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 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 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 Boy From The Woods – by Harlan Coben

Title: The Boy From The Woods
Author: Harlan Coben
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 19th 2020
Publisher: Random House UK/Cornerstone
Finished reading: February 24th 2020
Pages: 384

“Memory makes demands that you often can’t keep. Memory is faulty because it insists on filling in the blanks.”

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

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I confess that I would never have guessed my NG request for such a popular title would actually approved… And for a title releasing on my birthday at that! I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of The Boy From The Woods, and I’m definitely happy that I was given the chance to read this newest Harlan Coben story early. It turned out to be such a fascinating and highly entertaining read!

First things first and let’s talk about the plot. If you are a fan of highly dynamic, suspenseful and thrilling stories, you will definitely be in for a treat. While I do confess that certain aspects of the plot might be tad farfetched, if you can get past that certain lack of credibility you will find yourself on a rollercoaster ride with a skyhigh entertainment factor. While the title of this story directly references to one of the main characters, Wilde, the actual plot is mostly focused on Naomi Pine and related events afterwards. It’s a kidnapping story turned conspiracy turned action movie, with plenty of danger, violence as well as a bunch of secrets and plot twists hidden along the way. Highly entertaining without doubt and perfect if you enjoy a good action thriller and don’t mind things getting a little over the top.

The writing is more than solid, and made me remember just how much I enjoyed his writing in the past. I definitely need to give priority to more of his backlist titles this year! Both the writing and pace combined made me simply fly through those pages, and I was able to finish The Boy From The Woods in no time at all. The fact that the events and plot twists constantly increase the level of suspense and only reveal more and more questions as well as dangers only added to that reading speed… And I loved that hint of a conspiracy; it definitely made for an interesting angle even though things can be said about the credibility of it all.

We have quite a big cast of characters in play, although the main focus is mostly on a smaller group of characters which are consequently developed more thoroughly. Especially Wilde, Hester, Naomi and Crash play a big role in the plot, but you will find a variety of different characters playing an important role during the story as well. The most interesting character is probably Wilde though, with his history and him being found all alone in the woods all those years ago. It was intriguing to see what his life is like now and what his connections with the other characters as well as the plot are. Some of the ‘bad guys’ fell a bit flat for me, but I don’t think this had big consequences for the story itself as there were plenty of other elements to keep you satisfied.

I still can’t believe it has been years since I last picked up one of his books, but The Boy From The Woods has definitely brought his work right back on my radar and I will be looking forward to explore more of his work in the upcoming months. This newest title is highly entertaining and the perfect action thriller if you are looking for a thrilling ride!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Deadly Waters – by OMJ Ryan #damppebblesblogtours #InkubatorBooks @OMJRYAN1 @damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Deadly Waters blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma @ damppebbles blog tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I had an excellent time with the first book of this series, Deadly Silence, last year and I’ve been looking forward to see more of Jane Phillips ever since… And it was without doubt a successful second meeting. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!


Title: Deadly Waters
(Detective Jane Phillips #2)
Author: OMJ Ryan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 15th 2020
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Finished reading: March 1st 2020
Pages: 281

“Often, when we’re stuck, it’s because the eyes and ears will only see and hear what we want them to, whereas the nose – the nose can never hide what it smells.”

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

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I always have a weak spot for a good serial killer thriller…  After an excellent first experience with OMJ Ryan‘s writing in Deadly Silence last year, I’ve been looking forward to meet up with detective Jane Phillips again to help feed my serial killer thriller addiction. As soon as I saw that Deadly Waters was available I knew I just had to make time to read it… And as soon as I read the blurb, my instinct was saying that I was going to be in for another excellent ride. Guess what?! Book number two has once again proven to me that this series is most definitely right up my alley!

While it’s true that I might have liked the first book a tiny bit more, it is also true that I still had a brilliant time reading Deadly Waters. I literally found myself flying through those pages, eager to discover more about the case and wondering if Jane Phillips and her team would be able to catch the killer in time… Like I said with the first book: this series is just so damn readable! The writing makes it very easy to speed through chapter after chapter and you will definitely do yourself a favor if you clear your schedule before you start. Trust me, you don’t want to stop reading once you started reading those first couple of chapters! Deadly Waters is an engaging and suspenseful story that will keep you on your toes; the hint of dark humor lightening up the mood a little at times to keep things balanced.

The plot itself is an intriguing one, as there is no clear murder case to begin with and we only have the hunch of Jane Phillips herself that things might be off. It was interesting to see Jane and her team trying to investigate despite not having the approval of her boss (who is a true bitch by the way), and I liked the way they continued their effort despite encountering setbacks along the way. Plot twists and similar techniques are used to mislead you and send you on the wrong path… While the motive of the murders is easy to guess early on this time around, it is the identity of the killer that remains a mystery for a long time. Trust me, I personally thought I had it all figured out quite early, only to be put in my place and to be left completely flabbergasted afterwards! Oh yes, I never saw that plot twist and ending coming, which was a more than pleasant surprise of course.

Difficult themes as (child)abuse, addiction, drugs and prostitution are incorporated into the plot, but done so in a way to also raise moral questions instead of just simply shocking us readers. Why do people seem to think prostitutes and drug addicts have less rights than others? Just how big are the consequences of the lifestyle choices of both prostitutes and drug addicts in general? Interesting questions with no easy answers, but I always appreciate when stories make you think. As for the characters… Jane Phillips without doubt makes for a very intriguing main character. Things can be said about her being the typical damaged detective lead, but I personally liked her sass and attitude towards the investigation and life in general. The other members of her team were easy to like as well, with the big exception of her boss of course, but I guess she does work perfectly as the ‘enemy’ to be pitted against Jane and her team. The character development in Deadly Waters in general is solid and it was intriguing to discover more about the motive behind the murders as well as the killer.

As you might have guessed, I really enjoyed my time with Deadly Waters and I will already be looking forward to the next book. If you are, like me, a serial killer and detective thriller fan, you should definitely add this series to your wishlist!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hailing from Yorkshire, OMJ Ryan worked in radio and entertainment for over twenty years, collaborating with household names and accumulating a host of international writing and radio awards.

In 2018 he followed his passion to become a full-time novelist, writing stories for people who devour exciting, fast-paced thrillers by the pool, on their commute – or those rare moments of downtime before bed. Owen’s mission is to entertain from the first page to the last. DEADLY WATERS will be his third novel published with Inkubator Books.

SOCIAL MEDIA

TWITTER @OMJRYAN1 // FACEBOOK // INSTAGRAM

Website: https://www.omjryan.com/

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON UK // AMAZON US


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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: Keep You Close – by Karen Cleveland

Title: Keep You Close
Author: Karen Cleveland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 28th 2019
Publisher: Random House UK
Finished reading: January 28th 2020
Pages: 352

“It was the idea of the law that I loved. Rules that everyone followed. Consequences for breaking them. The law was black-and-white. It was fair.”

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

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I have heard so many wonderful things about Karen Cleveland‘s debut Need To Know and I have been curious to try out her books. As soon as I read the blurb of Keep You Close, I was immediately intrigued and just couldn’t resist trying this story first. I thought I was going to be in for an intense and action-packed ride, and I have been looking forward to read a proper action thriller with possible espionage/conspiracy plot elements again as it has been a while. I kind of wish I sticked with just trying her debut now instead, because I have to be honest here and say that I was seriously underwhelmed by Keep You Close. I’ll try to explain below why…

I’m still not sure if it was just me, or actually the book, but the fact is that Keep You Close and me definitely didn’t get along. I normally like action-packed stories and I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy plot, so this story should have been right up my alley… Instead, I was left with feelings of frustration and lack of interest for the duration of this book. It’s hard putting my finger exactly on why I had such an averse reaction to this story, but there were definitely a few elements I had issues with. Because it wasn’t just a lack of connection to and interest for the story… There were quite a few elements that just didn’t work for me.

The first thing I can mention is the plot and general structure of the plot. I felt that both the plot, structure and also the flashbacks were simply all over the place. POV switches and flashbacks are kind of dropped on you as you are trying to follow what FBI agent Stephanie Maddox is up to; this is highly distracting, makes the plot feel chaotic and slowed down the pace. Instead of adding the tension and suspense I guess was the intention of using those techniques, especially those POV switches only distracted from the plot itself. Talking about the plot, I also didn’t think both the plot and the plot twists were credible at all and mostly way over the top. I get the whole conspiracy plot and the complicated situation Steph finds herself in, but this mostly seemed like a cliche and caricature way of describing it all, with over the top Hollywood spy movie scenes and twists. The ending left way too many questions unanswered and wasn’t satisfying at all either… I’m not sure if this book just wasn’t for me despite my love for conspiracy plots, but either way Keep You Close was definitely a miss for me.

As for the writing: I can’t say that I was a fan. While I can’t deny that it was a fast read despite the pace slowing down in places (especially during those flashbacks and sudden POV switches), I can’t say I was enjoying myself while reading it. This is probably a personal reaction to her writing style though, as most people seem to love her writing (or at least those reviews I read about her debut). I guess it’s unpopular opinion review time again? Anyway, that was not all. The characters likewise ended up letting me down. I felt that they were underdeveloped and described mostly using cliches; flat and one-dimentional characters I had a hard time connecting to. Steph is the typical ‘strong female main character’ with a messed up past but fierce at her work. She really isn’t being developed all that beyond that, and that is truly a shame. Likewise, the other characters in play are not really developed beyond basic information and cliches either, which makes it hard to connect to them. The focus is instead on the over the top and not credible at all plot, which I clearly wasn’t a fan of either.

I guess my instincts are not always right… I really thought I was going to love this story, especially since I love my conspiracy plots and action-packed thrillers, but Keep You Close was most definitely not my cup of tea. Unpopular opinion or not, I guess we can’t like them all, can we?


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