ARC REVIEW: The Breakdown – by B.A. Paris @StMartinsPress

Title: The Breakdown
Author: B.A. Paris

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 18th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 15th 2017
Pages: 336

“I’m ashamed – ashamed that I’m no longer the strong person I once was, ashamed that I let the slightest thing get to me.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I’ve had an ARC copy of The Breakdown collecting dust on my kindle shelf for months now… I was initially really excited to be granted a copy, especially after hearing so many wonderful things about Behind Closed Doors, but as mixed reviews started popping up everywhere I wasn’t so sure anymore. I’ve been hesitant to pick The Breakdown up ever since because I tend to have a bad relationship with hyped books in the first place. Thankfully this one turned out to be an exception to that rule and I now wish I would have picked it up sooner! I started reading The Breakdown with caution, but I soon realized this wasn’t necessary at all. I found myself enjoying this psychological thriller right from the very first chapter and was instantly convinced by the engaging writing style. I have a weak spot for any story with amnesia, dementia or mental health/illness elements and B.A. Paris was able to develop this element exceptionally well in The Breakdown. The main character is showing signs of early-onset dementia and this plays a huge role in both the plot and plot twists throughout the story. And I personally found this angle fascinating! True, I didn’t actually like every character, but there is no doubt that the character development of Cass is more than spot on. I had my guesses about the who and why and some of it turned out to be true, but the final part of this story without doubt came as a surprise and made me want to reread The Breakdown just to see if I missed the clues the first time. And I just love whenever that happens… I guess this story can go either way, but I recommend giving it a try anyway since you might be in for a surprise!

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One night Cass decides to take the shortcut home even though the weather is horrible and going down that rural road is dangerous in the middle of a storm. She is more than surprised when she sees a car in the woods, but since the woman doesn’t react and Cass is scared, she decides to drive home instead and forget about the incident… Until the next day she finds out the woman in question was killed. Cass feels guilty she didn’t do anything, but convinces herself it’s probably for the best to keep what she saw that night a secret. The murder has been affecting her terribly though and she’s been forgetting things since that dreadful night. Little things as where she left her car, what the alarm code is, meetings with their friends… And that is not the only thing that worries her. Because who can she trust, if she can’t even trust herself?

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I’m aware that The Breakdown has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, but I personally had a really positive experience reading this psychological thriller. Then again I’m a sucker for any story with an amnesia/dementia angle and I found this element very well executed in The Breakdown. I didn’t particularly like Cass or the other characters, but the character development and growing forgetfulness and paranoia was brilliantly executed. In short I would definitely recommend giving this one a chance if you like the genre.


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ARC REVIEW: Devastation Road – by Jason Hewitt

Title: Devastation Road
Author: Jason Hewitt

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 3rd 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Finished reading: July 1st 2017
Pages: 384

“Strange how memories were breaking through as if he’d slipped under ice and now there were patches of it starting to melt so he could see snippets of the life he once had on the surface. Just when he thought his memory was improving, just when he thought he could retain the events of a day, something always disappeared in turn.”

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

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

This is going to be my third ‘unpopular opinion’ review in a row; what is happening to me?! I enjoy reading historical fiction in general and actually have a special interest in any story related to WWII. Devastation Road sounded particularly interesting due to the fact that the main character has amnesia and I found myself really looking forward to read this novel. Devastation Road has received a lot of praise so far and I was expecting to be adding another positive review to the mix myself, but unfortunately I didn’t have the same reading experience as most people. First of all I want to make clear that the idea behind this story is without doubt fascinating: an English soldier in 1945 who has amnesia and doesn’t remember that last four years nor can retain new memories. I could also really appreciate the many descriptions of the places the characters passed through, flashbacks and historical details in general. But. And there is where the tricky part comes in… I REALLY struggled with the writing style. Instead of luring me in, the first pages and chapters only managed to frustrate me and disconnect me from the story with the constant repeat of he, he, he in the sentences. Somehow the prose didn’t flow and I had a hard time figuring out what was going on… This is possibly ment to portray the main character and his amnesia, but it made it really hard for me to properly enjoy the story. That said, apart from the writing style I found it also extremely hard to connect to the characters AND plot itself. It’s not that the main character aren’t intriguing and each has their own history, but somehow I found myself mostly detached from them. And while I normally love the use of foreign languages in a story, I think in the case of Janeck it only made it more difficult to connect to him. I mentioned the flow of the writing style before, and I think I had the same problem with the plot itself. The story goes from memory to present to past and completely different scenes without warning and although this once again can be seen as a representation of amnesia, I found myself really struggling to keep track instead. Devastation Road had all the signs of being an excellent read and the problem might have been just me since so many seem to love this story, but unfortunately I struggled along with the characters to reach the final page. And I still feel kind of sad I wasn’t able to enjoy it more.

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In the final stretch of WWII, a man wakes up in a field in a country he doesn’t know. He is injured and can’t seem to remember how he got there in the first place… In fact, only flashes of memory come back to him and he only has a vague recollection of joining the war he is currently in the middle of. His name is Owen and he is trying to get back to England, although this isn’t easy with his amnesia. He finds help in unlikely places, although he is not sure why exactly they help him or what they want from him. Will his memory get better and will he make it to safety?

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I really wanted to enjoy Devastation Road, especially since it is a combination of two topics that fascinate me: WWII and amnesia. Unfortunately I found it extremely hard to connect to the writing style, characters AND plot… And honestly I think I would probably have opted for a DNF if this weren’t an ARC. I seem to be in the minority though since most reviews have been really positive, so give this one a chance if this sounds like your cup of tea!


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ARC REVIEW: I Found You – by Lisa Jewell

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Title: I Found You
Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: June 30th 2016
Publisher: Arrow
Finished reading: March 2nd 2017
Pages: 448

“The world is full of stories. But the one story he really needs to know is buried somewhere so deep inside him he’s scared he’ll never get to it.”

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

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Basically this book has been on my radar ever since I first found out about it, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when my Netgalley request was actually approved. Let’s face it, the whole amnesia angle has been used a lot lately in psychological thrillers and this element on its own isn’t all that original anymore. However, something about the blurb of I Found You instantly caught my attention and had me wonder about the story behind the main characters. And my instincts were right, because this psychological thriller by Lisa Jewell has literally blown me away. Such fascinating main characters and character development! The writing style and the plot managed to draw me in right from the start and the different storylines only help adding to the initial suspense. The plot twists are executed brilliantly and kept you guessing about the true identities and what really happened right until the end. Twisted, suspenseful, well written, intriguing plot… I Found You definitely has it all. The fact that one of the main characters (‘Frank’) has amnesia might not be original, but the plot itself is without doubt fascinating. If you like the genre, you will definitely enjoy this little gem. This version is due to be published in two days!

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In East Yorkshire, single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. The man doesn’t seem to remember anything and doesn’t have anything on him to identify him either… And when his memory doesn’t come back, Alice decides to invite him into her home against better judgement. He could be anyone after all… But Alice is determined to help the stranger, now called ‘Frank’ by the family just so he has a name. Memories are slowly coming back to him, but it is hard for Frank to make sense of them… And what about the husband of Lily Monrose, who disapeared one evening and left her all alone in a foreign country? Are the two cases related? Or simply a coincidence?

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If you enjoy reading suspenseful psychological thrillers with interesting characters and surprising plot twists, you will probably enjoy I Found You as much as I did. I was hooked right from the start and had a great time finding out more about the main characters, what really happened in the past and what happened to Lily’s husband as well. The writing style is a real treat and I can definitely recommend this book.


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ARC REVIEW: Those Who Lie – by Diane Jeffrey

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Title: Those Who Lie
Author: Diane Jeffrey

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: January 27th 2017
Publisher: HarperCollinsUK
Finished reading: January 17th 2017
Pages: ?
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“Everything looks the same, but everything has changed, she realises with a jolt. She has the strange impression that she has just stepped into someone else’s life.”

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

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

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

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


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ARC REVIEW: The One Memory Of Flora Banks – by Emily Barr

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Title: The One Memory Of Flora Banks
Author: Emily Barr

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: January 12th 2017
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: January 14th 2017
Pages: 303
Rating 5qqq

“I am really here. Yet I know I am not. I am inside something that must be buried in my head. I am layers deep in my own brain.”

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

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After I read Claire‘s review at Art and Soul, I basically had no other choice but rush to Netgalley and request a copy of this new novel by Emily Barr as well. I literally did a happy dance when my request was approved soon after, because I had heard nothing but wonderful things about The One Memory Of Flora Banks (and not just because of the gorgeous cover). I picked up my copy straight after receiving it, and I completely agree with all the other raving reviews out there. This book is brilliant! I loved LOVED the main character and the fact that amnesia plays such a big role in the story. Sure, there is a hint of a love triangle and she doesn’t seem to care much about hurting her best friend’s feelings when she kisses the boyfriend. Sure, if you think about the plot critically it’s not exactly all that credible. But to be honest, I didn’t really care. Flora managed to win over my heart from the very first page and I loved both the writing and how Flora managed to do so many things suffering with anterograde amnesia like she does. And that ending! I’m already having a feeling this one will appear on my list of 2017 favorites.

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Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks suffers from anterograde amnesia ever since a tumor was removed from her brain at the age of ten. She has no short-term memory and is unable to make new memories; her mind has been resetting itself several times a day ever since the operation. But that is until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the day before he leaves town. Somehow Flora is still able to remember every detail about their conversation and kiss the next day, and the memory sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is the key to restoring her memory and making her whole again… So when an encouraging mail from Drake suggests to meet him far far away, Flora finally listens to the two words on her hand: ‘be brave’. Will Flora be able to find him?

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If you look critically, The One Memory Of Flora Banks actually has a plot that isn’t all that credible and even has a hint of a love triangle. I’m normally not a big fan of either, but in this case it was all completely forgotten thanks to the lovely writing and more importantly: Flora Banks. Flora is basically what makes this story and is without doubt one of my new favorite characters! I love how she is able to overcome her anterograde amnesia and do all the things she does. The One Memory Of Flora Banks is definitely a story that is worth the hype and more than recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Safe With Me – by K.L. Slater

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Title: Safe With Me
Author: K.L. Slater

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: November 3rd 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: October 3rd 2016
Pages: 324
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“Sometimes my memories get a bit blurred, good and bad ones together, until it is virtually impossible to separate them. But after all, what are memories but pictures in your mind?”

*** 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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As soon as I saw Safe With Me mentioned at Netgalley, I knew immediately I had to request it. I’m a big fan of the mystery/thriller genre and this psychological thriller with a twist sounded too good to be true. And it might just be that I set my expectations too high, especially since I’ve only seen positive reviews so far, but I ended up having mixed thoughts about this thriller by K.L. Slater. When I first started reading it, I was sure I was going to give it the highest possible rating like most other reviewers that have finished it so far. But as the plot twists and unlikeable characters evolved, I started having second thoughts. Everything is almost too absurd (especially during the final part of the book) and the plot just didn’t seem to be believable at all in the end. It didn’t help that I couldn’t connect to the main character Anna either; in fact, I found her rather annoying. I liked the whole amnesia angle though, and I guess Anna does make for a perfect unreliable narrator. So if you enjoy reading the genre and don’t mind an unlikeable character or two, make sure to keep Safe With Me in mind.

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Anna has never been the same after what happened thirteen years ago. She now lives a solitary existence, using order and routine to keep control over her life and her emotions. She doesn’t like to let people getting to close, knowing how much damage they can do… And her only friend is the lonely old lady next door. Then her routine is suddenly disturbed as she witnesses a devastating road accident and recognises the driver as the woman who ruined her life all those years ago. It’s Anna’s chance to set things straight and finally get her revenge, but first she has to get to know the main who was injured in the accident, trying to convince him to press charges. Anna is starting to get more and more obsessed and her own secrets are starting to unravel…

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Most people seem to love this psychological thriller so the problem might just have been me, but I wasn’t fully convinced by the credibility of the plot and I couldn’t connect to the main character at all. Anna is supposed to be an unreliable narrator and I don’t mind that, but she really started to annoy me as the story developed. The amnesia angle was well done though. One final detail: the ending was supposed to be a mayor plot twist, but I actually already saw part of it coming. It was a little disappointing, but I would still recommend reading Safe With Me if you like reading psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators.

BOOK REVIEW: Memoirs Of A Teenage Amnesiac – by Gabrielle Zevin

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Title: Memoirs Of A Teenage Amnesiac
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: August 21st 2007
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Finished reading: August 27th 2016
Pages: 288
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“Someday, we’ll run into each other again, I know it.
Maybe I’ll be older and smarter and just plain better. If that happens, that’s when I’ll deserve you. But now, at this moment, you can’t hook your boat to mine, because I’m liable to sink us both.”

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I’ve seen this book around a few times in the past and I decided to get a copy as well. And Memoirs Of A Teenage Amnesiac was without doubt a superfast and quite entertaining contemporary romance story with a twist. It wasn’t as good as I would have hoped though and I had mixed feelings about the whole amnesia theme. I just felt it was pushed into the background most of the time, which was a shame since it’s basically the most interesting thing about this story in the first place. Gabrielle Zevin‘s prose is easy to read, quite quotable and fans of the genre will probably end up flying through the pages. It could have done without the romance. It could have done without the sort of love triangle. It could have done without all the drama (especially the main character; boy she is annoying!). But I loved Will’s character and overall it’s definitely worth reading despite the flaws.

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If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss and everything would have been different. But she picked heads, and had to go back for the yearbook camera. She then hit her head on the steps when she slipped, and woke up in an ambulance with amnesia. Naomi doesn’t remember anything from the last few years; not her boyfriend Ace, not why she’s with the yearbook in the first place and definitely not about her dad’s fiancée or her mom’s new family. She doesn’t really know how to deal with it all and the ‘mystery boy’ James that helped her when she fell is intriguing her as well. Will Naomi be able to figure out the truth about her past and overcome her amnesia? And will the people around her accept the changed Naomi?

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If you are looking for an entertaining amnesia themed YA novel, Memoirs Of A Teenage Amnesiac is a good choice. The amnesia unfortunately doesn’t play that big of a role in the story, but it does give you global idea of what a teenager with memory loss has to deal with. It’s all a bit superficial, stuffed with drama and I wish the romance wouldn’t have played such a big role in the story, but I liked the prose and the pace is superfast. Recommended!