BOOK REVIEW: A Different Blue – by Amy Harmon

Title: A Different Blue
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 29th 2013
Finished reading: September 17th 2017
Pages: 322

“I keep wishing you had had a better life…a different life. But a different life would have made you a different Blue.” He looked at me then. “And that would be the biggest tragedy of all.”

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I became an instant fan of Amy Harmon‘s work after my first experience with one of her stories. And it’s definitely one of the main reasons I still decided to give A Different Blue a go despite my doubts about the fact it’s classified as a contemporary romance and wasn’t sure if it would be for me. I guess those who follow my blog are already aware of the fact I’m not a big fan of the romance genre in general and to be honest I was quite worried this story wouldn’t be a right fit. But Amy Harmon managed to do the impossible and made me enjoy another contemporary romance read. It did help that A Different Blue didn’t have as much romance as I expected initially in the first place. And even though this wasn’t my favorite story of the bunch I’ve read so far, I still very much enjoyed it. And this has a lot to do with the writing, which was excellent as always and had me hooked right from the beginning. There is no doubt that A Different Blue is a beautiful, raw, strong and emotional story! The plot is interesting and will have quite a few surprises in store… Both the plot and character development were done very realistically and this made it really easy to fully emerge myself into the story. Blue was a great character and even though she isn’t exactly easy to like, there is just something about her that makes you want to keep on reading. And I just love her art and what it symbolizes! I wasn’t a big fan of Darcy though and I could have done without the love triangle… His actions started to frustate me at times and he didn’t manage to charm me. There is no doubt this is still a very good read though and one of the few contemporary romance stories I have actually enjoyed over the years. And A Different Blue has both the wonderful writing and its main character Blue to thank for that.

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Blue Echohawk was abandoned when she was little and raised by a man without a real home. She doesn’t know her real name or when she was born; she simply feels she doesn’t know who she is. The fact that she didn’t attend school until she was ten years old slowed her down, with the consequence she is still just a high school senior at nineteen. Blue is what you call a troublemaker and uses her appearance and tough attitude as an armor. But the cracks are starting to show when a young British teacher decides he is up for the challenge and is determined to get through to her.

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Even though I didn’t LOVE love A Different Blue like the other Amy Harmon books I have picked up so far, there is no denying this is still a very good read. It might have just been the fact contemporary romance normally isn’t my thing in the first place, but the main reasons I couldn’t add the final star were my aversion to Darcy and some of the romance. The writing is flawless and the plot both intriguing, emotional, powerful and realistic. Blue is such a great character and even though she is hard to like, you grow attached to her anyway. Fans of the genre will enjoy this story!  Make sure to have some tissues ready, because you will find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster with this one.


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BOOK REVIEW: Beartown – by Fredrik Backman

Title: Beartown
(Björnstad #1)
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Sports
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: September 15th 2017
Pages:432 
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Björnstad’)

“The very worst events in life have that effect on a family: we always remember, more sharply than anything else, the last happy moments before everything fell apart.”

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Fredrik Backman managed to blow me completely away with his story A Man Called Ove last year, which turned out to be one of my new all time favorites. I’ve been wanting to read one of his other books ever since… So now I finally have more time to read my own books, I decided to pick up my copy of his newest story Beartown. Confession: I’m not a hockey fan at all, so I wasn’t sure if reading a book centered around this sport would work for me. Also, my love for A Man Called Ove is so great that I wasn’t sure if another book would be able to live up to that level of wonderfulness. And it turned out my fears were grounded, because I do think Beartown came nowhere close to reaching that level. BUT. It is also true that this is a completely different story and should be evaluated as such. Because don’t get me wrong, it was without doubt a very good story and it shows Fredrik Backman is a brilliant writer. That said, I wish I could rate both halves of this book separately, because I had a completely different experience for both. While I had my doubts about Beartown during the first half of this story, all of this faded into the background when I reached the second part. Because by the time I reached the final page I was left with a broken heart and my emotions all over the place. It’s impressive that just one book is able to provoke so many contradicting emotions… What started out as a story with a lot of potential, but something that wasn’t able to convince me yet, ended in something I could easy have given a full 5 star rating for. In the beginning, I found myself struggling with the amount of characters and POVs that made it quite hard to keep track of them all. The writing was good, but somehow didn’t manage to lure me in completely and all the hockey talk wasn’t for me either. I found myself not as invested and I was feeling quite disappointed since I LOVED the characters in A Man Called Ove and was hooked right from the first page. Beartown turned out to be a slowburner instead, and while it took me about half the book to get used to the huge cast of characters, writing and situation in Beartown, as soon as I did I was hooked. This story has a few trigger warnings for the more sensitive readers, but the themes discussed in this story and the way the characters react to different situations are both intriguing, messy, realistic and will provoke very powerful emotions. You will love them, hate them, want to yell at them, slap them, hug them, make their pain go away… And you will feel powerless as you turn page after page and see how things unfold. So if you, like me, aren’t immediately convinced by this story, struggle with the multiple POVs and aren’t a hockey fan, don’t discard this book. Beartown is one of those stories where things will most definitely get better; although better is an understatement for the brilliant and realistic execution of the second half.

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Beartown is a tiny community deep in the forest and a true hockey town. Some say Beartown is finished and things have been going downhill for a while. Their hockey team hasn’t shown any true potential in years and jobs have been disappearing as the forest slowly reclaims her territory. But the people in Beartown still believe tomorrow will be better than today, and their junior ice hockey team might be the key to that dream. They are about to compete in the national semi-finals; if they win, this could mean Beartown is back on the so-called hockey map. So all the hopes and dreams of the town now rest of the shoulders of a bunch of teenage boys… How will they react to the pressure? Will they be able to win the game? And what will this whole experience do to their young minds?

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I have called Beartown a slowburner before, and I think this is just the right term for my feelings for this book. It took me a while to warm up to this story and to be honest in the beginning I wasn’t convinced by the multiple POVs and the amount of characters introduced. I’m not a hockey fan and I wasn’t sure if I could handle the prominent role the sport has in the story… But all those worries disappeared as soon as I reached the second half and found myself fully invested. I don’t want to give away too much to avoid spoilers (since the original blurb had a few as well), but some things will happen that will provoke very strong emotions and these feelings won’t let you go until you reach the final page. The fact that there are so many conflicting emotions will leave you wrecked, but fully satisfied. The ending is quite interesting as well, and will make you wonder about how the story started. All in all recommended despite the not that convincing start!


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ARC REVIEW: The Surrogate – by Louise Jensen @Fab_fiction @bookouture

Title: The Surrogate
Author: Louise Jensen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 27th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 7th 2017
Pages: 374

“But then, we all have things to hide, don’t we? Our version of the truth is pliable, we mould our reality to mask our lies, and sometimes it sounds so plausible we even convince ourselves.”

*** 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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After reading The Sister and The Gift last year, I was left no other option than to add any future Louise Jensen books straight to my most-anticipated-releases list. This is exactly what happened as soon as I heard about her newest book The Surrogate and I was over the moon when I was granted a copy early. And WOW. Be ready to get your socks blown off when you read this psychological thriller! Basically I was left speechless and mindblown when I reached the final page, and to be honest I still haven’t recovered fully from this story. What starts out as an excellent, but seemingly straightforward psychological thriller will manage to leave you flabbergasted before you reach the ending… Because there is one thing I know: I was SO wrong about every single suspicion I had while was reading The SurrogateLouise Jensen is a pro at creating the perfect suspenseful atmosphere with that feeling you can’t trust anyone or anything… But she is also brilliant at misleading her readers. It doesn’t happen often, but The Surrogate managed to surprise me entirely with the final twists and I just love whenever that happens! Apart from the final plot twists bombs, the plot itself is very well executed and very capable of misleading you without losing your interest as you suspect you have already figured everything out quite early on. The suspense and suspicions are real until the very end and combined with the excellent writing you will find it really hard to put this story down before you know what happened and will happen to the main characters. The characters themselves are well developed and feel realistic, even though if I am honest I didn’t exactly like them. I found Kat to be a bit too trusting, but I guess this part of her personality does make the story work all the better. And this minor speed bump by no means makes The Surrogate any less brilliant. If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers, I can highly recommend Louise Jensen‘s work in general. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed by her books!

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Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, but maybe it just wasn’t ment to be… Kat cannot get pregnant and their efforts to adopt a little one into their family haven’t been successful. Something always seems to go wrong and they are on the point of giving up; they simply cannot take the stress anymore. But then Kat runs into her childhood friend Lisa by chance and it seems like the couple has been given one last chance to fulfill their wish. It all sounds too good to be true… Can Lisa really be trusted with something this delicate?

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If you are looking for your next psychological thriller, you have just found your story. Because The Surrogate is perfect for any fan of the genre and will leave you both speechless and mindblown by the last page. The story starts out rather conventional and gives you that false security that you have already figured out what is probably going to happen… And then the plot twists bombs start falling and you will discover you were SO wrong about everything. Oh yes, The Surrogate will mess with your mind and you will love every single minute of it. Because this is one brilliantly executed psychological thriller.


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ARC REVIEW: Little Fires Everywhere – by Celeste Ng @penguinpress

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 12th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Press
Finished reading: August 25th 2017
Pages: 384

“Rules existed for a reason: if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t, you might burn the world to the ground.”

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

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who has Little Fires Everywhere on their list of most anticipated releases and you can imagine I was over the moon when I found out my request for such a popular title was actually approved. I have been looking forward to this title ever since I first received my copy on my kindle, and now I’ve read it I can predict this title will receive a lot of love. Because Celeste Ng has created a very intriguing story full of drama, complex characters and a wide range of emotions and themes. The first thing that stands out is the writing style, which is excellent and helps set the right atmosphere for this story. Little Fires Everywhere kind of starts with the ending and then slowly shows you how everything gets to that point, unraveling secrets, lies and learning more about the main characters, their history and the town the story is set in. Shaker Heights makes for a very interesting setting and only reinforces the contrast between the successful and rich Richardson family and both Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. This clash is the basis for a well developed and intriguing story not only about the relationship between both families but also about how they react to a different situation that will affect both. Celeste Ng is very good at developing her characters and making them feel realistic with all their flaws and other signs of their humanity. I personally struggled a bit to connect to them, but that might have just been me not agreeing with some of the choices the characters make. It’s probably one of the reasons I didn’t LOVE love Little Fires Everywhere, even though I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why. There is no doubt that this book is an excellent read though and fans of her books and the genre in general will be in for a treat.

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Shaker Heights is a placid suburb of Cleveland where everything is planned until the very last detail. The people living there are expected to live successful lives in their grand houses and the guiding principle in the community is to play by the rules. The current residents all seem to follow this principle, including the Richardsons. But then Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive in town, and they don’t seem to fit in that mold. Mia is a single mother and an artist who doesn’t seem to follow the same rules and managed to live her life so far anyway. Elena Richardson first rented them a house, but later seems to start resenting Mia for not fitting in; although her children seem to think otherwise. And then something will happen that will endanger this delicate balance…

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Even though I ended up giving Little Fires Everywhere a slightly lower rating than expected, there is no doubt that this was still a very good read. Both the writing, character development and twists were very well done and turn Little Fires Everywhere into an excellent contemporary fiction read with a healthy dose of drama, secrets and lies. The flashbacks to the past are interesting as well as the way as some sensitive themes as abortion are incorporated. And I just loved the photography elements! Fans of the genre will love this book.


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BOOK REVIEW: A Monster Calls – by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: May 5th 2011
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: August 19th 2017
Pages: 216

“You do not write your life with words… You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”

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I was initially saving this title for last since so many people call A Monster Calls their absolute favorite Patrick Ness story… But sometimes things don’t work out as planned. The fact that I picked up my copy is mostly to blame to the fact we recently got Netflix and I couldn’t resist watching the movie; since I normally never watch the movie before reading the book, I had to remedy that and read the book straight away. (Did you guess already I LOVED the movie?) And WOW. I completely understand why there is so much love for A Monster Calls, because this story is simply BRILLIANT. It’s Patrick Ness at his best and definitely one of my new all time favorites… The writing is wonderful, engaging, enchanting and will put you under its spell straight away. The mix of reality and fantasy is very well done and I loved the underlying messages than can be applied to the real world. A Monster Calls is a very strong, powerful, scary, emotional and sad story that will manage to win over your heart in less than a heartbeat… I practically devoured its pages and loved the characters and their development. And as for the movie: I loved just how faithful the script was to the dialogue and writing of the book! It’s not seen often that you can literally read and watch at the same time and see the characters say/do the same things… Both book and movie have earned its spot of my all time favorite list and I’m already looking forward to revisit this story in the future. Have you guessed already I can highly recommend this book?

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Conor has been having nightmares nearly every single night since his mother started her treatments, and it’s always the same thing happening. And even though he knows it’s not real, Conor suffers every time he wakes up just before the dreaded thing happens… But then a monster shows up after midnight. And Connor isn’t afraid; no, he’s angry it only wants to tell stories. Because Connor has a lot more important things to worry about… But the monster is something ancient and wild, and demands to be listened to anyway. And so it begins…

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I should have known already I would love this book after seeing so many glowing reviews and after positive experiences with some of his other stories, but WOW. This is hands down my new favorite Patrick Ness story and it will be hard for any other story to live up to this one. Between the brilliant prose, characters, powerful and emotional topics and perfect mix of reality and fantasy there just isn’t something I didn’t love about A Monster Calls. Read this book if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it.


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BOOK REVIEW: Sister – by Rosamund Lupton

Title: Sister
Author: Rosamund Lupton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 2nd 2010
Publisher: Boekerij
Finished reading: August 6th 2017
Pages: 352
(Read in Dutch: ‘Zusje’)

“Usually time alters and affects everything, but when someone you love dies time cannot change that, no amount of time will ever change that, so time stops having any meaning.”


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It may sound weird since I’m originally Dutch, but I haven’t used the language actively in years (I use Spanish all day and English for reading and blogging) and I can promise you it has become preeeetty rusty. How do I know? Let’s just say that when I visited Holland last year nobody believed I was actually Dutch when I tried to speak haha. I made a promise to myself when I came back from my trip to start reading at least one or two Dutch books a year to refresh my memories… And last month I finally decided to keep that promise and pick up my copy of the Dutch version of Sister by Rosamund Lupton. I was kind of hoping that picking up a story belonging to one of my favorite genres would make it easier to enjoy reading it, but unfortunately this didn’t end up being the case. It took me a whole month to actually finish this story, which was way longer than I had planned. Part of the problem was probably the language barrier (reading in Dutch just doesn’t feel ‘natural’ tp me anymore), but I don’t think that was the only reason why I didn’t enjoy reading Sister. The first thing that stands out is the superslow pace, which made it so much harder to keep going. I wasn’t really a fan of the writing style either, although it’s always tricky to talk about this element with a translation. Still, I wasn’t charmed by the tone or the way the sentences flowed and this made it considerably harder to stay focused on the story. And the characters… Boy, did I have a hard time with them! I wasn’t able to warm up to them at all and was mostly frustrated by Beatrice. The way the story is told is quite original though and I can’t deny the ending came as a surprise. The final part of Sister definitely made me rate this story higher than I would have thought initially, but I don’t think it actually makes up for the slow pace, writing style or characters. Most people seem to have enjoyed this story though, so it makes me wonder whether I should get an English copy some time in the future (when I don’t remember the plot twists or how it ends) and give this story another go.

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Beatrice has been living in New York for quite some time now, but when she receives a phone call that her younger sister Tess is missing she takes the first plane back to London. Nobody seems to know where her sister could have gone, and as Beatrice learns more about her disappearance she is starting to realize just how little she knows about Tess’ life. Everybody seems to accept they have lost her, but Beatrice doesn’t want to let go until she finds out the full truth. But will Beatrice be able to convince the rest?

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Part of the problem I had with this book has probably been caused by reading it in Dutch, but I don’t think the language barrier was solely to blame for my negative reading experience with Sister. Between the superslow pace, writing style I couldn’t connect to and characters I never warmed up to, it was quite hard to actually enjoy reading this story. It was a very slow ride and it took me a whole month to reach the final page. The last part did improve considerably and the final twist was a huge surprise that will make you reconsider everything you read before. I don’t think that made up for the rest of the story though.


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BOOK REVIEW: Confess – by Colleen Hoover

Title: Confess
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, New Adult
First published: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: July 16th 2017
Pages: 320

“Selflessness. It should be the basis of every relationship. If a person truly cares about you, they’ll get more pleasure from the way they make you feel, rather than the way you make them feel.”

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Spoiler alert: I seem to be having a love-hate relationship with Colleen Hoover‘s books. I know contemporary romance normally isn’t my thing at all and you might ask yourself: why on earth pick up a book belonging to a genre that’s not for you in the first place? Well, mostly because Colleen Hoover is one of the few authors that has been able to give solid proof (a.k.a. November 9 and It Ends With Us) that I can actually love a contemporary romance story. So when I was looking for something completely different to read, I turned to CoHo again and decided to pick up on of her novels still on my TBR. I mainly picked Confess because I was curious about the anonymous confessions incorporated into the story. And now I’ve finished reading it, I still think this is the strongest element of this novel. I just love the idea of the anonymous confessions made into art, the symbolisms and the fact that the actual paintings are shown in the novel. The confessions, both anonymous and those of the main characters, play a big role throughout the story and the title is definitely spot on. I initially received mainly positive vibes as I was reading Confess and I really thought it was going to be another winner for me, but unfortunately this feeling didn’t last. It wasn’t the writing style, which was just as good as ever and one of the reasons her books are just so damn readable. BUT. And here come two big issues… 1. The characters. 2. Instalove. I was able to tolerate the main characters initially, mostly because the writing style is very enjoyable and I was intrigued by the confessions and paintings. I even forgave the cliches initially… But this all went south when both Auburn and Owen started to annoy me. Even worse: other characters started popping up that provoked even worse feelings and that was not even the end of it. Because Confess suffers from a very heavy case of one of the most annoying romantic tropes: instalove. Auburn and Owen… Sorry, I just wasn’t able to believe it and it was really hard to keep taking the story seriously when I couldn’t take serious their (inter)actions. I was about halfway through when Confess had officially lost me to an instalove overdose. Which is a shame, because Confess does touch some very important topics and brings to light just how toxic and manipulative human beings can be. I can really see why people would love this story, but Confess was most definitely a solid case of ‘not-for-me’.

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Auburn Reed has been having a rough couple of years and has moved to Dallas to try and rebuild her shattered life. She has been fighting for a long time and her goals seem to be very close now… But it seems like life will be never easy for her. Auburn was just looking for a second job to get more money, but she ended up finding a whole lot more when she walks into a Dallas art studio and meets the artist and owner Owen Gentry. They share an instant attraction and Auburn decides to take a chance and put her heart first. But Owen has been keeping secrets from her… Secrets that might ruin the last thing in her life that is important to her.

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First of all I have to say that Confess by no means is a bad read, and I’m probably partly to blame for this story and me not being a right match. The writing style is just so readable and I do love the idea of the confessions turned into art and the way confessions are incorporated into the story itself. Confess isn’t just another sappy romance story and has a few very dark themes, but in the end it was the instalove overdose and inability to tolerate the main characters that ruined the reading experience for me. Oh well, I guess we can’t like them all… And what I said before is true: Colleen Hoover is always able to provoke very strong reactions with her stories whether they are positive or negative. And that is always a good sign.


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