BOOK REVIEW: Keeper – by Johana Gustawsson @Orendabooks

Title: Keeper
(Emily Roy & Alexis Castells #2)
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 15th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: August 27th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in French: ‘Mör’)

“The news had hung in mid-air for a moment, a millisecond of incomprehension and doubt when reality only existed in words, as if it were gearing up to hit you where it hurts.”


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And it happened again… As with the first book of the Emily Roy & Alexis Castells series, I’ve been struggling to get a word on paper after finishing Keeper last week. Such is the power of these books! Many fellow bloggers have recommended this series to me over time, and I’ve definitely become a fan. Keeper has only reconfirmed my love for this series, and even a week after I’m still recovering from the shock of this absolutely brilliant and without doubt disturbing read. But it’s time for me to stop procrastinating as I really want to dive into my copy of Blood Song, so let’s see if I can put together a somewhat coherent review…

Like in the first book, the first thing that stands out in Keeper is the combination of two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and crime fiction. And not just any historical period: this sequel involves the infamous Jack The Ripper! That alone is a huge bonus for me, but having both genres merged so successfully really turns this series into something special. Both past and present are excellently developed and Johana Gustawsson has a way of making you feel like you are right there next to the characters. The historical chapters are described realistically and in great detail; I really loved how she incorporated the Jack The Ripper references into the plot as well. The historical chapters give this crime thriller an unique touch and once again really enhanced the reading experience for me.

Another thing I loved is the international setting. Having part of the story set in Sweden definitely added more dept to the story, especially with similar murders being discovered in both London and Sweden. Descriptions of both the Swedish setting and culture are thorough and give you the perfect backdrop for this blood chilling read. Because there is one thing for sure: you will have to prepare yourself for a particularly harrowing and brutal read…Trigger warnings are in place for themes including (child) abuse, addiction and (extreme) violence. Oh yes, this is not just another ‘simple’ serial killer case, and the things you will learn about the past and present will leave you flabbergasted. Keeper is definitely a keeper, but only for those with a strong stomach! You will get some relief though in the form of new favorite characters Emily Roy and Alexis Castells. Apart from the fact that I love that they are not the typical detective leads, but instead are a profiler (Emily Roy) and a true-crime writer (Alexis Castells), I really like both their dynamics and their personal development in this sequel. There was another character that really stood out for me in Keeper though: Aliénor. She really added a little something extra to the present chapters set in Sweden and I hope we will see more of her in the future… That said, the other characters are likewise well developed and it was fascinating to learn more about the who, how and why behind the murders as well as trying to discover how it could be connected to the events in 1888.

The structure of the plot is complex and has multiple POVs, flashbacks and different settings. This only adds to the richness of this story and it is one of the reasons this series in general is one of my favorite new discoveries this year. The chapters are well balanced despite the multiple POVs and settings… Since you already know quite a lot of characters from Block 46, it is really easy to just dive in, forget about pending chores and fully immerse yourself into the story. The writing is simply beautifully and the pace is just right; it was hook, line, and sinker from the very first chapter and I finished this briliant read in no time at all, albeit with a few fingernails less than before. Why? I can guarantee that the excellently developed plot twists, well placed moments of suspense and shocking paragraphs will have you biting your nails and checking your blood pressure repeatedly in no time at all.

In short, if you enjoy a well written, expertly crafted and unique crime thriller with a historical twist, you should definitely schedule yourself a meeting with Emily Roy and Alexis Castells. Both Block 46 and Keeper are exceptional books I can highly recommend to any fan of the genre.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #118 – Apple Of My Eye & Outrun The Moon

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres that both turned out to be excellent reads: Apple Of My Eye by Claire Allan and Outrun The Moon by Stacey Lee.


Title: Apple Of My Eye
Author: Claire Allan

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 24th 2019
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: August 3rd 2019 
Pages: 400

“I nod. Thinking that yes, it is indeed easy to lie or just not tell the whole truth. Much too easy.”


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After so many raving reviews back in the beginning of 2019 when Apple Of My Eye was published, I knew I had no other option than to try Claire Allan‘s work. I’ve been looking forward to read this one, and I’m definitely glad I finally found the time to do so. Apple Of My Eye is without doubt a very solid psychological thriller. With the help of switching point of views, first between pregnant Eli and Louise and later Eli’s mother Angela as well, both suspense and plot are steadily build up in a way that will keep you interested throughout. Things escalate slowly but surely, and this story gives you that daunting feeling that something bad will happen any minute now. The plot twists and secrets are quite well handled, although I did see the big twist coming quite early on, but I enjoyed reading how Claire Allan revealed and developed the twist. The characters can get a bit frustrating, but especially Louise was a very interesting character to follow and it was intriguing to learn more about her background, motives and secrets. This story definitely ends with a bang! All in all I had a great time reading Apple Of My Eye despite a few minor issues, and I will definitely be looking forward to read more of her work. I even ended up ordering myself a physical copy of Her Name Was Rose to be able to do so soon!


Title: Outrun The Moon
Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: May 24th 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: August 9th 2019
Pages: 398

“People are like boats, always coming and going. Sometimes never returning. Now that his boat has sailed, the sea is empty for me.”


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I’ve had Outrun The Moon on my TBR for a long long time, and I’m glad the Magical Readathon came along and finally made me pick up this title. It was such a wonderful story! It’s my first time trying Stacey Lee‘s work, but I will definitely try to read more of her stories soon. She writes in a way that draws you right in, and the descriptions of both the historical setting in 1906 San Francisco and the different characters are very detailed and really make them come alive. The focus on Chinatown and its contrast to the world of St. Clare’s School for Girls is fascinating, both seeing the situation before and after natural disaster strikes. Despite the fact that not every aspect of Mercy’s character is likeable, she managed to grow on me anyway and I loved her strength and resilience. Apart from giving us a glimpse of the local culture and customs in Chinatown, combined with the discrimination and difficulties they encountered, this story gives us also an important life lesson. Outrun The Moon shows us that money, social status and race no longer count when disaster strikes… It’s only the strongest and more resilient who will be able to endure and find a way to help others as well. The character development in Outrun The Moon is very well done and I loved seeing them evolve over time and seeing them react to the devastation of the earthquake. If you enjoy a well written historical fiction story with interesting characters and a dose of desperation, you should definitely try Outrun The Moon.


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BOOK REVIEW: Block 46 – by Johana Gustawsson @Orendabooks

Title: Block 46
(Emily Roy & Alexis Castells #1)

Author: Johana Gustawsson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 21st 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: July 26th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in French: ‘Block 46’)

“Whatever she did, the words were dislodged by her thoughts; like a swarm of bees hounded from their hive, they scattered erratically, unable to organise themselves.”


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It’s been three weeks since I finished reading Block 46 and I’m still struggling to get a word on paper. Oh yes, such is the power of this story! After multiple recommendations and reading fantastic reviews about both Block 46 and Keeper, I knew I could not go wrong with this series and I’ve been meaning to pick it up for quite some time now. I think the only reason I hesitated was that I knew I was going to be blown away and that it would be impossible to write a decent review afterwards… Guess what? That is EXACTLY what happened! Even three weeks later, I’m still recovering from the shock of this brilliant and harrowing read, but the time has come to stop procrastinating and try getting something constructive on paper. I do have a copy of Keeper waiting for me I want to read before the blog tour for Blood Song starts next month after all…

The first thing that stands out is that Block 46 is basically a combination of two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and crime fiction. Having both genres merged so beautifully and successfully was a huge bonus for me, as well as the fact that I have a weak spot for WWII stories and the chapters set in Buchenwald were both harrowing and fascinating at the same time. I’ve read my share of WWII fiction, and I truly believe Johana Gustawsson describes and developes the events in the Buchenwald concentration camp thoroughly and realistically. Shocking, gut-wrenching and definitely not for the weak-hearted, but then again the Holocaust was no picnic in the first place. The WWII flashbacks are expertly incorporated into the plot and give us background information as well as a possible explanation about what is happening in the present. They give this crime thriller an unique touch and really enhanced the reading experience for me.

Another thing I loved was the setting: I have a weak spot foreign settings and having part of the present story set in Sweden was a huge bonus for me. Descriptions of both London and Sweden setting were again thorough and really made both places come alive for me. I loved the references to Swedish culture and customs and it gave Block 46 another unique touch. Likewise, I found it to be really easy to connect to the main characters of this story. I’ve become an instant fan of Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, their character development well crafted and realistic and making me root for them as they try to get to the bottom of what is going on. I love that instead of having the typical detective leads, we have a profiler (Emily Roy) and a true-crime writer (Alexis Castells) instead. Talk about an interesting combination! The other characters were likewise well developed and I always love it when we get to glimpse inside the head of a serial killer.

The writing is beautiful and combined with the pace and plot I found myself to be fully absorbed in the story from the very first chapter. The structure of the plot is complex, with multiple POVs and flashbacks, adding to the richness of Block 46 and really taking this story to the next level. This story has also quite a few surprises for you in store; certain developments you definitely won’t see coming and will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. The suspense is well present and Block 46 definitely ends with a bang! This first book of what I already know will be a very successful series for me is a beautifully written and harrowing read, and 200% worth your time. If you enjoy unique crime thrillers and haven’t met Emily Roy and Alexis Castells yet, now is the time to change that… Go get a copy! Trust me, you won’t regret it.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #115 – The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein (DNF) & The Silent Patient

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been looking forward to read… Sadly, the reaction I had to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White was not what I was expecting at all and I really struggled with it, up to the point I saw no other option than to DNF it at 38%. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides on the other hand turned out to be a success and I found myself flying through the pages.


Title: The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 15th 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: July 28th 2019
Pages: 304
DNF at 38% (116 pages)

“Words and stories were tools to elicit the desired reactions in others, and I was an expert craftswoman.”


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I never in a million years would have guessed I would be having this reaction to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein. It might just have been the wrong book at the wrong time for me, but the fact is, that I really REALLY struggled with this book. Which is strange, because I loved the original Frankenstein story and I have been looking forward to read this retelling ever since I first heard about it last year. I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I think my feelings have a lot to do with the pace and writing style. I’m still surprised I reacted to the writing in the way I did, because I loved her The Conqueror’s Saga books and I was fully expecting to find another favorite in The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein. Alas, it wasn’t ment to be. Instead of adding a little something extra to the story, I found the parts written in cursive (Elizabeth’s thoughts and flashbacks mostly) to be highly annoying. These parts slowed down the pace considerably and, as I couldn’t enjoy them, made it a lot harder for me to connect to the story. I felt like I was on a little boat with a failing motor in the middle of Lake Geneva, unable to get anywhere quickly and only in haltered movements when moving at all. I found the story (or at least until I had to give up at 38%) to be rather flat and uneventful, which is strange because in fact quite a lot does happen during those pages. I think it is the way those events are described that did me in, combined with the fact I could never warm up to Elizabeth nor did I enjoy the writing style as a whole. I’m really sad I ended up reacting to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein in this way, especially as I fully expected to love this Frankenstein retelling. Was it simply the wrong book at the wrong time? Or did the unpopular opinion curse strike again? Who knows, but the fact is that this story and me really didn’t get along.


Title: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: July 29th 2019
Pages: 352

“Her silence was like a mirror – reflecting yourself back at you. And it was often an ugly sight.”


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Wait, you mean I hadn’t read The Silent Patient until now? Oh yes, you might say I’ve been living (or hiding) under a rock when it comes to this title… There has been so SO much hype around The Silent Patient ever since it came out earlier this year, and honestly I’ve been too afraid to pick it up myself. Hyped books and me don’t tend to get along, so I thought it was wise to stay away for the time being, but curiosity took over and I ended up giving in anyway. I’m happy to report that I definitely understand the love for this story now! True, I didn’t LOVE love The Silent Patient like most, but I still thought it was a more than solid psychological thriller that made me race through the pages like there was no tomorrow. This is definitely one of those stories that shows the definition of ‘pageturner’ and will make it really hard for you to stop reading before you reach that final page. I like how the story was told alternately through Alice’s diary entries and Theo’s POV. It’s a great way of building tension and giving you tidbits of information and clues without spoiling the fun while you are trying to figure out what really happened that night… Both Alice and her silence were simply fascinating and it was interesting to see how her character evolved. She might not be all that likeable as a whole, but she sure makes for some very interesting reading! Likewise, Theo isn’t exactly likeable either, but it can’t be denied he is well developed and I do love my flawed characters. The psychological and mental health aspect of The Silent Patient was also fascinating and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. I was also really surprised I didn’t see part of the final twist coming at all! I always love it when that happens… I definitely enjoyed my time with The Silent Patient and I will be looking forward to see what Alex Michaelides has in store for us next.


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ARC REVIEW: Along The Broken Bay – by Flora J. Solomon

Title: Along The Broken Bay
Author: Flora J. Solomon
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: July 19th 2019
Pages: 389

“Manila’s magic was gone, replaced by an undercurrent of fear potent enough to be sensed by an observer.”

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

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I have always had a weak spot for historical fiction, and especially if the story is set during WWI or WWII. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Along The Broken Bay, as you don’t often see a WWII fiction setting in the Philippines and Gina’s story of working in the resistance sounded absolutely fascinating. I was looking forward to fully emerge myself in what I thought would be a new favorite story, but sadly fate had a different reaction for me in store. Because while I still think that the premise of this story is fascinating, unfortunately I can’t say I enjoyed the execution all that much. I’ll try to explain below why.

First of all I have to state that the description of the Manila and Zambales mountains settings is thorough and gives us insight in the local flora and fauna. It made the Philippines come alive and gives this WWII fiction read an exotic vibe. I can’t say I was too happy with how the local population was described though, nor how the main characters interacted with them. The demeaning way the locals, their culture and how they interacted was described left me with a very bad taste in my mouth and for me it crossed the line of racial discrimination. I think that the fact that (rich) Americans and Europeans living in Manila might have seen the locals in that way back in the 1940s is no excuse to degrade certain characters in such way. Likewise, I found Gina to be too much of a typical ‘rich white woman with prejudices’ cliche; her constant whining and complaining about the precarious situations she suddenly finds herself in not only distracting but also highly highly annoying. I really couldn’t stand her character, and as the story was basically build around Gina, it was really hard to convince myself to stay invested in the story. In fact, I had such a strong averse reaction to her that I confess that I probably wouldn’t have made it to the final page if this wouldn’t have been an ARC.

The pace in Along The Broken Bay is quite slow as well, and combined with my repulsion for the main character and the way the story treated the local population I ended up struggling considerably to reach the final page. I still think the premise on its own is intriguing, and it was interesting to learn more about how the resistance operated and their network in general. The nightclub was also an interesting twist; the dangers of the operation adding a hint of suspense to the story. The little chapter introductions featuring the thoughts of Gina’s husband Ray while he is separated from his family were likewise a nice touch. And while Along The Broken Bay clearly wasn’t my cup of tea despite my love for the genre, I’ve also seen that most people seem to have a very positive reaction to this story, so definitely don’t give up yet if you are intrigued by the premise.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #113 – Where The Crawdads Sing & The Puppet Show

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles that have been highly recommended to me multiple times and both turned out to be worth the hype. I can definitely understand the love for Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens now, and while it wasn’t a 5 star read for me I still really enjoyed my time with the story. And I’ve found a new favorite series and character duo with The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven!


Title: Where The Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: August 14th 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Finished reading: July 12th 2019
Pages: 384

“Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”


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This is such a hyped book and I’ve lost count of the times it has been recommended to me since it was published last year. I definitely understand the love for the story now, and while it wasn’t a 5 star read for me, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with Where The Crawdads Sing. The pace might be slow in the beginning, but the story will grow on you soon enough and the pace will pick up later on as well. The main focus of this story is on the characters and with the way the marsh is described, it almost feels like it is another important character of the story. Both the character and setting descriptions are extremely detailed and wonderful done, and I think those descriptions are part of the power behind Where The Crawdads Sing. My favorite part of this story is probably related to the many descriptions and references to the marsh and its wildlife. It really made the story come alive for me and was also a perfect backdrop for the development of Kya’s character and those close to her. I also liked how past and present chapters were mixed and slowly helped you understand more about Kya, her past and the events leading to the present. Tate and Jumpin were great characters as well, and I loved to see their development over time. I admit I guessed the ending, but I still think the twist was very well handled. Where The Crawdads Sing gives us a character-driven story set in the marsh wilderness, a story filled with family drama, rejection, loneliness, hope and a dose of courtroom action and mystery to boot. And it’s one of those exceptions where the book is most definitely worth the hype.


Title: The Puppet Show
(Washington Poe #1)
Author: M.W. Craven

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 7th 2018
Publisher: Constable
Finished reading: July 14th 2019
Pages: 352

“They were polar opposites – her light and his darkness – but sometimes those friendships were the strongest.”


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I’ve been wanting to read The Puppet Show ever since it was published last year. I have a weak spot for serial killers, and between the blurb and many recommendations by fellow crime lovers I knew was going to be in for a treat. The @criminallygoodbookclub on Instagram picked this first book of the Washington Poe series as their July read and was the final push I needed to stop posponing my meeting with Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw… And boy, what a meeting it was! There is no doubt I have found a new favorite series and character duo in The Puppet Show. I can confirm that there are multiple elements helping me make my decision to hand out that elusive highest rating. First things first though, and there is no denying that the main reason The Puppet Show was such a success for me has everything to do with the new star duo Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw. As fast as lightning, both characters have managed to win over my heart, make me root for them and deliver a fascinating investigation and story in the process. They complement each other so well and they are absolutely brilliant together! The character description and development in general is very well done and in such a way that you won’t see a certain twist coming AT ALL. Oh yes, The Puppet Show has a plot twist bomb under its sleeve that will blow your socks off. Both the writing and plot development are brilliant and together with the well handled suspense and plot twists you won’t be able to put down this story easily before you reach that final page. The wonderful descriptions of the Cumbria setting help set the tone of this story, and on top of that we have a chilling serial killer, a dark dark secret and a scandal of the past… All ingredients that turn The Puppet Show into a new favorite and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the sequel.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #112 – Ivory And Bone & House Of Furies

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA fantasy read, one that sadly ended up disappointing me and one that definitely hit the mark. The writing style, POV and dull plot turned Ivory And Bone by Julie Eshbaugh into a struggle for me… House Of Furies by Madeleine Roux on the other hand was creepy, intriguing and very easy to read.


Title: Ivory And Bone
(Ivory And Bone #1)
Author: Julie Eshbaugh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 5th 2019
Pages: 384

“It’s strange how living things seem to shrink when the life is drained from them.”


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I’ve had Ivory And Bone on my radar for a long time now… Despite the mixed reviews I decided to give this story a chance anyway, mostly because I don’t come across pre-historic settings that often and the premise sounded fascinating. I still think the pre-historic timeframe is the most interesting aspect of this story, and I don’t think I would have made it to the last page without it. Oh yes, sadly I belong to the group that didn’t react well to Ivory And Bone. I’ll try to explain briefly why. A lot of my reaction to the story has to do with the fact that part of it is told from a second person POV. I had forgotten how much I despised this technique and I only refrained from DNFing because thankfully it was only used when Kol was talking about or interacting with Mya. Still, I feel I would have enjoyed the story significantly better if it would have used a third or even first person POV instead. Apart from the POV, I found the plot of Ivory And Bone to be rather dull and uneventful during mosty of the story. Which was a huge surprise, considering the pre-historic setting and the situation between the clans. The focus of the story was mostly on daily life within the clans and the whole romance/having to find a mate ordeal. To make things even worse, we even have to deal with a love triangle as well… But at least the romance is mainly slowburn. We do have a bit more action in the second half of the story, but overall I found the plot too slow and too uneventful to keep my attention. I wish I would have loved Ivory And Bone, but sadly we weren’t ment to be…


Title: House Of Furies
(House Of Furies #1)
Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 7th 2019
Pages: 416

“They do not know why they come, but they do, and once they step through the doors, their fate is sealed.”


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My first meeting with the work of Madeleine Roux was with the Asylum series, and I loved my time with those books. I’ve been wanting to pick up House Of Furies ever since… And I thought a dark and cold winter day would be a perfect alternative for the Halloween month to finally pick this paranormal horror/fantasy read up. This new series is without doubt another excellent creation! In fact, I think I might like it even more than the Asylum books… Both the historical setting in general and the descriptions are detailed and give the story the right eery and haunted atmosphere. I think part of the success of this story is the 1810 setting in the Coldthistle House and the sheer creepiness of it all. The writing itself was engaging and made me fly through this story in no time at all. The mystery around the Coldthistle House and its inhabitants is well handled and the not knowing exactly what is going on only adds suspense to the story. We have regular criminals as well as the supernatural incorporated into the plot, and I personally loved the little folklore stories as found in Mr. Morningside’s book. There is no doubt that House Of Furies would make a perfect Halloween read and I’m already looking forward to read the sequel! Because there is one thing for sure: the first book leaves the ending wide open and you will be left craving answers.


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