ARC REVIEW: To Die In Vienna – by Kevin Wignall

Title: To Die In Vienna
Author: Kevin Wignall
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Spy
First published: June 14th 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: May 31st 2018
Pages: 270

“One can learn more on the way to an inevitable defeat than from a fortuitous victory.”

*** 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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!! Happy Publication Day !!

Fun fact: I was actually visiting the city of Vienna when I was browsing Netgalley and saw this title, and of course I had to request a copy and see if I would recognize any of the sights. It wasn’t until after our trip I was able to pick it up, but that made being able to revisit the city all the better. To Die In Vienna is, as the title already might suggest, a fast-paced and suspenseful story of an ex-spy trying to keep alive while others are closing in with the mission to kill him. Another fun fact: this book will soon be a major motion picture starring Jake Gyllenhaal! And I can see why this story would work very well on screen, because there is a lot of action involved and it includes a conspiracy, a damaged but apparently skillful hero and a lot of twists and different directions that will keep a viewer on edge. The book is highly entertaining to read as well, although I do have my doubts about the credibility of certain aspects. Especially regarding the main character and what happens to him, since it doesn’t seem to fit in with his background. I was still able to enjoy To Die In Vienna though and it was great to see a few of the popular sights in Vienna mentioned. The story reads superfast and I’m sure any fan of the spy thriller genre will have a great time reading this one. The ending was a bit too abrupt and felt a bit too ‘neat’, but I’m sure in the movie people will eat it up. All in all an entertaining and action-packed thriller with an international setting.

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Freddie Makin has been on a job watching Jiang Cheng during the last year, and honestly I doesn’t understand why he is even watching the academic with such an ordinary life. But a job is a job, and he has never asked or cared about the details before. That is, until the day someone is sent to kill him and Cheng disappears… Freddie is now on the run, and wondering what it is he saw that made his contractor want to kill him. Surely it was something incriminating, but what? And who is behind it? Freddie is forced to go into hiding as he tries to figure out the who, what and how before it’s too late and he has to pay with his life…

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If you are looking for a fast-paced, entertaining and engaging spy thriller that is easy to read and will give you a healthy dose of action, To Die In Vienna is an excellent choice. Some little credibility doubts and kind of abrupt ending aside, this spy thriller delivers a very entertaining story where you follow the main character as he tries to both escape the killers and figure out why they want him dead in the first place. Look out for the movie as well! I’m having a feeling both will appeal to spy thriller fans.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Lies That Bind – by Diana Rodriguez Wallach @EntangledTeen

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Lies That Bind Blog Tour! The sequel of this international spy series was published on March 6th and has proven to be another entertaining and addictive ride. Please join me while I share my thoughts on Lies That Bind!

Title: Lies That Bind
(Anastasia Phoenix #2)
Author: Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 6th 2018
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Finished reading: March 5th 2018
Pages: 322

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

ABOUT LIES THAT BIND

WARNING: Skip the summary if you haven’t read Proof Of Lies yet. There might be spoilers!!

What do you do when you learn your entire childhood was a lie?

Reeling from the truths uncovered while searching for her sister in Italy, Anastasia Phoenix is ready to call it quits with spies. The only way to stop being a pawn in their game is to remove herself from the board. But before she can leave her parents’ crimes behind her, tragedy strikes. No one is safe, not while Department D still exists.

Now, with help from her friends, Anastasia embarks on a dangerous plan to bring down an entire criminal empire. From a fire-filled festival in England to a lavish wedding in Rio de Janeiro, Anastasia is determined to confront the enemies who want to destroy her family. But even Marcus, the handsome bad boy who’s been there for her at every step, is connected to the deadly spy network. And the more she learns about Department D, the more she realizes the true danger might be coming from someone closer than she expects…

MY RAMBLES

I read and enjoyed the first book of the series last month, which I reviewed here. Some soundbites of my review on Proof Of Lies:

“I love myself a good spy thriller and I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Proof Of Lies. An international setting, conspiracy theories… Can it get any better than that? This is definitely my kind of story.”

“Where the story starts out a little slow despite everything that happens, the second half was what fully made my heart race.”

“This YA spy thriller is fast-paced and entertaining and perfect for fans of the Embassy Row and The Conspiracy Of Us series.”

All of these lines directly apply to Lies That Bind as well. I have a weak spot for any story with a conspiracy plot, spies or an international setting. Having all three of these elements in one story? Definitely the right way to start for me! Lies That Bind picks up where Proof Of Lies ended and show us the danger for the Phoenix sisters isn’t over yet. They have a new situation on their hands, one that might even be more complicated than what they have already faced. Like in book one, it took me a while to get into the story, but as soon as I did I was hooked. The first part of Lies That Bind is mostly used as a base line which the rest of the plot and the next book of the series will be able to stand on. This kind of introduction is necessary and while it slowed down this book, I’m having a feeling book number three will be full of fireworks. Because like in the first book, it was the second half of Lies That Bind that really made my heart race. Why? The non stop action, plot twists, shocking reveals and international setting probably had a lot to do with it. There is no doubt that the ending left me wanting for more… Because I’m dying to find out how they will be able to find their way out. That and a few other reveals I will not talk about to avoid spoilers. But I’m feeling it in my toes the next one is going to blow minds.

The writing style makes it really easy to read this story, and despite the slower start Lies That Bind turned out to be a superfast read. And I also loved the use of foreign language in the text, which helped create the right international atmosphere. The descriptions of the places they visit are well done and make it feel as if you were there yourself. Free travel included while you are reading, another bonus! I do have to say I struggled a bit with the high dose of drama in especially the first half of Lies That Bind. I mentioned in my review of the first book that I wasn’t a fan of the main character Anastasia because of her attitude, and this feeling hasn’t changed. Trust-issues aside, the tension between Anastasia, Marcus, Antonio and Keira did get a bit too much for me. I guess part of this has to do with the romance, but in the end it was mostly the dramaqueen episodes that got to me. I still have a weak spot for Marcus and his little Spanish accent though. And it has been interesting to see how the characters react to the different situations. Even more importantly, the final part of Lies That Bind made me forget about all that drama and I devoured the non stop action as it was thrown at me. I can’t wait to read the third book now and find out what the author has in store for us next! Like I’ve said before, this YA international spy series is fast-paced and entertaining and perfect for fans of the Embassy Row and The Conspiracy Of Us series.

ABOUT DIANA RODRIGUEZ WALLACH

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix Series, three young adult spy thrillers (Entangled Publishing, 2017, ’18, ‘19). The first book in the trilogy, Proof of Lies, was named by Paste Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Best Young Adult Books for March 2017.” Bustle also listed her as one of the “Top Nine Latinx Authors to Read for Women’s History Month 2017.” Additionally, she is the author of three award-winning young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books); as well as a YA short-story collection entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013).

She is an advisory board member for the Philly Spells Writing Center, a school-based Workshop Instructor for Mighty Writers in Philadelphia, and has been a Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth since 2015. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia.

AUTHOR LINKS

Author Website: www.dianarodriguezwallach.com

Author Blog: http://dianarwallach.tumblr.com

Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dianarwallach

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianarwallach/

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dianawallachauthor/


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ARC REVIEW: Proof Of Lies – by Diana Rodriguez Wallach @EntangledTeen

Title: Proof Of Lies
(Anastasia Phoenix #1)
Author: Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Finished reading: February 23rd 2018
Pages: 400

“People don’t become powerful without having secrets.”

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

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I have stumbled across this series recently after I was invited to join the blog tour for the sequel. I love myself a good spy thriller and I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Proof Of Lies. An international setting, conspiracy theories… Can it get any better than that? This is definitely my kind of story and decided to dive into the first book straight away. I confess it took me a little while, but as soon as the story changed setting I was completely hooked. Where the story starts out a little slow despite everything that happens, the second half was that fully made my heart race. Partly because it was set in Italy and the descriptions of the different places were very well done, but also because of the non stop action and plot twists as Anastasia is trying to find her sister. The first part set in the US did serve very well as an introduction and base line which the rest of the plot stands on. Another thing I really liked (probably the philologist in me speaking here) were the introduction of (mainly) Spanish phrases into the text. I did detect some spelling mistakes, but it’s always tricky when it comes to foreign languages in texts. The mention of local food was another nice touch, although I do have to say that even though I’m Dutch I had never heard of ‘spekdik’ before. Might just be me though… As for the characters, I kind of have a weak spot for Marcus, probably because he’s from Madrid and I spent some time there studying abroad. And I agree with Anastasia: I do love a Spanish accent. Talking about Anastasia though, I think she is the main reason I couldn’t rate this story higher than I did. Instead of feeling sorry and rooting for her, I found myself rather annoyed by her dramatic, whiny and dramaqueen attitude. I can understand feeling low after all that happened, but she really took it to extremes… The constant ‘I can’t have anything positive happening to me while my sister is gone’ and ‘I shouldn’t be flirting for the same reason’ and the crying in general really were too much for me. And as for the romance… The romance itself wasn’t as bad, but Anastasia’s attitude towards it was. One moment she was all over him, then the next she’s all cold and distant because it’s not fair to her sister… What about the other person in the equation? Ugh. The writing really flows though and makes it easy to keep turning those pages. And while I had my guesses, the plot twists and conspiracy theory elements are well executed and mostly managed to surprise me. Also, that ending! I will definitely be looking forward to the sequel to find out what happens next. In short, this YA spy thriller is fast-paced and entertaining and perfect for fans of the Embassy Row and The Conspiracy Of Us series.

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Anastasia Phoenix has been moving all around the globe ever since she was little, her scientist parents being transferred multiple times over the years and taking their two daughters with them. Their latest home in Boston became a lot more permanent when both parents die in a car crash, and Anastasia’s older sister Keira is left to take care of both of them. But now Keira has disappeared and the police presume her dead… The only one who believes she is still alive is Anastasia, and she is determined to find her. But that is easier said than done…

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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.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #18: As Dead As It Gets & Take The Key And Lock Her Up

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a double dose of third and final book of a series… Yes, I’ll be marking two more series as finished with this post! Sadly both of these weren’t as good as I hoped. As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender is a bit stronger than the sequel, but the main character is annoying and I still prefer book one. Take The Key And Lock Her Up by Ally Carter is by far the weakest book of the series and I don’t really care for the ending either… Things have been going downhill since book one. Oh well, at least it’s two series less to worry about right?


Title: As Dead As It Gets
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #3)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: May 15th 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: February 1st 2018 
Pages: 448

“Find the people who treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Tell everyone else to go to hell. And don’t look back.”


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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Don’t read my rambles if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet… You’ve been warned.

As part of my promise to finally start finishing those poor neglected series, I decided to pick up the third and final book of the Bad Girls Don’t Die trilogy while my memories of the second book were still fresh. And while I still think the first book is the strongest, As Dead As It Gets without doubt makes a comeback from what I call a ‘weak-second-book-syndrome’. No more sunny and miss nice girl, because Alexis has another paranormal problem on her hand and things are quickly spiralling out of hand… And things might turn ugly. The writing is engaging and reads superfast as always, making As Dead As It Gets a fun, exciting and speedy paranormal read. The plot is darker than the second book and adds a level of suspension to the story… Without doubt an interesting final adventure, although I’m still on the fence whether I like the ending or not. Strong final words though! I do have to say I still find Alexis annoying with her whole ‘I need to do this alone’, ‘I clearly need help, but I won’t ask anybody even if they are willing’ and ‘I don’t want others hurt, but they somehow do anyway’ attitude. I could have done without the love triangle as well… But there is no doubt that As Dead As It Gets is still a solid and entertaining YA paranormal read.


Title: Take The Key And Lock Her Up
(Embassy Row #3)
Author: Ally Carter

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: December 27th 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: February 7th 2018
Pages: 336

“There are some ghosts that live inside us, and we can never lose them, no matter how far we run.”


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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Don’t read my rambles if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet… You’ve been warned.

I was a big fan of the first book when I read it back in 2015. I liked the sequel as well, although the main character was realy started to bother me… But still I had added this third and final book to my list of most-anticipated 2016 releases. Why didn’t I pick up Take The Key And Lock Her Up sooner then? I have no idea, other than that it probably slipped between the cracks of my exploding TBR pile. I had forgotten about the details, including the supposedly enormous cliffhanger ending, by the time I was able to get to it… But it was quite easy to pick up the thread anyway. That said, it was by no means the reading experience I was hoping for. Unfortunately, Take The Key And Lock Her Up is by far the weakest book of the trilogy and it’s sad to see a series end on this note as it started out so promising. One of the biggest problems I had was with the main character Grace. I already had these feelings in the sequel, but Grace becomes almost unbearable in book three with her constant whining about just how crazy she is, how she is endangering others by just being close, that she should be punished, that she doesn’t deserve positive things happening to her etc… Yawn. Her whole attitude, dialogue and actions seriously annoyed me and it was one of the reasons the final book didn’t work for me. I wasn’t 100% convinced by the writing either, but this is probably mostly related to Grace and her dialogue. And the whole love triangle and romance put a damper on things as well. As for the plot… If you look critically, nothing much is actually happening during this final adventure, or at least I missed the intensity and suspense. It has some interesting pointers, but overall I was quite disappointed by Take The Key And Lock Her Up.


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BOOK REVIEW: Map Of Fates – by Maggie Hall

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Title: Map Of Fates
(The Conspiracy Of Us #2)
Author: Maggie Hall
Genre: YA, Mystery, Romance
First published: March 8th 2016
Finished reading: April 9th 2016
Pages: 311
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“Do you think all those people believe in fate? Or do you think they’re just living their lives the best they can with whatever’s thrown at them?”

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I think this is one of the first series in a long time where I actually needed to pick up the sequel straight after finishing the first book. The Conspiracy Of Us is seriously addicting! This series by Maggie Hall is basically almost everything I want in a good story, with only the romance scenes putting a slight damper on the otherwise perfection. And while Map Of Fates isn’t as good as the first book and the romance scenes are becoming more annoying (read: love triangle related), the sequel is still very much a solid read. London, India, Venice, Greece, Paris, Cannes… I simply love the internationality of this series. The pace is incredibly fast and the story so engaging that it is definitely hard to put this story down. The main characters are still likeable in general, although what was just a hint of a love triangle in The Conspiracy Of Us has grown into some quite annoying and cheesy romance scenes in the sequel. Luckily enough the rest of the story is good enough to make up for it, and I will be waiting anciously for the third book to find out what happens next. The wait sure will be a long one, since there isn’t even an official title or publish date yet. Sigh…

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book yet. I’ll keep the summary short but it’s almost impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Two weeks ago, Avery West thought her life was pretty much ordinary besides the fact she had to move all the time. Now she has discovered she is actually the heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle, her mother was taken hostage and her future will most likely involve marrying the One. She is determined to change destiny, free her mother and solve the clues that will uncover the truth about the Circle… But she only has two more weeks before it’s too late and both her mother will be killed and her freedom taken away from her. Avery crosses oceans in private jets to hunt for clues with the help of some of her new allies. Will they find out the truth on time?

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I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot to avoid any spoilers, but what I can say that this series is definitely worth reading. The Conspiracy Of Us series mixes old conspiracy theories with action, international locations, romance and a healthy dose of mystery and plot twists. The result? A VERY engaging story that is without doubt worth your time if you enjoy the genre. One of my new favorites!