ARC REVIEW: The Winter Sister – by Megan Collins

Title: The Winter Sister
Author: Megan Collins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Touchstone
Finished reading: January 17th 2019
Pages: 336

“Love is love. You can’t just kick it to the curb, even if sometimes you wished like hell you could.”

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

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There has been a lot of buzz around The Winter Sister, and with a just cause. I simply couldn’t resist this title when I was sent a personal invitation to read it and I saw one of my favorite thriller writers Megan Miranda recommended it… My intuition didn’t fail me, because this story was without doubt a very solid read. Part family drama, part cold case murder, part psychological thriller, The Winter Sister has a little bit of everything and combined in such a way that makes for a perfect mystery cocktail everyone will love. The writing style is engaging and solid and will manage to draw you in from the very first page. I really liked the structure of this story, switching between 16 years ago and the present and done in such a way that keeps building up the suspense and intrigue without things becoming confusing. This story is about what happened to Persephone, but also the effects it had and still has on those close to her. The character development is very well done and feels realistic. It is interesting to see the different characters interact and change over time while you learn more about the past and how everyone fits on the board. While I did see part of the final twists coming, there were also things I hadn’t guessed and that’s always a great feeling. The family drama is well balanced out with the cold case investigation and other secrets and plot twists, making The Winter Sister an intriguing and satisfying read. Fans of the genre will have a great time with this one!

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It has been sixteen years since Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. She had been missing for three days before her body was found, and the crime has remained unsolved. Sylvie has tried to move on, but is faced with painful memories as she has to return come to care for her estranged mother. Being back home brings back all the questions and her theories on who was behind the death of her sister. She is determined to finally discover the truth no matter what it takes…

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My instincts told me I was in for a treat with this one and it turns out they were right. The Winter Sister offers us a well balanced mix of a family drama, cold case murder and psychological thriller with a focus on the complicated relationships between mother and daughters alike. The writing is solid and the plot well crafted and interestingly developed. The switches between past and present added to the intrigue and suspense around Persephone’s death and the truth what really happened to her… There are a lot of secrets and twists to discover, and while I did see some of them coming, others managed to surprise me. All in all The Winter Sister was a very satisfying read fans of the genre will love.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #61 – Every Note Played & The Cheerleaders

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different stories I both ended up enjoying. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova and The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas, both Goodreads Choice Awards nominees.


Title: Every Note Played
Author: Lisa Genova

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: March 20th 2018
Publisher: Scout Press
Finished reading: November 3rd 2018
Pages: 321

“Life is not a static organism. Every day, he’s a little more shut down, shut in, turned off. A little less in motion. A little less alive. “


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This is already my third Lisa Genova story… I’m always in awe how she is able to put a devastating neurological disease in the spotlight, mixing medical facts and symptoms with a fictional story in such way that you end up both being educated and entertained at the same time. This balance between facts and fiction is what makes Every Note Played such an interesting read for me. It’s not just a simple description of ALS and its symptoms. Through the main character Richard we get to see exactly how this disease evolves and what effects it has on both his life and those close to him. This impact is shown really well through both Karina and Bill, and in a lesser role Grace and other characters  as well. As always, I enjoyed the writing style and the way the story was told, although I do have to say I wish there would have been a bit more focus on the character development itself. I understand and appreciate a very present role of ALS in the story, but it did make me feel the main characters as persons were pushed a bit in the background. I would have liked to learn more about Richard and Karina and their background. I guess this would have made it easier to connect to them straight away… I loved the musical element though, and how music played a role throughout a story. In short, despite a few minor details Every Note Played was without doubt another excellent and fascinating read.


Title: The Cheerleaders
Author: Kara Thomas

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: November 5th 2018
Pages: 384

“Everyone goes through shit, and there’s always someone somewhere who has it worse. It doesn’t make what you’re feeling any less real or any less shitty.”


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After really enjoying Little Monsters last year, I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work. It took me longer than expected, and it isn’t the book I originally planned to read first, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t excited to be starting The Cheerleaders. There was just something about the blurb that caught my attention, although the blood spatters on the cover alone weirdly made me want to read this story already. A possible high school murder mystery with cheerleaders involved? Talk about an interesting twist! I already knew I was probably going to enjoy the writing style after Little Monsters, and my instincts were absolutely right. There is just something about the writing that draws you right in, makes you forget about your surroundings and just read. I was intrigued from the start, and even though not all characters are likeable and there are a few high school cliches involved, somehow the mystery around the death of the five cheerleaders was enough to forget about those objections and keep on reading. Entertaining and twisty enough to finish it in record time. The Cheerleaders is without doubt one of the strongest YA contemporary/mystery reads I’ve had the chance to read this year, minor flaws and all.


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ARC REVIEW: The Girl Made Of Clay – by Nicole Meier

Title: The Girl Made Of Clay
Author: Nicole Meier
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: September 12th 2018
Pages: 304

“For the majority of their lives, they were two lost souls twisting in the wind.”

*** 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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There were two things that instantly made me want to read The Girl Made Of Clay: the beautiful cover and the promise of an intriguing family drama with an artsy twist. There is no doubt that this story has a lot of potential, and I believe in this case the problem is me and not the story itself. I confess that family dramas are a bit out of my reading comfort zone and they can go either way for me. In this case, unfortunately my reading experience went down a negative road. It wasn’t because of the writing, which was solid and flowed. The Girl Made Of Clay is a mostly character-driven story where the focus is on Sarah and her father TR, but also on the failing relationship between Sarah and her husband. As always with a character-driven story, the connection to the main characters is extremely important and has a big influence in how you perceive a story. Sadly, in The Girl Made Of Clay, I was unable to make such connection. In fact, TR is horrible, Sarah frustratingly annoying and her husband is no good either… Little Sam is the only one that was able to bring a smile to my face. I’m not saying the character development is bad and having flawed characters makes the story that much more realistic. TR isn’t ment to be likeable, and the whole point of this book is that the relationship between Sarah and her father is broken. Still, my aversion towards the characters made it really hard to enjoy the story or to properly care about what would happen to them. I’m not sure about the credibility of some parts of the plot either… But like I said, the main problem for me was the lack of connection to the characters, which made it a struggle to stay focused and keep myself motivated to keep reading. I do think this was mostly me, and I think people who enjoy reading character-driven family dramas and don’t mind flawed and potentially frustrating characters will have a good time with The Girl Made Of Clay.

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Sarah hasn’t spoken with her father for decades, not since he left them all those years ago to live the celebrity lifeas a famous artist. But after Thomas ‘TR’ Harlow is badly injured in a house fire, it seems like he has no one else left to care for him… And suddenly Sarah is forced to care for a man who is basically a stranger to her. Being close to her father again not only brings back old painful memories, but also puts a strain on her already troubled marriage. Sarah is not so sure what to do with the situation, or if she will ever be able to forgive him…

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If you enjoy reading character-driven stories with flawed characters that are described in a realistic way, The Girl Made Of Clay is without doubt an interesting read. The pace is not the fastest, but the story captures quite well how the characters evolve over time. Did I think every aspect of the plot and behavior was credible? Not exactly. Did most of the characters annoy me and made me enjoy the story a lot less? Most definitely. But as one of the cliches goes: ‘it’s not you, it’s me…‘. And I really think that is what happened here.


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ARC REVIEW: Stage Four – by Sander Kollaard

Title: Stage Four
Author: Sander Kollaard

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: January 18th 2018
Pages: 148
(Originally written in Dutch: ‘Stadium IV’)

“Everything she was, was stored in her soft brain tissue. The tumor growing in that tissue – the meteorite on its way to destruction – threatened not so much her life as her identity.”

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

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I vowed to read more international authors/translations this year, and somehow this book spoke to me when I saw it mentioned. I know technically I could have tried reading Stage Four in Dutch, but my language skills are more than rusty so I decided to cheat and read the translation instead. This story was first published five years ago, but its translation is scheduled to be published next month. There is no doubt that Stage Four is a very interesting read. It tells the story of a Dutch couple who first met in Sweden back in 1968, and now want to enjoy their golden years by traveling around Europe in a camper van. Those dreams are crushed as Sarie is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer before the trip has even started… Stage Four both shows us the past, how the two main characters first met, and how they react to the terrible news all those years later, try to live with this new reality and make the most of the time they have left. The writing is interesting and includes a lot of descriptions of both the places they visit (which made me feel as if I were visiting Sweden myself) and facts related to Sarie’s illness. The decline in Sarie’s character is tragic and heartbreaking; their love and devotion beautiful. I have to say I was quite shocked by the ending though!

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Dutch couple Sarie and Barend Vervoort decide to celebrate their retirement by buying a camper van and travel around Europe. They also want to return to some of the places in Sweden where they traveled together when they first met back in 1968. But this dream is shattered before the journey has even started as Sarie falls ill in Belgium and is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. After one too many invasive treatments, Sarie decides to face the inevitable head on and wants them to go to Sweden anyway… Going back to where it all started all those years ago.

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Stage Four is both a beautiful, tragic and heartbreaking love story of a couple trying to accept and live with the diagnose of stage IV lung cancer. The flashbacks to 1968 help build their characters and it was interesting to see their relationship evolve as well as how they deal with the progress of the disease. There are lots of descriptions of the Swedish destinations included, making it feel as if you were there yourself… A very intriguing read although the ending was quite shocking.


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BOOK REVIEW: A Monster Calls – by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness

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

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

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

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

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


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ARC REVIEW: Heartborn – by Terry Maggert

Title: Heartborn
Author: Terry Maggert

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 1st 2016
Finished reading: May 28th 2017
Pages: 238

“Sometimes, she thought books had been the only thing other than the love her parents that kept her from quitting. They were old friends who never left, and always took her by the hand to go someplace her broken body could not.”

*** 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 haven’t read all that many books about angels before and I was intrigued by both the cover and blurb when I first heard about Heartborn. What I didn’t realize until later is that this is actually the first book of a series… And that’s probably why I was kind of surprised when I reached the last page of this story. Heartborn definitely ends right when things are starting to make more sense and the story was becoming more interesting. This was one of the main things I was struggling with as I was reading this story: the credibility of it all and the lack of worldbuilding/descriptions of the word the angels live in. I liked that Heartborn is a story that is a mix of the ‘real’ world and the fantasy, linked together through the characters, and it definitely made the story more interesting. But even though I liked Livvy’s character (‘real’ world) in general, I had serious doubts about her reactions to everything. I mean, she somehow takes the news of a completely foreign world being out there somewhere without even a complaint or thinking twice? And she just accepts and gobbles up everything Keiron and the others say without completely freaking out? Not credible at all. And then I’m not even talking about the insta-love happening somewhere in the middle.  Also, I can’t go into details without spoilers, but let’s just say that I felt there was a lack of balance in the plot; some parts felt rushed and lacked explaining, while others started to drag. The ‘angel’ chapters were interesting enough, but I would have liked to see more details and worldbuilding to properly enjoy them. This fantasy world has a lot of promise, but didn’t reach its full potential for me. All in all not as good as I would have hoped it would be.

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Livvy Foster was born with only half a heart, and has somehow completely surprised everyone and survived to reach her seventeenth birthday. Life hasn’t been easy on her and she bears the scars to prove it; forced to live slow as to not damage further her already weak heart. She has only just started working in the library when she meets Keiron. What she doesn’t know is that there is a whole lot more about him than just another library visitor… Because he has come from a place far away, a guardian angel pushed from high above with a mission to save her. What will happen to the two?

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Now I’ve read Heartborn I can’t deny there is a lot of potential in this story, and it’s a shame the fantasy world has been described only so briefly. An extra 100 pages or so would have helped develop their world better and that would probably help enjoying this story a lot better. I also had problems with the credibility of it all, mostly due to Livvy’s reactions to so many (for her) shocking details. The final part of the story also felt a bit rushed and the ending abrupt. All in all a lot of potential, but in the end it just didn’t work for me.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley – by Shaun David Hutchinson

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Title: The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 20th 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: February 14th 2017
Pages: 297
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“I realize that adults are just as fucked as the rest of us. No one really grows up. No one unravels all of life’s many mysteries. They just grow up older and become better liars.”

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The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley has been on my TBR pile for a while now, and recently my TBR jar thought it would be about time to finally pick it up. I still posponed it for way too long, but I’m glad I finally gave it a go in the end. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up this novel by Shaun David Hutchinson, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. True, some of the story was a bit too weird to my taste, but in general I enjoyed reading it. The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley is part graphic novel, part GLBT contemporary romance and part magical realism (which includes all the weird parts). I don’t mind a touch of surrealism, but the whole Death thing and even the main character Andrew himself made me raise my eyebrows more than once. I also had some difficulties with the credibility of part of the plot. I mean, how on earth is Andrew to be able spend so much time at the hospital without raising suspicions? And what about the total disregard of protocol and protection of the seriously ill characters/friends when Andrew banters into their rooms and even takes some out of the ward? Health risk much? That said, I can’t deny it’s an entertaining and original read and I really liked the graphic novel bits with patient F.

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Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night his parents and sister passed away. But he survived, and he now lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, is friends with the nurses and sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Nobody knows who he really is and I tries to hide his past from everyone. Because if Death finds him, she will take him too. Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, a teenager with half of his body burned by hateful classmates. Andrew feels a strange connection to Rusty, and decides he needs to protect him from Death. Because Death is always looking for her next victim, and Andrew refuses to lose Rusty too.

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I like that The Five Stages Of Andrew Brawley is actually a mix of different genres that work quite well together. The surreal elements were a bit too weird to my taste, but there is no denying they were original. The contemporary romance bit can be a bit cheesy at points, but I liked the dynamics between the main characters in general. I’m still wondering about the title though, because the supposedly ‘five stages’ weren’t mentioned anywhere… The graphic novel bits were definitely a highlight though and I liked how the pages were incorporated into the rest of the story. All in all a very interesting read!


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