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: Missing – by Monty Marsden

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Title: Missing
Author: Monty Marsden

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Aria
Finished reading: February 1st 2017
Pages: 266
Rating 2,5qqq

“Patience is like a tree – the roots are bitter, but the fruits are most sweet.”

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

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This story was actually published over two months ago, but somehow it got mixed up with other ARCs and I didn’t read it on time. Oops? I always have a weak spot for a good thriller and I have an (unhealthy?) obsession for stories about serial killers. Add an Italian setting and I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Missing. The author Monty Marsden is actually Italian; something I didn’t realize immediately, but it shows in the detailed descriptions and this book is in fact actually a translation. I was completely ready to dive into this serial killer mystery, but I ended up taking a very long time to finish it. I’m not sure if part of the essence of this story is lost in translation, but it all just felt way too chaotic and it took a long time before things started to make sense for me. The many POV switches distracted from the main plot and had me confused which characters were actually important in the story. That said, the introduction of Claps, suffering from aphasia (the struggle to comprehend and use words and verbal expressions) added a whole different level to the plot. He is a truly fascinating character and I enjoyed following his development. All in all Missing is not the best mystery I’ve read, although part might have been lost in translation and it did have its charm.

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Ami lives with her family in a little village in Lombardy, a seemingly safe and dusty place. But that is until one day Ami steps out of her house to go to school and never comes back nor did she ever make it to school. Her father raises the alarm and they start an immediate search for the little girl. Police Commisioner Sensi leads the investigation, and they seem to have found a trail straight away. But three months later, they still haven’t found Ami and they don’t have a solid lead as to what happened to her. Sensi decides to talk to his old friend Dr. Claps, a renowned criminologist who had to retire after suffering from aphasia. Because Ami doesn’t seem to be the only little girl who went missing, and Sensi needs all the help he can get to solve the mystery…

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I was really looking forward to Missing, especially after I found out about its Italian setting and the involvement of a serial killer. It’s not that the case itself isn’t intriguing and I really enjoyed the setting, but I somehow I had a really hard time reading this story. It just all felt chaotic with too many different characters/POVs being introduced without a proper connection… And I had a hard time understanding the relevance of some of the chapters. Things started to make sense later on in the story, but for me it was too little too late. Missing is a story with a lot of potential and interesting characters, and I kind of wish my Italian would be good enough to read the original version just to see if it was just the translation that let me down…


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ARC REVIEW: Making Faces – by Amy Harmon

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Title: Making Faces
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 12th 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Finished reading: January 28th 2017
Pages: 405
Rating 5qqq

“I don’t think we get answers to every question. We don’t get all the whys. But I think when we look back to the end of our lives, if we do the best we can, and we will see that the things we begged God to take from us, the things we cursed him for, the things that made us turn our backs on him, are the things that were the biggest blessings, the biggest opportunities for growth.”

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

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It’s been over two weeks since I finished reading Making Faces and I still find it difficult to put my thoughts properly on paper. It doesn’t happen all that often, but Amy Harmon was able to give me another book hang over with this little masterpiece. I’m ashamed to admit I have only recently discovered her work, but I’ve already become addicted to her lovely prose and diverse plots. Making Faces is no exception. I had already heard great things about this book and I basically broke down the request button as soon as I saw it was available at Netgalley. All the raving reviews were absolutely right: this story is simply brilliant. I fell in love with both the characters, writing style and plot and this story will definitely stay with me for quite some time. Sure, some of it might be a little cheesy if you think about it critically. But if you have characters like Fern, Bailey and Ambrose, it is really easy to put those thoughts aside. I loved the war veteran elements as well; it’s such an important topic and definitely deserves more attention, especially as they are often misunderstood by society. As you might have guessed already, I simply adored Making Faces and I can definitely recommend it to any contemporary fan. I promise you that you will fall in love with the characters and their story! This new edition published by Spencer Hill Press later this month has some nifty bonus content as well.

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Ambrose Young’s looks and talent have made him really popular during his high school years. He isn’t just tall, muscular and good at sports, he also seems to have walked right off the cover of one of those romance novels. Fern Taylor should know, because she has been reading them since she was thirteen. Fern has had a crush on him for years, but she isn’t exactly the ‘prettiest’ girl in town and she doesn’t think Ambrose would ever look at her that way. But life isn’t just about physical attraction and works in funny ways. After the 9/11 attacks, Ambrose and his four friends decide to join the cause and were sent off to war. Only one comes back… And the whole town struggles to deal with the loss; each in their own way.

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I kind of feel I’m not doing the story justice with this summary, but I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot… This line in the blurb describes the general idea behind Making Faces beautifully though: “a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us“. It’s contemporary romance with a healthy dose of realistic fiction, a cup of tears and mixed with lovely characters and a very important topic. I basically loved everything about it and this story has confirmed Amy Harmon is one of my new favorite authors.


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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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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: ?
Rating 3,5qqq

“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: It’s All Absolutely Fine – by Ruby Elliot

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Title: It’s All Absolutely Fine
Author: Ruby Elliot

Genre: Graphic Novel, Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 15th 2017
Pages: 256
Rating 4qqq

“That’s what you need sometimes, whether it’s a dog or a cat or a jazzy lizard or something else entirely that provides you with some emotional respite when it’s all too messy – a tiny yet significant port in an almighty storm.”

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

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I confess I don’t have a lot of experience reading graphic novels, but when I saw It’s All Absolutely Fine at Netgalley I was immediately intrigued by the promise of a combination of simple drawings and a down-to-earth description of the daily struggles of life with mental illness. It is a topic that has always interested me for various reasons… And It’s All Absolutely Fine is without doubt another title to add to my list of favorites talking about mental illness. Why? First of all, I found it really easy to connect to the little stories. Ruby Elliot shows life as it is without trying to hide the ugly parts, and I can really appreciate the sincerity of it all. This bundle switches between short essays and illustrations that show the reader Ruby’s experiences living with social anxiety and the daily struggles of life with mental illness. Simple drawings of sometimes ‘simple’ situations, but with a huge dose of sharp humor for maximum effect.

I think this illustration above gives just the right idea of what I’m talking about… Ruby Elliot‘s drawings are sometimes brutally honest, but they always feel 100% real. It’s both an entertaining and eye-opening read that will appeal both to anyone interested in the topic and fans of memoirs such as Furiously Happy.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is both an honest and unapologetic account of Ruby’s daily struggle living with mental illness. She uses simple drawings and a few short essays to talk about themes like mood disorders, anxiety and issues with body image; all sprinkled with the right dose of humor. Each chapter talks about a different set of struggles, and every aspect is talked about openly without hiding the ugly parts.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is a graphic novel and memoir that tries to both show what it is to live with mental illness and tell other people that it is okay to not feel okay. The drawings might be simple, but are brutally honest and have a dose of sharp humor for maximum effect. I really enjoyed reading this story and I think anyone interested in the topic would enjoy reading It’s All Absolutely Fine as well. Recommended!


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