BOOK REVIEW: The Waiting Rooms – by Eve Smith #Orentober @Orendabooks

In the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month, I will be sharing my thoughts on The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith: a compelling and terrifying thriller set in a dystopian world that feels a little too realistic to be comfortable… The current COVID-19 situation gives this story an even bigger impact.

Title: The Waiting Rooms
Author: Eve Smith
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 9th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 16th 2020
Pages: 379

“That’s the trouble with hope. Just when you think you’ve weaned yourself off it, its devilish little head rears up and sucks you back in.”

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I actually won an e-copy of The Waiting Rooms in a Twitter giveaway back in March, but with the whole COVID-19 situation I haven’t been in the mood to read it until now… I’m glad I waited, because this story might just have been too much for me back then. Why? The Waiting Rooms is a compelling and terrifying thriller set in a dystopian world that feels a little too realistic to be comfortable… The current state of the world gives this story an even bigger impact and makes the dystopian world seem like a logical possible next step. Most terrifying indeed! If your nerves can stomach it, this story is absolutely brilliant though.

It’s hard to put The Waiting Rooms into a neat little genre box… Part dystopia, part medical thriller, part mystery and part domestic/family focused, we get a wonderful mix of different elements that together form a recipe for a terrifyingly perfect cocktail. This story has multiple POVs, multiple settings as well as different timeframes. We switch back between past and present (or pre-Crisis in this dystopian world), but we also switch between South Africa and the UK as well as the different characters in play… This gives the story a rich and multi-layered feel, and the different parts are combined splendidly.

The chapters in South Africa really stood out to me, but this has a lot to do with the fantastic descriptions of the setting and fauna. The descriptions made the setting really come alive for me, and I loved how the research looked into using plants and knowledge of the locals to try and create new medicins. The whole cheating angle was a bit of a letdown for me, but then again it’s one of my mayor pet peeves to that was just a personal reaction. That said, this feeling was just a blip on the radar as the rest of the story is simply fantastic.

The medical element as well as the dystopian world are truly terrifying. The current COVID-19 situation gives this story an even bigger impact, as you wonder just how much worse things can get. Imagine a world where antibiotics no longer work and people can die of a scratch… The dystopian world as described in The Waiting Rooms sounds bloodcurdlingly realistic and all too possible considering the recent situation: a true nightmare situation that will have you biting your nails and will chill you to the bone.

Thankfully the pre-Crisis chapters as well as the time Kate spends looking for her birth mother distract a little from the dystopian present, and the different elements were brilliantly balanced. The Waiting Rooms turned out to be an absolutely fascinating, captivating as well as alarming read. It’s one of those stories you have to be in the mood for, but if you think you can stomach it, The Waiting Rooms will blow you away.


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ARC REVIEW: Reviving The Hawthorn Sisters – by Emily Carpenter

Title: Reviving The Hawthorn Sisters
Author: Emily Carpenter
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: October 20th 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: October 12th 2020
Pages: 332

“Sometimes you’ve got to tear something down before you can build it back up again.”

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

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I’ve enjoyed Emily Carpenter‘s books in the past, although I confess that I haven’t read Burying The Honeysuckle Girls yet myself. I didn’t realize this newest story was set in the same era, but fortunately Reviving The Hawthorn Sisters works perfectly well without reading that story first. I was intrigued as soon as I read the blurb; both the historical setting and Dove’s character sounded absolutely fascinating. And while somehow I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I thought I would, I can’t deny that the premise alone will make the heart of any historical fiction fan beat faster.

Like I said, I really liked the premise and idea behind this story. Especially the historical part set in the 1930s; you can clearly see that the author researched the era thoroughly and the descriptions make it feel as if you stepped into a time machine. I also liked the symbolisms and the significance of and reference to the hawthorn tree throughout the story. It’s always a nice touch when the title can be connected to the story in multiple ways! I do have to say that I found parts of the story to be quite slow and even repetitive. This haltered pace made it harder to properly enjoy the story, and the repetitions did the same… Especially the whole mention of the coin over and over again became really annoying.

The story uses a dual POV structure as well as a dual timeline. We have the part set in the 1930s with Dove, and the part set in the present with Dove’s granddaughter Eve… Dual timelines can be tricky for me, as I tend to prefer one over the other, and that is exactly what happened here. I found Dove’s POV to be considerably stronger and way more intriguing than the present timeline. Not only is her character and development that much more fascinating, it is the historical setting that steals the show and Dove just seems to be so much more important as a character in the first place. Eve came over as a bit bland in comparison, and I found the present POV in general to be quite slow and repetitive with the coin hunt and constant repetitions of how she feels about her grandmother and her having to care for her family. She definitely lacked that spark her grandmother seemed to have…

I wasn’t a fan of the whole religious angle, but I know that is a personal pet peeve of mine and I probably should have investigated more before reading this story. Luckily Dove’s chapters weren’t just focused on the religion, and boy has she an absolutely fascinating history! I definitely applaude her resourcefulness and ability to survive. It was interesting to slowly uncover her secrets through Eve’s POV in the present, although I did see quite a few of the plot twists coming. The ending was also a bit too convenient for me… All in all sadly Reviving The Hawthorn Sisters wasn’t my favorite title of hers, but that might just have been me. Most people do seem to enjoy this story better, so if you enjoy historical fiction and don’t mind a slower pace and repetitions in parts this might just be a great read for you.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #179 – Heart Bones & A Boy And His Dog At The End Of The World

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been looking forward to read… The first, Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover, turned out to be a new favorite, but sadly A Boy And His Dog At The End Of The World by C.A. Fletcher somehow just didn’t work for me.


Title: Heart Bones
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 19th 2020
Publisher: Hoover Ink
Finished reading: September 19th 2020
Pages: 338

“Damaged people recognize other damaged people. It’s like a club you don’t want a membership to.”


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Colleen Hoover titles can go both ways for me, but I’ve enjoyed her recent titles without fail so I have been highly anticipating her newest story Heart Bones. Both the blurb and the first reviews sounded fantastic, so I had high hopes it would be a good one for me as well… And the CoHo magic struck again, because I absolutely loved this story. Beyah’s character won me over from the very beginning, and I really liked Samson and the other main characters in play as well. They are realistic, flawed and so easy to warm up to that you cannot help but root for them almost immediately. I wasn’t even that bothered by the sexy scenes as I was too busy wondering how the plot and characters would evolve, and that is a true achievement as I normally hate any form of sexy time in my stories. The writing is engaging, flows easily and is packed with emotions. It’s a story about two broken individuals being drawn to each other and finding a connection that seems impossible to break… Both have their secrets and past, and there were definitely a few reveals I didn’t see coming. Heart Bones will mess with your heart and feelings, but the journey is oh so worth it. A new CoHo favorite to add to the list!


Title: A Boy And His Dog At The End Of The World
Author: C.A. Fletcher

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: April 23rd 2019
Publisher: Orbit
Finished reading: September 26th 2020
Pages: 384

“If we’re not loyal to the things we love, what’s the point? That’s like not havign a memory. That’s when we stop being human.”


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I have been looking forward to A Boy And His Dog At The End Of The World ever since I read the first reviews last year. I love a good dystopian story every once in a while, and add an animal character in the spotlight and I’m immediately sold. I was fully expecting to find a new favorite, so that’s probably why I felt even more disappointed when I ended up having a completely different reading experience instead. It’s unpopular opinion time again! Don’t get me wrong: I still love the premise of this story and the idea behind this dystopian future as well as its development was interesting. I also like the idea behind Griz’ character and the dogs… But somehow, the actual story just didn’t work for me personally. I wasn’t a fan of the writing style somehow; I wasn’t able to warm up to the tone or the way the story was told in the form of Griz’ memoir written after the events. Somehow I wasn’t really a fan of how the plot developed either… I found the story to be considerably slow, and while I did enjoy the development of the dystopian world, I didn’t exactly have a good time following Griz’ story itself. I can’t put my finger on the why, but the story just wasn’t able to grab or hold my attention and I found myself skimreading more than often just to get to the end. I know I’m in the minority though as most people do seem to love A Boy And His Dog At The End Of The World, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this story somehow definitely wasn’t for me. I definitely need a different dystopian read now to properly satisfy my dystopian cravings…


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ARC REVIEW: Love Among The Recipes – by Carol M. Cram

Title: Love Among The Recipes
Author: Carol M. Cram
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 20th 2020
Publisher: New Arcadia Publishing
Finished reading: September 15th 2020
Pages: 325

“I think that’s what we all want. To be left alone to make our own decisions, even if they’re the wrong ones.”

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

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I know that contemporary romance isn’t my typical genre, but I seem to be craving more contemporaries than usual lately and I do always love a food or travel element incorporated into the plot. Once I realized that Love Among The Recipes would have both, it sounded like a match made in heaven… Sadly, this blind date turned out to be mostly a disaster. I’ll try to explain briefly why below.

First of all,  I do have to say that I loved the travel element with its many sights of Paris. During this story, you will visit many many known and lesser known sights within the French capital and the descriptions really made the city come alive for me. It almost felt like I was walking through Paris exploring the city myself! The whole travel/cookbook combination is a brilliant idea and the way different recipes are combined with the different sights is probably the main reason I kept reading. It definitely does make you crave French food though!

That said, sadly the travel and food elements were the only parts of the story I did enjoy. The rest of the story somehow simply didn’t do it for me… Why? A lot of reasons, but my first main hurdle was with the main character Genna. While I loved the idea behind her character, her being a cookbook author moving to Paris to work on a new cookbook, her actual personality and character development were kind of off-putting. Her way of constantly mentioning ‘what Drew did to her’ without clarifying started to get old really fast, and instead of adding intrigue I just wanted to slap her and spit it out already. I didn’t like how she acted or interacted with most of the characters either, and actually felt bad for poor Pierre and Bill and how she treated them. As for the whole home situation… I didn’t like how it was developed at all, the ‘secret’ only revealed towards the ending while it was quite obvious for a long time what probably happened. Drew was despicable and somehow I didn’t really warm up to especially Becky either. This lack of connection to the characters in play made it really hard to stay invested to be honest.

On top of this, I felt that the pace was rickety and slowed down considerably in parts. The recipe and visiting the different sights in Paris part of the story was basically the only part that did keep my interest, but mostly I started skimreading whenever there wasn’t any food or travel talk going on, which is never a good sign. The romance itself was quite frustrating as well, and then I’m not even talking about the love triangle (or should I say square?). There were lots of events and elements in Love Among The Recipes that unfortunately ended up annoying me considerably, and I personally struggled to reach that final page. Like I said before, I basically only kept going for the food and travel parts… But otherwise this story sadly turned out to be a quite a disappointment. Fans of the genre might have a different reaction though depending on how they react to the main character and the romance.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: A Song Of Isolation – by Michael J. Malone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the A Song Of Isolation Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been wanting to try Michael J. Malone‘s stories for a long time now as I keep hearing fantastic things about his books. I even have a couple of his backlist titles waiting on my kindle, so I’m still not sure why I didn’t follow through with my intentions until now… But what I do know is that I mean to return to his writing ASAP after a fantastic first experience with his work. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: A Song Of Isolation
Author: Michael J. Malone
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 17th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 18th 2020
Pages: 300

“Please. Live well. Be my revenge, Amelie.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Michael J. Malone’s psychological thrillers for quite some time now, and especially since as far as I can remember I’ve only seen positive reviews so far. I figured that joining the blog tour for his newest title A Song Of Isolation would be both the perfect way to ensure I finally tried his work and also the little push I needed to pick up the backlist titles I have waiting on my kindle as well… And now that I have finally sampled his writing, I am most definitely hungry for more. Atmospheric, compelling, powerful, moving, brutal, emotional… A Song Of Isolation will claw its way into your head and heart and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

The story is told with the help of a multiple POV structure that follows three different characters over time: Amelie, Dave and Damaris. On top of this, the story is divided into three different years… First we have the flashbacks Amelie experiences from her time in London back in 2010 that will help explain why she moved to Scotland. Then we have the part of the story set in 2015, where all three characters feature and most of the time is spent. This part includes some fascinating perspectives on Dave’s side including the day when Dave is first arrested, the trial and the chapters set in prison. Then we have Damaris and the effect the events have on her during and after the trial… And last but not least Amelie struggling to support Dave and her time in France afterwards. The last part of the story is set in 2019, and this is were everything comes together and the story will have more than one surprise for you in store.

Nothing is as it seems in A Song Of Isolation and you are constantly wondering about what is true and what ended up being a fabrication. As the truth about the whole situation is key in interpreting the story, it feels as if you are walking on a knife’s edge the whole time, and this suspense never went away. The story includes multiple difficult themes, including child abuse, the possibility of false imprisonment, dealing with the aftermath of negative press, stalking, mental health issues and grief. Each element is incorporated realistically and fitted very well in the story as a whole, rather than just being a little something extra designed to shock alone. I was especially intrigued by the questions this story raises about child abuse and possible false imprisonment. I’m all for believing the child and its accusations first to protect the child, but what if the accusations are wrong? This could utterly destroy the life of an innocent man, but on the other hand you don’t want a guilty predator to get away with what he did… This dilemma really messed with my head and it’s one of the reasons this story ended up having such an impact on me.

The psychological aspect in general and the development of the different characters in play is simply sublime. Each felt realistic, flawed and really added something special to the story; while not all were exactly likeable, I couldn’t help but feeling that urge to discover how they would evolve and what would happen to them. Especially those chapters set in prison were fascinating, and I love the chapters set in France too as the descriptions really made Bordeaux come alive for me… But A Song Of Isolation as a whole is designed to mesmerize. The writing itself is a true pleasure to the eye and mind. In fact, the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is because I started it too late in the day and couldn’t afford an all-nighter… Because trust me, it was extremely hard to tear my eyes off those pages and stop reading.

A Song Of Isolation was my first experience with his books, but I will rectify that mistake soon. I have multiple of his backlist titles all ready and waiting for me on my kindle and I have no doubt that they will bring more hours filled with a fantastic reading experience. Fans of darker psychological thrillers NEED to read this one!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died and In the Absence of Miracles soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber &
Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.


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ARC REVIEW: Remember Me – by Mario Escobar

Title: Remember Me
Author: Mario Escobar
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: September 14th 2020
Pages: 384
(Originally published in Spanish: ‘Recuérdame’)

“I learned a long time ago that to see what’s right in front of us requires enormous effort, because there’s no man so blind as the one who doesn’t want to see.”

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

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I knew I just HAD to get a copy of Remember Me as soon as I saw that it was a Spanish Civil War novel. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history, and I’ve studied the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath during my Uni years… I actually did hear of the Children Of Morelia already, although I had forgotten about the exact details and I thought this story would be the perfect way to refresh my memory as well as see those historical details combined into a historical fiction read. While I did end up having mixed feelings about this story, both the fact that it’s based on historical events and its incorporation into the plot were probably the strongest element of this story.

Remember Me has multiple international settings as we follow Marco Alcalde and his sisters on their journey. It all starts in Madrid, a city that has a special place in my heart after having lived and studied there for eight months… The mentions of different places within that city brought back memories of my time there and really made the setting come alive for me. I also enjoyed reading about their journey and their time in Mexico, and I loved the fact that I was able to improve my knowledge about this part of Spanish history in general.

The descriptions of the historical situation and escalating violence and struggles during the Spanish Civil War set the right tone for what should have been an emotionally devastating and heartbreaking read. And here is where things went wrong for me… I can’t deny that the events described and the struggles Marco and his family have to face are horrifying, and they do give you an accurate description of the hardships people had to face during and after the civil war. BUT. Sadly, I just couldn’t find any real character development or personality in any of the main characters. I couldn’t for the life of me describe any of the characters by their personality; it is as if they were just tools to describe what happened to the children of Morelia in general and they just lack any characteristics to make them feel unique and real. This made it extremely hard to connect to them and feel for their situation in particular. And I think that if I weren’t so interested in anything related to the Spanish Civil War, I probably would have struggled to make it to the final page. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad read, but it feels more like a summary of the historical events related to the Children of Morelia rather than a historical fiction novel with properly developed characters and emotions. While I feel sad that I wasn’t able to enjoy the story better, I’m still glad I read it for the things I learned about the Spanish Civil War alone though… So I guess Remember Me can go both ways for you depending on how much you care about properly developed and believable characters and/or if you prefer a focus on the historical details instead.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Seven Doors – by Agnes Ravatn #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Seven Doors Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve rediscovered my love for the nordic noir genre in recent years and I’ve been wanting to try this author for a while now… And I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Seven Doors
Author: Agnes Ravatn
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Nordic Noir
First published: September 13th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 8th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally published in Norwegian: ‘Dei sju dørene’)

“We often stumble in the dark, unaware of the full scope of our actions.”

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

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I’m always immediately tempted when I see a new nordic noir title popping up on my radar, and this happened once again as soon as I first heard about The Seven Doors. I’ve been meaning to try Agnes Ravatn‘s work ever since I started hearing fantastic things about her previous title The Bird Tribunal, and while that one somehow slipped between the cracks of my TBR mountain (something I plan to remedy soon), joining the tour for the translation of her newest title sounded like the perfect guarantee to not make the same mistake with this title. I’m most definitely glad I did, because I now have another name to add to my list of favorite nordic noir authors!

So… The Seven Doors. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, how can I say no to the promise of a nordic setting AND an university professor investigating the mysterious disappearance of her tenant?! I’m glad I didn’t, because this story turned out to be a true gem. The Norway setting really shines through as soon as you start reading, and I felt transported to this nordic country along with the main characters straight away. The descriptions really made the different settings within Norway come alive for me, and I liked how certain places were not only incorporated into the plot naturally but were also quite fundamental for certain developments in that same plot.

It’s hard to put The Seven Doors inside just one neat genre box… This story can be seen as an amateur PI thriller turned psychological thriller turned domestic drama, all doused with that delicious nordic noir sauce to spice things up. On top of this, the story shows a focus on psychology as well as literature and incorporates many theories and background information along the way. You will find psychology related terms and theories, but also folklore stories and fairytales as well as literature theory related elements… And even the title refers to a folklore story with a key role in the plot, which I personally thought was a brilliant touch. Both elements really gave this nordic noir an unique angle that made this story stand out for me.

The story is told through the eyes of main character and university professor Nina. Both the investigation, her background and the final truth around the disappearance might seem a bit colored that way, but this sole POV is used perfectly to add suspense and keep the air of mystery around it all. It was interesting to see Nina develop over time and react to the things happening in the plot; especially once she started investigating Mari’s disappearance and kept going stubbornly despite the police not taking her seriously. The focus isn’t just on the investigation though, as we also learn about the changes in her personal life, her struggles with her family home that is about to be demolished as well as other secrets and events happening to those close to her. Both the investigation and the more personal angle are well balanced and I liked how they complemented each other.

The writing itself is fluid and descriptive and really made both the nordic setting and the main characters of this story come alive. I have to point out the flawless translation by Rosie Hedger too, as without her time and effort I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this story in the first place… The Seven Doors has a more leisurely pace than my usual reads, but this slower pace is used to properly dive into the different characters and elements in play and makes you fully savour both. The story works steadily towards more than one highly explosive final reveal that will most likely end up hitting you with a sledgehammer. Why? Two words: THAT ENDING! What a way to leave us with our jaws hanging on the floor… BOOM.

This was my first experience with Agnes Ravatn‘s work, but I have a copy of The Bird Tribunal hanging out on my kindle which I will pick up very soon (read: Orentober month)The Seven Doors is most definitely another nordic noir gem!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. In these works, Ravatn revealed a unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), was an international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, winning an English PEN Award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015. Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #177 – The Day We Meet Again & The 24-Hour Café

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a double dose of contemporaries  with two books that have been recommended to me more than once: The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson and The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page. Both turned out to be excellent reads too!


Title: The Day We Meet Again
Author: Miranda Dickinson

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: September 5th 2019
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: August 23rd 2020 
Pages: 384

“Maybe in the end we are all just stories waiting to be shared.”


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I know that contemporary romance isn’t my typical genre, but after I read Meggy’s review earlier this year I simply had no other option but to add it to my wishlist straight away. And guess what? It turned out to be yet another fantastic recommendation! I absolutely adored my time with Sam and Phoebe and I probably would have finished The Day We Meet Again in one sitting if it wouldn’t have been for all the redecorating going on just as I was starting this gem. Oh yes, I’m definitely adding Miranda Dickinson to my list of authors who can actually make me fall in love with the contemporary romance genre!

The Day We Meet Again uses a dual POV to tell the story, alternating between the two main characters Sam and Phoebe. I was able to connect to both characters very easily and I loved reading about both their adventures during their year apart. Their chapters are part love story, part self-discovery, part travel diary and part that je ne sais quoi vibe that really gives the story that spark. As someone who loves to travel, the travel elements were a huge bonus and the author did a brilliant job describing the different settings. Both characters are well developed and I liked most of the rest of the cast as well. The plot itself might be partly predictable, but I personally didn’t mind as I was too busy enjoying my time with Sam and Phoebe. The Day We Meet Again is a book that will both bring a smile to your face and might make you shed a tear or two… It’s a brilliant story full of love, self-discovery and wonderful characters you cannot help but fall for. Highly recommended!


Title: The 24-Hour Café
Author: Libby Page

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: September 3rd 2020
Pages: 416

“Happiness has a miraculous way of rubbing out the unsavoury parts.”


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I’ve had The 24-Hour Café recommended to me more than once since it was published, and I’ve been looking forward to meet up with main characters Hannah and Mona ever since I read the blurb and reviews. I have to say that I really enjoyed my time with this story! Especially the way it is centered around the Stella’s Café and its customers as well as the two main characters… Because The 24-Hour Café not only gives us the POVs of the two main characters Hannah and Mona, but also multiple POVs focusing on the customers in the cafe at the time as well as more than one colleague. This really gives the story a multidimentional feel and it’s almost as if you are people watching the customers along with the two waitresses. The plot structure itself was interesting as well: a story divided by hour as the time passes by in the cafe, sometimes switching between POVS within that hour and at times even including flashbacks as Hannah and Mona remember things from the past. While I do have to say that the flashbacks sometimes slowed down the pace a bit, overall they were really helpful to understand both their past and what is happening in the present. I loved how the focus of the story is on music and their friendship as well as little snippets of other people’s lives… And the Stella’s Café sounds like a place I would love to visit myself too. If you enjoy an interesting friendship-focused contemporary with lots of dept as well as different emotions, The 24-Hour Café is a great pick.


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ARC REVIEW: The Wife – by Shalini Boland

Title: The Wife
Author: Shalini Boland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 4th 2020
Pages: 292

“But it all feels like an act. As if I’m going through the motions. What on earth is wrong with me?”

*** 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’ve been a fan of Shalini Boland‘s psychological thrillers ever since I read her first title back in 2016, and every single book I’ve read since has been a success so far. The Wife is already my tenth psychological thriller by this author (I somehow missed one earlier this year, but I plan to remedy that as soon as I have more time), and without doubt another excellent example of a well written story with a shocking ending. Don’t let that rather generic title mislead you, as this story will definitely add some serious punch to what might seem like a typical set up in the beginning. Fans of the genre will have a blast reading The Wife!

The plot starts out pretty simple: we have our main character Zoe who is planning her ten-year anniversary party to celebrate this milestone with her husband. BUT. On her wedding day ten years ago, she somehow fainted before the ceremony and woke up with a gap in her memories and no recollection what happened in that missing time. Talk about introducing the amnesia element using a whole different angle! There is so much mystery around that fainting spell as well, as Zoe has a bad feeling about that missing time, but no concrete evidence that something bad actually happened… This definitely added a healthy dose of suspense as well as question marks to the plot.

There are in fact multiple elements that add to the suspense of this story. Not only do we have the missing time on Zoe’s wedding day, but we also have the disappearance of her estranged sister Dina ten years ago, the questions around what happened between Zoe and her then friend Cassie in the past and the strange things happening to Zoe in the present to contend with. This leads to a multi-dimentional plot where you will have plenty of different angles to explore and multiple possible answers to both the present and past will be revealed along the way. And while I do have to say that I found the first part of the story to be a tad slow, those super explosive final reveals definitely made up for it. Oh yes, The Wife will have more than one surprise for you in store, and I definitely didn’t see most of them coming! Without doubt another successful drop of those shocking plot twist bombs I’ve come to expect.

I confess that I wasn’t really that big of a fan of the main characters or how they behaved as a whole, but I do think that their development felt realistic and it was interesting to slowly learn more about them. Zoe is the perfect character to star this psychological thriller and both her past and the things happening to her in the present will have you under its spell. The Wife is another more than solid psychological thriller that shows that you can’t go wrong when it comes to Shalini Boland‘s books.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Memories We Bury – by H.A. Leuschel #blogtour #damppebblesblogtours @HALeuschel @damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Memories We Bury blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma Welton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve enjoyed Helene Leuschel’s writing in the past, so I have been looking forward to try her newest story… And it turned out to be yet another excellent example of a well written psychological thriller. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!


Title: The Memories We Bury
Author: H.A. Leuschel
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 17th 2020
Publisher: EKT Selection Ltd
Finished reading: August 27th 2020
Pages: 314

“Trust is a fragile bird perched on a branch that is so dry it will break at the first unexpected breeze.”

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

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I was positively impressed by Helene Leuschel‘s short story collection Manipulated Lives as well as her stand-alone novella My Sweet Friend a few years back, so of course I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to join the blog tour for her first ‘full novel’ psychological thriller. She has a way of describing the psychological aspects and effects of manipulation that is both realistic and extremely thorough, and after reading the blurb of The Memories We Bury I could just feel it in my bones that I was in for another absolute treat. And that is exactly what this story turned out to be! If you enjoy a well written, realistic and utterly addicting psychological thriller, this title should definitely be on your wishlist.

Let’s look at the basics first. The Memories We Bury is told with the help of a dual POV structure, alternating between pregnant and later on new mother Lizzie and her lonely widow neighbor Morag. On top of this dual POV structure, the story also incorporates time jumps; The Memories We Bury starts out in 2016 after the main events have occured, only to jump back to 2013 and later 2014 to see the actual story slowly unfold. These first chapters set 2016 will tickle your curiosity and make you wonder what happened in the past for the two women to be the way they are right now… And they are a great teaser of what is yet to come. This structure is used to its best advantage and definitely helped keeping me invested during what might be a slightly slower beginning, as the promise of some sort of escalation was always there.

The Memories We Bury is a mostly character-driven psychological thriller, and the focus of especially the first half of this story is mainly on the development of the two main characters Lizzie and Morag. We slowly learn more about their past and their motivations, and it was fascinating to see both develop over time as the events took place. Once again we see the element of manipulation as well as obsession mastered perfectly, and especially the blurred line between victim and manipulator added a healthy level of suspense to the story. Who is manipulating who? What is really going on and who is the real victim? Although I did make a right guess quite early on, there were so many little details and twists that did surprise me along the way that I wasn’t too bothered by it in the end.

As for the characters… First of all, I have to say that I love the Scottish setting and I was stoked to see that the characters really complement that setting. Especially Morag stood out with the inclusion of Scottish dialect in her dialogue and this really made the setting feel a lot more authentic. Her background and development are realistic and thorough too, and it was interesting to slowly uncover her secrets and quirks. Lizzie made for a very interesting character as well, although her behavior and actions could get pretty frustrating in points. That said, it was a very realistic portrayal and she fitted her role in the story perfectly, so the fact that she wasn’t completely likeable could be forgiven. Her husband Markus did deserve a punch or two and he will most definitely get under your skin… But sadly I can’t deny it’s realistic portrayal of the typical absent husband and father, and he fitted his role well.

In short, The Memories We Bury is a well written, painstakingly realistic and compelling psychological thriller where the lines between manipulator and victim will blur. I can highly recommend this title if you enjoy the genre!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

SOCIAL MEDIA

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BUY LINKS

Amazon UK // Amazon US 


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