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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YVO’S SHORTIES #146 – The Last House Guest & My Sister, The Serial Killer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two thrillers I’ve been really excited to read… The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda sadly turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, especially since I have some of her other titles on my all time favorites list. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite turned out to be very darkly entertaining though.


Title: The Last House Guest
Author: Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 18th 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: January 23rd 2020
Pages: 352

“But that was the trick of the place – it lured you in under false pretenses, and then it took everything from you.”


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Both All The Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger are on my list of all time favorites, so to say that The Last House Guest was on my list of most anticipated 2019 releases is an understatement. I’m not sure why it took me this long to pick it up; it might have been the hype, it might have been the mixed reviews, but I’m actually kind of glad I waited until the hype died down a bit now. Why? Well, let’s just say that somehow I was quite underwhelmed by what I found in The Last House Guest. It’s not necessarily a bad read, but I don’t think it lives up to the quality of especially All The Missing Girls either… I found the plot to be rather dull, slow-paced and predictable most of the time, and the tension took a loooooong time building up. So long, that I found myself losing interest along the way, and this definitely wasn’t the unputdownable pageturner I thought it would be. Likewise, the final reveals were a bit abrupt to me and I felt the ending was almost rushed… After so long of nothing going on, I don’t think the suspense and plot twist reveals were well distributed in the story. I wasn’t a fan of the characters either… In fact, I don’t think I liked any of them and that is kind of a problem when a story is mostly focused on the characters. That aside, I did think the Littleport setting and the contrast between the locals and the visitors were interesting enough. Avery is used to give us an insight in both worlds, although I did feel that something was lacking in the development of both characters and plot even though I can’t put my finger exactly on what was missing. I think as a whole The Last House Guest sadly failed to hit the mark for me, and I’m hoping her next psychological thriller will help me fall in love with her stories again… Fingers crossed!


Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 17th 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Finished reading: January 27th 2020
Pages: 228

“I lean on the door frame and watch her, trying and failing to understand how her mind works. She remains as impenetrable to me as the elaborate ‘artwork’ daubed across the walls.”


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I confess My Sister, The Serial Killer had me at the title. I have a weird obsession with serial killer thrillers and the promise of having a serial killer right there and center and a sister to the main character at that was all I needed to add this title to my must-read pile. I’m not sure why it took me this long to actually pick it up, but I’m definitely happy with what I found! This is a dark dark but also weirdly funny read. Sounds contradicting right? But My Sister, The Serial Killer almost reads like a satire and murder definitely isn’t taken too seriously in the story… Nor are the characters in general for that matter. It’s a superfast read and extremely entertaining, although I did struggle considerably with the characters. Ayoola is basically a sociopath and I just can’t believe she can act so reckless and basically stupid and nobody has never even suspected her… Korede on the other hand I just wanted to slap for being so stupid and also for her to keep covering for her sister even though she knows her dark side VERY well. I mean, who would not only cover for someone you know is a serial killer and will kill again, but also actively help cover up their crimes? I’m sorry, but my love for someone would never actually be that strong to do that. It was interesting to see the family dynamics though, and even though I hated the whole love triangle vibe, I can’t denied I was still very much entertained by this darkly funny read. This story might not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind dark humor and dark elements in your thrillers, you will most likely find yourself entertained as well.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #143 – Like This For Ever & Things You Save In A Fire

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I really enjoyed. The third Lacey Flint book Like This For Ever was slightly different than the previous books as Lacey is not that present, but it is without doubt one that ends with a bang. And I loved my time with Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center! She’s definitely on my short list of authors that can make me actually enjoy romance.


Title: Like This For Ever
(Lacey Flint #3)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 11th 2013
Publisher: Bantam Press
Finished reading: January 7th 2020
Pages: 400

“The mask that was Lacey Flint, the mask that her true self hid behind, the mask that could never be allowed to slip again. “


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It took me longer than expected, but I finally came around reading my latest TBR jar pick… It has been interesting to meet up with Lacey Flint again and to see how past events affected her. The story is told through multiple POVs, including Lacey, Dana and Barney. Lacey isn’t as active in this book as she is not currently on duty after everything that happened previously, but somehow she ends up being involved anyway… And Barney’s POV is particularly interesting as we not often have a kid as one of the leading characters. Dana represents the detective team that includes well known Mark Joesbury, currently working on the case where young boys go missing only to turn up dead days later with their throats slashed. Who is behind these killings and why are the murders so atypical? I fully thought I had the whole plot figured out, and I was even starting to feel disappointed, only for the plot twist granades to be thrown at me from an angle I definitely didn’t see coming… Those final developments left me mostly flabbergasted and with a fully reinstated positive opinion about this book. I love it when a story manages to mislead me! This is also one of those books you will finish in record time, and I literally finished it in less than a day. Lacey comes over as more than a bit unhinged in this sequel, but it has definitely made me curious about what will happen with her in the final book. I’m hoping to read it soon! Trigger warnings are in place for self harm and suicide among other things.


Title: Things You Save In A Fire
Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 13th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 8th 2020
Pages: 320

“That’s how life is. Things happen. Lives get broken. Some people never can put themselves back together.”


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I really enjoyed How To Walk Away last year and I have been meaning to read this one ever since…I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so sooner, because I loved Things You Save In A Fire even more. I know I’m not really one of the biggest romance fans around, but I do love a change of genre every once in a while and there are a select few romance authors that can make me actually enjoy the genre. I have now confirmed Katherine Center is one of them. Heartwarming, poignant, honest, brutal and sometimes even shocking: Things You Save In A Fire will take you on a rollercoaster ride filled with emotions. Heavy topics including rape, cancer, death, gender discrimination and addiction are balanced with lighter moments and just the right dose of banter and romance. You will find yourself rooting for both Cassie and Owen (aka Rookie) before you know it, and I loved that this story gave us more insight of what is really going on inside a fire station. Firefighters are the heart and soul of this story and I really appreciated how the author not only described the inner workings of everything involving firefighters but also made it fundamental to the plot. The deeper meaning of the need for forgiveness ran throughout the whole story and will apply on multiple levels… It was fascinating to see the different characters evolve and grow over time, and I can see why this book has received so much love. I’m definitely part of this group now! Fans of the genre should consider Things You Save In A Fire a powerful and heartwarming as well as heartbreaking must-read.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Home – by Sarah Stovell #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Home Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was blown away by Sarah Stovell‘s first book Exquisite last year and I have been looking forward to a new story ever since… And there is no doubt that The Home has only reconfirmed my love for her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Home
Author: Sarah Stovell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 28th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 14th 2020
Pages: 276

“We were fragile, too. But we weren’t fragile like flowers. We were fragile like bombs.”

*** 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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Exquisite was simply exquisite last year, so I’ve been looking forward to her newest story ever since. It’s easy to say that my expectations were extremely high, and I was honestly a bit afraid it wouldn’t actually live up to expectations… But I shouldn’t have worried. My mind was left reeling and my heart was smashed into a million pieces and left in a broken heap of mess on the floor… Heartrending, raw, emotional and dark: this is a story that will get under your skin and will make your soul ache for those two poor girls! Oh yes, make sure to prepare yourself for a few hours of very intense reading. So, why did the story work so well for me?

As you might have gathered from my first thoughts, this story did excellent job provoking some very strong emotions; key in this were both the characters, plot development and the writing of course. Let’s take a further look at the plot and its structure first… The story is divided into five parts and uses multiple POVs to tell us the tragic story of two troubled young girls: Hope and Annie. We learn about their terrible and shocking past, the residence where they first met and lived together as well as the events that happened after that dreadful night that ended the life of one of the girls… Not in chronological order, but rather a mix of past and present which slowly gives us more insight in the lives of girls. The full picture is being slowly build up brick by brick, until the full horrifying dimension and consequences of their difficult lives are ultimately revealed.

There are a lot of dark and shocking elements included in The Home, and this story is definitely not for the weak hearted. Oh no, this is not a happy story and reading about the details of the lives of both girls has been horrific to say the least. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but heavy topics such as (child) abuse, child prostitution, teen pregnancy, addiction, rape, murder and mental illness play an all important role in the plot… Once again, it is simply dreadful to think just how tough of a start on life these girls had, and it truly shows their resilience that they even got this far. The darker elements also mean trigger warnings are in place, but each element is developed expertly and respectfully and helps shine light on just how hard and essentially hopeless it can be for kids to fight the terrible hand in life they have been given.

Let’s talk about the characters… The main focus in The Home is on Annie and Hope of course, and to say both girls who have had a very rough life so far is an understatement. It’s hard to discuss the characters in detail without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say that their past and secrets will have some very shocking surprises in store and even though they might not be exactly likeable, your heart will ache for them anyway as you see just how much they suffered and still suffer. Other characters, including Lara, Helen and Ace are less present, but each plays its own role and it has been interesting to discover where each character fits in the story. Especially Ace and both mothers made my blood boil, but a story like this needs its villians for it to be realistic… And that was most definitely achieved here.

The writing is once again simply exquisite. The different POVs, the layout of the plot, the thoughts of what is basically a ‘ghost’, a separate ‘story’ about Annie’s past… Different techniques are used to put together a complex and uniquely crafted story that will mostly definitely blow your socks off. Along with an emotional rollercoaster, and with lighter moments (including the relationship between the two girls) balancing all the dark and disturbing elements of this story, you will also find yourself on a journey looking for the truth behind the death of a young girl. Twists and turns will set you on the wrong track, and feelings of doubt, rage and deep deep sympathy for the girls will make it feel as if there were an emotional tornado inside your heart. Only in the best possible way of course!

There is so much to love in The Home and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time. It’s not an easy read, but it’s beautifully rendered and simply absolutely spot on when it comes to execution. If you are looking for an unique thriller that isn’t afraid to go dark and ugly, you have just found yourself a new read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home
Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth
hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in
Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in
Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller,
Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Dark Mother Earth – by Kristian Novak

Title: Dark Mother Earth
Author: Kristian Novak
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 2013
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Finished reading: January 6th 2020
Pages: 304
DNF at 31% (95 pages)
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Črna mati zemla’)

“At a time when no one but Matija Dolenčec cared about this, he was prepared to do almost anything to write one more good story.”

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

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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!!

I always love discovering new international authors and translations enable us to discover books that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to us. I don’t think I’ve read a book by a Croatian author before, and after reading the blurb of Dark Mother Earth and seeing the extremely high rating on Goodreads, I was convinced I had found the perfect title to remedy that. I really thought that I was going to enjoy this one, especially with such a fantastic blurb, but I guess it just wasn’t ment to be… I really hate having a DNF this early in the year already, but I just couldn’t get myself to keep reading in the end. I’ll try to explain below why.

I’ll keep this short, but there were quite a few factors that played a role in my decision to DNF. Not only did I find that the story is too chaotic, superslow and nothing really makes sense, but I also felt that nothing much seems to be happening even almost a third into the book. I wasn’t a fan of the writing style at all… It feels like random words and thoughts have been put on paper without a proper meaning or order, and it sounded more like random ramblings rather than a cohesive story. The characters are absolutely despicable and their ramblings and character development hardly make any sense. Or at least the minimum development I could see in the first third of the book… Also, there is way too much sex talk involved, and in a disrespectful way too. Confusing, tedious, dull, frustrating and quite frankly simply exasperating; trust me, I really tried and gave this book multiple second chances, but in the end I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading to see if things would improve. I guess this book most definitely wasn’t for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you think this could be your cup of tea you might want to try it anyway. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #136: The Fountains Of Silence & Recursion

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two Goodreads Choice Awards finalists both written by authors I’ve loved books of in the past… And this time around they turned out to be winners as well. The Fountains Of Silence is hands down my new favorite Ruta Sepetys and one of my top reads this year as well. Recursion by Blake Crouch also turned out to be a fascinating read.


Title: The Fountains Of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Philomel Books
Finished reading: November 27th 2019
Pages: 512

“What is the cost of silence? If she remains quiet about her suspicions, is she granting acceptance of what is happening?”


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I’ve been a fan of Ruta Sepetys‘ work ever since my first experience with her books, so I knew I HAD to read The Fountains Of Silence even before I discovered it was actually set in Spain during General Franco’s dictatorship. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history, and the fact that this story is mostly set in a city I’ve had the pleasure to live in and love during my Erasmus student exchange made my expectations grow to a record hight. Even so, The Fountains Of Silence managed to completely blow me away and I was left without words to describe my feelings about this story as well as with a new all time favorite to add to my list. It shows that so much research has gone into this story and I bow to the author for her detailed descriptions and thorough information about what happened in that difficult time period in Spain. It’s true that there are quite a few different characters and POVs to deal with, but I personally didn’t mind as it only added to the richness to the plot. Each different character helps giving us some insight in different parts of life in Madrid under Franco’s dictatorship. These same characters will win over your heart almost instantly and your heart will go out for them as their story slowly evolves over time. Daniel and Ana are the stars of this story of course, but there are so many other characters I found myself rooting for and there were without doubt a quite a few heartbreaking moments. Make sure to keep your tissues closeby just to be safe! I loved The Fountains Of Silence from the very first page until the very last… If you are a historical fiction fan who appreciates a complex and rich plot with fantastic descriptions and brilliant character development, you are missing out if you haven’t tried this story yet.


Title: Recursion
Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
First published: June 11th 2019
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: November 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“We think we’re perceiving the world directly and immediately, but everything we experience is this carefully edited, tape-delayed reconstruction.”


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Dark Matter is on my list of all time favorites, so I’ve been curious about Recursion  ever since I first heard about it. The premise of this story sounds absolutely compelling, and now I’ve had the chance to read this story I can say that it definitely lived up to expectations. It’s true that I don’t read a lot of sci-fi as it’s not really my thing, but I can now officially say that I’m making an exception for Blake Crouch. The idea of time, memories, the memory chair and time travel in Recursion is absolutely fascinating. Using a dual POV, switching between main characters Barry and Helena, we slowly learn more about  Helena’s invention and how her work will change the world forever… I’m keeping this short as I want to avoid any spoilers, but I really liked how the plot was constructed and how the idea of memories and time being fluid plays such a key role in the story. Recursion introduces some fascinating concepts that will definitely make an impact on you. And even if you are not really a sci-fi fan, I can still recommend trying Recursion if you enjoy complex, thrilling and captivating stories.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #133 – SHOUT & With The Fire On High

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! …


Title: SHOUT
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Poetry
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 7th 2019
Pages: 304

“untreated pain

is a cancer of the soul

that can kill you”


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While it’s true that I’m not exactly a big fan of poetry, I do like to try it every once in a while if the subject matter speaks to me. SHOUT has been recommended to me a couple of times, and when I saw it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards I decided to give in and finally read it. First of all I have to say that I truly admire Laurie Halse Anderson for not only speaking up about what happened to her, but also inspiring others to open up and talk about their own experiences. I confess I’ve yet to read Speak, but it’s on my TBR and I’m definitely hoping to get to it some time soon. SHOUT is 100% free verse, so don’t expect clear poetry structure and elements, but I guess the structure works as it helps the author talking about a wide variety of subjects including her childhood experiences, her time in Denmark and more recent events including author related experiences. Trigger warnings are definitely in place for difficult elements as (child) abuse, rape, violence, mental illness, alcoholism and drugs. They are the main reason behind this poetic memoir though: SHOUT is all about the author wanting to give victims the right to shout what happened to them from the rooftops as well as telling about her own experiences. I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t always able to connect to the writing style all that easily, and some ‘chapters’ worked better for me than others. This is purely talking about the form, not the content, which is both powerful, heartbreaking and harrowing. This memoir might not be for everyone, but there is no denying its power.

Title: With The Fire On High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: November 10th 2019
Pages: 400

“And I know the past isn’t a mirror image of the future, but it’s a reflection of what can be; and when your first love breaks your heart, the shards of that can still draw blood for a long, long time.”


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Elizabeth Acevedo’s books have been on my radar for quite some time now, and as I’m a huge foodie I just couldn’t resist picking up her newest book With The Fire On High first. My expectations were high after reading various glowing reviews, and I have to say that expectations were more than met. Because from that gorgeous cover to the very last page this story simply delivers. The driving force behind With The Fire On High is the main character Emoni. Strong, driven, talented and determined to do whatever is best for her family despite difficulties life keeps throwing at her… The fact that she is a teenage mom, but not afraid to fight the prejudices, show the world what she is worth and fight for the ones she loves is truly inspiring. The development of both Emoni and the other characters is thorough, spot on and really made them come alive for me. As a girl with Puerto Rican/black heritage, Emoni’s character is able to teach us more about prejudices, race related struggles as well as community and culture. I loved the introduction of not only Spanish words and sentences, but also Latin flavors, spices and food in With The Fire On High. I also loved just how big of a role food plays in the story in general, and all those mouthwatering descriptions and recipes definitely made me crave food. And as someone who has lived in Spain and visited Sevilla herself, those chapters brought back great memories. The writing itself is beautiful and something to savour on its own, but With The Fire On High turned out to be the perfect YA realistic fiction recipe with a dash of slowburn romance to sweeten it all. Recommended!


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