ARC REVIEW: The Secret Of Heaven – by Felix Alexander @ReadingAlley

Title: The Secret Of Heaven
(Aiden Leonardo #1)
Author: Felix Alexander

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Adventure
First published: 2016
Publisher: ForeverPoetic
Finished reading: August 22nd 2017
Pages: 311

“The truth must be understood. Not solely for the purpose of being accepted, but for humanity as a whole to achieve enlightenment.”

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

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Every once in a while I like to change up genres and read something different. And while The Secret Of Heaven is partly a thriller, it was the promise of adventure and ancient mysteries that closed the deal for me. I love reading about conspiracy theories and secret societies so it is easy to say I was looking forward to this one, especially since I had previously enjoyed one of the author’s stories. Unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. I’m not sure if it just was me reading The Secret Of Heaven at the wrong time, but I really struggled to get a proper feel for this story. There are a lot of different characters involved and this makes it hard to keep up wih the what and who and how everything connects. More than once I had to stop reading and try to remember what the role of a certain character was and this slowed down the pace considerably. The plot also felt pretty chaotic and kept jumping back and forth between characters… Which took a while to get used to. I have to be honest here and say it took me a lot longer than expected to finish The Secret Of Heaven. The writing wasn’t bad and it really shows that the author has taken the time to investigate the historical details thoroughly. The (historical) descriptions are extensive and show just how important the so-called Lost Bible is… That said, those descriptions did also slow down the pace and while I normally love historical elements in a story, they didn’t manage to convince me in The Secret Of Heaven. As for the characters and their actions… I wasn’t really able to connect to them as there are simply too many characters in play in the first place; also, I’m not sure everything that happens in the plot is exactly credible. And while it kind of has that Dan Brown feel and sounds really promising, The Secret Of Heaven unfortunately didn’t manage to blow me away. Such a shame, because the story has a lot of potential!

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Professor of Biblical Studies Aiden Leonardo was the last person to see Lazzaro de Medici before he was murdered, so of course he instantly becomes the main suspect. The thing is: he cannot remember what happened the night before… Although he is certain he would never harm the man that took him in when his mother died. Something more complicated than just a simple murder seems to be at play though and Aiden soon finds himself right in the middle of a conspiracy, a hunt for a Lost Bible and a secret organization known as The Group. What will happen to Aiden and will they be able to find what they are looking for before it’s too late?

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I really thought I was going to enjoy this one and I’m still wondering if I picked it up at the wrong time, but the fact is that The Secret Of Heaven didn’t manage to convince me in the end. The writing isn’t bad and it shows that the historical elements are very well researched, but there were too many characters involved and the pace wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be with the extensive descriptions slowing it down. I normally love historical details so I was really surprised I wasn’t able to enjoy this story more!


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BOOK REVIEW: Confess – by Colleen Hoover

Title: Confess
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, New Adult
First published: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: July 16th 2017
Pages: 320

“Selflessness. It should be the basis of every relationship. If a person truly cares about you, they’ll get more pleasure from the way they make you feel, rather than the way you make them feel.”

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Spoiler alert: I seem to be having a love-hate relationship with Colleen Hoover‘s books. I know contemporary romance normally isn’t my thing at all and you might ask yourself: why on earth pick up a book belonging to a genre that’s not for you in the first place? Well, mostly because Colleen Hoover is one of the few authors that has been able to give solid proof (a.k.a. November 9 and It Ends With Us) that I can actually love a contemporary romance story. So when I was looking for something completely different to read, I turned to CoHo again and decided to pick up on of her novels still on my TBR. I mainly picked Confess because I was curious about the anonymous confessions incorporated into the story. And now I’ve finished reading it, I still think this is the strongest element of this novel. I just love the idea of the anonymous confessions made into art, the symbolisms and the fact that the actual paintings are shown in the novel. The confessions, both anonymous and those of the main characters, play a big role throughout the story and the title is definitely spot on. I initially received mainly positive vibes as I was reading Confess and I really thought it was going to be another winner for me, but unfortunately this feeling didn’t last. It wasn’t the writing style, which was just as good as ever and one of the reasons her books are just so damn readable. BUT. And here come two big issues… 1. The characters. 2. Instalove. I was able to tolerate the main characters initially, mostly because the writing style is very enjoyable and I was intrigued by the confessions and paintings. I even forgave the cliches initially… But this all went south when both Auburn and Owen started to annoy me. Even worse: other characters started popping up that provoked even worse feelings and that was not even the end of it. Because Confess suffers from a very heavy case of one of the most annoying romantic tropes: instalove. Auburn and Owen… Sorry, I just wasn’t able to believe it and it was really hard to keep taking the story seriously when I couldn’t take serious their (inter)actions. I was about halfway through when Confess had officially lost me to an instalove overdose. Which is a shame, because Confess does touch some very important topics and brings to light just how toxic and manipulative human beings can be. I can really see why people would love this story, but Confess was most definitely a solid case of ‘not-for-me’.

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Auburn Reed has been having a rough couple of years and has moved to Dallas to try and rebuild her shattered life. She has been fighting for a long time and her goals seem to be very close now… But it seems like life will be never easy for her. Auburn was just looking for a second job to get more money, but she ended up finding a whole lot more when she walks into a Dallas art studio and meets the artist and owner Owen Gentry. They share an instant attraction and Auburn decides to take a chance and put her heart first. But Owen has been keeping secrets from her… Secrets that might ruin the last thing in her life that is important to her.

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First of all I have to say that Confess by no means is a bad read, and I’m probably partly to blame for this story and me not being a right match. The writing style is just so readable and I do love the idea of the confessions turned into art and the way confessions are incorporated into the story itself. Confess isn’t just another sappy romance story and has a few very dark themes, but in the end it was the instalove overdose and inability to tolerate the main characters that ruined the reading experience for me. Oh well, I guess we can’t like them all… And what I said before is true: Colleen Hoover is always able to provoke very strong reactions with her stories whether they are positive or negative. And that is always a good sign.


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ARC REVIEW: Reported Missing – by Sarah Wray @bookouture

Title: Reported Missing
Author: Sarah Wray

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: July 14th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 10th 2017
Pages: 356

“My guts clench, a phantom pain where my instinct used to be, telling me what to do, showing me the way. Nowthe needle just spins and spins.”

*** 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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Ever since I first saw that cover and read the blurb I have been looking forward to pick up Reported Missing. I’m a sucker for a good psychological thriller and this story had all the signs of being another winner. Unfortunately I ended up having a completely different reading experience. This is going to be a though review to write… I’m still surprised to say this myself, but this is the first Bookouture thriller ever that actually ended up disappointing me. It’s such a shame, because I do feel the concept itself has a lot of potential. Reported Missing is ment to be more of a character driven story than a fast-paced thriller, something that can go both ways with me because the main character has to be very strong to keep me interested. And this was exactly one of my problems: I was never able to connect to the main character and I actually found her mostly dull and annoying even. Her reaction to her husband going missing under suspicious circumstances and the aftermatch is understandable in a way, but unfortunately actually reading about it didn’t seem to do the trick for me. Instead of a fascinating characterization with mental health/illness elements and a dose of suspense, I found myself rather struggling to keep interest in Reported Missing. The pace is considerably slow and basically nothing much is happening during the story. Part of this can be explained by the fact that Reported Missing is mostly focused on the character development, but this doesn’t take away that I really struggled to keep focused and continue reading. Things did improve slightly in the second half, making things a little more interesting, but overall I don’t think I would have reached that part in the first place if it would have been an ARC. Because unfortunately the urge to DNF was real… All in all not the thrilling experience I was expecting.

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Four months ago, Rebecca’s husband disappeared and he hasn’t been heard from since. But he wasn’t the only one that day: 14-year-old Kayleigh also disappeared without a trace. Is this just a coincidence or are the two connected? Rebecca wants to believe so, but the rest of the town seems to think otherwise as the police start to think the two cases might be connected. It’s getting harder to trust his innocence, and the angry town blames her for what her husband might have possibly done. But did he actually have something to do with Kayleigh’s disappearance? And where are the two in the first place?

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I was really looking forward to Reported Missing, but unfortunately I ended up having a completely different reading experience. While the concept sounded really promising, there wasn’t much happening during the story and the pace is considerably slow. This psychological thriller is mostly focused on the character development, but I found myself unable to connect to the main character and this made it really hard to keep interested in the story. In short unfortunately not what I was expecting at all.


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ARC REVIEW: Devastation Road – by Jason Hewitt

Title: Devastation Road
Author: Jason Hewitt

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 3rd 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Finished reading: July 1st 2017
Pages: 384

“Strange how memories were breaking through as if he’d slipped under ice and now there were patches of it starting to melt so he could see snippets of the life he once had on the surface. Just when he thought his memory was improving, just when he thought he could retain the events of a day, something always disappeared in turn.”

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

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

This is going to be my third ‘unpopular opinion’ review in a row; what is happening to me?! I enjoy reading historical fiction in general and actually have a special interest in any story related to WWII. Devastation Road sounded particularly interesting due to the fact that the main character has amnesia and I found myself really looking forward to read this novel. Devastation Road has received a lot of praise so far and I was expecting to be adding another positive review to the mix myself, but unfortunately I didn’t have the same reading experience as most people. First of all I want to make clear that the idea behind this story is without doubt fascinating: an English soldier in 1945 who has amnesia and doesn’t remember that last four years nor can retain new memories. I could also really appreciate the many descriptions of the places the characters passed through, flashbacks and historical details in general. But. And there is where the tricky part comes in… I REALLY struggled with the writing style. Instead of luring me in, the first pages and chapters only managed to frustrate me and disconnect me from the story with the constant repeat of he, he, he in the sentences. Somehow the prose didn’t flow and I had a hard time figuring out what was going on… This is possibly ment to portray the main character and his amnesia, but it made it really hard for me to properly enjoy the story. That said, apart from the writing style I found it also extremely hard to connect to the characters AND plot itself. It’s not that the main character aren’t intriguing and each has their own history, but somehow I found myself mostly detached from them. And while I normally love the use of foreign languages in a story, I think in the case of Janeck it only made it more difficult to connect to him. I mentioned the flow of the writing style before, and I think I had the same problem with the plot itself. The story goes from memory to present to past and completely different scenes without warning and although this once again can be seen as a representation of amnesia, I found myself really struggling to keep track instead. Devastation Road had all the signs of being an excellent read and the problem might have been just me since so many seem to love this story, but unfortunately I struggled along with the characters to reach the final page. And I still feel kind of sad I wasn’t able to enjoy it more.

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In the final stretch of WWII, a man wakes up in a field in a country he doesn’t know. He is injured and can’t seem to remember how he got there in the first place… In fact, only flashes of memory come back to him and he only has a vague recollection of joining the war he is currently in the middle of. His name is Owen and he is trying to get back to England, although this isn’t easy with his amnesia. He finds help in unlikely places, although he is not sure why exactly they help him or what they want from him. Will his memory get better and will he make it to safety?

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I really wanted to enjoy Devastation Road, especially since it is a combination of two topics that fascinate me: WWII and amnesia. Unfortunately I found it extremely hard to connect to the writing style, characters AND plot… And honestly I think I would probably have opted for a DNF if this weren’t an ARC. I seem to be in the minority though since most reviews have been really positive, so give this one a chance if this sounds like your cup of tea!


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ARC REVIEW: The Book Of Whispers – by Kimberley Starr

Title: The Book Of Whispers
Author: Kimberley Starr

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: October 3rd 2016
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: June 15th 2017
Pages: 386

“I have a voice, I have words. I run to a future where there’s the possibility of using them.”

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

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I admit I have a weird obsession with any title that has the word ‘book’ or anything book-related in them, so combined with a stunning cover The Book Of Whispers was immediately on my radar. I requested a copy of this story mostly based on this obsession, and didn’t realize before I started reading it that it had such a low Goodreads rating OR the fact that demons play such a big role in the story. To be honest, now I reread the blurb I don’t understand how I could have missed that part… Because what I thought would be a historical (medieval) fiction about a mysterious book actually turned out to be more of a demon-infested fantasy read. Stories involving demons are always  a hit or miss for me, so I guess I have myself to blame for that part… It wasn’t just the demon overload that didn’t work for me though, but also the way they were incorporated into the story. Especially in the beginning this mix of historical and fantasy felt awkward and the many many descriptions of the demons and all their strange forms slowed down the pace considerably. Trust me, there were many many eyebrow raises before the story started to flow better! Luckily the book itself made its appearance quite early on; otherwise I’m not sure if I would have decided to continue this story. I liked the medieval setting and the crusade and the idea behind The Book Of Whispers is without doubt an interesting and original one. I appreciate what the author wanted to do by mixing a traditional crusade story with fantasy and its complexity when trying to balance those elements; I just didn’t enjoy actually reading it. Mind, this could have been just me and my aversion to demons… Although I had a hard time connecting to the writing style or characters as well. Apart from the awkward demon descriptions that slowed down the pace, the writing style in general didn’t flow and felt a bit like trying to drive a car that is running out of fuel. This haltered feel did fade away a bit towards the ending, but all in all I struggled considerably reaching the final page. As for the characters: like I said, I had a hard time connecting to them and some of them were quite annoying. I liked that the demons were connected to the seven sins, but some of the characters were basically caricatures of those sins and maybe not that credible. Also, the romance. Boy, did I struggle with that feature. I know I’m almost never a fan, but besides the fact that this story has a love triangle, I found the romance in general didn’t feel credible at all and mostly a cliche. I can’t go into details without spoilers, but insta-love and all those sappy and cliche descriptions and feelings? Definitely could have done without that. There were some twists though and I liked the historical elements. The ending was interesting enough as well I guess. And there is no doubt this book surprised me, although in my case not in a good way…

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Set in Tuscany, 1096 AD, Luca is the young heir to the title of Conte de Falconi. He has a problem though: he can see demons and has strange dreams that sometimes predict the future. Luca is forced to keep this a secret since people either don’t believe him or are afraid of him… But when he sees his father murdered in one of those dreams, he is determined to stop this vision from coming true. This means following him on the great pilgrimage to capture the Holy Lands against his wishes… But will also be complicated when his father gives him an ancient book that holds a lot of mysteries just before they leave.

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I like stories with a medieval setting and I was definitely looking forward to The Book Of Whispers, but in the end it just wasn’t for me and not just because of the demon overload. The writing style, the demon descriptions, the characters, the romance… There was a lot that unfortunately didn’t work for me and the historical setting couldn’t make up for this. The idea behind The Book Of Whispers is very original though and it must have been a lot of work to mix both elements. There is no doubt this story had a lot of potential…


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BOOK REVIEW: The Murder Of An Angel – by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Title: The Murder Of An Angel
(Confessions #4)
Author: James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Genre: YA, Mystery, Fiction
First published: October 15th 2015
Publisher: Cornerstone Digital
Finished reading: May 5th 2017
Pages: 304

“There were three sides to this story: hers, his, and mine. But who cares about theirs? My side had been vetted and psychiatrically approved.”

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Confession: the only reason I decided to read the fourth and final book is that I can cross another series off my list that way. Confession: I still think this series should have stopped at the first book. Confession: I really wish I could turn the main character Tandoori into chicken tandoori food so I don’t have to listen to her any longer. Confession: there is a considerable amount of whining included in The Murder Of An Angel and that might make you want to throw your kindle/book against the wall. Confession: I don’t think the plot of this final book really lives up to the first either book. Confession: I actually think the conclusion is quite weak and there is a lot of repetition going on in the plot. Confession: Tandoori thinks she is pretty darn important, but she’s basically an unstable brat. Confession: I guess at least it’s a superquick read, although I’m not sure if it’s because of the pace or writing style. Confession: the fact that this series reads fast is probably the only reason I made it this far. Confession: if you ask me, stick to just reading the first book if you haven’t read the series yet. It will save you a lot of pain. Confession: I’ve grown tired of this format, so this will be my final confession. Done. Finito. Over and out.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first three books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

After all that Tandoori Angel and her family have been through during the last year, the next murder case just could be her own. But she is not sure the new treats are real, or if the stalker she’s convinced will take her life actually just lives inside her head… Because let’s face it: she’s not exactly stable. A series of events lead her to believe it might all be real, but is this true or is it all the result of her own paranoia?

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In case my confessions weren’t clear, I didn’t exactly enjoy this final installment of the Confessions series. I actually really enjoyed the first book, but things went downhill from there and the last two books are basically pretty bad. It just seemed like more books were squeezed out for monetary reasons as the plot was weak and didn’t add anything substantial to the story at all. The main character Tandoori becomes intolerable and the romance/love triangle subplot plain annoying. I kind of wish I would have stopped after the first or even the second book, but I guess it’s too late for that… It is true though that The Murder Of An Angel is again a superfast read I managed to finish in less than a day. And thank the stars for that.


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ARC REVIEW: The Car Bomb – by T.V. LoCicero

Title: The Car Bomb
(Detroit I’m Dyin Trilogy #1)
Author: T.V. LoCicero

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 7th 2013
Publisher: TLC Media
Finished reading: April 27th 2017
Pages: 220

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

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April ARC month is slowly coming to an end and this is probably one of the last titles I will be able to read before the month is over. I’ve had this first book of a trilogy on my ARC list for a while… The Car Bomb belongs to one of my favorite genres and I was looking forward to what looked like an action-packed thriller. Unfortunately, I ended up having a hard time reading this story. It’s without doubt a superfast read and I managed to finish it in less than a day, but I can’t say I actually enjoyed it. During most of the story the different chapters just didn’t connect together and I had to struggle to follow the plot. Most of the story felt messy, chaotic and some things just didn’t make sense… Things did improve in the final part, which I enjoyed considerably better, but I have to be honest and say I’m not sure if I would have made it to that part if this wouldn’t have been an ARC. This wasn’t my biggest problem with The Car Bomb though. It wasn’t the excessive swearing either, although it did started to frustrate me. No, it was the main character of this story: Frank. Words cannot describe how much I dislike that cheating (note: on both his wife AND mistress), womanizing, drunk, arrogant bastard. It was practically hate at first sight and it was really hard for me to try and enjoy a story I had already issues with having to deal with a main character I simply can’t stand. I mean, he is a popular TV star, so he gets away with all the despicable things he does?! Not in my world. I guess male readers might be less offended by his character, although I sure do hope they don’t take him as an example. As you might have guessed, this story definitely wasn’t for me even though the general idea behind this story did sound interesting.

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Frank DeFauw is a very popular TV anchor with a colorful personal life full of booze, drugs and womanizing. After a car bomb kills a mother and her two children, Frank decides to investigate the case and stumbles upon something a whole lot bigger than just a simple bomb. He is on the border of discovering a big corruption scandal, and one of the persons involved might actually be one of his best friends. Frank is faced with a complicated decision to either discover the truth or protect his friend and family… Because some people are trying very hard to keep the truth from coming out, and things are becoming dangerous.

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I normally enjoy reading thriller reads, but The Car Bomb was definitely not for me. Male readers might enjoy this story better than I did, but I just couldn’t recover from my VERY negative feelings about the main character. I don’t care that he is a famous TV anchor; both his behavior and character in general are simply inexcusable and disgusting. The case itself might be interesting and it does have potential, but unfortunately I just couldn’t enjoy this story.


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