ARC REVIEW: The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright – by Beth Miller

Title: The Missing Letters Of Mrs Bright
Author: Beth Miller
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: December 4th 2019
Pages: 327

“I wanted to try whatever life I had left without that net. Close my eyes and take a leap of faith.”

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

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I know I don’t read contemporary romance all that often, but I like mixing up my genres every once in a while and there was just something about The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright that made me want to read it instantly. I think it was a combination of the blurb itself and the comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove; two of my favorite books with characters I absolutely adored. And the blurb definitely sounded like main character Kay was going to have the same vibe, so I was superexcited to finally meet her. I might have set my expectations a tad too high, because somehow I didn’t end up enjoying this story as much as I thought I would… I’ll try to explain why.

First of all I have to stress that The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright is by no means a bad read, and the rating reflects my personal reaction to this story and its characters rather than the quality of the story. There is a lot to love in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright, and depending on how you react to the main characters your reading experience might just be completely different from my own… First of all, we have the bookish elements. Not only does main character Kay’s husband own multiple bookshops, but we see other references as well throughout the story. I always love those little references in my books, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Another element I loved was travel related; not only that Kay wants to spread her wings and start seeing the world, but also those descriptions and chapters set in Australia and especially those in Venice. This Italian city really came alive for me in the descriptions and was one of the highlights of this book for me.

I also loved the idea behind the letters, and some actually being incorporated into the plot between chapters. This most definitely added an original touch! The plot itself is intriguing enough and uses multipe POVs to help us understand how different people react to Kay’s decision to leave her husband of twentynine years and start doing things she has always wanted to but never has. There is the underlying worry and mystery around Bear of course as well, and it was interesting to see things develop and secrets slowly coming to light. The writing was easy on the eye and superfast to read, and in many ways this is the perfect contemporary romance read.

What went wrong for me then? I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason is pretty clear: the main characters. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters as I thought I would. I had issues with various decisions and personality traits of more than one character, and this really put a damper on things… I won’t go too much into details to avoid spoilers, but I wasn’t a fan of Kay and her selfishness after her decision. I fully get she has the right to a life of her own, but she truly only thinks of herself and doesn’t seem to care too much of what her children and friends are going through… And that was not the only thing that annoyed me about her. I wasn’t able to warm up to Stella, Edward or Richard either, although I did like Newland, Rose and even Piet. What I absolutely detested was the whole cheating angle, but that is just a personal reaction as I never respond well to this element in a story…

I did love the food element in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though. The descriptions of the food really made me crave those dishes and I actually prepared my curry recipe as a result afterwards. There were a lot of other things I enjoyed as well, like mentioned above, but as a whole something just didn’t click for me and I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. Fans of the contemporary romance genre might just have a fantastic time with The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though! Definitely give this story a chance if you think it might be your cup of tea, because it seems like I’m in the minority with this one.


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ARC REVIEW: The Secret Messenger – by Mandy Robotham

Title: The Secret Messenger
Author: Mandy Robotham
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: December 12th 2019
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: December 12th 2019 
Pages: 400

“Whether or not they are dead and gone, history defines us. It makes us what we are.”

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

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I was already swamped with pending ARCs when I received an invitation to read The Secret Messenger, but as I have a (probably already well known) weak spot for WWII historical fiction I just couldn’t resist adding this title to my TBR anyway. Especially since my reading experience with her debut A Woman Of War last year turned out to be a positive one, and I do love a lesser known WWII setting… Because let’s face it: Italy isn’t exactly the star of the show in most WWII historical fiction stories, and I don’t think I’ve read a WWII story before set in Venice. Which was probably one of the key reasons I was especially excited to pick up my copy of The Secret Messenger. Now I’ve had the chance to read The Secret Messenger, I’m not sure what to do with my thoughts. I was fully expecting to love this story, and there were definitely certain elements that managed to provoke that love, but there were also other elements that didn’t work all that well for me. In short: surprisingly enough, I ended up having mixed feelings about The Secret Messenger. I’ll try to explain why below…

First of all I have to say that the setting in Venice is without doubt the true star of this book. The descriptions are detailed, thorough and really made the magic of the city come alive for me… Both in the present and past. Sadly I haven’t been able to visit the city myself just yet, but Mandy Robotham made it feel as if you were right there along with the main characters. Venice is a truly magical city and I loved learning more about its history through the characters of this story. The Secret Messenger uses a dual timeline with two different POVs: Stella in 1943-1944 Venice and Luisa in 2017 UK and later Venice as well. Dual timelines are always tricky to get right, and sadly I don’t think this technique worked all that well in this case. I felt the balance of the two different timelines was off; there was a whole lot more of Stella and Luisa’s chapters fell mostly flat for me until those final chapters set in Venice. To be honest, I think The Secret Messenger would have been a stronger story if it would have been just Stella’s POV, as she is clearly the star of this story and already takes up so much space in the plot to begin with. Luisa’s chapters only distracted from the ones set in the past, and to be honest I never really liked her character all that much either.

I also have to say that the pace was considerably slow during most of the story, only picking up towards the ending as things are getting more intense especially in Stella’s chapters. This slow pace made it harder to stay invested in the story and it took me a lot longer than usual to finally reach that final page… And it mostly thanks to Stella, the Venice setting and its fantastic descriptions and history that I decided to keep on reading. The whole story of the war in Venice and how the resistance tried to do their thing was fascinating, and I truly wish the sole focus would have been on Stella and her story. Luisa didn’t really add much to the plot for me other than slowing down the pace considerably and I don’t think her character was fleshed out enough to be a true asset to the story.

In short, there were things I loved in The Secret Messenger, including the WWII setting in Venice, its history and the story of the resistance and Stella’s story as a whole. There were also things that didn’t work for me, incluiding the slow pace during most of the story, the dual timeline and Luisa’s POV in general. As a result, I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Secret Messenger despite the fact that this story should have been a perfect fit, but fans of the genre should definitely give it a go as most people seem to react a lot better to the elements that didn’t work for me personally. I guess it was unpopular opinion time once again?


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YVO’S SHORTIES #135 – The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler & The Turn Of The Key

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And another round of Goodreads Choice Awards finalists I wanted to read before my final vote last month… The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler sadly wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, but The Turn Of The Key without doubt blew me away.


Title: The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler
Author: Kelly Harms

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 1st 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: November 22nd 2019
Pages: 328

“Sometimes a book about other people’s problems is way better than your own.”


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I was in the mood for a romcom and I always love bookish elements in my stories, so I really thought I was going to love The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler… But although I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, somehow I didn’t end up enjoying myself as much as I thought I would. The premise of this story sounds like perfect (albeit cliche) romcom material. Amy’s adventure in New York should have been super fun to read about with that whole ‘spring break for moms’ vibe and lots of bookish references to keep any bookworm happy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the bookish elements in The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler and it’s probably the main reason I kept reading. Because somehow I felt that the spark of the main story was missing. It was all just a bit too cliche for me and I felt that the main characters lacked development or were at least too much built on stereotypes. I wasn’t happy with the whole cheating angle and Amy’s behavior in the present either… And I wasn’t able to connect to the main characters as I thought despite the bookish elements. Sadly this story just fell flat for me, but I know I’m in the minority so definitely give this book a chance if you think it’s your cup of tea. It looks like I’m in the unpopular opinion corner again!


Title: The Turn Of The Key
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Gallery
Finished reading: November 23rd 2019
Pages: 352

“I am telling you the truth. The unvarnished, ugly truth. And it is all that. It is unpolished and unpleasant, and I don’t pretend I acted like an angel. But I didn’t kill anyone. I just fucking didn’t.”


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The Death Of Mrs. Westaway blew me away when I read it six months ago… When I started hearing people mention her newest story The Turn Of The Key was even better, I knew I had to read it myself ASAP to see if I would have the same reaction. And blow me away it did! Holy guacamole, what an ending!! That ending definitely left me flabbergasted and staring at that final page, wondering if I should have seen it coming… But the fact is that I didn’t, so mission accomplished. The Turn Of The Key gave off serious Mama (the horror movie) vibes and the Heatherbrae House and its surroundings and history are the perfect creepy background for this psychological thriller. Like the house itself, this story is a mix of gothic and modern technology, combined harmoniously to create a perfectly balanced and oh so creepy plot. There was an omnious feel to everything that happens to Rowan and the family she starts working for… The hint at the paranormal is subtle but effective. I really liked the structure of the plot as well, with Rowan writing a letter from prison explaining exactly what happened. The pace might not be the fastest in the beginning, but I personally didn’t mind as it gave more time to fully absorb what was going on and soak up that omnious feeling that something was going to go wrong sooner than later… Towards the end, plot twist bombs are suddenly being thrown at you, giving you a string of shocking reveals to deal with as you finally start to discover the truth about Heatherbrae House, the main characters and their past and secrets. Oh yes, The Turn Of The Key is without doubt a brilliant psychological thriller read!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #131 – The Last & The Chain

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 2019 crime releases that have created a lot of buzz and that I’ve been looking forward to finally pick up… I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Last, but I literally finished The Chain in one sitting despite a few minor issues.


Title: The Last
Author: Hanna Jameson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Dystopia
First published: January 31st 2019
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 1st
Pages: 352

“History is only the sum of its people.”


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Oh boy, do I feel conflicted about this title! I’ve seen mixed things about The Last ever since it came out, but there was just something about the blurb and the ‘locked-room mystery‘ feel I couldn’t resist. I have to be honest and say I was a bit wary to pick it up myself though, but in the end I couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to see for myself what I would make of The Last. I still stand by the fact that the premise of this story is both fascinating and simply brilliant, and I absolutely loved the dystopian feel. It definitely gave this story an unique twist and it was simply fascinating to see the different characters react to the nuclear attacks and the aftermath. There were a few things that irked me though. First of all, I was a bit disappointed to find out that the whole investigation to find who is behind the death of the little girl is mostly pushed into the background. After reading the blurb, I thought that it would be given a more prominent place in the plot, but instead The Last focuses more on the surviving after a nuclear disaster part and should be considered more dystopian than mystery/thriller. Think The Walking Dead or The Road, but without the zombies and more people involved… Not a bad thing necessarily, but not exactly what I was expecting. I also struggled with the writing style and more specifically Jon’s voice. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but there was just something about the way he narrates what happens that really annoyed me. I wasn’t really a fan of the abuse, rape and hints at cannibalism incorporated into the plot either, mostly because of the sometimes crude way these elements were incorporated into the plot. Cutting things short, there were things I loved and things that didn’t work for me in The Last, and I ended up having mixed feelings about this story myself. I can definitely see why this story can work either way for you depending on how you react to the different elements.


Title: The Chain
Author: Adrian McKinty

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 9th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: November 13th 2019
Pages: 369

Civilization is just a thin, fragile veneer over the law of the jungle: Better you than me. Better your kid than my kid.”


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There has been quite some buzz around this title ever since the first reviews started popping up… Hyped books and me have a bit of a strained relationship, but there was just no way on earth I was going to resist that blurb. Now I’ve finally had the chance to read The Chain, I’m definitely a fan. After a slower read, I was really craving for a dose of something fast, exhilarating and properly twisted. The Chain came to the rescue! I literally finished this story in one sitting, unable to put my kindle down and impatient to discover how it all would end. Mind you, I did have some minor issues with the story, but overall I had a brilliant time reading this story. Lightning fast, properly wicked and one hell of a premise: there is a lot to love in this story if you can forget about a few minor blips along the way. It’s true that I really started to doubt about the credibility of it all as things started to escalate further and further. It’s true that I guessed at least one mayor plot twists really early on. It’s also true that I’m still not sure if the ending was all that satisfying for me. And it’s definitely true that I had mixed thoughts about the main characters. BUT. It is also true that The Chain grabbed me from the very first chapter and it was hook, line and sinker as I keeped turning those pages and neglecting pending chores in the process. And it is most definitely a fact that the premise of this story is simply brilliant. If you are looking for a fast-paced, disturbing and engaging thriller ride, I can suggest joining The Chain and see for yourself what the hype is all about.


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ARC REVIEW: Cold Fear – by Mads Peder Nordbo

Title: Cold Fear
(Greenland #2)

Author: Mads Peder Nordbo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 17th 2018
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: October 23rd 2019
Pages: 357
(Originally published in Danish: ‘Kold Angst’)

“Sorry is the most useless word ever invented.”

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

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I really enjoyed the first book The Girl Without Skin despite its brutalness last year, so as soon as I saw there was going to be a sequel I knew I had to add it to my wishlist. Main characters Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating to follow, and I’ve been looking forward to discover what would happen to them next… Before I discuss my thoughts on Cold Fear, I first have to stress that this is one of those series you have to read in order, because this sequel wouldn’t make much sense if you try to read it as a standalone. Trust me, you wouldn’t do yourself a favor if you pick up Cold Fear before reading the first book!

That said, let’s continue with my thoughts on Cold Fear. After enjoying the first book, I was totally expecting to have a good reading experience with the sequel as well… But it turns out I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. First of all I have to say that the Greenland setting really complements the plot in many ways. Instead of being just a random setting for the story to take place, the harsh, brutal and almost ominous Greenland setting is almost omnipresent and almost feels like yet another character taking part in this story. Between the many descriptions and the role of the Greenland setting in the plot, it really made the different places mentioned in Cold Fear come alive for me… And it turns this series into a fantastic example of the powers of the unforgivable Nordic setting that makes reading nordic noir so special.

One of the things that stands out in Cold Fear is the sheer brutality of the plot. Almost excessive violence, murder, canibalism, abuse, rape, child abuse, rape, drug abuse… All of this and more is included into a plot filled with graphic scenes and this story is definitely not for those with a weak stomach. I myself don’t mind things getting bloody and violent, but I did start to wonder if this story went a little too extreme and took it one step too far… Some scenes just seemed excessive, especially those set in the bunker and everything related to the (child)abuse and rape. Trigger warning are definitely in place! Related to this, I also felt the plot itself was a bit too over the top, farfetched and the story itself lacked cohesion for me. Even with the knowledge of the first book, I had a hard time following the story at times and I guess the 1990s flashbacks didn’t really help either. Things can get a little confusing and I personally wasn’t all that satisfied by certain explanations nor how the story ended. I would have liked to see less seemingly useless violent graphic scenes and more background and plot building… As it was, the story just jumped all over the place for me, without giving a satisfying direction or justifying said violence and deaths.

As for the characters… Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating characters, but I felt their development lacked more fleshing out in the sequel. Especially when it comes to Tupaarnaq, who didn’t seem to present and mostly reverted to cliches when she did appear in the plot. Likewise, Tom and the other more important characters also lacked fleshing out for me. I felt that the focus point of Cold Fear was basically on the extreme violence and making this story as brutal and shocking as possible, and as a consequence I don’t think the sequel reached its full potential nor lived up to expectations for me. Others did react better to Cold Fear though, so take my rambles with a grain of salt and don’t hesitate to try it if you think you can stomach the graphic scenes…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #129 – Fever 1793 & The Museum Of Extraordinary Things (DNF)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two historical fiction reads that I fully expected to love, but somehow failed to connect to. The historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, but the characters fell a bit flat for me… And with a superslow pace and flat characters, I saw no other option but to DNF The Museum Of Extraordinary Things. Oh yes, sadly it’s time for a double dose of unpopular opinion reviews!


Title: Fever 1793
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
First published: September 1st 2000
Publisher: Aladdin
Finished reading: October 17th 2019
Pages: 252

“Life was a battle, and Mother a tired and bitter captain. The captain I had to obey.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I was browsing for possible titles that are set in the 18th century to read for the final era for the When Are You Reading? challenge when I saw this title pop up. I enjoyed her other title Wintergirls when I read it earlier this year and the historical setting and plot sounded fascinating, so I immediately knew I wanted to read this title. I’m not sure if this was the wrong book at the wrong time for me, or if it’s just that I’m not that used to middle grade books in the first place… But the fact is that I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by this story. First things first, and I have to say that the historical setting is well developed and detailed when it comes to the facts of 18th century Philadelphia and the yellow fever outbreak. It shows that the author has investigated historical facts thoroughly and the descriptions feel realistic and help teach the readers more about yellow fever and the impact of the outbreak back then. I could also appreciate the explanation of what was based on historical facts and what might have been changed in the story. That said, I struggled to connect to the story. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has somewhat to do with the fact that I never felt a real connection with the main characters, making me feel mostly detached from  everything that happened to the main characters. In short, while the historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, the characters somehow ended up falling a bit flat for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you haven’t tried this story yet and are intrigued by the blurb, you shouldn’t hesitate to try your luck.


Title: The Museum Of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: February 18th 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Finished reading: October 21st 2019
Pages: 385
DNF at 38% (146 pages)

“Coney Island was, above all else, a place of dreams, with amusements like no others, rides that defied the rules of gravity, concerts and games of chance, ballrooms with so many electric lights they glowed as if on fire.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’ve been meaning to read this title for a long time, so I was excited when my TBR jar decided it was time to finally read it. The premise of The Museum Of Extraordinary Things sounds fantastic, so I fully expected to enjoy the story… Sadly, surprisingly enough it wasn’t ment to be. I’m not sure if it was just the wrong time for this story or if my book hangerover after finishing The Lion Tamer Who Lost the other day would have made me struggle with any book in the first place… But the fact is, I REALLY struggled with The Museum Of Extraordinary Things and I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading any longer. The pace is so so slow in general and the parts written in cursive are even slower… I had a hard time staying focused on the story and even started skimreading certain parts; definitely not a good sign. On top of that, I found the main characters to be quite flat and cliche… They lacked development for me to make them more rounded (at least in the part I read), and as The Museum Of Extraordinary Things seems to be a more character driven story, this became a real issue for me. I do have to say that the historical setting in early 20th century New York/Coney Island is absolutely fascinating and the historical references are probably the main reason I even made it this far. But as a whole, this story and me definitely didn’t get along.


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ARC REVIEW: The Dinner Party – by Richard Parker

Title: The Dinner Party
Author: R.J. Parker
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 18th 2019
Publisher: Harper Impulse and Killer Reads
Finished reading: October 7th 2019
Pages: 400 

“Ted felt as if everything was slowing down. He was on the verge of sliding back into unconsciousness.”

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


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I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few of Richard Parker‘s books in the past, so as soon as I saw The Dinner Party I knew I had to add it to my shelves. I admit there was a moment of confusion when I added the title to my Goodreads shelves, as it is shelved under a different author with the same name, but I can now confirm it’s the same Richard Jay Parker that has multiple previous titles published by a different publisher (Bookouture) including favorites Hide And Seek and Keep Her Safe. I had quite high expectations for this story, but somehow I didn’t end up having the reaction I expected to have to this story…

If you are looking for a twisty, explosive and shocking thriller, The Dinner Party fits all those points and more. The story starts with a bang: you are dropped right in the middle of a life or death fight and what is basically a superintense and bloody scene. No introductions, no explanations… Just that scene to leave your jaw hanging on the floor and wondering how that situation came to be. This intense introduction chapter is contrasted by the following ‘mild’ chapters talking about a dinner party involving four couples. Do they have anything to do with that first chapter? Which of them could be involved? The tone of this story is definitely set with that brilliantly played first chapter.

The tension is build up slowly but steadily in the rest of the story, mixing secrets and twists with moments of action and suspense. I initially had a very good feeling about this story, but as the storyline continued and evolved, I started wondering about the credibility of it all. Sure, there is no doubt that if you are looking for adrenaline and action you will be in for a treat with the second half of The Dinner Party. But I myself found everything that happened to the four couples simply to be a tad too farfetched. I could accept the first thing that happened, the second too if I’m generous… But afterwards things really went out of control and my eyebrows started raising themselves more and more and more. On top of that, I didn’t really find the final reveal or explanation behind it all credible at all… Making the ending a bit of a disappointment for me. I did like how we came a full circle and saw the first chapter described again in its proper place in the story though.

As for the characters… Sadly, I can’t really say I liked them. Apart from the fact that I would have liked to see more development, as some fell flat for me and were a bit of a cliche, I didn’t find them likeable at all. I get the secrets and I get that they are hiding things to help generate those plot twists and reveals later on, but somehow they didn’t manage to grab my attention at all. Which is a shame, because between the credibility and characters I definitely ended up having a different reaction than I thought I would. If you like your thrillers fast, thrilling and shocking and don’t mind some lack of credibility and an ‘over the top’ plot, you will probably have a better time reading this story. The fascinating premise and promise of a great story is definitely there!


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