BOOK REVIEW: The Lion Tamer Who Lost – by Louise Beech #Orentober @Orendabooks

Title: The Lion Tamer Who Lost
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Fiction, Romance
First published: July 15th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 19th 2019
Pages: 350

“He had nothing again. Nothing he knew, understood well, was familiar with.

But nothing is so much harder after you’ve briefly had something.”


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After reading Call Me Star Girl earlier this year, I had no other option but to add Louise Beech to my list of favorite authors immediately. I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since, although I was also a tad worried as I wasn’t sure how anything could live up to expectations after such a brilliant first impression. I shouldn’t have doubted the power of the words of Louise Beech, because The Lion Tamer Who Lost once again blew me away. It’s been over a week since I finished this heartrending story, and I’m still struggling to put my thoughts together into a somewhat coherent review. I guess it seems to start becoming the standard when it comes to Orenda titles! That said, after many days of procrastinating, it’s time to finally force myself to sit down and get those words on paper.

So, The Lion Tamer Who Lost. I’ve thought long and hard about what my next Louise Beech read was going to be and even asked the opinion of fellow Orenda readers… This seemed to be the title that was mentioned most, and while contemporary romance isn’t exactly my favorite genre, I love stepping out of my comfort zone every once in a while and let a story surprise me. And surprise me it did! I can now add Louise Beech to the short list of authors who can actually make me enjoy the contemporary romance genre… Trust me, not a small feat. This is also a thing I love of her books: just how different and unique each story is! There are not many authors out there who can successfully tackle more than one genre; Louise Beech not only succeeds in that but takes your breath away in the process.

There are so many different elements to love in The Lion Tamer Who Lost, and I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start. But I guess that with such a title, an easy option is the fact that part of the story is set in a lion reserve in Zimbabwe. Talk about an original setting! The many detailed descriptions truly made the lion reserve come alive for me and I loved the fact that the lions play such a big role in the story. I have a special love for any member in the cat family, so seeing Lucy and the others being treated almost like extra characters was a wonderful bonus for me. Likewise, I really enjoyed reading about the lion reserve in general and the different volunteers being there at the same time as main character Ben. While the main focus of the story is of course on Ben and Andrew, I loved just how detailed the character development of the other characters involved was. It added even more dept to what was already a fantastic story!

I just mentioned Ben and Andrew, and they are definitely part of the reason this story works so well. I’m not a big romance fan in general, but I can make a wholehearted exception for my boys Ben and Andrew. I was drawn towards both characters from the very beginning, and I loved seeing both their characters and relationship evolve over time. They won over my heart, made me root for them and then pulled out that very same heart and made it shatter into a million little pieces… I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot to avoid spoilers, but while I didn’t actually cry (I almost never do, so that’s no surprise) I ended up with a huge lump in my throat and in need of an emergency baking session to soothe myself. Any story that is able to provoke such strong emotions is without doubt a little masterpiece to me! Especially one that is so beautifully written and simply both heartwarming and heartbreaking at that.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost also includes other intriguing and sometimes difficult elements such as the LGBT element and the struggle to come out and be accepted as you are, family issues and the battle against cancer. All elements are respectfully and realistically developed and successfully incorporated into what is a rich and intricate plot. Different point of views are used to let us learn more about both Andrew, Ben and even his father… Instead of confusing you, these switches only help enriching this story. I also loved that Andrew writes and hopes to become a successful writer, and that we get a glimpse of what this journey is like through his character. I also loved that little snippets of his story are shared at the beginning of the chapters. It really gave The Lion Tamer Who Lost another unique touch while also given the title an extra meaning. And I loved the idea behind Andrew’s wish box as well!

I can keep rambling about the things I loved in The Lion Tamer Who Lost, but I think it’s pretty obvious by now just how much I enjoyed this story. Whether contemporary romance and drama is your thing or not, you should simply give this story a chance as the words of Louise Beech are like magic and will fully mesmerize you before you finish the first chapter. Alluring, heartrending and simply irresistible… This story will give you all the feels as well as break your heart into a million pieces before you reach that final page!


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ARC REVIEW: The Liar’s Sister – by Sarah A. Denzil

Title: The Liar’s Sister
Author: Sarah A. Denzil
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 25th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 4th 2019
Pages: 290

“Maybe none of it is real until we reach adulthood, and everything that happened before is just the breeze drifting through the curtains at night.”

*** 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 wanting to read Sarah A. Denzil‘s books for quite some time now… While it’s true that I tried The Broken Ones not long ago and wasn’t too impressed, with so many people loving her books and recommending them (Yes, I have Silent Child on my TBR still), I just couldn’t resist trying her newest title. Especially after reading the blurb… I’m glad I decided to do so, because I definitely understand the power of her books now.

The Liar’s Sister starts out as what seems like a regular psychological thriller with a focus on family, secrets, lies and both illness and grief. The story is told mostly through a dual POV, set both in present and ten years ago. The main stars of this story are the two sisters Rosie and Heather, and as the story alternates between their point of views we slowly learn more about the past and the present. Because this is not just about strained relationship between them or about grief and trying to deal with the death of their mother. Rosie coming back to Buckthorpe is a cataclysm for a whole lot of dirt and secrets about to come to light…

The plot starts out simple and slowly gets more tangled as we learn more about what happened ten years ago and how this affects the present. The story will have you guessing for a long time, wondering what Rosie is hiding and what really happened all those years ago. I do believe the final reveals are a bit farfetched, but there is no doubt that this story ends with a bang and definitely crossed the line to action/crime thriller before you reach the final page. The Liar’s Sister is a psychological thriller filled to the brim with secrets and lies and without doubt packs a mean punch. Both focused on family relationships, grief and something possibly sinister happening in past and present, this story will appeal to both fans of more domestic thrillers and those who enjoy a healthy dose of suspense and action.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #109 – The Woman In Cabin 10 & Us Against You

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two highly popular books… One which was good, but not mindblowingly good and I ended up having a few issues with it: The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. The other initially started out as another slowburner but was able to get hold of my heart, rip it out and tear it in a million pieces. Fredrik Backman has worked his magic once again with this heartwrenching Beartown sequel Us Against You.


Title: The Woman In Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 30th 2016
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Finished reading: June 22nd 2019
Pages: 384

“Time is very elastic – that’s the first thing you realize in a situation without light, without a clock, without any way of measuring the length of one second over the length of another.”


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One of my goals this year is start making a dent in my mountain of backlist titles, and The Woman In Cabin 10 has been on my TBR for a long long time. This story was the last Ruth Ware title I had pending before her new story will be published later this year… And The Woman In Cabin 10 is probably her most famous story at that. I’m definitely glad I finally got the chance to read it. While it’s not my favorite Ruth Ware (that prize goes to The Death Of Mrs. Westaway), there is no doubt that I enjoyed my time with this story and I was able to finish it in no time at all. The writing probably had a lot to do with that, because the pace wasn’t always that fast… Although the speed picked up considerably after the mayor reveal. I think what made me enjoy The Woman In Cabin 10 was the Agatha Christie like feel of the plot and the whole premise of having a small group of people ‘trapped’ in a small environment and the possibility of something dodgy going on… I have a serious weak spot for those kind of stories. I do have to say that the main character is beyond annoying. Lo Blacklock is one of those spineless and whiny women without a real personality and I didn’t appreciate how her anxiety was used as an excuse for her actions. She didn’t come over as a credible character and her actions were mostly seriously frustrating. Things can be said about the credibility of the plot in general, and I also found the ending to be too abrupt and it left too many questions unanswered. I don’t mind open endings when done right, but in this case I feel it had a negative effect on my thoughts on the story as a whole. I can’t deny I still mostly enjoyed reading The Woman In Cabin 10 though, both due to the writing, the Agatha Christie feel and the travel/Norway element. In short: while it’s true that I had a few issues with certain aspects of the story, overall I still found it to be an entertaining read. Not the best I’ve read, but if you enjoy the genre and don’t set your expectations too high, you will probably enjoy what you find.


Title: Us Against You
(Beartown #2)
Author: Fredrick Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 21st 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: June 25th 2019
Pages: 434

“It’s so easy to think that what we post online is like raising your voice in a living room when it’s actually more like shouting from the rooftops. Our fantasy worlds always have consequences for other people’s realities.”

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I think that most of you will know by now I’m a huge Fredrik Backman fan… I’ve been saving Us Against You as it was the final fiction book I had pending and with no new project on the horizon (that I know of) I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I couldn’t resist any longer though, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. While, like with Beartown, I initially thought it was going to be slowburner for me, things soon improved and this story quickly won over my heart. Then it took hold firmly of that same heart, ripped it out and teared it into a million tiny pieces… I don’t cry often while reading, but this story definitely made my eyes water. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse, rape, alcoholism, LGBT discrimination and violence… Difficult topics, but the author is able to incorporate them realistically and respectfully into the story. As with Beartown, this story has a big cast of characters (mostly the same as in the first book), and it may take a little time to remember where each one stands. Us Against You has multiple POVs and uses them both to give more dept to the story and properly develop the different elements at play. This isn’t just another sports inspired story, and Beartown isn’t just a little town with a big love for the hockey sport. Hockey means so much more for both the Beartown and Hed team, and the sport and rivalry have huge consequences for various characters before you reach the final page. And as you are caring deeply for most characters by the time you reach those plot twists, make sure to have some tissues at hand just to be safe. There is no doubt that Fredrik Backman has done it again! It’s not my absolute favorite story of his, but without doubt an excellent albeit heartbreaking read.


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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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