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Professional ReaderChallenge Participant Reviews Published 80%2016 NetGalley Challenge

Michael Robotham - The Secrets She Keeps

The Secrets She Keeps - Michael Robotham

Robotham delivers a very intense psychological thriller. Halfway through the book I was still wondering how the story will develop. For quite a while I had no clue what was going to happen. So I was very curious and that kept me reading.

 

For my taste it was a little bit too slow. A lot of other readers say it was fast paced. I did not feel that way. For me it was a bit of a slow burner.  But it kept me curious and I want to know where the story was heading to.

 

At first I disliked Agatha very much. But the more I got to know her the more I felt for her. This book is very much character driven.  It was also interesting to look deeper intor the oh-so-perfect family of Meg. There are no dead bodies in the cellar but some unpleasant and realistic problems.

 

I am not sure if I ever read a book from Michael Robotham, although I was familiar with his name. But I enjoyed this suspense thriller very much. At first I was a bit irritated because it was so slow and I had no idea what was going on. But the further I read the more I got engaged. This is a unique and high quality thriller I can recommend strongly to everybody.

The Child - Fiona Barton

The Child - Fiona Barton

Fiona Barton returns with her new book after her bestseller „The Widow“. “The Child” is a very complex and elaborated. I was not a huge fan of her first book, I thought it was OK. But she has a talent for creating unique stories with interesting characters. So when I read the blurb of this book, I thought I give it another try.

“The Child” tells a complex story. The skeleton of a baby is found on a construction site. Three women are affected by that. One of them is journalist Kate Waters, who we know already from “The Widow”. She takes an interest in this story and is determined to find out who this baby was. Slowly she untangles a dark and sad story.

I must admit I am still not a huge fan although I enjoyed reading this book. I can’t put my finger on it what it is but something is missing for me. Barton’s writing style is beautiful but maybe a bit aloof. The story is also a slow-burner and goes into every detail. It is a character driven story and the main point is how Kate finds her way through this mystery. Unfortunately I had an idea how everything could be quite early in the book but I discarded it while going on further. But I was right; I figured the end-twist. Usually I am not so clever and I hardly think much about figuring out the end or the killer etc. while reading. So at the end the surprise for me was that my idea was right.

Despite my little nagging about the book I enjoyed reading it. It is an unusual story, the writing is good. It is unique. I like that. I enjoyed “The Child” more than “The Widow” and I am looking forward to her next book.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Lucy Clarke - Last Seen

Last Seen - Lucy   Clarke
Sarah and Isla know each other since they were kids. They are still close friends. They got pregnant almost at the same time. Sarah is married to Isla’s ex-lover- Isla is a single mother. Both bought beach huts on the English coastline where they spent their summers. All is perfect until one day the boys went swimming but only Jacob, Sarah’s son, returned. Marley, Isla’s boy, was never found and presumed drowned. Isla is desperate. But despite this happened on this sandbank she returns every year to to visit Sarah and her family and feel close to Marley. She loves remembering how happy her little boy was while they were at the hut. How he played with Jacob. But after a few years she senses little fractions in her friendship to Sarah. It seems as Sarah doesn’t want to share her family any more with Isla.

The book begins after Jacob disappears. He is 17 know and he did not come home after a beach party. Isla just left after the anniversary of Marley’s death. It is obvious that something happened between the two women.

The story is told alternating from Sarah an Islas point of view. We learn that everybody has secrets. Especially one of them has a huge problem with telling the truth. One lie leads to the next and soon there are many layers of lies which build up to a tragedy.

The author did a great job in creating a very atmospheric story. I loved the setting of this English sandbank and the little beach huts. Both women love their huts where they spent so many happy summers with their sons. Especially Isla loves to return to the hut because it reminds her so much of Marley. For me this was a dark and sad story. I felt especially sorry for Isla and poor Marley. Lies are told to protect somebody but mostly to protect oneself. But these lies destroyed two families. A little boy died tragically and another life was ruined.

The characters in this book are very realistic and strong. I felt with both women although I started to despise one of them while reading. It is a complex and clever story but also a slow burner. It is not a fast paced book but it is worth your reading time.

This was my second book from Lucy Clarke but definitely not my last one

 
 
 

J.D, Barker - The Fourth Monkey

The Fourth Monkey - A.J. Barker

What a twisted and creepy book. It is a fast pace thriller which is highly entertaining and scary.

For five years the 4MK keeps the Chicago Police busy now. He punishes people who did something bad by taking someone they love. First he cuts of one ear, then he takes the eyes and at least the tongue. The sends the body parts in a white box with a black ribbon. The police is still without a clue who he is. Then one day a man is killed in an accident. Obviously he jumped in front of a bus. He carried a white box with a black ribbon. Inside is an ear. So there must be another victim suffering somewhere. But the killer is dead now. But that does not keep him from playing games with the police.

There was a kind of diary found with the body. In this book the 4MK describes his unbelievable bizarre childhood. At first you think it is a normal family but soon it turns out that this is a family of a very different kind.

The story is told alternating between 4MK’s diary and the police work. This book is not for readers who are very sensitive. It is quite drastic and there is a lot of blood. If you have no problems with that you will find a highly entertaining and very unique thriller. There is a little bit of humor, despite all this gruesome things happening all around. The book is very well written. The diary and this horrible family is almost too much, like a parody. It’s unbelievable that there would be a family like that. At least I hope there is not.

All together this was a very entertaining book. It’s full of surprises and twist and it has a unique ending. This book is really different to other thrillers. I enjoyed it very much.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Liz Fenton - The Good Widow

The Good Widow: A Novel - Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke

3,5 Stars

I expected this book to have more thriller elements. It is more about a woman comes to terms with the fact that her husband died in a car accident in Hawaii with his mistress.

I could criticize many thinks. The characters for example. I did not like Jacks, she is weak and obviously needs always somebody to take care of her. Her annoying and dominant sister. The dead macho husband James. Mousy Dylan. The pace is quite slow. There is also a love story (I don’t like chit-lit) and twist you can see coming from afar. But somehow and to my own astonishment, I enjoyed reading it. It is well written and easy to read. Maybe it was a mixture of me sitting relaxed in the sun and be reminded how I used to read love stories when I was a teenager. I don’t know. This book just flows and does not invite you to think too much about its story. It is just an easy summer read. You don’t really have to read it but it does not hurt you if you do. I could go deeper into its flaws but I think I just don’t. It was a nice and uncomplicated read.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Karen McManus - One Of Us Is Lying

One of Us Is Lying - Karen  M. McManus
Wow, this was a surprise. I did not expect that I would enjoy this book so much.

I am not a fan of YA books. Usually I am not interested in kid’s problems and teenage stuff. When I found this book on NetGalley I was intrigued by the blurb and hit the Request button. I just did not think about the fact that students having detention means they would be quite young. Stupid me. But I am glad now that I requested it because I really enjoyed it. I was into the story from page one. The mystery about the sudden death of one of their friends is a classical whodunit. It is hard to guess what happened and the revelation at the end was a surprise for me.

It is really funny that I liked this book so much. It has a lot of high school stereotypes and the typical teenage love mess. But somehow it worked. I liked the characters and how they changed during the investigation. The story is only told through the 4 students who were in detention when Simon died. There is no insight into the police work. But the whole thing stays a mystery until the end. I could see some things coming but I did not guess the end. It is an easy read and a very likable book. I enjoyed reading it and because I am so surprised that I liked it so much I give it 5 stars.

I would llke to thank NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review
 
 
 

Skitter - Ezekiel Boone

Skitter - Ezekiel Boone

This is the second book in the creepy spider trilogy. I liked the first book although it was full of frightening crawlies. This book takes of where the last one ended and it is build similar. We have again a lot of characters. The important ones from the first book of course but also again a hack of a lot of people we meet for one chapter and they all got a full background story. For this reason the book develops slowly. We see how the spider apocalypse develops and spreads over the USA.  I disliked these full stories for minor characters already in the first book. But here I found it quite boring. What’s happening is mostly interesting but it is a bit annoying to read 2 or 3 pages of information I don’t need. It slows the book down. In the last third it gets a little bit more interesting. The story begins to head to the end, the cliffhangers and makes me wanting to read immediately the last book.

                                                                                                       

I think this book is a typically middle book. It gives us a few more information and developments but for itself it would not work. I think it would have been better to put the story into one book, maybe with a lot more pages but just tighten it up a bit and just make  one single book. But this is marketing I suppose. Nevertheless the book does its job. I was a bit bored during reading and I skipped sometimes a few pages- But I also want to read the next book and learn what it is all about this creepy spiders.

Emma Kavanagh - The Killer On The Wall

The Killer On The Wall - Emma Kavanagh

In a close knitted community in the north of England 15year old Isla Bell ran along Hadrian’s Wall and stumbles onto 4 bodies and a young boy seriously wounded. From this day on everything changes for all the people who were involved.

 

20 years later Isla is a forensic psychologist. She examines the brains of serial killers and finally she is able to examine the convicted killer of those people she once found. Her father, who caught this man, built his career on this case. He is the famous Eric Bell. Isla is married to Ramsey, the only survivor. But suddenly  the killing starts again. But how can this be? The killer is behind bars for many years now. Is there a copycat? Or was there another killer who starts again now?

 

“The Killer on the Wall” is a dark thriller. Everyone who was involved in the crimes is traumatized. Isla waited 20 years and prepared herself to examine finally the man who killed people she knew and beaten her husband almost to dead. When the new victims begin to appear she does not know what to think. Her whole world begins to fall apart. The author does a great job showing this. But on the other hand nothing really happens for quite a long time. There is also Mina, a young police officer from London who moved to the north for personal reasons. Through her we see the police work on this case. She begins to look at the old case again and finds disturbing things. This is not as gripping as it sounds. The pace is very slow. In the last third the author offers suspect after suspect and twist after twist. But it is a bit too much. And the motive did not convince me.

 

The story itself is far from new but it is unique enough developed. The characters are ok, although I could not connect to them. This is my second book from Emma Kavanagh. I already had my problems with her writing style in the other book I read. I think the writing is aloof. I just could not connect to this book. I found my thoughts drifting apart while reading. It is probably my personal problem but I just don’t like the author’s writing style. It was an OK read but I think I would not choose a third book from the author. Her books are just not my cup of tea.

Megan Miranda - The Perfect Stranger

The Perfect Stranger: A Novel - Megan Miranda

This is the second book from Megan Miranda. I really enjoyed “All the Missing Girls”. It was one of the most unusual books I have ever read. This book is different although you can recognize the unique writhing style. I really liked this one, too.

 

Former reporter Leah has lost her job. She just wants to leave her mistakes and misjudgments behind. When she ran into an old friend one night which offers hers spontaneously to move into rural Pennsylvania with her she is happy to agree. Leah and Emmy used to live together for a few months after college. Then the lost contact for 8 years but Leah always felt deeply connected to Emmy.

 

In this little town in Pennsylvania Leah does her best to blend in. But she has the feeling that somebody is stalking her. Then a young woman is found almost beaten to dead and soon afterwards a second body turns up in a nearby lake. Then Leah realized that she has not seen Emmy for days and can’t track her whereabouts. She reports her missing and suddenly has to face the fact that she knows literally nothing about her friend.

 

The author weaves a dark and complex story. There are a lot of flashbacks which explains what happened back in Boston with the story Leah wrote and what went wrong. Her characters are not very likable, especially Leah. She is sullen and secretive. But that did not bother me. I don’t have to connect or like the characters in a book. I enjoyed the slow building tension, how with every new piece of information the story became more and more mysterious and that everybody was so unreliable. And I also liked the ending.

 

I will definitely look out for Megan Miranda’s next book.

 

<i>I received an ARC from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl Who Was Taken - Charlie Donlea

The Girl Who Was Taken - Charlie Donlea

Yay, finally I got my first 5 star review for 2017! I began to ask myself if I choose the wrong books or if I became over-critical. I read a lot of books which everybody was raving about and I felt like “meh, what’s that fuss about”. I really feared that I would not like this book as well. But it was quite the contrary. I really enjoyed this one.

 

The story is about two young girls who disappeared a year ago during a beach party. Megan was found two weeks later. She has almost no memory of the time she was held captive in a bunker because of heavy drugging. Nicole, the other girl, is still missing. Megan wrote a book and became a little bit of a celebrity. But nobody speaks about Nicole.

 

Nicole’s sister Livia is a forensic intern. She fears the day her sister may show up on her table. But instead the body of a young man comes onto her table. His case is a bit complicated. And it gets even more complicated when she learns that he knew her sister. Livia starts her own investigation and slowly she begins to unravel the mystery about the abductions.

 

I don’t want to say too much about the story. At first it was a bit slow but you can see how thoroughly the author builds his story and the characters. With every page it gets more fascinating and unputdownable. It is a dark and disturbing story.  There are a lot of strong characters. The author does a terrific job developing the complex story and bringing in a lot of details and information. I liked the insight of the forensics; that was quite interesting. I also liked the ending, as sad and sudden as it is.

 

This was my second book from Charlie Donlea but certainly not my last one. I liked “Summit Lake” but I loved this one. It’s a terrific and mind-bending read and would highly recommend it.

 

I’d like to thank Kensington Books and NetGalley for giving me an advanced ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Dark Room - Jonathan Moore

The Dark Room - Jonathan Moore
I am not sure how to rate this book. I liked reading it and it was entertaining. But there are also some things I did not like.

A few months ago I read “The Poison Artist”. Somehow I forgot to review it. I can’t explain why. I think I read it during our vacation and I tend to read books I do not necessarily have to review because I bought them myself. I liked “The Poison Artist”, it was unusual in many ways. The story was quite unique and dark. “The Dark Room” also has also a very dark story even it is not as unique. A beautiful young girl was murdered by bad men after they abused her. Nothing new here. An unexpected confession brings this cold case murder to Inspector Cain’s knowledge. He begins to investigate and slowly the background story reveals itself.

The book is more of a slow burner. But the author managed to keep me interested even not much is happening. There is a lot of talking and police work. He is very precise when it is about describing surroundings and other details. But the dialogs are something different. There is a lot of talking but some things stay unsaid. Cain is the main character but we don’t know what he is really thinking. I felt excluded from some things or even from the story itself. Cain has a girlfriend. She experienced obviously some kind of trauma in her past because she can’t leave the house. This is irritating at first. I felt as if there was something I missed or there was another book I should have read so that I would know about the girlfriend’s problems. We learn later in the book a bit about it. But to me it seemed as if all the characters are only there because otherwise the story would not work. The author seemed not very interested in them. He writes precisely about the crime scenes, the autopsies. Every movement is worth some words, but there is almost nothing about how the characters look or at least what their problem is. Why, for example, is one of the female characters always stripping herself naked in front of Cain? She is troubled, obviously. But why is that so? Ok, at the end I got it. But there was a lack of depth to all the characters. I did not get them, really. You can see how everything happened, how one thing leads to another. But why – the motivation is not that important to the author.

This book is very atmospheric, very dark and sinister. The writing is a mix of precise and imprecise. The main point here is the story and how Cain comes to the conclusion. I considered giving 4 stars because it was a quick read and entertaining on some level. But I had too much problems with the neglected character development. But I must also admit that this book is different. Maybe just because of its flaws. It is weird and strange and worth a look. I liked “The Poison Artist” better. It is similar atmospheric and dark but the story was more unique.

I recieved an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honesr review.
 
 
 

I Found You - Lisa Jewell

Before I Met You - Lisa Jewell

This is my second book written by Lisa Jewell. I liked “The Girls in the Garden” very much and I was very keen to read another book from her. I like her writing style. Her books are easy to read and well-constructed.

“I Found You” is a character driven book. The story is broken up into three different POV and the story begins to unfold slowly. There are some twists and you can see that the stories are overlapping and connected. The story is really complex but the excellent written characters give life to the whole thing.

This book is not really a thriller. There is suspense, a lot. I really wanted to know what happened and how it was all connected. There is a lot of background to the characters, a lot of talking and it took some time until you can see where all this is heading to. The pace was a bit slow but it was far from boring. It was quite the contrary.

Lisa Jewell managed somehow to make this tragic story an easy and enjoyable read. It is almost a “Cosy Crime”. I you don’t like very drastic thrillers and are in no need for a lot of cliffhangers you will find this to be the right book for you. I enjoyed reading it and finished it in only 2 sittings.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

He said/she said - Erin Kelly

He Said/She Said - Erin Kelly

For month now I am reading book after book which stays behind my expectations. I am beginning to ask myself if it is my fault. Because this book is unfortunately one of those.

 

The blurb says enough about the story. A young couple travels to a festival in Cornwall in 1999 to watch an eclipse. There they become whitenesswa of a rape. After that the life of many people changes forever.

 

The story itself is very clever and complex. The problem is that every character is so very unlikable. Laura is extremely difficult. I found it hard to understand her in the past and in the present. I really did not get her anxious problems. And I could not understand Kit’s devotion for her. In the end I got it. But it is a long way to the end and the story drags and drags. The pace is extremely slow and sometimes the story gets lost. The thing about Kit’s father and his brother are not relevant for the story. As well is the background for Jamie, the rapist, not really necessary. It is just too much information. And Beth, a major character, is left in the dark. I really did not get why Kit and Laura lived in this total fear for 15 years.

 

At first I found this thing about the eclipse chasers very interesting. But the chapters following Kit to his trip to the current eclipse are quite boring and of no meaning to the story. It just got lost on sideshows. The pace is often slowed down by chapters like this. The whole story seemed artificial. All narrators are unreliable. They are not telling things just to reveal them in the end. They all lie. This is clever and interesting but it is told so slowly. It just got boring because it was told so slowly. There is just too much in this book. At the end there is another twist. And another one. It is almost predictable.

 

This book got a lot of ravenous reviews. Unfortunately I cannot comprehend. The idea is very good. But it is just too long, too dragging. The story gets lost. I had high expectations. But it is just too long, too tedious. The thing with the unreliable narrator is just overworked. There are one or two twists too much. I can see the brilliance of the idea, of the story itself. But it is somehow overworked. And the pace was so terrible slow. Maybe if I would not have received this book from NetGalley I would not have finished it. In hindsight it was a good and complex story, but the way to the end was quite a struggle.

 

<i>I reveived an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The People at Number 9 - Felicity Everett

The People at Number 9 - Felicity Everett

The blurb suggests something else, something…more.  I read a similar book a couple of month ago, “Swimming Pool” which took a much darker road. This is a book about a middleclass couple which gets tangled in the glamourous and chaotic bohemian lifestyle of their new neighbors. This story is more character driven. There are no twists and turns, just domestic drama.

 

The book is about an unlikely friendship between two couples. Sara is charmed by Lou and even more by her flirtatious husband Gavin. Lou is chaotic and full of creative energy. Sara gets encouraged by her to fulfill her dream to become a writer. Sara is not a very likable character. She is an unsatisfied middle class woman with first world problems. She is self-centered and at the same time very insecure. She is nobody I would like to feel connected to (or admit it) because she felt so damn realistic.

 

There is not much happening in the story. It is about how this friendship developed. We see everything from Sara’s POV. She makes her life more and more about Lou and Gavin. She looks after their kids. She agreed to Lou’s idea to homeschool their children even most of the work is left for Sara to be done because Lou is too busy with her artistic life. Slowly Sara begins to see how one-sided this friendship is and how much she already sacrificed. But she hesitates to make a change. Too flattering is this friendship for her.

 

I found this book very enthralling. It has a good flow and I was interested all the time what was going to happen. Maybe I expected a little bit more. There is no crime, it is a dark family drama which Sara triggers because she is full of envy and never really appreciated her perfectly normal life until it is too late.

 

<i>I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Ararat - Christopher Golden

Ararat: A Novel - Christopher Golden
This book is a classic horror story. A few years ago I absolutely loved this kind of stories.

An earthquake at Mount Ararat in Turkey.An avalanche reveals a cave. In this cave there is an arch and some bodies. One of the bodies is horned. A team of documentary filmmakers and archeologists comes together to examine the arch. But there is something evil still alive.

This book was a kind of throwback to me. I really enjoyed this kind of books for quite a while. And I enjoyed this one, too. It is an entertaining read and fast paced. I liked the setting, the isolated cave on the mountain, a blizzard outside and some strange and spooky things are happening. For my taste there was a bit too much talking about religion. Almost every character claims to have no issues with religion but somehow deep down they want to believe. I did not like that. It was just too much. The problem with these kinds of stories is always the end and “Ararat” is unfortunately no exception. I would have wished for a less fantastic solution. I was a bit disappointed.

I am a bit torn between 3 or 4 stars. The book was entertaining and an easy read. On the other hand the religious aspect was obtrusive, even for a book about Noah’s Arch. I stay with 4 stars because it was creepy and I enjoyed it.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
 
 
 

JoAnn Chaney - What You Don't Know

What You Don't Know: A Novel - JoAnn Chaney

3,5 stars

 

„What you don’t know“ starts at a point where other books are ending. The killer is arrested and is in prison for 7 years now.  We learn in flashbacks how this happened.

This book tells its crime story from a new perspective. It’s a character study of the people Seever left behind.

 

Jacky Seever killed 31 people and buried them in his crawl space. He seemed to be a nice and normal guy but he was capable of unbelievable cruelness.

 

The two detectives who caught Seever and questioned him afterwards are still haunted by Seever. Hoskins has some anger issues and almost lost his job. His former partner Loren has his own way to deal with emotional distress in a very creepy way. He really is the weirdest character. The author does a very good job in showing the mental strain of the men who have to deal with horrible things every day. What happens to you when you meet a monster like Seever and be in a room with him for days and listen to his confession? How do you live on when the hunt is over and the memories won’t fade?

 

Then there is Gloria, Seever’s wife. She claims that she knew nothing about her husband’s doing. She still visits him every week in prison. Is it really possible to life in a house where your husband tortured and killed people and even buried them and you hear and see nothing? Gloria just wants and always wanted to live her quiet and comfortable life.

 

What do you do as a reporter when the best story you ever had is now old news. Sammie was the main reporter in Seever’s case. She even wrote a book about it. But everything is told now and new things happen. Somehow her career is bound to Seever. When a copycat killer shows up and begins to murder people who were connected to Seever she sees her chance to get successful again. And she is literally willing to do everything to get a good story.

 

The characters are all very unlikable and flawed. They are all victims of Seever’s. When the new murders happen the hunt for a killer starts again. Hoskins got his job back and works again with his partner Loren. Sammie also gets a call from her former boss and begins to write again. All their lives revolve around Seever again.

 

This character driven story is very unique. It has a lot of interesting characters, even if none of them is likable. The copycat killer was a surprise for me, I had some ideas but there were a lot of red herrings. But it was a bit slow going. I really liked the unusual approach and the character studies. Seever is a very impressive killer, whose greasy presence lingers throughout the whole book. It was a solid read, unusual, but also very dark, depressing and vulgar.

 

<i>I received an ARC from NetGalley in return for an honest review