ARC REVIEW: The Last Valentine – by Felix Alexander

Title: The Last Valentine
Author: Felix Alexander

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
First published: February 13th 2017
Publisher: ForeverPoetic
Finished reading: May 24th 2017
Pages: 241

“In their infinite wisdom they fail to realize that love keeps us young after youth has passed and is the only memory worth remembering when the shadows of forgetfulness linger on the horizon of old age.”

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

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I love stories with a different setting so the fact that The Last Valentine is set in Puerto Rico was a big selling point for me. Add the promise of the combination of a historical fiction and mystery read, and I just knew I had to read this story…And it has definitely turned out to be an enjoyable read. Both the 1930s setting in Puerto Rico and the whole mystery around the labyrinth of love letters stood out for me. The descriptions are well done and I found myself looking forward to discover more about both the characters and what would happen to them. The writing style is enjoyable and also very quotable. I loved the inclusion of various Spanish words in the prose; it made the story feel that much more authentic without slowing down the pace for those who don’t understand the language. The main plot of trying to unravel the mysteries around the labyrinth is intertwined with various love stories, secrets and conspiracies that will keep you interested until the very end. I did feel the dose of forbidden love, love triangles and romance in general was a bit too high for me and some of the characters started to annoy me because of it, but that might just have been me not liking those elements in general in the first place. It’s not just the romance between the characters though, because The Last Valentine also talks a lot about romance itself with the help of for example love letters, romance quotes etc. If you enjoy a well written romance novel with a dose of mystery and historical facts will probably enjoy it even better than I did!

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Olivia Villalobos is the daughter of a drunkard police investigator and never knew the truth behind the disappearance of her mother. One day she finds a bloodstained love letter in the hidden compartment of her father’s coat… she is convinced it belonged to the man recently found dead, and is determined to find the Labyrinth of Love Letters to deliver it before someone else takes it away. The labyrinth is believed to be an urban legend, but is that all there is to the mysterious place? Olivia starts her search with the help of her best friend Isaac Quintero and soon they realize they might find more than they were looking for…

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The Last Valentine isn’t just another historical romance novel. The 1930s setting in Puerto Rico is without doubt well executed and helped set the right atmosphere, but it is the whole mystery around the Labyrinth of Love Letters and other secrets and conspiracies that will keep you intrigued until the very end. The dose of (sappy) romance cliches was a bit too high for me, but I did appreciate the many quotable references to romance in general. Romance fans will most likely love this story!


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ARC REVIEW: Words In Deep Blue – by Cath Crowley

Title: Words In Deep Blue
Author: Cath Crowley

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 6th 2017
Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers
Finished reading:  May 22nd 2017
Pages: 288

“There should be a disconnect button you can push when someone leaves: you’ve fucked me over; therefore I no longer love you. I’m not asking for the button to be connected to an ejector seat that removes them from the universe, just one small button that removes them from your heart.”

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

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I’ve actually just realized this is book number 600 since I started this blog! I still can’t wrap my head around that number… And such a wonderful story to reach that mark with as well. Words In Deep Blue has the most gorgeous cover and is a YA contemporary romance story that partly takes place in a bookshop. The bookshop isn’t just a setting though; both the store and the books play a significant role in the story. I love the idea behind the Letter Library and people being able to communicate through letters left in those books. These letters being included in between chapters were a really nice touch and made Words In Deep Blue that much more unique. It isn’t just another love story either as more serious themes as death, grief and loss are included as well. The characters are well developed and it’s interesting to see how they evolve, although I do have to say I wasn’t completely charmed by them. It’s probably because of the multiple love triangles, but some of their behavior could get a little annoying after a while. Though it might just be me being allergic to love triangles; I’m sure contemporary romance fans will not be bothered be it. This was also the only negative thing I could find about this story and it didn’t prevent me from flying through the pages and finishing it in less than a day. A very enjoyable read for sure and I loved the bookish references! It’s without doubt a little gem.

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Rachel and Henry have been best friends for years and during all that time she has never told Henry she has a crush on him. She regrets that decision when he lays his eyes on someone else, and decides to tuck a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop the day before she moved away. Henry never showed up and the hurt Rachel lost contact with him over time… But now she is back in town and somehow working in the same bookshop her heart was broken. And that’s not the only bad thing that happened in her life during her time away…

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I don’t want to reveal to much of the plot to avoid spoilers, but it’s without doubt a wonderful story with enjoyable prose. Words In Deep Blue reads superfast and shows a wide variety of emotions in a realistic way. I personally wasn’t happy with the multiple love triangles and some of the romance, but I loved the idea behind the Letter Library and enjoyed seeing how the characters evolved over time. Words In Deep Blue is perfect of YA contemporary romance fans!


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ARC REVIEW: Secrets Of The Dead – by Carol Wyer

Title: Secrets Of The Dead
(DI Robyn Carter #2)
Author: Carol Wyer

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: May 21st 2017
Pages: 314

“If she was asking for his help it could only mean she was doing something she shouldn’t. He liked that about her; she was ballsy, daring and usually right.”

*** 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 first book of this series, Little Girl Lost, earlier this year and I have been keeping an eye out for the sequel ever since. I admit it wasn’t love at first sight, but I’ve grown to like Robyn Parker and the way she isn’t afraid to step on a few toes to get things done. In Secrets Of The Dead her detective skills are tested again with another difficult case. It’s another serial killer thriller and I think I enjoyed it even better than the first; this book definitely doesn’t suffer from the so-called ‘weak-sequel-syndrome’. Secrets Of The Dead starts out strong and stays that way until the very end. The writing style is enjoyable, the pace is fast and the many many plot twists will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time. I actually thought I had it all figured out a few times during the story, but it ended up being a false alarm every single time. The sign of a well executed plot twist if you ask me! The serial killer is an interesting one and I particularly liked the fact that you are able to take a peak inside his head in the chapters that are told from his POV. They added to the whole suspense of the story without slowing down the pace and only increased my curiosity about the identity of the killer. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot to avoid spoilers, but if you are looking for a well written psychological thriller packed with misleading plot twists and an intriguing case, Secrets Of The Dead is calling your name. Another note: it can also be read as a stand-alone.

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Detective Robyn Carter and her team are to investigate the death of a young mother who is found drowned in her own bathtub. When they find a receipt saying ‘all debts paid’, Robyn knows she has another complicated case on her hand… Because it has all the signs of being another serial killer. When a second victim with a similar receipt is found, her suspicions are confirmed, and now she will have to race against the clock to find the killer before he strikes again. Robyn doesn’t seem to have much time, as the bodies are starting to pile up quickly… Will she be able to solve the puzzle on time? Because no obvious links are being found between the two victims, and the pressure is building up fast.

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Those who follow my blog probably know I’m a big fan of the mystery/thriller genre, and this sequel is without doubt another winner. From the enjoyable writing style, fast pace and misleading plot twists to the fact that Secrets Of The Dead has a serial killer; this book just ticked all the right boxes for me. I love it when a psychological thriller is actually able to surprise me! Because I was definitely in the dark about the ‘who’ until the moment it was all revealed.


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ARC REVIEW: One Of Us Is Lying – by Karen M. McManus

Title: One Of Us Is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: May 18th 2017
Pages: 368

“Nobody could stand him, but they’re all holding candles like he’s some kind of martyr instead of a gossipy douchebag.”

*** 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 had actually wrongly assumed One Of Us Is Lying was a contemporary romance read the first time I saw it and wasn’t sure it would be for me, so I didn’t add it to my wishlist straight away… So I guess I have to thank Ashley @ Socially Awkward Bookworm for putting this book on my radar with her review. One Of Us Is Lying is without doubt one of the best YA mystery stories I’ve read so far this year. This is unreliable narrators and plot twists at its best; I did kind of guess part of the ending early on, but there is no way this story won’t at least partly surprise you. The story starts out strong and it sets the tone for the rest of the story. The main characters start out as high school cliches, but as you continue reading they slowly start to evolve and their development is very well executed. Despite the cliches it’s really easy to connect to the four suspects and they are one of the reasons this story works so well. My favorites would be Cooper and Bronwyn, but all four have their charm. The plot twists are excellent and definitely make you wonder what is true and who is lying; the ending wasn’t a complete surprise but was still satisfying. If you like the genre and you’re up for a healthy dose of high school secrets and excellent twists, One Of Us Is Lying is the book for you!

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Five students at Bayview High walk into detention, and only four walk out alive… Had any of the four something to do with the dead of Simon, an outcast and creator of the notorious Bayview High gossip app? The investigators say his death wasn’t an accident, and they are looking at the four students for their suspect. Bronwyn is the brain and never breaks a rule, Addy is the beauty and a homecoming princess, Nate is the criminal and on probation for dealing and Cooper the athlete and all-star baseball pitcher. Did one of them kill Simon? Because it seems like they did have motive, because Simon had planned to post juicy reveals about all four of them the next day…

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One Of Us Is Lying ended up being even better than I thought it would be. Sure, the characters started out as cliches, but they were really easy to connect to and ended up growing into something so much more… The writing style is highly enjoyable and only adds to the fast pace of this story. The plot twists are excellent as well and all in all I had a great time reading it. More than recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Be My Killer – by Richard Parker

Title: Be My Killer
Author: Richard Parker

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 26th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: May 17th 2017
Pages: 379

“That’s the reality of it. It’s not fodder for entertainment; it’s a chunk of me gone. It’s just pain and emptiness, and there’s nothing remotely sensational about it.”

*** 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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As soon as I saw Be My Killer, I was drawn to it like those moths on the cover and knew I didn’t stand a chance. The combination of a potential serial killer, a social media twist and the documentary angle just sounded too good to resist and I’m glad I gave it a go. Be My Killer is without doubt a very intense and gripping psychological thriller! I found myself literally flying through the pages trying to discover what would happen next and who was behind it all… And there is no doubt this story introduces one of the most twisted and disturbing serial killers I’ve read about in a long time. A little warning for those with a weak stomach: some of the scenes are quite graphic as the killer doesn’t mind ‘getting his hands dirty’ so to speak. They do set the right creepy and gloomy atmosphere for the book and the setting in an abandoned amusement park only adds to that. I also liked the social media angle and the whole Twitter ‘Be My Killer hastag’ serial killer idea. I’ve seen social media used quite a lot in psychological thrillers lately, but this plot is without doubt quite original. Talking about the plot, it’s impressive how many plot twists are stacked on top of each other in Be My Killer. You literally don’t know who’s next and what happens next until the very moment you are reading it and even though I had a few ideas who might be behind it, the story mostly kept proved me wrong. There’s something to say about the credibility of the plot and I didn’t exactly like every character, but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and had a great time reading this story. Recommended if you like the genre and don’t mind gory details and a graphic scene or two.

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What started out as an online prank on Twitter ended up going viral. And soon people responding to the ‘Be My Killer’ hashtag actually started to die in the horrible ways they had Tweeted about… And the police is completely in the dark about who is behind the murders. Is it just one killer or are there more? And do the murders really connect to the hashtag? One of Hazel’s childhood friends is found murdered and she is determined to find out what happened to her. Hazel has a theory she wants to test even though the police don’t believe in it. She decides to make a documentary about the killings, hoping to lure out the killer and find justice to her friend and the other victims… But isn’t it dangerous to play with such a disturbed individual?

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As soon as I read the blurb I just knew I had to read this story. I have a weak spot for serial killer thrillers and the one described in Be My Killer sounded like a true ‘beauty’. And I was right, because the murders were both gruesome, twisted and disturbing in general. Suspense and plot twists are stacked up to dangerous heights until you find yourself unable to stop reading until you reach the last page… I didn’t like every character and had some minor problems with the credibility, but that didn’t stop me from reaching the last page in record time. And what a ride!


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ARC REVIEW: Manipulated Lives – by H.A. Leuschel

Title: Manipulated Lives
Author: H.A. Leuschel

Genre: Short Stories, Realistic Fiction, Psychology
First published: June 8th 2016
Finished reading: May 14th 2017
Pages: 274

“Can there be only one truth? What if we are all creating our own truth, as we often need to, on a daily basis?”

*** 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 have a weak spot for realistic fiction stories with a psychology angle, so I was immediately intrigued when I first read about Manipulated Lives. This is actually a collection of five short stories about five different characters who have had to deal with manipulators at different stages of their lives and the damage this experience has done to them. I enjoy reading short stories every once in a while and it definitely takes a whole different set of skills to write them properly. Manipulated Lives is without doubt an example of excellent short story writing. The stories were both intriguing and did an excellent job of describing the complex emotions and reactions to the manipulations. Without doubt a great read if you like the genre!

I will be doing this review slightly different than usual and both give a quick summary and my thoughts on each of the five short stories below instead of having a separate summary section.

The Narcissist
This collection starts strong with a story about a manipulator with Alzheimer not longer remembering why he is incarcelated or what he was doing to his family and others during all those years. This memory angle made the story into a truly fascinating read and it was interesting how the main character reacted to certain things and learn more about what he did in the past in the first place. Not my favorite of the bundle, but without doubt one of the better ones.

Tess And Tattoos
The second story was one of my favorites and a really accurate, intriguing and heartbreaking description of how manipulators can truly ruin someone for life… Tess is an interesting character and an older woman who now lives a lonely life and never has anyone visiting her. Her friendship with Sandra is touching and I love the symbolism of the tattoo. Interesting ending as well!

The Spell
The third story is probably one of the most detailed ones and one of my favorites. It’s impressive how many twists and how much character development is included in this short story.  It’s about Sophie meeting a little boy Leo and later his father; she is charmed by Leo right away and that connection makes her blind for the strange vibes his father David gives off. It’s true Sophie is a bit naive, but I guess manipulators always look for ‘weak/easy’ victims and it’s truly interesting how David is able to worm his way into her life that fast.

Runaway Girl
The fourth story is about a younger manipulation victim; the teenage Holly. This one is probably my least favorite of the bunch even though it is an accurate description of a situation that happens all too often at high schools (unfortunately). What I found less credible is that the main character Holly was first described as an independent and smart teenager and then seemed to be completely blind around Luke even though he’s basically a classic manipulator. But it’s definitely another eye-opener when it comes to how one manipulator can damage a lot of victims when not stopped on time…

My Perfect Child
The last story is about a woman thinking her child is perfect and overprotecting him ever since he was born; indulging him in everything and turning him in a skilled manipulator. She didn’t want to see her child as anything less than perfect and ignored all the signs for so long that it was already too late to change direction… Not one of my favorites, but without doubt a great example how love imakes someone blind and can change perception of both daily situations and their consequences.

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I have been wanting to pick up this collection of short stories about different characters dealing with the consequences of manipulators for a long time now, especially since I’ve seen various glowing reviews in the past. And I’m definitely glad I finally picked it up, because I really enjoyed reading them. Every story deals with a different angle and they are truly fascinating. My favorite story would be between the second and the third story; my least favorite probably either number four or five, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t still good. If psychology fascinates you or you enjoy realistic fiction in general, Manipulated Lives is definitely a great read.


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ARC REVIEW: Aurabel – by Laura Dockrill

Title: Aurabel
Author: Laura Dockrill

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: June 1st 2017
Publisher: Hotkey Books
Finished reading: May 13th 2017
Pages: 304

“Even when two paths spindle off, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to meet up, once again, somewhere along the way towards the end.”

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

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I admit Aurabel was a coverlove-request, but I was also looking forward to read another mermaid story. Mermaids are without doubt underrated creatures and there just aren’t all that many stories about them out there. Aurabel sounded like an fun fantasy read with the mermaids as a bonus, but unfortunately this book turned out to be a quite unpleasant experience. First of all I want to make clear that this book should have been classified as a sequel, because after some investigation I found out most of the worldbuilding is taken from a previous publication (Lorali) and it’s almost impossible to fully understand Aurabel with out it. A lot of background AND essential information is missing if you don’t read Lorali, and I felt a bit cheated on I didn’t know that beforehand. This lack of information might have been part of the reason I basically felt like I was reading a story written in a foreign language I could only barely understand. Things just didn’t make sense as all and I had a hard time even getting past the first few pages and chapters. Things only got better towards the ending, but I have to be honest and say I probably wouldn’t have reached that point if this wouldn’t have been an ARC. It sounds harsh, but somehow not telling the truth doesn’t feel right either… Another thing that bothered me is the horrible spelling in the forum interactions bit. I get that this is supposed to portray ‘superficial’ teenage fans talking, but 1. it was really hard to decipher the meaning of their comments and 2. I literally shuddered the whole time every time the dreaded comments made their appearance. As for the characters: I like how their different personalities are refleccted in their respective dialogues and prose, but I do have to see they felt a bit forced and unnatural. Some characters were also starting to get on my nerves… Furthermore, I had a hard time connecting the different chapters and characters; especially in the beginning they seemed random and didn’t make a lot of sense. Things did improve slightly towards the ending and the general plot is interesting enough, but all in all I had a really hard time reading Aurabel. Such a shame, because I was really looking forward to it!

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It’s been two years since Rory drowned and Lorali has been living the live of a normal (human) teenage girl ever since. Her safe life on land won’t last much longer though, as things in The Whirl seem to be getting out of hand. Someone is trying to take the throne from the current king and doesn’t hesitate to use unorthodox methods to succeed. Even if that means hurting fellow Mer… And it seems that even Lorali won’t be safe.

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I really wanted to enjoy Aurabel and I still love the cover, but unfortunately I turned out having a completely different reading experience. I’ve debated various times whether to just DNF it, because I had a really hard time understanding and making sense of the story; something that doesn’t happen often. I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt like I was reading in a different language, but I guess part of this confusion can be explained by the fact that it’s necessary to read Lorali first to be able to fully understand the story (which I didn’t and won’t). All in all a promising premise, but unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the execution.


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