ARC REVIEW: 29 Seconds – by T.M. Logan

Title: 29 Seconds
Author: T.M. Logan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 25th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: August 14th 2019
Pages: 368

“It was strictly a one-time deal, a once-in-a-lifetime offer. A deal that might change her life. A deal that would most certainly change someone else’s.

It was a deal with the Devil.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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!! Happy publication day !!

29 Seconds is one of those titles that slipped between in cracks in 2018, so I was over the moon when I was able to get an ARC of the US publication this year. Because let’s face it, the only way it’s a garantuee I will pick up a title sooner than later is if it comes with a deadline attached. Whoops? I’m very happy I finally had the chance to read this story though, because I can understand the love for 29 Seconds now. It’s such a well crafted and original plot!

Oh yes, if you are looking for a little something different than your typical psychological thriller plots, you will hit the jackpot with this one. What I thought would be a simple sexual harassment story involving the typical boss and female colleague roles, soon turned out to be something a whole lot more twisted and complicated. The sexual harassment and the bullying is there, front and center and with its own spotlight to help you remember why you hate a certain character so much. Trigger warnings are in place for those who are sensitive to the theme, because things will go quite far and it doesn’t make for comfortable reading. Sadly, this kind of bullying and treating female colleagues is not extinct even today and this story shows how difficult it is to find proper proof and fight for your rights as a woman and a professional. It was without doubt very interesting how the author developed the theme as a whole.

Like I said before, there was a certain character I absolutely and completely loathed and I myself wouldn’t have doubted a second if I would have been in the same situation and the same offer would have been made to me. Does this make me a bad person? Maybe. But some situations just have no other way out, and certain actions and persons simply have to be stopped before even more lives are ruined. I think the power of 29 Seconds is in this choice, and how this story makes you think about what you would do if the same happened to you… As the story states: ultimately, we all have someone on our list. As for the main character Sarah… Did I like her? Not exactly. Did she make me want to slap her and yell at her to get a grip? Oh yes. Was I frustrated with how she had be putting up with that kind of behavior for two years already? You bet. But it was interesting to see Sarah develop over time and reacting to her decisions and the things happening to her.

The writing made it really easy to fly through 29 Seconds and I liked how the story was divided into three parts. There are different elements involved as well as multiple plot twists and a very original angle in the form of the once-in-a-lifetime offer. I would have liked to see certain aspects of the final reveals more developed, as they seemed to be a bit rushed and not every twist seemed to be explained all that thoroughly. But overall I liked how this story surprised me and even though I was infuriated by the sexual harassment scenes, I loved the plot development as a whole. Original, fast-paced, considerably disturbing and with a healthy dose of suspense, 29 Seconds will most likely entertain any psychological thriller fan who likes their stories with a twist.


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BOOK REVIEW: Keeper – by Johana Gustawsson @Orendabooks

Title: Keeper
(Emily Roy & Alexis Castells #2)
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 15th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: August 27th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in French: ‘Mör’)

“The news had hung in mid-air for a moment, a millisecond of incomprehension and doubt when reality only existed in words, as if it were gearing up to hit you where it hurts.”


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And it happened again… As with the first book of the Emily Roy & Alexis Castells series, I’ve been struggling to get a word on paper after finishing Keeper last week. Such is the power of these books! Many fellow bloggers have recommended this series to me over time, and I’ve definitely become a fan. Keeper has only reconfirmed my love for this series, and even a week after I’m still recovering from the shock of this absolutely brilliant and without doubt disturbing read. But it’s time for me to stop procrastinating as I really want to dive into my copy of Blood Song, so let’s see if I can put together a somewhat coherent review…

Like in the first book, the first thing that stands out in Keeper is the combination of two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and crime fiction. And not just any historical period: this sequel involves the infamous Jack The Ripper! That alone is a huge bonus for me, but having both genres merged so successfully really turns this series into something special. Both past and present are excellently developed and Johana Gustawsson has a way of making you feel like you are right there next to the characters. The historical chapters are described realistically and in great detail; I really loved how she incorporated the Jack The Ripper references into the plot as well. The historical chapters give this crime thriller an unique touch and once again really enhanced the reading experience for me.

Another thing I loved is the international setting. Having part of the story set in Sweden definitely added more dept to the story, especially with similar murders being discovered in both London and Sweden. Descriptions of both the Swedish setting and culture are thorough and give you the perfect backdrop for this blood chilling read. Because there is one thing for sure: you will have to prepare yourself for a particularly harrowing and brutal read…Trigger warnings are in place for themes including (child) abuse, addiction and (extreme) violence. Oh yes, this is not just another ‘simple’ serial killer case, and the things you will learn about the past and present will leave you flabbergasted. Keeper is definitely a keeper, but only for those with a strong stomach! You will get some relief though in the form of new favorite characters Emily Roy and Alexis Castells. Apart from the fact that I love that they are not the typical detective leads, but instead are a profiler (Emily Roy) and a true-crime writer (Alexis Castells), I really like both their dynamics and their personal development in this sequel. There was another character that really stood out for me in Keeper though: Aliénor. She really added a little something extra to the present chapters set in Sweden and I hope we will see more of her in the future… That said, the other characters are likewise well developed and it was fascinating to learn more about the who, how and why behind the murders as well as trying to discover how it could be connected to the events in 1888.

The structure of the plot is complex and has multiple POVs, flashbacks and different settings. This only adds to the richness of this story and it is one of the reasons this series in general is one of my favorite new discoveries this year. The chapters are well balanced despite the multiple POVs and settings… Since you already know quite a lot of characters from Block 46, it is really easy to just dive in, forget about pending chores and fully immerse yourself into the story. The writing is simply beautifully and the pace is just right; it was hook, line, and sinker from the very first chapter and I finished this briliant read in no time at all, albeit with a few fingernails less than before. Why? I can guarantee that the excellently developed plot twists, well placed moments of suspense and shocking paragraphs will have you biting your nails and checking your blood pressure repeatedly in no time at all.

In short, if you enjoy a well written, expertly crafted and unique crime thriller with a historical twist, you should definitely schedule yourself a meeting with Emily Roy and Alexis Castells. Both Block 46 and Keeper are exceptional books I can highly recommend to any fan of the genre.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #119 – The Dream Thieves & Darius The Great Is Not Okay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The first a sequel that surprisingly enough ended up disappointing me: The Dream Thieves by  Maggie Stiefvater. Be warned for an upcoming unpopular opinion review! Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram turned out to be just as good as people kept promising though.


Title: The Dream Thieves
(The Raven Cycle #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: August 7th 2019
Pages: 453

“All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or keptfrom, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches – that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”


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WARNING: it’s unpopular opinion time again!!

I should have known that the unpopular opinion curse wouldn’t stay away… Because even though I did enjoy the first book The Raven Boys back when I read it in December 2015, I can’t say I felt the same about The Dream Thieves. It’s true that I’ve heard people having mixed reactions to this sequel in general, and I fully understand why now. Unlike the first book, The Dream Thieves almost fully focuses on Ronan, and reactions to the sequel will most likely depend on your reaction to Ronan’s character in general. My reaction on Ronan’s character is actually surprisingly neutral; there are some things I like (including heritage and ‘powers’) and other aspects I found rather annoying (including his attitude), but overall I don’t mind him as a character. Having the focus mainly on Ronan in this story means that the magic of the first book is almost completely lost though… Because it’s the dynamics between the four raven boys and Blue that made that story into a success for me. Apart from the shifted focus, I also found The Dream Thieves to be rather overlong and quite boring in points… I actually caught myself skimreading certain parts, and that is never a good sign. I do have hopes for the final two books, as more than one fellow blogger has called this sequel the weakest link of the series, but I think I’m going to take a little break before I actually continue with The Raven Cycle. Maybe the unpopular opinion curse will get bored and will go away that way!


Title: Darius The Great Is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: August 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.”


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This one has been recommended to me multiple times and I love foreign settings featuring places I’ve never been before, so it’s easy to see why I was really excited to finally pick up Darius The Great Is Not Okay. I have to say it didn’t disappoint at all. While it’s true that it took me a couple of pages before I fully connected to the characters and writing, once I did I was hooked. The power of this story is both in its characters and the descriptions of the setting in Iran and the local culture. Especially the second was thorough, detailed and well developed, making Iran and daily life in Yazd come fully alive for me and it really enhanced my reading experience. Adib Khorram is able to make you feel as if you are right beside Darius in Yazd, discovering more about his family and his roots. Darius made for a very interesting flawed character, his depression and issues with not feeling that he belongs making you think about what it is like to stand in his place and how difficult it can be to overcome a clash of cultures within your own family or even within yourself. Darius doesn’t feel American enough, but doesn’t think he belongs in Iran either, with him not speaking farsi and not knowing a lot about their culture… I really liked how the author developed this theme in what I think is a realistic way; as a Dutch person living in a quite different culture and country (Argentina), I found it really easy to relate to Darius and his struggles. I loved learning more about Iran and seeing the characters grow and develop over time in general…The ending made me kind of sad though. If you enjoy YA fiction with a foreign setting and both interesting and flawed characters, you should definitely read Darius The Great Is Not Okay.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Essence Of Evil – by Rob Sinclair #blogtour #TheEssenceOfEvil @HeraBooks @canelo_co @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Essence Of Evil blog tour! A huge thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about this story that caught my eye immediately (serial killer twin!!) and I couldn’t wait to read this title.  And it was without doubt a thrilling ride… Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!


Title: The Essence Of Evil
Author: Rob Sinclair
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 12th 2019
Publisher: Canelo Hera
Finished reading: September 3rd 2019
Pages: 396

“All humans are the same. We’re all made of the same stuff, and deep down every single one of us is a potential killer.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Canelo Hera in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, a crime thriller with a detective lead that has a serial killer twin? How can I say no to that?! You guessed right, I simply couldn’t. If you, like myself, have that weird obsession with serial killer thrillers, you will be in for a treat with this first installment of a new detective series. This story will keep you on your toes and will have you biting your nails as you keep turning those pages to discover what is really going on… Both the murder case and the main lead’s personal background are simply fascinating.

So what makes The Essence Of Evil such a successful start of a new series? I already gave you a few hints, but I think our new lead DI Dani Stephens deserves to be named first. Why? While it’s true that she at first glance might seem to be like the typical damaged detective lead, there is a whole lot more to her character. Likeable or not, there is no doubt that she is a fascinating character and one of the reasons The Essence Of Evil worked so well for me. Because Dani isn’t just a detective with a serial killer twin. Oh no, that same twin actually tried to kill her and she only just survived… Spending the next two years of her life trying to recover from the brain injury that almost killed her. Chapters set in the present are mixed with diary style entries taking place during those two years. They show us just how hard it is to recover from serious brain injuries, not only for the victims but also for those around them. I could personally really appreciate this psychological aspect of the story, as it’s not something you read about every day.

Likewise, it was intriguing to read about Dani’s return to work and how she reacts to both her co-workers and the murder case that is thrown at her the very first day she returns. Dani is desperate to go back to work and prove herself, but is she truly ready? It was interesting to see this aspect of the plot evolve as well as how the case affects Dani’s personal life. Because this isn’t just another murder investigation. Dani’s personal life plays a considerable role throughout the plot, and not just in the flashbacks and her twin brother. We also see it in her road to recovery, the things that happen to her during the investigation and the dynamics with the other members of the team. I personally enjoyed this different focus as it gave another refreshing touch to The Essence Of Evil.

Next up is the plot. With flashbacks and an active present murder investigation, there is a lot going on and you can say that The Essence Of Evil has quite a complex plot. We have Dani’s brain injury recovery, we have the murder investigation and all its complications and subplots… All woven together with a healthy dose of suspense, plot twists and plain old action. The slower flashbacks are nicely balanced with superfast action scenes, thus appealing to a wider reading audience. The writing is easy on the eye and really makes you fly through those pages… With so many twists and unanswered questions, The Essence Of Evil is one of those books you will have a hard time putting down before you know all the answers.

Did you guess already that I really enjoyed this book? Between a fascinating new lead, the serial killer element, the brain injury recovery, interesting flashbacks and an intriguing murder mystery, there is no doubt that The Essence Of Evil is a promising start of a new series and one I can recommend to fans of the genre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Sinclair is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series and James Ryker series of espionage thrillers. His books have sold over half a million copies to date with many reviewers and readers having likened Rob’s work to authors at the very top of the genre, including Lee Child and Vince Flynn.

Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full time.

Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

http://www.robsinclairauthor.com 


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ARC REVIEW: The Sleepover – by Carol Wyer @bookouture

Title: The Sleepover
(Natalie Ward #4)

Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 5th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: August 21st 2019
Pages: 411

“Some days I wonder what on earth I’m doing. The world’s such a fucked-up place with millions of fucked-up individuals causing mayhem. We’re fighting a losing battle all the time.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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!! Happy publication day !!

I think most people know by now I’m a fan of Carol Wyer‘s books, as her detective thrillers seem to be a guarantee for an entertaining and thrilling ride. I still might prefer Robyn Carter a tiny bit more, but there is no doubt that Natalie Ward is a worthy contender. The Sleepover is already the fourth meeting with detective Natalie Ward and she is really growing on me despite initial reservations. I like the way she handles the investigations as well as the interactions with the rest of her team… I think this team work in general is what really makes the books work for me. The Sleepover is fast, thrilling and entertaining; without doubt another excellent addition to the series.The writing and plot development are more than solid and make it really easy to fly through this fourth installment. The plot will grab you straight away, and with its many twists, secrets and surprises you will find it difficult to stop reading before you discover the truth about it all. More and more secrets and lies are slowly untangled, still leaving you with more questions than answers as you try to solve the puzzle along with Natalie Ward and her team. It makes for an engaging and compelling read, and any fan of the detective thriller genre will have a great time reading it. Natalie’s personal story evolved a lot this time around as well, and I really hope she will stick with her final decision in the next book… Fingers crossed!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #118 – Apple Of My Eye & Outrun The Moon

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres that both turned out to be excellent reads: Apple Of My Eye by Claire Allan and Outrun The Moon by Stacey Lee.


Title: Apple Of My Eye
Author: Claire Allan

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 24th 2019
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: August 3rd 2019 
Pages: 400

“I nod. Thinking that yes, it is indeed easy to lie or just not tell the whole truth. Much too easy.”


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After so many raving reviews back in the beginning of 2019 when Apple Of My Eye was published, I knew I had no other option than to try Claire Allan‘s work. I’ve been looking forward to read this one, and I’m definitely glad I finally found the time to do so. Apple Of My Eye is without doubt a very solid psychological thriller. With the help of switching point of views, first between pregnant Eli and Louise and later Eli’s mother Angela as well, both suspense and plot are steadily build up in a way that will keep you interested throughout. Things escalate slowly but surely, and this story gives you that daunting feeling that something bad will happen any minute now. The plot twists and secrets are quite well handled, although I did see the big twist coming quite early on, but I enjoyed reading how Claire Allan revealed and developed the twist. The characters can get a bit frustrating, but especially Louise was a very interesting character to follow and it was intriguing to learn more about her background, motives and secrets. This story definitely ends with a bang! All in all I had a great time reading Apple Of My Eye despite a few minor issues, and I will definitely be looking forward to read more of her work. I even ended up ordering myself a physical copy of Her Name Was Rose to be able to do so soon!


Title: Outrun The Moon
Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: May 24th 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: August 9th 2019
Pages: 398

“People are like boats, always coming and going. Sometimes never returning. Now that his boat has sailed, the sea is empty for me.”


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I’ve had Outrun The Moon on my TBR for a long long time, and I’m glad the Magical Readathon came along and finally made me pick up this title. It was such a wonderful story! It’s my first time trying Stacey Lee‘s work, but I will definitely try to read more of her stories soon. She writes in a way that draws you right in, and the descriptions of both the historical setting in 1906 San Francisco and the different characters are very detailed and really make them come alive. The focus on Chinatown and its contrast to the world of St. Clare’s School for Girls is fascinating, both seeing the situation before and after natural disaster strikes. Despite the fact that not every aspect of Mercy’s character is likeable, she managed to grow on me anyway and I loved her strength and resilience. Apart from giving us a glimpse of the local culture and customs in Chinatown, combined with the discrimination and difficulties they encountered, this story gives us also an important life lesson. Outrun The Moon shows us that money, social status and race no longer count when disaster strikes… It’s only the strongest and more resilient who will be able to endure and find a way to help others as well. The character development in Outrun The Moon is very well done and I loved seeing them evolve over time and seeing them react to the devastation of the earthquake. If you enjoy a well written historical fiction story with interesting characters and a dose of desperation, you should definitely try Outrun The Moon.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Willow Woman – by Laurence Westwood #buddyread

Title: The Willow Woman
(Philip Ye #1)

Author: Laurence Westwood
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 7th 2019
Publisher: Shikra Press
Finished reading: August 8th 2019
Pages: 440

“He plays the game very well. But anyone who thinks Philip Ye is not his own master is blind. As a friend I would never turn my back on him, as an enemy I would never underestimate him.”

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*** First of all I have to say thank you to Kelly for introducing me to The Willow Woman and hosting a giveaway a while back and to the author Laurence Westwood for sending me a wonderful signed copy!! ❤ This hasn’t influenced my opinion about this book. ***

It doesn’t matter that there is a whole ocean and thousands of kilometres between us, thanks to the wonder of Twitter Nicki (Jersey in the Channel Islands) and myself (Argentina) are always able to make our buddy reads work. With only a few hours time difference, it was easy to catch up, discuss what was happening in the story, guess what would happen next and of course share the necessary photos of both book and the obligatory dose of sugar we found ourselves needing occasionally. 😉 It was without doubt another successful buddy read!! Make sure to read Nicki’s review as well if you want to find out exactly why and if we felt the same about this story.

I was curious about The Willow Woman as soon as I first saw Kelly mention it on her blog. I’m always in for a good detective thriller and the fact that the story has a (for me) foreign setting is a huge bonus. I haven’t had the chance to read many stories set in China before, and The Willow Woman was therefore a little goldmine filled with local culture. Oh yes, this story will transport you right to Chengdu with excellently elaborated descriptions of both the setting and Chinese culture in general. Both the local culture as well as the spirituality play a very important role in the development of the plot and the plot twists you will encounter along the way. Especially the spirituality was a very interesting touch, with many references to the spirit world and main character Philip Ye actually asking the spirits of the deceased to help him with the case. His beliefs are then contrasted in Xu Ya, who seems more pragmatic and doesn’t seem to believe in the paranormal. The inclusion of both Chinese culture and the paranormal aspect without doubt gave this detective story an unique twist and made this story stand out for me.

Another thing you notice almost straight away is just how complex this story is, and in a good way. While it’s true that the sheer amount of characters can be intimidating in the beginning, The Willow Woman has a very helpful index to check who is who and how they are related when in doubt. Trust me, you will find the index very helpful especially in the first couple of chapters! It will make juggling all those different characters so much easier and allows you to properly enjoy the story from the beginning. This story isn’t just complex due to the amount of characters though. The Willow Woman has an abundance of storylines and different point of views to revel in. These are used to build the plot and plot twists brick by brick and help you keep guessing about what is really going on. While it’s true that I made certain predictions about for example the professor and the boy that ended up being true quiet early on, there were also a lot of twists I could have never guessed. The story was getting more intriguing, complicated and intense by the minute and we both had to ease the tension with a dose of sugar more than once… Never underestimate the power of cake!

As for the characters… While there are a lot of them, the ones that stood out most for me (and won over my heart almost straight away) were probably Philip Ye, Xu Ya, Fatty Deng, Ma and Mouse. Each is well developed and plays an important role in this story, although the role of some might not seem as important straight away. I’m not sure I agreed with certain decisions of some characters, including Xu’s actions towards the ending, but that was more me biting my nails and shouting ‘why would you do that?!‘ rather than a reason to enjoy the story less. You will have to ready yourself for some intense moments, especially towards the explosive ending! But I really liked how everything was wrapped up. I also really appreciated how references to the so-called Willow Woman were incorporated into the plot and how this element was ultimately explained.

In short, The Willow Woman is both excellently written and well constructed; the intricate plot, foreign setting with insights in Chinese culture and spirituality, abundance of characters and what you can roughly call a conspiracy angle making for a most fascinating read. If you are a fan of detective thrillers and are looking for a story with an unique twist, you should definitely schedule yourself a meeting with Philip Ye.


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