ARC REVIEW: The Victim – by Max Manning

Title: The Victim
Author: Max Manning
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: June 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“Life is a game of lies, and death is the only truth. Time to play.”

*** 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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There was just something about the cover and its contrast that caught my eye when I first saw it, and as soon as I read the blurb I was sold. There is no doubt that the premise of The Victim is simply fascinating; a story where we follow two alternative storylines based on the decision of the main character Gem to fight or surrender during an attack in the first chapters. This is without doubt an unique concept and one that will also make you wonder what you would do yourself in a similar situation… And you will soon realize that there is a reason you won’t find solid advice on the matter, as there seems to be no clear correct answer as to what you should do as every perp and situation is unique. It was very interesting to see the consequences of both choices for Gem, not only the direct consequences but also how her life was changed afterwards.

Like I said, this concept of having two alternative storylines, one where Gem surrendered and one where Gem decided to fight, definitely makes for an unique read. I do have to say that things can get quite confusing as we not only have to keep apart two different versions of Gem’s story, but also what happens to other characters after her decision to fight or surrender. While at all times it is specified which storyline you are currently reading, it is kind of hard to keep track of which event belongs to what storyline and all that information might be a little too much to juggle at one time. I myself definitely wish I would have thought to take notes when I started reading, because it would have been easier to keep both versions apart that way. As you can imagine, this confusion and difficulty to separate and follow both alternative storylines did take away some of the reading pleasure for me. I can’t say I wasn’t a fan of the main characters either, and Gem started to frustrate me after a while… I did think that the suspect was an interesting character and I enjoyed finding out more about his past and motive. Did I think certain aspects of the plot and especially the ending were not all that credible? Yes. Did I end up having mixed thoughts about The Victim? Also yes. But I can’t deny it’s a very original concept and fans of the thriller genre will most likely find themselves intrigued.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #109 – The Woman In Cabin 10 & Us Against You

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two highly popular books… One which was good, but not mindblowingly good and I ended up having a few issues with it: The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. The other initially started out as another slowburner but was able to get hold of my heart, rip it out and tear it in a million pieces. Fredrik Backman has worked his magic once again with this heartwrenching Beartown sequel Us Against You.


Title: The Woman In Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 30th 2016
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Finished reading: June 22nd 2019
Pages: 384

“Time is very elastic – that’s the first thing you realize in a situation without light, without a clock, without any way of measuring the length of one second over the length of another.”


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One of my goals this year is start making a dent in my mountain of backlist titles, and The Woman In Cabin 10 has been on my TBR for a long long time. This story was the last Ruth Ware title I had pending before her new story will be published later this year… And The Woman In Cabin 10 is probably her most famous story at that. I’m definitely glad I finally got the chance to read it. While it’s not my favorite Ruth Ware (that prize goes to The Death Of Mrs. Westaway), there is no doubt that I enjoyed my time with this story and I was able to finish it in no time at all. The writing probably had a lot to do with that, because the pace wasn’t always that fast… Although the speed picked up considerably after the mayor reveal. I think what made me enjoy The Woman In Cabin 10 was the Agatha Christie like feel of the plot and the whole premise of having a small group of people ‘trapped’ in a small environment and the possibility of something dodgy going on… I have a serious weak spot for those kind of stories. I do have to say that the main character is beyond annoying. Lo Blacklock is one of those spineless and whiny women without a real personality and I didn’t appreciate how her anxiety was used as an excuse for her actions. She didn’t come over as a credible character and her actions were mostly seriously frustrating. Things can be said about the credibility of the plot in general, and I also found the ending to be too abrupt and it left too many questions unanswered. I don’t mind open endings when done right, but in this case I feel it had a negative effect on my thoughts on the story as a whole. I can’t deny I still mostly enjoyed reading The Woman In Cabin 10 though, both due to the writing, the Agatha Christie feel and the travel/Norway element. In short: while it’s true that I had a few issues with certain aspects of the story, overall I still found it to be an entertaining read. Not the best I’ve read, but if you enjoy the genre and don’t set your expectations too high, you will probably enjoy what you find.


Title: Us Against You
(Beartown #2)
Author: Fredrick Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 21st 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: June 25th 2019
Pages: 434

“It’s so easy to think that what we post online is like raising your voice in a living room when it’s actually more like shouting from the rooftops. Our fantasy worlds always have consequences for other people’s realities.”

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I think that most of you will know by now I’m a huge Fredrik Backman fan… I’ve been saving Us Against You as it was the final fiction book I had pending and with no new project on the horizon (that I know of) I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I couldn’t resist any longer though, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. While, like with Beartown, I initially thought it was going to be slowburner for me, things soon improved and this story quickly won over my heart. Then it took hold firmly of that same heart, ripped it out and teared it into a million tiny pieces… I don’t cry often while reading, but this story definitely made my eyes water. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse, rape, alcoholism, LGBT discrimination and violence… Difficult topics, but the author is able to incorporate them realistically and respectfully into the story. As with Beartown, this story has a big cast of characters (mostly the same as in the first book), and it may take a little time to remember where each one stands. Us Against You has multiple POVs and uses them both to give more dept to the story and properly develop the different elements at play. This isn’t just another sports inspired story, and Beartown isn’t just a little town with a big love for the hockey sport. Hockey means so much more for both the Beartown and Hed team, and the sport and rivalry have huge consequences for various characters before you reach the final page. And as you are caring deeply for most characters by the time you reach those plot twists, make sure to have some tissues at hand just to be safe. There is no doubt that Fredrik Backman has done it again! It’s not my absolute favorite story of his, but without doubt an excellent albeit heartbreaking read.


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ARC REVIEW: The Woman In Our House – by Andrew Hart

Title: The Woman In Our House
Author: Andrew Hart
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 18th 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: June 7th 2019
Pages: 352

“That was the real thrill: not the commission, not having clients hitting bestseller lists or coming home from awards shows with little statuettes. It was the electricity of finding magical, compelling words, stories, and ideas, all entrusted to me to put them where they could be seen.”

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

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There was just something about the premise of this story that immediately left me intrigued and with no other option but to add it to my reading pile. It’s true that a potentially dodgy nanny or babysitter doesn’t exactly make for an all that original plot base on its own, but the literary agent angle, the promise of dark secrets involved and the menacing cover were enough to convince me to read The Woman In The House. I’m definitely happy with what I found. While I can’t deny that this story is what you call a slowburner and it took me some time to warm up to both the characters and the plot itself, things speed up as we get closer to the final reveals and the ending is without doubt intense. The Woman In The House has multiple characters and point of views incorporated into the story, which can be a bit confusing in the beginning as it’s kind of difficult to get a proper idea where everybody stands. In fact, the involvement of some of the characters only get explained near the ending, which can get a tad frustrating as you are kept juggling with lose ends and information that doesn’t seem to fit the puzzle. As for the characters themselves… I’m not sure up to what point they are likeable, but I loved the parts with the focus on Anna’s job as a literary agent, her interaction with upcoming author Ben and the novel fragments of his upcoming work. Those elements are very cleverly incorporated!

I did feel the story tried to incorporate too many different elements into the plot, with Oaklynn’s secrets and past, Josh’s secrets, Anna’s job and novel fragments and the home life of the Klein family among other elements fighting for the spotlight. Having to juggle all those different elements slowed down the pace and made it harder to keep track of everything, although all secrets and connections will be revealed before you reach the final page. The last part of The Woman In The House was without doubt intense, although I do wonder if it was over a bit too soon and quickly after such a slow building up of intensity… Most people will be both shocked albeit still quite satisfied by the final reveals though. If you love surprises, this story will definitely have a few in store for you! In short, The Woman In The House is a psychological thriller with a slow start and an explosive twist that will leave you rattled.


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ARC REVIEW: Your Life Is Mine – by Nathan Ripley

Title: Your Life Is Mine
Author: Nathan Ripley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 4th 2019
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 20th 2019
Pages: 336

“Before a shooter is a shooter, he’s just a man in a room.”

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

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I really enjoyed my time with Find You In The Dark last year so when I saw a new title by Nathan Ripley I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to read it. I’ve been looking forward to pick it up ever since, especially with such an intriguing premise. I mean, the idea of having a cult in the spotlight and the main character being the daughter of the cult leader and mass shooter sounds both disturbing, twisted and absolutely fascinating! Now I’ve read it, I still think there is a lot to love in Your Life Is Mine, but in the end the story failed to convince me completely. A big part of this feeling had to do with the very slow pace during most of the story. The slow pace came as a surprise especially considering just how twisted things get at points… Especially in the second half you will find a lot of action as things are spinning out of control, but somehow the overall plot still feels slow? It sounds contradicting, but sadly it was how I felt about the story as a whole. The main characters of Your Life Is Mine are not easy to like, but I do admit they are all very intriguing. It was interesting to see Blanche react to such a messed up childhood and learn more about Chuck, Crissy and their cult ideas. The cult plays a role throughout the story even though we only see Chuck actively in the beginning, as followers keep his memory alive after the mass shooting in 1996. It’s scary to think that the ideas of a man long dead can still have such an influence… There are quite a few twists and turns involved in Your Life Is Mine, but most are very easy to guess for those who regularly read (psychological) thrillers. And this fact kind of took the thrill out of the story for me. The end was also a bit too abrupt for me and I remember thinking: ‘is this all?’. It wasn’t particularly a satisfying ending for me, although I do get why the author decided to go down that road. Your Life Is Mine is by no means a bad read and it has some very interesting and twisted elements, but sadly it failed to stand out above other recent thrillers I’ve read. If you like the genre and don’t mind a slow pace and easy to guess plot twists, you will probably enjoy your time with Your Life Is Mine.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #101 – The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall & Trouble Makes A Comeback

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition with a TBR jar pick and a title I picked up for a challenge. Both had some positive and negative elements, although I did enjoy Katie Alender’The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall better than Stephanie Tromly‘s sequel Trouble Makes A Comeback.


Title: The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Point
Finished reading: May 13th 2019 
Pages: 329

“Of all the things I would have guessed about being dead, I definitely didn’t expect that it would sometimes feel exactly like high school.”


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I’ve enjoyed Katie Alender‘s books in the past so I was excited when my TBR jar thought it was time to pick up this title. I admit I was expecting something a little more creepy than what I ended up with. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t save it for the Halloween month now… It’s true that there are elements of suspense and there are some creepy moments and secrets hidden in Hysteria Hall, but overall I found the majority of them to be cliche. And this took away most of the scary factor… There are a lot of cliches involved in general, related to both ghosts, family drama and even a love triangle. Oh yes, even when the main character is dead we don’t escape the dreaded love triangle! This wasn’t even my main concern with Delia though. I didn’t find her strong enough as a main character to carry the story; for example Maria came over as a considerably more interesting character to follow. There was a lot of potential to make this story more disturbing; I think most will agree a haunted and abandoned asylum is the perfect eery setting for a horror story. But The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall took a different turn and instead mellowed things down considerably. On the other hand this was still quite a fun and fast read! Just don’t expect to be scared away, as for a haunted asylum story it’s surprisingly light on the horror.


Title: Trouble Makes A Comeback
(Trouble #2)
Author: Stephanie Tromly

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: May 14th 2019
Pages: 304

“Forgetting about the bad times… that isn’t happiness. That’s amnesia.”


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I picked up this title mostly on a whim as I needed a change of genre and this title fits one of the prompts for the BTB Bingo challenge. It’s been a while since I read the first book, so I had totally forgotten about my issues with the first book… It turns out I ended up having the exact same issues with the sequel and I should I have checked my previous review better before deciding to read Trouble Makes A Comeback. I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. It’s true that the story reads superfast and there are entertaining parts. BUT. I had huge doubts about the credibility of it all and the fact that you are constantly reminded of THE love triangle is beyond annoying. In fact, it’s more than a triangle; a square maybe? Anyhow, this story is packed with high school and romance cliches and between those and the lack of credibility of the plot I had a lot of eyebrow raising going on. As for the characters… While I can appreciate a bit of dry humor, I felt like the characters (and the story for that matter) were trying too hard to be funny and it kind of had the opposite effect on me. Between the cliches around the different characters and the love triangle overshadowing any hope of an interesting and edgy plot, I don’t think me and this series are ment to be. Contemporary romance fans who like their stories with a hint of mystery will probably have a better time with Trouble Makes A Comeback though.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The East End – by Jason Allen #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The East End blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this story that caught my attention right away and I had no other option but to read it… And it was without doubt a great decision. Please join me while I share my thoughts on The East End!

Title: The East End
Author: Jason Allen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Park Row Books
Finished reading: May 6th 2019
Pages: 304

“It’s much better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done. Remember that.”

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

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Like I said in the introduction, there was just something about the blurb of The East End that caught my attention right away, and it turns out my instincts were right about this story. What an intriguing and thought provoking read! It really shows that the author grew up in the Hamptons, as the descriptions of the area feel realistic and really transport you to the setting. The contrast of the working-class inhabitants of the Hamptons and the rich estate owners vacationing only for the season is fascinating.  The fact that they are only temporarily there, but not only have such a huge impact on life in town but also treat the locals in a certain way definitely leaves a lot to think about. Corey is a fascinating character, and I’m guessing here that part of his experiences and thoughts are inspired by the author himself back when he worked for wealthy estate owners himself when he was younger. Knowing this adds a whole different level to The East End and makes you wonder if little details were based on true events or if everything is indeed fiction. The fact remains that you will find a lot of flawed characters, secrets and lies in this mostly character-driven story. With a rich and elaborate prose, the author describes both setting and characters with a flourish and those characters without doubt provide for a lot of drama and suspense. I can’t say they were exactly likeable, but their flawed personalities were well developed and felt real. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse, addiction and alcoholism as well as violence and suicide… Oh yes, The East End has a lot of heavy topics for you in store. The main focus is on what happens that night in the mansion and the aftermath for the different characters though. The suspense and family drama is sprinkled with a little hint of romance, but this story mostly about secrets that might be revealed, a dead body on the property and an eternal struggle to find a way out. Fans of more character-driven suspenseful stories will have a great time with The East End.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A MEDITATION ON FIRE. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.

SOCIAL LINKS

Author Website
Twitter: @EathanJason
Facebook: @jasonallenauthor
Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Powell’s


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YVO’S SHORTIES #98 – Fun Home & Five Feet Apart

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a graphic novel memoir and a YA contemporary romance read; one I almost wish I had DNFed and another I enjoyed despite a few issues. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott.


Title: Fun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel
First published: June 8th 2006
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 232

“It could be argued that death is inherently absurd, and that grinning is not necessarily an inappropriate response. I mean absurd in the sense of ridiculous, unreasonable. One second a person is there, the next they’re not.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’m keeping these rambles short, because honestly I don’t feel I have a lot to say about this graphic novel. It’s true I wasn’t sure if Fun Home would be for me even before I started reading it, but I needed a graphic novel for my BTB Bingo challenge and my TBR choices were limited. I enjoy reading memoirs and the idea of reading a memoir in graphic novel form intrigued me. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the tone or writing style of the author. The many many references to classic literature for me were, instead of an unexpected bonus, rather a hint to feelings of self-importance and superiority. I wasn’t a fan of how the whole lgbt element was handled nor how characters were portrayed. I honestly wish I would have just taken the decision to DNF, because I had a really hard time reaching that final page. This definitely wasn’t a story for me, although I should note others have highly enjoyed it and it has a high overall rating on Goodreads, so it might have been just me. Still, the fact is I had a really hard time reaching that final page of Fun Home and I can’t say I had ‘fun’ while I was trying to get there. If you are looking for an original memoir, enjoy reading in graphic novel form and don’t mind classic literature references in abundance, you will probably be a better match for this story though.


Title: Five Feet Apart
Author: Rachael Lippincott

Genre: YA, Fiction, Romance
First published: November 20th 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster For Young Readers
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 288

“Everyone in this world is breathing borrowed air.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while… Especially since I’ve been hoping to watch the movie adaptation some time soon. The first thing that stood out for me was that this story has that The Fault In Our Stars and Everything, Everything vibe down to the terminal illness and cheesy romance. I’m still deciding whether that is a good or a bad thing, but there is one thing for sure: you will find yourself flying through this story. I literally finished it in less than a day, and a lot of this has to do with the writing style. I appreciated the focus and insight in CF and how the story shows the impact of this disease on someone’s life (once it is in an advanced stage). BUT. I’m not sure up to what point some aspects of the plot are exactly credible. I don’t want to end up including spoilers, but let’s just say part of it has to do with the unnecessary risk taking (something similar happened in Everything Everything). I don’t think it’s encourageable to have main characters who are that ill taking significant risks that basically endanger their lives. It gives a bad example and it is simply not credible. The same goes for the sudden change in attitude towards safety of Stella. The romance itself was cheesy, but somehow I found myself liking it anyway. Five Feet Apart is a story that will both make you smile and make your eyes water… Perfect if you enjoy the genre and don’t mind a considerable amount of cliches and some inconsistencies.


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