ARC REVIEW: Bookishly Ever After – by Isabel Bandeira

Title: Bookishly Ever After
(Ever After #1)
Author: Isabel Bandeira

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 19th 2016
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Finished reading: July 19th 2017
Pages: 378
DNF at 32% (121 pages)

“I loved new books . The crisp pages, the smell, and the sense of potential as I carefully broke in the spine made getting them one of the best feelings in the world.”

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

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First of all I want to make clear contemporary romance isn’t really my thing and this may or may not have influenced my opinion. As much as I hate being negative in my reviews, I also made a promise to always give my 100% honest opinion and exactly that is reflected below. I also want to stress that I can’t remember ever wishing for a Netgalley copy of this novel in the first place and the granted wish message in my inbox came as a huge surprise. I’ve been wary to pick up Bookishly Ever After ever since, mostly because I wasn’t sure it would be for me… I liked the sound of a bookish main character though, because don’t we booklovers all love our bookish characters?! I approached Bookishly Ever After with caution, but unfortunately immediately realized it was going to be a struggle. Basically this contemporary romance story has one cheesy high school cliche stacked on top of another up until the point I felt like I was drowning in them. And Bookishly Ever After isn’t only stuffed with cheesy cliches, but also has an overdose of annoying romance tropes as instalove and love triangles. This alone is enough for me to run away and hide in a corner, but since I normally never DNF my ARCs I decided to give this story a chance. Trust me, I’ve tried really hard to like this story. REALLY hard. But in the end I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was never able to connect to the writing style and felt it simply didn’t flow. The plot wasn’t really present and the chapters didn’t seem to connect naturally… And the characters. One more annoying, flat and cliche than the other! I thought I would at least be able to like or relate to bookish Phoebe, but I was wrong. She only managed to frustrate me and it just all didn’t feel natural. Am I partly to blame for this DNF? Yes. The blurb should have warned me to stay far far away from this one… Still, I’ve read AND loved romantic contemporaries before and Bookishly Ever After definitely ticked a lot of no-go boxes for me. Approach with care! Romance lovers who don’t mind cliches will most likely have a more positive experience though.

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The sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martin can most likely either be found with her nose in a YA fantasy book with magic and a hot paranormal love interest or dreaming about its characters… In a perfect world, her life would be just like the books she loves to read, but real life doesn’t come remotely close. She has her crush-from-a-distance, but when someone a lot closer to her might actually like her she doesn’t know what to do. Phoebe turns to her friends and favorite books for advice…

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I’m going to be honest and say I don’t think I would have picked up this story if this wouldn’t have turned up on my Netgalley shelf. I’m not a big fan of (cheesy) contemporary romance in the first place and Bookishly Ever After makes it definitely VERY easy to overdose on the high school cliches and romance tropes incorporated into the story. I’ve tried really hard to see beyond the cliches, but found myself too frustrated to be able to continue and finish the story. And I tell you, it makes me very sad to call Bookishly Ever After my second DNF this year! Part of the problem is definitely me though and I can see why fans of the genre would be able to enjoy it a lot better. Oh well, I guess we can’t like them all, can we?


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ARC REVIEW: Stillhouse Lake – by Rachel Caine @rachelcaine @ThomasMercerUK

Title: Stillhouse Lake
(Stillhouse Lake #1)
Author: Rachel Caine

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 1st 2017
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: July 18th 2017
Pages: 302

“There are no limits for the hate. It’s free-floating, a toxic cloud of moral outrage and mob mentality, and it doesn’t care who it hurts. Only that it does.”

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

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I have heard a lot of excellent things about Stillhouse Lake so far, so you can imagine my happy dance when I saw the message in my inbox that my Netgalley wish was granted. It took me less than a week to pick up my copy and I still kind of wish I would have done so earlier. Because wow. Just WOW. It’s been over a day since I finished reading Stillhouse Lake and I am still lost for words. I should probably have taken more time to cool off before writing my review, because this thriller has been one hell of a ride…But let’s see if I can say something somewhat coherent about it. First of all Stillhouse Lake is hands down one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year and just so damn intense! Make sure to clear your schedule before starting this one, because you will want to sit down and read it in one go. The story had me hooked from page one and didn’t let me go until the very end… Why? Here are some bulletpoints to give you an idea. Highly creepy serial killer: CHECK. Intriguing plot and plot twists:CHECK. Constant suspense and feeling something is off: CHECK. Brilliant writing style that keeps you on the edge of your seat: CHECK. Inability to trust any character: CHECK. Being sure you figured it all out and finding out you’re wrong over and over again: CHECK. Very realistic character development: CHECK. Do I have to go on? Dark, twisted, messed up and oh so good…As you can imagine, I can highly recommend Stillhouse Lake. Where can I sign up for the sequel?!

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The life of Gina Royal seemed to be nothing but average: a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two children. But that is until a car crashes into their garage and her husband’s secret life as a serial killer is revealed. People can’t believe she never knew about it and blame her just as much as her husband… After one too many death threat, stalkers and internet trolls, Gina is forced to run and create a new identity to keep both her and her kids safe. Her ex is now in prison, but that doesn’t mean danger isn’t out there… Not only has her husband connections and seems to find her wherever she hides, but there are many others who wish her harm. Gina, now called Gwen, thinks she is finally safe in their new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. But just as the three are starting to feel at ease in their new identities, a body turns up in the lake…

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Like I said before, Stillhouse Lake is hands down one of the best thrillers I’ve read so far this year. This story is dark, disturbing and intense right from the very first page and will have you hooked until you reach the end. I love my serial killer thrillers and this focus on the relatives and the consequences of being linked to a serial killer is such an original perspective! I loved every single moment of this disturbing ride and I can highly recommend it to fans of the genre. SO good!


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BOOK REVIEW: Confess – by Colleen Hoover

Title: Confess
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, New Adult
First published: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: July 16th 2017
Pages: 320

“Selflessness. It should be the basis of every relationship. If a person truly cares about you, they’ll get more pleasure from the way they make you feel, rather than the way you make them feel.”

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Spoiler alert: I seem to be having a love-hate relationship with Colleen Hoover‘s books. I know contemporary romance normally isn’t my thing at all and you might ask yourself: why on earth pick up a book belonging to a genre that’s not for you in the first place? Well, mostly because Colleen Hoover is one of the few authors that has been able to give solid proof (a.k.a. November 9 and It Ends With Us) that I can actually love a contemporary romance story. So when I was looking for something completely different to read, I turned to CoHo again and decided to pick up on of her novels still on my TBR. I mainly picked Confess because I was curious about the anonymous confessions incorporated into the story. And now I’ve finished reading it, I still think this is the strongest element of this novel. I just love the idea of the anonymous confessions made into art, the symbolisms and the fact that the actual paintings are shown in the novel. The confessions, both anonymous and those of the main characters, play a big role throughout the story and the title is definitely spot on. I initially received mainly positive vibes as I was reading Confess and I really thought it was going to be another winner for me, but unfortunately this feeling didn’t last. It wasn’t the writing style, which was just as good as ever and one of the reasons her books are just so damn readable. BUT. And here come two big issues… 1. The characters. 2. Instalove. I was able to tolerate the main characters initially, mostly because the writing style is very enjoyable and I was intrigued by the confessions and paintings. I even forgave the cliches initially… But this all went south when both Auburn and Owen started to annoy me. Even worse: other characters started popping up that provoked even worse feelings and that was not even the end of it. Because Confess suffers from a very heavy case of one of the most annoying romantic tropes: instalove. Auburn and Owen… Sorry, I just wasn’t able to believe it and it was really hard to keep taking the story seriously when I couldn’t take serious their (inter)actions. I was about halfway through when Confess had officially lost me to an instalove overdose. Which is a shame, because Confess does touch some very important topics and brings to light just how toxic and manipulative human beings can be. I can really see why people would love this story, but Confess was most definitely a solid case of ‘not-for-me’.

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Auburn Reed has been having a rough couple of years and has moved to Dallas to try and rebuild her shattered life. She has been fighting for a long time and her goals seem to be very close now… But it seems like life will be never easy for her. Auburn was just looking for a second job to get more money, but she ended up finding a whole lot more when she walks into a Dallas art studio and meets the artist and owner Owen Gentry. They share an instant attraction and Auburn decides to take a chance and put her heart first. But Owen has been keeping secrets from her… Secrets that might ruin the last thing in her life that is important to her.

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First of all I have to say that Confess by no means is a bad read, and I’m probably partly to blame for this story and me not being a right match. The writing style is just so readable and I do love the idea of the confessions turned into art and the way confessions are incorporated into the story itself. Confess isn’t just another sappy romance story and has a few very dark themes, but in the end it was the instalove overdose and inability to tolerate the main characters that ruined the reading experience for me. Oh well, I guess we can’t like them all… And what I said before is true: Colleen Hoover is always able to provoke very strong reactions with her stories whether they are positive or negative. And that is always a good sign.


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ARC REVIEW: The Breakdown – by B.A. Paris @StMartinsPress

Title: The Breakdown
Author: B.A. Paris

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 18th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 15th 2017
Pages: 336

“I’m ashamed – ashamed that I’m no longer the strong person I once was, ashamed that I let the slightest thing get to me.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I’ve had an ARC copy of The Breakdown collecting dust on my kindle shelf for months now… I was initially really excited to be granted a copy, especially after hearing so many wonderful things about Behind Closed Doors, but as mixed reviews started popping up everywhere I wasn’t so sure anymore. I’ve been hesitant to pick The Breakdown up ever since because I tend to have a bad relationship with hyped books in the first place. Thankfully this one turned out to be an exception to that rule and I now wish I would have picked it up sooner! I started reading The Breakdown with caution, but I soon realized this wasn’t necessary at all. I found myself enjoying this psychological thriller right from the very first chapter and was instantly convinced by the engaging writing style. I have a weak spot for any story with amnesia, dementia or mental health/illness elements and B.A. Paris was able to develop this element exceptionally well in The Breakdown. The main character is showing signs of early-onset dementia and this plays a huge role in both the plot and plot twists throughout the story. And I personally found this angle fascinating! True, I didn’t actually like every character, but there is no doubt that the character development of Cass is more than spot on. I had my guesses about the who and why and some of it turned out to be true, but the final part of this story without doubt came as a surprise and made me want to reread The Breakdown just to see if I missed the clues the first time. And I just love whenever that happens… I guess this story can go either way, but I recommend giving it a try anyway since you might be in for a surprise!

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One night Cass decides to take the shortcut home even though the weather is horrible and going down that rural road is dangerous in the middle of a storm. She is more than surprised when she sees a car in the woods, but since the woman doesn’t react and Cass is scared, she decides to drive home instead and forget about the incident… Until the next day she finds out the woman in question was killed. Cass feels guilty she didn’t do anything, but convinces herself it’s probably for the best to keep what she saw that night a secret. The murder has been affecting her terribly though and she’s been forgetting things since that dreadful night. Little things as where she left her car, what the alarm code is, meetings with their friends… And that is not the only thing that worries her. Because who can she trust, if she can’t even trust herself?

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I’m aware that The Breakdown has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, but I personally had a really positive experience reading this psychological thriller. Then again I’m a sucker for any story with an amnesia/dementia angle and I found this element very well executed in The Breakdown. I didn’t particularly like Cass or the other characters, but the character development and growing forgetfulness and paranoia was brilliantly executed. In short I would definitely recommend giving this one a chance if you like the genre.


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ARC REVIEW: The List – by Patricia Forde

Title: The List
Author: Patricia Forde

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: April 16th 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Finished reading: July 14th 2017
Pages: 336
(Original title: ‘The Wordsmith’)

“There’s always truth in dreams. Don’t you know that? We have to learn what they mean, that’s all.”

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

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I admit I wanted to read The List as soon as I saw that absolutely stunning cover; yes, even before I read the blurb which only confirmed my desire to read this story. The List was actually originally published two years ago under a different title, but will be republished next month with this stunning cover. Now I have read it there is no doubt that this debut novel by Patricia Forde is based on a very fascinating concept. The List is set in a dystopian world where most of the world is destroyed by the Melting, most people now forced to live in the city of Ark and their surroundings because there is nowhere else left. The founder of Ark is Noa (see the biblical references yet?) and he has restricted the use of language to just 500 approved words… His belief of humanity being able to use/abuse words and words bringing doom to the human kind is fascinating and I would definitely have given The List a full 5 stars for originality. The so-called List speak is fascinating (although that might just be the philologist in me talking) and the List itself plays a central role in the story. The worldbuilding is intriguing and even though the plot itself isn’t all that exciting I’m sure it will be fitting enough for the age group. The List is ment as a Middle Grade read and I admit I don’t have a lot of experience reading stories for this age. Still, I do believe the tone doesn’t always felt right (too adult) and I personally had difficulties connecting to the writing style. As fascinating as the concept of this story sounded, I don’t think I enjoyed actually reading about it as much as I would have hoped… I also struggled to connect to the characters and personally didn’t like Letta at all. She seemed quite bland as a main character and I’m not sure if she will be able to win over the target group either; this has most likely to do with the lack of character development in general. The ending itself wasn’t really satisfying either and it took me a lot longer than expected to finish this story. In short, while I loved certain elements of The List (the concept, the List-speak), I also struggled with other elements and all in all unfortunately I ended up having mixed thoughts.

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After the Melting, only the lucky have survived and most of them live in the city of Ark. To keep things running smoothly the founder Noa has speech constrained to 500 approved words; if you speak outside the approved lexicon you will face banishment. Only a few people are able to speak freely, and only in private: the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta belong to that group. When her master dies, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith and charged with collecting and saving words. But she doesn’t realize something sinister is going on in Ark… Something that will have devastating effects if not prevented.

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The List is without doubt based on a very fascinating and original concept I would easily have given the highest rating for. The language elements are very interesting as well and this was definitely my favorite element of the story. That said, it did take me way longer than expected to read this Middle Grade story and I had difficulties connecting to both the writing style and the characters. I ended up having mixed thoughts about The List, but I guess the story can go either way for you.


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ARC REVIEW: Little Monsters – by Kara Thomas @karatwrites @DelacortePress

Title: Little Monsters
Author: Kara Thomas

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: July 25th 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: July 11th 2017
Pages: 336

“There’s only so much people are willing to forgive. That’s the truth the trumps everything else.”

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

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I’ve been wanting to read Little Monsters ever since I first heard about it, so I was over the moon when my request was actually approved. I admit I mostly read adult psychological thrillers, but reading a YA version of one of my favorite genres was a nice change of scenery. Because there is no doubt I very much enjoyed reading Little Monsters and I found myself literally flying through the pages. The first thing that stands out is the writing style, which is very engaging and draws you right in. I only had to read a few pages to find out I would probably going to love the story and these feelings didn’t change until the very end. The plot is quite interesting and packed with plot twists and intrigue that will make you wonder what is really going on. Little Monsters is high school drama and teenage manipulation at its best! Things change direction so many times that you start wondering what truly happened and the ghost/urban legend twist is a nice touch. Broken Falls is a town with a history an you are quickly trapped in its web of lies and secrets… And Little Monsters is without doubt an excellent psychological thriller. The only thing that made me lower the rating slightly was the fact that I didn’t particularly like the main characters and some of the drama started to annoy me. This might just have been me and my allergy for high school cliches and drama though! Because there’s no doubt that Little Monsters was a highly enjoyable and positively twisty read.

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Kacey has had quite a few rough years living with her volatile mother… Until it was impossible for her to stay there any longer. She moved in with her father she hadn’t had contact with before, and her new life in Broken Falls is strangely normal and almost charming compared to her life in New York. She know has a stepmother, stepbrother and a younger half sister who adores here… In fact, people seem so nice in Broken Falls and she even found herself two new very close friends. Bailey, Jade and Kacey do everything together and that’s why it’s so strange they don’t invite her to one of the biggest parties of the year… She never gets to ask why, because the next day Bailey is missing. What happened to Bailey? Has Kacey something to do with it?

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I found myself really looking forward to Little Monsters and I had a great time reading this story. The writing style draws you right in and with its fast pace I found myself flying through the pages. The intrigue around Bailey’s disappearance and the many plot twists helped considerably as well and Little Monsters is without doubt a great psychological thriller. I wasn’t sure about the main characters and some of the drama/cliches started to bother me, but that is my only complaint of an otherwise highly entertaining read.


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ARC REVIEW: Reported Missing – by Sarah Wray @bookouture

Title: Reported Missing
Author: Sarah Wray

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: July 14th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 10th 2017
Pages: 356

“My guts clench, a phantom pain where my instinct used to be, telling me what to do, showing me the way. Nowthe needle just spins and spins.”

*** 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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Ever since I first saw that cover and read the blurb I have been looking forward to pick up Reported Missing. I’m a sucker for a good psychological thriller and this story had all the signs of being another winner. Unfortunately I ended up having a completely different reading experience. This is going to be a though review to write… I’m still surprised to say this myself, but this is the first Bookouture thriller ever that actually ended up disappointing me. It’s such a shame, because I do feel the concept itself has a lot of potential. Reported Missing is ment to be more of a character driven story than a fast-paced thriller, something that can go both ways with me because the main character has to be very strong to keep me interested. And this was exactly one of my problems: I was never able to connect to the main character and I actually found her mostly dull and annoying even. Her reaction to her husband going missing under suspicious circumstances and the aftermatch is understandable in a way, but unfortunately actually reading about it didn’t seem to do the trick for me. Instead of a fascinating characterization with mental health/illness elements and a dose of suspense, I found myself rather struggling to keep interest in Reported Missing. The pace is considerably slow and basically nothing much is happening during the story. Part of this can be explained by the fact that Reported Missing is mostly focused on the character development, but this doesn’t take away that I really struggled to keep focused and continue reading. Things did improve slightly in the second half, making things a little more interesting, but overall I don’t think I would have reached that part in the first place if it would have been an ARC. Because unfortunately the urge to DNF was real… All in all not the thrilling experience I was expecting.

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Four months ago, Rebecca’s husband disappeared and he hasn’t been heard from since. But he wasn’t the only one that day: 14-year-old Kayleigh also disappeared without a trace. Is this just a coincidence or are the two connected? Rebecca wants to believe so, but the rest of the town seems to think otherwise as the police start to think the two cases might be connected. It’s getting harder to trust his innocence, and the angry town blames her for what her husband might have possibly done. But did he actually have something to do with Kayleigh’s disappearance? And where are the two in the first place?

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I was really looking forward to Reported Missing, but unfortunately I ended up having a completely different reading experience. While the concept sounded really promising, there wasn’t much happening during the story and the pace is considerably slow. This psychological thriller is mostly focused on the character development, but I found myself unable to connect to the main character and this made it really hard to keep interested in the story. In short unfortunately not what I was expecting at all.


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