BOOK REVIEW: Love May Fail – by Matthew Quick

Title: Love May Fail
Author: Matthew Quick

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
First published: June 4th 2015
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: July 31st 2017
Pages: 419

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”

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I liked Matthew Quick‘s unconventional writing style and characters in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, so when I was desperately looking for something different I turned to his work again. I found a copy of Love May Fail on my shelves and decided to pick it up; and I definitely got what I was looking for. This book is by no means conventional! I’m still not sure what to make of this book even days after finishing it. There were things/elements I liked or appreciated and there were others I wasn’t so sure about, but what is true that Love May Fail is different. Both the writing style and tone are very unconventional, blunt, brutally honest but also refreshing. That said, there was also a lot of swearing and negativity involved… So this unique feel can go both ways. The same thing goes for the characters. Most of them earn points for brutal honesty, uniqueness and having that ‘spark’, but I don’t think I actually liked them. Portia had all those elements (she definitely has balls), but somehow I never actually warmed up to her. It is true though that at least she was able to provoke strong emotions, even if those were mostly negative. I couldn’t stand Mr. Vernon though. What is true though is that important themes as mental illness, depression, suicide, midlife crisis and hoarding play an important role in the story and seems to be portrayed quite realistically. Matthew Quick isn’t afraid to step on a few toes and says things as they are in a blunt and brutally honest way. And I don’t think I have ever read about a hoarder before! In short I can applaude the diversity. I also liked the novel writing bits and insight in the publishing world. Still, I can’t say I actually loved reading Love May Fail. It won’t make it to my favorites list, but there is no doubt there is something about this story.

A little warning: don’t read Love May Fail if you are sensitive to darker themes, adult content and swearing.

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After Portia Kane finds her pornographer husband cheating on her with a girl half her age, she decides she has had enough. She is having a meltdown; escapes her fabulous life in Florida and then returns to her mother’s house in South Jersey. There she realizes things in her hometown haven’t changed all that much and she will have to face the memories of her unhappy childhood. Her mother is still a hoarder and Portia doesn’t know how to help her get better… So when she finds out what happened to her favorite English teacher, she decides to do something to help him instead. But how to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped in the first place?

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If you are looking for something different, there is no doubt that Love May Fail will deliver. There is nothing conventional about this story and I guess it is kind of refreshing. Love May Fail won’t be for everyone since it has a lot of trigger warnings for darker themes, adult content and swearing, but I’m sure the right person will appreciate the brutal honesty and blunt, raw and ‘out there’ feel of it all. I personally ended up having mixed thoughts about this one, but I do believe this book can go either way.


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ARC REVIEW: Americosis Vol. 4 – by Haydn Wilks

Title: Americosis Vol. 4
Author: Haydn Wilks

Genre: Short Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: December 2nd 2016
Finished reading: July 25th 2017
Pages: 56

“It’s all madness.”

*** 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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First of all a little note: since the cover is basically a swearword, I’ve decided not to display it on my blog for personal reasons. It’s bad enough it already shows up on my Goodreads timeline as it is. xD

The quote above describes these Americosis volumes perfectly: absolute madness. I’ve read the first three volumes in the past, so I did know exactly what I signed up for… There is nothing ordinary about the world created in Americosis, the plot or the characters. And it has been one heck of a crazy and absurd ride so far! Volume four continues where the last part ended; there is almost no recap so it’s important to read/remember the previous volumes to make sense of it all. Although ‘making sense’ maybe isn’t the right phrase to look for, because I don’t think Americosis is ment to make sense in the first place. Volume four had a few very interesting elements I liked; predominantly the parts set in the future (4046). The idea of every person having a different vision of what happened since the moment in history they were snatched away is intriguing and would be a great topic for a standalone novella or novel. Just imagine the endless possibilities of famous personalities of the past getting together and share their version of the ‘future’! This new storyline added a whole new interesting level to the story and made me curious about the finale… But I do have to say there were some things that started to bother me. I don’t think Americosis Vol. 4 has changed much in tone, but somehow the EXCESSIVE and CONSTANT swearing started to get to me. I don’t mind a swearword or two as long as its use is constructive, but I felt it really crossed the line in this volume. I basically have a quote where a variation of the word ‘f*ck‘ is used no less than eleven!! times in one sentence; overkill much? Apart from the swearing, the story is also very graphic and violent in general and stuffed with adult and sex-related comments and scenes. In short there is no doubt this short story isn’t for everyone… Only a select few will be able to truly savour it and I can see why the target group would be predominantly adult (white) male. If you like crazy, graphic, messy, chaotic, dystopian, violent and all over the place stories, Americosis will probably be for you. There’s one thing for sure: you won’t be bored with this one!

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

Things have slowly started to get out of control… The race against the clock for the Savior is real and he will have to fight hard to be able to reach his goal before it’s too late. Because America is being destroyed from the inside, and it’s winning. In the mean time, the Presidential race is going strong… And the two candidates will do whatever it takes to win.

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It might just have been I wasn’t in the right mood when I read Volume 4 and that’s why I rated it slightly lower than the previous three… But I did feel the excessive swearing and graphic scenes started to get out of control. It does read like a train and is basically an explosion of action and absurdness right in the middle of a dystopian America. The right person will probably love Americosis, but it is without doubt an acquired taste. The storyline set in the future was fascinating though!


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ARC REVIEW: The List – by Patricia Forde

Title: The List
Author: Patricia Forde

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: April 16th 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Finished reading: July 14th 2017
Pages: 336
(Original title: ‘The Wordsmith’)

“There’s always truth in dreams. Don’t you know that? We have to learn what they mean, that’s all.”

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

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I admit I wanted to read The List as soon as I saw that absolutely stunning cover; yes, even before I read the blurb which only confirmed my desire to read this story. The List was actually originally published two years ago under a different title, but will be republished next month with this stunning cover. Now I have read it there is no doubt that this debut novel by Patricia Forde is based on a very fascinating concept. The List is set in a dystopian world where most of the world is destroyed by the Melting, most people now forced to live in the city of Ark and their surroundings because there is nowhere else left. The founder of Ark is Noa (see the biblical references yet?) and he has restricted the use of language to just 500 approved words… His belief of humanity being able to use/abuse words and words bringing doom to the human kind is fascinating and I would definitely have given The List a full 5 stars for originality. The so-called List speak is fascinating (although that might just be the philologist in me talking) and the List itself plays a central role in the story. The worldbuilding is intriguing and even though the plot itself isn’t all that exciting I’m sure it will be fitting enough for the age group. The List is ment as a Middle Grade read and I admit I don’t have a lot of experience reading stories for this age. Still, I do believe the tone doesn’t always felt right (too adult) and I personally had difficulties connecting to the writing style. As fascinating as the concept of this story sounded, I don’t think I enjoyed actually reading about it as much as I would have hoped… I also struggled to connect to the characters and personally didn’t like Letta at all. She seemed quite bland as a main character and I’m not sure if she will be able to win over the target group either; this has most likely to do with the lack of character development in general. The ending itself wasn’t really satisfying either and it took me a lot longer than expected to finish this story. In short, while I loved certain elements of The List (the concept, the List-speak), I also struggled with other elements and all in all unfortunately I ended up having mixed thoughts.

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After the Melting, only the lucky have survived and most of them live in the city of Ark. To keep things running smoothly the founder Noa has speech constrained to 500 approved words; if you speak outside the approved lexicon you will face banishment. Only a few people are able to speak freely, and only in private: the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta belong to that group. When her master dies, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith and charged with collecting and saving words. But she doesn’t realize something sinister is going on in Ark… Something that will have devastating effects if not prevented.

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The List is without doubt based on a very fascinating and original concept I would easily have given the highest rating for. The language elements are very interesting as well and this was definitely my favorite element of the story. That said, it did take me way longer than expected to read this Middle Grade story and I had difficulties connecting to both the writing style and the characters. I ended up having mixed thoughts about The List, but I guess the story can go either way for you.


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ARC REVIEW: Slip – by David Estes

Title: Slip
(Slip #1)
Author: David Estes

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: December 1st 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: July 8th 2017
Pages: 416

“I AM weak. We all are. Only through our positive thinking and actions do we become strong. Even the weakest person in the world can become the strongest in their own mind.”

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

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I’ve had this series on my radar for a long time, so when I saw a copy pop up on Netgalley earlier this year I thought it was the perfect excuse to finally get to it. And although it still took longer than expected to pick up my copy of Slip, it was just the story I was looking for when I did. I admit I have been trying to avoid the whole dystopian genre this year, mostly because in general they seem to have lost their originality and ‘spark’ for me. The blurb of Slip triggered something though and now I’ve read the story I still think the idea behind this story is very interesting. I’m not sure if I can call it original, but this alternative world seems to be well developed and the ‘new’ government and their methods to control without doubt controversial. I did have some difficulties adapting to the somewhat childish tone of the writing style; especially in the first bit of the story when the main character is younger. Things did improve later on, although I felt the tone was slightly off throughout the story. The writing style is quite fast to read though and I liked how this alternate world had its own vocabulary for things. The pace did slow a bit due to the many different storylines and characters making their appearance during the story. I actually found myself to be a bit confused about where everybody fit at points, although that feeling mostly went away in the second half of Slip. Another bonus: there is only limited romance involved! True, there is a slight hint of a love triangle as well, but in this first book those with love triangle allergies (like me) are still safe. All in all it wasn’t a bad read and dystopia fans will probably enjoy this one quite a lot.

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After the floods part of the USA is now permanently under water and the Reorganized United States of America has to implement drastic population control measures to control the situation. The threat of not having enough resources and food to sustain the growing population is the main reason there is now a new law: someone must die before another can be born, and birth authorization must be paid before having a child. Experts have discovered the optimal population number, and with this new law this number should stay the same. The government organization Pop Con is responible for making sure everyone sticks to the law… Meaning terminating any children resulting from unauthorized births no matter what age. But what happens if one of them manages to slip through the cracks?

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There is no doubt the concept behind Slip is very interesting even though I’m not sure if the story is actually all that original. With so many storylines and characters the plot feels a bit chaotic at points and it can get a bit confusing, but I guess it does add some dept to the story. The tone was a little off for me as well, but in general this was still a solid dystopian read. Plus, not having to deal with a huge dose of sappy romance was an added bonus!


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ARC REVIEW: Court Of Lions – by Jane Johnson @HoZ_books

Title: Court Of Lions
Author: Jane Johnson

Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 6th 2017
Publisher: Head Of Zeus
Finished reading: July 5th 2017
Pages: 416

“History was rather wasted on the young, who had yet to discover that looking back could sometimes be a lot more instructive than looking forward.”

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

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I always love a good historical fiction read and when I first heard about Court Of Lions the story just ticked al the right boxes for me. This novel by Jane Johnson is partly set in the 15th century, partly in the present and predominantly takes place in Granada. This Spanish city is hands down one of the favorite places I was able to visit during my stay in Spain eight years ago and Court Of Lions without doubt brought back great memories. When I started reading this novel I had really high expectations and I initially found myself enjoying both storylines despite them being completely different. Unfortunately this feeling didn’t last. While initially I found myself to be curious about Kate’s character and devoured the many descriptions of the Spanish city and the Alhambra in the contemporary chapters, I was suddenly put off by the arrival of a few very graphic scenes and adult content. Especially the second is always a huge turn off for me and instantly made me enjoy both the storyline and characters a lot less. Sure, Kate’s history is without doubt both terrifying and intriguing, but for me the storyline fell mostly flat for me and I wasn’t sure what to think of the chapters set in the UK either. The romance was also quite cliche and trigger warnings are in place for abuse and other sensitive themes. It is true that the pace is a lot faster in the contemporary chapters than the historical ones… But this doesn’t take away that I still wish Court Of Lions would have just focused on the chapters set in the 15th century. The historical storyline is both well developed, well researched and very interesting to read. Blessings is without doubt a fascinating character despite the fact that Blessings did do some things that bothered me at times… And the final reveal out Blessing’s secret came as a HUGE surprise. I loved reading about Momo and Blessings growing up and their relationship evolve and change. There were some cliches involved (love triangle!), but overall it’s impressive just how much these chapters stand out from the contemporary ones. I honestly believe the storylines would have worked out better as two completely different novels… There isn’t all that much connection between the two and both seem to have a different target group. It breaks my heart to give Blessings and Momo’s story just a 3 star rating, but Kate’s storyline did make me enjoy Court Of Lions considerably less than expected.

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It has been a year since Kate arrived in the city of Granada and she currently works as a waitress serving tourists in a bar. She pretends to be happy with her new life, but something dark is brewing under the surface… And she might be forced to deal with her past soon. It all starts when she finds a scrap of paper pressed into one of the Alhambra’s walls. A paper that has been there since the Fall of Granada and the expulsion of the last Sultan, although Kate doesn’t realize that when she finds it… And she doesn’t realize just how big of an effect this paper will have on her life.

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I was looking forward to read Court Of Lions as soon as I read the blurb. This novel seemed to combine two of my favorite things: historical fiction and Spain. I have wonderful memories of the city of Granada and this story without doubt triggered them. I enjoyed reading the many descriptions of the city and I loved the historical storyline and its characters. I probably would have given Court Of Lions a much higher rating if it would have been just that storyline… Because I wasn’t as charmed by the contemporary chapters. I couldn’t connect to Kate or the other characters, had a negative reaction to the adult content and wasn’t sure about the cliches either. Her history is without doubt both frightening and intriguing, but reading about it just didn’t work for me. Such a shame!


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ARC REVIEW: Final Girls – by Riley Sager @EburyPublishing

Title: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 13th 2017
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Finished reading: June 29th 2017
Pages: 352

“Pine. Cottage. Nothing but harmless words. But when combined they obtain the sharpness of the knife He shoved into my shoulder and stomach.”

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

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Oh hype, oh hype, why do you have to do this to me once again?! I’ve been looking forward to Final Girls for months now and I think it’s easily one of the most hyped thrillers this year. I should have been warned by the mixed reviews… I’ve been in a bad relationship with hyped books for years and it looks like we just had yet another fight. Because while I really wanted to love Final Girls, I ended up having mixed feelings instead. I don’t think it actually lived up to the praise I’ve seen…  Don’t get me wrong, the story wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as mindblowingly good as I thought it would be. First of all, there were quite a few things that I did like. Final Girls is partly a very intense, dark and twisted story and certain parts actually cross the line to horror. The situations the final girls were able to survive were simply brutal and definitely set the tone for this story. Likewise the flashbacks to the Pine Cottage were probably my favorite part of this novel and read almost like a horror movie. Very graphic and well described! And I also can’t deny there are a lot of plot twists and unexpected turns included in Final Girls. There were a lot of things I definitely didn’t see coming. But. And here starts the more negative part of my review… I’m not sure up to what point the plot, actions and characters are actually completely credible. I had a hard time accepting certain things as true and I don’t think some parts of the plot are very realistic. I can’t go into details due to spoilers, but this did put a mayor damper on things for me. The other thing I struggled with enormously were the main characters. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to connect to them and they really started to annoy me as the story unfolded. I felt repeatedly frustrated when they behaved or acted a certain way when it was SO clear something was off. Final Girls does read quite easily though and the horror parts are definitely dark and twisted. I just wish the rest of the story would have been just as strong… All in all I ended up having mixed thoughts about this one, but it looks like Final Girls can go either way.

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Three girls, three victims, three separate massacres. Somehow they are the lone survivors of those horrible events and now they are grouped together by the press and treated like characters right out of a slasher movie. Final Girls they call them, even though the girls themselves didn’t want that name and only want to try and deal with the horrors they have experienced. Lisa is the only one who doesn’t shy away completely from the publicity; Quincy only wants to try and move on and Sam disappears completely off the radar. But then something terrible happens to Lisa, and suddenly the Final Girls are everywhere again and old wounds are opened…

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I had high hopes for Final Girls, but I guess I should have known to stay away from hyped books. This story wasn’t bad and I was impressed when I found out it was a debut, but that doesn’t mean I was blown away with it either. There were parts I loved (the Pine Cottage flashbacks, how dark, intense and twisted the horror parts were, the surprises), but in general I had my doubts about the credibility and I couldn’t connect to the characters. I’ve seen others who loved Final Girls though, so this could be just another case of me being allergic to hyped books resulting in an ‘unpopular opinion’ review…


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ARC REVIEW: Four Days – by Jamie Campbell

Title: Four Days
Author: Jamie Campbell

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 5th 2015
Publisher: Eltham Press
Finished reading: June 17th 2017
Pages: 135

“In tennis, inches add up to miles. In life they add up that way too. The trick of it is to understand that fact.”

*** 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 Jamie Campbell‘s other short novel The Thankful back in January and enjoyed it, so I found myself looking forward to Four Days as well. This short novel actually has a complete different focus and is more of a contemporary romance story packed with sports and roadtrip elements. Four Days has less romance than I would have expected initially and is actually more focused on the main character Luci trying to deal with a broken relationship and her tennis career not going as well as she would have liked. Luci has to rediscover herself and the roadtrip can be seen as a symbol for this journey. I’m a big travel fan, so I really enjoyed the descriptions of the different parts of New Zealands the characters were driving though. And although I’m not a big fan of tennis myself (I prefer rugby!), I liked the way these elements play a big role in this story. Four Days definitely has a huge dose of sports incorporated into the plot! The story is also quite easy to read and I liked the fact Dutch words were used here and there. It might just be the philologist in me, but I always love when different languages are incorporated into the prose, although of course it’s important that the story is still understandable for those who don’t speak the other language like is the case with Four Days. All these points sound positive, so why only a three star rating, would you ask? Two things. First of all, I wasn’t able to connect fully to the characters and some of their actions were a bit annoying. I’m not sure if it’s because it didn’t feel natural or for a different reason, but I wasn’t sure if everything was all that credible. But the biggest reason would be the adult content. I have a huge aversion for any story that includes adult content and trust me, some of the scenes in Four Days are pretty steamy. This is 100% me though and I’m sure romance fans won’t mind them at all. But as this review is about my personal opinion and feelings, the rating reflects just that… There were a lot of things I did like about this story though, so definitely give this one a try if you like a good road trip/sports contemporary and don’t mind the steamy scenes!

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Luci Wijn has been having a lot of bad luck lately, both in her personal and professional life. Her partner cheated on her and her tennis career isn’t going as well as she would have hoped… Is the invitation to her friend’s wedding in New Zealand the escape she needed? Luci has to play in Auckland afterwards anyway, so she travels to the other side of the world to share her friends happiness even though she doesn’t feel great herself. But then there is a strike at the local airport, and her friend’s cousin Jamie has to step in and drive her if she wants to make it to Auckland in time…

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Four Days is without doubt less of a romance story and more of a road trip and sports-focused contemporary read. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the local scenery and the writing style was quite enjoyable to read. I liked the Dutch words popping up every once in a while and how sports played such an important role throughout the story. I wasn’t sure about the characters though and the steamy scenes were a huge turn off for me. But like I said before, if you don’t mind those you will probably enjoy this story a lot!


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