YVO’S SHORTIES #176 – The Glass Hotel & Dark Pines #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been looking forward to pick up for a while now. Sadly, The Glass Hotel somehow didn’t work for me at all, but I had a great time with the first Tuva Moodyson book.


Title: The Glass Hotel
Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 24th 2020
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: July 29th 2020 
Pages: 302

“Memories are always bent retrospectively to fit individual narratives.”


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So… I’m still not sure what happened here, but I guess it is unpopular opinion time again? I loved Station Eleven back when I read it in 2018, and I fully expected to have a repeat experience in The Glass Hotel. It was one of my most anticipated releases this year, and I still can’t wrap my head around my negative reaction to the writing and story itself. It might just be that I’m not in the right mindset for this story right now, but the fact is… I REALLY didn’t enjoy my time with The Glass Hotel. I wasn’t able to connect to the writing at all, the plot and POV switches felt all over the place and I struggled to keep everyone apart as well as to try and keep track of what part of the plot puzzle fitted where. I loved her writing in Station Eleven, so I’m a bit shocked to be honest to feel this way about her newest story, but it is what it is I guess. The fact that I started skimreading about a third into the story and had almost no motivation whatsoever to continue is a huge warning sign on its own… I’m so sad and disappointed I feel this way about such a highly anticipated story; especially since I seem to be the only one with such a negative reaction so far. Definitely don’t give up on this story on my account, as you probably won’t have that pesky unpopular opinion curse sticking to your back like I do… I might give The Glass Hotel a second chance in the future though to see if it just wasn’t the right time for this story at the moment, or if the story simply isn’t for me.


Title: Dark Pines
(Tuva Moodyson Mystery #1)
Author: Will Dean 

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 7th 2017
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Finished reading: August 2nd 2020
Pages: 323

“Details are important, they can have consequences.”


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I’ve rediscovered my love for the Nordic noir genre in recent years, and I’ve been meaning to meet up with Tuva Moodyson for quite some time now. I had a feeling that I was going to enjoy my time with this series, and my instincts hit the nail on the head. Dark Pines turned out to be an excellent start of a series I will be continuing very soon! I’ve followed the author on Twitter for a while now, and I love how he uses his experience living in Sweden to give us a thorough and realistic description of the Swedish setting. It really made the small town of Gavrik come alive for me, and set the right atmosphere for this Nordic noir gem. The writing drew me right in, and Tuva makes for a fascinating main character. The fact that she is deaf (although she can hear with hearing aids) is something you don’t see every day, and I really liked the journalism angle of the story. Dark Pines is part cold case and part active murder investigation set in the middle of the Swedish forrest. Through Tuva, we get to know the different characters and possible suspects in play, and it is without doubt an interesting cast. The plot has its twists and turns, and while there was some repetition and I saw some twists coming, overall Dark Pines was a solid start of a series I can’t wait to continue.


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AUDIO ARC REVIEW: The Switch – by Beth O’Leary @MacmillanAudio #netgalleyaudio

Title: The Switch
Author: Beth O’Leary
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 16th 2020
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Finished reading: July 25th 2020
Pages: 336

Duration audiobook 10 hours 11 minutes
Narrated by Alison Steadman & Daisy Edgar-Jones

“There is no elixir for this. All you can do is keep moving forward even when it hurts like hell.”

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

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I had actually read The Switch already in June, but as I really enjoyed my time with both Eileens the first time around and I kept hearing how wonderful the audiobook was, I just couldn’t resist trying this format too. I must say that I think I liked my experience with this story even more the second time around! The audiobook version is indeed marvelous and fits the story very well.

I’m still pretty new with the whole audiobook experience, but I have to say The Switch has only reconfirmed that I have to give this format a chance. I think the audio version only enhanced my experience with this story. This book is narrated by Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones, and both do a fantastic job giving both Eileens a voice. I especially loved the voice of grandma Eileen, as it fitted the image I had of her in my head perfectly. That said, Lena’s voice was very suitable too, and I like how both narrators changed their voice slightly whenever other characters are speaking. The pace and flow of the story was spot on, and the different emotions are well portrayed. If you enjoy audiobooks, I would definitely recommend trying the audio experience of The Switch!

As for the story itself… I know that contemporary romance isn’t my typical genre, but there are times when I crave a good contemporary and a select few authors can really make me enjoy the genre. I discovered last year that Beth O’Leary is one of them when I read The Flatshare and even the sexy scenes couldn’t put me off the rest of that story. I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Switch after that, especially when I discovered that it involved an older main characters as well as a life swap element. I must say that I had an excellent time with this story, and she is now officially another of my to-go-to authors when I’m in the mood for the genre.

I think I might have enjoyed The Switch even a tiny bit more than her debut, mostly due to the focus on the relationship between the three generations of Cotton women and both Eileens more specifically. Sure, there were a couple of cliches involved. Sure, I saw the love interests coming from far far away. Sure, the story includes both the love triangle and cheating element I’m not a big fan of at all. But somehow, this just didn’t matter all that much, as I was having too much fun getting to know both Eileens and their adventures after the swap. This is both a fun and heartfelt story that will make you forget about your own problems for a little while… It’s the perfect escape from reality and the main characters will win over your heart in no time at all. If you enjoy the genre, The Switch is a little gem!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #175 – Fruit Of The Drunken Tree & The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two books I’ve had really high expectations for… Sadly, Fruit Of The Drunken Tree didn’t live up to those expectations at all, but The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill turned out to be a delightful read.


Title: Fruit Of The Drunken Tree
Author: Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Doubleday
Finished reading: July 21st 2020
Pages: 304

“War always seemed distant from Bogotá, like niebla descending on the hills and forest of the countryside and jungles. The way it approached us was like fog as well, without us realizing, until it sat embroiling everything around us.”

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Okay… I’m still not sure what happened here, as I really expected to find a new favorite in this story instead. I’ve always had a special interest in stories set in Latin America, and even more so if they are related to the drugs world and/or war on drugs… I thought this story with its 1990s Colombian setting would be a perfect fit for me, and the blurb of Fruit Of The Drunken Tree sounded fantastic as well, but somehow in the end it wasn’t ment to be. Even though I still believe the premise is both powerful, shocking and heartbreaking, the story itself failed to blow me away. I think the main reason I had such a strong negative reaction to Fruit Of The Drunken Tree despite my fascination for the topic had probably to do with the fact that I felt a strong aversion towards the writing style. I didn’t feel it flowed properly and I never connected to the writing, making it very hard to convince myself to keep reading as a result. I have to confess that I skimread at least half of the story; wanting to DNF, but not being able to let the story go completely until I knew what happened. This mostly had to do with the plot and the historical details rather than the main characters themselves, who in turn I never managed to warm up to either. I think this might have been due to the way they were described as well as the way they acted, or maybe even due to the fact that the writing style itself rubbed me the wrong way to such extreme. Either way, sadly Fruit Of The Drunken Tree ended up mosty definitely not being my cup of tea.


Title: The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 9th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: July 23rd 2020
Pages: 351

“She enjoyed people – she really did – she just needed to take them in homeopathic doses; a little of the poison was the cure.”

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I have been craving a good contemporary, and I admit that I have been eyeing The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill for a while now. I love bookish elements in my stories, and this book sounded like a perfect fit… And I definitely ended up having a brilliant time with this story. As I already expected, Nina was easy to like and relate to, and I loved getting to know her better. The characters in general are easy to connect to and I enjoyed spending time with them. Of course I love just how big of a role both books and pop culture play in Nina’s life and the story itself; with references to multiple books, the Harry Potter fandom, Game Of Thrones, The Simpsons, Friends… And we have the bookstore itself in the spotlight too of course. The plot might be a bit cheesy and predictable in points, but personally I was having too much fun to be bothered by it. The romance is quite cheesy as well, but as I liked both characters I really didn’t mind all that much either. I loved seeing Nina connect to the newly found family, and the trivia element was brilliant. The writing itself is super engaging and I literally flew through this story. Fans of the genre will most likely enjoy The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill as much as I did!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Lies Lies Lies – by Adele Parks #blogtour @HarlequinBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Lies Lies Lies 2020 Summer Reads blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was intrigued by Lies Lies Lies as soon as I read the blurb, and this story definitely lived up to expectations. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Lies Lies Lies
Author: Adele Parks
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 4th 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: July 22nd 2020
Pages: 384

“The thing about people is that it takes years, and years, and years to know them. Really know them. Because we hide things, all of us, all the time. We’re ashamed, cautious or secretive.”

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

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I’ve had Adele Parks on my list of authors to try for a while now, and after being intrigued by the blurb of her newest I just couldn’t resist signing up for the blog tour. I’m glad I did, because my first experience with her writing was most definitely successful. Lies Lies Lies is more domestic drama than thriller, but it packs a mean punch and it will definitely have you in its grip the whole time. Fans of the genre will be delighted!

Like I said, Lies Lies Lies felt mostly like a domestic drama and if you are looking for a superfast and action-packed thriller this book will most likely not be your cup of tea. If on the other hand you enjoy domestic thrillers with a focus on the character development, the psychological aspect as well as a healthy dose of shocking secrets and lies, you will be in for a treat.  Lies Lies Lies will deliver all of this and more! Using a dual POV and storyline, we get to hear the story from both Daisy and Simon’s side. We learn about their past, what happened in 2016 that changed their lives forever and what their life is like in 2019 for both after the life changing event. This dual POV is used to explore both characters as well as to build up the suspense and give the multiple secrets they are hiding more impact. Both the plot and plot twists are more than solid and the two POVs complemented each other very well.

As for the characters themselves… In this kind of psychological thriller and domestic drama, the character development is key. While neither Daisy nor Simon are all that likeable, their development is more than thorough, flawed and realistic and it was interesting to see them develop and grow over time. The rest of the cast likewise each had their role to play and they complemented the main characters well. There are a lot of secrets and lies involved in this story, and Lies Lies Lies will have more than a couple surprises in store for you. I especially found Simon’s 2019 chapters to be fascinating for obvious reasons, although I won’t be going into details to avoid spoilers.

Lies Lies Lies deals with a lot of difficult topics, including addiction, alcoholism, dementia, dealing with a life changing injury, infertility, abuse, rape and violence. Again, I won’t be going into details to avoid possible spoilers, but especially the addiction and alcoholism element plays a very important role in the plot and I thought this element and its consequences were represented well. Lies Lies Lies definitely is no picnic and if you are looking for an uplifting read this book is probably not a good choice. But if you are looking for a well written, character driven domestic thriller that isn’t afraid to go dark and packs a mean punch, Lies Lies Lies could be the perfect book for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North-East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000 and since then she’s had seventeen international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages, including I Invited Her In. She’s been an Ambassador for The Reading Agency and a judge for the Costa. She’s lived in Italy, Botswana and London, and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, with her husband, teenage son and cat.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Author Website // Twitter // Instagram // Facebook // Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Books-A-Million // Powell’s


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ARC REVIEW: Playing Nice – by J.P. Delaney

Title: Playing Nice
Author: J.P. Delaney
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 28th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: July 24th 2020
Pages: 432

“Psychopaths are like tone-deaf people at a concert, mocking those who cry at the beauty of the music as fools.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try JP Delaney‘s writing for a long time now, and even bought a physical copy of The Girl Before last year so I would finally do so… But somehow his titles have always slipped through the cracks so far. I was delighted when my request for his newest title Playing Nice was approved, because it ment that I now had the guarantee I would finally do so as I’m a sucker for sticking to deadlines… And I most definitely enjoyed my first experience with his writing. Well written, suspenseful, intense, shocking… Playing Nice is a more than solid psychological thriller.

The premise of this book is absolutely fascinating and without doubt the ultimate horror situation for new parents. Imagine not only having your child being born early and facing such difficulties, but then discovering two years later it isn’t actually your child you’ve been caring for all this time? Babies switched at birth sounds like a Hollywood script, but sadly it still does happen in real life and it sounds terrifying. Especially if you have to deal with a person like Miles afterwards… It was fascinating to see both Pete and Maddie to react to the shocking news that Theo wasn’t really their child, and seeing the resulting situation develop definitely had a lot of nail biting involved.

Playing Nice is psychological thriller at its best, where the suspense is build up slowly but steadily and the situation starts spinning out of control. That ominous feel is always present, and you keep wondering just how far things will go… Miles is the perfect villain and his character is very well developed. He is despicable of course, but his development and role in the plot really make this story. The story is told alternating between Pete and Maddie’s POV, and we get to see the situation through both their eyes. Pete and Maddie’s characters are both well developed too; they have their flaws, secrets and their development in general felt realistic. I wasn’t sure if I actually liked them, or at least I wasn’t really a fan of Maddie, but their situation is fascinating enough to keep you on your toes even if you are not able to connect to them fully.

What seems like an ordinary psychological thriller at first, soon turns into something a whole lot more intense after you realize the extent of the problems Pete and Maddie now face. Your inner alarm will sound straight away, and this will keep you on your toes as you keep reading and try to read the signs. When the situation starts spinning out of control, the level of intensity and suspense cranks up and there are quite a few plot twists bombs placed in convenient places. Playing Nice will go out with a bang as well, and if you enjoy the genre you will most likely enjoy your time with this one.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #172 – Eight Perfect Murders & The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 20 Books Of Summer titles and 2020 releases belonging to completely different genres… And both turned out to be excellent reads. Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson only reconfirmed my love for his writing, while debut The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael put Beth Morrey firmly on my radar.


Title: Eight Perfect Murders
(Malcolm Kershaw #1)
Author: Peter Swanson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: June 22nd 2020
Pages: 288

“Books are time travel. True readers all know this. But books don’t just take you back to the time in which they were written; they can take you back to different versions of yourself.”

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I’m a fan of Peter Swanson‘s writing and I’ve been looking forward to dive into Eight Perfect Murders ever since I first heard about it. I love books with bookish elements and I love my crime thriller stories, so the premise of this newest story sounded absolutely fantastic. While it’s true that I don’t exactly read or know a lot about crime classics (I prefer more modern thrillers myself), I think it’s the clever incorporation of the eight crime classics that really makes this story stand out for me. Why? Peter Swanson doesn’t just name the titles and explain what happens in the corresponding plot, but really incorporates the different stories and elements into its own plot in the most ingenious way. A fair warning though: if you still need/want to read the eight classics mentioned in the blurb, you will find mayor spoilers of those stories incorporated into Eight Perfect Murders that might spoil the fun. I personally didn’t really mind, as I had heard bits about the classics already and I actually quite liked discovering them through this rather unique ‘memoir’. The structure of the plot is brilliant, the writing engaging, the character development fascinating, the many bookish elements including the bookshop and Nero the cat simply divine… I had heaps of fun reading Eight Perfect Murders, and thought the ending was a perfect reference to crime classics (one in particular of course, but I don’t want to spoil the fun by mentioning it). If you are looking for an unique and clever crime thriller and don’t mind a spoiler or two of the eight crime classics mentioned in the blurb, you will most likely have an excellent time with this story too.


Title: The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael
Author: Beth Morrey
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Finished reading: June 26th 2020
Pages: 352

“If you really want something, you hang on. Don’t give up. Hang on, as if your life depended on it.”

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I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the comparison to A Man Called Ove and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I adored both books and its characters, and I just knew I HAD to meet Missy Carmichael to see if she could win me over too. The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael turned out to be both charming and heartbreaking at the same time. While I confess that it took me some time to warm up to Missy, once I did I found myself to be completely under her spell. The same goes for the rest of the characters; a wonderful cast of colorful and easy to like personalities that each added their own little something to the plot. Lighter moments are mixed with more heavy topics; flashbacks to Missy’s past used to get to know her better and help understand the ‘mistakes’ she mentioned as well as why she is the way she is.The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael will have a couple surprises and twists for you in store, an a few heartbreaking moments that will require having a box of tissues and a plate of your favorite comfort food at hand just in case. I loved seeing Missy develop and blossom over time, and if you are craving a heartfelt contemporary with well developed characters and don’t mind shedding a tear or two, this debut is an excellent choice.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #171 – The Ten Thousand Doors Of January & The Switch #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two ventures into genres I don’t read all that often, but both turned out to be very successful experiences. I have found a new all time favorite in The Ten Thousand Doors Of January, which turned out to be an absolutely stunning read. And I had a great time with the two Eileen’s in The Switch.


Title: The Ten Thousand Doors Of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: September 10th 2019
Publisher: Redhook
Finished reading: June 19th 2020
Pages: 385

“Because the place you are born isn’t necessarily the place you belong.”


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I admit that this was cover love at first sight, but as soon as I read the blurb I knew I was most likely going to love The Ten Thousand Doors Of January. And after seeing one glowing review after the other, I decided to save it until I was in need of a story that could really blow me away… That time had come, and my instincts about this book turned out to be 200% on point. What an absolutely stunning and breathtaking read! I don’t even know where and how to start explaining this beauty of a story, as The Ten Thousand Doors Of January is one of those books where you should go in blind in the first place to fully explore and capture its magic. Historical fiction is mixed with fantasy in the most exquisite way, and I loved discovering more about January, the mysterious Doors, the magic and Adelaide’s adventures. This story is complex, this story is stunningly written, this story fits so cleverly together once you have all the pieces… It’s an absolute masterpiece I cannot recommend enough. I’m truly lost for words here, and will just throw in the following cliche phrase to finish these rambles: ‘just read the damn book‘. Trust me, you will be in for an absolute magical treat!


Title: The Switch
Author: Beth O’Leary

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 16th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: June 21st 2020
Pages: 336

“There is no elixir for this. All you can do is keep moving forward even when it hurts like hell.”


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I know contemporary romance isn’t really my genre, but there are times when I crave a good contemporary and a select few authors can actually make me really enjoy the genre. I discovered last year Beth O’Leary is one of them when I read The Flatshare, and even the sexy scenes couldn’t put me off the rest of that story. I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Switch after that, especially when I discovered it involved an older main character as well as a life swap element. I must say that I had an excellent time with this story, and she is now officially another of my to-go-to authors when I’m in the mood for the genre. I think I might have enjoyed The Switch even a tiny bit more, mostly due to the focus on the relationship between the three generations of Cotton women and both Eileen’s more specifically. Sure, there were a couple of cliches involved. Sure, I saw the love interests coming from far far away. Sure, the story includes both the love triangle and cheating element I’m not a big fan of at all. But somehow, this just didn’t matter all that much, as I was having too much fun getting to know both Eileen’s and their adventures after the swap. This is both a fun and heartfelt story that will make you forget about your own problems for a little while… It’s the perfect escape from reality and the main characters will win over your heart in no time at all. If you enjoy the genre, The Switch is a little gem!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Before I Die – by Jackie Morrissey #blogtour #damppebblesblogtour @damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Before I Die blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma Welton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was intrigued by this story as soon as I read the blurb; a carer like Dolores would be anyone’s worst nightmare without a doubt! Want to know what my reaction was to this story? Please join me while I share my thoughts…


Title: Before I Die
Author: Jackie Morrissey
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 21st 2020
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Finished reading: June 9th 2020
Pages: ?

“A sense of unease ran through her, born of some instinctive recognition of threat.”

*** 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 confess that Before I Die won me over as soon as I read the blurb. Dolores sounded absolutely fascinating as a character with that possible angel of death angle (nurse or carer turned serial killer). You all know how I can’t resist a good serial killer story, and it has been a while since I last read one with this angle. While the whole angel of death plot has been done before, I liked the direction the premise of Before I Die took and it’s without one of the strongest aspects of this story. It definitely helped adding a healthy dose of suspense as well as a hint of forboding! And this story is thoroughly creepy both for anyone depending on a carer as well as for those who have loved ones under care. Imagine having to deal with your own personal Dolores! Before I Die is a solid psychological thriller with a dark angle, and while it was slightly predictable in parts and not too credible in other areas, I still found it to be an entertaining read.

As for the characters… I mostly ended up having mixed thoughts about them. I did like how the story had multiple older characters as well as Dolores and the younger son of a friend with a heroin addiction, as it added a level of dept to the story. Their development in general is quite thorough and the colorful and diverse cast of characters made the story feel more complex, but they weren’t exactly likeable and not every action or reaction could be considered credible. I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe Maureen never stood up for herself; especially in the beginning when Dolores still doesn’t have a big influence on her. I can believe Dolores having the power to manipulate others so successfully, but Maureen letting her walk all over her straight away without putting up a fight just didn’t feel credible at all to me. I also wondered if the Spanish Dolores didn’t come over as too much of a stereotype. The story makes it seem like she left Spain long ago (or at least that is how I interpreted it after finishing this story and knowing all the facts), and somehow she still seems to speak all halted… I liked the added Spanish words in the text, but the sentence structure used to describe her dialogues felt a bit too much like building a foreigner stereotype cliche. This might just be a personal reaction to her character though.

The writing is easy on the eye and I managed to finish reading Before I Die in no time at all. The plot itself has a multiple POV structure which makes it easier to get to know the different characters in play… The same structure is of course also used to hide certain facts and secrets until they are ready to be revealed. The story will have a couple of surprises for you in store even though it’s a bit of a shame you can basically guess the truth about Dolores straight away. I had my doubts about the credibility in certain parts, and the ending felt a bit too over the top and intense after a slower psychological thriller vibe during most of the story… Still, it was intriguing to see the whole situation develop and find out how both Maureen and Dolores react to the things that happen. The story definitely turned out to be a lot darker than I thought it would be! I don’t think that is a bad thing though. If you like a good twisted psychological thriller with an angel of death angle, Before I Die is a solid choice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie Morrissey lives in County Dublin and worked for many years in adult education. Her job took her into colleges and prisons all around Ireland, and introduced her to a range of interesting people. She loved the buzz of teaching, but came to hate the tyranny of correcting assignments. She has written throughout her adult life and has had many short stories published, one of which won the Molly Keane Short Story award. She has also been a regular contributor of short pieces for the Irish radio program Sunday Miscellany. About four years ago, she took the decision to write full time. The psychological thriller Before I Die is her first published novel.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK // Amazon US


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ARC REVIEW: What I Know – by Miranda Smith

Title: What I Know
Author: Miranda Smith
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 24th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 3rd 2020
Pages: 285

“It’s wildly unfortunate we live in a society that waits for bad things to happen before doing anything.”

*** 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 always love a good psychological thriller and I was intrigued by the blurb of What I Know, so I decided to request a copy on a whim. “My brother was thirteen the first time he tried to kill me.”: talk about one heck of an opening line! I’ve been looking forward to read this story ever since and had quite high expectations for this one, but somehow the actual story ended up falling a bit flat for me. I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I will try to explain below what worked and didn’t work for me.

First of all, I have to say that I still love the premise of the story and the blurb is without doubt a corker. I also liked the dual storyline structure, where we get to see main character Della in the present with Zoey and follow her back to the past with her brother Brian. This structure is used to draw parallels between both characters as well as adding a healthy dose of suspense… And definitely took the story to the next level. You are initially kept in the dark about the true extent of Brian’s darkness, although it is quite easy to guess how far it would go after reading the blurb and catching the first few hints. That’s probably why the final reveals around his character in the past were a bit of an anticlimax to be honest… The present storyline focusing on Della and Zoe was a lot more successful at keeping you on your toes though.

While the writing flows and makes it really easy to keep reading, I wasn’t always sure about the pace. Certain plot twists were really easy to guess, and drawing out the reveal of those twists slowed the story down instead of adding suspense… Or at least that was the effect it had on me. I always like it when a story is able to mislead me and keep me guessing, and that was not what happened here as I somehow had the characters figured out really early on. The lack of surprises was a bit of a letdown for me, and I honestly felt that it was a bit too convenient that nobody but Della saw the truth behind certain characters. It didn’t feel credible and the same goes for certain parts of the plot as well as the ending.

As for the characters… I found them to be very hard to like, which made it more difficult to connect to the story in turn. Some were ment to be unlikeable of course, but I was never able to connect to Della either both due to her attitude and actions. Initially I thought both Della and Danny would be a perfect match for me, as you don’t see too many stories about childless couples who made the decision not to have any children… It’s something I can relate to personally as with my hubby we stand by the same decision (have been for years as we just don’t see ourselves with children, or at least not in the forseeable future). I was a bit miffed to be honest to have Della suddently being saddled with an unplanned pregnancy; both because of Danny’s reaction and people judging how she feels about it. I know this is a personal reaction, but still… It made me enjoy the story and characters considerably less.

In short, What I Know is a psychological thriller with a dark edge: using a dual storyline, it switches back between past and present and introduces us to two twisted minds… What I Know has without doubt a lot of potential, and while the story sadly fell flat for me, others do seem to enjoy it a lot better.


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ARC REVIEW: Saving Ruby King – by Catherine Adel West

Title: Saving Ruby King
Author: Catherine Adel West
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
First published: June 16th 2020
Publisher: Park Row
Finished reading: June 8th 2020
Pages: 352

“The world takes so much, sometimes words are all one can possess.”

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

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I was invited to read Saving Ruby King last month, and I found myself to be immediately intrigued by the blurb of this title. Especially considering recent events in the world… Because we can’t have enough own voices stories out there to help educate us more. That said, I have to say that I’m having a really hard time rating this book, and I ended up having mixed thoughts about the story as a whole. I’ll try to explain below what worked and didn’t work for me.

On one hand, Saving Ruby King is undeniably a very important and powerful read: an own voices debut set in both present and past Chicago that helps give us some insight in the race problematics and issues black people have to face even to this day. This element was the driving force behind this story and the main reason I kept reading. BUT. On the other hand, a big part of the story also focuses on religion. There is nothing wrong with that, but I personally have a huge aversion to stories that focus on religion, and even more if they start sounding preachy. This has nothing to do with the quality of this story, but instead is rather a personal reaction to an element I wasn’t expecting to be so present… But the fact remains that I struggled to keep reading every time religion came in focus, which was a lot.

Apart from my obvious issues with the focus on religion, Saving Ruby King is a fantastic debut. The writing, the complexity of the plot, the multiple POV structure, the character development, the mystery around and secrets of multiple characters, the race problematics, the story of abuse, the violence and also a note of hope… This story has so many elements and it makes for a multi-faceted and rich story. The plot follows multiple characters both in past and present, and it can be a bit of a juggle in the beginning to keep track of how they all fit together, but Saving Ruby King provides us with helpful family trees to make things easier. I also particularly liked the perspective of the church, which was both unique and gave us a more neutral insight in past events.

This is not an easy story to read, and will most likely make you feel uncomfortable. I applaude Catherine Adel West for the realistic development of the plot and characters, and for not being afraid to show the ugly truth and for the characters and elements to go dark and unsettling. This is a story about race problematics as well as a story of domestic violence, child abuse, self harm, murder as well as a spark of hope… Beautifully rendered, and if you are not bothered by the strong presence of religion in the story, you will be blown away by this story. Trust me, this book is worth reading for the black voices and focus on race problematics alone. I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that stood out to me…

“We’re a minute blip on someone’s television. Sixty seconds and my friend is ruined, or ruined even more than she already was.”

“They know they won’t be held accountable for their actions. America doesn’t need ropes and trees anymore to kill us. They have cops.”

“It’s a melting pot jigsaw puzzle with very distinctive boundaries. And those invisible lines still carve up the city, separating black, brown and yellow from white, opportunity and a void of such things.”

“I’m black. That’s what matters. Cops cover for cops. Blue covers blue. Blue doesn’t cover black.”


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