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 Living – by Isaac Marion

Title: The Living
(Warm Bodies #3)
Author: Isaac Marion
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: November 13th 2018
Publisher: Zola Books
Finished reading: November 13th 2018
Pages: 384

“It’s easier to fall than to climb, and yet against all logic, life keeps rising.”

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

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Before I start I have to make a confession and say that I probably would never have decided to read The Living if I would have read The Burning World before requesting a copy of this final book. Why? I was considerably underwhelmed by the sequel, and I had serious problems with the writing style. Still, part of me hoped that this final book of the Warm Bodies series would be an improvement and a satisfying conclusion to R and Julie’s story. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. The Living follows the same structure as the sequel and even intensifies the confusing writing style and structure as the end is coming near. Once again, I felt that the story in general lacks a proper plot and that both plot and characters were mostly all over the place and running into random trouble instead of following a coherent line. As for the writing style: especially the WE chapters were frustratingly confusing and there were too many jumps and switches between past, present and the different characters to make for a coherent story. I can forgive a zombie story not being scary and the humans being the bad guys for once. This is actually quite a refreshing angle. I can forgive the romance, especially since we are spared a love triangle. But between the writing, lack of proper plot and general feeling of confusement I can’t say I had a great time reading The Living, and to be honest I was relieved when I finally reached the final page. I didn’t find the ending particularly satisfying either… All in all not exactly a positive experience unfortunately.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

R used to be a flesh-eating zombie, but now he is breathing again. But what if he was something worse before he turned that first time? He finally remembers his former life, and what he has learned terrifies him. Especially if he things how it will change how Julie sees him… R feels the only way to redemption is to destroy what he once helped create, but how to start such an impossible task? And who will help him achieve that goal?

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I was really hoping The Living would be a more positive reading experience for me, but sadly it was a repeat experience of The Burning World. The whole different stages of zombies and returning to life angle is without doubt refreshing, and the story has some interesting aspects. But between the writing style, lack of plot, confusing POV switches and WE chapters I just couldn’t enjoy this final installment. I was in fact relieved it was finally over, and that is never a good sign. If you are able to connect to the writing style though, you will probably have a significantly better experience.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #62 – The Burning World & Elevation

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories that ended up disappointing me unfortunately. The Warm Bodies sequel The Burning World by Isaac Marion and the ‘impossible to understand why this is horror’ Elevation by Stephen King.


Title: The Burning World
(Warm Bodies #2)
Author: Isaac Marion

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: February 2nd 2017
Publisher: Atria
Finished reading: November 6th 2018 
Pages: 512

“There’s no bigger threat to the world than people who think they can improve it. “


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I confess I actually read the first book so long ago (three years) that I confused my feelings for the first book with another zombie read. Oops? It turns out I wasn’t convinced by the first book Warm Bodies, and sadly this sequel didn’t wow me either. The first thing you have to know before you start the series is that the zombies are not actually scary and they are in fact not the real enemy. That on its own isn’t a real problem, as the idea of having different kind of zombie states is actually quite interesting and original. What I didn’t expect is just how NOT scary either book is. And of course, the romance plays a big role in the story. While I appreciate the idea of a zombie and human being together and all (you can’t deny it’s a slightly disturbing but original idea), it doesn’t lend itself for the most exciting plot. And talking about plots, I found that The Burning World in general lacks a proper plot and that both plot and characters were mostly all over the place and running into random trouble instead of following a coherent line (although things might become clearer in the final book I guess). This wasn’t the only thing I struggled with though, as more importantly I wasn’t a fan of the writing style itself. Especially the WE chapters were frustratingly confusing and there were too many jumps and switches to make for a coherent story. The story was overlong for me with its 500+ pages and I sincerely hope my experience with the final book will be better.


Title: Elevation
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Science Fiction
First published: October 30th 2018
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: November 8th 2018
Pages: 160

“This was the same. Not a wind, not even a high, exactly, but an elevation. A sense that you had gone beyond yourself and could go farther still.”


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I was curious when I saw a new Stephen King was coming out, and I’m sure we can all admit that cover is gorgeous. Even though Elevation is a novella and I don’t read a lot of those, I was really looking forward to reading it. The first thing that stands out for me is that I have no clue whatsoever why this novella is marked as ‘horror’. Contemporary romance with a hint of sci-fi and even a far-fetched urban fantasy… Maybe. But horror? I don’t think anyone would find Elevation scary unless you are afraid of hights or stepping on the scale. That was the first thing that went wrong for me. The second thing had to do with the characters. I know it’s only a novella, but the characters just felt like one big cliche for me and didn’t add anything interesting to the story for me. A big problem, as the story is mostly focused on them. I did like the huge focus on the running, but overall there wasn’t really that much of a plot to talk about. Just a guy losing his pounds until he is closer and closer to zero… Not horror, not thrilling at all, and mostly a cliche contemporary story on how one person’s doom can bring other people together. And mostly just a meh story for me.


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ARC REVIEW: Small Time Crimes – by Paul D. Brazill

Title: Small Time Crimes
Author: Paul D. Brazill
Genre: Short Stories, Thriller, Horror
First published: July 31st 2018
Finished reading: October 29th 2018
Pages: 197

“He’d known that if you pulled on that particular thread hard enough your whole life would unravel, but pull he did.”

*** 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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I was looking forward to this short story bundle, as it sounded like the perfect way to get myself in the Halloween mood. Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be. Part of me thinks I’m the wrong target group for Small Time Crimes, although I normally love my dark humor and I don’t mind violence and graphic scenes. But this was just too much for me. I didn’t like the writing style, most of the stories completely lacked plots or stopped in the middle of a story, some were simply disgusting and unfortunately my overall experience wasn’t a good one. Below lightning speed thoughts (read: rant) and ratings on each short story. Continue reading

YVO’S SHORTIES #55 – Demonglass & Before Her Eyes

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a YA fantasy sequel that was an unpleasant surprise for me and a very satisfying psychological thriller by an author I always seem to enjoy.


Title: Demonglass
(Hex Hall #2)
Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 1st 2011
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: October 17th 2018
Pages: 365

“It sucks that we miss people like that. You think you’ve accepted that someone is out of your life, that you’ve grieved and it’s over, and then bam. One little thing, and you feel like you’ve lost that person all over again.”


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I really enjoyed the first book of the series, so when I was browsing proper Halloween themed books I thought about Demonglass almost immediately. I was fully expecting a repeat experience of Hex Hall, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards. While I had a blast reading the first book, sadly Demonglass suffers from the so-called ‘weak-sequel-syndrome’. Instead of being entertained, I found myself to be mostly frustrated and just wanting to get it over with, not caring about the outcome whatsoever. It’s not the writing, because I still liked it. It’s not the sarcasm, because that kind of humor almost always hits the mark for me. My main problem is with the tremendous overdose of romance and lack of a proper plot. Not only do we have to deal with a very very VERY annoying love triangle, but most of the time we have to suffer through Sophie pining over Archer and other romance-related nonsense. Most of the plot seems to be build around Sophie and her pining… That and love triangle related cringeworthiness. Basically, she’s mostly hiding out in the countryside and nothing much is happening until the end; the plot felt weak compared to the first book. Definitely not the reading experience I was hoping for, and I’m not sure if I want to read the final book after this (although I probably will just so I can cross off another series on my list).


Title: Before Her Eyes
Author: Jack Jordan

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 16th 2018
Publisher: Corvus
Finished reading: October 18th 2018
Pages: 448

“She often thought how much better off society would be if everyone were blind and incapable of making judgements on a person’s appearance.”


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Jack Jordan has done it again! Before Her Eyes is without doubt yet another powerful and dark story. Although not my favorite, the change to a detective thriller was a nice surprise and the writing was just as strong as I’ve become used to. If you are looking for something dark and twisty enough you will get all tangled up in the plot, Before Her Eyes is definitely an excellent choice. I liked how one of the main characters is blind, adding a whole different dimension to the story as our main witness can hear and feel, but not actually see the killer. This kind of ‘twisted’ relationship between the two without doubt added an original touch to the story. Before Her Eyes treats difficult themes as racism, abuse, rape, suicide, animal cruelty and violence, so trigger warnings are in place if you can’t stomach those. Things can get dark and disturbing at points, so make sure to brace yourself for some graphic scenes! Nothing is as it seems and I like how the story was able to mislead me. I always love when that happens! The only reason I didn’t end up giving it the highest rating is because of some of the more prominent characters I just really couldn’t stand. This negative feeling did influence my reading experience slightly. But overall there is no doubt that Before Her Eyes is a disturbing, twisted and misleading detective thriller that I can recommend to anyone who loves reading darker thrillers.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #51 – Norse Mythology & Pretty Little Liars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a hit and a miss… Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman turned out to be just as wonderful as the cover and I had a great time exploring the different Norse myths. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard on the other hand turned out to be a huge disappointment I wish I would have DNFed… Unpopular opinion review ahead!


Title: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Short Stories, Fantasy, Mythology
First published: February 7th 2017
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 304

“The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place, with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.”


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I’m a huge fan of both anything that Neil Gaiman writes and the Vikings TV show, and I’m always interested in mythology stories as well. So basically Norse Mythology is a triple hit, and I knew there was a good chance I was going to enjoy this one. And that is exactly what happened! I didn’t know that many details about the Norse myths apart from the known Odin, Thor, Loki and a few other elements mentioned in the TV show, so it was a fascinating and wonderful ride to learn more about all those characters and stories. Norse Mythology is a collection of short stories, but told in a way that really flows and makes it easy to connect the different characters, myths and happenings. The writing is of course rock solid and of a high quality I’ve come to expect of Neil Gaiman. If you are interested in Norse mythology in particular or simply are looking for a well written and interesting collection of short stories, I can highly recommend this one. Let’s face it, the cover art alone makes you want to own a copy in the first place!


Title: Pretty Little Liars
(Pretty Little Liars #1)
Author: Sara Shepard

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2006
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: September 21st 2018
Pages: 304

“I’m still here, bitches. And I know everything.” -A”


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I have been doubting whether I should read this series for years now… I know it is a popular series and there is even a TV show, but I just got that vibe that this one won’t be for me. I guess I wish I would have listened to those instincts now, because hello unpopular opinion review once again! Oh yes, there is one thing that is for sure: Pretty Little Liars 200% isn’t for me. The only reason I didn’t DNF is that I needed it for a challenge, and didn’t have time to go looking for a different title that fitted the prompt… That bad? Oh yes. Highly annoying and frustratingly obnoxious characters… Check. One high school cliche stacked on top of another high school cliche… Check. Writing I couldn’t connect to and atrocious behavior of the main characters… Check. Plot that didn’t do anything for me at all… Check. Lack of connection to the characters and plot and overall lack of interest in how things would evolve… Check. I did warn you it was going to be another unpopular opinion review! Let’s think what I did like… Probably the fact that Aria lived a while in Iceland and the European references. Although it’s mostly about the booze and how liberal everything is supposed to be, so still a let down. Yeah, Pretty Little Liars and me definitely didn’t get along, but at least it’s one more series to cross off the to-read list.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #48 – City Of Ghosts & All These Things I’ve Done

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two new series I’ve started; one that has become an instant favorite and one that I won’t be continuing. I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab‘s work, so of course I loved her new MG story City Of Ghosts as well. I can’t wait for the next book! And I was hoping All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin would be interesting with the dystopian and mafia angle, but not such luck…


Title: City Of Ghosts
(Cassidy Blake #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Scholastic
Finished reading: September 13th 2018
Pages: 272

“If we were a comic book, this would be our origin story. Some people get a spider bite, or a vat of acid. We got a river.”


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It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of anything that Victoria Schwab writes, so after a few mediocre reads I turned to her books for something good. Just reading about how excited the author herself is about City Of Ghosts made me pospone my scheduled read of The Archived and pick up this new story instead. City Of Ghosts delivers right from the cover until the very last page. I knew I could trust my instincts when I picked up this title, but this first book of a new MG paranormal series has proven once again you cannot go wrong with anything Schwab writes. It was hook, line and sinker when I started reading City Of Ghosts and I had to put all other tasks on hold until I finished reading it. The writing, the characters and their development, the Scottish setting, the ghosts, the plot… There is a lot to love in this story, and Cassidy and Jacob have already found a place in my heart. I loved the story of her parents, the motive behind their travels and how well it works with Cassidy’s own story and development. Reading about the Scottish setting was almost like being there myself seeing all the sights… It was a truly delightful read and I can’t wait what the next episode has in store.


Title: All These Things I’ve Done
(Birthright #1)
Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: September 6th 2011
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Finished reading: September 15th 2018
Pages: 368

“Tragedy is when someone ends up dead. Everything else is just a bump in the road.”


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I’ve had this one on my TBR for a long time, and I have always been intrigued by the dystopian and mafia angle in All These Things I’ve Done. So of course, when I needed a book set in the future, my first thought went out to this story. I really do think this story has a lot of potential, but instead of focusing on the more interesting aspects of the plot, All These Things I’ve Done is mostly just another teenage romantic drama with a few twists. Instead of focusing on the dystopian setting, when chocolate! and coffee! are illegal and resources seem to be limited, or the whole mafia background of Anya’s family, we mostly see the typical high school scenes with star-crossed lovers, food fights and other cliche elements. Definitely not what I thought I had signed up for. To make things worse, the main character Anya is absolutely despicable. Not only is she arrogant and thinks she is better than the rest, there is a lot of slut shaming going on. She constantly looks down on other girls, insults them and then sees herself as a ‘good Catholic girl’ while she is not that innocent herself. I think these views can badly influence or even shame the teenage target group this story was ment for, making sexuality seem as illegal as the chocolate in this story. And I’m definitely not okay with that. The pace was also quite slow at points, and like I said, the few mafia references only left me wanting for more. All in all I can’t say I can recommend All These Things I’ve Done.


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