ARC REVIEW: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well – by Bridget Geraghty @ReadingAlley

Title: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well
Author: Bridget Geraghty

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 28th 2016
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: June 1st 2017
Pages: 101

“Thoughts are the same as wishes. They lead us to where we are going.”

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

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I recently realized I had yet to pick up a Middle Grade read this year, and that’s when I stumbled upon this story. I was intrigued by the cover and initially wrongly assumed it was going to be a fantasy read, but Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is actually a contemporary fiction read about (among other things) loss, grief and the moving on. It’s quite a short story, but I think it manages to portray those topics quite realistically while still being understanding and appealing to the age group (roughly 8-12 years). I did have slight doubts about some of Molly’s behavior and the credibility of some of her actions; not everything seemed to be all that realistic and I was surprised by how easily both Molly and Henry seemed to accept everything at their grandparents’ farm. The development of Molly didn’t always seem natural, but it does have a nice message of accepting changes and learning to move on after a traumatic event. I’m sure it will appeal to the age group as the writing style is very easy to read as well and simply flows. I might have had some doubts while reading Molly Bell And The Wishing Well, but it was still a very interesting read with some endearing moments.

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Molly Bell hasn’t been feeling like herself ever since her mother passed away two years ago, and hasn’t even played her favorite sport anymore since. Now her father is getting remarried and she is not sure what to think of her new stepmother… To make things worse, this deal also included a new six-year-old stepbrother named Henry. The two don’t really get along, but will have to find a way to do so as they will be spending time together on Molly’s grandparents’ farm while their parents go on their honeymoon. Molly learns of the wishing well on the property, and after her Aunt Joan tells her every wish she made there came true, Molly is determined to make some wishes of her own… But does she truly know what she wants to wish for?

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Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is without doubt a quick read with a writing style that flows and will appear to the age group. I had some doubts about certain actions of the main characters and its credibility, but in general I really liked how this story portrayed how to deal with loss, grief and moving on after a traumatic event. The wishing well is used as part of this journey and the descriptions of the daily life on the farm will appeal to the younger readers as well.


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ARC REVIEW: Liar – by K.L. Slater @KimLSlater @bookouture

Title: Liar
Author: K.L. Slater

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 16th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: May 12th 2017
Pages: 303

“I’m not myself at all. There are times I feel like I don’t know who I am any more.”

*** 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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You know those times a book simply screams your name and you have to drop everything else and read it? Well, that is what happened when I saw Liar appear on my kindle. I have been looking forward to another of K.L. Slater‘s psychological thrillers ever since I finished Blink, and this one has definitely turned out to be another masterpiece. Fast-paced, well written and enjoyable prose, unreliable characters, many many plot twists, an explosive ending… Liar has simply the full psychological thriller package! I’ve read stories about the mother-in-law-daugher-in-law and stepmother relationship before, but I think this one might just be the best one yet. Especially the first one is portrayed brilliantly in this newest story and both Amber and Judi’s character are both realistic, well developed and highly unreliable. This ‘unreliable narrator’ technique doesn’t always work in stories, but was very well executed in Liar and resulted in some very shocking plot twists. There is no way the explosive ending will not completely shock and surprise you! Secrets, plot twists, unreliable characters, suspense… This story will have you in its claws from the very first page and won’t let you go until the very end! If you like the genre, add this to your wishlist. You’ll be in for a treat.

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A few years ago Ben’s wife Louise passed away and he has been raising his two sons alone ever since with a little help of his devoted mother Judi. She lives for her family and doesn’t mind helping out at all; she’s actually happy she can spend so much time with her grandchildren. But that might all change when Ben meets someone new… Everyone seems to think Amber is the perfect match for Ben and adore her, but Judi isn’t all that sure. Something about the girl just doesn’t seem to add up…

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Liar turned out to be another excellent psychological thriller read full of surprises. I found myself literally flying through the pages as I kept wondering about the chapter the story started with… Because Liar both started and ended with a bang. This is unreliable narrating at its best, and I loved every single minute of the ride. More than recommended for fans of the genre!


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ARC REVIEW: Goodbye Days – by Jeff Zentner

Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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ARC REVIEW: Who We Were Before – by Leah Mercer

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Title: Who We Were Before
Author: Leah Mercer

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Drama
First published: October 1st 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: October 9th 2016
Pages: 256
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“I spend a lot of time inside my head. I like it there, blanketed from the world.”

*** 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 requested a copy of Who We Were Before on whim from Netgalley some time ago. I’m normally not really into drama, but the blurb sounded interesting enough and I decided to give it a go anyway. It seems like yet again my intuition didn’t fail me, because this novel by Leah Mercer turned out to be an easy and fast-paced contemporary read. The ‘present/Paris’ chapters weren’t as strong as the ones set in the past, and I’m not quite sure they were all that believable either. I mean, it sounds pretty farfetched that someone like the main character Zoe can just wander around in a strange country all day without any money, and on top of that isn’t able to find her husband. That said, I enjoyed reading the chapters set in the past and it was interesting to learn more about how the two main characters first met and how it all started to go wrong… Poor little kid. The character development of both characters is very well done and they seem realistic (except for the chapters set in Paris like I mentioned before). In short, Who We Were Before is without doubt a fast-paced and interesting read for any contemporary romance/drama fan.

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It’s been two years, but both Zoe and Edward are still haunted by that terrible tragedy. Edward knows they should find a way to take healing steps together, but Zoe always seems to shut him out and he is tired. Zoe knows that it wasn’t really her fault, but she still blames herself for not being able to stop the car that killed their little son. And she cannot forget Edward’s bitter words at the time of the accident either… A weekend in Paris might be their last hope for reconciliation, but mischance sees them separated before they have even left the train station Gare du Nord. Edward and Zoe now must try and find their way back to each other and the way back to the people they were before, but is that even possible?

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If you are looking for a fast-paced and entertaining contemporary read, I can definitely recommend Who We Were Before. It has a healthy dose of drama and the character development is both well done and realistic. The story is easy to read despite the drama and the chapters set in the past are excellent. I had some minor issues with the credibility of the Paris chapters, but all in all it’s still a great read.

BOOK REVIEW: Leaving Time – by Jodi Picoult

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Title: Leaving Time
Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: October 14th 2014
Finished reading: May 13th 2016
Pages: 416
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“I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it to the corner of the room—but eventually, you learn to live with it.”

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I personally hadn’t heard of this title before it was chosen as this month’s The Revolving Shelf book club read, but I wasn’t too worried about it since I really enjoyed reading Jodi Picoult‘s other novel The Storyteller last year. And while the plot of Leaving Time is completely different from that novel, I still very much enjoyed reading this story. The plot is basically a missing person (cold) case mixed with a dash of paranormal and a healthy dose of elephant facts. I have admired this stately animals ever since I was little, so I was very pleasantly surprised with the role they played throughout the story. Jenna’s mother Alice goes missing when she is little, and her mother’s study on elephant grief is relevant to both the elephants and human characters in the story. The chapters switch between the POV of different characters and are set both in the past and present. It takes a while to get a proper idea of what is really going on and it might slow down the pace quite a bit, but the ending is without doubt a surprise. The paranormal elements as well as the initial clash between two unlikely allies Virgil and Serenity make typical missing murder case a lot more interesting as well… In short Leaving Time is without doubt an interesting read and worth reading if you like the genre, although I still prefer her other novel The Storyteller.

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Jenna Metcalf’s mother Alice vanished when she was only three years old, and she has been trying to find out where her mother went ever since. Her grandmother doesn’t exactly encourage her, but that doesn’t stop Jenna from searching online, rereading her journals on studying grief among elephants and leaving no stone unturned. She decides it’s about time to take more drastic measures, and calls in the help of two unlikely allies. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic for missing people who seems to have lost her gift after a big case went wrong. Serenity doubts her gift, but Jenna is determined to get her help anyway. The other is Virgil Stanhope, a PI with a complicated background who originally investigated the case when Alice first went missing. Virgil isn’t sure how he can help the girl either, but the three slowly start putting together the pieces of the past anyway… With a very surprising outcome.

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While I didn’t love Leaving Time as much as I thought I would, I still quite enjoyed reading this story. Some of the plot might not be all that credible, but I liked the mix of paranormal elements and a typical mystery read. The elephant info was a huge bonus, although I can understand why some people might see the many facts as something potentially boring or even annoying. It is without doubt something that is an acquired taste… The story has quite a few plot twists though and it has an ending you definitely won’t see coming!

BOOK REVIEW: Love Letters Of The Dead – by Ava Dellaira

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Title: Love Letters To The Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 1st 2014
Finished reading: May 10th 2016
Pages: 336
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“There are a lot of human experiences that challenge the limits of our language,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons that we have poetry.”

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I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about this book ever since it first came out, so it’s easy to say I was a bit hesitant to read it myself. To be honest I wasn’t sure whether to read this book at all… But since I already had an e-copy and it came up as one of my TBR jar picks, I decided to just give it a go and see how things turn out. Love Letters To The Dead didn’t end up being a particularly bad read, but I wasn’t blown away by it either. While the whole ‘chapters in the form of letters’ idea seems rather original, it does look quite similar to The Perks of Being A Wallflower. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as always with a comparison there is a winner and a loser and things aren’t looking good for this Love Letters To The Dead. What I did enjoy is that the main character Laurel writes her letters to famous deceased people that are related to whatever happens in the story: Kurt Cobain, E.E. Cummings, Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse… Those elements (especially the music and poetry references) were a nice touch to an otherwise quite repetitive story. Because that is what the rest of the plot basically is: a repetition of the same letter idea where Laurel is trying to figure out how to deal with the death of her sister. Laurel blames herself for her death, although she takes a long time revealing why that is. This was actually quite annoying, both because it made the story drag and the actual plot twist was not that great either. (Why did she never tell anyone before?!) In short, while I liked some things of the story, there were other elements that made me enjoy this story a lot less than I would have hoped.

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Laurel has been struggling to deal with the death of her sister May, and even decided to go to a different high school to avoid the stares full of pity. Laurel blames herself for May’s death, but isn’t ready to tell the truth about what happened yet as much as she doesn’t really know how to grieve for May either. An English assignment marks the beginning of a journey where she starts writing letters to famous dead people about both her feelings and what happens to her during her days. Slowly Laurel starts to accept the past and how life can go on without May… Starting high school, new friendships, learning to live with the new family situation, falling in love; life does go on even after such a terrible experience. But how do you really mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven yet? Can Laurel finally make peace with what happened?

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I was almost afraid to read Love Letters To The Dead after hearing so many mixed opinions. And while I didn’t think it was a particularly bad read, I wasn’t blown away by it either… Some elements like the music and poetry references were really interesting, but others (repetitive plot, ‘big secret’ plot twist) made me enjoy this story a lot less than I thought I would. Would I recommend this novel by Ava Dellaira? With all those mixed reviews out there, I guess I would leave that up to your own decision.

BOOK REVIEW: Out Of My Mind – by Sharon M. Draper

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Title: Out Of My Mind
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Middle Grade
First published: March 4th 2010
Finished reading: April 13th 2016
Pages: 320
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“Everybody uses words to express themselves. Except me. And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words. But I do. Thoughts need words. Words need a voice.”

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I was not sure what to expect when I first picked up my copy of Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, but I was more than pleasantly surprised with what I found. The main character Melody has spastic bilateral quadriplegia, also known as cerebral palsy, and her story has without doubt an inspiring message and should probably be made into an obligatory middle grade read. Out Of My Mind, not unlike another well known middle grade read with about the same theme Wonder, gives us the valuable lesson that being different or having a disability doesn’t mean that person should be discriminated or treated as a ‘lesser’ being; what really matters is what is on the inside and what that person CAN do. I agree that part of Melody’s story seems a bit farfetched; it’s hard to believe her parents or doctors didn’t think of a better way for her to communicate before with all the technology out there and famous cases like Stephen Hawking (he is even mentioned in the book itself). Still, since this book was ment as a middle grade read, I believe the focus should be on the story itself and the message it is trying to give… And I think Sharon M. Draper did a more than excellent job telling Melody’s story in a way that is both understandable for the age group, easy to read and even emotional at points. Melody’s character development is very well done, although the other characters do lack some dept (especially the ‘bad’ guys). Would I recommend reading this one? A definite yes, although I suggest keeping in mind the age group when you are reading it.

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Eleven-year-old Melody is probably one of the smartest kids in her whole school, absorbing every single fact she has ever heard or seen in her photographic memory. The thing is nobody actually knows it… Melody has spastic bilateral quadriplegia, also known as cerebral palsy, meaning she can’t talk, walk or write down what she wants to say. She is basically stuck inside her head and most people don’t realize what she is actually capable of, including her teachers and doctors… But Melody’s wish to finally speak up for herself may finally come true as she discovers something that will help her to speak for the very first time. Melody finally has a voice, but not everyone will be ready to hear it… Or accept the fact that Melody is a lot smarter than they thought she was.

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If you forget about the sometimes not so credible circumstances around Melody’s situation and lack of development of the characters around her, Out Of My Mind is without doubt an incredible read. The story is easy to read, has an inspiring message and the character development of Melody is very well done. I loved how she reacted in one of the final scenes at school! This story will probably stay with me for a long time and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the genre, especially if you’ve read and enjoyed Wonder  by R.J. Palacio as well.