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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YVO’S SHORTIES #158 – VOX & One Summer In Paris

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres I ended up having a similar reaction to… But not in a good way. Both VOX by Christina Dalcher and One Summer In Paris by Sarah Morgan had elements that made me really angry, and sadly enough influenced my reading experiences negatively.


Title: VOX
Author: Christina Dalcher
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: August 21st 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: April 13th 2020
Pages: 336

“Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better.”

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I’ve been meaning to read VOX for a long time now, and I was honestly really curious to see how I would react to this story after seeing so many mixed reviews. I went in blind and as I started reading I thought I was going to love this story… The writing seemed spot on for and I actually studied Wernicke’s aphasia as part of my Spanish philology degree, which made the topic all the more intriguing for me. The dystopian alternate present is both utterly terrifying and fascinating; it’s the perfect foundation stone to build the rest of the story on. While VOX definitely has that feminism feel, it wasn’t too much for me and I liked how this aspect was incorporated into the story. BUT. Sadly there were also quite a few things that ended up infuriating me. I will keep things short to avoid a full rant, but let’s just say that I wasn’t happy at all with certain characters and how they behaved, the appearance of a love triangle, animal tests, the ending… The character behavior part can partly be explained as something belonging to this dystopian world, but that doesn’t mean my averse reaction was less real because of it. And the ending was kind of an anti-climax for me and didn’t really do the rest of the story justice. It wasn’t a bad read and I agree it would make for a very interesting blog club read and discussion, but I sadly didn’t enjoy VOX as much as I thought I would.


Title: One Summer In Paris
Author: Sarah Morgan
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: April 15th 2020
Pages: 464

“Being yourself is the one thing every person should excel at.”

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I know this is not my typical genre, but I’ve been craving a lot of contemporaries lately and I love a travel/foreign setting theme, so I thought this story set (mostly) in Paris would be a good fit. Things started out great (and also a lot darker than expected) and there were a lot of things I did love in One Summer In Paris, including the Paris setting and the dynamics and growing relationship between Grace and Audrey as well as the bookshop, French language learning, explaining of dyslexia and alcoholic parents past and even Audrey romance with Etienne. BUT. I absolutely hate it when the cheating/affair element plays a big role in a story. Especially the reaction of Grace and more importantly Mr. Bastard aka David himself were simply infuriating. Oh yes, this part of the story made me so SO angry!! And not only behavior of David and decisions of Grace, but also how lightly the topic is treated and how Grace and Sophie’s months of suffering and their lives being ripped apart were brushed away like that. Ugh. The ending definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for either and not even Audrey’s POV and bookshop related reveal (which was too predictable as I guessed it straight away) could save the story for me. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again?


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ARC REVIEW: The Missing Sister – by Elle Marr

Title: The Missing Sister
Author: Elle Marr
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 1st 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: March 15th 2020
Pages: 300

“Grief is a bizarre beast that can make us see and do things that don’t make sense. Memory adjusts and omits with the slightest nudge, let alone under circumstances like mine.”

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

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There was just something about the blurb of The Missing Sister that intrigued me back when I first saw it on Netgalley last year, and I couldn’t resist getting a copy… I mean, a foreign setting, a possible serial killer AND a missing twin sister? How could I possibly say no to that?! I have been looking forward to read this story and while it failed to blow me away personally, it is by no means a bad read and without doubt still a solid debut. I’ll try to explain below why certain aspects of The Missing Sister failed to hit the mark for me…

Before I start, I have to repeat first that this debut is by no means a bad read and the 3 star rating reflects my personal experience with this story rather than the quality on its own. There were things I loved about The Missing Sister, but I couldn’t ignore the things that didn’t work for me either as these rambles wouldn’t be an honest reflection of my thoughts otherwise. With that out of the way, let’s discuss The Missing Sister: I’m going to start with the things that did work for me. I personally loved the foreign setting in Paris, and especially how big of a role the capital city of France plays in the story itself. Oh no, Paris isn’t just a random setting chosen as a background for another typical thriller read; the city and especially the Catacombs play a crucial and all important role in the plot as a whole and the story wouldn’t be the same without its history. I loved learning a bit more about the Catacombs along the way as well, and it definitely shows that the author knows the city intimately.

Another thing that stood out for me was the premise of this debut, which can’t exactly be put into just one genre and has that unique touch that makes it stand out from the rest. We have the twins and the contemporary angle, especially with the flashbacks back in San Diego… We have the mystery around Angela’s death or disappearance in Paris… We have the hint at a possible serial killer on the loose… And we have Paris, its Catacombs and its history. All of this is combined using a mix of Angela’s twin sister Shayna’s POV and a series of email exchanges between the twins… Slowly learning more about their past as well as the present.

We now arrive at what ended up not working for me personally in The Missing Sister… My main issue was probably the fact that I was unable to fully connect to the story or the characters, making it harder to stay focused and get fully absorbed in the story. Especially the parts about the connection and past between the twins slowed down the story considerably for me, even though it was one of the things that spoke to me when I first read the blurb. Likewise, I wasn’t a fan of the characters nor of the way how they behaved at all, making it hard to connect to them or care about what happened to them… And talking about the plot, I also found that certain aspects and plot twists were just a bit too farfetched to my liking, while other twists (including the big one involving who was behind it all) were just too easy to guess. I wasn’t too sure what to make of the ending either… Overall it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea as I struggled to connect to the story and found certain parts too farfetched, but I did love the foreign setting and premise and I’m sure the right person will love this debut.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #126 – Coraline & Tunnel Of Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! October is Halloween month and this round of shorties features two Halloween inspired MG reads that are both excellent for getting you in the mood for Halloween. I’ve been meaning to read Coraline by Neil Gaiman for years now, and I’m happy to report it didn’t disappoint. And of course I couldn’t resist reading Victoria Schwab‘s newest title Tunnel Of Bones as it’s perfect for this month… This sequel is another brilliant read, but I didn’t expect any different.


Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Horror
First published: August 4th 2002
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: October 1st 2019
Pages: 162

“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then?”


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I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman‘s work for a while now, but somehow I never actually read Coraline despite having seen the movie… Until now. I thought this little book would be the perfect title to mark the start of the Halloween month with, and is without doubt a story that gives off the exact right creepy vibe. I like how the story makes you go in blind, and only starts revealing details about the alternative fantasy world as you get further into the story. This way, you discover the facts only when the main character Coraline does, and I’m sure middle graders will be able to relate to her easier this way. The writing is of the same high quality I’ve become used to of Neil Gaiman, and while it’s not my favorite story of his, I definitely had a great time discovering the story of Coraline. And with its spooky and eery vibe, it’s a perfect choice if you are looking for a quick and fun Halloween read!


Title: Tunnel Of Bones
(City Of Ghosts #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 3rd 2019
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: October 3rd 2019
Pages: 304

“Calling the Tuileries a garden is like calling Hogwarts a school. It’s technically correct, but the word really doesn’t do either one justice.”


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I think everyone probably knows by now I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab’s books, and I’ve loved every single book I tried so far. This middle grade series is no exception, and even with high expectations Tunnel Of Bones was just as good as I was hoping for. If you are looking like a fun, quick and fabulous Halloween story, you have just found your next read! Both City Of Ghosts and Tunnel Of Bones are perfect reads for this time of the year. In this sequel main character Cass and her parents travel to Paris to find more ghost stories and film another episode of their TV show. I really enjoyed the premise in the first book, and this same recipe is used more than successfully in the sequel. The main descriptions of the French setting are executed perfectly and make it feel as if you are right in the middle of Paris along with the main characters. I like how reality is mixed with fantasy and the paranormal, and how the lines are blurred between the two. The TV show, her parents hunting ghost stories and Cass knowing ghosts actually exists is a very strong base to build a story on! The idea of her near-death-experience and her being able to enter the so-called Veil and interact with ghosts is fascinating, and I loved the new twist in Tunnel Of Bones. Cass has to battle something new in this sequel, and I really enjoyed seeing the plot evolve. You will find paranormal elements, humor, friendship, a dose of forboding and a hint of danger, all sprinkled with that French je ne sais quoi that makes you love every single page of this story. Is it too soon to ask about the next book yet? I’m seriously addicted to this series.


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ARC REVIEW: Cradle To Grave – by Rachel Amplett #KayHunter @RachelAmphlett

Title: Cradle To Grave
(Detective Kay Hunter #8)

Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 6th 2019
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: September 24th 2019
Pages: 370

“Muted sunlight shone through the curtains at the windows, creating a gloom that hung in the air, malevolent and foreboding.”

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


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I’m starting to feel lost for words when it comes to reviewing this series… Why? Detective Kay Hunter has quickly grown into one of my favorite detective series and characters, and it’s getting hard expressing that love without sounding repetitive. This is one of those series that just keeps delivering, and every single book so far has been well written with intriguing plots, interesting and easy to like characters and just the right amount of suspense and plot twists. Kay Hunter is hands down one of my favorite detective characters and spending time catching up with her feels like wearing your favorite sweater or meeting up with an old friend. Cradle To Grave is already book number eight and by no means an exception to this rule. If you are a detective thriller fan and haven’t tried this series yet, you are most definitely missing out!

Crade To Grave is one of those books you will want to clear your schedule for, because you will most likely end up wanting to read it in one sitting. I was hooked as soon as I started reading, cancelled all plans and just kept reading until I reached that final page… Loving every single minute of the ride. While this story might work as a stand-alone quite easily as well, I personally suggest reading them in order so you can properly meet and get to know Kay and the rest. I really enjoy seeing them develop over time… Also, the little animal visitors Adam brings home always manage to make me laugh and bring some lightness to balance the darker themes. In Cradle To Grave we have a new case that, while initially seemingly simple, soon turns out to be another challenge for Kay and her team. A murder, a missing child and a whole web of secrets and lies just waiting to be uncovered… On top of that, a possible connection in a whole different country, oh la la! The plot in book number eight will definitely keep you on your toes and it will be really hard to guess the final reveals before they happen.

Twists and turns are used to keep the level of suspense steady as well as slowly building that tension towards the grand final… Combine this with excellent writing and main characters you will find yourself once again rooting for, and you won’t realize hours have passed until you read those final words. Cradle To Grave is of that same high quality I’ve become used to when it comes to this series, and I loved spending more time with my favorite team. If you are looking for a detective thriller series that keeps delivering, a plot that will keep you guessing until the very end or simply a very engaging and absorbing read, you will find all those things are covered in every single Detective Kay Hunter book. So go meet her if you haven’t already! Trust me, you won’t regret it…


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ARC REVIEW: Here To Stay – by Mark Edwards @amazonpub

Title: Here To Stay
Author: Mark Edwards
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: September 17th 2019
Pages: 370

“Maybe I couldn’t trust anyone.”

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

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Basically it was Meggy’s review that made me realize I just HAD to read Here To Stay. I’m so glad she first pointed me towards this book, as I have been meaning to try Mark Edwards‘ books for a while now and there is no doubt that this book was everything I hoped for and more. I basically felt uncomfortable and threatened during the whole book, feeling what the main character feels while also just wanting to shake him and tell him to ‘man up’ and do something about his situation. It’s hands down one of the most frustrating stories I’ve had the chance to read this year, but strangly enough this feeling only made me appreciate this story even more.

I’ve had my thoughts marinating for a few days now, and I still can’t wrap my head around just how brilliant the premise and its execution are. The main topic of Here To Stay involves what you can call everybody’s worst fear: meeting/marrying someone you love, only to discover in-laws from hell come with the package. I lucked out with mine, but I can’t even imagine what it would be like opening your door and seeing the Robinsons on your doorstep and having them invade your safe haven… The main character Elliot is an easy character to connect to and the perfect good guy, which only serves as a bigger contrast with the Robinsons. Dear oh dear, what can I say about them without giving too much away? Let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to have them living in the same town, let alone have them in my own home… They will have you pulling your hair and shouting out of sheer frustration sooner than later, and that uncomfortable feeling will never be far away. This negative feeling should have put me off reading Here To Stay, but somehow in this story it had the opposite effect and I couldn’t resist picking up my kindle again and again to discover how far the Robinsons would go. I have to say that making you hate characters so profoundly, and despite generating those feelings of intense frustration still being able to deliver us a story that is essentially irresistible, is without doubt a truly remarkable achievement.

The plot itself is complex and well constructed, slowly building up that suspense and tension until things are spinning out of control. Plot twists, secrets and the escalating situation are all working together to keep you on your toes and will make it very hard to stop reading before you discover how it will all end. This is despite the fact that this story will make you feel very uncomfortable and frustated, because there is no doubt that Here To Stay has that je ne sais quoi that turns this story into something special. The development of the characters is well handled and feels quite realistic despite the fact that things can be said about some aspects being a bit cliche. I also loved the history of the Robinsons and those chapters set abroad and set in the past… And the crime aspect of Here To Stay was such a surprising angle as well! I don’t want to give to much away, but there are so many elements incorporated into this story and somehow it all combines to create the perfect thriller cocktail. There is no doubt that Mark Edwards has a new fan!


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ARC REVIEW: Mala Vida – by Marc Fernandez

Title: Mala Vida
Author: Marc Fernandez
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2015
Publisher: Arcade
Finished reading: January 5th 2019
Pages: 240
(Originally written in French: ‘Mala Vida’)

“Franco is dead, but not the evil he brought into the world.”

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

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I’ve had an interest in Spanish history and especially the Franco period even before I picked it as my thesis subject. It’s easy to say that when I came across Mala Vida and read the blurb I was sold immediately. A story partially set in one of my favorite European cities and one I know closely: check. An intriguing historical background and mystery: check. A healthy dose of crime fiction, suspense and plot twists: check. Oh yes, while Mala Vida is mostly a contemporary crime thriller, it also included a historical element and a very intriguing and devastating one at that. This story was originally written in French back in 2015, and will be available in English next week. The translation works splendidly and I had a great time reading this story. The writing style made it easy to keep myself invested in the story; there are flashbacks, different point of views and plot twists that will keep you on edge until you have everything figured out. The setting was a huge bonus for me and I liked the inclusion of cultural elements to make the setting feel more authentic. The historical case discussed in Mala Vida is fascinating and I liked how we get multiple views on the topic through the different characters. Diego’s character is very interesting and I liked that he is a journalist. The same goes for the other main characters: each has their own personality, background and adds a little something unique to the story. All in all a very successful read for me!

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The radical right has just won the election after twelve years of Socialist rule in Spain, and things are about to change drastically. As the country is preparing itself to retrace its steps to the past, there are other things happening as well. A series of murders is committed in various cities in Spain, and there are no clues found as to who is behind them or why they were killed. There seems to be no obvious connection between them, but isn’t there? And that is not all either, because a national scandal is about to be revealed as well…

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If you like stories with an international setting that can offer a little something different and outside the box, you should definitely consider Mala Vida. Part legal thriller, part historical, part mystery and part crime fiction, this story is a mix of a lot of different elements and very well executed at that. I personally loved the Spanish setting, the diversity of the main characters and the story as a whole. The historical element is both well executed and shocking and will definitely leave a mark… A very interesting read and one I’m very glad I came across.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #71 – Big Little Lies & Outlander

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I have been meaning to read for a long time and finally decided to read in 2018. Both turned out to be more than pleasant surprises! Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.


Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: July 29th 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 23rd 2018
Pages: 460

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”


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I’ve been meaning to read another Liane Moriarty book for a long time, and I’m probably the last person on earth to finally pick up Big Little Lies. I kind of picked it up on a whim while browsing my kindle, and I definitely not regret making that decision. There is no doubt that Liane Moriarty knows how to write an intriguing mystery that goes out with a huge bang. I liked how she kept what happened that fatal night a secret in such a way that you don’t have a clue about the who or why until the final bombshell is dropped. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming! The plot is both intricate and well constructed and part of the reason this story is such a success. I liked the idea of following the three main characters is the weeks before the incident, especially since they are mixed with those police interview bits to keep you intrigued and curious about what happened. You will be on the edge of your seat until you find out all the details! I wasn’t sure about every character, but their development is without doubt very well done. Each character has its own background and problems, and while there were a few cliches involved, I could really appreciate the abuse angle and the necessary attention it brings to the fact it ‘can happen to anyone’. There is a lot of drama and some of it was a bit farfetched, but the ending definitely makes up for it. All in all Big Little Lies was a success for me and I’ll be looking forward to watching the TV adaptation.


Title: Outlander
(Outlander #1)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
First published: June 1st 1991
Publisher: Dell
Finished reading: December 28th 2018
Pages: 866

“Sometimes our best actions result in things that are most regrettable. And yet you could not have acted otherwise.”


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I have been meaning to read Outlander for years now, but both the sheer size of the books and the fact that I wasn’t sure the story would be for me made me hesitate for a long time. I don’t mind big books if they are good, but I feared there would be way too much romance involved for me to tolerate… But Outlander turned out to be the exception to that rule. Once I finally started reading and finished the first few chapters, I knew Outlander and me were going to get along just fine. All in all it took me about a week to finish it, which is not bad at all for such a beast of a book… And I had a surprisingly good time with it as well. Why surprisingly, would you say? Well, there are a lot of sexy scenes involved in Outlander, something that normally makes me drop a book like hot coals and discard it right away. They still made me cringe at points (adult content just isn’t for me ladies!), but the rest of the story was intriguing enough for me to tolerate them. The writing is excellent and the worldbuilding is sublime. I really felt like I were in Scotland myself along with the main characters; the descriptions of both the time period and surroundings extremely well done. The time travel aspect is also very interesting, especially since it comes back repeatedly in for example Claire’s profession as a nurse in the 20th century. I really liked Jamie as a character and while Claire can be exasperating at points, she does make for a good story. The story flowed well and managed to keep my attention all the way to the end. I’m definitely glad I finally give in and read Outlander, and I will be looking forward to read the sequel this year.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #64: An Officer And A Spy (DNF) & Educated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t manage to convince me. The first, An Officer And A Spy by Robbert Harris, sadly a DNF, something that rarely happens. And I had high hopes for Educated by Tara Westover after so many glowing reviews, but I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again.


Title: An Officer And A Spy
Author: Robert Harris

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 26th 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: November 12th 2018 
Pages: 429
DNF at 30% (129 pages)

“It seems to be a necessary part of the criminal mentality: to survive captivity, one must somehow convince oneself one is not guilty.”


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An Officer And A Spy is one of my TBR jar picks and a title I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I had been looking forward to it despite the mixed reviews, mostly because the setting sounded fascinating. I still think the setting on its own is very interesting and the general plot has a lot of potential. A possibly wrongly convicted officer, espionage, the threat of a war and other struggles definitely sound like a good recipe for a successful historical fiction read. Sadly, the execution of those elements in An Officer And A Spy just didn’t work for me. I have picked it up only to put it down again after only a few pages multiple times over the last few weeks. I’ve tried and tried to at least make it to the end to see if things improved later on, but in the end I decided to make the difficult decision to just DNF it. I hardly ever give up on a book, so it definitely makes me sad to do so… But between the superslow pace, writing style, too many descriptions and a lack of interest in both the plot and the characters, I think this was the right choice for me. An Officer And A Spy just never grabbed me and I was never able to stay interested in the story… It’s very possible this story simply wasn’t for me even though historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. A lot of readers did love it, so definitely don’t give up on it if you are thinking about reading it.


Title: Educated
Author: Tara Westover

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: November 14th 2018
Pages: 352

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occured to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”


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It’s unpopular opinion time again… You’ve been warned. 

I have been looking forward to finally read Educated for months now, especially after reading so many glowing reviews. This is probably one of the reasons my expectations might have been too high, that and the fact that this memoir has been compared to The Glass Castle. The fact is: I was quite underwhelmed by all of it. This was not what I was expecting, and I feel sad for feeling this way, but it is what it is… I’m going to try and explain the reasons why. First of all, I know that I’m a skeptical person, and I don’t tend to believe things easily just because they are written down on paper. I also had a hard time believing Tara Westover‘s story as it was written down. Please don’t tell me I’m implying she is a liar, which I’m not. I do believe that she wrote Educated based on her memories, memories that can have gotten distorted over time especially if her early life has been such a struggle. And I really had to take her story with a whole lot of grains of salt to be able to continue reading. Like I said, I’m not saying she hasn’t had a tough life, or that her family didn’t do what they did, just that I didn’t find her story as told credible. I mean, for a survivalist family living in the mountains they sure have a lot of luxuries including at some point even a phone, TV and internet (not talking about the enormous mansion they seem to be having in the end). Her family life definitely wasn’t standard, with them not even having a birth certificate for a long time, not going to school and working in the junkyard etc etc. But I would rather call it eccentric for the most part instead. Also, at one point she describes her father as bipolar, something that is never confirmed as the same disease prevents him getting a medical diagnose. Still, I would have liked to have seen this angle developed further rather than just throwing the ‘bipolar’ word out and leave it at that. Another thing that bothered me were the many many serious accidents, a few life threatening, and somehow they are all healed with essential oils and other herbal cures? I do believe in holistic treatments along with medical care, but this is just getting too hard to believe. (I’m not saying they weren’t injured, just that the injuries maybe weren’t as bad as they remembered?) Anyhow, this reckless behavior and indifference towards general safety of others and the ‘miracle’ recoveries were just too much for the skeptical person in me to handle. Another thing I found hard to believe? Where all the money came from. First we are told they are poor, then money starts popping up everywhere somehow. I can get why her childhood chapters are a bit vague about money, but how on earth did she get the money together to get into a prestigious college and university? I know there are grants, but they don’t cover it all and it is a LOT of money we are talking about and very prestigious and expensive education. I mean, she goes to the UK and studies abroad for a long time? And then travels back and forth between the US and the UK multiple times? The flights alone cost a fortune, and surely aren’t covered by grants. A real mystery to me. There is also the question how she got into college in the first place, especially since she was never really educated at home in the first place. Somehow being able to get a superhigh score just by teaching herself advanced math and everything else in the test just doesn’t come over as credible to the skeptical me. Maybe she had a higher level of education than stated in the memoir before she started preparing herself for the test? I don’t know, but as it is Educated wasn’t at all credible to me. I’m not saying her being able to get her degrees isn’t admirable, and I’m sure she’s had a hard life especially with her despicable brother Shawn (I’m not even going into the abuse and her brother here, or we could still be talking tomorrow), but sadly her memoir wasn’t able to convince me.


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