IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Favorite 2017 Reads #2

With less than one hundred days left in 2017, I thought it was about time to put some of my favorite reads of this year in the spotlight. Out of the 160+ books I’ve read so far, I managed to add a total of 15 new 5 star reads to my list of favorites. That’s a lot of books to talk about in just one post, so I’ve decided to split them into three IN THE SPOTLIGHT posts in the order I read them. I wrote about the first five 5 star reads a few days ago, and now it’s time for the second batch. Click on the links below to go to the full reviews…

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ARC REVIEW: Her Last Secret – by Barbara Copperthwaite @bookouture

Title: Her Last Secret
Author: Barbara Copperthwaite

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 13th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 24th 2017
Pages: ?

“Life was sweet. Until it turned sour.”

*** 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 really enjoyed reading The Darkest Lies earlier this year, so I was really looking forward to Barbara Copperthwaite‘s newest psychological thriller. And as the title might already suggest, this one is yet another story packed until its limits with lies and secrets. Her Last Secret is mostly a character-driven psychological thriller and focuses on the many different characters that play a role in the event of that damned Christmas day. I do have to admit the pace was initially a lot slower than expected and I found myself struggling a little in the beginning. This was due both to the slower pace and my lack of connection to the characters. Somehow was never able to warm up to any of the main characters (except mayby for Mouse) and some of their actions and opinions actually started to frustrate me (the father is despicable!). I can’t deny their development feels realistic and rounded though; each of them having a different web of lies and secrets and adding a different level to the story. This complexity of characters and different subplots is what saved this story for me. Once you get used to the different characters, start learning about the events leading up to Christmas day and start guessing what really happened, you will find yourself hooked. The second half of the story definitely made up for the slow start for me. I loved the whole countdown idea and how slowly more of the present day event is revealed… Leaving you in the dark and guessing what could have happened and who is to blame as you learn more about the characters. And the final part is more than shocking! Basically, Her Last Secret will make you think a lot of things and suspect a lot of people, but I can garantuee you won’t guess the final truth about what really happened. I could also really appreciate the role (cyber)bullying played in this story. All in all, if you enjoy reading character-driven psychological thrillers, you will have a great time with this one.

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On the outside, they seemed like a perfect family. Ben Thomas is a successful business and lives with his wife Dominique in a beautiful house along with their two daughters Ruby and Mouse. But this perfect image is just a mirage, as they seem to be hiding a lot of secrets… And then on Christmas day the police is called to their home, only to find a horrific scene. What happened in their home? What secrets were they hiding? And did those secrets have anything to do with what happened on Christmas day?

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Her Last Secret turned out to be a slowburner for me. While I initially struggled with the slower pace and my lack of connection to the characters, I was seriously hooked by the time I reached the second half. This character-driven psychological thriller has more layers than an onion and a huge dose of secrets to go with it. The complexity of the plot and how the different storylines slowly merge is what makes this story so intriguing; the countdown chapters mixed with the slow Christmas day revelations only add to the suspense.


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BOOK REVIEW: Flowers For Algernon – by Daniel Keyes

Title: Flowers For Algernon
Author: Daniel Keyes

Genre: Classics, YA, Science Fiction
First published: 1966
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: September 21st 2017
Pages: 311

“How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibilty, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes—how such people think nothing of abusing a man with low intelligence.”

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I’ve had this modern classic on my TBR for a long time, although I admit I was completely clueless about the plot and didn’t even have a general idea of what the story was going to be about. Then again, I do like my surprises… And Flowers For Algernon turned out to be a very pleasant surprise at that. Because WOW. This is one powerful story that managed to break my heart completely by the time I reached the last page… I can definitely understand why this novel by Daniel Keyes has become a modern classic. Brilliant prose, intriguing plot, well developed characters… This story has it all. Flowers For Algernon is a science fiction read with a very interesting theme: intelligence enhancement with the help of a brain operation. This theme is very well developed with the help of the main character Charlie, showing both the before and after of this experimental operation. First of all I just loved how the writing itself was a very clear demonstration of Charlie’s mental state and how things change over time. I agree I was a bit surprised when I first encountered myself with the seemingly horrid spelling, but once you understand its significance and the fact that this story is told with the help of Charlie’s progress reports during the experiment, you will realize the brilliancy of it all. Charlie is the perfect character to help show the light on the prejudices around (the lack of) intelligence and how people treat others differently accordingly. You will become really invested in this story and will find your heart broken before the story ends. Flowers For Algernon will go straight to my list of favorite classics and I can highly recommend this one.

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Charlie is a mentally disabled man, but he has always wanted to improve his intelligence and be ‘normal’ as his mother always wanted. He participates in an experiment and undergoes a brain operation that will possibly increase his IQ and change his life. The experimental procedure starts to work and slowly Charlie’s intelligence starts to expand… But at what cost?

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up my copy of Flowers For Algernon, but I’m more than happy with what I found. The writing is simply brilliant, as both the progress reports and the prose itself give the perfect insight of what happens to Charlie during the experiment. The way others react to Charlie during different stages of the experiment is both intriguing and unfortunately very accurate as well. Hopefully an eye opener! Flowers For Algernon is able to provoke strong emotions and is utterly heartbreaking in the end.


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WWW Wednesdays #156 – September 27th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m currently close to finishing Bentwhistle The Dragon: A Threat From The Past by Paul Cude, a YA fantasy read with dragons. The pace is quite slow, but there is no doubt that the worldbuilding is extensive with a lot of attention to details and descriptions. I’m also about to start Heartless by Marissa Meyer, a story I’ve been wanting to read for months… I’m really looking forward to that one. IT by Stephen King I decided to put temporarily on hold until October so I can finish some other books first… Plus, it’s probably the perfect Halloween read for next month in the first place right? 😉

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 28/09
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up my copy of Flowers For Algernon, but I’m more than happy with what I found. The writing is simply brilliant, as both the progress reports and the prose itself give the perfect insight of what happens to Charlie during the experiment. The way others react to Charlie during different stages of the experiment is both intriguing and unfortunately very accurate as well. Hopefully an eye opener! Flowers For Algernon is able to provoke strong emotions and is utterly heartbreaking in the end.

2. Snuggle And Play Crochet by Carolina Guzman Benitez (4,5/5 stars) NO REVIEW
These patterns are absolutely adorable! I will be looking forward creating at least a few of these as gifts for a few of my friends who have either young children or are about to be parents… I’m having a feeling the loveys will be a huge success, although the plush animals are adorable as well. I’m still a crochet newbie, so I could really appreciate the helpful explanations of the different stitches and how to put the different parts together!

3. Her Last Secret by Barbara Copperthwaite (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 29/09
This psychological thriller is mostly a character-driven story and the pace was a lot slower than expected. I struggled a little in the beginning, both because of the pace and my lack of connection to the characters, but the second half of the story more than made up for it. I loved the countdown idea and how slowly more of the present day event is revealed… And the final part is more than shocking! The story will make you think a lot of things and suspect a lot of people, but I can garantuee you won’t guess the final truth about what really happened.

4. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (3/5 stars) REVIEW 01/10
I’ve only just finished this one so I need a little time to think… It’s a character-driven story set in 1914 on a lifeboat, where the characters have to survive after their cruiseship sinks on the way to New York. The pace is quite slow and I’m not a fan of the characters, but the historical setting is quite well done and it shows in the way the characters interact as well. Nothing much happens during the story though. I’m still on the fence about this one to be honest.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m picking up Murder Game by Caroline Mitchell next even though the publish date is still relatively far away… I’m dying to find out how the series continues.  Another ARC I need to pick up soon is Halfway by Lokesh/Anubhav Sharma. I also want to read I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh; I’ve had that one on my TBR for way too long now. My newest TBR jar pick is still Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, a historical fiction read which I have been wanting to read for ages so I’m really happy this title popped up.


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ARC REVIEW: Things I’m Seeing Without You – by Peter Bognanni

Title: Things I’m Seeing Without You
Author: Peter Bognanni

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: September 20th 2017
Pages: 336

“What I mean is that nothing ever happens the way itt’s supposed to. Everything is messed up. Everything is flawed. And if we didn’t have imperfection, I’m not sure what we would have left.”

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

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I confess: this was 100% a cover-love decision since I just couldn’t say no to such a stunning cover. Things I’m Seeing Without You is a YA contemporary read that mixes romance with more serious themes as death and grief and even has a dose of humor as well. There is no doubt that the writing style is very engaging and I was able to connect instantly to the story. I liked Tess’ sassy tone and took an instant liking to the writing, making Things I’m Seeing Without You a very enjoyable read. I do have to say that the main character’s sarcasm and humor are probably not for everyone, explaining the mixed reviews out there… But if you are able to connect, you are in for a treat. The whole funeral business definitely gives this story a unique touch and adds a little something to the plot as well. I’m not sure if everything is all that credible and I had a few eyebrow-raising moments here and there, especially concerning the credibility of the final part of Things I’m Seeing Without You. Somehow I just don’t think they would ever been able to do what they did or even get there in the first place… And it’s one of the reasons I had to lower the rating. I’m still on the fence when it comes to the main characters; I liked Tess even though she is a handful, but I never really did warm up to Daniel completely. But like I said before, the whole special funeral business added a little spark to the story and definitely managed to introduce some ‘light’ moments in what is otherwise mainly a sad story about death, loss and how to deal with it all. It’s a fast-paced and entertaining YA contemporary read I’m sure fans of the genre will be able to enjoy. The writing might not be everyone’s taste, but I personally felt an instant connection and Things I’m Seeing Without You is definitely worth the try.

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Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler hasn’t been the same after the death of Jonah. Even though they only met once in real life, they have been talking over texts and long e-mails for months and were in love… And she never saw his suicide coming. She continues to write to Jonah as a way of dealing with her grief, and also decides to drop out of high school because she couldn’t deal with it any longer. She returns to her father’s home, where she discovers his newest business: an alternative funeral business with very special clients…

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Things I’m Seeing Without You is without doubt a fast-paced and entertaining YA contemporary read despite the more serious themes. The fact that death, loss and grief is mixed with humor as well is refreshing and the funeral business added a really unique touch to the story. I’m not sure about the credibility of certain part of the plot and the actions of the characters, but there is one thing for sure: you will fly through this read. I personally liked Tess with all her flaws and complicated personality; the sassy tone of the story definitely complements her character. This story might not be for everyone, but I can definitely suggest giving it a try!


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Teaser Tuesdays #158 – September 26th: Bentwhistle The Dragon

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme hosted at The Purple Booker. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I’ve been meaning to pick up this ARC for ages now… I always love dragon stories so I’ve been looking forward to this one. Bentwhistle The Dragon: A Threat From The Past by Paul Cude is the first book of a YA fantasy series. I’m still not that far into the story, so there isn’t much to say yet… Other than that the pace seems to be quite slow, probably partly due to the extensive descriptions of the dragons and their world. I’m looking forward to see what the rest of the story will bring though.

My teaser (12%):

“Reality flooded back as the walkway he was on started to widen and fill up with dragons of all shapes and sizes. Focused firmly on not bumping into any of them, he marvelled at the surrounding area, wondering just what the humans on the surface would make of the secret world just beneath their feet.”

What are you reading right now?


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ARC REVIEW: The Mistake – by K.L. Slater @bookouture

Title: The Mistake
Author: K.L. Slater

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 4th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 19th 2017
Pages: 268

“Books helped me get well back then and I feel happiest now when I’m around them. Sometimes I wish I could put up a camp bed in the back office, and then I’d never need to go home at all.”

*** 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 have been looking forward to a new K.L. Slater thriller ever since I finished Liar and I was more than excited when I first heard about The Mistake. And although it turned out not being my favorite of the bunch, The Mistake is without doubt still a very well written and suspenseful psychological thriller. The writing both draws you in and makes you fly through the pages. The plot was an interesting one and the situation and consequences of grooming are very thoroughly and realistically described. It’s not a theme I have seen all that often before in psychological thrillers and I could really appreciate the spotlight on something that unfortunately happens way too often to vulnerable (young) women. I also liked the idea of the chapters going back between past and present; showing this way both what happened all those years ago and how this effected Rose’s life even after all those years. This all sounds really positive, so why ‘only’ a 4 star rating? The main reason were the main characters, which I found highly unlikeable and made me enjoy the story less than expected. Rose and Garreth made me cringe A LOT. Unlikeable or not, the grooming is very well described as well as the consequences those actions have for the people around them. This is not a happy read and will provoke strong emotions. Realistic, full of twists, suspenseful, intriguing, provoking… All words that apply to The Mistake. Recommended for fans of the genre.

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Sixteen years ago, Rose took her eight-year-old brother Billy out flying his kite and he went missing. Two days later, he was found dead… And Rose has never fully recovered from the trauma. The person who did this to Billy is behind bars, but did they convict the right man? Rose never doubted this up until she finds something in the attic room of a trusted neighbor… And every painful detail of her past comes back to haunt her.

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Even though The Mistake wasn´t my absolute favorite, there is no denying it is still a very good psychological thriller with an important theme (grooming). The writing is excellent as always and manages to draw you right in; the plot is well developed and has quite a few twists and turns that will surprise you. The flashbacks to the past don’t distract and instead add to the overall richness of the plot; the grooming is very well described and feels realistic. The only problem I had was with the main characters: I never managed to warm up to Rose or Garreth and felt frustrated especially with Rose. Although I guess Garreth wasn’t ment to be likeable in the first place… The rest of the story is excellent though and will appeal to any fan of more character-driven psychological thrillers.


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