ARC REVIEW: Where The Lost Wander – by Amy Harmon

Title: Where The Lost Wander
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: April 28th 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: February 22nd 2020
Pages: 348

“That’s what hope feels like: the best air you’ve ever breathed after the worst fall you’ve ever taken. It hurts.”

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

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I think that most people will know by now that I’m a huge fan of Amy Harmon‘s work and I’ve been eagerly anticipating her newest title Where The Lost Wander ever since I first heard about it. I was absolutely stoked when I was given the chance to read this story early, and it was without doubt another excellent story. While not my absolute favorite title to date, this is still a beautifully written story that is most definitely able to provoke strong emotions. Without doubt of the same high quality I’ve come to expect of Amy Harmon‘s books!

There is a lot to love in Where The Lost Wander. First up is the historical setting in 19th century United States. Not only is this historical setting wonderfully and exhaustively described, but these same descriptions really made the setting come alive and made it feel as if you were right back in the 19th century. Both the social conflicts, the Native Americans and their culture as well as the racism and struggles are realistically described and added a lot of dept to the story. I personally loved getting a little more insight in the daily life of Native Americans from that era and John was without doubt the perfect character to show us both ‘worlds’.

The plot itself is simply intriguing. The whole ‘looking for a better life in California’ and braving a 1000+ mile trip to get there with only a wagon and some oxes and mules is most definitely not something we could imagine ourselves doing today… It’s a long road filled with dangers, sickness and hardship, but also hope and the promise of a new life and new possibilities for those who reach their final destination. The journey of this particular cast of characters is again thoroughly and realistically described, without leaving out the blunt and sometimes heartbreaking moments along the way. Likewise, the Native American angle and what happened to Naomi are used to give us more insight in both cultures, with the help of John’s character as a tentative connection between both.

Both the writing and the development of the characters are simply wonderful, but that is what I’ve come to expect of anything Amy Harmon writes to be honest. There is a reason she is one of my absolute favorite authors! There are quite a few characters in Where The Lost Wander, but the main focus is on both Naomi and John. The story is told with the help of a dual POV structure, alternating between Naomi and John to help us show both sides especially when they are not together. It is extremely easy to warm up to and grow to love both characters, root for them and keep fingers and toes crossed for a happy ending… And yes, this includes a lot of both heartwarming and hearbreaking moments along the way.

I think the only thing that nagged me a bit was the slow pace. Where The Lost Wander is considerably slow going and at times it was just too slow for me… Although with a story that is mostly focused on the characters, this slower pace shouldn’t come as a total surprise. In short, while this wasn’t my absolute favorite Amy Harmon, I might just have set my expectations too high to begin with. Where The Lost Wander is still an excellent read and if you love slower and character-driven historical fiction with a wonderful cast of characters, a love story and a social conflict angle, you will find yourself falling hopelessly in love with this story.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lost Orphan (The Foundling) – by Stacey Halls

Title: The Lost Orphan
Author: Stacey Halls
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: March 31st 2020
Pages: 352

“It was the greatest difference between us. To her, money was a pool to drink deeply from. Me, I was parched.”

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

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I confess that I was in the minority last year and somehow I wasn’t that big of a fan of  Stacey Halls‘ debut The Familiars despite being intrigued the premise. After hearing a lot of positive things about her second book The Foundling (or The Lost Orphan), I just couldn’t resist giving her work another go anyway, especially since I was once again intrigued by the blurb. I’m glad I made that decision now, because this story most definitely hit the mark for me.

I’m a fan of the historical fiction genre in general and both the 18th century setting in London and the plot itself were excellently developed in The Lost Orphan. Most historical fiction stories I’ve had the chance to read are set in Victorian London, so it was a nice change of scenery to go back one more century and get a proper glimpse of the 18th century. The descriptions and development of the setting are extensive and really set the right tone for the rest of the story. The story behind the The Foundling hospital and poor women giving up their babies is a tragic one… And Stacey Halls definitely raised an interesting question: in an era where the poor are mostly illiterate, how can the women be certain to ever see their babies again if they want to reclaim them, even if they have a token? This question is the base of the plot of this story, and it was intriguing to see it developed and have both sides of the story explained.

The Lost Orphan uses two different POVs, and this way we get to see both sides of London society as well as both sides of the story of the missing baby. Bess (Eliza) represents the poor and is the one who was forced to give up her baby six years ago as she wasn’t married and the baby’s father was dead. Alexandra represents the wealthy and shows us a widow with mental health issues (including a form of agoraphobia and OCD) trying to raise her only child. The story switches between the two women to help us show both their stories and give us a glimpse of how both the poor and rich lived back then.Their lives meet when Eliza starts working as a nursemaid for Alexandra’s daughter Charlotte… And although the truth about the situation can be guessed easily, the development of both characters, their background and reasons to do what they do really enhanced the story for me. The Lost Orphan is mostly character-driven and focuses on character development and growth rather than including a lot of action… Although the chapters involving Bess (Eliza) are a lot more lively.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but what I can say is that if you enjoy well written historical fiction with thoroughly developed and basically flawed characters as well as a story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Lost Orphan or The Foundling is an excellent choice.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Kilo – by Toby Muse #damppebblesblogtours @tobymuse @EburyPublishing @EmmaFinnigan @damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Kilo damppebbles blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma Welton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve always had a strange interest in anything related to drugs crime and the war on drugs, so there was just no way I could resist this non fiction account on the drugs world in Colombia. It turned out to be an absolutely fascinating read! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Kilo
Author: Toby Muse
Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
First published: March 24th 2020
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Finished reading: March 27th 2020
Pages: 320

“The drug war doesn’t move backward or forward; it simply turns in circles.”

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

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Some of you might already know about my strange interest in anything related to the drugs world and the war on drugs. I was actually already about to read a different drugs-related non fiction book when Emma’s email arrived with the question if I could join the blog tour for Kilo on a really short notice… I normally wouldn’t have been able to, but I decided to make an effort for Kilo as the blurb sounded right up my alley. A non fiction account focusing on different areas in the Colombian drugs world? Bring it on! I knew from the start I was going to be in for a treat and put my other reads on hold to be able to dive straight in.

And guess what? I definitely made the right decision! Anyone who is interested in the Colombian drugs world should add this newly published non fiction account to their wishlist, as it turned out to be an absolutely fascinating read. Definitely one of the best drugs-related non fiction reads I’ve had the pleasure to read so far! So, why did this book work so well for me? There are many aspects that contributed, but one of the main reasons is probably the format. Instead of a dry and maybe dull account of only part of the drugs world, Kilo offers you a diverse and complete picture of the different stages as well as areas in play in this world. This might seem a bit chaotic, but the different parts are cleverly combined by following the ‘journey’ of a one kilo brick of cocaine; from the beginning when the coca plants are harvested to its transport to the final destination, Kilo will show you each step along the way and gives abundant information about each ‘sub-world’.

Kilo travels all over Colombia as it shows us both sides of the cocaine business, giving this non fiction account a multidimentional feel. From the coca leave harvesters to the rebels, the combo leaders, sicarios, drugs smugglers and anti-drugs units, Kilo will help giving you insight in every single cog in the big cocaine business wheel… As a result, you will find a colorful and complete picture of how the cocaine production and distribution affects many lives both inside Colombia and in the rest of the world. Toby Muse uses a wide cast of different characters to introduce us to the various stages of the cocaine business, some characters returning later on while others only have a temporary spotlight on them. Each character serves its purpose, and shows us how brutal, dire and sometimes hopeless the whole situation is… There is no escaping the violence associated with cocaine, and the consequences for most are life-threatening to say the least.

The writing style is simply spot on, feels fluid and really made both the characters and different settings come alive for me. There is nothing dull and dry about this non fiction account! Instead, Kilo gives us a colorful and abundant image of the Colombian drugs world as a whole, showing us both sides instead of just focusing on either the cocaine business or the war on drugs. This fact alone already took this book to the next level for me, as it felt like as a reader you were getting two for the price of one! A real bargain for anyone who is interested in or wants to learn more about the Colombian drugs world. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Toby Muse is a British-American writer, television reporter, documentary filmmaker and foreign correspondent. He has reported from the front lines of the conflicts in Colombia, Iraq and Syria. He has embedded with soldiers, rebels and drug cartels, producing exclusive reports from cocaine laboratories and guerrilla jungle camps. He lived in Bogota, Colombia for more than fifteen years, reporting across South America and the endless drug war.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter // Facebook // Website

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK // Waterstones // Foyles // Book Depository // Hive.co.uk


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ARC REVIEW: Strangers – by C.L. Taylor @AvonBooksUK

Title: Strangers
Author: C.L. Taylor
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 2nd 2020
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Finished reading: March 6th 2020
Pages: 400

“She’d learned through bitter experience that when you sit back and wait for what life throws at you, you mostly get covered in shit.”

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

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I’ve been eagerly anticipating C.L. Taylor‘s newest title Strangers ever since I first heard about it, as I’m most definitely a fan of her writing style. Although I still have to read Sleep (yes, I’m still miffed my pre-ordered paperback copy never arrived last year), I think it’s safe to say that I now have a new favorite C.L. Taylor title. What a read! I’m glad I cleared my schedule before diving into this story, because there was just no way on earth I was going to stop reading before I knew how it would all end. What an absolutely masterful and simply brilliantly constructed psychological thriller!

I’m going to keep this review on the short side to avoid spoilers, but I absolutely loved the sheer complexity of this story. In Strangers, you get not one, not two, but THREE storylines for the price of one. Yes, you read that right, three completely different storylines with three different POVs and characters to follow… And you will only understand how the three will fit together in the story until after the final plot twist bombs. Each different storyline is developed thoroughly and realistically, giving us insight in the lives of Alice, Ursula and Gareth as well as truly making them come alive. Each character has their own set of issues, secrets and background, turning Strangers into a thoroughly complex, rich and utterly satisfying psychological thriller.

There are a lot of elements in play in Strangers, including infidelity, stalking, kleptomania, Alzheimer, abuse, violence and bullying. That seems like a lot to juggle, but each element is incorporated into the plot in such way that helps enrich the plot without feeling chaotic. They give the different characters extra dept and without doubt take the character development as well as the plot to the next level… The characters themselves might not be 100% likeable if you look critically, but you will find it quite easy to fully immerse yourself in their stories and root for them along the way. And as each character has their own issues, you will find your mind in overdrive as you try and juggle all those storylines and suspicions about motive and who could be behind it.

The writing is 200% engaging and combined with a fast pace and a fantastically constructed plot you will find yourself reaching that final page in no time at all. Especially as the suspense is starting to build up and things are getting more intense… Plot twists, secrets and POV switches are used to both keep you on your toes and send you off the wrong track, and I don’t think it will be easy to guess the full truth about how the three storylines come together before you actually read about it happening. What a way to end a story! If you are a psychological thriller fan, you definitely need to add Strangers to your must-read list.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Deep Dark Night – by Steph Broadribb #RandomThingsTours #TeamLori @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Deep Dark Night Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been a big Lori Anderson fan ever since my first meeting two years ago and of course I’ve been looking forward to discover what dangers Lori has to overcome next… And this fourth book has once again confirmed me I’m 200% #TeamLori. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: Deep Dark Night
(Lori Anderson #4)

Author: Steph Broadribb
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 5th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: March 13th 2020
Pages: 320

“There’s no moon, no stars – nothing and no one to bear witness to the events of this deep dark night.

No one, except me.”

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

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I first met Lori Anderson two years ago when I messed up and accidently read the second book first… Lori, in all her kickass bounty-hunter glory, charmed me almost instantly and I’ve been on #TeamLori ever since. I’m still not sure why it took me two years to finally catch up with the rest of the series, but trust me, I’m still kicking myself for not doing so before. Although I guess I did have the advantage of being able to binge-read all four books in a short period of time without the long wait in between to find out what Lori has to endure next. Boy boy it has been an explosive and intense few weeks with Lori! I’m still catching my breath as I try to recover from the adrenaline overdose…

So, book number four. Or Deep Dark Night, which is another more than fitting title if you ask me. Before I continue, I have to say that while you can technically read this book as a stand-alone, you won’t be doing yourself a favor for two reasons: (1) you might not get the dynamics between Lori, JT and the other characters if you don’t read the previous books, and (2) you are depriving yourself of some very thrilling and exhilarating reading hours. I strongly suggest just taking the time to read all four books in order to get the full Lori experience! Got that? Perfect, let’s continue with Deep Dark Night. The first thing that stands out is that this book has a completely different feel than the previous three books. Lori and JT still take up the spotlight and are omnipresent, but there is less moving about, less running and the danger feels different too. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t plently of action and violence though, but Deep Dark Night feels more like a locked-room thriller with a mafia angle rather than the typical bounty-hunter action thriller we’ve become used to. Coincidentally, as I have a weak spot for any locked-room plot in a story, you won’t see me complaining.

This time around, we are not in Florida either, but instead Lori’s fourth adventure is set in Chicago. Once again Lori finds herself entangled with mafia business, and this time only because her hands were tied after what happened in book three. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say that Monroe is one slippery bastard I wouldn’t under any circumstances trust even with something insignificant… So having Lori basically putting her (and JT’s) life in his hands made me feel tense from the very beginning. This feeling of dread didn’t leave me for one second either. I found myself to be on the edge of my seat the whole time, biting my nails as I wondered how on earth Lori and JT were going to be able to find themselves a way out of the situation… Deep Dark Night left me more breathless than an intense workout!

While I loved the style of the previous books, I also loved the new direction and the locked-room thriller feel of this story.The mayority of Deep Dark Night takes place within a safe room on the 63rd story of the building where an important poker game takes place. Ten people are inside the room when everything escalates and things turn nasty for real… Imagine And Then There Were None, but mafia style, and you get some sort of an idea what might be going on soon after things are starting to go south. The plot development as well as the plot twists themselves are brilliantly handled and show us a perfect image of what Chicago might look like after a blackout. Action-packed, exhilarating and seriously disturbing: Deep Dark Night will go very dark indeed.

The story is told from both Lori and JT’s POV, which is great as they are not together all the time and it allows the story to tell us what happens from different angles as well as introduce even more suspense. Both characters have become very dear to me, so my heart stopped quite a few times with all the danger and imminent death around the corner every other chapter. The other characters in play, and especially those in the safe room during the poker game, have each been developed satisfactorily and feel well rounded; they each added their own touch to the story. Likewise, Cabressa makes for an interesting mafia character and you gotta hate Monroe all over again for the tricks he is pulling. It was great to see Lori and JT in action together again though, and that ending make me crave the next book instantly as I NEED to know what happens next…

As you might have guessed already, I’m a huge fan of this series and I’m still 200% #TeamLori. If you love a good action-packed and lighting fast thriller read, you should definitely go meet my favorite bounty-hunter Lori Anderson. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire.
Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alterego
– Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges in her love of all things crime fiction
by blogging at crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews
the latest releases. She is also a member of the crime-themed girl band The
Splice Girls. Steph is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at
City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which
inspired her Lori Anderson thrilliers, She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded
by horses, cows and chickens. Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was
shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, and hit number
one on the UK and AU kindle charts. My Little Eye, her first novel under her
pseudonym, Stephanie Marland was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.


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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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