ARC REVIEW: Come Tumbling Down – by Seanan McGuire @torbooks

Title: Come Tumbling Down
(Wayward Children #5)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: January 7th 2020
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: January 2nd 2020 
Pages: 160

“For people like her students – people like Eleanor herself – belief was the rarest gift of all.”

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

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I’ve been a Wayward Children fan ever since I read the first book back in 2018, and each sequel so far has only reconfirmed my love for this series. I’ve been waiting impatiently for book number five ever since I finished In An Absent Dream last year, so of course I was over the moon when my request for Come Tumbling Down was actually approved and I was offered the chance to read this sequel a few days early. I literally dropped everything I was doing and devoured this little gem in a matter of hours after it appeared on my kindle… And guess what? I have just found a new favorite Wayward Children installment!

Oh yes, I already loved my previous meetings with Eleanor West’s students, but there was just something about Come Tumbling Down that made me love this newest adventure even more. From the very first pages to the last, I was completely under the spell of both the writing, plot and characters. First of all a disclaimer: this is definitely a series you need to read in order, because you will both be missing out on crucial information about characters and their worlds as well as finding yourself spoilers for the previous adventures otherwise. Trust me: you won’t regret reading them, as every single one has been fantastic so far in the first place… That said, in Come Tumbling Down we return to the horror world of Jack and Jill, a world we first learned about in the second book Down Among The Sticks And Bones. A selection of other students make their appearance as well as they join Jack on a new quest when she returns to ask for help. You will find multiple references to the previous books along the way, both regarding the characters and the things that happened… I personally loved those little reminders and it definitely made me want to binge reread all books together to see if I remembered everything right.

I have loved the worldbuilding behind this series since the beginning, with the students finding doors to different worlds and afterwards being trapped in the real world again. Regular fiction is mixed with fantasy and it has been fascinating to learn more about the different worlds the students once belonged to and now want to return to. Each world is unique in its own way, and the Moors Jack and Jill traveled to is without doubt one of the most brutal ones. Like the second book, Come Tumbling Down is essentially a very dark read with quite a few horror elements; those including the vampire and mad scientist references. It was absolutely fascinating to learn more about how the Moors exactly work, with its electricity and the delicate balance between the different powers at play.

As for the characters… Most characters we already know, and meeting up with them again felt like meeting up with old friends. The main characters in general are easy to like and being able to see them evolve over time has been a true pleasure. We have some new characters as well, including Alexis and Gideon, and I liked what they added to the plot. The plot itself is quite complex for a story this short, but well rounded and with an ending that is without doubt satisfying. I loved every single minute with Come Tumbling Down and I already know it will appear on my list of 2020 favorites even this early on in the year. Oh yes, it’s THAT good! Simply electrifying.


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ARC REVIEW: The Perfect Mother – by Caroline Mitchell @amazonpub @caroline_writes

Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 26th 2019
Pages: 368

“People thought they knew her. They hadn’t got a clue.”

*** 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’m a big fan of Caroline Mitchell‘s books and I always look forward to a new one… I was sold soon as I first read the blurb for The Perfect Mother and I have been looking forward to read it ever since. And now I’ve had the chance to read it, I think I might just have found a new favorite title! From start to finish, this story is everything I look for and more in a psychological thriller. I was hooked from the very first page, unable to put down my kindle until I reached that final page, and I literally finished it in less than a day. This might sound like one of those review cliches or oneliners, but it is 200% true when it comes to The Perfect Mother!

There is a lot to love in The Perfect Mother, and I’m struggling a bit to decide where to start. The beginning maybe? The premise of the story is without doubt fascinating. We start with a young and broke Irish woman with an impossible dilemma as to how to solve her current situation. Some of her options might not be orthodox, but there are underlying secrets in play as well that will influence her decision. Conflicting opinions about her decision aside, it without doubt makes for one heck of a story. I’m not sure if I would have trusted the offer as it simply sounded too good to be true, but I guess being desperate makes you overlook the details… Once the story starts taking place in New York, things are getting truly interesting and I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I started discovering what was really going on at the celebrity couple’s house and what secrets they were hiding.

The story is told with the help of multiple POVs and two different settings (Ireland and New York). Focusing mainly on Roz and Sheridan, we slowly learn more about both their past and how the current situation came to be… Multiple plot twists and secrets are hidden along the way to keep you on your toes, and the plot will definitely have some surprises for you in store. The different POVs and settings also give this story a multidimentional feel and definitely enhanced both the plot and the suspense. The Irish setting was well described and really came alive for me; both through the characters and descriptions themselves. The New York setting mostly focuses on the celebrity couple’s house, but those chapters are by no means dull and will definitely satisfy your need for suspense and shocking plot twists.

As for the characters… Even if you don’t agree with what Roz decided to do, she is still quite easy to like and connect to. Her best friend is likewise easy to like and it was interesting to discover what role she played in the story as a whole. I wasn’t a big fan of the celebrity couple, but I guess they are ment to be that way for the story to work and they are intriguing characters to try and decipher. Other New York characters were easier to like, including George, but the most important thing is that each character added a little something extra to the plot and played the role he/she had to play to turn The Perfect Mother into the little masterpiece it is. This book is definitely right at the top of favorite 2020 releases so far, and it is a story that will stay with me for quite some time… If you enjoy a well written, suspenseful and twisty psychological thriller, you should definitely add The Perfect Mother to your wishlist!


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ARC REVIEW: The Rules Of Murder – by Rob Sinclair

Title: The Rules Of Murder
(DI Dani Stephens #2)
Author: Rob Sinclair
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Canelo Hera
Finished reading: December 20th 2019
Pages: 318

“What did it say about her that she was still fighting away, still determined to prove to everyone that she could be a good copper, even after all that she’d suffered?”

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

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I was part of the blog tour for The Essence Of Evil back in September, and I really enjoyed my first meeting with DI Dani Stephens. I have been curious about what would happen next to her character ever since, so of course when I was invited to read the sequel I had to say yes immediately. I’m definitely not regretting that decision, because there is no doubt that The Rules Of Murder is another solid and pretty brutal serial killer thriller! Oh yes, fans of heart racing and suspenseful thrillers will definitely be in for a treat.

The first thing that stands out in this series is its main character Dani Stephens. While in a way you can see her as the typical damaged detective lead, her character has so much more dept than that. Not only is she a detective with a serial killer twin who actually tried to kill her, but she also suffered brain damage as a result of that attack and is still struggling with the consequences. It is fascinating to follow her on this journey and while the real progress regarding the brain damage matter was developed in book one, it is still a pretty important element in the sequel. The psychological aspect of the story in general plays a big role throughout the story, although the focus is mostly shifted towards the killer in this case.

Dani’s murdering twin brother Ben once again plays a role in The Rules Of Murder. He is a truly fascinating character and definitely provides for a very interesting angle in this sequel. What does he know about this killer? Or is he simply lying about having any knowledge? It definitely added a whole different layer of mystery and intrigue to the plot. And talking about the plot: if you are looking for a fast, shocking and disturbing plot with brutal murders that simply chill you to the bone, you will be more than satisfied with The Rules Of Murder. The murder scenes are definitely not for those with a weak stomach! The plot itself is quite complex and definitely has quite a few twists and turns, although I do have to say that I saw some of the plot twists coming pretty early on… The action and suspense mostly made up for that though.

The story is told through two different POVs: Dani and the killer. We mostly stick with our detective lead, with intermittent chapters that give us a glimpse inside the disturbed mind of our serial killer. And boy, those chapters are pretty twisted! The writing reflects the state of mind of the killer brilliantly and I felt these chapters added a little something extra to the story as well. The story ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving you wanting to know more and how certain plot developments will continue in the future… The Rules Of Murder is by no means a meek story and it will have plenty of action, suspense and properly twisted and graphic scenes for you in store. If you like your detective/serial killer thrillers fast and dangerous, you should definitely try this series!


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ARC REVIEW: Bitter Falls – by Rachel Caine

Title: Bitter Falls
(Stillhouse Lake #4)

Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 21st 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 16th 2019
Pages: 336

“Women are always, somehow, to blame for the acts of men; that’s more true now than it ever has been.”

*** 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 fan of this series ever since the first book came out, and the first two books are on my list of all time favorites. Book number three, while solid, didn’t have that same wow factor for me and I was hoping that missing spark would be present again in book number four… But unfortunately I’m starting to think that maybe this series has been going on for too long, and maybe it’s just better to leave things as it is? Don’t get me wrong, I still think this series as a whole is brilliant and Bitter Falls is without doubt another solid read. BUT. I guess you can only have that many bad things happening to the main characters before it starts becoming REALLY unbelievable.

Like I said, I still think the writing itself is brilliant and Bitter Falls is without doubt an intense, twisted and thrilling ride. I still devoured every single page and the story once again had that unputdownable vibe, but I also started looking a bit more critical at certain aspects of the plot and that is never a good sign. Basically book four, like book three, misses some of that spark that turned the first two books into all time favorites for me. With everything that has happened already to Gwen, Sam and her kids, it is extremely hard to put together another believable plot and create a new life threatening situation they have to get themselves out of. The plot of Bitter Falls and its cult element is without doubt intriguing and definitely has that disturbing and twisted feel. It links back to things that happened in the previous book and gives us another backdrop for a story that will have your heart racing the whole ride. BUT. Like I also said, I started wondering about the credibility of it all and especially the ending felt a bit over the top. I’m still on the fence as to what to think of the second half of Bitter Falls… It was without doubt highly entertaining, filled with action, suspense and a lot of disturbing scenes, but unfortunately once again that wow factor I was hoping for wasn’t present for me.

In short: I had a great time reading Bitter Falls and it is without doubt a solid and simply thrilling crime thriller, but sadly didn’t live up to the sheer brilliance of the first two books. If you are a fan of Gwen Proctor and the other main characters and keep those expectations in check, you will find yourself having a great time though! A little note: this is one of those series that has to be read in order, because you will be missing out on too much background information and character development otherwise… And trust me, you definitely don’t want to miss out by not reading the first two books especially!


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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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ARC REVIEW: Snakes And Ladders – by Victoria Selman @amazonpub

Title: Snakes And Ladders
(Ziba MacKenzie #3)
Author: Victoria Selman
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 21st 2019
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Finished reading: December 13th 2019
Pages: 382

“Caring makes you human. It’s the one thing that differentiates us from the monsters we hunt.”

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

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As soon as I read the first line of the blurb on Netgalley I was sold. I mean: Psycho meets The Silence Of The Lambs… How on earth would I be able to resist that?! Add the promise of a serial killer and profiler angle, and I just HAD to add it to my shelves. I confess I wasn’t aware that Snakes And Ladders was actually the third book of a series when I requested a copy, but thankfully it turns out that this story works really well as a stand-alone as well. A fair warning though: it is most likely that you will end up adding the first two books to your wishlist anyway afterwards, as you will be left wanting for more!

So, Snakes And Ladders. Of course, thanks to my mistake, I didn’t have the background of the main characters and past cases when I started reading, but despite this lack of knowledge I was able to dive straight in anyway. I’m not lying when I say that I was hooked after only a couple of pages! This is one of those thrillers that will draw you right in and won’t let you go until the very end. Snakes And Ladders has it all: intriguing main characters, not one but TWO disturbing serial killers, a fascinating case, a profiler angle, lots of suspense and plot twists, solid writing and plot development… Oh yes, there is a lot to love in this third book and it was definitely a huge success for me.

Ziba MacKenzie is without doubt a very strong lead and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. Even though I missed some of her background information, I was still able to warm up to her almost instantly and I’m definitely a fan. I love how she is a profiler and gives us a slightly different angle on the typical murder investigation in detective thrillers. The profiling and psychological aspect in Snakes And Ladders is without doubt fascinating and definitely gives this story its unique touch! Likewise, I loved the fact that we had not one, but TWO serial killer characters involved. Vernon Sange is of course behind bars, but not less dangerous and he makes a fantastic villain. The Pink Rose Killer on the other hand is of course the main focus of this story, identity unknown and his case active. The flashback chapters give us some insight in his past and how he became the person he is today… But is he in contact with Vernon Sange? Why does he kill? And who is he? You will find yourself going round and round as cleverly designed plot twists keep misleading you.

Vernon Sange’s angle gave the plot more dept and added a whole different layer of danger both for Ziba and those close to her. It also gave us not one, but TWO riddles to unravel: who is the PRK and what is Vernon up to? Both riddles made me keep turning those pages and I managed to finish Snakes And Ladders in record time. And that ending! My eyes couldn’t believe what they had just read; while I saw some twists and reveals coming, that cliffhanger ending definitely was a true shocker. I’ll be waiting impatiently for book four to discover what will happen next, but not before I catch up with the first two books of course! Fans of darker, complex and twisted serial killer thrillers who love a profiler and psychological angle will have a great time with Snakes And Ladders.


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ARC REVIEW: The Blossom Twins – by Carol Wyer

Title: The Blossom Twins
(Detective Natalie Ward #5)
Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 12th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: December 10th 2019 
Pages: 399

“Natalie had worked some tough cases in her time, but none had left their mark as much as the Blossom Twins.”

*** 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 said it before that it seems like you can’t go wrong when it comes to Carol Wyer‘s detective thrillers, and the announcement of every new title always make me feel giddy with delight. I’ve been following Detective Natalie Ward since the beginning, so of course I was very excited when I heard Natalie was ready to give us her fifth adventure… After how things ended in her personal storyline in book four, I was definitely most curious to see how things would continue. And as I’ve been enjoying my time with Natalie Ward so far, the decision whether to read book number five was simply a no-brainer. I’m not sure why it took me longer than expected to actually get to it, but there is no doubt that The Blossom Twins is another solid sequel with and ending that left me completely shellshocked, flabbergasted and simply destroyed.

So, The Blossom Twins. First of all I have to say that you can technically read this story as a stand-alone, although you will be missing certain key background information about the main characters and you might not get certain clues and character dynamics. You will be able to follow the case itself easily though. I felt that the balance in The Blossom Twins was slightly different than in the previous books, with a little more focus on Natalie’s personal situation at home. We definitely get a good glimpse at their current situation as well as quite a few changes… I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say that things won’t be static in book five. That said, I did have an issue with how the current situation was described and portrayed by the characters involved. There was quite a lot of complaining and nagging going on in The Blossom Twins, both by Natalie and those around her and both on a personal and professional level. I can understand a bit of bickering and frustration, but it soon became a little too much for me and it started to affect my reading experience negatively.

I still can’t put my finger on the why, but The Blossom Twins wasn’t my favorite of the series so far. Part of this had to do with the bickering and probably also the current team and work situation at the station. The whole ‘enemy’ and ‘sneaky’ colleague element came over as a bit of a cliche for me and I found myself soon very annoyed with the whole situation… Also, I thought it distracted from the case itself, which on its own is without doubt both shocking and spine-chilling. A serial killer hunting teenagers and seemingly leaving no trace behind… Without doubt the worst nightmare of any parent! Things were a bit slow to start developing, but once the ball started rolling it was on a collision course and ready to bowl you over without warning. I wasn’t kidding when I said before that the ending left me shell shocked, flabbergasted and unable to render a word! Oh yes, the ending will most likely destroy you and it left me personally especially desperate to find out what will happen next in Natalie’s life.

In short, while The Blossom Twins wasn’t my favorite Natalie Ward installment so far, there is no doubt that it is still a solid serial killer thriller that ends with a bang the size of an atomic bomb. Fans of the genre and series will enjoy spending more time with Natalie Ward!


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