BOOK REVIEW: Rebel Of The Sands – by Alwyn Hamilton

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Title: Rebel Of The Sands
(Rebel Of The Sands #1)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: February 13th 2017
Pages: 320
Rating 4,5qqq

“The world makes things for each place. Fish for the sea, Rocs for the mountain skies, and girls with sun in their skin and perfect aim for a desert that doesn’t let weakness live.”

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Dear Rebel Of The Sands, why have I managed to ignore you for nearly a year?! I’m still kicking myself for not picking up this first book of a fantastic new YA fantasy series… But I guess it does mean I can read the sequel straight away! I admit I have heard mixed things about this story in the past, and that might just be why I was so hesitant to pick it up in the first place. I normally tend to have bad luck with popular books, but I’m glad that Rebel Of The Sands has proven to be an exception. I’m glad I finally gave this story a chance and I loved even better than expected! I’ve basically fallen in love with the worldbuilding, characters and writing style from the beginning… Alwyn Hamilton writes in a way that draws you right in and even though the whole strong-female-character thing in YA fantasy isn’t all that original, I was thoroughly charmed by Amani anyway. Together with Jin, Shazad and many other characters she managed to win over my heart and I had a blast following them on their journey through the desert. The worldbuilding is so interesting! I’ve heard complains about the ‘mythical’ being lost by the ‘western’ feel of the descriptions and some of the scenes, but I personally really liked the mix of two different elements. Great prose and characters, interesting plot and worldbuilding, lots of action, a healthy dose of action and magic: Rebel Of The Sands has all the ingredients to enchant you.

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Amani Al’Hiza lives in the small desert town of Dustwalk and basically learned to shoot like an expert when she was only a little girl. There is not much to do in Dustwalk and Amani has become a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim… But that won’t help her escape before she either loses her freedom or her life. When another bad decision brings her to a shooting contest, she meets the mysterious foreigner Jin. Amani sees him as the perfect escape route, although it won’t be easy to escape with both their lives… And she definitely didn’t imagine escaping riding a mythical horse she didn’t know still existed. And she will soon learn a whole lot more about her country as they try to find their way to safety.

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Thank you Traitor To The Throne for finally making me read the first book! I’m so glad I was approved for an ARC of the sequel, because I still feel I have been missing out by not reading Rebel Of The Sands sooner. I know this story has a lot of mixed reviews, but if you ask me it’s definitely worth the try. This series has the perfect combination of interesting worldbuilding, great characters and well written prose; the magic and mythical elements make Rebel Of The Sands into something special. I will be looking forward to read more about Amani and Jin’s adventures for sure!


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ARC REVIEW: The Impossible Fortress – by Jason Rekulak

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Title: The Impossible Fortress
Author: Jason Rekulak

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: February 7th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: February 3rd 2017
Pages: 304
Rating 4,5qqq

“So we stood up there for a long while, watching the sunset and discussing how it was one of those things you could never truly capture in 8-bit, not with the simplistic definition of violet (CHR$(156)), orange (CHR$(129)), and yellow (CHR$(158)). There were too many other colors, thousands of colors. The hardware could never do justice to it.”

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

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The Impossible Fortress caught my attention the very first time I laid my eyes on it, and not just because of the colorful cover. I love feel-good stories and this debut by Jason Rekulak promised to be chock full of 80s nostalgia and flashbacks. I’m a 90s child myself, but I guess I was born close enough to the the year the story was set in (I was only minus one!) to be able to connect to the story instantly. It’s simply such a brilliant read! I completely fell in love with the writing style, plot and characters and it’s just such a great feel-good story… I loved the computer/nerd talk and it definitely brought back memories of my childhood where I taped radio songs, had to use floppy disks and didn’t have internet access to write quick messages. I loved all characters, although Billy and Mary have just a little extra magic about them… And the plot of The Impossible Fortress is almost endearing as the three boys mess up again and again during their ‘mission’ to get a copy of the Playboy. I had so much fun reading this coming of age story and I can recommend it to any contemporary fan! A huge bonus: you can actually play the game that is created by the main characters at jasonrekulak.com!

shortsummary1reviewqqqIt’s 1987 and the Playboy has just published photos of Vanna White, popular for her role in the TV game show Wheel Of Fortune. The three teenage friends Billy, Alf and Clark don’t know a thing about women and the Playboy is almost like a Holy Grail for them: they are desperate to get their hands on a copy of the Vanna White photos and decide to create a plan to steal a copy of that month’s Playboy. But stealing a copy isn’t all that easy and the boys fail and fail again… Then they think up a new masterplan: swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience story by seducing the owner’s daughter Mary. It’s up to Billy to become close to the girl and get the information they need, but Billy might need Mary for other skills instead. She loves computers and is actually a way better coder than Billy is… Mary might be able to save the game Billy is creating, but he is soon faced with the tough choice to either deceive Mary or break a promis to his best friends.

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If you are looking for a well written coming of age story that will bury you under a crate full of nostalgic feelings and 80s flashbacks, you have found your next read. The Impossible Fortress is basically a time machine in book form and will make you feel as if you went thirty years back in time… I was hooked right from the first page and both the writing style and main characters were simply lovely. I had so much fun reading this story!


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ARC REVIEW: Blink – by K.L. Slater

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Title: Blink
Author: K.L. Slater

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: February 16th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: January 26th 2017
Pages: 295
Rating 4,5qqq

“You don’t always know how you’re going to react to a sudden tragedy breaking your life into little pieces.”

*** 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 have been looking forward to read another K.L. Slater book ever since I finished Safe With Me last year, and this second book simply blew me away. Her debut psychological thriller was already good, but Blink was just BRILLIANT. Basically I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to figure out what was going on, and I ended up being SO wrong about everything. This title is without doubt psychological thriller at its best! Excellent prose, excellent plot and plot twists, excellent use of suspense, excellent character development… Blink has all the right ingredients for a great story. The main characters are maybe not all that likeable, but I personally didn’t care. The fact that the main character seems to be paralyzed and in coma but is actually awake is truly fascinating and adds another excellent plot twist to the story. I loved every single minute of Blink and it doesn’t happen often that a plot is able to mislead me that much. More than recommended if you like the genre!

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Three years ago, Toni’s five-year-old daughter Evie disappeared after school. The police were never able to find a trace of the little girl; there were no witnesses or evidence to give them a solid lead. But Toni belives her daughter is still alive. And as she begins to piece together her memories of the events around her daughter’s disappearance, the full story of her past begins to reveal itself… Will Toni find a way to make herself heard and find her daughter before it’s too late?

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This title will definitely appear on my list of favorite psychological thrillers. Blink basically has everything I look for in a good thriller and I enjoyed every single minute of it. The ‘paralyzed’ chapters and the flashbacks are without doubt intriguing and add an extra original touch… The plot twists are excellent and had me guessing until the very end. Some of them are so shocking you would have never seen them coming!


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ARC REVIEW: Don’t Look Behind You – by Mel Sherratt

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Title: Don’t Look Behind You
(Detective Eden Berrisford #2)
Author: Mel Sherratt

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: January 23rd 2017
Pages: 252
Rating 4,5qqq

“You don’t see it coming. They manipulate you, they smother you with love and affection, making out you’re the only thing that matters in their lives, and by the time you realise who they really are, it’s too late. They have you.”

*** 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 read the first book of the Detective Eden Berrisford series some time last year, and when I saw the sequel was about to be published I couldn’t help myself and grabbed a copy. I have to say Don’t Look Behind You by no means suffers from the so-called ‘weak-second-book-syndrome’! In fact, I enjoyed this psychological thriller sequel significantly better than the first book, and that says something. First of all, the writing style is excellent and really makes it that much easier to enjoy the ride. Don’t Look Behind You reads like a train and the amount of plot twists is just right. And while I had some minor problems with the main character Eden in the first book, she is really starting to warm up to me despite the fact that the recent problems in her private life does make her look more like the typical cliche detective character. Is this bad? In this case I don’t think so, because it makes her so much more ‘real’ and her private connection to the recent events is intriguing. I could also really appreciate the fact that the whole abuse theme was given such a big role and was portrayed so realistically. It’s a very important topic not nearly enough people are aware of, and on top of that it’s also refreshing to read about after one too many typical murder/missing person case. All in all a great read and I will be looking forward to the next installment of the series!

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Three women are brutally attacked within days of each other in the small city of Stockleigh, and it is up to Detective Eden Berrisford to figure out who is behind the attacks. Are they random acts of violence or are the cases linked? Eden also has to keep contact with the women at a safe house, all hiding from their abusive men, since there have been some problems lately. As the investigation closes in on the attacker, Eden might end up being in danger herself… Will she be able to stop him on time AND keep the women safe?

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If you are looking for a fast-paced and well written psychological thriller with a slightly different angle than usual, Don’t Look Behind You is without doubt a great choice. It’s actually the second book of a series, but in this case can also be read as a standalone without missing too much background information. The writing style, realistic feel of the story and the whole abuse topic definitely turn this title both a refreshing and entertaining psychological thriller!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Sun Is Also A Star – by Nicola Yoon

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Title: The Sun Is Also A Star
Author: Nicola Yoon

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: November 1st 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: January 11th 2017
Pages: 348
Rating 4,5qqq

“There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”

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I confess I have been in love with the cover ever since I first saw it… But that wasn’t the only reason for me to add The Sun Is Also A Star to my wishlist, I also really enjoyed Nicola Yoon‘s other novel Everything, Everything last year. Like so many others, I was really excited to read this new story, but after I saw a lot of mixed reviews about this book I was actually kind of afraid to pick it up myself. Luckily The Sun Is Also A Star has proved to be one of the exceptions and I actually more than enjoyed reading it. Apart from the excellent prose that is a real pleasure to read, what really stood out for me were the main characters. I could really appreciate the fact that they are not the typical stereotype ‘white-American’ teenagers and I thought they added a whole different level to the story. As an immigrant living in Argentina I could really relate to some of the problems and challenges they have to face by living in a country that is either not their own or other people think is not their own. Sure, their romantic story is a bit sappy and literally what insta-love is all about, but I forgave the characters for it. Also, just the ending alone deserved an extra 1/2 star to be added to the rating. If you haven’t tried The Sun Is Also A Star yet, I can definitely suggest you do. Not everybody seems to love it, but it is without doubt worth the try. And no matter what happens, you always have that gorgeous cover to stare at, right? 😉

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Natasha is a girl who was born in Jamaica, but has lived in the US for quite some years already. She is also a girl who believes in science and facts, and not in fate, destiny or dreams. Especially since her future is about to be shattered as her family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica… But then she meets Daniel by chance. Daniel has always been a good son and student trying to live up to the high expectations of his parents. They want him to be a doctor, but he secretly dreams to be a poet… And he has completely different ideas about dreams, fate and love than Natasha. Especially after he meets her. What will happen to the two after their unlikely meeting?

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If you really think about the basic plot, The Sun Is Also A Star is rather tacky and cliche. But it sure doesn’t feel that way while you are reading it. I’m normally allergic to stories with tropes as insta-love, but in this case it was really easy to forgive the main characters. Both the writing style and the character development are excellent and made me thoroughly enjoy this story. The ending really made my day as well… All in all such a great read!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Serpent King – by Jeff Zentner

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Title: The Serpent King
Author: Jeff Zentner

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Crown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 5th 2017
Pages: 384
Rating 4,5qqq

“Writing is something that you can learn only by doing. To become a writer, you need an imagination, which you clearly have. You need to read books, which you clearly do. And you need to write, which you don’t yet do, but should.”

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I’ve lost count of the times The Serpent King has been recommended to be ever since it was published last year, and I still don’t know why it took me this long to finally pick it up. When I first heard about this novel by Jeff Zentner, I had actually somehow mistaken it for a fantasy story (probably because of the title)… But it is actually a very powerful contemporary fiction read I sure wish I would have read sooner. I can definitely understand why so many people seem to love The Serpent King now! This novel is without doubt exceptionally well written with an intriguing plot and well developed, interesting and highly likeable main characters. I loved all three friends, but especially Lydia and Travis stood out for me. As for the plot, I was a little worried about the amount of religious talk included when I first started it, but that soon went to the background. Beautifully written, realistic and basically an emotional rollercoaster… Warning: The Serpent King will mess with your heart, so make sure to have your tissues ready! It doesn’t happen often that a book is able to make me laugh and cry at the same time, and I’m sure this story is going to stay with me for a long time. More than recommended for fans of the genre!

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Dill has been struggling with vipers his whole life, both at home and at school. His father is a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, although after his very public fall from grace he is currently locked away in prison. At school, the bullies are after him for that exact fact, teasing him for his father’s extreme faith as well and claiming he will grow up to be exactly like his father. The only way to feel better is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But things are starting to change as they start senior year. Lydia is full of ideas for her future, but for Dill graduation is more like the end of his life as he knows it…

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When I first heard about this book, I guessed wrong it was going to be fantasy novel. And I’m actually sort of glad it isn’t, because The Serpent King is without doubt a very powerful, original and well developed contemporary fiction read. Even though the start was a bit slow, I loved the prose and the character development right from the beginning. It was really easy to connect to the main characters and the things that happen to them will have a huge impact on you as a reader. The Serpent King is basically a well written emotional rollercoaster; make sure to keep your box of tissues at hand!


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ARC REVIEW: Witness – by Caroline Mitchell

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Title: Witness
Author: Caroline Mitchell

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: December 20th 2016
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: January 3rd 2017
Pages: 338
Rating 4,5qqq

“You come into this world alone, and you go out of it alone. As soon as you make peace with that, the sooner you learn there’s no point being afraid.”

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

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I wasn’t going to request any new Netgalley titles, but I had heard so many great things about Witness that I just HAD to click that button again. I’m so glad my fellow bloggers convinced me to pick up this title, because this newest psychological thriller by Caroline Mitchell turned out to be another more than excellent read that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Due to its well written prose,  full-speed pace, intriguing plot and many, many plot twists, I literally flew through the pages of Witness and I enjoyed every single minute of it. Sure, the main character Rebecca isn’t exactly reliable and I’m not sure I actually like her. Sure, I don’t exactly agree with the things see did. But that suspense, those twists! The plot is without doubt very original and you probably won’t see the ending coming. I kind of suspected something was a bit off, but definitely not THAT. If you are looking for your next suspense-packed psychological thriller, Witness is surely an excellent choice!

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What to Rebecca was a brave decision that would finally free her from domestic abuse, had enormous consequences for Solomon. Rebecca’s testimony locked Solomon away for ten years, but his good behavior gets him out early. Rebecca doesn’t know about his release; she left her old life without a trace to be able to rebuild her life and put the past behind her. But the past always finds a way to catch up… And one day, a phone rings in her bedroom, but it’s not hers. Solomon has been in her house, and left a very terrifying message. Let the game begin…

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Every time I think of the plot, I cannot stop thinking of how original, twisted and intriguing it is. I don’t want to give away too much to avoid spoilers, but any fan of suspenseful psychological thrillers will appreciate Witness as a story. Sure, the main characters are not that likeable, but the writing is very strong as well as the plot (twists). It shows what someone will do to protect their own… And how the past always catches up in the end. More than recommended!


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