ARC REVIEW: The Missing Sister – by Elle Marr

Title: The Missing Sister
Author: Elle Marr
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 1st 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: March 15th 2020
Pages: 300

“Grief is a bizarre beast that can make us see and do things that don’t make sense. Memory adjusts and omits with the slightest nudge, let alone under circumstances like mine.”

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

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There was just something about the blurb of The Missing Sister that intrigued me back when I first saw it on Netgalley last year, and I couldn’t resist getting a copy… I mean, a foreign setting, a possible serial killer AND a missing twin sister? How could I possibly say no to that?! I have been looking forward to read this story and while it failed to blow me away personally, it is by no means a bad read and without doubt still a solid debut. I’ll try to explain below why certain aspects of The Missing Sister failed to hit the mark for me…

Before I start, I have to repeat first that this debut is by no means a bad read and the 3 star rating reflects my personal experience with this story rather than the quality on its own. There were things I loved about The Missing Sister, but I couldn’t ignore the things that didn’t work for me either as these rambles wouldn’t be an honest reflection of my thoughts otherwise. With that out of the way, let’s discuss The Missing Sister: I’m going to start with the things that did work for me. I personally loved the foreign setting in Paris, and especially how big of a role the capital city of France plays in the story itself. Oh no, Paris isn’t just a random setting chosen as a background for another typical thriller read; the city and especially the Catacombs play a crucial and all important role in the plot as a whole and the story wouldn’t be the same without its history. I loved learning a bit more about the Catacombs along the way as well, and it definitely shows that the author knows the city intimately.

Another thing that stood out for me was the premise of this debut, which can’t exactly be put into just one genre and has that unique touch that makes it stand out from the rest. We have the twins and the contemporary angle, especially with the flashbacks back in San Diego… We have the mystery around Angela’s death or disappearance in Paris… We have the hint at a possible serial killer on the loose… And we have Paris, its Catacombs and its history. All of this is combined using a mix of Angela’s twin sister Shayna’s POV and a series of email exchanges between the twins… Slowly learning more about their past as well as the present.

We now arrive at what ended up not working for me personally in The Missing Sister… My main issue was probably the fact that I was unable to fully connect to the story or the characters, making it harder to stay focused and get fully absorbed in the story. Especially the parts about the connection and past between the twins slowed down the story considerably for me, even though it was one of the things that spoke to me when I first read the blurb. Likewise, I wasn’t a fan of the characters nor of the way how they behaved at all, making it hard to connect to them or care about what happened to them… And talking about the plot, I also found that certain aspects and plot twists were just a bit too farfetched to my liking, while other twists (including the big one involving who was behind it all) were just too easy to guess. I wasn’t too sure what to make of the ending either… Overall it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea as I struggled to connect to the story and found certain parts too farfetched, but I did love the foreign setting and premise and I’m sure the right person will love this debut.


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ARC REVIEW: The Body In The Garden – by Katharine Schellman

Title: The Body In The Garden
(Lily Adler Mystery #1)

Author: Katharine Schellman
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: March 7th 2020
Pages: 336

“Secrets. Lily narrowed her eyes as she looked around the crowded ballroom. She could practically feel them in the air: the secrets, the gossip, and the scandal.”

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

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I confess it was the gorgeous cover that first lured me in, but as soon as I read the blurb I was completely convinced I had to add The Body In The Garden to my wishlist. I love a good historical mystery and between the 1815 London setting and the hint at a newly widowed main character investigating a murder I was fully intrigued. This debut is the first of a new historical (cozy) mystery series and while it failed to blow me away personally, I do believe cozy mystery fans will be in for a treat.

I think that part of the problem The Body In The Garden didn’t work all that well for me was the fact that this story might simply not have been a right fit. While I love historical fiction in general and I do love a good mystery, I tend to prefer mysteries with a slightly faster pace and less frivolous characters and high society talk a lot better. This is of course my own fault as I should have read the blurb more thoroughly, but it is what it is I guess. That said, there is no denying that the pace of this first Lily Alder Mystery book is considerably slow. True, the murder itself happens quickly enough, but the aftermath tends to focus more on society events and interactions rather than the murder investigation itself. For someone who always enjoys the investigation part of a murder mystery the most, this was a bit of a let down… The more suspenseful parts were a bit too far apart for me and I struggled to stay focused on the story as it was. That said, I do have to say that the final twist was brilliant developed and a pleasant surprise to end this story with.

The historical setting in The Body In The Garden was well developed, and I could really appreciate how the author incorporated race problematics into the story with the help of two mixed-race characters (Ofelia and Jack). It was interesting to see 19th century society react to both characters. Talking about the characters, we can see quite a big cast of main and secundary characters in this story, which will definitely keep you on your toes if you want to keep up with who is who. Jack is easy to like as a character, and his rogue charm comes of the pages beautifully. That said, I can’t say that I was a fan of Lily. While I appreciate her stubbornness and fierce belief in what is right and wrong, it soon started to get a bit old that she was always right and that she didn’t want anyone helping her. The whole constant remembering of her deceased husband was really getting annoying as well; I know her being a widow is fundamental for the plot as she wouldn’t be able to move so freely otherwise, but that doesn’t mean we have to be reminded of it every few pages… Also, her behavior seemed to be a bit too modern for the time period she lived in.

The writing itself is easy on the eye, and I still believe the idea behind this new historical (cozy) mystery series is fascinating. I loved the historical setting in 1815 London and the final twist was without doubt well played. I did have some issues with The Body In The Garden, including the pace, focus on frivolous high society events and characters, but I also think this might not have been exactly right story for me. If you enjoy character-driven and slower paced cozy mysteries with a historical setting and a hint of crime, you will be in for a treat with The Body In the Garden.


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ARC REVIEW: The Silent House – by Nell Pattison

Title: The Silent House
Author: Nell Pattison
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 5th 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: January 19th 2020 
Pages: 400

“A phone call first thing in the morning never brings good news.”

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

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I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I don’t think I’ve ever read a thriller with a deaf main character before… The premise of The Silent House had a lot of promise of being an original story and sounded simply fascinating. I have been looking forward to read this one ever since my request was approved, and it might just have been that my expectations were set too high, but I’m sad to say that the story fell mostly flat for me. I’ll try to explain why below…

First of all I have to say that I still think that the premise of The Silent House is both unique and fascinating and definitely one of the strong points of this story. The insight in the Deaf community provided in The Silent House helps those who have never had direct contact with profoundly deaf people understand a little bit more about the challenges they face and what consequences it has for those surrounding them. Not only do we have Paige and her freelance job as a British Sign Language interpreter, but the mayority of the main characters involved is either deaf or has family members who are deaf. This definitely gives the story an unique angle as well as an opportunity to teach us more about the Deaf community itself.

That said, sadly I found the character development to be rather lacking. What could have been a golden opportunity to shine a light on the Deaf community and develop a cast of interesting characters that are able to teach as well as entertain us, ended up being a rather flat and lackluster representation. I found that most characters lacked personality and instead were mostly build up out of cliches without real development. I wasn’t really a fan of any of the characters and Paige’s behavior is quite frustrating most of the time as well as not exactly all that believable. This lack of realistic character development made it a lot harder to stay invested in the story and definitely had a negative influence on my reading experience.

It wasn’t just the character development that disappointed me though. I also struggled with the plot itself. Apart from the fact that I found the execution of the plot to be rather dull and predictable, I also had doubts about the credibility of it all. The twists and secrets that were surely ment to build up that suspense weren’t really believable and I’m sad to say that I saw most of them coming from a mile away… Add the fact that the behavior of the characters was both cliche and not exactly credible most of the time, and the plot mostly fell flat for me. Instead of a twisty and suspenseful thriller that had me on my toes, The Silent House was actually rather boring and that isn’t exactly a word I would normally associate with a crime thriller about the murder of a little girl.

While the writing did read fast and I enjoyed learning more about the Deaf community, what sounded like an absolutely fascinating premise fell mostly flat for me in the execution. Among other things, the pace was quite slow, the characters are unlikeable and I had issues with the credibility and predictability of certain aspects of the plot…  All in all not my favorite read, although I still think the premise itself is solid and it has been interesting to learn more about the deaf community and everything it entails.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #146 – The Last House Guest & My Sister, The Serial Killer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two thrillers I’ve been really excited to read… The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda sadly turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, especially since I have some of her other titles on my all time favorites list. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite turned out to be very darkly entertaining though.


Title: The Last House Guest
Author: Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 18th 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: January 23rd 2020
Pages: 352

“But that was the trick of the place – it lured you in under false pretenses, and then it took everything from you.”


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Both All The Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger are on my list of all time favorites, so to say that The Last House Guest was on my list of most anticipated 2019 releases is an understatement. I’m not sure why it took me this long to pick it up; it might have been the hype, it might have been the mixed reviews, but I’m actually kind of glad I waited until the hype died down a bit now. Why? Well, let’s just say that somehow I was quite underwhelmed by what I found in The Last House Guest. It’s not necessarily a bad read, but I don’t think it lives up to the quality of especially All The Missing Girls either… I found the plot to be rather dull, slow-paced and predictable most of the time, and the tension took a loooooong time building up. So long, that I found myself losing interest along the way, and this definitely wasn’t the unputdownable pageturner I thought it would be. Likewise, the final reveals were a bit abrupt to me and I felt the ending was almost rushed… After so long of nothing going on, I don’t think the suspense and plot twist reveals were well distributed in the story. I wasn’t a fan of the characters either… In fact, I don’t think I liked any of them and that is kind of a problem when a story is mostly focused on the characters. That aside, I did think the Littleport setting and the contrast between the locals and the visitors were interesting enough. Avery is used to give us an insight in both worlds, although I did feel that something was lacking in the development of both characters and plot even though I can’t put my finger exactly on what was missing. I think as a whole The Last House Guest sadly failed to hit the mark for me, and I’m hoping her next psychological thriller will help me fall in love with her stories again… Fingers crossed!


Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 17th 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Finished reading: January 27th 2020
Pages: 228

“I lean on the door frame and watch her, trying and failing to understand how her mind works. She remains as impenetrable to me as the elaborate ‘artwork’ daubed across the walls.”


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I confess My Sister, The Serial Killer had me at the title. I have a weird obsession with serial killer thrillers and the promise of having a serial killer right there and center and a sister to the main character at that was all I needed to add this title to my must-read pile. I’m not sure why it took me this long to actually pick it up, but I’m definitely happy with what I found! This is a dark dark but also weirdly funny read. Sounds contradicting right? But My Sister, The Serial Killer almost reads like a satire and murder definitely isn’t taken too seriously in the story… Nor are the characters in general for that matter. It’s a superfast read and extremely entertaining, although I did struggle considerably with the characters. Ayoola is basically a sociopath and I just can’t believe she can act so reckless and basically stupid and nobody has never even suspected her… Korede on the other hand I just wanted to slap for being so stupid and also for her to keep covering for her sister even though she knows her dark side VERY well. I mean, who would not only cover for someone you know is a serial killer and will kill again, but also actively help cover up their crimes? I’m sorry, but my love for someone would never actually be that strong to do that. It was interesting to see the family dynamics though, and even though I hated the whole love triangle vibe, I can’t denied I was still very much entertained by this darkly funny read. This story might not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind dark humor and dark elements in your thrillers, you will most likely find yourself entertained as well.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #145 – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened & Regretting You

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I’ve been looking forward to… I’ve been meaning to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson for years now, as I loved her humor in Furiously Happy, but sadly this first memoir didn’t have that same spark for me. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover was without doubt a great read though, although not my absolute favorite of hers.


Title: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
Author: Jenny Lawson

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: April 12th 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: January 15th 2020
Pages: 328

“Everyone else there had a sophisticated palate. I had one that needed therapy, and possibly an intervention.”


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I had so much fun when I read Furiously Happy back in 2016, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up Jenny Lawson‘s first memoir… I’ve been meaning to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened for years now, and although I’m glad I finally did, a part of me was a bit disappointed by what I found. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad read, but somehow that spark of Furiously Happy wasn’t really there for me. The snarky, blunt and sometimes sarcastic humor is still there, and I can’t deny laughing out loud more than once. But other parts felt like the author was simply trying to hard to be funny and quirky. And when the supposedly funny bits are starting to feel forced it really takes away from the reading experience. Some chapters worked better for me than others, and I didn’t always like how she talked about sometimes heavy topics… It’s one thing to not take yourself seriously and make fun of yourself, but certain comments/chapters could be insulting to some. The photos are a nice touch though! All in all, while it wasn’t a bad read, it by no means lived up to my reading experience with Furiously Happy. Might it just be that it is because raccoon Rory doesn’t appear in this first memoir? Or was it the different focus in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened? Who knows, but I’m going to stick with Rory for sure.


Title: Regretting You
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 10th 2019
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Finished reading: January 20th 2020
Pages: 365

“I feel like the contents of my life have shattered, and fragments of me have spilled out all over someone’s dusty hardwood floor.”


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I’ve been excited to read this one as, while I seem to have a love/hate relationship with her books, I did enjoy her most recent books without exception. Regretting You uses a dual POV, switching between Morgan and her daughter Clara, to tell us their story in the aftermath of a terrible accident. Morgan found herself pregnant with Clara at seventeen and doesn’t want her now sixteen year old daughter make the same mistakes… This is soon put in perspective as their lives seemed to crash after the accident. Secrets come to light, grief makes them different persons and both struggle to see and understand the truth behind the situation. I have to say that the whole cheating angle REALLY bothered me, and especially how both Morgan and Johah were treated. Absolutely despicable! My aversion is a personal reaction though and while it made me enjoy the story considerably less, I do think it was described well. I was truly disappointed by certain behavior of certain characters though… And I can’t say I was that much of a fan of either Morgan or Clara. That said, I absolutely adored Miller and I quite liked Jonah too despite a few disappointments. It was interesting to see the different relationships evolve over time and see the plot develop and reveal its secrets and twists… And surprise: I didn’t even mind the sexy scenes! In short: while Regretting You isn’t my absolute favorite CoHo book and there were a few things that bothered me (including the whole cheating angle and certain behavior of certain characters), I can’t deny it was still an excellent read and I had a great time reading it overall.


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ARC REVIEW: The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright – by Beth Miller

Title: The Missing Letters Of Mrs Bright
Author: Beth Miller
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: December 4th 2019
Pages: 327

“I wanted to try whatever life I had left without that net. Close my eyes and take a leap of faith.”

*** 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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I know I don’t read contemporary romance all that often, but I like mixing up my genres every once in a while and there was just something about The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright that made me want to read it instantly. I think it was a combination of the blurb itself and the comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove; two of my favorite books with characters I absolutely adored. And the blurb definitely sounded like main character Kay was going to have the same vibe, so I was superexcited to finally meet her. I might have set my expectations a tad too high, because somehow I didn’t end up enjoying this story as much as I thought I would… I’ll try to explain why.

First of all I have to stress that The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright is by no means a bad read, and the rating reflects my personal reaction to this story and its characters rather than the quality of the story. There is a lot to love in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright, and depending on how you react to the main characters your reading experience might just be completely different from my own… First of all, we have the bookish elements. Not only does main character Kay’s husband own multiple bookshops, but we see other references as well throughout the story. I always love those little references in my books, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Another element I loved was travel related; not only that Kay wants to spread her wings and start seeing the world, but also those descriptions and chapters set in Australia and especially those in Venice. This Italian city really came alive for me in the descriptions and was one of the highlights of this book for me.

I also loved the idea behind the letters, and some actually being incorporated into the plot between chapters. This most definitely added an original touch! The plot itself is intriguing enough and uses multipe POVs to help us understand how different people react to Kay’s decision to leave her husband of twentynine years and start doing things she has always wanted to but never has. There is the underlying worry and mystery around Bear of course as well, and it was interesting to see things develop and secrets slowly coming to light. The writing was easy on the eye and superfast to read, and in many ways this is the perfect contemporary romance read.

What went wrong for me then? I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason is pretty clear: the main characters. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters as I thought I would. I had issues with various decisions and personality traits of more than one character, and this really put a damper on things… I won’t go too much into details to avoid spoilers, but I wasn’t a fan of Kay and her selfishness after her decision. I fully get she has the right to a life of her own, but she truly only thinks of herself and doesn’t seem to care too much of what her children and friends are going through… And that was not the only thing that annoyed me about her. I wasn’t able to warm up to Stella, Edward or Richard either, although I did like Newland, Rose and even Piet. What I absolutely detested was the whole cheating angle, but that is just a personal reaction as I never respond well to this element in a story…

I did love the food element in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though. The descriptions of the food really made me crave those dishes and I actually prepared my curry recipe as a result afterwards. There were a lot of other things I enjoyed as well, like mentioned above, but as a whole something just didn’t click for me and I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. Fans of the contemporary romance genre might just have a fantastic time with The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though! Definitely give this story a chance if you think it might be your cup of tea, because it seems like I’m in the minority with this one.


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ARC REVIEW: The Secret Messenger – by Mandy Robotham

Title: The Secret Messenger
Author: Mandy Robotham
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: December 12th 2019
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: December 12th 2019 
Pages: 400

“Whether or not they are dead and gone, history defines us. It makes us what we are.”

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

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I was already swamped with pending ARCs when I received an invitation to read The Secret Messenger, but as I have a (probably already well known) weak spot for WWII historical fiction I just couldn’t resist adding this title to my TBR anyway. Especially since my reading experience with her debut A Woman Of War last year turned out to be a positive one, and I do love a lesser known WWII setting… Because let’s face it: Italy isn’t exactly the star of the show in most WWII historical fiction stories, and I don’t think I’ve read a WWII story before set in Venice. Which was probably one of the key reasons I was especially excited to pick up my copy of The Secret Messenger. Now I’ve had the chance to read The Secret Messenger, I’m not sure what to do with my thoughts. I was fully expecting to love this story, and there were definitely certain elements that managed to provoke that love, but there were also other elements that didn’t work all that well for me. In short: surprisingly enough, I ended up having mixed feelings about The Secret Messenger. I’ll try to explain why below…

First of all I have to say that the setting in Venice is without doubt the true star of this book. The descriptions are detailed, thorough and really made the magic of the city come alive for me… Both in the present and past. Sadly I haven’t been able to visit the city myself just yet, but Mandy Robotham made it feel as if you were right there along with the main characters. Venice is a truly magical city and I loved learning more about its history through the characters of this story. The Secret Messenger uses a dual timeline with two different POVs: Stella in 1943-1944 Venice and Luisa in 2017 UK and later Venice as well. Dual timelines are always tricky to get right, and sadly I don’t think this technique worked all that well in this case. I felt the balance of the two different timelines was off; there was a whole lot more of Stella and Luisa’s chapters fell mostly flat for me until those final chapters set in Venice. To be honest, I think The Secret Messenger would have been a stronger story if it would have been just Stella’s POV, as she is clearly the star of this story and already takes up so much space in the plot to begin with. Luisa’s chapters only distracted from the ones set in the past, and to be honest I never really liked her character all that much either.

I also have to say that the pace was considerably slow during most of the story, only picking up towards the ending as things are getting more intense especially in Stella’s chapters. This slow pace made it harder to stay invested in the story and it took me a lot longer than usual to finally reach that final page… And it mostly thanks to Stella, the Venice setting and its fantastic descriptions and history that I decided to keep on reading. The whole story of the war in Venice and how the resistance tried to do their thing was fascinating, and I truly wish the sole focus would have been on Stella and her story. Luisa didn’t really add much to the plot for me other than slowing down the pace considerably and I don’t think her character was fleshed out enough to be a true asset to the story.

In short, there were things I loved in The Secret Messenger, including the WWII setting in Venice, its history and the story of the resistance and Stella’s story as a whole. There were also things that didn’t work for me, incluiding the slow pace during most of the story, the dual timeline and Luisa’s POV in general. As a result, I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Secret Messenger despite the fact that this story should have been a perfect fit, but fans of the genre should definitely give it a go as most people seem to react a lot better to the elements that didn’t work for me personally. I guess it was unpopular opinion time once again?


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