BOOK REVIEW: The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley – by Shaun David Hutchinson

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Title: The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 20th 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: February 14th 2017
Pages: 297
Rating 3,5qqq

“I realize that adults are just as fucked as the rest of us. No one really grows up. No one unravels all of life’s many mysteries. They just grow up older and become better liars.”

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The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley has been on my TBR pile for a while now, and recently my TBR jar thought it would be about time to finally pick it up. I still posponed it for way too long, but I’m glad I finally gave it a go in the end. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up this novel by Shaun David Hutchinson, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. True, some of the story was a bit too weird to my taste, but in general I enjoyed reading it. The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley is part graphic novel, part GLBT contemporary romance and part magical realism (which includes all the weird parts). I don’t mind a touch of surrealism, but the whole Death thing and even the main character Andrew himself made me raise my eyebrows more than once. I also had some difficulties with the credibility of part of the plot. I mean, how on earth is Andrew to be able spend so much time at the hospital without raising suspicions? And what about the total disregard of protocol and protection of the seriously ill characters/friends when Andrew banters into their rooms and even takes some out of the ward? Health risk much? That said, I can’t deny it’s an entertaining and original read and I really liked the graphic novel bits with patient F.

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Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night his parents and sister passed away. But he survived, and he now lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, is friends with the nurses and sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Nobody knows who he really is and I tries to hide his past from everyone. Because if Death finds him, she will take him too. Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, a teenager with half of his body burned by hateful classmates. Andrew feels a strange connection to Rusty, and decides he needs to protect him from Death. Because Death is always looking for her next victim, and Andrew refuses to lose Rusty too.

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I like that The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley is actually a mix of different genres that work quite well together. The surreal elements were a bit too weird to my taste, but there is no denying they were original. The contemporary romance bit can be a bit cheesy at points, but I liked the dynamics between the main characters in general. I’m still wondering about the title though, because the supposedly ‘five stages’ weren’t mentioned anywhere… The graphic novel bits were definitely a highlight though and I liked how the pages were incorporated into the rest of the story. All in all a very interesting read!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here – by Patrick Ness

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Title: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 27th 2015
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: February 4th 2017
Pages: 343
Rating 3,5qqq

“Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.”

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I’ve been wanting to pick up another Patrick Ness novel ever since I finished The Knife Of Never Letting Go, but somehow it took me 18 months to finally do so. I’ve heard a lot of people say The Rest Of Us Just Live Here isn’t his strongest work, and now I’ve read it I probably agree. But hey, he sure sets the quality bar to an Olympic high with his other books! I was really looking forward to this one and maybe my own expectations were simply too high, but I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I would be. But like I said: he might just be a victim of his own success… The Rest Of Us Just Live Here wasn’t a bad story and I enjoyed reading the prose as always. I do have to say I struggled with the chapter introductions in the beginning (mostly because I couldn’t connect them to the actual chapters), but that might just be explained by the fact I wasn’t in the mood for fantasy. This story is kind of a contemporary/paranormal/urban fantasy story and I liked the mix of reality and fictional elements. It was interesting to read about the group of friends trying to live their lives as crazy stuff was happening around them; that’s probably the true charm of this story. It did take me a lot longer than expected to finish it though…

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Weird, dangerous things are happening, but that doesn’t mean the group of friends have to do anything about it. That’s up to the Chosen Ones. The ones that are supposed are fight zombies, soul-eating ghosts, bloodsucking vampires or whatever new is happening at the moment. But somehow the group of friends end up getting involved in the newest situation anyway. What are those blue lights exactly? And are they in danger?

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No, this book is by no means a bad read. I’ve just been spoiled by the Chaos Walking series, that’s all. It took me a while to warm up to The Rest Of Us Just Live Here and its characters, and that might just be the reason it took me longer than planned to finish reading it as well. The relation between the chapter introductions and the rest of the story was a bit confusing at the beginning… I think I might reread the introductions alone some day to see if I enjoy them better as a ‘separate novella’. All in all this one might just be the best book to start with if you haven’t read Patrick Ness‘ books yet; that way things will only get better!


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ARC REVIEW: No Excuses Detox – by Megan Gilmore

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Title: No Excuses Detox
Author: Megan Gilmore

Genre: Non Fiction, Cookbooks, Health
First published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Finished reading: November 4th 2016
Pages: 208
Rating 3,5qqq

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

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I actually read this cookbook by Megan Gilmore last November as part of the promise to myself to start eating healthier, but I haven’t published my review before since No Excuses Detox is actually going to be published recently next month. The cover and promise of quick, affordable and delicious food recipes that will make it easy to follow a healthy lifestyle every day had me sold straight away. This cookbook focuses on showing everyone that it is doable to start changing your eating habits and that there are literally ‘no excuses’ to be posponing the change. No Excuses Detox talks about the most common excuses and shows a wide variety of recipes that will please even the most complicated eater. I do admit I wasn’t convinced by everything that was talked about in the introduction and I think some of the points were a bit too complicated to be called simply ‘no excuses’. That said, the recipes are without doubt excellent and I liked that the author showed just how cheap a healthy meal can be. I have quite a few marked and I will be looking forward to try out more.

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In this cookbook, the author presents a collection of 100 recipes that are both quick to prepare, affordable, delicious and family-friendly. These recipes will make it easy to follow a healthy lifestyle every day and convince even the most complicated eater. Recipes for traditional comfort food favorites have been altered to make them both healthy and still taste as good as their counterparts. It also gives answers to all most common excuses for posponing a change, and shows that being ‘too busy’, ‘healthy food is expensive’ and ‘healthy food probably won’t taste good’ are no excused to stick to a healthy diet.

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I always enjoy browsing cookbooks for more healthy recipes, and No Excuses Detox was without doubt a little goldmine. I don’t agree with everything that is said in the introduction about the common excuses, but I did enjoy the different recipe chapters. From budget and family-friendly recipes to variations of your favorite comfort food; if you are looking for a book that might help you start eating healthier, this one is worth the try.


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ARC REVIEW: Stake-out – by Lily Luchesi

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Title: Stake-out
(Paranormal Detectives #1)
Author: Lily Luchesi

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
First published: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Vamptasy Publishing
Finished reading: January 25th 2017
Pages: 128
Rating 3,5qqq

“Who would’ve guessed that, in this world, there were vampires, werewolves and specters lurking around every corner; that evil witches who lived for centuries were being burned to to death a few miles away?”

*** 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 confess I’m normally not a fan of vampire stories and tend to stay away from them, especially since I seem to dislike about 99% of them. But when I was approached with the question if I wanted to read the Paranormal Detectives series, something about the description caught my attention and I decided to give it a go. And even though I’m normally allergic to fanged characters, I enjoyed Stake-out a lot better than I thought I would. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the vampire element didn’t seem to bother me, which can probably explained by the fact that the vampires are properly scary without all the ‘sparkling’ and cheesiness. I found Stake-out quite a refreshing story and I liked that it had other supernatural creatures; the vampire/creature hunting is a very interesting angle as well. The story was both easy and entertaining to read, although I do have to admit the amount of question marks used can get a bit annoying. The plot and characters make up for it though, and I loved the flashbacks/past life subplot. If you like a good paranormal fantasy story that isn’t fluffy or overly romantic, Stake-out is without doubt a great choice. I will be reading and reviewing both sequels soon!

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When Detective Danny Mancini finds out the murder suspect he is following is actually a 200 year old rogue vampire, nobody actually believes him. The department put him on early retirement despite his many years of service, and things are getting worse from there. Then, two years later, the beautiful Detective Angelica Cross shows up at his doorstep and offers him to join a secret branch of the FBI. She wants him to track down Vincent, the vampire that ended is career two years ago. But Danny’s new life will need some time getting used to…

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Stake-out isn’t just another vampire story. Sure, vampires play a big role, but the plot is more about hunting supernatural creatures and following the main character Danny as he slowly comes to terms with his new world working for the secret branch of the FBI. I especially enjoyed the flashbacks and past life elements and I will be looking forward to find out how the story continues.


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ARC REVIEW: Those Who Lie – by Diane Jeffrey

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Title: Those Who Lie
Author: Diane Jeffrey

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: January 27th 2017
Publisher: HarperCollinsUK
Finished reading: January 17th 2017
Pages: ?
Rating 3,5qqq

“Everything looks the same, but everything has changed, she realises with a jolt. She has the strange impression that she has just stepped into someone else’s life.”

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

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Is it just me or has the whole amnesia angle been quite a popular angle in psychological thrillers lately? I personally don’t mind that much because I find it fascinating to read about, but it does get less original… Luckily in Those Who Lie, amnesia doesn’t actually play as big as a role as I thought initially. Sure, the main character Emily Klein suffers from mild amnesia after the accident and doesn’t remember the details around her husband’s death, but that is only minor compared to her very messed up past and her history with mental illness and eating disorders. Those elements turn her into what is basically the perfect unreliable narrator and an easy victim to anyone who wants to play with her mind. The writing was very enjoyable and the story itself quite intriguing, although I do have to say I kind of already guessed the ending about 60% into the story and it was kind of predictable. The lack of surprise put a minor damper on things, but I still found it enjoyable to find out all the details on both what exactly happened to Emily to made her into the person she is today and what really happened to her husband. If you are looking for an entertaining and fast-paced psychological thriller, Those Who Lie is definitely a great choice.

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When Emily Klein wakes up in the hospital, she doesn’t remember what happened to her or how she ended up in the hospital in the first place. Even worse, she doesn’t even know her husband has died until the day of his funeral… Apparently, the two were in their car and it crashed, but was it really a tragic accident or is there more at play? Emily is trying to piece together the events before his death and get her memory back. But does she really want to remember what is going on? Or are some things better left alone?

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Even though the ending wasn’t exactly a surprise, there were still quite a few plot twists that did manage to do so. And more importantly, the writing style was very enjoyable to read and I was able to finish Those Who Lie in record time due to its fast pace. The main character might not be all that likeable, but she is without doubt intriguing and I liked both her development and learning more about her past. All in all a worthy psychological thriller!


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ARC REVIEW: Americosis Vol. 3 – by Haydn Wilks

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Title: Americosis Vol. 3
Author: Haydn Wilks

Genre: Short Stories, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: September 21st 2016
Publisher: Dead Bird Press
Finished reading: January 6th 2017
Pages: 60
Rating 3,5qqq

“Disuse. Disrepair. Despair. Three words that sum up the country three-and-a-half hundred million Americans are now living in.”

*** 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 read the first two parts of this ongoing short story series by Haydn Wilks some time last year, and in the month in between I had forgotten just how weird and messed up they were. Because there is just no other way to describe Americosis other than call it absolute MADNESS. This third part follows yet again the various different storylines and is literally packed with action and descriptions of this crazy dystopian world. A bunch of different things are happening all at once in this extreme version of the US: a weird sexually transmitted disease taking over, aliens, time travel, violent attacks… The writing is very explicit and direct, and the sheer crazyiness of it all just draws you into the story straight away. The Savior bit of this third volume didn’t feel as strong as the previous two, but maybe it just was because he didn’t feel as present. If you are looking for something different and fullblown crazy dystopian, definitely check the Americosis volumes out. Slight warning: it is an ongoing series and the volumes have no proper ‘ending’, so you will be left wondering what happens next after each volume.

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Things are just getting more and more out of hand… Detroit is currently burning, and crazed buck naked freaks with crescent moon scars carved into their cheeks are everywhere, attacking people and biting whole faces off. The police and government are having a hard time keeing things under control… Is the madness finally winning? And what about the Savior and Libby, currently stuck in a time loop and lost in the desert?

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Americosis is without doubt the most crazy and messed up series I’ve been reading to this date. It is so full of madness and crazy events that the story is starting to grow on you, although I wish each volume wouldn’t stop right in the middle of the action without proper ending. The cliffhangers do help making you wonder just by how much the madness will increase next time… This story isn’t for everyone and you have to be in the mood to absorb such a high dose of crazy, but the right person will fall in love with the Americosis volumes.


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ARC REVIEW: Point Of No Return – by Martha Gellhorn

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Title: Point Of No Return
Author: Martha Gellhorn

Genre: Historical Fiction, War, Romance
First published: 1948 (republished December 20th 2016)
Publisher: Open Road Media 
Finished reading: December 30th 2016
Pages: 332
Rating 3,5qqq

“He had no other life and no other knowledge; he knew that he could not live anywhere now because in his mind, slyly, there was nothing but horror.”

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

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Those who follow my blog are probably already aware of the fact that I enjoy reading historical fiction and have a special interest in stories set during or around WWII. I’m actually quite surprised I hadn’t heard about Point Of No Return before, especially since Martha Gellhorn is considered to be one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century. The story was actually first published in 1948, only a few years after the war ended, and has been republished last month. There is no doubt that Point Of No Return is a powerful read and I admire the author for her courage and what she was able to achieve during her life. The plot itself is intriguing and follows an American Jewish soldier during the war up until his ‘point of no return’. The story is without doubt well written and well researched, although it did read a bit slow and I personally thought there would be more focus on the concentration camps… There was a little too much focus on the romance to my taste, but that might just have been me. The final part also felt a bit rushed, especially since it’s the part I felt would have been most interesting. Still, there is no doubt this is a very solid WWII historical fiction read.

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Jacob Levy grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and is a typical American boy. He doesn’t give his Jewish heritage or the world affairs much thought, but when the United States joins the war in order to stop Hitler, Jacob joins the cause. As a soldier during the last months of WWII, Jacob lives through the Battle of the Bulge and the discovery of Nazi concentration camps. This experiences have a big impact on his life, and witnessing the liberation of Dachau forces him to confront a level of cruelty beyond his own imaginations…

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After reading the blurb of Point Of No Return, I honestly thought the discovery of the concentration camps and its impact would have played a bigger role in the story. It was only mentioned near the end and that part actually felt a bit rushed. Rather than developing this angle, Point Of No Return is about the experiences of an US Jewish soldier and how the war has changed him forever in general. Still a solid enough read, but not as good as I was expecting.