YVO’S SHORTIES #127 – The Bride Test & The Twisted Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books that turned out to be great. I wasn’t sure whether to read The Bride Test after my reaction to the first book, but I ended up enjoying the second book better than The Kiss Quotient… I’m glad I took a chance and decided to read it. And The Twisted Tree turned out to be another perfect Halloween read!


Title: The Bride Test
(The Kiss Quotient #2)
Author: Helen Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: October 5th 2019
Pages: 320

“His heart wasn’t made of stone, after all. It just wasn’t like everyone else’s.”


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I admit I took a chance when I decided to get a copy and read The Bride Test. I’m very much allergic to sexy scenes in contemporary romance reads, and after a less than favorable reaction to The Kiss Quotient I thought it would be better to just stay away. But there is no denying that Helen Hoang can write and I love how she develops her characters, so I just couldn’t resist giving this story a try in the end. I’m so glad I did, because while I found the many many sexy scenes to be cringeworthy, I somehow enjoyed the actual story a lot better than the first book. A lot of this has to do with both Esme and Khai, who are both fascinating characters and the reason this story ended up working for me. The background of Esme, a mixed-race girl growing up in the slumps in Vietnam, adds a lot of dept to the story and it was interesting to see her life being turned upside down after she is offered an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Both her personality, endurance and the big contrast with Khai’s character made for some really interesting reading. The autism rep in Khai feels realistic and thorough, and really adds to the story as well. Sure, the many many steamy scenes definitely weren’t for me (I confess I only skimread them), but overall Esme and Khai’s story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I loved the ending as well!


Title: The Twisted Tree
Author: Rachel Burge

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: October 6th 2019
Pages: 180

“Knowing someone’s secrets doesn’t make you feel closer to them – it pushes you away. There are some thing you don’t want to know, trust me.”


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I actually ment to read The Twisted Tree last October, but I wasn’t able to get to it in time and decided to save it for this year’s Halloween month. I had that feeling that it would be a perfect read for the time of the year, and both my instincts and the reviews I read in the past were absolutely right. If you are looking for a little something to get you in the right mood for Halloween, The Twisted Tree is a fantastic choice. Norse mythology, horror and paranormal elements are mixed together with a YA contemporary story in the most successful way… Both the Norse mythology elements and the actual setting on a small island in the middle of nowhere Norway really took this creepy story to the next level. The references to Odin, his ravens and other Norse mythology elements were thorough and formed an important part of the plot. Martha’s family turns out to have a very interesting history, one you only learn about as the main character starts discovering things herself… The spooky is mixed with a healthy dose of thriller elements as well as a few nailbiting moments that will manage to creep you out. I like how the little hint of romance balances out the creepy part of The Twisted Tree, and I myself had a fantastic time reading this story. More than recommended!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Escape Room – by Megan Goldin #blogtour #TheEscapeRoom @stmartinspress

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Escape Room blog tour! A huge thanks to Kelly Klein (St. Martin’s Press) for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about this story that caught my eye immediately and as soon as I saw the positive reviews popping up I knew I had made the right decision to read this title.  And it was without doubt a thrilling ride… Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Escape Room
Author: Megan Goldin
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 30th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 20th 2019
Pages: 352

“If we all knew the truth, it would bring out our worst, most primitive instincts. We’d turn into feral animals. We’d consume one another.”

*** 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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I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, we are dealing with a Wall Street angle combined with a potentially lethal escape room setting here; how am I supposed to resist that?! You guessed right, I didn’t, and it turned out to be a very interesting ride. There are a lot of good things I can mention about The Escape Room, and also a few minor issues, but overall it is without doubt a story I can recommend to fans of the genre.

The first thing that stands out in The Escape Room is of course the setting in the financial world. This story mostly takes place in New York, with a focus on Wall Street and just how brutal the financial sector is. Ambition is an understatement and people will crush their competitors and crawl over their dead bodies if that means they could add more money to their already generous paycheck that way. Addiction comes in many forms, and this story shows us that there is definitely such thing as money (and power) addiction. This insight in the Wall Street lifestyle of the elite is without doubt one of the most fascinating aspects of this story. The work that goes behind the multi million deals, the possible consequences for those involved, the competition, the discrimination and sexism still involved in the financial world, the physical and emotional toll the sheer pressure of the job has on those involved… All these elements and more are incorporated into the plot of The Escape Room.

We mainly learn more about the financial world through the chapters told from Sarah Hall’s POV. While we are not sure in the beginning exactly what role this character plays in the whole escape room situation, Sarah’s POV is essential to understand more about the background and events leading up to the escape room. Sarah’s chapters are altered with those set inside the elevator where the escape room is situated. These chapters have a more acute feel as there seems to be an underlying feeling of danger present at all times… And since you already know some basic facts about how things will end, because it’s right there in the very beginning of The Escape Room, you will find yourself wondering how things could have escalated to that point. I personally didn’t mind already knowing the ending before the story had even started, because it was intriguing to slowly try to discover why those specific characters ended up in the elevator and how Sarah’s character fitted in. The actual suspense is more subtle that way, in the sense that we don’t have a pile of crazy plot twists to recover from, but I could personally really appreciate how the plot itself was constructed.

Next up one of my issues with The Escape Room, and it has all to do with the main characters. I’ve never met a bunch of main characters that were each and every single one completely and utterly unlikeable and frustratingly irritating. Ok, I’m lying, I did mostly like Lucy as a character, but she wasn’t as present as the other five (Sarah, Vincent, Sylvie, Jules and Sam) so technically she doesn’t count right? There is a lot of complaining going on by all five characters before you reach the final page. Complaining about money: wanting more money, not having enough money, wanting to make more than their colleagues…Complaining about their situation in the elevator: they have better things to do than being stuck in an elevator, why them?, it’s not fair! etc. etc… Complaining about the job: the pressure, not receiving the recognition they deserve, blaming the job for their addictions… And I could go on and on. Each of the five of what I call the principal characters have a whole lot of negative personality traits and negative behavior we are forced to deal with and it makes it a lot harder to make yourself care about both what is happening in the elevator and about Sarah’s story as a whole.

I also had some issues with the credibility of it all, as some aspects of the plot are extremely farfetched and will make your eyebrows work overtime if you are looking for a credible and realistic thriller. On the other hand, if you are looking for an fast and crazy pageturner that will keep you entertained all the way, you will find yourself more than satisfied by what you find. It’s true that I would have liked to have more focus on the escape room itself, with less bitching and complaining of course and more secrets and clues to solve (some of the existing ones were really easy to guess), but there is just something about The Escape Room that made me enjoy the ride anyway despite the fact I saw the end coming quite early.

In short, if you don’t mind your stories on the insane side and think you can stomach the unlikeable characters, you will find yourself having a great time reading about what you can call a conspiracy plot mixed with an intense escape room situation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Megan Goldin worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. The Escape Room is her debut novel.

CLICK HERE TO BUY


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YVO’S SHORTIES #111 – The Broken Ones & The Boy Who Steals Houses

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two different genres and two different reactions to the stories. I picked up The Broken Ones on a whim and while it was a fast read, it failed to blow me away. The Boy Who Steals Houses on the other hand was one of my most anticipated releases this year and an absolutely brilliant read.


Title: The Broken Ones
Author: Sarah A. Denzil

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 24th 2016
Finished reading: June 30th 2019
Pages: 199

“Sometimes I wonder who is hunting whom. There are times when I feel like an animal stuck in a trap – and there are other times when I feel like a hunter stalking a dangerous wild animal, treading softly through the forest.”


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I was browsing my kindle the other day and picked up this title on a whim as I was looking for a quick dose of psychological thriller. This is my first experience with Sarah A. Denzil‘s work, although I do have other titles waiting on my TBR. I was looking forward to The Broken Ones, but while I finished it in record time, I have to say I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. One of the main focuses of the story is on Alzheimer, and while it can be hard for those who have seen the disease destroy memories of someone close to them (like myself), it was also interesting to see its effects on both Sophie’s mother and those close to her. I would have liked a little more development to give it a more realistic representation, but overall it’s not too bad considering the length of the story. Sophie’s mother has a horrible personality though and I despised her even thoughI thought I would feel bad for her for having early onset Alzheimer. The same goes for Sophie herself: she is a rather spineless woman who basically suffered emotional abuse by her mother her whole life, never got to live her own life because of it and still doesn’t stand up for herself even now. Utterly frustrating and it made it hard to connect to characters and story because of that. The plot itself is interesting, although the plot twists are a bit farfetched and I did guess the big surprise quite early on in the story. The Broken Ones isn’t a bad story and without doubt a quick read, but sadly it failed to blow me away.


Title: The Boy Who Steals Houses
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: July 3rd 2019
Pages: 347

“A family. A home. I really want a… h-home.”
“But you can’t steal it.”
“I know,” Sam whispers. I know I know I know.
“You have to build it.”


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I’m still kicking myself for not reading A Thousand Perfect Notes sooner, and I knew I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. I’ve been dying to read The Boy Who Steals Houses ever since my preorder arrived in April, and I’m so glad I finally had time to do so! This title was one of my most anticipated releases this year and I can say it has without doubt lived up to expectations. What an absolutely wonderful and heartbreaking read! You will want to clear your schedule for this little gem, because once you meet the main characters Sam, Moxie and Avery you will find yourself unable to say goodbye to them and stop reading. The writing style is engaging and wonderful; the characters and their descriptions are likewise excellently done. There is just something about Sam, Moxie and Avery that made them win over my heart almost immediately, and my heart ached for them as their story slowly revealed itself. Their development is realistic and the incorporation of the anxiety and autism elements are both authentic and brilliantly handled. Wonderful prose, characters that will win over your heart, anxiety and autism rep, tragedy and lots of food references… What more could you wish for? Trigger warnings are in place for elements such as violence, abuse and bullying, but each element is well incorporated into the plot. The Boy Who Steals Houses is a heartbreaking read and you will want to have a box of tissues at hand just to be safe, because I myself couldn’t keep it dry… And trust me, that doesn’t happen often. Sam, Moxie and Avery won over my heart, crushed it into a million pieces and left me a complete puddle of mess by the time I reach the final page. Go read this absolutely wonderful story if you haven’t already! You won’t regret it.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #106 – Queens Of Geek & The Weight Of Feathers

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two YA stories I had been meaning to read for a while and both ended up enjoying a lot. Queens Of Geek by Jen Wilde turned out to be absolutely adorkable and The Weight Of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore is such a beautiful read!


Title: Queens Of Geek
Author: Jen Wilde

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 14th 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Finished reading: June 9th 2019
Pages: 269

“I’m a perfectly normal Aspie girl. I just feel broken because I’m trying to fit into a nonautistic world. I’m a square peg trying to squeeze myself into a round hole.”


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While it’s not my usual genre, I like mixing things up and sometimes I’m just in the mood for a sweet contemporary read. I’ve been hearing lots of wonderful things about Queens Of Geek and thought Pride month would be the perfect excuse to finally pick up this title. After a bout of thrillers, I was fully ready for a dose of fluffy and adorable and I had a feeling this title would fit the bill. I mean, the blurb gives the promise of a whole lot of geekiness, an autism rep and a convention setting; what more could I wish for? I can confirm it now: Queen Of Geek is an absolutely adorkable read. So cute! So fluffy! I love my geeky characters and you will get a whole lot of them as basically every single one of the main characters fits the description. The story is set at the Supacon convention after all, so this doesn’t come as a surprise… The setting plays a key role during the whole story and is without doubt one of the reasons this story is such a success. The different fandoms, the interaction between fans and creators, the merch, the contests… You will find a lot of references throughout. The characters are supereasy to like and it won’t be long before they steal your heart and run away with it. Queens Of Geek has a dual POV, where we switch between Charlie and Taylor. Both are well developed, quirky and unique characters with their own problems, visions and dreams. I had a great time seeing them grow and evolve during the story… It’s true that there are quite a few cliches involved, both romantic and otherwise, but somehow the characters and story itself were able to get away with it. I did feel there were almost too many inspirational messages included (don’t get me wrong, I loved those messages and applaude positivity, but it started to come over as a bit preachy after a while). Still, I had a wonderful time reading Queens Of Geek and its characters will definitely stay with me for quite some time.


Title: The Weight Of Feathers
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: YA, Romance, Magical Realism
First published: September 15th 2015
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Finished reading: June 14th 2019
Pages: 320

“His feathers marked him as a Corbeau the way her escamas marked her as a Paloma. The things they wore on their bodies made them as distinct as water and sky.”


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I’ve been meaning to read The Weight Of Feathers for a while now… I know magical realism can go both ways for me, but there was just something about the blurb that caught my eye straight way. I’m happy I finally got the chance to read it, because I fell in love with both the writing and the story itself. It’s such a beautiful and well crafted story! It’s magical realism, but not too ‘heavy’ to distract or complicate you… Instead, you will find yourself mesmerized by the lives of the Corbeau and Paloma families and their performances. There is a hint of the magic, but mostly The Weight Of Feathers is a classic forbidden love story where two characters of rival families fall in love against all odds. The story is told with the help of a dual POV, switching back and forth between Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau… This way, we learn more about both families and their performances. I loved the symbolism of the mermaids and the Corbeau act with their feather wings; water and air, opposite but beautiful in their own way. Each chapter started with a phrase in Spanish (Paloma) or French (Corbeau), which was a nice touch although I could spot quite a few errors in both foreign text and translation (a shame, since it would have been easy to check and correct, but that’s probably just the philologist in me talking). French and Spanish expressions are also sometimes used in the text itself, giving the story an authentic feel and adding to the atmosphere. Lace and Cluck are both quite easy to like, but while Lace sometimes frustrated me, it was Cluck who I wanted to adopt and save from his life with the Corbeaus. Such a wonderful character! And while the whole forbidden love elements can become a bit cheesy, I did enjoy how it was developed in The Weight Of Feathers. The ending is also beautiful and I loved the symbolism used! It’s true the magical realism might not be for everyone, but I suggest giving this story a go anyway as it’s absolutely beautiful.


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BOOK REVIEW: Six Stories – by Matt Wesolowski @Orendabooks

Title: Six Stories
(Six Stories #1)
Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: December 20th 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: June 3rd 2019
Pages: 225

“There is definitely evil in this world of ours. We carve monuments to our fallen, engrave them with the names of those whose lives were snuffed out when trying to stop evil.

We don’t forget.”


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I’ve been meaning to read Six Stories for a long time now, basically ever since I kept seeing those fantastic reviews when it was first published… I’ve known it was a pretty safe bet I was going to enjoy Six Stories, and that definitely turned out to be the truth. A special thanks to the wonderful Meggy at Chocolate’n’Waffles for being one of the first introducing me to Orenda Books!! And while I admit it took me longer than expected to finally jump on board, Orenda title number three has now officially confirmed me I have found another favorite publisher. ❤

Back to Six Stories… I’ve been letting my thoughts marinate for the last couple of days and even now I’m still struggling to find the words that do this little masterpiece justice. Let’s see how far I get, shall we? First of all, the cover alone pretty ominous. One body. Six Stories. Which one is true? This is the premise and promise of what sounds to be a very intriguing ride. It is also a reference to the key element of what makes this gem unique: the format. Because there is no doubt that the podcast format is what makes this story truly stand out from the rest. The story is told in six different podcast episodes where each episode features a different key character and their memories of what happened twenty years ago. I bet Six Stories would be fantastic as an audiobook as well! Especially as the format basically reads like a real podcast series, with only the short chapters told from Harry Saint Clement-Ramsay’s POV breaking up that structure.

The writing drew me straight in and made it easy to fully focus on the mystery around Tom’s disappearance and death. I was hooked as soon as I started the first podcast episode, wanting to know more about what happened in 1996. Was it really a misadventure that ended Tom’s life? Or is someone hiding something? Oh yes, I was fully under the podcast’s spell from the start. I do admit I liked Harry’s chapters less than the actual podcast episodes, but they did add a little extra intrigue and weight to the final reveals. The suspense in Six Stories is subtle rather than constant, fed with a little folklore here and a monster story there, only to punch you in the gut just before you start thinking things are being wrapped up rather blandly. And trust me, I definitely didn’t see that suckerpunch of a final podcast episode coming! Even after days, I’m still recovering, so definitely be ready to brace yourself when you decide to pick up your copy of Six Stories.

The characters in Six Stories are what you call flawed and are realistically described and developed. Although each podcast has its own star character, it is through their memories and stories about what happened that we get to form a better idea of what each character was like in our minds. Ideas and opinions about the different characters will change as you learn more about them, showing that not everything is as it seems and there is always more to the eye if you look at the details closely. Like I said before, the suspense is build up subtly, instead focusing on slowly letting you get to know the characters better and thus revealing their true selves and what they were up to in 1996. I understand this might be a turn off for those who don’t like slower paces in their thrillers, but trust me, Six Stories is by no means uneventful and the slower pace only enhances the effect of the plot twist bomb that will be dropped on you before you reach the final page. I had a fantastic time reading Six Stories and I will already be looking forward to read the other books in the series.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #73 – The Kiss Quotient & The Crown Of Embers

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Time for my first 2019 reads and first two Beat The Backlist titles! The Kiss Quotient has been recommended to me various times and I should have investigated better before starting it, because there was an overload of sexy scenes involved and that made this story into something that is definitely not for me. The Crown Of Embers turned out to be an interesting sequel even though I wish there would have been less romance…


Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 30th 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: January 2nd 2019
Pages: 336

“At her core, she would always be autistic. People called it a disorder, but it didn’t feel like one. To her, it was simply the way she was.”


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Dear The Kiss Quotient, it’s not you, it’s me. I should have known better than to pick you up even though contemporary romance isn’t really my thing. I should have investigated better and discovered you were filled to the brim with sexy scenes, because it would have avoided both of us a lot of pain. Oh yes, for someone allergic to adult content and sexy scenes, The Kiss Quotient is 200% the wrong book to go for. Kind of late for that now, isn’t it? Oh well… I guess I have only myself to blame for this. Even though this story was definitely not for me, I can definitely understand why there is so much love for it. Contemporary romance fans are probably in heaven with this book, because there is one thing I can’t deny: Helen Hoang knows how to write. And not only the writing style is very engaging, but the character development is simply spot on. As much as I hated all those steamy scenes, it was due to main characters Stella and Michael I made it to the very end of this story. Stella is unique, quirky and simply brilliant as a main character. I love how realistic her Asperger’s is described and incorporated in the story (it shows that the author used personal experiences) and how it shines a light on autism as a whole. Michael has his own personality, history and problems and I really liked those family dynamics combined with Stella and their story. Were there a lot of cliches and typical romance tropes involved? Yes. Will your glasses (if you use them) get all steamed up while you read The Kiss Quotient? You bet. But if you love the genre, you will fall in love with this story as well.


Title: The Crown Of Embers
(Fire And Thorns #2)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 18th 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: January 4th 2019
Pages: 416

“I lie awake for a long time, wondering which would be more foolish, to prepare for something that may never happen, or not to prepare for something that might.”


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I read the first Fire And Thorns book back in 2015 and even though I enjoyed it, I somehow never picked up the sequel. I read the novellas last year, and thought it was about time to finally finish the last two books this year as well. First up is book number two The Crown Of Embers. I admit I had forgotten about a lot of details of the first book and it took a little time to adjust, but I was able to pick up the thread easily enough after a few chapters. The first thing that stands out in this series is the detailed and wonderful worldbuilding. I loved the inclusion of many references to Spanish names and words and the way the world is constructed. It’s a very interesting high fantasy world and we get to see a lot of it in the sequel. This series has a religious angle, but handled in just the right way that it doesn’t become too present for those who are like me agnostic. The writing style is engaging and makes it easy to keep reading those pages until you reach the last page. I wasn’t sure about every character; some can get annoying, and I could have done without the romance cliches and love triangle, but overall the story does deliver. The quest the main characters go on in The Crown Of Embers is an intriguing one, and it definitely ends with a mayor cliffhanger. I’m looking forward how things will continue in the final book!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #11: Fragments Of The Lost (ARC) & Things I Should Have Known

Oh yes, it’s time for yet another round of 2017 backlog reviews and another round of Yvo’s Shorties… This time with one of my most-anticipated releases and ARC Fragments Of The Lost by Megan Miranda and a random YA contempory I picked up on a whim: Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik.


Title: Fragments Of The Lost
Author: Megan Miranda

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: November 14th 2017
Publisher: Crown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 14th 2017
Pages: 373

“Everyone had secrets. Trust is a luxury for fools. The more I discover, the less I trust my own memories, even.”

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


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Megan Miranda’s psychological thrillers All The Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger are on my list of all time favorites, so of course I added Fragments Of The Lost to my most-anticipated list as soon as I heard about it. And while I still prefer her thrillers, there is no doubt that Fragments Of The Lost is an excellent read. The first thing that stands out is the writing style, which is just as strong and beautiful as ever and makes it really easy to fully dive into this story. I really liked how the chapters and memories were related to the things the character finds during her quest. This is a perfect reference to the title and quite an original touch. Those memories also involve some suspense around what really happened and will help introducing plot twists to the story. There were a few I definitely didn’t see coming! That said, I wasn’t a fan of the love triangle included in the story and I was never able to fully warm up to the characters. Those are only minor compared to the other elements I did enjoy though, and YA contemporary fans will very likely devour Fragments Of The Lost.


Title: Things I Should Have Known
Author: Claire LaZebnik

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: March 28th 2017
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: October 21st 2017
Pages: 320

“It’s like people have a place in their brain for normal, and they have a place in their brain for something obviously wrong, but they can’t deal with something just a little bit different. And that makes them uncomfortable.”


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I admit I picked up this one on a whim, although I’m always interested in stories with an mental health/illness angle. In the case of Things I Should Have Known the focus is on autism, and thankfully this is not just an empty filler and there is quite some focus on both autism itself and what it is like for people having an autistic family member or friends. I wasn’t a fan of the sappy romance or love triangle, but I did appreciate the central role Ivy and Ethan played. Do I agree with Chloe’s actions and the whole ‘trying to hook up Ivy with Ethan’ thing? No. Did I connect with the main characters? I’m not so sure either. But Things I Should Have Known is without doubt still a fast-paced, engaging and easy to read YA contemporary that sheds at least some light on autism. By all means not perfect, but if you are looking for a contemporary read with a dose of romance and fluff, Things I Should Have Known is an interesting choice.


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