ARC REVIEW: Until The Day I Die – by Emily Carpenter

Title: Until The Day I Die
Author: Emily Carpenter
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: February 11th 2019
Pages: 325

“When energy flows from one place to another, it may change forms, but it’s never destroyed. It’s the same with sadness, I’ve discovered. You can’t get rid of it.”

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

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I have been meaning to try more of Emily Carpenter‘s work ever since I read The Weight Of Lies. It took me longer than expected, but between the gorgeous cover and the intriguing blurb I found the perfect excuse to read her newest upcoming title Until The Day I Die. I bet Caribbean paradise and death are not exactly the first association you will make, but the cover and title fit this story perfectly. Until The Day I Die is a very unconventional read and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I actually think of this story. The plot is very original and it is one of those stories that is really hard to place in just one genre. College experience? Grief and moving on? Family focused? Mental health? Geeky elements? Conspiracy? Crime? Dystopian feel? Survival? International setting? Somehow all of these elements and more are squeezed into one story, and somehow they all seem to fit together. I do have to say that this was a slowburner for me and the first half tended to drag a bit in parts. The second half was a lot faster, mostly because we get more island scenes and the college location is mostly put in the background. I liked Erin’s POV better than Shorie’s, mostly because I wasn’t expecting a YA/college feel POV in this story and the college cliches distracted from the more interesting parts of the plot. The lack of connection to the characters didn’t help either… But I can’t deny the part set in the Caribbean and the whole conspiracy plot is fascinating. I can definitely understand the Lord Of The Flies inspiration! This has been a difficult review to write, especially since even after a few days I have still been unable to pinpoint exactly why I wasn’t as blown away with this story as I thought I would. If you are looking for something different to read, a story that mixes women’s fiction with a good and honest crime thriller with a tropical setting, Until The Day I Die would be a perfect fit.

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Erin and her daughter Shorie have been grieving their husband and father, who suddenly died in a car accident. It has been a difficult few months and both seem to be growing apart… Erin slipping away as she is being overwhelmed by her work running their app company Jax the couple build with their best friends. She hasn’t been caring for herself and the people close to her have noticed… Meanwhile, Shorie doesn’t want to go to college, preferring to keep close to her father’s memory by working at Jax. She is sent off to college anyway, even though Shorie is worried about her mother’s mental state as well as the company. Especially as her family decide to send her mother to a resort on a remote Caribbean island to recover…

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If you are looking for something different and original to read and don’t mind a good conspiracy plot and an almost dystopian survival feel, Until The Day I Die would definitely be for you. It’s hard to place this story inside a box, and I think that is just the beauty of it in the first place. While this was a slowburner for me and I’m still not sure how I actually feel about this story, I do know the second half had me hooked and the island scenes are both terrifying and brilliant. Excellently written and bonus points for originality! Perri’s diary entries are a nice touch and will start making sense as you keep reading.


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ARC REVIEW: An American Marriage – by Tayari Jones

Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: January 29th 2018
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Finished reading: February 7th 2019
Pages: 320

“There are too many loose ends in the world in need of knots. You can’t attend to all of them, but you have to try.”

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

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There has been a lot of hype around An American Marriage ever since it first came out last year, so much that I decided I wanted to see how I would react to this story myself. I was definitely excited when I was approved for an ARC of this version with a new cover! Nothing can beat that other gorgeous blue cover for me, but I do love how well this new cover fits the story. The two main characters back to back, the handwritten letters as a background, the use of contrasting colors… Truly eyecatching. Now that I have finally had the chance to read An American Marriage, I can understand why it has been praised this much. Powerful, raw, moving, emotionally draining… This story will most definitely leave its mark. Let’s start with the fact that sadly having an innocent man going to prison is something that still happens even to this date. Prejudice and racial discrimination are two phenomenons we cannot seem to get rid of in society, and Southern US does have its history. The way this story is told and the different elements are introduced and incorporated into the plot is brilliant. An American Marriage proves to be an eye-opener as well as an emotional and heartbreaking story about two persons being ripped apart by a wrong conviction. The story is told from three different POVs, all three characters being key to this story. Celestial, Roy and Andre each have their own role in An American Marriage, each has their flaws and each is developed realistically and evolves during this story. Unfortunately for me, I was never able to fully warm up to them though, which is one of the things that prevented me connecting to the story fully. The pace was also considerably slow at points, which might be a turn off for some. These are only minor complaints compared to the wonderful writing style and the way this story is constructed though. I really like how we go from different POVs to letters written between Celestial and Roy during his stay in prison and back to regular prose afterwards. It’s a representation of how the characters were limited in their communication during this difficult time and it adds a little something extra to the story. The representation of the failed justice system and how screwed up things were this close to the present days is both shocking and a revelation. I’ve read stories about innocent men in prison before, and Tayari Jones’ voice is a welcome addition to the group. Could I have done without the love triangle? Yes. But I guess it does help showcasing just how far the consequences of that wrong conviction will go. It’s without doubt a powerful read I’m glad I finally had the chance to read.

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Celestial and Roy come from different backgrounds, but are both well on their way to success. Roy is a young executive and Celestial an artist with a promising career, and when they marry they see themselves with a wonderful future. They settle down in a routine that seems to work for both and everything seems to be right on track… Only for everything to be ripped away one fated night. Will they be able to overcome the obstacles put in their away and prove for once and for all they locked an innocent man behind bars?

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I already had some ideas about An American Marriage when I first started reading it, but I didn’t realize the full extent of this powerful and emotionally draining story until I was already in way too deep. While it is true that I failed to connect to the characters completely, I wasn’t happy with the love triangle and the pace was a bit slow at points, it was the story itself that made me forget about those minor complaints. An innocent man behind bars just because someone pointed their finger (basically), the struggle to prove the truth, the strain the situation has on a relationship and those close to Roy in general, the racial discrimination, the failed justice system, the family history… Powerful elements that have been excellently developed and executed and which turn this story into one well worth your time.


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ARC REVIEW: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One – by Amanda Lovelace

Title: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One
(Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #3)
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry, Feminism
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2019
Pages: 208

“only now

 

am i

realizing

 

that is was

all make-believe”

*** 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 enjoyed reading the first two poetry bundles last year, so it was an easy decision whether to read the third and final bundle of the Women Are Some Kind Of Magic series. Where Amanda Lovelace‘s poetry might lack in style, complexity and elaboration, it outshines other poetry with its overwhelming and powerful emotions and strong messages. It’s actually combination of the simplicity of the words and the overpowering message they are able to communicate that turns her work into something special for me. I admire her for being able to speak this openly about the past and what happened to her. The bundles talk about the three stages she had to go through (the princess, the witch and finally the mermaid) to be able to start healing herself and keep working on the future. As someone who has been in an abusive relationship herself, it’s really easy to relate to her words and those who have had or are having a more recent experience will find comfort. What made The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One stand out from the others is that Amanda Lovelace mixes fantasy with reality this time, using not only poems but also short paragraphs with odes to famous stories by other authors. And that is not all: in the final part of this bundle you can find thirteen guest poems by other poetry writers with a similar topic mixed in between her work. An original touch and something I could really appreciate. I think the second bundle is still my favorite, but The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One is without doubt a wonderful addition.


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ARC REVIEW: What The Wind Knows – by Amy Harmon @AmazonPub @aharmon_author

Title: What The Wind Knows
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: March 1st 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2019
Pages: 411

“I told you. You told me. Only the wind knows which truly comes first.”

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

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I think everyone knows by now I’m a huge fan of Amy Harmon‘s books and I’m always over the moon when I find out there is a new story coming out. The year 2019 has without doubt started on a high note with the upcoming release of What The Wind Knows. It is simply impressive how different and unique each new story is, and this newest addition is no exception. What The Wind Knows is one of my new favorites with a fascinating historical setting in 1920s Ireland, a time travel twist and a romantic and family story you cannot help but fall in love with. Each element has been created and developed to ultimately form a perfect balance together and they result in a story that will appeal to historical fiction and romance fans alike. The writing and plot development are sublime. The writing style will have you under its spell from the very first page and the beautiful prose is one of the reasons I already know What The Wind Knows will appear on my list of 2019 favorites. The plot itself is fascinating, well constructed and gives us a real insight what it would have been like living in 1920s Ireland. The descriptions of the setting and characters are detailed and help set the perfect atmosphere for this story… The time travel element is fascinating touch without it being a turn off for those who normally don’t enjoy science fiction. I personally loved how past and present mingled and overlapped, the lines blurring until ‘only the wind knows which truly comes first‘. The chapters alternated between journal entries written by Thomas and Anne’s POV set both in past and present. The chapters not only connect past events, but also show the influence of both characters on each other and their surroundings. The journal entries are simply fascinating and help put together the full image of both their lives. What The Wind Knows is wonderful romance story with a time travel twist set in a turbulent time of Ireland history. Beautifully crafted and simply splendid!

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Although Anne Gallagher has never actually been in Ireland, she grew up with her grandfather’s stories about the country and its culture. When he dies, his last wish is for her to spread his ashes in the country he was born. Anne travels to his childhood home, where something happens she never thought possible. She is pulled into another time, and the transition hasn’t gone smoothly… Injured and confused, Anne is found in the lake and put under the care of Dr Thomas Smith. Both the doctor and the young boy who lives at his house seem oddly familiar, and Anne is able to connect the dots when she is mistaken for the boy’s long-lost mother. But how will she be able to survive in a time not her own and convince the others she is someone she knows nothing about?

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I’m honestly not all that surprised by my reaction to What The Wind Knows, because I have loved every Amy Harmon book I have picked up so far (both Making Faces and The Smallest Part also receiving the highest rating possible). It doesn’t matter whether you prefer reading historical fiction or a romantic family drama, because What The Wind Knows manages to deliver both in a perfect balance. The time travel element gives this story a unique touch and is well incorporated into the story and Irish cultural references. The writing, the setting, the descriptions, the characters… This story is absolutely fantastic and I can highly highly recommend it.


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ARC REVIEW: How To Experience Death For Beginners – by Jessica Branton

Title: How To Experience Death For Beginners
Author: Jessica Branton
Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: February 14th 2019
Publisher: Charlie’s Port-FRINGE
Finished reading: January 26th 2019
Pages: 330

“I experienced death when I was seven years old. Ten years later, I found myself wondering if I would ever stop.”

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

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When I first heard about How To Experience Death For Beginners, I was immediately intrigued. A YA mystery with a paranormal angle? Yes please! I had really high hopes for this one, but sadly I cannot say those expectations were met. While the writing in general reads easily enough and the pace reads quite fast, I found myself struggle with the plot. Or should I say plot holes. The premise itself is fascinating, but I don’t think the execution is all that great… The plot is kind of all over the place and between plot holes and lack of credibility not the easiest foundation to build the story on. This brings me to the many many high school cliches, cliche gay best friend and the way cutting is handled in one of the principal characters. This all left me with a bad taste in my mouth and was a turn off for this story. The main characters themselves were also quite cliche, bland and lacked fleshing out. I also felt they read a bit young for high school seniors. The idea behind the paranormal aspect and so-called powers is fascinating, but lacked developing more since this is basically the book’s strongest feature and would have made it stand out from other stories. Instead, I didn’t find it credible how the paranormal was handled nor how others react to it… A shame, because the premise had all the signs of turning into an extraordinary story. Instead, we get a cliche high school drama with a bunch of cliches as main characters and a serial killer and paranormal powers both pushed into the background. One of those stories where the priorities were set wrong? Maybe. But the fact is that sadly How To Experience Death For Beginners didn’t hit the mark for me.

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When Casey and her twin sister lose their father in a car accident when they are seven, their lives change forever… And not only in the most conventional way. Ever since seeing those final moments of her father, Casey somehow can enter the minds of people just before they die. She has isolated herself for years trying to protect herself and keep her from harm, but she might not have a choice when a serial killer makes her small town his hunting ground. And this situation might escalate faster than she would think…

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I can’t deny that the idea behind this story is fascinating and shows a lot of promise, but I don’t think the execution lived up to expectations. The paranormal element of How To Experience Death For Beginners, by far the most interesting aspect of this story, lacked development for me as instead we get an uncomfortable mix of different and sometimes cliche elements that fail to combine into a coherent plot. The lack of credibility, the main characters, the way difficult topics were handled… Sadly this story just didn’t work for me.


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ARC REVIEW: The Psychology Of Time Travel – by Kate Mascarenhas

Title: The Psychology Of Time Travel
Author: Kate Mascarenhas
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery
First published: August 9th 2018
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: January 23rd 2019
Pages: 336

“Life’s better with a few risks than a lot of regrets.”

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

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I have heard lots of great things about The Psychology Of Time Travel in the last couple of months, so I was excited to be finally reading it myself. The first thing that stood out for me was the fact that the most important characters are all female. This doesn’t happen too often in the sci-fi genre (that I’m aware of) and it’s good to see female scientifics in the spotlight. This story present time travel in a very interesting way. It was fascinating to see how they first developed the machine and how the company has grown over time, making time travelers into an elite group with their own slang and views on life. The psychological aspect behind time travel is intriguing and The Psychology Of Time Travel will definitely leave its mark and make you wonder how you would react to the effects of time travel. It’s interesting that they cannot go to the distant past; only to when machine was invented onwards. The whole seeing past and future selves does sound a little disturbing though… I think I would go mad myself even though I would probably be aware time travel exists in that situation. This is partly where I had some doubts: the way that so-called ‘one-way travelers’ accept the sudden appearance of time travelers that easily without going crazy. The plot is intricate and constructed in quite a complex way, making sure you will have to pay attention to the different characters and timelines to be able to put together the full puzzle. The mystery around the death in the toy museum and the different characters and their futures are intertwined, and you will slowly learn how everything fits together. The Psychology Of Time Travel is a fascinating debut that left me wondering about how I would react to such situations. Surprisingly low on the sci-fi and high on the psychology, this story is perfect even for those who are not really into the sci-fi genre.

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Back in 1967, four female scientists are able to build the world’s first time machine. Just as they are about to present their invention to the world, one of them has a breakdown and the other three exile Barbara from the team… Fifty years later, time travel is a successful business and the three remaining scientists are thriving. Barbara has never forgotten her time as part of the team though and even though her daughter wants to forget that time forever, her granddaughter Ruby feels different. Ruby knows that her grandmother was one of the pioneers… And when Barbara receives a mysterious message about the murder of an unidentified woman in the near future Ruby is determined to find out what will happen.

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This story is part sci-fi, part psychology, part murder mystery, part family drama and part romantic fiction. There are a lot of different elements involved in The Psychology Of Time Travel, and somehow they all manage to work together and create a very fascinating debut. The complex plot will have you on your toes as you try to fit everything together, but only in the most positive way. It was interesting to see the different characters evolve over time and the psychology behind time travel is simply intriguing. I loved the details of the time traveler’s slang as well! This book definitely left a mark and will stay with me for quite some time.


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ARC REVIEW: The Familiars – by Stacey Halls

Title: The Familiars
Author: Stacey Halls
Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
First published: February 19th 2019
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: January 26th 2019 
Pages: 352

“Rumour could spread faster than disease, and could be just as destructive.”

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

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I’m a sucker for a good historical fiction story and combine that with a gorgeous cover and I’m sold easily. There was just something about The Familiars that caught my eye immediately and I have been looking forward to finally reading it. While this story started out promising enough with a 1612 setting close to the famous witch trials, somehow my initial excitement for this story soon petered out and sadly I have to admit it failed to blow me away. The Familiars is a slow paced and character driven story where the main focus is on Fleetwood Shuttleworth and her household. Neither the witch trails, witches nor the familiars the story is named after play a big role in this story and are mostly pushed into the background as we have to read all about shallow and quite annoying Fleetwood and the things that happen to her. I was quite disappointed by this lack of focus on the supernatural; not what I was expecting with this title. As for Fleetwood: I know women in the 17th century are treated in a different way and have to be meek, humble and obey their husbands or men in general, but having such a bland main character in a very much character driven story makes it hard to stay invested. I’m not sure all actions were all that credible and the whole love triangle situation deeply annoyed me. The Familiars focuses mostly on both the relationship between Fleetwood and her husband, her widwife Alice and the fact that her unborn child might just be the death of her. The paranormal aspect could have been used to spice up this story, but instead was not developed to its potential and fell flat for me. It’s not a bad read though and fans of romantic historical fiction will probably have a better time than me.

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Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth is pregnant again after suffering three miscarriages. Her husband Richard is desperate for an heir, but so desperate he hides a terrible secret from her? Fleetwood discovers a doctor’s letter with the prediction she will not survive another birth. Not sure how to handle this situation, she finds herself relieved to meet Alice, who promises her she will help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby. Then Alice is accused of witchcraft and sent to prision, and all hope crumbles… Fleetwood will have to find a way to save Alice in order to save herself.

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What seems to be a historical paranormal fiction story about witches, turns out to be a mostly historical and romantic family drama with only a hint of the supernatural. This lack of a role of the witches, familiars and the witch trials was rather a disappointment for me and not something I expected when I picked up my copy of The Familiars. The fact that Fleetwood was rather dull and lacked a proper personality didn’t really help either, as the story evolved around her and it was hard to keep myself invested in a story when I couldn’t care about the main characters. Having cheating and a love triangle involved didn’t really help either… But if you enjoy character driven and more romantic and family focused historical fiction stories, you will probably end up enjoying it better than I did.


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