

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Ellery’s never been to Echo Ridge, but she’s heard all about it. It’s where her aunt went missing at age sixteen, never to return. Where a Homecoming Queen’s murder five years ago made national news. And where Ellery now has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, after her failed-actress mother lands in rehab. No one knows what happened to either girl, and Ellery’s family is still haunted by their loss.

Malcolm grew up in the shadow of the Homecoming Queen’s death. His older brother was the prime suspect and left Echo Ridge in disgrace. His mother’s remarriage vaulted her and Malcolm into Echo Ridge’s upper crust, but their new status grows shaky when mysterious threats around town hint that a killer plans to strike again. No one has forgotten Malcolm’s brother-and nobody trusts him when he suddenly returns to town.

Ellery and Malcolm both know it’s hard to let go when you don’t have closure. Then another girl disappears, and Ellery and Malcolm were the last people to see her alive. As they race to unravel what happened, they realize every secret has layers in Echo Ridge. The truth might be closer to home than either of them want to believe.

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I read One of Us is Lying last year and that novel was one of my absolute favourites of the year so I couldn’t quite believe my luck when I received an e-mail from the publisher to read this novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed Two Can Keep A Secret, the book has a great start and plenty of mystery to keep you very happy but even with all the effort put into this novel, I can’t help but love her debut more. I probably spoiled the whole thing myself though by comparing the books and expecting the same. I mean, I loved the characters in her debut so much (maybe a bit more than in this one because the secrets were so intimate that I felt like I knew the characters, I certainly sympathised with them a lot) and of course that whole read was such a rollercoaster of secrets and lies, I somehow expected that to happen here too.

This one’s more of a stealthy read though, apart from the start that really grabs your attention there’s actually a string of mysteries that follow and are intricately weaved together. It lets you simmer in your suspicions until the big reveal in the end. The author resorted to a somewhat more traditional plot style here with an unsolved case, a present mystery, and a possible link between them that I was searching for througout the novel. It’s a good setup but to be outstanding you have to find that extra touch. I do think she did her best! The setting is brilliant and she gets all the points for the creepy location. Ellery and Ezra’s Nan lives near a Halloween theme park called Murderland you see, now renamed as Fright Farm for a good reason :-).

The novel had a Pretty Little Liars vibe, especially with the blonde, brunette and redhead trio in school (two of them cheerleaders and one an aspiring journalist) who play a central part in the story and are targeted and threatened by someone unknown. I really warmed to the two POV’s too, Ellery, the new-in-town girl, and Malcolm, younger brother of Declan Kelly who was previously suspected of murdering his girlfriend Lacey. I was happy though it it didn’t turn into a big romance and the mystery received all of the attention. Ellery is a would-be detective and it was great to see her sleuthing, even if she gets it wrong a few times and she dragged me along into her pit of suspicion.

The novel kept me awake, it was really engrossing, but I can’t say I was very surprised when the villain was revealed. There is a clue if you are a really attentive reader and although I’m sure a lot of readers won’t pick up on it, this didn’t get passed me unnoticed :-). But I did thoroughly enjoy the thrilling culmination. What surprised me even more in the end however was the person who got a spot in the limelight when I didn’t expect it.

The best things are always saved as last though and I still had one last burning question on my mind. I didn’t think I would receive an answer any more but she showed me her awesomeness again with a real OMG moment in the VERY LAST SENTENCE. Those last words… you have to read them to believe them, but really major chills!

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