ARC REVIEW: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes – by Ruth Hogan

Title: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes
Author: Ruth Hogan
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2018
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: May 16th 2019
Pages: 320

“When the music ends for someone you love you don’t stop dancing. You dance for them as well.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Ruth Hogan‘s work so I was really excited to receive a copy of The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes on my kindle. And while my reading experience turned out to be different than what I was expecting and it ended up being not exactly my cup of tea, I also understand the love for this story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes is by no means a bad read (quite the contrary in fact) and the three star rating reflects my personal experience with the story rather than the quality itself. Every book has its target group and while the story sadly wasn’t a right fit for me, I could also really appreciate it for what it was. Let’s make it clear from the start that The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes has a considerably slow pace and is mainly a character-driven story. The power behind this read is Ruth Hogan‘s ability to create quirky, flawed and unique characters that will most likely stay with you for quite some time. A lot of time is invested in the description and development of the different characters. While I could really appreciate that and I do love my quirky and unique characters, for me personally it slowed down the pace too much and I struggled to connect and stay invested in the story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes uses a dual POV and follows two ‘broken’ women each with their own past and problems. Sadly, I failed to connect fully to Alice and Masha, but what was even worse is that I guessed the mayor final plot twist right from the beginning. I kept hoping I was wrong… And it was quite a disappointment to discover I was right all along. I really liked Edward, Sally and Kitty though and I loved the hidden meaning behind Haizum’s name (and the fact a dog plays a considerable role in the story). Masha’s romance was too cliche for me, but I did enjoy seeing her character evolve over time and slowly learn how to deal with the death of her son. I’m having a feeling fans of slower and mostly character-driven contemporary dramas and those who love quirky and unique characters will have a wonderful time with The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #89 – Here We Are Now & The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a story that failed to convince me completely and another that completely won over my heart. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga wasn’t as good as I hoped, especially after loving her debut… The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa was a fantastic read though.


Title: Here We Are Now
Author: Jasmine Warga

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: November 7th 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: March 7th 2019
Pages: 304

“It’s funny how some places just feel familiar in your bones, even if you’ve never been there before.”


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I have been looking forward to read more of Jasmine Warga‘s work ever since I loved her debut back in 2015… It took me longer than expected to get to Here We Are Now, but I guess better late than never right? It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, but unfortunately I can’t say I was all that impressed by this story as a whole. It’s not a bad read and fans of character driven YA contemporaries will probably have a great time with this one. It’s not the writing either, which felt natural and I just loved the many musical references. But there was just something about the plot and characters that didn’t manage to convince me. The plot is rather simple and nothing much is going on; it shows that this story is mostly focused on the main characters. This means we see a lot of the sixteen-year-old Taliah as well as her parents Julian and Lena and their past. On its own nothing negative, but there was just something about the characters that started to irritate me. Taliah came over as rather childish and whines a lot… Julian can be a bit intense and Lena is rather annoying even though she also has an interesting aspect with her being an immigrant in the US and her having to adapt to a new country (something I can relate to). I didn’t agree with some of the actions and reactions of the characters and I’m not sure parts felt all that natural. Like I said before, the musical elements were a nice touch though and I liked how the story was partly set in the past as Julian tells Taliah how he first met her mother and what happened. Sadly I failed to connect with this story, but I’m sure the right person will absolutely adore Here We Are Now.


Title: The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author: Hiro Arikawa

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: November 1st 2012
Publisher: Viking
Finished reading: March 11th 2019
Pages: 288
(Originally written in Japanese: ‘旅猫リポート’)

“We cats get all limp and squishy when we have catnip; for humans, wine seems to do the trick.”


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As some of you might already know, I am what you call a true catlover or crazy catlady. I have loved these feline creatures ever since I was tiny, and even a bout of childhood allergy couldn’t cure me of that love… Thankfully I grew over my allergy, and I have been lucky enough to share my life with a bunch of different feline friends during the last eighteen years or so. The Travelling Cat Chronicles is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys being around cats. It’s so easy to relate to this wonderful story! The first thing that stands out and makes this book special for me is the fact that the story is narrated by a cat. Yes, you read that right, the main character of this story is a very special cat named Nana who tells all about his adventures together with his companion and owner Satoru. Very original and it definitely made the story that much more powerful. We get to know both Nana and Saturo better through their adventures as they visit various childhood friends of Saturo. It’s not only a journey within Japan, but also a journey to the past as we learn more about the different characters both then and now. I loved how not only Nana, but other animals get to play a role in the story as well. The descriptions are wonderful as is the writing style in general… The characters will win over your heart in record time and will stay with you for a long time. Warning: make sure you have your tissues ready! Because the end will most definitely make you cry (I know I did, and I almost never cry). The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a fantastic read I could see myself reading over and over again.


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ARC REVIEW: The Winter Sister – by Megan Collins

Title: The Winter Sister
Author: Megan Collins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Touchstone
Finished reading: January 17th 2019
Pages: 336

“Love is love. You can’t just kick it to the curb, even if sometimes you wished like hell you could.”

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

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There has been a lot of buzz around The Winter Sister, and with a just cause. I simply couldn’t resist this title when I was sent a personal invitation to read it and I saw one of my favorite thriller writers Megan Miranda recommended it… My intuition didn’t fail me, because this story was without doubt a very solid read. Part family drama, part cold case murder, part psychological thriller, The Winter Sister has a little bit of everything and combined in such a way that makes for a perfect mystery cocktail everyone will love. The writing style is engaging and solid and will manage to draw you in from the very first page. I really liked the structure of this story, switching between 16 years ago and the present and done in such a way that keeps building up the suspense and intrigue without things becoming confusing. This story is about what happened to Persephone, but also the effects it had and still has on those close to her. The character development is very well done and feels realistic. It is interesting to see the different characters interact and change over time while you learn more about the past and how everyone fits on the board. While I did see part of the final twists coming, there were also things I hadn’t guessed and that’s always a great feeling. The family drama is well balanced out with the cold case investigation and other secrets and plot twists, making The Winter Sister an intriguing and satisfying read. Fans of the genre will have a great time with this one!

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It has been sixteen years since Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. She had been missing for three days before her body was found, and the crime has remained unsolved. Sylvie has tried to move on, but is faced with painful memories as she has to return come to care for her estranged mother. Being back home brings back all the questions and her theories on who was behind the death of her sister. She is determined to finally discover the truth no matter what it takes…

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My instincts told me I was in for a treat with this one and it turns out they were right. The Winter Sister offers us a well balanced mix of a family drama, cold case murder and psychological thriller with a focus on the complicated relationships between mother and daughters alike. The writing is solid and the plot well crafted and interestingly developed. The switches between past and present added to the intrigue and suspense around Persephone’s death and the truth what really happened to her… There are a lot of secrets and twists to discover, and while I did see some of them coming, others managed to surprise me. All in all The Winter Sister was a very satisfying read fans of the genre will love.


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ARC REVIEW: River Bodies – by Karen Katchur

Title: River Bodies
(Northampton County #1)
Author: Karen Katchur
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 1st 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: November 4th 2018
Pages: 302

“Sometimes it wasn’t what the person said but rather what they didn’t that told you more than their words ever could.”

*** 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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There was just something about that cover, title and blurb that immediately caught my attention and made me want to find out more about the story. River Bodies has that appeal to inner crime thriller fan in me, and I have been looking forward to it. What I didn’t expect was to have such mixed feelings about River Bodies in the end… I’ll try to explain why, although partly I still can’t exactly put my finger on the why. First of all I have to point out my feelings had nothing to do with the writing style, which was engaging and easy to read. It was rather the pace of the story that was a tad slow for me, and made it harder to stay invested in the story. That and the fact I wasn’t expecting to have so much focus on the characters and their relationships instead of a more developed investigation of past and present crimes. And I definitely didn’t sign up for the love triangle, or the having to deal with multiple cheating main characters, something I absolutely loathe. I guess this was part of the reason the story went south for me. There were also some plot holes and inconsistencies I couldn’t help wondering about. How come that if Becca is literally living on the other side of the river and only fifteen minutes away, nobody recognizes her in the place she grew up? Nobody ever crossed the bridge and saw her on the other side she lived now, especially since she’s a vet and all? Not really credible. Also, her not having seen her best friend Parker during all that time, him being a cop and surely moving around while on duty, is not credible at all either. The murder mysteries themselves are interesting and I didn’t mind the flashbacks, but I would have liked to see those elements related to the murders more developed instead of having to deal with relationship troubles. River Bodies is more of a mix between contemporary romance and a character-driven mystery than the proper crime thriller I was expecting, and unfortunately that mix didn’t hit the mark for me. I’m sure the right person would enjoy River Bodies a lot better than I did though.

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When a body turns up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania, newly detective Parker Reed cannot help but see the similarities to a twenty-year-old cold case. That crime was hushed up and never solved, but Parker is determined to connect the two murders and find the killer. Then former best friend Becca Kingsley suddenly returns to Portland to be with her dying father and former police chief. Coming home has brought back memories that were deeply buried, memories Becca isn’t sure whether it would be better and safer to keep buried. Especially since they might be related to the murders…

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I was looking forward to River Bodies, but sadly it didn’t completely hit the mark for me. Part of the problem was probably that I was expecting a crime thriller, where River Bodies has more focus on the characters and their relationships rather than the actual crimes committed and the consequent investigation. Having to deal with multiple cheating characters and a love triangle came as a very unpleasant surprise for me, and definitely influenced my reading experience negatively. The crimes themselves and the investigation weren’t as important in River Bodies, something that surprised me. Fans of slower paced and character-driven mysteries with a dose of romance will undoubtly enjoy River Bodies a lot better. Just be warned there might be some graphic scenes involved.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #58 – The Princess Saves Herself In This One & The Smallest Part

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two genres I don’t read all too often, but two titles that turned out to be winners. The Princess Saves Herself In This One has a very powerful message and The Smallest Part was simply brilliant.


Title: The Princess Saves Herself In This One
(Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #1)
Author: Amanda Lovelace

Genre: Non Fiction, Poetry, Feminism
First published: April 23rd 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: October 25th 2018
Pages: 156

“When I had
no friends
I reached inside
my beloved
books
& sculpted some
out of
12 pt
Times new roman.

— & it was almost good enough.”


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I actually read the second poetry bundle of this series earlier this year, and I’ve been meaning to pick up The Princess Saves Herself In This One ever since. While there is no complicated poetry style to admire and the main technique seems to be the use of the space bar, somehow I wasn’t as bothered by that. Because there is one thing for sure: where The Princess Saves Herself In This One might lack in proper technique, it’s the words themself and the powerful message behind them that will blow your socks off. WOW! It doesn’t happen often that I’m able to connect this much with poetry… Relatable, emotional, clever wordplay; these words will no doubt move you. I still prefer the second bundle, but I can understand why so many seemed to have enjoyed this one. It shows Amanda Lovelace has gone through a lot in life, and I admire her for being so open about it and her not afraid to show the hurt and beat the monsters by throwing words and poems at them. I will definitely be looking forward to the third bundle coming out next year.


Title: The Smallest Part
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal
First published: February 13th 2018
Finished reading: October 27th 2018
Pages: 325

“We’re more than just a collection of bones, cobbled together by God or eons of evolution. We have souls, We have purpose. We’re more.”


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I have enjoyed every single Amy Harmon book I’ve tried so far and I love how different and unique each story is. I have been looking forward to read The Smallest Part ever since it came out earlier this year, and decided to finally read it as a treat to myself. This story has once again reconfirmed my love for her work. What an absolutely brilliant and moving story! I think this is one of the first times I wasn’t bothered at all by the appearance of a love triangle, and somehow I actually enjoyed the romance. Between the wonderful writing style, the excellent character development, an interesting plot and the paranormal angle The Smallest Part has everything and more needed to turn this into one of my top reads this year. The flashbacks added history and more background to the characters, which I was able to connect to immediately and they will stay with me for a long time. Well developed, original and an emotional rollercoaster… The Smallest Part will take you on a wonderful journey with highs and lows and characters you will cherish. This is without doubt one of the must-reads I will be recommending to everyone.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #53 – The Walls Around Us & Love And Gelato

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around another YA edition, although the books belong to different genres. The first was an absolute cover love case and a story that managed to surprise me. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma has to be one of the few stories were magical realism as an element didn’t actually bother me. The other is a typical contemporary romance story set abroad, Love And Gelato by Jenna Evan Welch, and was too cliche for me to properly enjoy.


Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: October 6th 2018
Pages: 319

“Our private taste in books showed a hint of our secret selves, and sometimes I was the only one who got to see those secrets.”


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This is one of those books I just knew I had to read without even knowing what it was about… The power of a beautiful cover. It’s also one of those books where it’s better to go in blind, because the full effect of it will be that much more powerful. The Walls Around Us isn’t your ordinary YA story. Strange, captivating. brutal, mesmerizing… You will be in for a ride with this one. You think this is just another thrilling crime story when you start reading, with a hint of a teenage Orange Is The New Black and a bit of Black Swan. But The Walls Around Us offers us more than that. It’s one of the first times magical realism is used in a story that didn’t actually bother me. Instead, the strangeness and beautiful descriptions took me on a journey along with the main characters, enjoying my time discovering what exactly was going on. The prison scenes were fascinating, and the many dance related scenes were a nice touch as well. I can’t say I was a fan of most of the main characters, but they did work perfectly in The Walls Around Us I guess. I enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would, and all in all it was more than a pleasant surprise. I don’t think The Walls Around Us is for everyone, but the right person will be just as mesmerized by this strange and magical story as I found myself to be.


Title: Love & Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch 

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: October 9th 2018
Pages: 400

“You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it’s for the same two things.”
“What?”
“Love and gelato.”


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I know contemporary romance isn’t really my thing, but I have fond memories of my various stays in Italy and I really felt like travelling back there again through this story. I mean, who can resist that setting and the possible talk about a lot of delicious Italian ice cream? Because there is one thing true: Love & Gelato makes you crave all kinds of Italian food. And the author did an excellent job at describing the city of Florence and the setting in general. It almost felt I was there along with the main characters! The setting was probably my favorite part of this story, and I liked the idea of the journal and Lina learning more about her mom that way. The writing makes it easy to fly through this story as well… But there were also a few things that really bothered me as well. The first elephant in the room is of course the dreaded love triangle. Why o why do most YA books have to be ruined by this trope? I would have loved this story so much better without it… Because the love triangle (or in fact multiple ones) also ment the introduction of a whole lot of cliches. And cringeworthy moments. And more cliches. It ended up being just too much for me, although I have the suspicion fans of contemporary romance stories will enjoy Love & Gelato a lot better than I did. It’s also the perfect summer/beach read despite some sad and deeper moments.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #37: It’s Okay To Laugh (DNF) & Britt-Marie Was Here

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Another round of extremes… Not only two different genres here, but also two complete opposite reactions to them. The first, a memoir called It’s Okay To Laugh, turned out to be a DNF read, something that doesn’t happen all that often. The second was actually me playing safe and picking up another book of one of my favorite authors: Britt-Marie Was Here. And this title has only reconfirmed my love for his work.


Title: It’s Okay To Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)
Author: Nora McInerny Purmort

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: May 17th 2016
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Finished reading: August 2nd 2018
Pages: 288
DNF at 66% (190 pages)

“I am creating my own path through my own grief, toward my own version of happiness.”


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I like reading memoirs every once in a while and when I saw It’s Okay To Laugh being compared to the memoirs of Jenny Lawson, I just HAD to get a copy. Fierce and hysterically funny? Sign me up for that! Sadly, I’m feeling kind of cheated now I have picked it up… Because there is no way It’s Okay To Laugh bares any similarities with the work of that author. I know humor is kind of tricky in the first place, and a very personal taste, but to be honest I just didn’t saw any potentially funny moments at all. Could it just have been me not connecting to the book? Maybe. But I would never actually classify this memoir as ‘humor’. I get that the author had to go to through the worst possible time with both her father and husband passing away after a battle with cancer and with her losing her unborn child like that, but I can’t say I enjoyed the way she wrote about it. Both the writing style and tone were just off for me, and it felt rather repetitive and almost nagging to me. Like I said before, I understand her struggle and feel her pain (I just lost my mother in law to cancer as well), I just didn’t want to continue reading about it. If you enjoy reading memoirs and are able to connect to her writing style, your experience with It’s Okay To Laugh might fare better. Just don’t expect any Jenny Lawson humor to appear out of thin air… In a way I feel sad I had to take the decision to DNF this that far into the story, but I had been struggling for a long time and just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading. Here’s to others being able to enjoy the memoir better than me though.


Title: Britt-Marie Was Here
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 3rd 2014
Publisher: Sceptre
Finished reading: August 4th 2018
Pages: 312
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Britt-Marie var här’)

“Sometimes it’s easier to go on living, not even knowing who you are, when at least you know precisely where you are while you go on not knowing.”


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I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman‘s work ever since I finished reading A Man Called Ove, which is one of my absolute top favorites. Britt-Marie Was Here is already the fourth book I’ve picked up, and this story has only reconfirmed my love for his stories. Fredrik Backman is a true master in creating unique and flawed characters that you cannot help falling in love with. It was so great seeing more of Britt-Marie! For those who not know, the main character Britt-Marie first made her appearance in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry (another excellent read by the way!), and I strongly advice reading that one before starting with Britt-Marie Was Here to not miss out on anything. What is both funny and remarkable is that his characters all have their flaws, might be grumpy, unsociable and don’t seem all that likeable when you first meet them. But don’t underestimate the power of Fredrik Backman‘s character development! You will soon find yourself loving each quirky little detail of those characters, grumpy, awkward and unsociable treats and all. Britt-Marie is another excellent example, and I LOVED seeing her character evolve in Borg along with the other main characters. Brilliant brilliant character development and spot on writing! I also really liked how football played a big role in the story and how big of an impact it had on the community. Basically, I loved every single minute of this book, and while nothing can beat Ove, both My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry and Britt-Marie Was Here currently share a second place on my list of Backman favorites.


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