ARC REVIEW: Goodbye Days – by Jeff Zentner

Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s / Andersen
Finished reading: March 14th 2017
Pages: 416

“For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s/ Andersen in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Birthday review! 😀 Because reading Goodbye Days this week was basically an early birthday present in the first place.

I absolutely loved reading Jeff Zentner‘s other novel The Serpent King earlier this year and I added Goodbye Days to my list of most anticipated releases as soon as I finished it. You can imagine my reaction when my Netgalley request was actually approved… I didn’t want to set my expectations too high after such a fantastic debut, and I kept telling myself it would be hard for Goodbye Days to outshine it. But I guess I shouldn’t have worried, because I think I have just found my new favorite Zentner novel. Basically, this story took my feelings, put them on the middle of the road and ran them over repeatedly with a bulldozer. It doesn’t happen often that a book actually manages to make me cry, but Goodbye Days managed to break my heart more than once. Brilliant prose, excellent characters and those feels!! I literally flew through the pages of this story and the characters were easy to love. And this isn’t just another YA contemporary story either; it also touches a very important topic. Thank you Goodbye Days for raising awareness to the dangers of using your phone while driving; is more dangerous than drunk driving and causes so many unnecessary accidents… Hopefully an eyeopener as well as a brilliant read! Recommended to any contempory/realistic fiction fan who doesn’t mind sad stories.

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Carver Briggs never thought something so simple as a text message could end the lives of his three best friends Mars, Eli and Blake. He didn’t think about possible consequences when he sent the text as they were driving to meet him, and while Mars was trying to answer the three friends ended up in a fatal car crash. Carver cannot stop blaming himself for the accident and it seems like he isn’t the only one… The authorities are looking into the accident to try and determine if they can press charges against him. Blake’s grandmother doesn’t blame him, and asks Carver to help remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. That leads to the idea to have memorial days for his other friends as well, but not everyone is willing to forgive… Can the goodbye days really help?

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Goodbye Days is without doubt one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I don’t think I can find something negative about it, other than that it basically broke my heart and left me nursing a book hangover. The writing style is brilliant and will have you flying through the pages as you ride the emotional rollercoaster. The characters will win over your heart and the plot is both wonderful, sad and has an important lesson. If you like the genre, Goodbye Days is a must-read!


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ARC REVIEW: The Wanderers – by Meg Howrey

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Title: The Wanderers
Author: Meg Howrey

Genre: Science Fiction, Contemporary
First published: February 7th 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Finished reading: March 5th 2017
Pages: 384

“We can look and look, but it’s not like looking will give an answer. There isn’t a right or wrong decision to be made, just a decision.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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As soon as I heard about The Wanderers last year and the blurb mentioned things including its resemblance to The Martian, astraunauts and a mission to Mars, I just knew I had it to my list of most-anticipated releases. I was stoked to be granted an ARC copy and last weekend I had made preparations to be able to fully emerge myself into a wonderful story… But what I found was a completely different experience. First of all, I really feel The Wanderers suffers from false advertisement. Why? It’s being compared to The Martian (which is one of my all time favorite stories), and the two books just couldn’t have been more different.  I think I won’t be the only one to pick up this novel expecting something else, which is a shame because the right target group might enjoy this story a lot better than I did. The Wanderers is more about the psychological effects of the three astronauts who are TRAINING for a mission to Mars (yes, they don’t even go to Mars), and talks mostly about feelings, relationships and what effects such a mission can have on both the astronauts and their family. The story did started to grow on me later on, but I have to be honest to myself and say I don’t think I would have made it to that part if this wouldn’t have been an ARC. The writing is interesting, but a bit dense and combined with the slow pace it was quite a struggle to get through this book. I had also mixed experiences with the main characters. What I liked is that they represented a multi-cultural group and the diversity in characters is a huge bonus. The psychological effects of the long term Mars mission simulation are probably the most intriguing part of The Wanderers, but that doesn’t mean I actually liked every character. All in all not at all what I was expecting.

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In four years Prime Space will send the first humans to Mars, and the three selected astronauts will have to prove they are up for the job. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka and Sergei Kutznetsov will have to spend the next seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created; a perfect simulation of the same mission they will start in four years if they succeed. For Helen, the MarsNOW mission is the last chance to return to space; the only place she’s ever truly felt at home. Yoshi sees it as an opportunity to prove himself worthy of his wife… And Sergei is willing to do what it takes if it gets him to Mars and set an example for his sons as well. Will they be able to show Prime Space that they are the best crew for the mission?

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I was really looking forward to this story, and I think part of reason I ended up being disappointed by it is the incorrect comparison to The Martian. Yes, both have astronauts and talk about a Mars mission, but that’s about it… The Wanderers is just a Mars mission SIMULATION, the story itself focuses mainly on the psychological effects of such a dangerous and long term mission and there isn’t a lot of excitement involved in general. On top of that, a slow pace and sometimes dense prose made it a lot harder to properly enjoy this story… And although the pace picks up a bit later on and the story started to grow on me, I don’t think this makes up for the initial disappointment. Such a shame!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Paris Mysteries – by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

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Title: The Paris Mysteries
(Confessions #3)
Author: James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Genre: YA, Mystery, Fiction
First published: October 6th 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Finished reading: February 20th 2017
Pages: 320
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“It was a crazy theory. But when Angels are involved, crazy is almost normal.”

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This is me trying to live up to my promise to finally start finishing at least a few pending series… I started the Confessions series last year and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first book. The prose doesn’t read like a train; it’s probably closer to a rocket launch! Besides the lightning fast pace, the first book was also very entertaining even though the main character was quite annoying. I was looking forward to the rest of the series, but unfortunately the books so far don’t exactly live up to the first book. And while The Private School Murders was still ok, I can’t say the same of The Paris Mysteries. In fact, even though the prose reads just as fast as the first book, the beginning of this third book had me almost DNFing it. There is a LOT of cheesy romance involved in this one, topped with a VERY annoying main character I seem to have no further patience for. Tandy Angel managed to convince me in the first book, but now the only thing I wanted for her to shut up or disappear… Or both. I also felt the focus of this story was all wrong. For example, the whole ‘superpills’ angle is very intriguing, especially with such a rich potential subplot involving the ‘guinea pigs’/victims. But no, the focus is on Tandy, her messed up romance and her messed up family. The Paris Mysteries is by far the weakest book of this series so far, and I’m seriously afraid of what the final book will bring.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Tandy Angel and her brothers have been through a lot, with their parents murdered and Tandy investigating multiple homicides back home. They are ready for a fresh start, and they are about to begin a new adventure in Paris. The Angels have moved into their grandmother Hilda’s mansion, but their new life in France doesn’t mean they won’t be getting into trouble. What about Tandy’s lost love? And what really happened to their long-dead sister Katherine?

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There is no doubt that this series is a superfast read, but I’m having the feeling the Angel family would have worked better as a stand-alone. The sequels seem to be losing their quality and I actually struggled to finish The Paris Mysteries. Even an easy read is difficult when you despise the main character and feel the urge to vomit whenever another cheesy scene makes its appearance… And the only truly interesting angle has only been touched briefly. All in all quite a disappointment unfortunately.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Light That Gets Lost – by Natasha Carthew

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Title: The Light That Gets Lost
Author: Natasha Carthew

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: November 5th 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children
Finished reading: February 16th 2017
Pages: 320
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“His life had been set upon by circumstances beyond his control. He wasn’t ad for the kick of things; he’d grown bad like bacteria on foul meat.”

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As part of the Beat The Backlist challenge I’ve joined this year, I’ve been browsing my kindle a lot lately. I stumbled upon The Light That Gets Lost just as I was looking for my next read, and I was intrigued by the the title and the cover. Confession: I didn’t check what the book was exactly about nor did I realize it had a very low goodreads rating, or I might have doubted my rash decision. Because I ended up being just as lost as the light in the title. Basically it’s a miracle I even made it to the end, because I had a REALLY hard time reading this story. First of all, I had a really strong dislike for the writing style. The dialogue overflows with ‘slang’ and bad grammar and instead of creating a ‘youthful’ vibe the only thing I felt was extremely annoyed. It’s also quite confusing what’s really going on with the main character, what on earth he is doing at the camp and how such camp even exists in the first place. Is The Light That Gets Lost actually set in an dystopian world? Is Trey just messed up or has he really a demon inside him? If I have to be honest, in the end I think I just really don’t care… Because instead of losing me halfway through, I think The Light That Gets Lost has never had me in the first place.

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When Trey is only a little boy, he witnesses something no child should ever see. Because as he is hidden in a cupboard, he hears his mother and father being killed brutally at home. And even though he is small, he makes a promise to himself he will get revenge one day. Years later, he might be able to come closer to that goal. Trey enters a strange camp meant for troubled teenagers. He has been in and out of trouble ever since he witnessed the murders, but he isn’t at the camp to be saved. Instead, he is sure he will find the man who killed his parents at the camp. Will he be able to do just so?

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The title and cover draw you right in and the blurb still sounds pretty good, but I can’t say I actually enjoyed reading this novel. The Light That Gets Lost has a writing style that either works for you, or will curl your toes as the ‘slang’ and bad grammar dialogues pile up. The story doesn’t really make a lot of sense and I’m still not exactly sure if this is supposed to be dystopian or just a really messed up ‘realistic’ fiction story… I’m sure the right person will probably enjoy this a lot better, but The Light That Gets Lost definitely wasn’t my cup of tea.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley – by Shaun David Hutchinson

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Title: The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 20th 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: February 14th 2017
Pages: 297
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“I realize that adults are just as fucked as the rest of us. No one really grows up. No one unravels all of life’s many mysteries. They just grow up older and become better liars.”

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The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley has been on my TBR pile for a while now, and recently my TBR jar thought it would be about time to finally pick it up. I still posponed it for way too long, but I’m glad I finally gave it a go in the end. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up this novel by Shaun David Hutchinson, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. True, some of the story was a bit too weird to my taste, but in general I enjoyed reading it. The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley is part graphic novel, part GLBT contemporary romance and part magical realism (which includes all the weird parts). I don’t mind a touch of surrealism, but the whole Death thing and even the main character Andrew himself made me raise my eyebrows more than once. I also had some difficulties with the credibility of part of the plot. I mean, how on earth is Andrew to be able spend so much time at the hospital without raising suspicions? And what about the total disregard of protocol and protection of the seriously ill characters/friends when Andrew banters into their rooms and even takes some out of the ward? Health risk much? That said, I can’t deny it’s an entertaining and original read and I really liked the graphic novel bits with patient F.

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Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night his parents and sister passed away. But he survived, and he now lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, is friends with the nurses and sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Nobody knows who he really is and I tries to hide his past from everyone. Because if Death finds him, she will take him too. Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, a teenager with half of his body burned by hateful classmates. Andrew feels a strange connection to Rusty, and decides he needs to protect him from Death. Because Death is always looking for her next victim, and Andrew refuses to lose Rusty too.

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I like that The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley is actually a mix of different genres that work quite well together. The surreal elements were a bit too weird to my taste, but there is no denying they were original. The contemporary romance bit can be a bit cheesy at points, but I liked the dynamics between the main characters in general. I’m still wondering about the title though, because the supposedly ‘five stages’ weren’t mentioned anywhere… The graphic novel bits were definitely a highlight though and I liked how the pages were incorporated into the rest of the story. All in all a very interesting read!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here – by Patrick Ness

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Title: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 27th 2015
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: February 4th 2017
Pages: 343
Rating 3,5qqq

“Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.”

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I’ve been wanting to pick up another Patrick Ness novel ever since I finished The Knife Of Never Letting Go, but somehow it took me 18 months to finally do so. I’ve heard a lot of people say The Rest Of Us Just Live Here isn’t his strongest work, and now I’ve read it I probably agree. But hey, he sure sets the quality bar to an Olympic high with his other books! I was really looking forward to this one and maybe my own expectations were simply too high, but I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I would be. But like I said: he might just be a victim of his own success… The Rest Of Us Just Live Here wasn’t a bad story and I enjoyed reading the prose as always. I do have to say I struggled with the chapter introductions in the beginning (mostly because I couldn’t connect them to the actual chapters), but that might just be explained by the fact I wasn’t in the mood for fantasy. This story is kind of a contemporary/paranormal/urban fantasy story and I liked the mix of reality and fictional elements. It was interesting to read about the group of friends trying to live their lives as crazy stuff was happening around them; that’s probably the true charm of this story. It did take me a lot longer than expected to finish it though…

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Weird, dangerous things are happening, but that doesn’t mean the group of friends have to do anything about it. That’s up to the Chosen Ones. The ones that are supposed are fight zombies, soul-eating ghosts, bloodsucking vampires or whatever new is happening at the moment. But somehow the group of friends end up getting involved in the newest situation anyway. What are those blue lights exactly? And are they in danger?

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No, this book is by no means a bad read. I’ve just been spoiled by the Chaos Walking series, that’s all. It took me a while to warm up to The Rest Of Us Just Live Here and its characters, and that might just be the reason it took me longer than planned to finish reading it as well. The relation between the chapter introductions and the rest of the story was a bit confusing at the beginning… I think I might reread the introductions alone some day to see if I enjoy them better as a ‘separate novella’. All in all this one might just be the best book to start with if you haven’t read Patrick Ness‘ books yet; that way things will only get better!


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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
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“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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