WWW Wednesdays #166 – March 7th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’ve recently started reading Graffiti Palace by A.G. Lombardo, another ARC that is scheduled to be published soon. It’s still really early days, so we’ll see how things go with that one… And I’m also starting The Art Of Fear by Pamela Crane, both because I’m in the mood for a thriller and I’m trying to clean out my NG shelf before our trip. Fingers crossed I’ll enjoy both!

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. All Things Bright And Strange by James Markert (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW
When I started reading All Things Bright And Strange, I actually thought I was going to enjoy it even better than What Blooms From Dust. Between the WWI veteran element and grumpy Ellsworth himself, it had all the signs of becoming a true winner… I mean, I even compared Ellsworth to one of my all time favorite characters Ove (A Man Called Ove). These feelings stayed for a long time, but slowly something started to irk me. I’m not a fan of a high dose of religious elements in a story, especially when it starts to sound like preaching. And there just was too much of it in All Things Bright And Strange… Especially in the second half. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I would have liked to see a label calling it Christian fiction. The writing is wonderful though with lots of magical descriptions and a well developed historical setting.

2. The Last Star by Rick Yancey (2/5 stars) REVIEW 09/03
I was warned about this one by various bloggers, even though who unlike me did enjoy the first two books. Unfortunately, they turned out to be right. From the religious introduction, to the chaotic POV changes, the icky romance scenes and Cassie being her annoying self… I definitely didn’t have a great time reading this one. But I guess at least I was able to cross off another series right?

3. My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 
My Sweet Friend is the perfect example of a novella done right. With a well developed plot with interesting and fleshed out characters and a writing that simply flows it’s hard not to like this story. The manipulation element is incorporated in a way that feels completely natural and instead of it being forced on you, it shows up gradually. The switching back and forward between Rosie and Alexa helped set the right atmosphere as well as show the different sides of the effects of a manipulative relationship. The story will also have some surprises in store for you! Definitely recommended.

4. No Safe Place by Patricia Gibney (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 22/03
If you are looking for a well written, fast-paced and intense detective thriller series with a consistent quality and complex and well developed plots, Detective Lottie Parker will be a perfect fit for you. No Safe Place has another intense and complex investigation with many layers and twists to keep you guessing and entertained. I had my guesses, but didn’t find out the full truth until the very end and I was wrong in many occasions. I just love it when a story is able to mislead me! No Safe Place was another excellent detective thriller and I will already be looking forward to the next book.

5. Lies That Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach (3,5/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 15/03 
I read and enjoyed the first book of the series last month, and now it was time for me to read the sequel for the blog tour. It took me a bit longer than expected to get into the sequel, but I guess that was because the first half was used to create a base the rest of the story will be able to stand on. I wasn’t a fan of the high dose of drama, but the final part returned to the default action-packed and superspeed pace I had been getting used to in book one. And there is no doubt that the ending left me wanting for more.

6. With Malice by Eileen Cook (4/5 stars) REVIEW 09/03
I picked this one on a whim after seeing it mentioned somewhere. I had my doubts since I’ve seen mixed reviews out there, but in this case I think having let the hype die down has worked it its advantage. Because somehow I really enjoyed reading this one. I’m a sucker for a good amnesia angle plot and this one definitely ticked all the right boxes. Amnesia and aphasia played a big role in the story, and I liked how the author not only used it to keep us guessing about what happened, but also showed how it was like for the main character not to remember everything. Interesting ending as well!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

Like I said before, I’m trying to clean out my NG shelf as much as I can before I start my trip, so the ARCs The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton and The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter by Julia Drosten are next. A memoir and a historical fiction read; I’ll be looking forward to them! I also want to read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult soon, although I’m waiting until I’m in the mood for a tearjerker before I do. 😉 My latest TBR jar pick is still Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. I was going to pick it up earlier this week, but then I saw With Malice and I randomly picked up that one instead haha.


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ARC REVIEW: My Sweet Friend – by H.A. Leuschel @HALeuschel

Title: My Sweet Friend
Author: H.A. Leuschel
Genre: Novella, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 6th 2017
Finished reading: March 2nd 2018
Pages: 92

“Some people have a special antenna for detecting fears and weaknesses in others.”

*** 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 aware of the fact I don’t read all that many novellas, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate them. In fact, I think of them as taking the art of storytelling to the next level, because it is just so much harder to write a convincing story when you have a limited amount of pages to do so. After enjoying Manipulated Lives last year, there was no doubt I wanted to try the author’s newest novella as well. Not only is the psychological angle in her stories intriguing, but her writing style is really engaging and she makes it easy to connect to the characters. My Sweet Friend is no different, and is without doubt my new favorite. I found myself invested into the story right from the start and the writing was both engaging and flowed naturally. The introduction of the manipulative element is subtle at first, but very well and realistically developed. Despite its limited pages, My Sweet Friend is able to create a dept in both characters as well as creating a hint of suspense and several twists. The dual POV works really well and helps you understand and see both sides of the relationship. While I do think Rosie is a bit naive, I do think her character is very realistic. And that can also be said for Alexa, who is not exactly likeable, but fits her role perfectly. The psychological effect of manipulation is well described and also show the consequences for both sides. The plot itself is an interesting one and well fleshed out for a novella. I had a great time reading My Sweet Friend! One of the better novellas out there I’ve read to this date… Although it did leave me craving for more information about Alexa’s background.

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Alexa is the new member of a Parisian PR company and seems to be an energetic and charming woman as well as professional. She is quick to befriend her colleagues Rosie and Jack and seems to be the perfect match for her new team. Most of them seem to grow to her instantly, but is she really who she claims to be? And can first impressions ever be trusted?

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My Sweet Friend is the perfect example of a novella done right. With a well developed plot with interesting and fleshed out characters and a writing that simply flows it’s hard not to like this story. The manipulation element is incorporated in a way that feels completely natural and instead of it being forced on you, it shows up gradually. The switching back and forward between Rosie and Alexa helped set the right atmosphere as well as show the different sides of the effects of a manipulative relationship. The story will also have some surprises in store for you! Definitely recommended.


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WWW Wednesdays #165 – February 28th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m still reading All Things Bright And Strange by James Markert, a historical fiction read with a touch of fantasy and magical realism. I’m hoping to finish it by the end of today! As soon as I do, I will continue with The Last Star by Rick Yancey. I had put it on hold to read a few urgent NG ARCs first, but I should be able to squeeze it in now and just get it over with (does it show I’m not all that excited to finally read it? xD)

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Visitor by K.L. Slater (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW
It doesn’t really come as an surprise, but K.L. Slater has done it again and created a brilliant psychological thriller. The pace is slower and the main focus is on the characters, but the plot, secrets and plot twists will help you keep focused until the very end. Because you will soon discover that key information about Holly’s past is being held back on purpose, making you want to keep reading to find out what really happened as well as making you wonder what it has to do with her current situation and fear. The final plot twists and reveals are mindblowingly good! I definitely didn’t see those coming… Although the ending did feel a bit too neat. Still, this was without doubt a very good read.

2. Proof Of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW
I have a weak spot for both an international setting and the whole spy/conspiracy theory element, so reading Proof Of Lies was an easy choice. Both these elements were what made this first book of a new series into a succesful and entertaining read for me. While I can’t say I liked the main character, not only because she is over dramatic and whiny, but also because she is quite naive and doesn’t seem to care about possible consequences of her actions, I somehow still very much enjoyed reading about her search for her sister. The non stop action and international setting in the second half definitely had a lot to do with that. I did wonder about the credibility of it all (A teenager in Europe without supervision?? Everything that happens to them in general??), but I guess at least the second part can be explained away by the conspiracy itself. All in all without doubt still a very entertaining read and I will be looking forward to read the sequel.

3. Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 06/03
Boy, this book was GOOD. It’s not the easiest story to read and there are a lot of trigger warnings involved for those who are sensitive to violence, abuse etc, but if you can stomach them, you will find Barbed Wire Heart is one hell of a ride. It’s a trigger-happy crime story with a high dose of girl power, adrenaline, action, a splash of family drama and plot twists that you won’t see coming. From the writing style to the underlying feminist message, the originality of the plot and the excellent character development… This story simply blew me away.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I need to read Lies That Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach soon to get the review ready for my very first blog tour… And after browsing my backlist, I’ve decided to read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult soon as well. I really enjoy reading her books, so I’m looking forward to it! I’ve heard it’s a real tearjerker though. I also need to read My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel soon. My newest TBR jar pick is still Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke.


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ARC REVIEW: Manipulated Lives – by H.A. Leuschel

Title: Manipulated Lives
Author: H.A. Leuschel

Genre: Short Stories, Realistic Fiction, Psychology
First published: June 8th 2016
Finished reading: May 14th 2017
Pages: 274

“Can there be only one truth? What if we are all creating our own truth, as we often need to, on a daily basis?”

*** 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 have a weak spot for realistic fiction stories with a psychology angle, so I was immediately intrigued when I first read about Manipulated Lives. This is actually a collection of five short stories about five different characters who have had to deal with manipulators at different stages of their lives and the damage this experience has done to them. I enjoy reading short stories every once in a while and it definitely takes a whole different set of skills to write them properly. Manipulated Lives is without doubt an example of excellent short story writing. The stories were both intriguing and did an excellent job of describing the complex emotions and reactions to the manipulations. Without doubt a great read if you like the genre!

I will be doing this review slightly different than usual and both give a quick summary and my thoughts on each of the five short stories below instead of having a separate summary section.

The Narcissist
This collection starts strong with a story about a manipulator with Alzheimer not longer remembering why he is incarcelated or what he was doing to his family and others during all those years. This memory angle made the story into a truly fascinating read and it was interesting how the main character reacted to certain things and learn more about what he did in the past in the first place. Not my favorite of the bundle, but without doubt one of the better ones.

Tess And Tattoos
The second story was one of my favorites and a really accurate, intriguing and heartbreaking description of how manipulators can truly ruin someone for life… Tess is an interesting character and an older woman who now lives a lonely life and never has anyone visiting her. Her friendship with Sandra is touching and I love the symbolism of the tattoo. Interesting ending as well!

The Spell
The third story is probably one of the most detailed ones and one of my favorites. It’s impressive how many twists and how much character development is included in this short story.  It’s about Sophie meeting a little boy Leo and later his father; she is charmed by Leo right away and that connection makes her blind for the strange vibes his father David gives off. It’s true Sophie is a bit naive, but I guess manipulators always look for ‘weak/easy’ victims and it’s truly interesting how David is able to worm his way into her life that fast.

Runaway Girl
The fourth story is about a younger manipulation victim; the teenage Holly. This one is probably my least favorite of the bunch even though it is an accurate description of a situation that happens all too often at high schools (unfortunately). What I found less credible is that the main character Holly was first described as an independent and smart teenager and then seemed to be completely blind around Luke even though he’s basically a classic manipulator. But it’s definitely another eye-opener when it comes to how one manipulator can damage a lot of victims when not stopped on time…

My Perfect Child
The last story is about a woman thinking her child is perfect and overprotecting him ever since he was born; indulging him in everything and turning him in a skilled manipulator. She didn’t want to see her child as anything less than perfect and ignored all the signs for so long that it was already too late to change direction… Not one of my favorites, but without doubt a great example how love imakes someone blind and can change perception of both daily situations and their consequences.

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I have been wanting to pick up this collection of short stories about different characters dealing with the consequences of manipulators for a long time now, especially since I’ve seen various glowing reviews in the past. And I’m definitely glad I finally picked it up, because I really enjoyed reading them. Every story deals with a different angle and they are truly fascinating. My favorite story would be between the second and the third story; my least favorite probably either number four or five, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t still good. If psychology fascinates you or you enjoy realistic fiction in general, Manipulated Lives is definitely a great read.


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WWW Wednesdays #137 – May 17th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m currently reading another psychological thriller ARC and Bookouture read: Be My Killer by Richard Parker. And as things are going, I’ll probably be finishing it later today because I’m flying through this story! I’m also just about to pick up my copy of One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus; another ARC I requested after a recommendation and a title I’m really looking forward to.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

(Doing this part slightly different this week since I already had written short ramblings/reviews of four of these titles for my Bout Of Books wrap up anyway… I like the look of it though; should I keep it this way in my next WWW???)

1. Roses Of May by Dot Hutchison (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 
While not as strong or twisted as the first book, I still very much enjoyed Roses Of May. Especially the final part had a very fast pace and the writing style is very enjoyable to read. The serial killer and plot itself are both intriguing and the chapters with the killer’s thoughts added another level of suspense. I also might or might not have squealed when I saw my name mentioned in the story (doesn’t happen often, trust me!). The plot twists are interesting as well, although I did find out the killer’s identity early on. Without doubt still recommended though!

2. Liar by K.L. Slater (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW
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!

3. Aurabel by Laura Dockrill (1,5/5 stars)  REVIEW
I really wanted to enjoy this one and I still love the cover, but unfortunately I just couldn’t. I felt like it was as if I were reading in a foreign language I could only barely understand for most of the ride and I had a REALLY hard time finishing this one. In fact, I would probably have DNFed it if it wouldn’t have been an ARC. A little note: after some investigation, I found out this is actually a sequel and it becomes clear as you are reading Aurabel that a lot of both background AND essential information is missing if you don’t read the first book. That said, I don’t think this story has convinced me enough to actually try and read the first book. Unfortunately it ended up being a quite painful experience reading Aurabel.

4. Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel (4/5 stars)
I have been wanting to pick up this collection of short stories about different characters dealing with the consequences of manipulators for a long time now, especially since I’ve seen various glowing reviews in the past. And I’m definitely glad I finally picked it up, because I really enjoyed reading them. Every story deals with a different angle and the stories are truly fascinating. My favorite story would be between the second and the third story; my least favorite probably either number four or five, but this doesn’t mean they were still good. If psychology fascinated you or you enjoy realistic fiction in general, Manipulated Lives is definitely a great read.

5. Stardust by Neil Gaiman (3,5/5 stars)
It’s basically a miracle I could even see the cover of this one with all the dust it has collected for years… I’m glad I finally picked it up! Stardust is one of those exceptions where I have actually seen the movie first, something I prefer not happening because it alters the reading experience. It’s probably what happened here as well, because I kept thinking of the movie as I were reading Stardust… And I think this is one of the rare cases where I actually enjoyed the movie better than the book. It’s an entertaining and well written fantasy read, but it reads a bit slow and not as good as my Neil Gaiman favorites.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

After my recent Bookouture thriller request binge (five in one week and I’m not even sorry!), I urgently need to read more NG ARCs to keep my ratio above 80% (yes, somehow I never actually dived below that mark; don’t ask me how that miracle happened xD)… First up is another thriller and sequel I’ve been looking forward to: Secrets Of The Dead by Carol Wyer. I also need to read Feel Me Fall by James Morris; I’ve read two of his previous stories in the past and enjoyed both, so I’m looking forward to it. The fantasy ARC Heartborn by Terry Maggert is also on my list… And I want to read And I Darken by Kiersten White ASAP so I can dive into my sequel ARC with time to spare. I can’t wait to finally read this series!


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WWW Wednesdays #136 – May 10th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m about to start Roses Of May by Dot Hutchison; another Netgalley ARC and a title I’ve been looking forward to. I read and loved The Butterfly Garden last year and I didn’t realize it was a series until I saw this sequel on NG… Can’t wait to dive into this disturbing story again! I also started reading Aurabel by Laura Dockrill, a NG fantasy ARC with mermaids, but I had to put it on hold after 5%. Why? I felt like I was reading a story written in a foreign language I could just barely understand. Things just didn’t make sense at all… And after investigating, this story apparently takes place in the same world as a previous book which I didn’t know about. That could probably explain the lack of worldbuilding, but does make it extremely difficult to properly enjoy it without reading that one first (which I don’t have time for xD ).

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

* The first book I finished since last week is Anything For Her by Jack Jordan, which turned out to be an excellent psychological thriller and even better than his other title My Girl. It’s fast, it’s entertaining and it manages to catch your attention right from the first page… And the whole mystery around ‘that night’ is intriguing and definitely makes you want to keep on reading. More in my review.
* I then read All The Good Things by Clare Fisher, another ARC I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately I ended up having mixed thoughts about it, mostly because I couldn’t connect to the main character Beth. Which is shame, because she’s a truly fascinating character and I really wanted to love this story. More about my mixed thoughts in my review.
* I actually wasn’t going to continue this series after my experience with book three, but I gave in since already had a copy on my kindle and it would mean I could cross off another series. Unfortunately, The Murder Of An Angel by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro continued down the same road as book three, and the only reason I made it to the end is that the prose at least reads superfast. Want to know why I didn’t like it? Here‘s why.
* After two mediocre reads, I decided to play it safe and pick up another Bookouture thriller. And I wasn’t wrong, because I’ve now added The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite to the growing list of Bookouture winners. This story started out strong and stayed that way until the very end. Not every character is all that likeable, but you will forget all about that as you find yourself trapped in the same web of lies and secrets as the rest of the town. Many many plot twists and a surprising ending! Find out more in my review which will be posted later today.
* I then continued Enchanters by K.F. Bradshaw, a high fantasy read I had been posponing during the last few weeks due to its length and wordbuilding. I’m glad I finally continued it and I really like the idea behind this story. That said, I do think the story itself is overlong and would have been more enjoyable with more focus on the action and less on ‘insignificant’ details and dialogue. In fact, some of the main characters were starting to become really annoying; especially the bantering between Cassie and Andrea. I love that it’s a YA fantasy read with a glbt angle though; you don’t see that too often (or at least in the stories I’ve read so far…)
* The last book I was able to finish is Room by Emma Donoghue, which has been on my TBR for way too long. The worst part is that I kept hearing great things about it, but somehow I never actually picked it up… I’m regretting this now, because it was such an excellent read! I literally flew through the pages and finished it in less than a day. I love that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old; it makes the story that much more powerful (Think The Boy With The Striped Pajamas, which has a similar effect.)

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

After I finish my current reads, I’m planning to pick up the other titles on my Bout Of Books TBR. One of them is another one that has been collecting dust for way too long: Stardust by Neil Gaiman. It will be one of the exceptions were I’ve already seen the movie before reading the story, so we’ll see how that goes. The next ARC I’m picking up will be Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel, which I’ve heard great things about and can’t wait to finally pick up. Also on the ARC list is Heartborn by Terry Maggert, which is another fantasy read. Last up is One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, which I requested after a recommendation and I’m really excited about. I wanted to pick up the thriller Be My Killer by Richard Parker first, but it doesn’t have a pagecount yet and I need that for it to count for the readathon. xD


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WWW Wednesdays #135 – May 3rd

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’ll probably finish Anything For Her by Jack Jordan later today, which has been a very good thriller read so far. I’m definitely glad I finally picked it up! And as soon as I’m finishing that title, I’ll be diving into another Netgalley ARC: The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite. I’ve heard great things about that title and it has all the signs it’s going to be another Bookouture winner! I’m also still reading Enchanters by K.F. Bradshaw, although it’s still temporarily on hold until I’m in the mood for (high) fantasy again.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

* The first title I finished since last week is Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, which turned out to be a brilliant read. I’m still kicking myself for not picking it up sooner! From the writing style, character development, plot to it’s very important topic; I just couldn’t find one detail I didn’t like about this powerful story.
* I then read The Car Bomb by T.V. LoCicero, which I ended up having quite a lot of issues with. It took a long time for the chapters to connect, the plot felt chaotic and there was excessive swearing, but that was only minor compared to my biggest problem with this story: the main character. I absolutely despised him and it was really hard to enjoy a story involving such an arrogant, cheating, drunk, womanizing bastard. Definitely not for me…
* Afterwards I decided to try my hands at fantasy again, especially since I enjoyed the first book of The Hero Rebellion series last year. Riven by Belinda Crawford was without doubt an entertaining read and the best part is that it’s a YA sci-fi series that is actually 100% romance free. Yes, you read that right, there’s no romance in this series and the story focuses on the worldbuilding and action instead. It took me a bit longer to adapt to the worldbuilding and some of the unique features and the plot wasn’t as strong as the first book, but there is definitely a lot of potential for what is still to come. Action-packed and very entertaining!
* The last book I picked up is Flame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh, one of my most anticipated releases this year. I still can’t believe my request was actually approved!! I had high expectations after reading a teaser earlier this year, and somehow this book managed to be even better than expected. I practically devoured its pages and LOVED it. The setting, the writing style, the characters (Mariko, Okami!!!), the plot… It doesn’t happen often I have two 5 star reads in a week, but I just couldn’t give this one anything lower than perfect rating. The wait for the sequel is going to be painful though…

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

Like I’ve said before, I still have a huge pile of ARCs pending so I’ve made May into another ARC month. I have the following four ARCs lined up to be read next, depending on the genre I’m in the mood for... Be My Killer by Richard Parker and The Roses Of May by Dot Hutchison are both Netgalley ARCs and titles I’m looking forward to. Heartborn by Terry Maggert is another pending fantasy ARC I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I also want to pick up the ARC Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel, which sounds like a fascinating read.


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