ARC REVIEW: River Bodies – by Karen Katchur

Title: River Bodies
(Northampton County #1)
Author: Karen Katchur
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 1st 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: November 4th 2018
Pages: 302

“Sometimes it wasn’t what the person said but rather what they didn’t that told you more than their words ever could.”

*** 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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There was just something about that cover, title and blurb that immediately caught my attention and made me want to find out more about the story. River Bodies has that appeal to inner crime thriller fan in me, and I have been looking forward to it. What I didn’t expect was to have such mixed feelings about River Bodies in the end… I’ll try to explain why, although partly I still can’t exactly put my finger on the why. First of all I have to point out my feelings had nothing to do with the writing style, which was engaging and easy to read. It was rather the pace of the story that was a tad slow for me, and made it harder to stay invested in the story. That and the fact I wasn’t expecting to have so much focus on the characters and their relationships instead of a more developed investigation of past and present crimes. And I definitely didn’t sign up for the love triangle, or the having to deal with multiple cheating main characters, something I absolutely loathe. I guess this was part of the reason the story went south for me. There were also some plot holes and inconsistencies I couldn’t help wondering about. How come that if Becca is literally living on the other side of the river and only fifteen minutes away, nobody recognizes her in the place she grew up? Nobody ever crossed the bridge and saw her on the other side she lived now, especially since she’s a vet and all? Not really credible. Also, her not having seen her best friend Parker during all that time, him being a cop and surely moving around while on duty, is not credible at all either. The murder mysteries themselves are interesting and I didn’t mind the flashbacks, but I would have liked to see those elements related to the murders more developed instead of having to deal with relationship troubles. River Bodies is more of a mix between contemporary romance and a character-driven mystery than the proper crime thriller I was expecting, and unfortunately that mix didn’t hit the mark for me. I’m sure the right person would enjoy River Bodies a lot better than I did though.

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When a body turns up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania, newly detective Parker Reed cannot help but see the similarities to a twenty-year-old cold case. That crime was hushed up and never solved, but Parker is determined to connect the two murders and find the killer. Then former best friend Becca Kingsley suddenly returns to Portland to be with her dying father and former police chief. Coming home has brought back memories that were deeply buried, memories Becca isn’t sure whether it would be better and safer to keep buried. Especially since they might be related to the murders…

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I was looking forward to River Bodies, but sadly it didn’t completely hit the mark for me. Part of the problem was probably that I was expecting a crime thriller, where River Bodies has more focus on the characters and their relationships rather than the actual crimes committed and the consequent investigation. Having to deal with multiple cheating characters and a love triangle came as a very unpleasant surprise for me, and definitely influenced my reading experience negatively. The crimes themselves and the investigation weren’t as important in River Bodies, something that surprised me. Fans of slower paced and character-driven mysteries with a dose of romance will undoubtly enjoy River Bodies a lot better. Just be warned there might be some graphic scenes involved.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #59 – The Giver & The Giving Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two ‘giving’ stories and two modern classics… The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I probably would have enjoyed these better if I would have read them a long time ago, because at this point they didn’t make the impact I thought they would.


Title: The Giver
(The Giver #1)
Author: Lois Lowry

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: April 26th 1993
Publisher: Ember
Finished reading: October 28th 2018 
Pages: 208

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead… First of all, I have to say that I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot better if I would have read it 15-20 year ago. I have been meaning to read this so-called modern classic for years, and I think the story itself has a bigger impact on younger readers than adults. That said, the worldbuilding and story of The Giver reminded me a bit of Brave New World with a new twist. It was quite an interesting take on a dystopian world, where everything is controlled in such a way everything seems the same. This contrast with Jonas and his experiences once he starts training as a Receiver on its own is fascinating. Especially as he starts discovering more about his world and his eyes are truly opened… But somehow, I wasn’t able to enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would. This is probably just me and not the story, especially since this modern classic is so loved. I’m glad I did finally read The Giver though, as I finally know exactly what the story is all about.


Title: The Giving Tree
Author: Shel Silverstein

Genre: Children, Picture Book, Fiction
First published: October 7th 1964
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 30th 2018
Pages: 64

“… and she loved a boy very, very much– even more than she loved herself.”


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I have been meaning to read this picture book classic for ages now… When I came across my copy the other day I picked it up on a whim. I can see the appeal of The Giving Tree, where the tree is like a mother to the little boy, and the writing style is spot on and really flows. BUT. I did have my doubts about the message behind this story. Why? Well, the tree isn’t exactly treated with respect and only gives and gives and gives without ever receiving much in return… Not exactly a healthy relationship I would want to show to my kids. Especially since this message is never questioned and even when the little boy grows up to be old the relationship still doesn’t feel equal. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it still made me feel slightly uncomfortable as children tend to soak up everything like a sponge.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #47 – Hero At The Fall & Half Bad

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Sadly this time around books which had beautiful covers, but the content didn’t match the outside. A first and last in a series as well… Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton was one of my most anticipated releases, but it was nowhere near as good as the first two books. Half Bad by Sally Green I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, but unfortunately mostly turned out to be a disappointment.


Title: Hero At The Fall
(Rebel Of The Sands #3)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: November 15th 2017
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Finished reading: September 11th 2018
Pages: 482

“I’d forgotten how powerful a story could be.”


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This was one of my most anticipated releases, as I loved the first two books and was dying to find out how things would end. It might have been that it has been eighteen months since I read the first two books and didn’t remember all the details, but the fact is that I can’t say I actually enjoyed Hero At The Fall. Trust me, I’m still shocked by this reaction myself. While I admire the author for not being afraid to kill off characters George R.R. Martin style, I do feel that some of the deaths were unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the plot other than yet another character to mourn. The plot and pace itself were rather slow, making it harder to keep myself invested into the story and it took longer than expected to reach that final page. Instead of being fully absorbed in the story like in the first two books, I had a hard time connecting to both the characters and the events in Hero At The Fall. Part of this feeling has to do with the negative attitude both seen in Amani and the story as a whole. The ‘hopeless’ situation, failing all the time and then that ending… It just didn’t do it for me. The fact that Amani really annoyed me with her whole ‘I’m not worthy’, ‘why should anyone listen to me’ and ‘I can’t do this’ attitude didn’t really help either. All in all not the firework ending of a series that started out as a favorite for me. Such a shame the series has to end this way…


Title: Half Bad
(The Half Bad Trilogy #1)
Author: Sally Green

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: September 14th 2018
Pages: 380

“The trick is not to mind.
Not to mind about it hurting.
Not to mind about anything.”


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I’ve had this series on my TBR for a long time, but somehow I never actually picked up my copy. Things changed when I was able to get beautiful physical copies of the first two books in Dutch during our Europe trip, and when I needed a foiled book for the readathon I grabbed my chance to finally start this series. I’ve heard mixed things about it over the years, and I can understand why now. I initially started reading Half Bad in Dutch, wanting to savour seeing that cover waiting for me near my reading chair. I have to say, I struggled a lot. First I thought it was the language, but I decided to switch to my English kindle version halfway through and I can confirm it wasn’t. There is just something about the writing style in Half Bad that really got on my nerves. There are a lot of short and halted sentences I just couldn’t grow used to, although I admit the writing style as a whole sadly just didn’t work for me. I struggled to keep reading as some parts of the story dragged, and I have to say that for a story this promising the plot kind of lacked action and more filling out in general. And then I’m not even talking about the main character, who is very very hard to like. I like the idea behind this book, the fact that there are two kinds of witches and the main character being mixed turns him into an outcast. The worldbuilding itself has potential as well, but lacked fleshing out for me. The whole star-crossed lovers angle bothered me as well… And unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy my experience with Half Bad. Which is a bummer, because I have a physical copy of the sequel as well… Oh well, at least they look pretty on my shelves.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #46 – The Chaos Of Stars & Bang

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads belonging to different genres. The first is The Chaos Of Stars by Kiersten White, which has an absolutely gorgeous cover but had an absolutely horrible main character who ruined the story for me. The second is Bang by Barry Lyga, a book I’ve been looking forward to since Jasper Dent is one of my absolute favorites, but sadly the story didn’t convince me.


Title: The Chaos Of Stars
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 10th 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: September 5th 2018
Pages: 277

“It’s all a matter of perspective. And maybe we thought we were living one story, when if we look at it a little different, we can reframe everything – all out memories and attributes and experiences – and see that we’re actually living a different story.”


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Let’s face it: The Chaos Of Stars has a drop dead gorgeous cover that makes you want to get a copy instantly. Add the promise of Egyptian mythology included in the plot, and I was instantly sold. I didn’t understand why this book was getting such low ratings on Goodreads, especially since I loved her first two The Conqueror’s Saga books… But let’s just say I found out exactly why not long after I started reading The Chaos Of Stars. It doesn’t happen often that I have such an instant dislike of a character, but Isadora pretty much does the trick. What a whiny, annoying, self-centered, arrogant and disrespectful brat! Basically, she managed to enrage me on every single page, and I had to work hard on my breathing techniques to prevent myself from throwing my kindle against the wall. And no, sadly I’m not exaggerating here. An example? She whines constantly about the fact that she is not immortal, that nobody loves her, that she should be in the center of attention, that other people are less than her… Should I go on, or do you get the idea? Multiply this a couple of times, add a case of insta-love and a couple of other YA cliches and you have the gist of what happens in The Chaos Of Stars. I was hoping to have a lot of Egyptian mythology here, but it was mostly pushed into the background to favor Isadora and her ‘problems’. At least the chapters started with a reference to the mythology, and I liked that some of the characters actually were old Gods. But overall this book sadly was a huge disappointment.


Title: Bang
Author: Barry Lyga

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 18th 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: September 8th 2018
Pages: 304

“Some things are private. And they should stay that way and they get to stay that way.”


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I have been meaning to pick up another of Barry Lyga‘s books for ages. The Jasper Dent series is one of my absolute favorites and I had high hopes for Bang, but sadly it wasn’t as good as I hoped. This by no means had to do with the topic itself, which is really important and I appreciate the author shining a light on what is still considered a taboo. The question of having guns laying around with (small) children involved should never be ignored, as it can have devastating consequences. Likewise, depression and suicide should not be taking lightly either. That said, I felt that there was not enough focus on these two elements in Bang, the story instead concentrating on the whole pizza baking idea and contemporary romance scenes in general. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, since I’m a huge foodie myself, but the story fell rather flat for me. While there are some interesting elements, there was nothing that really stood out for me in Bang, with the topics that are most interesting and heartbreaking being pushed into the background. The writing is solid and some of the pizza recipes were mouthwatering good, but overall Bang wasn’t what I hoped it would be.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #43 – Claw The System (ARC) & The Lying King (ARC)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around shorties of two short reads and ARCs. The first, Claw The System, is a poetry bundle full of cat photos and funny cat poems and phrases. The Lying King is actually one of the first picture books I’ve read this year, but sadly didn’t reach its potential.


Title: Claw The System
Author: Francesco Marciuliano

Genre: Poetry, Humor
First published: October 16th 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: August 31st 2018
Pages: 112

“People keep pointing at us

Whenever something has gone wrong

Saying, “He’s to blame!”

“She’s to blame!”

“They’re the ones who ruined our place!”

But really

Who keeps buying nothing but wicker furniture

And not a single scratching post?”

*** 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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As a so-called crazy catlady and the proud owner of two cats, I was immediately intrigued by this title. The blurb sounded like my kind of humor as well, so I was sold. Claw The System is a title that will speak to any cat lover in general and will show many situations cat owners can relate to. Poems From The Cat Uprising is divided in parts, each related to a different step of the ‘uprising’. There are many many cat photos to enjoy, most of them related to the text or poems, some funny and others simply beautiful. I would have liked to see more ‘cat’ perspective in the poems, but I still had a blast reading this title. There are definitely a few very funny moments included in Claw The System, a dry and sarcastic kind of humor I personally really appreciate. If you are looking for a book to make you feel better, a bunch of cat photos to look at or are simply curious about what might go on in your cat’s mind: Claw The System is without doubt a very entertaining choice.


Title: The Lying King
Author: Alex Beard

Genre: Children, Picture Books
First published: September 4th 2018
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Finished reading: August 31st 2018
Pages: 54

“And while such behavior was

thought of quite badly,

what could be done more

than think on it sadly?”

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


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One of my goals this year has been to try and read more children and MG reads, and this picture book somehow managed to grab my attention when I first saw it. Between the clever title and the blurb I was fully intrigued by The Lying King, and I have been looking forward to pick it up. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite the reading experience I was expecting. While I like the simplicity of the cover, I don’t think the same style works as well for the picture book itself. I personally found the illustrations too simple and bare; there is a lot of white on some of the pages and I don’t think it will be all that attractive for children. As for the story: the idea behind The Lying King is clever and it has a strong moral message. As you might have guessed, the message is that lying is wrong and lies will only come back to haunt you… As shown in the case of the lying warthog king. Still, I don’t think that children will actually be able to pick up on that message from reading this story. I felt that it was told in a too ‘adult’ way to be able to actually work as a way to teach children not to lie. All in all sadly this picture book didn’t reach its potential for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #42 – Leah On The Offbeat & The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two authors I’ve read books of before that belong to my all time favorites… Although this time around they didn’t manage to get the highest rating. Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli was definitely the fluffy and feel good read I was looking for. I still prefer Simon, but this one was very entertaining as well. And Jonas Jonasson‘s books seem to be hit and miss for me… I absolutely loved The Hundred Year Old Man, but both other reads (including The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden) didn’t hit the mark for me.


Title: Leah On The Offbeat
(Creekwood #2)
Author: Becky Albertalli

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 24th 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: August 27th 2018
Pages: 364

“I hate when assholes have talent. I want to live in a world where good people rule at everything and shitty people suck at everything.”


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Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is definitely one of my all time favorite reads, and as soon as I heard there was going to be a sequel I was jumping up and down out of excitement. Then I started thinking: but how could a sequel ever live up to the first book? Of course there was no way I could keep myself from spending more time with some of my favorite characters though, so I knew I had to pick up Leah On The Offbeat at some point. I’ve heard mixed things about this title ever since it was published, but this didn’t stop me from being curious and wanting to give it a go myself. And while I don’t think it is as good as the original, it does have a love triangle and the main character Leah can get annoying, I do love the diversity in this story. And basically it’s cute, it’s fluffy, it’s lgbt, it has interesting characters and I had a great time reading it. Becky Albertalli is an expert in creating quirky, interesting and well developed contemporary characters and it is exactly those characters that take this story to the next level. Plus, we get a whole lot of Simon and his gang as well! Would I have preferred not having the love triangles? Probably. Could I have done without some of the drama and cliches? Maybe. Did Leah started to get on my nerves at points? Likely. But that doesn’t take away that Leah On The Offbeat was just the cute contemporary read I needed where diversity, quirkiness and uniqueness are not only encouraged but also praised.


Title: The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden
Author: Jonas Jonasson

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: 2013
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Finished reading: August 29th 2018
Pages: 419
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Analfabeten som kunde räkna’)

“He was being all normal again. He was practically apologizing for existing. Which was, of course, rather contradictory if he didn’t exist”


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I read The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared back in 2015 and it ended up being on my list of all time favorites ever since. It’s true that Jonas Jonasson‘s dry and sometimes sarcastic humor and writing style in general isn’t for everyone, but if it’s your style you will be blown away by it. I’ve been looking for a repeat experience ever since, but sadly I haven’t been able to. Hitman Anders was a total miss for me, although I still had hope for The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden. I tried keeping my expectations low, but still I wasn’t charmed by this one either. Let’s begin with the positive. I do like his writing style and there are definitely some funny moments there. I like how the author incorporated many politically and socially important historical events in his book as a background for the main characters. Nombeko’s history is fascinating and shines a light on the complicated past of South Africa, although it’s not the main goal of the story. The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden has a dual POV structure, where we follow not only Nombeko in South Africa, but also the Swedish Ingmar and later his sons Holger and Holger. I personally wasn’t a fan of the Swedish POV especially in the first half of the book, although I did grow to like Holger Two. Things also improved in the second half as the different storylines merged and the story started to flow better. Still, it was hard to connect to some of the characters and the story did drag considerably at points. It was nice to see how everything did fit together and how small their worlds ended up being, although I don’t think it was exactly credible. I don’t think the story was ment that way in the first time, but it wasn’t the laugh-out-loud funny story I was expecting either. Oh well, maybe the new The Hundred-Year-Old Man sequel will manage to finally blow my socks off again?


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YVO’S SHORTIES #40 – Uprooted & The Shadow Cats

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two YA Fantasy reads that didn’t really convince me in the end… The first Uprooted, started out excellent but more and more things started to disappoint me. The second, The Shadow Cats, was short and the writing was solid, but the characters mostly let me down.


Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Del Rey
Finished reading: August 19th 2018
Pages: 465

“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”


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I’ve been wanting to read Uprooted for years, but it was one of those titles that somehow escaped the top of my TBR pile every time and I kept posponing it. But no longer… I finally picked up my copy of Uprooted thinking it was going to be a dragon story, but I definitely didn’t remember the facts right. This isn’t a story about the mythical dragon, although there are other creatures involved. Was this a disappointment? Maybe, because I do love my dragon stories, but between the writing style, interesting worldbuilding and magic it was easy to forget all about that. Initially, I really enjoyed this story and I was positive it would receive a really high rating. The writing style is just wonderful, the worldbuilding is intriguing, I loved the many references to the Polish culture and Agnieszka’s character has an interesting background. I liked seeing the magic evolve and even tolerated the Dragon. But why o why does this story have to be destroyed by unnecessary and disturbing romance?!?! Seriously, I don’t understand the why of the introduction of this element, especially since it’s abrupt and doesn’t really make sense. Also, there was one x-rated scene that I found really unfit for a YA book. The romance alone made me lower the rating considerably, but that wasn’t the only thing that bothered me. The pace was quite slow at points, making the story drag. Especially when Agnieszka is in the capital… And her character in general, with the repeated descriptions of her clumsiness and ragged appearance, really started to get on my nerves. Still, with the wonderful writing and the interesting worldbuilding, I’m glad I had the chance to get to know this story.


Title: The Shadow Cats
(Fire And Thorns #0.5)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 17th 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: August 20th 2018
Pages: 54

“It’s a beautiful weed,” Elisa answers. “And the perfect flower for you to carry, for it is like the people of Khelia, strong and unstoppable, capable of blooming and thriving where nothing else can grow.”


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I really enjoyed the first book despite a few little problems I encountered back in 2015, but somehow I never picked up the sequels. I was going to read book two originally, but then remembered I had a copy of the novellas as well, so I decided to read those first. The Shadow Cats is actually a prequel to the first book and focuses more on Elisa’s older sister Alodia. I never really liked her, but if possible she comes over as even worse in this novella. Arrogant, aloof and speaking horribly about her sister… Yes, there isn’t a lot to love about her. And what about her running off alone?? Elisa was quite annoying as well, with her answer to everything being she needs to pray more. I did really like Lupita’s character though. The writing is solid as well and I loved the use of many Spanish words, both in names and other descriptions. Very creative!


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