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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ARC REVIEW: Americosis Vol. 4 – by Haydn Wilks

Title: Americosis Vol. 4
Author: Haydn Wilks

Genre: Short Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: December 2nd 2016
Finished reading: July 25th 2017
Pages: 56

“It’s all madness.”

*** 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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First of all a little note: since the cover is basically a swearword, I’ve decided not to display it on my blog for personal reasons. It’s bad enough it already shows up on my Goodreads timeline as it is. xD

The quote above describes these Americosis volumes perfectly: absolute madness. I’ve read the first three volumes in the past, so I did know exactly what I signed up for… There is nothing ordinary about the world created in Americosis, the plot or the characters. And it has been one heck of a crazy and absurd ride so far! Volume four continues where the last part ended; there is almost no recap so it’s important to read/remember the previous volumes to make sense of it all. Although ‘making sense’ maybe isn’t the right phrase to look for, because I don’t think Americosis is ment to make sense in the first place. Volume four had a few very interesting elements I liked; predominantly the parts set in the future (4046). The idea of every person having a different vision of what happened since the moment in history they were snatched away is intriguing and would be a great topic for a standalone novella or novel. Just imagine the endless possibilities of famous personalities of the past getting together and share their version of the ‘future’! This new storyline added a whole new interesting level to the story and made me curious about the finale… But I do have to say there were some things that started to bother me. I don’t think Americosis Vol. 4 has changed much in tone, but somehow the EXCESSIVE and CONSTANT swearing started to get to me. I don’t mind a swearword or two as long as its use is constructive, but I felt it really crossed the line in this volume. I basically have a quote where a variation of the word ‘f*ck‘ is used no less than eleven!! times in one sentence; overkill much? Apart from the swearing, the story is also very graphic and violent in general and stuffed with adult and sex-related comments and scenes. In short there is no doubt this short story isn’t for everyone… Only a select few will be able to truly savour it and I can see why the target group would be predominantly adult (white) male. If you like crazy, graphic, messy, chaotic, dystopian, violent and all over the place stories, Americosis will probably be for you. There’s one thing for sure: you won’t be bored with this one!

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

Things have slowly started to get out of control… The race against the clock for the Savior is real and he will have to fight hard to be able to reach his goal before it’s too late. Because America is being destroyed from the inside, and it’s winning. In the mean time, the Presidential race is going strong… And the two candidates will do whatever it takes to win.

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It might just have been I wasn’t in the right mood when I read Volume 4 and that’s why I rated it slightly lower than the previous three… But I did feel the excessive swearing and graphic scenes started to get out of control. It does read like a train and is basically an explosion of action and absurdness right in the middle of a dystopian America. The right person will probably love Americosis, but it is without doubt an acquired taste. The storyline set in the future was fascinating though!


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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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ARC (AUDIO) REVIEW: Secondhand Smoke – by M. Louis

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Title: Secondhand Smoke
(Jake Brand, PI #2)
Author: M. Louis

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: October 15th 2015
Publisher: Palasides Publishing
Finished reading: November 24th 2016
Pages: 322
Rating 3,5qqq

*** A copy of this audiobook was kindly provided to me by Mindbuck Media Book Publicity in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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It’s just about time I finally had my very first audiobook experience! I’ve tried my hands at audiobooks in the past, but could never actually get into the voices that narrated the stories. When Mindbuck Media Book Publicity offered me a copy of Secondhand Smoke in exchange for a review, I thought it would be the perfect excuse to give audiobooks another chance. This book by M. Louis is actually the second book of a PI series, but can also be read as a stand-alone without missing out on too many details. The story itself is action-packed, full of plot twists and the characters are without doubt interesting. I have to admit it took a little while to adjust to the whole idea of listening instead of reading the story myself, but I ended up enjoying the whole experience a lot better than I thought I would. Secondhand Smoke has a fast pace and is mainly focused on the action, making it almost sound as if you were listening to the script of an action movie. Sure, it could have done without the romance and wasn’t sure about the ending, but overall it is without doubt a very entertaining story. It also worked perfectly as an audiobook and I was able to multitask while listening to it. I’m not sure I will switch to audiobooks any time soon, but one or two every once in a while have become way more tempting. And I can definitely recommend Secondhand Smoke to any detective/thriller fan.

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When a beautiful woman shows up at PI Jake Brand’s office pleading him to find her missing boyfriend, he would have never guessed the mess he would soon find himself in along with a few select persons close to him. Jake and his best friend and assistant Sara discover the couple is connected to a shady hacker, a corrupt copy and a few other potentially dangerous people. And as they try to find out what is really going on, it turns out they might actually already know too much… And their lives are in danger.

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If you are looking for a fast-paced and action-packed detective thriller that reads/sounds like a proper action movie, Secondhand Smoke is definitely a great choice. The story is mainly focused on the actions instead of the characters and it shows in the many many action scenes. The character development isn’t that extensive, but they are easy to connect to in general. The ending was a bit corny, but I liked the title reference and overall I had a great time listening to this story. Recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: Fallen Mangrove – by Wayne Stinnett

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Title: Fallen Mangrove
(Jesse McDermitt #4)
Author: Wayne Stinnett
Genre: Action, Thriller, Adventure
First published: September 28th  2014
Publisher: Down Island Press
Finished reading: September 1st 2016
Pages: 301
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“In a riddle, Charlie said as she came across the clearing, a subtle difference in wording is huge.”

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I got this title a long while back as a kindle freebie thinking it would be a historical fiction read about a treasure hunt. I should have read more carefully, because Fallen Mangrove has little to do with historical fiction apart from the first chapter or so. It’s actually a full blown action thriller that has a bit of a Rambo/Die Hard feeling going on. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing and I’m sure the right person would probably love this book. In fact, I think this is one of those cases where the problem most likely is me, and not the book… So I’m going to give Fallen Mangrove the benefit of the doubt. This fourth book in the Jesse McDermitt series can be read as a stand-alone; I’ve done so myself and only a few small background facts about the characters seem to be missing. It’s without doubt an action-packed story, but the many technical details did distract from the main plot and the ending felt a bit ‘weak’ after so many action scenes. I didn’t really find the plot credible either… But like I said, the right person would probably really enjoy this read.

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In September of 1566, a Spanish treasure ship is driven by a hurricane onto the rocky shoreline of Elbow Cay. A few of the crew members survived and managed to salvage most of the treasure. They decided to bury it on the island and leave a clue carved into a coconut that leads to the location of the treasure. Four-hundred and forty years later, Jesse McDermitt and his friends finally solve the riddle on the coconut and decide to look for it. But the Miami based Croatian mob learns about the treasure and want to get to it first no matter what it takes… And Jesse and his friends may be in grave danger.

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I think Fallen Mangrove is one of those books that probably works better for a male audience with all the action scenes and technical details. It sure reads like one of those popular action movies… The historical facts were interesting and I liked the idea of a treasure hunt, but I can’t say I found the plot all that credible in general. But like I said, in this case the fact that I didn’t like this read is probably my own fault. Some books just are not ment for everyone.

ARC REVIEW: Ochoco Reach – by Jim Stewart

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Title: Ochoco Reach
Author: Jim Stewart
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime
First published: September 1st 2015
Finished reading: October 26th 2015
Pages: 296
Rating 4qqq

“We are all the composite of our stories. It is who we are. Our stories carry the tracks we leave during our lifetimes. The most important of those tracks are in the hearts of our friends and our enemies.”

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

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When I was approached earlier this month to read and review Ochoco Reach, the cover and blurb immediately appealed to me. The mystery/thriller genre is one of my favorites and both war on drugs and USA/Mexican border stories have always interested me. With its fast pace, interesting plot and well written prose, it is easy to say I really enjoyed this novel by Jim Stewart. The main characters are well developed and I especially liked the Native American elements and the dynamics between Mike, his brother Daniel, his dog Bucket and Willy. Mike can come over as a bit of a Rambo-clone at some points, but his character has a lot more depth than Sylvester Stallone. Ochoco Reach is what you call an action-packed pageturner where the main character has to rescue his client from a cartel boss: a guarantee for some very interesting action and shooting scenes. There are some unexpected plot twists as well, making this a very entertaining read and perfect for those who enjoy the genre.

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Mike Ironwood is a freelance investigator and has just agreed to investigate some suspicious movements at a beautiful stranger’s family cattle ranch. Both the case and the woman named Willy are intriguing, and Mike soon finds himself more than involved in the case. When things turn more and more ugly and federal investigators seem to be involved, Mike smells trouble… And his fears come true when Willy is kidnapped and taken to Mexico. Mike is determined to rescue Willy, a woman that is no longer just his client but also the woman he is falling in love with… And he asks his brother Daniel for help. Will they be able to find Willy on time and rescue her from the cartel jefe?

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Ochoco Reach is a well written and very entertaining read filled with action, (gun)fights and the right dose of emotions. The plot and Native American/spiritual elements made this story into something quite original and the many plot twists kept me interested until the very end. If you are looking for a good mystery/thriller read, I would definitely recommend this novel!

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Of Fire And Thorns – by Rae Carson

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Title: The Girl Of Fire And Thorns
(Fire And Thorns #1)
Author: Rae Carson
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Religion
First published: September 20th 2011
Finished reading: October 15th 2015
Pages: 423
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God’s will. How many times have I heard someone declare their understanding of this thing I find so indefinable?”

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I’ve had a copy of The Girl Of Fire And Thorns collecting dust on my shelves for quite some time already and someone recommended it to me not that long ago, so I decided to pick it up. It was without doubt a very enjoyable read! Rae Carson writes in a way that sucks you immediately into the story and combined with a fast pace I was able to finish this read almost in one sitting. I was actually thinking of giving it an even higher rating, but decided not to because I there were a few things I wasn’t completely happy with. I do not consider myself to be a very religious person and although I normally don’t mind religion in stories (as long as it is not preaching), the many religious references in The Girl Of Fire And Thorns did start to bother me a little. Although they do make sense in the story, with the main character Elisa being chosen by God to be the bearer of the godstone and all… But sometimes I had the feeling Elisa was relying on her prayers a bit too much. Still, I more than enjoyed this story. The worldbuilding is very well done, the plot is interesting and the prose easy to read. I would have liked to see some of the characters developed more, but hopefully that will happen in the sequel…

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When a godstone appears in princess Elisa’s navel, everybody knows she has been chosen for greatness. Only once a century, God picks his chosen one and marks them with a godstone, giving them powers to fight magic. But Elisa doesn’t feel so special herself, having done nothing remarkable during the first fifteen years of her life and her perfect older sister to compare herself to. On her sixteenth birthday, she is married off to a king of another country. He seems to be in need of the chosen one to save his country, but what he doesn’t know is that Elisa doesn’t even feel comfortable in her own skin… And Elisa doesn’t realize she is is danger herself. King Alejandro wasn’t the only one looking for the bearer of the godstone, and soon Elisa will have to find a way to use her inner strenght to save both herself and the ones she cares for. Will the prophecy be fulfilled?

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The Girl Of Fire And Thorns is a fast and entertaining read full of action with an interesting worldbuilding. There are quite a few religious references, so if those bother you it is best not to pick up this novel by Rae Carson. Other than that, this novel is more than recommended if you are looking for a solid YA fantasy read. This is definitely a series I will have to continue soon!