ARC REVIEW: Smoke And Key – by Kelsey Sutton

Title: Smoke And Key
Author: Kelsey Sutton
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: April 2nd 2019
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Finished reading: March 8th 2019
Pages: 304

“I suppose some things don’t have a proper explanation. They just are.”

*** 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 admit it was coverlove at first sight when I saw this title for the first time, but it was the blurb that convinced me that I had to read Smoke And Key no matter what. The promise of what basically can be called a Corpse Bride inspired fantasy story with both a paranormal and a thriller twist just sounded too good to pass up on… And I still believe the premise of and idea behind Smoke And Key is one of its strongest elements as a whole. Under is such a fantastic, magical and daunting world and I would love to have seen in even more developed, although I do understand that the lack of information only adds to the overall mystery and intrigue around the place. I loved the fact that the characters in Under are named after something they had with them when they arrived. Simple, but fascinating as you try to find out the stories behind those objects and names… The beginning of Smoke And Key made a huge impact on me, and a lot of this impact had to do with the worldbuilding and writing style. It was able to put me under a spell straight away, and for a little while I was sure I had found myself a new favorite. Where did it go wrong for me then? I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of it has to do with the fact this story has a very slow pace. I didn’t mind in the beginning, but I started to notice it more and more as things continued. The plot itself could have been stronger, as for a story with such a fantastic premise the actual story didn’t live up to expectations for me. The idea behind Key reliving those memories in such a real way is really interesting, and it is used to add a little suspense to the story as you try to guess who is behind the attacks and how the characters fit together. I did see the final reveals coming from a mile away, which was a bit of a disappointment for me. My main problem was with the appearance of the romance scenes and of course the dreaded love triangle though. Why does this story have to have one?! I absolutely loved the beginning of Smoke And Key and as I’ve stated before, I still love the premise of this story. Sadly, the executed was a bit underwhelming for me. Fans of romantic paranormal suspense will probably have a more positive experience though.

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When she wakes up she has no idea where or who she is… The only clue hanging around her neck: a single rusted key. That’s how she gets her name, as everyone is named from whatever belongings they had with them when they fell out of their graves. Because Key no longer breathes nor has a beating heart, and Under is a place she is struggling to come to terms with. Key is determined to remember her past and find a way out, but who can she trust? What is really going on in Under?

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There were a lot of things I loved about Smoke And Key and this is by no means a bad read. There were just certain elements that really irked me and failed to live up to the fascinating blurb and fantastic beginning for me. The slow pace, the romantic elements, the love triangle, the predictability of the plot… All things that made me enjoy the story less than I thought I would. I still love the premise of this story as well as the historical setting, Under and its Corpse Bride feel characters and the magic among other things. It’s a very interesting story and I have no doubt this world will stay with me for a while.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #85 – Shatter Me (DNF) & Wintergirls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that have been published over five years ago and titles I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The first, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, sadly turned out to be my first DNF of the year. The second, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, is without doubt an emotionally tough read to read with lots of trigger warnings and a prose that is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow started to irk me.


Title: Shatter Me
(Shatter Me #1)
Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 15th 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: February 13th 2019
Pages: 357
DNF at 51% (182 pages)

“The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”


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WARNING: It’s unpopular opinion time again! Please don’t feel offended if you love this series. We are all entitled to our own reactions and feelings after all…

Ever had your sixth sense screaming at you to back off and stay away? Well, that is what happened to me whenever I started thinking about trying the Shatter Me series. I’m not sure why or how, but there was just something about it that made me think it wouldn’t be for me… But curiosity won in the end and made me ignore my instincts. I should have known better… Because sadly this turned out to be my very first DNF of the year. Why? There were various reasons, but the main one is this: I absolutely could not stand the writing style. The endless metaphors, the short sentences, the wacky grammar, the 1 2 3 4 numbers… It seemed like every single word and page was destined to annoy me to the limit and I simply reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel sad for reacting this way to a story I know so many seem to love, but that doesn’t take away that Shatter Me and me definitely didn’t get a long. Nothing much was happening in the pages I read either; lots of words, metaphors and feelings, but no real actions or proper worldbuilding descriptions. The fact that I could already see a love triangle coming from a mile away didn’t really help either. Things might have improved in the second half, but since I had such an extreme reaction to the writing style and had already started skimreading just to reach the end faster, I decided to throw in the towel and leave this series alone to be enjoyed and treasured by those who can connect to it. Oh well, at least I know for sure now… Intuition, you were right. Sorry I didn’t listen to you.


Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 19th 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: February 20th 2019
Pages: 300

“The sentences build a fence around her, a Times Roman 10-point barricade, to keep the thorny voices in her head from getting too close.”


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I have been meaning to try one of Laurie Halse Anderson‘s books for years, but somehow other books always ended up getting in the way. The BTB Epic Bingo challenge was the perfect excuse to finally pick up Wintergirls. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this story, and if you go in blind you will definitely be up for a surprise. Trigger warnings are in place for eating disorders, self harm, cutting, suicide and mental health problems… Wintergirls is a story that will bring those cold and chilling winter feels and is an emotionally draining read that shows us the struggle of the main character with her eating disorder and the way she sees herself and her surrounding world. It’s not an easy or happy read, but I thought the topic was well handled and represented in Lia. The prose is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow irked me at points. I named magical realism because the writing sometimes almost has that otherwordly and magical feel, especially the descriptions of how Lia sees herself and the world. The story also has a hint of paranormal with a symbolic feel; those two aspects making it hard to properly place the story in just one genre. I suppose you can say this is mostly a realistic fiction story with a mental health angle, where we can see how the eating disorder takes over Lia’s life through her very own eyes. I had a hate/love relationship with the writing style, but there is no doubt that the writing has that original and almost otherworldly feel and I can understand why so many people seem to love this story.


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ARC REVIEW: Mona Lisas And Little White Lies – by John Herrick

Title: Mona Lisas And Little White Lies
Author: John Herrick
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 19th 2019
Publisher: Segue Blue
Finished reading: February 8th 2019
Pages: 324

“Unlike men – and cars, for that matter – a new tire had never let her down.”

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

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Surprised to see this title on my little blog? I know I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, but I like to read something different every once in a while. There was just something about this title that caught my eye, and maybe the fact that it’s due to be published on my birthday was a sign? Anyhow, while I do think that contemporary romance fans will enjoy Mona Lisas And Little White Lies better than I did, I still had a good time reading it. I really liked the premise of this story. The artist inspired by a face he only saw once in all those years, the down to earth car mechanic who doesn’t know the power behind her appearance… The art, the chance meeting, the different worlds colliding: the story definitely has all the signs of that feel-good fairytale romance. The main characters Lily and Ryder are easy to like and each have their own personality. I like my quirky characters with flaws and they do feel quite realistic. Their story sounds like something straight out of a movie and it’s a story romance fans most likely will fall in love with. For me, there were a bit too many cliches involved, including romance tropes as insta-love and a love triangle. The whole ‘little white lies’ part felt a bit forced, as well as the final part of the story. Their reactions to the plot twist reveal and aftermath were a bit too cliche and over the top for me, but then again I’m not a drama fan. Some parts were a bit underdeveloped as well, including for example Aaron’s past and the role of Chase in the story. I really liked the many descriptions of Thailand though! Overall Mona Lisas And Little White Lies was an entertaining and fluffy contemporary romance read I can recommend to fans of the genre.

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Ryder saw Lily only once a couple of years ago, but has never been able to forget her face. He has incorporated her into his art for years now, using Lily as his muse for commercials and other art alike. Everybody wonders who this woman in his art is, but he never reveals her identity… Mostly because he doesn’t have a clue who or where she is. Then Lily’s friends see one of his commercials and Lily is determined to confront the artist about using her face without permision. But what will this meeting lead to?

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If you enjoy cute ‘love at first sight’ stories with quirky and flawed characters that are easy to like, you will probably love Mona Lisas And Little White Lies. The general idea behind this story is interesting and I loved the many art, car and Thailand references. The plot did get a bit predictable and cliche at points, and the dose of drama was a bit high towards the ending, but overall this was still a satisfying contemporary romance read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #82 – A Wrinkle In Time & What If It’s Us

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a modern classic I somehow never read when I was younger and a new release I have been really excited about. Both turned out to be really good reads! A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine D’Engle and What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera.


Title: A Wrinkle In Time
(Time Quintet #1)
Author: Madeleine D’Engle

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Classics
First published: 1962
Publisher: Yearling Books
Finished reading: February 1st 2019
Pages: 211

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.”


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Somehow, I’ve managed to grow up without ever reading this modern classic. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but I sure wish I would have been able to read it twenty years ago… Still, A Wrinkle In Time made a more than solid impression on me as an adult. I definitely understand the love for this story now! The writing style draws you right in and is very engaging and timeless. Even though the story was first published over 50 years ago, it will still be easy for children and adults alike to connect to this story. The plot itself is simple, but the setting in space and the time warps give the story a little something extra. The main characters are easy to like and all have their own personality. I also really liked how Mrs. Whatsit and her friends were represented not only with descriptions but also in the way they talked. The ending was a bit too abrupt, easy and ‘clean’ for me, but overall I had a great time discovering A Wrinkle In Time. I’m not sure if I will continue the series any time soon, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind for the future.


Title: What If It’s Us
Author: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 9th 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: February 4th 2019
Pages: 448

“I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it. But not how you’re thinking. I don’t mean it in the our souls were split and you’re my other half forever and ever sort of way. I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.”


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I’m a fan of both Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s books, so I have been eagerly awaiting this collaboration ever since I first heard about it. I already had that feeling I was probably going to enjoy What If It’s Us, and it turns out my instincts were absolutely right. This was such an adorable read! The writing, the main characters, the geeky elements (go The Sims and Harry Potter references among others!)… It was just all so cute and fluffy and I had a wonderful time reading it. The story is told in alternate chapters going between Ben and Arthur. Each has his own personality shining through in everything and also has his own set of companion characters that will slowly merge together as one big group. I really loved the idea of the missed connection, the search of the so-called needle in the hackstack and what happens afterwards. The characters are all well developed, feel realistic and I love that they not only represent the lgbt community but also minority groups in such a natural way. The plot itself does have its moments where credibility is in doubt and there were also cliches as well as a love triangle involved, but overall this minor flaws fade away compared to the rest of the story. My heart melted for these characters, and as a Harry Potter and The Sims fan I’m stoked to see references to both incorporated into the story. There are other fandoms included as well and I just LOVE that Ben writes his own story. There is a lot to love in this cute, adorkable and fluffy read and fans of the genre will adore What If It’s Us. Without doubt a winner!


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ARC REVIEW: An American Marriage – by Tayari Jones

Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: January 29th 2018
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Finished reading: February 7th 2019
Pages: 320

“There are too many loose ends in the world in need of knots. You can’t attend to all of them, but you have to try.”

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

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There has been a lot of hype around An American Marriage ever since it first came out last year, so much that I decided I wanted to see how I would react to this story myself. I was definitely excited when I was approved for an ARC of this version with a new cover! Nothing can beat that other gorgeous blue cover for me, but I do love how well this new cover fits the story. The two main characters back to back, the handwritten letters as a background, the use of contrasting colors… Truly eyecatching. Now that I have finally had the chance to read An American Marriage, I can understand why it has been praised this much. Powerful, raw, moving, emotionally draining… This story will most definitely leave its mark. Let’s start with the fact that sadly having an innocent man going to prison is something that still happens even to this date. Prejudice and racial discrimination are two phenomenons we cannot seem to get rid of in society, and Southern US does have its history. The way this story is told and the different elements are introduced and incorporated into the plot is brilliant. An American Marriage proves to be an eye-opener as well as an emotional and heartbreaking story about two persons being ripped apart by a wrong conviction. The story is told from three different POVs, all three characters being key to this story. Celestial, Roy and Andre each have their own role in An American Marriage, each has their flaws and each is developed realistically and evolves during this story. Unfortunately for me, I was never able to fully warm up to them though, which is one of the things that prevented me connecting to the story fully. The pace was also considerably slow at points, which might be a turn off for some. These are only minor complaints compared to the wonderful writing style and the way this story is constructed though. I really like how we go from different POVs to letters written between Celestial and Roy during his stay in prison and back to regular prose afterwards. It’s a representation of how the characters were limited in their communication during this difficult time and it adds a little something extra to the story. The representation of the failed justice system and how screwed up things were this close to the present days is both shocking and a revelation. I’ve read stories about innocent men in prison before, and Tayari Jones’ voice is a welcome addition to the group. Could I have done without the love triangle? Yes. But I guess it does help showcasing just how far the consequences of that wrong conviction will go. It’s without doubt a powerful read I’m glad I finally had the chance to read.

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Celestial and Roy come from different backgrounds, but are both well on their way to success. Roy is a young executive and Celestial an artist with a promising career, and when they marry they see themselves with a wonderful future. They settle down in a routine that seems to work for both and everything seems to be right on track… Only for everything to be ripped away one fated night. Will they be able to overcome the obstacles put in their away and prove for once and for all they locked an innocent man behind bars?

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I already had some ideas about An American Marriage when I first started reading it, but I didn’t realize the full extent of this powerful and emotionally draining story until I was already in way too deep. While it is true that I failed to connect to the characters completely, I wasn’t happy with the love triangle and the pace was a bit slow at points, it was the story itself that made me forget about those minor complaints. An innocent man behind bars just because someone pointed their finger (basically), the struggle to prove the truth, the strain the situation has on a relationship and those close to Roy in general, the racial discrimination, the failed justice system, the family history… Powerful elements that have been excellently developed and executed and which turn this story into one well worth your time.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #80 – When Dimple Met Rishi & The Shattering

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA read of two different genres… One that turned out to be a pleasant surprise and one that failed to blow me away. I’m so happy I ended up enjoying When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon! It was just the feel-good story I was craving. My TBR jar pick The Shattering by Karen Healey wasn’t as good as I hoped though despite the interesting premise.


Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Finished reading: January 25th 2019
Pages: 384

“It was crazy how words – just black squiggles on a page – could bring memories rushing back.”


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I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t sure this book would be for me. Contemporary romance isn’t really my thing and you all know by now how I react to hyped books… But I’m really glad to say that When Dimple Met Rishi turned out to be an exception to that rule. It might have to do with the fact I was in the mood for a feel-good story, but I enjoyed my time with this story so much better than I thought I would. This story is cute, fluffy, quirky, geeky and has unique characters and that #ownvoices element that seems to be so popular right now. Yay for etnic diversity and interesting characters that represent a different culture in a realistic way! The characters are what made this story into a success for me and I loved reading about Dimple and Rishi’s story. The coding, the comic art, the geeky elements in general… This was just quirky heaven for me. The writing is engaging, flows easily and made me finish this story in one sitting on a rainy day. The plot itself might not be all that complex, but it’s the perfect feel-good contemporary romance story that will manage to warm your heart. I’m definitely looking forward to read more of her work now!


Title: The Shattering
Author: Karen Healey

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: July 1st 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“The world shouldn’t work like this; that was why I made plans, to be ready for every eventuality. Adding the impossible to the things I had t obe prepared for was really unfair.”


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This one had been on my TBR for quite some time and it probably would have been even longer if it wouldn’t have been for my TBR jar. It’s not that I didn’t like the sound of the story, especially with a New Zealand setting and the promise of a paranormal mystery, but older titles tend to get pushed into the background as other titles demand attention… Even though The Shattering didn’t turn out to be a big hit for me, I’m still glad I finally picked it up. This probably has a lot to do with the setting, since I hardly ever seem to read books set in New Zealand. It also doubles as a negative though, because I would have loved to see more local culture and descriptions included. As it is, The Shattering feels more like a melting pot filled to the brim with different story elements and bits and pieces, making each feel superficial and underdeveloped. The story itself has a lot of potential, with the paranormal aspect, the secrets of Summerton and three different POVs to follow. But with so many different elements distracting you, the story didn’t come out as strong as I thought it would be. The characters, while interesting and in general not that difficult to like, felt a bit underdeveloped and cliche at points. The plot, while entertaining and engaging, didn’t feel all that original to me and I think this has a lot to do with those cliches popping up everywhere. It’s an interesting mystery with a paranormal touch, the three different POVs bringing some dept to the story, but I wish the story would have focused on only a select few important topics instead of trying to squeeze in as many as possible… This way, for example the focus on teenage suicide is kind of lost and that is really a shame. All in all The Shattering isn’t a bad read and quite entertaining, but sadly it failed to blow me away.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #79 – Bright We Burn & Exquisite

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres but two books that were winners for me. The trilogy conclusion Bright We Burn by Kiersten White and the psychological thriller Exquisite by Sarah Stovell.


Title: Bright We Burn
(The Conqueror’s Saga #3)
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: July 10th 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: January 22nd 2019
Pages: 416

“His conflicted past, confusing present, and unknown future were all harsher and more difficult to breathe through than the blistering air inside.”


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WARNING: don’t read if you haven’t read the first two books yet… There might be spoilers.

After reading and loving the first two books of this trilogy back in 2017, I’ve been waiting impatiently for the final book to come out. But somehow, even though it was one of my most anticipated releases, I never actually managed to pick it up last year… I’m definitely glad I finally did pick it up, because I think Bright We Burn is my new favorite of the series. The historical setting, the references to Vlad The Impaler, the worldbuilding, the descriptions, the writing, the characters… There is so much to love here and I have enjoyed every single minute I spent emerged in this world. True, Kiersten White knows how to play with your emotions and stamp on your heart, but only in the best possible way… Because the fact that the twists have an effect on you means you care for the main characters and what happens to them. I personally loved all three main characters not despite, but because of their differences and personal struggles. The character development is very well done in general!  It was interesting to see how things were going to end (because I honestly wasn’t sure which road the author was going to take), and it was without doubt an interesting journey. The ending seemed fitting for this trilogy… It’s hard to compare books since it’s been too long since I read the first two, but what I can definitely say is that The Conqueror’s Saga ends stronger than ever.


Title: Exquisite
Author: Sarah Stovell

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: May 15th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 24th 2019
Pages: 300

“The future isn’t written in stone because of your past. You can change it.”


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I’ve had this story on my TBR for almost two years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally read it. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited about Exquisite; I mean, who wouldn’t be after reading so many wonderful reviews? I guess it’s just one of those titles that slipped between the cracks of my enormous TBR mountain, but I managed to rescue it in the end. I’m kicking myself for waiting this long now, because this book was most definitely brilliant. Or like the title already suggests: exquisite. It’s the story about two vulnerable women with a terrible past, one a successful writer and one a budding talent. In a way their lives are so so different, but they are also more alike than they realize… It was fascinating to see how their lives collide and sets both on a path that will change their lives forever. I loved that in the beginning you are completely unaware of the type of story you are about to read, only learning about the full extension of it all when things are already spinning out of control. The plot development and execution of plot twists and suspense are both sublime. Even though neither Bo nor Alice are exactly likeable, I found myself on the edge of my seat as I kept turning pages to find out what would happen to them. Exquisite is an excellent psychological thriller that will give you all the feels and will most definitely manage to shock you before you reach the final page. Simply exquisite and absolutely worth the read if you enjoy the genre!


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