ARC REVIEW: Unclean Spirits – by Chuck Wendig

Title: Unclean Spirits
(Gods & Monsters #1)
Author: Chuck Wendig
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror, Mythology
First published: May 5th 2013
Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Finished reading: January 30th 2018
Pages: 320

“Hope, a mirage in the desert, a curtain of vapor forming for us an image of that which we most sincerly desire. Hope is not an oasis but rather, a trap.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

This is one of those cases where I should have investigated better before requesting a copy, because I am so NOT the target group for this one. And this had a big influence on the lowish rating. Unclean Spirits definitely feels written for the more ‘macho’ male readers who like a lot of action, graphic scenes, violence, swearing and adult content in general. AKA 200% not my cup of tea… And it showed. While I did like the short and direct writing style Chuck Wendig uses to bulldozer through this story, I wasn’t a fan at all of the constant swearing and existence of graphic/adult scenes. This has more to do with me not being the target group than the story itself being a bad one, but trigger warnings are definitely in place here. Due to the general tone and wrong target group, I had a really hard time connecting to the characters as well, but I guess this is understandable being in my situation and all. I do have to say I loved the whole mythology angle and this was what saved Unclean Spirits for me. The urban fantasy genre shows and the mix of real world and supernatural is quite balanced. Mythology played a role throughout the story and I liked how many different gods and religions were incorporated. The plot itself had a lot of potential as well. So if you think you are the right target group for Unclean Spirits, you will probably have a heck of a ride waiting for you.

This publication also includes a short story by Pat Kelleher called Drag Hunt which is related to Unclean Spirits. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to read past the first chapter and therefore cannot give a proper opinion of it… There was simply zero connection between the writing style and me and I couldn’t bear to keep reading. (Since the writing style in Unclean Spirits was one of the few things that made me keep going and not DNF it.)

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Cason Cole had his whole life turned upside down five years ago when he not only lost his wife and son, but was forced to work for a man who holds nothing dear and respects no law. Five years later, somehow his boss ends up dying at his feet, and Cason thinks he is finally free… But this doesn’t turn out to be true. He gets the shock of his life as he is told that gods and goddesses are real and they are not exactly playing nice. Will he find a way to free himself and be with his wife and son again? Things are not going to be easy…

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Completely wrong target group or not, I do have to agree the whole mythology angle is quite fascinating. It’s one of the reasons I actually made it to the end of Unclean Spirits… Because it painfully showed just how much this story just wasn’t for me. The graphic scenes, the adult content, the swearing, the excessive violence… It was all just too much and distracted from a plot with quite some potential. Don’t get me wrong though, because I have the feeling the right target group will probably have a way more positive experience.


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ARC REVIEW: Black Heart – by Anna-Lou Weatherley @bookouture

Title: Black Heart
(Detective Dan Riley #1)
Author: Anna-Lou Weatherley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 31st 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: February 6th 2018
Pages: 307

“They say you dig two graves when you seek revenge and for the most part of my life I have agreed with this statement.”

*** 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 couldn’t resist requesting a copy of Black Heart after certain bloggers (hint hint) kept going on about how great this detective thriller was… And I definitely agree for the most part. It’s refreshing to follow a male detective again for a change, even though he has the ‘usual’ complicated past baggage with him… And I do have a weak spot for a serial killer thriller. The writing draws you right in and it was without doubt a lightning-speed fast thriller ride… Just the way I like them. The plot was a bit predictable though and it was quite clear early on who the killer really was. There just weren’t all that many plot twists and surprises? There is more focus on the development of the serial killer and her background as well as some fleshing out of our new star detective… The ending didn’t came as such a big surprise either, although if you somehow manage to not see the clues you will be in for a good twist. Black Heart was without doubt a very entertaining read and has a healthy dose of creepy and disturbing serial killer. The writing is great and I’ll be looking forward to find out what will happen next… Detective Dan Riley’s personal life surely raised some questions. And while Black Heart wasn’t that intense and didn’t have the expected plot twists and suspense of a typical serial killer, it shows that the characters were the main focus of this story and fans of more character-driven thrillers will have a blast reading this one.

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When the body of a wealthy banker is found in an expensive London hotel room, it appears to be a suicide. His wrists are slashed and there is a note, but detective Dan Riley suspects there is more to the case than just a ‘simple’ suicide. His instincts are right as the pathology report confirms the victim was first poisoned… And the crime scene evidence didn’t add up either. Dan Riley and his team has to deal with a murder case that is getting more complex as they find new clues… And things will escalate when the body of a woman is found in a similar way.

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Black Heart is fast-paced and reads like a train. The plot and case are interesting, although I do feel it lacked the tension and suspense serial killer thrillers tend to have. It shows the focus was more on the characters rather than on the plot twists and the creating of false clues and a highly suspenseful read… But there is no doubt Anna-Lou Weatherley was able to great a creepy and intriguing serial killer in this first detective thriller of a new series. I will be looking forward to see more of Detective Dan Riley in the future!


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ARC REVIEW: The Lot Of A Nobody – by Dave Johnston

Title: The Lot Of A Nobody
Author: Dave Johnston
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Humor
First published: March 22nd 2017 
Finished reading: February 5th 2018
Pages: 256

“Lot often thought he’d make a great Where’s Wally, cos even in red stripes he was difficult to spot.”

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

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I admit I’ve had this title on my list way longer than originally planned, and I’m kind of kicking myself now for not reading this sooner. The Lot Of A Nobody first appeared on my radar after a glowing review, so I was happy to give it a go myself. The other day I needed something fun to brighten up my day, and this was EXACTLY the read I needed in my life. I already knew I was probably going to like it after seeing a couple of positive reviews from bloggers with a similar taste in books, and I’m definitely a new member of the Lot Nobody fanclub. I was able to take to the main character straight away and the writing style is just spot on. Engaging, quirky, direct, funny, a little blunt… The right kind of tone for a story I didn’t even know I was looking for when I started reading The Lot Of A Nobody. Between the writing and main character this story had me enchanted straight away… Although the plot played a role as well. This story is a perfect balance of contemporary and fantasy elements and maybe even a big of magical realism, although only in the best possible way. What seems to be another typical high school story with a quirky outsider as a main character soon takes an interesting turn that makes the story very much original. And it’s definitely my kind of humor that is used in The Lot Of Nobody! Very funny indeed… Also, I just loved the Nobody quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Such an original touch! This story is without doubt a winner.

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Lot Nobody is average in every possible way, and so lonely that it seems like he has become invisible. He is almost like a ghost floating through his high school experience, but that changes after his sixteenth birthday. Not only is he able to make a friend, but he also suddenly starts disappearing for real. And not in his dreams either, but somehow he finds himself sent to a magical island and back to reality again repeatedly. The catch of these unexplained adventures? He always seems to arrive at his destination fully naked, making for some very embarrassing situations… And that is not the only thing that has been going on.

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If you are looking for a fun, quirky and well written mix of contemporary and magical elements, you will be in for a treat with The Lot Of A Nobody. The main character is very easy to like and it has been fun seeing his character develop over time. The story starts out as a contemporary, but the appearance of the magical island adds a little something extra to the story and I just loved the descriptions of the life there. The plot itself is quite interesting as well, and leaves room for quite a lot of funny moments. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: A Castle In Romagna – by Igor Stiks

Title: A Castle In Romagna
Author: Igor Stiks
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2000
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2018
Pages: 128
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Dvorac u Romagni’)

“He was overcome by the immobility one feels upon meeting something long sought after, that silent tension of the body that, before we take the object into our hands, forces us to pause for a moment, as if every passing second increases its value.”

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

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One of my goals this year is to read more international authors and translation, and I’ve been meaning to read more historical fiction that is not set during WWII as well. A Castle In Romagna manages to tick both boxes, and the blurb itself had me more than intrigued. Sadly, my reading experience wasn’t what I hoped it would be… Here’s why. First of all, I REALLY struggled with the writing style. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact it is a translation and some of the magic is lost, but I do know it was really hard to stay focused and keep reading. The prose doesn’t flow and more often than not ‘formal’ or less natural phrases are thrown in. This slows down the pace considerably and kept distracting me from trying to follow the plot. Another thing that didn’t work for me was the dual storyline. I felt neither story had enough dept because of it, especially since this novel is not that long to start with. Both plot, background and characters in both storylines lacked fleshing out and honestly I think I would have rather seen two completely separate stories. Also, I think the connection of the two storylines through the 1995 setting and friar telling both stories was actually quite weak, as apart from the fact that both storylines are about doomed love they do not have all that much in common. I do have to say both the 16th century setting and the one in 1948 have a lot of potential, and I truly wish each would have been more developed. As it is, I failed to connect to any of the characters and I’m afraid to say I wasn’t able to enjoy my time with A Castle In Romagna.

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A young refugee of the Bosnian conflict decides to visit the old Mardi castle in the north of Italy in 1995. But instead of wandering around exploring the fortress, he will meet a guide who will tell him all about the past: both his own and how he ended up as a refugee himself in Italy in 1948 and the tragic fate of the poet Enzo Strecci back in the 16th century.

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I had such high hopes for this story, especially since the blurb sounded really promising, but unfortunately the story fell completely flat for me. Between the writing style, lack of dept and development in both the plot and characters and the failed dual storyline, I had a hard time reading A Castle In Romagna. Although I keep wondering if some of its charm has been lost in translation.


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ARC REVIEW: The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One – by Amanda Lovelace @AndrewsMcMeel @ladybookmad

Title: The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One
(Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #2)
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry, Non Fiction, Feminism
First published: March 6th 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 24th 2018
Pages: 208

“to be a

woman

is to be

warbound,

k n o w i n g

all the odds

are stacked

against you.

 

– & never giving up in spite of it.”

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


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I know I don’t read poetry all that often, but I do enjoy reading poetry bundles every once in a while, especially if the topic speaks to me. I’ve heard lots and lots of wonderful things about Amanda Lovelace‘s powerful and feminist poems, and after a few teasers of her work, I was determined to find out what my own reaction to her work would be. And just like the bold red letters on an otherwise simple cover, The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One without doubt makes a statement. Not only did I instantly connect with her style of poetry and the way she expresses herself, but I could also relate to some of the topics she discusses in her poems. Powerful, enchanting, inspiring and so well represented in both the words and format of her work! There a trigger warnings involved for a wide selection of sensitive themes, but all used in a way that will hopefully encourage women to finally stand up for themselves and say ‘no more’. The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One simply blew me away and I can highly recommend it to fans of strong, empowering and feminist poetry. I can’t wait to read more of her work now!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #16: Born A Crime & Halfway (ARC)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time about two completely different books… The first a memoir I’ve been meaning to read for some time now: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. And just as everyone kept saying as they recommended this title to me, it was GOOD. The second was an ARC I’ve been meaning to read for ages now… Halfway by Lokesh Sharma. Unfortunately that one didn’t work for me.


Title: Born A Crime
Author: Trevor Noah

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Finished reading: January 25th 2018
Pages: 304

“Regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”


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One of my goals this year is to read more memoirs and international authors, and Born A Crime has been on my list ever since it was first published. The apartheid has always intrigued me and Trevor Noah‘s memoir sounded like a fascinating account during that time. Of course the many many recommendations have helped put this story on my radar as well… And I’m glad I finally got the chance to read it. Because there is one thing for sure: Born A Crime is a very powerful and thought provoking read. I already knew the apartheid was going to be an intriguing topic, and Trevor Noah does an excellent job narrating his personal experience during the end of the apartheid as well as his mother’s experience. He balances these personal accounts with a lot of background information and facts about apartheid that are relevant to that particular account he was talking about. These little chapters were both extremely helpful to those who want to learn more about apartheid and fascinating as well. His writing style, honest tone and willingness to put it all on paper, even if it might shed a negative light on his life is something I could highly appreciate. Honest, heartbreaking, funny, engaging and gripping… Born A Crime is a memoir you will not soon forget. Haven’t read it yet? If memoirs are your kind of book, you definitely should remedy that!


Title: Halfway
(Aspiration For Deliverance #1)
Author: Lokesh Sharma

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
First published: January 29th 2017
Finished reading: Januart 27th 2018
Pages: 220

“We want others to care about us. But without feelings, nobody would care about anybody.”

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


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True, I don’t read a whole lot of science fiction stories, but I have enjoyed the genre in the past and I had high hopes for Halfway. It took me way longer than expected to finally pick it up, mostly due to the slump, but I was looking forward to it… Sadly I didn’t have the reading experience I was expecting to have. Unpopular opinion ahead! I went in looking forward to emerge myself fully in a new futuristic world, but I was actually mostly confused during a long time. While Halfway has a substantial amount of descriptions, I still feel the worldbuilding of Enigma isn’t really fleshed out and this made me never fully adapt to this world. The many descriptions only slowed down the pace for me… Another thing that bothered me was the lack of a proper plot. Between the descriptions and character background detail that doesn’t have a clear connection to Enigma for a really long time, I didn’t feel the story was really going anywhere. There are some hints at a war and a threat, but it almost feels as if all important details are pushed into the background as Halfway focuses more on the history of some of the main characters. The Enigma chapters and character memoires were so dissociated that I had a hard time connecting everything (again, lack of plot), and this confusion influenced my reading experience considerably. All in all a story that definitely isn’t for me.


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ARC REVIEW: The Camera Lies – by AB Morgan @Bloodhoundbook

Title: The Camera Lies
Author: AB Morgan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 3rd 2018
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Finished reading: January 26th 2018
Pages: 301

“Whoever said ‘the camera never lies’  was wrong.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I was immediately drawn to this psychological thriller and not just because of the cover. The whole TV angle sounded fascinated and made me want to add it to my wishlist straight away… And I have been looking forward to The Camera Lies ever since. There is no doubt that this thriller delivers. The fact that the main character is a TV presenter making documentaries investigating miscarriages of justice is refreshing and definitely makes The Camera Lies stand out from your typical psychological thrillers. This story goes full speed and never slows down… There is a lot of action involved in the plot and it will have some surprises in store for you. BUT. And here comes the reason I had to take away a star from what is otherwise a booming thriller: I was able to see a huge plot twist/revelation coming REALLY early on… And this kind of put a damper on the whole reading experience. I kept hoping I was wrong, and it might just be I read too many psychological thrillers in the first place, but I like being surprised and I was disappointed when I realized that my suspicions were right. Still, there were other elements that did manage to surprise me and the whole case is without doubt both intriguing, twisted and disturbing. Trigger warnings for adult content and graphic scenes! All in all I can definitely recommend The Camera Lies to those who like their psychological thrillers fast, action-packed and twisted.

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Konrad Neale is a TV presenter who is trying to have his comeback a series of documentaries that investigate miscarriages of justice. He and his team are currently working on the case of Matthew Hawley, a man who has been convicted of the brutal murder of his wife Helena. He remembers nothing of that evening and keeps insisting he would never have killed her willingly… Is he lying or is something more complicated at hand? And what about the threatening texts Konrad receives as they are investigating the case?

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There is no doubt that both the TV documentary angle and the murder case itself make The Camera Lies a very refreshing, intense and action-packed read. Even though I did see a mayor plot twist coming, there were other things I never would have guessed. There are some disturbing things going on for sure! The story reads superfast and you will be wondering what will happen next and how things will end until the very last page. Entertaining and thrilling for sure!


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