ARC REVIEW: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade – by Miriam McNamara

Title: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade
Author: Miriam McNamara
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: June 19th 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Finished reading: June 11th 2018
Pages: 336

“All that water, bits of land – so many places she could be in this new world. But for all of Anne’s geography lessons, Mary was still hopeless at figuring out where exactly she might fit in it.”

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

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I love a good pirate story and the blurb of The Unbinding Of Mary Reade sounds just as fantastic as the gorgeous cover, so I’ve been really excited to finally read this one. And with its f/f romance, I thought it would be a perfect story to read during pride month as well. Alas it seems like it wasn’t ment to be. I didn’t check the reviews before starting this one, or at least I would have been warned… Because The Unbinding Of Mary Reade unfortunately turned out to be quite a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the idea behind this book, the possibilities of the setting, the f/f romance, the characters… But the execution was just completely off for me. I will try to explain why this book didn’t work for me below. First of all, I struggled with the writing style, which felt halted with dialogues that didn’t seem natural. The use of ‘bad grammar’ in the dialogues only distracted (aka annoyed) me instead of adding the right historical atmosphere. Also, the constant switching back and forth in time was really distracting and made it hard to stay focused on the main plot. Especially since the chapters set in London basically didn’t add anything substantial to the story and were extremely dull. In fact, I found the story in general quite boring, and how is that possible for a story with gay pirates in it?? For a book about pirates, there were almost no action scenes or even scenes on a boat included in the plot. And that was quite a disappointment, since there was basically nothing of note to fill this huge hole of lack of action. Ok, characters. The characters in general lacked development and were rather bland. Anne almost felt like a caricature and while Mary had all the potential of being a fascinating character, she mostly fell flat for me and I wasn’t able to believe either of their feelings or actions. This lack of credibility extends to the other characters as well. Also, trigger warnings are in place for homophobia, transphobia, (sexual) abuse and sexism in general. I get that we are talking about an 18th century setting, but this was just too much. In short, while I still love the idea behind this story, the execution was rather poorly and The Unbinding Of Mary Reade turned out to be a rather chaoticly written, dull and not credible love story. Did I expect this reaction? No, but unfortunately I can’t change the way I feel about this one.

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When Mary was really young, her mother saw no other way to keep their mouths fed than to disguise her little girl as a boy and pass her off as her dead child Mark. Mark has a wealthy granny that will take care of her only grandchild and heir… So there is no place for a girl in Mary’s world, and she has to be Mark at all time to not see her life fall apart. This gets harder as the years go on and she falls in love with her childhood friend Nat. And when she is discovered, she flees London with Nat and boards a Caribbean merchant ship as a sailor. But what will the future bring?

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I keep repeating: I still love the idea behind this story and I truly wish I could have enjoyed The Unbinding Of Mary Reade better. Unfortunately, I found the execution lacking in various ways, and I had a hard time finishing this one. Between the chaotic writing style that didn’t flow, a rather dull plot, bland characters, lack of action and a not so credible display of emotions, I can’t say I was impressed. Where were the pirates, were was the action? Why did we have to read so much about Mary’s past in London, if her life on the Caribbean Sea is what really counts for this story? Why wasn’t there more focus on Mary and Anne? Why the excessive amount of sexism, homophobia, transphobia and sexual assault? The tone for this supposedly YA rated story was completely off, especially since Mary felt younger than the age group during most of the story. All in all not the story I was hoping for.


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ARC REVIEW: Bring Me Back – by B.A. Paris

Title: Bring Me Back
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 1st 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 12th 2018
Pages: 336

“But there is only silence, and the dust of hopes never fulfilled, taunting me with what could have been, if only I’d acted differently.”

*** 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 !!

Bring Me Back has to be one of the most hyped psychological thriller releases this year. While I was stoked to be able to receive a copy early, I was also worried about the possible consequences of such a popular title. Because let’s face it: popular books and me don’t exactly have an optimal relationship. And as the mixed reviews for Bring Me Back started coming in, I was getting more worried about my own reaction. Hence the reason I’ve been posponing my own experience with this title until there was hardly time left before the publish date. It might have been that I went in with lower expectations, it might have been because of different reasons, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. The first thing that stands out for me is the writing style, which shows a certain quality you only see in the better psychological thrillers and was just as good as my previous experience with her work in The Breakdown. B.A. Paris knows how to create suspense and how to start a story with a bang. There is no doubt that the first couple of chapters will have you completely hooked! And while the pace was a little slower than I would have liked, I found Bring Me Back a very entertaining read. BUT. And here come a few elements I wasn’t too sure about and I know others struggled with as well. First of all, I was able to guess quite a few plot twists long before they happened and the plot was quite predictable in general. Or at least the mayority of the story… The final part was actually the complete opposite, but sadly not in a completely positive way. Let’s just say, without giving away spoilers, that the ending is so absurd and over the top that there was no way I could think of it as a believable plot twist. It was surprising for sure and I don’t think anyone would have guessed it… But I personally would have preferred a more predictable but at least credible ending instead. The change of past and present and different POVs did add a little something extra to the story, and I liked learning more about how the main characters first met and finding out what happened (even though it was easy to guess quite a lot of that information early on). As for the characters: I can’t say I particularly liked them, and this made it a bit more difficult to connect to the story. But the main issue for me was both the predictability of the majority of the plot and the highly implausible and over the top ending. Going in with lower expectations probably saved Bring Me Back for me though, and I was able to enjoy it better than I thought I would.

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Finn and Layla travel to France during a holiday, only for Finn to return home alone. During a stop on the way back, Layla disappears from the car and nobody ever sees her again. Finn is initially accused of being involved, but later freed from blame although there is no trace of Layla anywhere. Years later, Finn has found happiness again and he’s engaged to be married… To Layla’s sister Ellen. Then one day a tiny Russian doll shows up on their doorstep, and their lives are about to change forever.

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I’m aware of the fact that Bring Me Back has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, and I can understand why. If you read a lot of psychological thrillers and go in with high expectations, you will probably be disappointed by the rather predictable plot and completely implausible ending and final twist. But if you instead take it slow and don’t focus too much on those points, you will be able to enjoy the solid writing and an otherwise slower paced but enjoyable story. And trust me, you won’t be looking at Russian dolls in the same way after finishing Bring Me Back.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lost For Words Bookshop – by Stephanie Butland

Title: The Lost For Words Bookshop 
Author: Stephanie Butland
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 20th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 9th 2018
Pages: 368

“Our pasts are as unfixed as our futures, if you think about it. And I like the freedom I have to tell a different story.”

*** 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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Here we go again: unpopular opinion time. Trust me, I was fully expecting to love this story, especially since I have a weak spot for books about books… But I guess it turns out it wasn’t ment to be. On its own The Lost For Words Bookshop has all the right elements to turn the story into a success. And that is probably one of the reasons I’ve seen only glowing reviews so far. I’m asking myself now: why didn’t enjoy this story better then? Well, first of all it’s probably me that is part of the problem. Because let’s face it, introduce a love triangle and I start sneezing. But surprisingly it wasn’t exactly the romance in this story that bothered me. The main problem I had was with the main characters, who somehow I just wasn’t able to get a proper feel for. Which is strange, because each of them is well developed, feels real and adds a little something to the story. But it is what it is, and I can’t change my feelings. Another thing that I wasn’t so sure about were the flashback chapters, going back to Loveday’s childhood. Instead of adding dept and intrigue to the plot, I mostly felt it interrupted the flow of the present storyline, especially since both seemed to have a quite different writing style. The switches were actually one of the reasons it took me longer than expected to finish this read. That said, I did love the incorporation of poems, many many bookish references and of course Loveday’s tattoos and their meaning. A true bliss for any booklover to find. Likewise, the descriptions of the bookstore make me wish I could visit the place myself. But somehow, The Lost For Words Bookshop just didn’t hit home for me. Being able to see some of the plot twists coming from a mile away didn’t help either… But like I said, I’m in the minority here and fans of contemporary romance with a darker twists will probably enjoy this one a lot better than I did. Because there is no doubt that Loveday’s past is no joke.

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Loveday Cardew has been working in Archie’s bookshop ever since she was fifteen, and to be honest she prefers books over people. Books have always played a role in her life, and she even has the first lines of the novels that mean the most to her tattooed on her skin. Loveday doesn’t want to get close to a lot of people for a reason though, as she is trying to hide her past… Something she will never want to talk about. But after certain books arrived at the bookshop, she is starting to wonder if someone knows about her mysterious past after all…

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On its own, The Lost For Words Bookshop seems to be having all the right elements. It has a lot of bookish references to fall in love with, complicated and well developed characters, suspense and a mysterious past, drama, a healthy dose of romance for the romance fans… I was expecting to love this one, but somehow I wasn’t completely convinced. Between the lack of connection to the characters, love triangle and past-present storyline switches that didn’t feel natural to me, I ended up taking a lot longer than I thought I would to finish this one. There were elements I loved of course, including the bookish elements and Archie’s character. And I’m positive most of you will enjoy this story a lot more than I did.


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ARC REVIEW: The Namarielle – by Julien Jamar

Title: The Namarielle
(Chronicles Of Lashai #1)
Author: Julien Jamar
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: January 19th 2018
Publisher: BooksGoSocial
Finished reading: May 23rd 2018
Pages: 349

“There is power in love that cannot be attained any other way.”

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

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I admit I kind of requesting this first book of a YA fantasy series on a whim after falling in love with the cover. There is just something about The Namarielle that instantly made me want to read it, and it turns out that my coverlove instinct was solid. Because there is no doubt I very much enjoyed this story! I’ve become a bit wary of YA fantasy series due to the amount of romance and repetitive plots, but I was pleasantly surprised by The Namarielle. The writing is engaging and made it really easy to emerge yourself into this new fantasy world. I enjoyed the worldbuilding and the promise of an interesting past, complicated and dangerous present and the promise of a better future. Would I have liked to see the worldbuilding even more detailed? Maybe. But I’m guessing that we will see even more of Lashai in the sequel. The characters are interesting, although a bit cliche with Cassai with her mysterious past and Elian with his secrets. The connection between them is a nice touch, although a bit cheesy as well… And some of the reactions and actions of the main characters could get annoying. I did like the inclusion of different fantasy characters like werewolves and fae. They add a little extra to the plot and I’m hoping to see more of at least the fae in the sequel. I did have some problems with the frequent POV switches though, because that made it a lot more difficult to connect to the different characters. But in general this was a highly entertaining and enjoyable first book of what looks to be a promising series.

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Cassai grew up on a small farm hidden away from the rest of the world… Until one day she is no longer safe there. It looks like the people closest to her have been hiding things from Cassai, secrets that will change her life forever… If she can make it out alive. Because Lashai isn’t as it used to be under the Namarielle, and not following every order is very dangerous indeed. Especially with a history like she has, even if Cassai can’t really remember who she really is…

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The Namarielle is a very entertaining and interesting first book of a new YA fantasy series. I really liked the worldbuilding and potential of Lashai, although I would have liked to learn even more about the world… But I’m hoping the sequel will give us more details. The characters are interesting enough, even though there are quite a few cliches, and I liked the special connection of Cassai. The constant POV switches did make it harder to connect to the main characters though. But all in all it was still a solid read.


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ARC REVIEW: To Die In Vienna – by Kevin Wignall

Title: To Die In Vienna
Author: Kevin Wignall
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Spy
First published: June 14th 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: May 31st 2018
Pages: 270

“One can learn more on the way to an inevitable defeat than from a fortuitous victory.”

*** 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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!! Happy Publication Day !!

Fun fact: I was actually visiting the city of Vienna when I was browsing Netgalley and saw this title, and of course I had to request a copy and see if I would recognize any of the sights. It wasn’t until after our trip I was able to pick it up, but that made being able to revisit the city all the better. To Die In Vienna is, as the title already might suggest, a fast-paced and suspenseful story of an ex-spy trying to keep alive while others are closing in with the mission to kill him. Another fun fact: this book will soon be a major motion picture starring Jake Gyllenhaal! And I can see why this story would work very well on screen, because there is a lot of action involved and it includes a conspiracy, a damaged but apparently skillful hero and a lot of twists and different directions that will keep a viewer on edge. The book is highly entertaining to read as well, although I do have my doubts about the credibility of certain aspects. Especially regarding the main character and what happens to him, since it doesn’t seem to fit in with his background. I was still able to enjoy To Die In Vienna though and it was great to see a few of the popular sights in Vienna mentioned. The story reads superfast and I’m sure any fan of the spy thriller genre will have a great time reading this one. The ending was a bit too abrupt and felt a bit too ‘neat’, but I’m sure in the movie people will eat it up. All in all an entertaining and action-packed thriller with an international setting.

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Freddie Makin has been on a job watching Jiang Cheng during the last year, and honestly I doesn’t understand why he is even watching the academic with such an ordinary life. But a job is a job, and he has never asked or cared about the details before. That is, until the day someone is sent to kill him and Cheng disappears… Freddie is now on the run, and wondering what it is he saw that made his contractor want to kill him. Surely it was something incriminating, but what? And who is behind it? Freddie is forced to go into hiding as he tries to figure out the who, what and how before it’s too late and he has to pay with his life…

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If you are looking for a fast-paced, entertaining and engaging spy thriller that is easy to read and will give you a healthy dose of action, To Die In Vienna is an excellent choice. Some little credibility doubts and kind of abrupt ending aside, this spy thriller delivers a very entertaining story where you follow the main character as he tries to both escape the killers and figure out why they want him dead in the first place. Look out for the movie as well! I’m having a feeling both will appeal to spy thriller fans.


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ARC REVIEW: The Date – by Louise Jensen @bookouture @Fab_fiction

Title: The Date
Author: Louise Jensen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 21st 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 3rd 2018
Pages: 315

“It’s far easier to deal with the black and white rather than the shades of grey lurking in the darkest depths of our minds.”

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

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I have been staring at this review for a week now and I still can’t get something proper on paper that isn’t the phrase: ‘just read the damn book‘. Because frankly, The Date left me speechless and blew me away and I’m still not sure how to properly turn this love into a coherent review. Time is ticking away though, so here is me giving a try anyway. First of all let me start with the basics. The fact is that Louise Jensen is one of my favorite thriller authors and of course I had very high expectations about her newest title The Date. I had no doubt this was going to be another excellent read, but what I didn’t expect was to get my socks knocked off and find a new absolute favorite. Holy cow, what a read! I literally dropped everything I was supposed to be doing after reading the first few pages and couldn’t put it down until I reached the very end. Not only is the writing sublime, but the suspense is spot on and I’m always a sucker for the amnesia element. Especially in this case, where the main character is unable to recognize faces (prosopagnosia) after trauma, which is something I had never came across before and is truly fascinating. This element plays a key role in the development of the plot and plot twists and without doubt adds a lot of suspense and intrigue to the story. But The Date doesn’t bet on one horse and an intricate web of twists, little hints and unlikeable discoveries is cast over the plot in a way that will have you fully absorbed. You can guess all you want about the ending and maybe even get one or two little facts right, but you will never be able to guess the full truth early on. The Date is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read this year and without doubt a new all time favorite!

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Alison Taylor’s Saturday night started out normal enough. She has recently separated from her husband, and her friends have convinced her to go on a date with a man she met online. While nervous, she is excited to be taking this step towards a possible new future… But what she doesn’t know, is that her life is about to change forever. Because when she wakes up the next day, she is home alone, hurt and has no memory of what happened to her. Even worse, when she looks in the mirror, she doesn’t recognize her own face… And as turns out, she doesn’t recognize the faces of her friends and family either, along with the face of the person who is trying to destroy her in the first place.

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Bring out the superlatives and invite them to this review party, because I’ll need a lot of them to describe my feelings about The Date. I read a lot of thrillers, but this story was simply something else. The Date ticked all the right boxes for me and more, and I literally dropped everything to read this psychological thriller. Fascinating, highly addictive and utterly absorbing! If you are a fan of the genre, you simply MUST try this one. Trust me, you won’t regret it.


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ARC REVIEW: What Happened That Night – by Sandra Block @sourcebooks

Title: What Happened That Night
Author: Sandra Block
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 5th 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: June 5th 2018
Pages: 352

“I read until my eyes go blurry. Then I flick off the light and slide my hand under the pillow to cradle my Beretta. My own little teddy bear.”

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

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As soon as I saw the cover, I just knew I had to read this thriller. And it turns out my coverlove instinct was absolutely right. Dark, gritty, painful and strong… What Happened That Night is without doubt a story that will crawl under your skin, unsettle you and leave you with an uncomfortable but satisfied feeling after you finish it. Why? Let’s just say that there are a lot of trigger warnings in place for the more sensitive readers, including for rape, violence, suicide and graphic scenes in general. If you can stomach those elements, you will find yourself a very interesting thriller in What Happened That Night. The writing style is engaging and I liked the diversity of the main characters and their development. Dahlia is a very strong character with a lot of problems, but I like her style. James is also a favorite, and I appreciate that his Asperger’s syndrome plays a role throughout the story. The dynamics between Dahlia and James are interesting as well and is part of the reason this book works. That said, I did have my doubts about the credibility of it all, especially involving the revenge plan  Dahlia and James have developed. I seriously doubt they would be able to get away with all that… And I saw credibility holes in the plot as well. More importantly, I was also able to guess one or two mayor plot twists early on even though I kept hoping I was wrong. That might just be me reading a lot of thrillers in the first place though. Because there is no doubt What Happened That Night is a superfast, dark and twisted thriller that will chill you to the bone.

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Dahlia used to be a successful Harvard student on her way to becoming a lawyer, but that all changed one horrible night. She wakes up after a party after having been brutally assaulted. The worst part: she doesn’t seem to remember anything from that night, just that her life will never be the same. Years later, she still suffers from PTSD and hasn’t properly been able to deal with that night… Until one day, a video turns up online and Dahlia sees for the first night what really happened during the attack. And now she knows who to blame, she is out for her revenge…

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What Happened That Night isn’t any easy read and trigger warnings are in place, but if you like your thrillers dark and gritty you will be in for a treat. This story has an original ring to it, both because of the selection of characters and the plot itself. True, I had my doubts about the credibility and I was able to guess one or two key plot twists, but that doesn’t take away this is still a pretty darn good and twisted thriller.


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