ARC REVIEW: She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be – by J.D. Barker

Title: She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be
Author: J.D. Barker
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: March 31st 2020
Publisher: Hampton Creek Press
Finished reading: March 21st 2020
Pages: 774

“I can’t imagine living in anything but a fairy tale. The real world can be an abhorrent place.”

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

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I’ve been a huge fan of J.D. Barker’s writing ever since I first started reading the 4MK Thriller books… I’ve been looking forward to read more of his work ever since I finished the trilogy, and as soon as I first read about She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be I was completely under its spell. The title, the cover, the blurb, the promise of another masterfully written story… I don’t tend to read a lot of books over 600 pages as they can be a painful investment of time if you don’t end up connecting to the story, but I made an exception for J.D. Barker as I already knew his writing would most likely be right up my alley. And boy, did I make the right decision!

Some stories just need more pages, and manage to keep you fully invested along the way. She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be is one of those stories. Somehow, even though this newest J.D. Barker book has almost 800 pages, I never felt bored and I never felt like the story dragged or could have been told in less words. No, Jack and Stella’s story needed to be this elaborate, as their history spans decades and it is necessary to go slow and thorough to go deep and fully understand their characters. I’m aware that She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be might not be for everyone, but don’t let the daunting page count dissuade you if you love an intricate and well developed thriller with a supernatural/horror twist! Trust me, you won’t regret spending time with this story.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot to avoid ruining surprises and plot twists, so I will keep my rambles short this time around. What I can say is that I loved the structure of this story. It’s not easy to take on this big of a project and tell a story that not only spans decades, but also has a big cast of primary and secondary characters… Especially without the result being a very hard book to keep up with, let alone enjoy. But J.D. Barker seems to have found the right formula. She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be is divided into multiple parts, focusing on the life of main character Jack Thatch as we see him growing up over the years. His POV is used to introduce the many characters important to the plot, and he helps put them into perspective. Of course he is not the only POV, as we also have the mysterious subject ‘D’ to deal with for example… I personally liked the little observation chapters featuring this character, as the mystery around both his identity, his supernatural abilities and his role in the plot added that extra level of suspense.

As you might have expected from a book this big, the character development is both extremely detailed and very well handled. The characters are both flawed and realistic, and I personally loved the dynamics between Jack and Stella as well as the other more important characters in this book. Whether you like the characters or not, you will find yourself to be invested in what happens to them either way… And the mystery around the supernatural and the secrets of the past only enhance these feelings. She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be is not a full-blown urban fantasy read, but instead mostly a mix of an action and detective thriller, a dark contemporary and a story with a horror and supernatural feel. It’s a hard book to put inside a box, and I personally love a story that manages to defy genre boundaries and provide us with a new and unique story cocktail. This story has so many different elements to treasure and enjoy, and it felt like a true treasure hunt to keep turning those pages and keep reading those chapters. You never knew what direction the story would take next, and I personally love a story that keeps me on my toes.

She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be is as unique as its long title, and the right person will treasure this story as much as I did. I had a fantastic time reading every single chapter, and I never felt like the story was overlong or should have gone in a different direction. Big is in this case most definitely better! And this book has only reconfirmed to me J.D. Barker belongs on my list of favorite authors.


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ARC REVIEW: The Secret Admirer – by Carol Wyer

Title: The Secret Admirer
(Detective Natalie Ward #6)

Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: April 2nd 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: March 10th 2020
Pages: 413

“I can see right through you because we are the same. We’re not what the world sees.”

*** 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’ve been a fan of Carol Wyer‘s detective thrillers for a few years now, and I’m always looking forward to new titles. I’ve been following Natalie Ward ever since the first book came out back in 2018, and book number six is without doubt another shocking and more than solid ride. Just the dose of detective thrilller I needed! Technically you can read The Secret Admirer as a stand-alone, but you will be missing out on a lot of background information about the main characters and you might not get the full experience if you don’t read the previous books first… Especially since book six is another one that focuses on developments Natalie Ward’s private life as well as a new investigation. Plus, if you are a fan of the genre in the first place, you will be missing out on hours of detective entertainment!

I’m going to keep things short to avoid spoilers, but those who’ve read the previous books will know what I mean when I say that book number five had the most shocking ending I still can’t believe actually happened. I’ve been dying to start The Secret Admirer to learn about how things would continue afterwards, and this story definitely delivers when it comes to further development of Natalie’s personal life. The bigger focus on her private life was more than needed after that nuclear plot twist bomb in the previous book, and while it does give the story a different vibe, I was personally more than satisfied with this new balance. The investigation in The Secret Admirer is intriguing, although I do have to admit I saw the ending coming early on… But the developments in Natalie’s private life were less easy to guess.

The writing makes it really easy to keep turning those pages, and while the pace might be a tad slower in the beginning, things will get more intense as the investigation gets more complicated. Secrets, twists, manipulation, abuse, addiction… Why was Gemma attacked and who was behind it? What are the people close to her hiding? Things take a personal turn after new development, and while I did see the final reveals involving the investigation coming, I was completely flabbergasted by the developments in Natalie’s private life. Prepare yourself for another shocker, as things won’t be easy for her in book number six either! That said, I do have to say that I will never like David as a character and even the events in The Secret Admirer weren’t enough to make me feel sympathetic towards him… Call me coldhearted, but it is what it is I guess. I did enjoy seeing the development in the other characters involved, and I already can’t wait to discover how things will continue for all the main characters in play in the next book.

This detective thriller series has been highly entertaining and suspenseful from the very first book, and The Secret Admirer is already book number six and no exception to the rule. Both the previous book and this new installment have very shocking developments in store for our main character Natalie Ward; plot twists that will most likely catch you completely unawares. If you enjoy the genre, you will most likely have a great time with this series!


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ARC REVIEW: The Electric Heir – by Victoria Lee

Title: The Electric Heir
(Feverwake #2)

Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: March 17th 2020
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: January 10th 2020
Pages: 479

“Just because something is a stereotype doesn’t make it true.”

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

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After enjoying the first book of this duology last year, I was excited to meet up with the main characters again in The Electric Heir. But before we continue with my rambles, can we just take a second to admire this absolutely gorgeous cover? Both Feverwake covers are simply stunning and most definitely fit this story as well, as it can be seen as a direct reference to the magical powers so fundamental to this story. Cover love aside, there are quite a few other elements that made this duology work for me.

The first thing that stands out in the Feverwake books is the dystopian setting and worldbuilding in general. While not entirely original, the dystopian world where a magical virus ravages the world, killing most and leaving the survivors with supernatural powers, is without doubt intriguing. While roughly based on actual US states and cities by name, the story has an obvious dystopian feel both because the country and government as we know it is long gone and the story is actually set in the future (2123 to be exact). The worldbuilding itself isn’t all that extensive, but solid enough to give the story the right backdrop.

One of the things I liked most about both books was the magic and the fact that there was a wide range of different supernatural powers as well as level of strength after surviving the virus. It was interesting to see the different characters develop their power over time as well as seeing the power change them… And as the blurb already states, the sudden absence of that power too. Magic is without doubt essential to the plot and definitely spiced up this story! As for the plot itself… It was interesting to see the new direction this story took. Lehrer is clearly the supervillian of this story and the main goal is to defeat him before things really spin out of control. I do admit that some parts of the plot were quite cliche and the pace can be considerably slow in points. Especially the second made the story drag in certain parts, but overall curiosity won out as I wanted to know how it would all end.

There are a lot of trigger warnings involved when it comes to The Electric Heir, including genocide, abuse, rape, mental health, suicide and addiction (full list available on the author’s website). There are a lot of deeper meanings to be uncovered while reading this duology and some parts even give off a political vibe, but I personally thought this only gave the story a little something extra. There are quite a lot of heavy elements included in The Electric Heir and if you are looking for a balanced and happy story this would definitely be the wrong place to look for it. But life isn’t all about happy endings and it made this story feel a lot more realistic because of it. I personally found the ending itself of The Electric Heir a bit abrupt, but I guess it does give you closure and all in all it’s a well rounded duology that wrapped things up nicely. If you are looking for an entertaining YA dystopia that isn’t afraid to go dark, love a good LGBT romance and don’t mind a dose of teen angst and a slower pace, this Feverwake duology is definitely for you.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #149 – Things In Jars & The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I have been really excited about and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick them up… I won a gorgeous hardback copy of Things In Jars last year and I have been eyeing it ever since; I’m still kicking myself for not reading it sooner as I absolutely loved it. And I had high hopes for The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry as Harold sounded like my kind of character, and he is definitely the reason this story worked so well for me.


Title: Things In Jars
Author: Jess Kidd

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: February 8th 2020
Pages: 416

“Here is time held in suspension.

Yesterday pickled.

Eternity in a jar.”


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I actually won a gorgeous hardback copy of Things In Jars in a giveaway last year, but somehow it took me way longer than expected to actually read it… I’m kicking myself now, because it was an absolutely brilliant read. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb, with that Victorian London vibe as well as the supernatural feel and the detective angle. And the execution definitely lived up to expectations and more! The wonderful prose only enhances that Victorian London feel of the plot, I loved the hint of the surreal and the Irish folklore and this is definitely magical realism and Gothic mystery at its best. The characters are definitely part of this story works so well, and both Bridie and the other important character form a fascinating cast and take the story to the next level. Their descriptions and development really made them come alive for me and they are without doubt quirky and colorful! The supernatural aspect of the plot with the Irish folklore elements is simply spot on, and gave the story a vibe that is probably best described as a mix between Gothic and magical realism with a hint of (Victorian) urban fantasy. Quite an impressive cocktail, but one that works splendidly! The suspense and plot twists are also well handled, and I liked how the whole detective angle was incorporated into the plot. The different elements in Things In Jars are well balanced in general and together form an absolutely intriguing story that will stay with me for a long time.The unique and diverse cast of characters, the folklore, the plot, the writing, the suspense… There is just so much to love!


Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
(Harold Fry #1)
Author: Rachel Joyce

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 15th 2012
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Finished reading: February 13th 2020
Pages: 297

“But maybe it’s what the world needs. A little less sense, and a little more faith.”


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The truth is that I have been wanting to read The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry for years now. There was just something about the blurb and main character Harold Fry that made me think it would be my kind of book, and I thought his character was giving off seriously A Man Called Ove vibes too… My instincts turned out to be right on both counts, and Harold Fry is without doubt the reason this story worked so well for me. While the pace might be a tad slow, this can be explained by the fact that despite the pilgrimage and constant moving on the main characer this book is mostly a character-driven story. Harold Fry takes the spotlight of course, but the diverse, unique and quirky collection of people he meets along the way really made the story come alive for me. Harold Fry decided to walk across the UK in order to save an old colleague, Queenie, who sent him a goodbye letter stating she has terminal cancer. Harold decided on the spur that a response letter wasn’t enough, and started walking all unprepared without proper shoes or equipment. It was fascinating to follow his journey, learn more about the people he meets along the way and seeing how his pilgrimage changes Harold as well… I did guess the truth about his son really early on, which was a shame, but I liked how the story ended overall. And I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel to read more about Queenie’s story now! The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry is both a heartwarming and heartbreaking journey and a character-driven story with a wide cast of quirky characters… Recommended if you enjoy slower fiction reads!


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ARC REVIEW: Big Lies In A Small Town – by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies In A Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 5th 2020
Pages: 400

“I stared at the signature a while longer, wondering how a life that had started with so much promise could now be shrouded in such mystery.”

*** 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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I’ve heard so many great things about Diane Chamberlain‘s stories over the years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up one of her titles. I must have more than one title waiting on my kindle, but somehow other books always got in the way… That’s why I thought having an ARC of her newest title, and therefore a deadline, would be the perfect little push I needed to finally remedy this. The fact that the blurb of Big Lies In A Small Town sounds absolutely fascinating definitely helped that decision… Now that I’ve had the chance to finally try her work, I will definitely come back for more soon!

What made Big Lies In A Small Town so successful for me? There were quite a few factors, but let’s start with the basics of the plot. The story is told with the help of a dual timeline and two POVs, something that can go either way for me as it is very hard to get the balance between past and present just right. I think Diane Chamberlain hit the nail on the head with this story though. I felt both Morgan in the present and Anna in the past were equally important, equally well developed and equally crucial to the plot. The dual timeline structure turned this story into a complex, rich and very much satisfying historical fiction read… The POV switches only adding to the suspense and the mystery around Anna and the mural instead of distracting you.

There are a lot of different elements in play in both past and present POVs. We have Morgan with elements including DUI, prison, alcoholism, feelings of guilt, art restoration work, family and even romance. Then we have Anna with elements including racism and the South, gender discrimination, abuse, rape, family, mental health, crime and art of course. That seems to be a lot to have on just one plate, but Diane Chamberlain somehow makes it work and the result is an abundant and lavish story that also has more than one hidden deeper meaning.

It was fascinating to learn that Big Lies In A Small Town was actually based on real events and that the small town Edenton, North Carolina, does actually exist… And so did Anna Dale. It shows that a lot of research went into making this story feel authentic, and the details and descriptions really took the story to the next level. Racism and related problems in the 1940 South play a very important role in this story, and I thought it was described realistically. Likewise, we have Morgan in the present with a different set of problems, which are likewise realistically described. This story proves just how important is to get the research right before starting a story based on true events!

As for the characters… While Morgan and Anna weren’t my favorite characters of their corresponding POVs, I can’t deny that their development in general is very well done and they both intrigued me. Favorites would probably be Oliver and Jesse, but each character put his or her own stamp on the story and they all played a role in representing the many different elements of Big Lies In A Small Town. The pace of this story might be a tad slow, as there are a lot of descriptions and their is a lot of focus on the characters as a whole. But there is also plenty of suspense, and the mystery around Anna and the strange elements on the mural will keep you on your toes as you try to discover the truth.

Big Lies In A Small Town is a historical fiction read that isn’t afraid to go big and throw a complex and wide-ranging plot with a deeper meaning at you; well researched and well developed, the result is an abundant story following two flawed but absolutely fascinating characters. Fans of the genre who don’t mind a slower pace will most likely devour this one!


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ARC REVIEW: Nine Elms – by Robert Bryndza @amazonpub

Title: Nine Elms
(Kate Marshall #1)

Author: Robert Bryndza
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 14th 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 6th 2019
Pages: 396

“Kate wondered if that’s what happened after a long time in the police. You shut youself off from the horrific stuff, ad you sweat the small things.”

*** 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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I’ve been a huge fan of the Erika Foster series ever since the first book came out, so of course as soon as I discovered that Robert Bryndza was going to publish a new thriller series I added the title to my list of most anticipated releases. I’ve been waiting impatiently for its release ever since, and I was over the moon when I received the email that my request for an ARC of Nine Elms was actually approved earlier this month. Guess who changed her reading plans and pushed this first book of a new thriller series straight to the top of her TBR pile?!

Now that I’ve had the chance to read Nine Elms, I can definitely say that my meeting with new main character Kate Marshall was an absolute success. What a read! Robert Bryndza‘s writing style has yet to disappoint me, and this book has once again showed me why he is on my list of favorite thriller authors. Let’s just dust off the reviewing cliches shall we? Because they definitely all apply: grabbed me from the start, hooked me from the beginning, unputdownable, read it in one sitting… I could keep throwing those one-liners at you, but you will probably get the gist of what I’m trying to say here. The only reason I didn’t actually read Nine Elms in one sitting is because I had almost no free time and no way to clear my schedule enough to be able to do so. Which was basically excruciating, as Nine Elms kept calling to me and I literally wanted to spend every free minute reading the next chapter to try and discover what was going on.

What I loved of Nine Elms is the shift in perspective as main character Kate Marshall isn’t an active detective during the present timeline. Instead, we have an ex-detective and current lecturer at a university who is suddenly drawn into her old world and nightmares again after fifteen years… Kate Marshall without doubt makes for an absolutely fascinating character and a solid lead for the rest of the story to be build around. Despite her flaws and not always easy personality, I managed to warm up to her character almost immediately and she is without doubt one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. I also loved the dynamics between her and Tristan; I’m definitely curious to see how this will evolve in the future!

Another thing that is fascinating is the plot itself, the Nine Elms killer and his connection to the main character. Flashbacks to the past slowly help us understand better what exactly happened fifteen years ago and how this influenced and made Kate into the woman she is today… Likewise, it was fascinating to get a little look inside the head of a serial killer and both past and present murders are both brutal, shocking and absolutely fascinating. The plot itself is complex and filled with twists and turns to keep you guessing, although I did see certain things coming early. That said, the plot is fast, complex and highly suspenseful and Nine Elms definitely isn’t for those with a weak stomach or if you scare easily. Dark, disturbing and delightfully twisted: the exact right thriller cocktail to keep you on your seat as you race through those pages.

There was a lot to love in Nine Elms, and it was without doubt an excellent start of a new thriller series I already have a feeling will be a new favorite. If you like your thrillers fast, dark, suspenseful and engaging with an unique touch and plently of plot twists, you should definitely meet Kate Marshall ASAP!


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BOOK REVIEW: Changeling – by Matt Wesolowski @Orendabooks

Title: Changeling
(Six Stories #3)

Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 15th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: November 8th 2019
Pages: 194

“It’s like an urban myth, a legend that has refused to die; this case has resurfaced again and again in my life. This case has an inexorable pull. Whether I like it or not.”


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I know I’m late when it comes to the Six Stories party, having only discovered the series this year, but I’ve become a fast and irrevocable fan. While my first experience with this series was already brilliant, the second book blew me away completely and I wasn’t sure how any sequel would manage to live up to it. I shouldn’t have doubted the writing powers of Matt Wesolowski though, because he has truly outdone himself with Changeling. It’s been weeks since I finished reading this absolutely brilliant read, and I’m still struggling to get a word on paper… My ability to review completely destroyed by this story. Oh yes, such is the power of Changeling!

I think that part of the reason that makes this series in general so unique is its format. Told in a podcast form with six different episodes and a number of guests interviewed by an impartial podcast host, each book enables us to dive into the different cold cases from the very beginning. In the case of Changeling, we are trying to find out more about the 1988 disappearance of a child as they were driving through the Wentshire Forest. The seven-year-old Alfie Marsden disappeared without a trace when his father stopped after hearing a strange sound coming from inside his car… And no trace of the boy nor his body is ever found. What happened to Alfie that night? To this date nobody seems to know for sure, but after receiving a letter our already famous Scott King decides to give in and try to discover the truth.

As with the previous two books, the suspense is build up slowly but surely. Changeling  once again toes the line with the horror genre after the introduction of the supernatural angle and hints of the myths around the Wentshire Forest. This story isn’t just another thriller and investigation into a cold case; the strange things happening in this forest definitely give this story an eerie and ominous feel. As the episodes continue, we slowly get to know more about both the case, Alfie and those close to him. Nothing is as it seems and this story definitely has some surprises for you in store… But nothing is as big as that final reveal. I almost dropped my copy of the Changeling on the floor along with my jaw when I reached that part of the story… Those who have had the chance to read book three already will know what I’m talking about. Oh yes, Changeling most definitely ended with a bang and left me both speechless and wanting to analyze everything I just read all over again to see if I should have seen the signs… And it is without doubt a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Along with the format, plot and writing, the characters themselves also play a key role in the success of Changeling. Scott King we of course already know, and it was interesting to see him interact with and react to yet another intriguing case. The other characters that play a role in this story are all realistically and meticulously developed, making both them and Alfie’s case truly come alive for me. I had a fantastic time slowly discovering the truth about Alfie and those around him, and while not every character is all that likeable and has its flaws, I found it didn’t matter at all as it only made Changeling feel more realistic. If you are looking for a well written and spine-chilling thriller with an unique podcast format and an explosive ending, Changeling (and the rest of this series for that matter) should go straight to the top of your wishlist!


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