ARC REVIEW: This Is Really Happening – by Erin Chack

Title: This Is Really Happening
Author: Erin Chack

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir,  Humor
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group / Razorbill
Finished reading: April 24th 2017
Pages: 240

“I realized then that luck is a slippery thing, hard to hold and keep with you. No amount of worrying will prepare you for when it starts thrashing around in your hands. Luck happens whenever it feels like it, wherever it feels like it, however it feels like it.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Penguin Young Readers Group / Razorbill in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Two years ago I made a promise to myself to read more non fiction stories, and since I’ve discovered I really enjoy reading memoirs even if I’m not familiar with the author. I came across This Is Really Happening in one of the Buzz Books editions at Netgalley, and I was instantly convinced by the short excerpt provided there. To my surprise, my request came through last Saturday… And since I was in the mood for a memoir, I decided to try and read it before the publish date today. This Is Really Happening is without doubt a well written and fast read with just the right dose of humor. It contains various, mostly ‘coming of age’ essays about various stages in Erin Chack‘s life. To get an idea of the topics in the essays: among other things she talks about high school and how she met her partner, about her battle against cancer at the age of nineteen and how people react to the illness, about her job at BuzzFeed and her roadtrip from coast to coast. What stands out is the enjoyable writing style and the fact that Erin Chack tells things exactly how they are; not hiding the ugly (and maybe embarrassing) details and that makes this memoir feel a lot more authentic. Serious topics are mixed with hilarious moments and if you are looking for an entertaining, well written and interesting coming of age memoir, This Is Really Happening is a great choice.

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A collection of personal essays where Erin Chack writes about a variety of things that happened to her while growing up. From meeting her partner during high school to her battle with cancer, dealing with the symptoms of chemotherapy, what it’s like working as a writer at BuzzFeed, college and an extended roadtrip; she recounts everything with a healthy dose of humor and honesty, talking about various universal themes along the way.

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If you enjoy reading memoirs and are looking for a well written and fast-paced bundle of essays with just the right balance of serious topics and humor, This Is Really Happening would be right up your alley. I really enjoyed the writing style and the general tone of the story. It feels like Erin Chack is telling you her story while sharing a drink in a bar; personal, honest and with just the right dose of humor. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The Red Hunter – by Lisa Unger

Title: The Red Hunter
Author: Lisa Unger

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Touchstone
Finished reading: April 18th 2017
Pages: 368

“It was getting to me. I was vibrating, giving off the energy of the thing I tried to hide and harness. I had given it a name. A thing that lived inside of me. The Red Hunter. Rage.”

*** 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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Lisa Unger has been one of the (many) authors on my need-to-read-soon list for a long time, so it wasn’t just the breathtakingly beautiful cover that made me want to read The Red Hunter. It’s always great to get to know the work of authors who belong to one of my favorite genres, and now I’ve had a sample I’m definitely planning to pick up more of Lisa Unger‘s novels. The start of The Red Hunter was a bit slow and it took me some time to connect the different storylines, but as soon as the pace picked up: BAM! Instant pageturner. Each storyline adds something different to the story, and there is no doubt it’s a fascinating one. Trigger warnings for rape and violence, but nothing ‘too’ graphic. The Red Hunter basically focuses on the lives of two different completely different women. Confession: I wasn’t a big fan of Claudia Bishop, although it was interesting to see how she tried to deal with her rape trauma and I liked the whole house renovation subplot. Her daughter Raven is without doubt a very interesting character as well… But I found Zoey Drake’s chapters to be the most intriguing ones. She had without doubt a very traumatic childhood experience that scarred her for life, and her messed up character was fascinating. And once the pace picks up, the many many MANY plot twists will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page. I had my suspicions about certain things, but I didn’t guess the complete truth until the very end. And trust me, after reading so many psychological thrillers, that doesn’t happen often. Recommended for fans of the genre!

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Both Claudia and Zoe are traumatized by a horrific event in their past and scarred for life, although they each try to find a way to continue with their lives. Claudia Bishop had what she thought the perfect life until she was brutally assaulted and raped in her own home… Her marriage hasn’t survived, and she still doesn’t know who is the real father of the daughter that was born nine months after the attack. She is looking for a fresh start renovating an old house which she inherited from her father, blogging about her experience along the way.

Zoey Drake on the other hand has never recovered from the horrific home invasion when she was a teenager, an event that resulted in the murder of her parents and she almost died as well that night. None of the guys that were involved were ever caught, and years later Zoey is still looking for justice and/or revenge. She is no longer weak, having been trained in martial arts, but is she truly ready to face the demons of the past? And does Claudia realize what is the true history of the house she is trying to restore to its former glory?

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The Red Hunter is without doubt a fascinating read and even though it started out a bit slow, I ended up really enjoying it. Not every character is all that likeable, but they are all well developed and add something to the story. It’s also intriguing how the different characters try to deal with the traumas of their past, and all in all it is without doubt an worthy psychological thriller.


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ARC REVIEW: Castle Of Water – by Dane Huckelbridge

Title: Castle Of Water
Author: Dane Huckelbridge

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 4th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press 
Finished reading: April 16th 2017
Pages: 288

“With his box-cutter knife in one hand and waterproof flashlight in the other, Barry felt, for the first time in his life, like a man. A terrified man on the verge of  wetting his loincloth, but a man nevertheless.”

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

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Sometimes (cover)love at first sight can lead to something extraordinary. When I first saw Dane Huckelbridge‘s debut novel Castle Of Water mentioned, I couldn’t stop staring at the cover. The color combination, the abstract sunset over the sea… Just gorgeous. Of course I had no other choice but to request a copy, especially since the story itself sounded really intriguing as well. And Castle Of Water is without doubt a little masterpiece. It’s a story about how two unlikely characters end up as castaways on a deserted island together and how they manage to survive… A modern ‘Robinson Crusoe‘ twist that captured my attention from the very first page. The characters are spot on and their development is brilliantly done. It’s really interesting to see how both Barry and Sophie react to the things that happen to them on the island and I love LOVE their bantering! I like that they represent different nationalities as well as personalities and it without doubt adds an original touch to an already excellent story and plot. The writing style really stands out as well; well written, enjoyable to read and even funny at points. I also loved the incorporation of many French elements/words, which were easy to understand and didn’t slow down the pace even though my French is pretty basic. I honestly couldn’t find something I didn’t like about this novel… So as you might have already guessed, I can more than recommend Castle Of Water if you enjoy the genre. You won’t be disappointed!

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Sophie Ducel and Barry Bleecker decided to travel to French Polynesia for very different reasons… Sophie wanted to visit the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel, during her honeymoon with her new husband. Barry Bleecker decided to give up his job in Manhattan finance and chase his painting dreams instead; seeking creative inspiration in the place where his idol, Paul Gauguin, found it as well. The two didn’t know each other until they bordered the small plane sharing the same destination. And then their plane is downed in the middle of the Sout Pacific, and Sophie and Barry are the sole survivors. They find themselves stranded on a tiny island hundreds of miles from civilization… And they will have to learn to work together if they want to have any chance of survival and ever finding a way back home. Which might be more difficult than it sounds, because the two strangers couldn’t have been more different.

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While it was the beautiful cover that made me first want to pick up this novel, it was the story and writing style itself that managed to blow me away in the end. Castle Of Water is basically a modern castaway story with a twist, and I loved every single moment of it. The prose is just wonderful and combined with the well developed and loveable characters you are definitely in for a treat. An emotional rollercoaster, in the best possible way!


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ARC REVIEW: What Doesn’t Kill You – by Ed James

Title: What Doesn’t Kill You
(DI Fenchurch #3)
Author: Ed James

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 20th 2017
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: April 12th 2017
Pages: 398

“Remind me why I do this job again?” “Because when you stop hitting your head against the brick wall, there’s a surge of relief.”

*** 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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I read the first two books of this detective series last year and enjoyed them, so it was an easy decision to request a copy of the third book as well. I was looking forward to another entertaining and intense ride, but found myself struggling to get a proper feel for the story instead. Like in the first two books, What Doesn’t Kill You starts right in the middle of the action, but I had a hard time connecting to the story this time. Part of the problem was the excessive use of ‘colorful’ language… I don’t mind a bit of swearing if it adds something to the story (in fact, it didn’t bother me in the first two books), but I felt the swearing crossed the line of tolerance in What Doesn’t Kill You. DI Fenchurch started to annoy me as well, even though the case itself is quite interesting. In the second half of this third book the pace picked up considerably and the story became a lot more intense and easier to enjoy. You will definitely have to prepare yourself for some very shocking plot twists! I’m not sure everything about the plot is exactly credible though, and it also felt like too much action and too many plot twists were squeezed together in the final part. Overall I guess I feel the ‘spark’ of the previous two books is missing. I’m not sure what I feel about the ending either, although at least it doesn’t end with a big cliffhanger this time.

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

When the body of a young lawyer is discovered on an East London building site, the investigation initially leads DI Simon Fenchurch to a driver employed by a new app-based cab company called Travis. The woman was assaulted and brutally murdered, and the team struggles to find something truly solid on the suspect. Then another woman is found murdered close to where she lives, and she turns out to be a Travis driver. Are the two cases connected? And what has Travis have to do with all of it? Something a lot bigger than just the two murders seems to be going on…

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I was looking forward to this third DI Fenchurch book, but I can’t say it exactly lived up to expectations. While I struggled to get a proper connection to the story in the first part, the second half of the story felt almost rushed at points and there was just too much going on. Sure, some very shocking revelations are made and there is no lack of action especially in the second half, but I don’t think What Doesn’t Kill You is actually as good as the first two books. Such a shame! I’m going to keep my fingers crossed book four will restore my faith in this series…


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ARC REVIEW: Sleep Tight – by Caroline Mitchell

Title: Sleep Tight
(Detective Ruby Preston #2)
Author: Caroline Mitchell

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 20th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 8th 2017
Pages: 345

Ruby craned her head to one side. “You’re talking to the Queen of Fuck-ups. I’m sure it won’t come as any great shock to me.”

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

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I read the first Ruby Preston book last year and I admit it took me some time to warm up to the main character. But as soon as I saw the blurb of Sleep Tight and realized this sequel was going to be another serial killer thriller, I just had to give Ruby a second chance. And I’m glad I did, because whatever reservations I had about her character in book one have completely vanished by now. Her connections to the organized crime definitely add a whole different level to what is already an interesting plot! Sleep Tight had me hooked right from the start and it has been one hell of a ride. Twisted serial killer… Check. Lots and lots of plot twists… Check. Fast pace and well written prose… Check. Interesting characters… Check. Possible Jack The Ripper reference… Check. What’s more to ask? If you like fast-paced detective thrillers with an original touch, I can definitely recommend this series. Sleep Tight reads like a train and even though the identity of the killer has been revealed a bit early, this won’t stop you wanting to find out how the story ends. Intense until the very last page! I will definitely be waiting impatiently for the next Ruby Preston adventure.

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

A new killer seems to be on the loose in the streets of East London… Various murdered young women are being discovered, their bodies posed into a sickening recreation of fairytale stories. Detective Ruby Preston is determined to find out who is after these deaths, although things are becoming more and more complicated as her ‘dodgy’ lover Nathan Crosby seems to be involved. Ruby shouldn’t be working on the case, but very few people know about their relationship and she risks everything to find proof Nathan is being framed. She will have to find the real killer before her collegues find Nathan… But as more bodies start showing up, it will become more and more difficult to prove his innocence.

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I’ve always been intrigued by serial killer thrillers and the one in Sleep Tight is without doubt a very twisted and disturbing creation. The fairytale/Jack The Ripper references are a nice touch as well and the ‘complicated’ situation of Ruby’s personal life mixed up in the murder investigation adds a whole other level to the plot. Unorthodox police work indeed! This thriller simply reads like a train and I enjoyed every single minute of it. There are some hints in the end that have made me VERY curious about the next book!


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ARC REVIEW: The Perfect Stranger – by Megan Miranda

brtheperfectstrangerTitle: The Perfect Stranger
Author: Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: April 11th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: January 6th / April 4th 2017
Pages: 352

“The story doesn’t truly begin at first, not when the person disappears. It begins when they are found. Emmy had disappeared, and now I felt like I was waiting for something inevitable, a clock that I had no power to stop.”

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

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Ever since I finished reading All The Missing Girls last year I’ve been an instant fan of Megan Miranda‘s writing style. She was on my list of favorite 2016 discoveries and you might already guess I added her newest thriller The Perfect Stranger to my list of most anticipated 2017 releases as soon as I heard about it. Just imagine my happy-dance when I was actually approved for an ARC a few months ago… And even though I normally read my ARCs closer to the publish date, I just couldn’t resist temptation when I got my copy and decided to make an exception for this one. I read The Perfect Stranger for the first time back in January and it ended up being my very first 5 star read of 2017. Because even though my expectations were set high after her thriller debut last year, Megan Miranda managed to outdo herself with her newest story. Well written, fast-paced, lots of plot twists, suspense, interesting characters… In short an excellent psychological thriller! I decided to wait with my review and reread The Perfect Stranger closer to the publish date, and I have to say I enjoyed the story just as much the second time around. I found myself hooked right from the first page and she is without doubt one of my new favorite authors of the genre. The way the author is able to build suspense, add plot twists and slowly reveal more about the characters is simply impressive. It’s unreliable characters at its best and it took me a long time to figure out what was the truth behind it all as everyone seemed to be having something to hide. There’s no ‘backwards’ plot this time for those who didn’t enjoy that aspect of All The Missing Girls, so if you like the genre there really is no excuse to not grab a copy of The Perfect Stranger. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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Journalist Leah Stevens finds herself in a tough corner after one of her articles causes her trouble. With a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit hanging over her head, she needs to get out of Boston and find a way to start over. Then she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, by chance and Emmy seems to have been looking for the same fresh start after ending a troubled relationship… She proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, and Leah decides she has nothing to lose. Leah is able to get a teaching position there and everything seems to be working out, until a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake… And not only that, Emmy disappears only days later. What happened to the two women?

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If you like suspenseful, well written and plot twist-filled psychological thrillers, you are in for a treat. The Perfect Stranger ticks all those boxes and more… And I’m not even talking about the gorgeous cover. I’ve read The Perfect Stranger twice now and the story still managed to keep me under its spell. Every main character seems to be having something to hide and you don’t get the full picture of what is going on until the very end. Suspense at its best!


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ARC REVIEW: The Yellow Envelope – by Kim Dinan

Title: The Yellow Envelope
Author: Kim Dinan

Genre: Non Fiction, Travel, Memoir
First published: April 1st 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Finished reading: March 28th 2017
Pages: 320

“At the end of the day, the money itself is just paper. What gives the whole experience meaning are the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that come with giving the money away in ways that make you smile and make your heart sing.”

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

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I might have mentioned my love for travel once or twice before, and as soon as I saw this travel memoir I had to request a copy. I enjoy reading non fiction and I’ve had the chance to visit both Peru and Ecuador twice, so I was looking forward to read about the author’s experience in those countries as well as those in Asia. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy The Yellow Envelope as much as I thought I would and the story fell kind of flat for me. Rather than a true travel memoir, this story has mostly been a (rather self-centered) description of the author’s failing relationship with her husband, feelings and journey of self-discovery; definitely not what I expected at all and not as enjoyable to read either. Another thing that bothered me were the (negative) cliches about the countries they visited; I’ve traveled both alone and with my partner in both Ecuador and Peru during roughly the same time period (2012-2013) and I don’t think the descriptions of those countries are just or accurate. I also felt that both countries and people in general were talked down to; each country/culture/person is unique in its own way and the negativity really bothered me. I also don’t think it is right to claim there is a correct/superior way to travel either; each person should be able to decide which way is best for them and the ‘superior’ tone was actually quite annoying. And that’s coming from someone who has traveled for a long time without a real home as well, so I kind of know what I’m talking about. I’ll stop this rant and say that if you are looking for a memoir about the story of the road to self-discovery with just a hint of travel, The Yellow Envelope will probably interest you.

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Kim Dinan decided she wanted a change in her life and three years later both Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs and travel around the world. They are given a yellow envelope by another couple: inside a check and instructions to give the money away during their travels. There are only three rules: don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away. Kim and Brian travel through Ecuado, Peru, India, Nepal and other countries, and will face many obstacles along the way.

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I normally enjoy reading non fiction and I love anything that has to do with travel, but this memoir didn’t manage to convince me. Not only was the actual talk about traveling and the different countries limited, but the main focus was actually on the author, her feelings and self-discovery. This could have been an interesting read anyway once I adjusted my expectations, but I was really bothered by the tone and the fact that the different countries/cultures/persons were talked down to and didn’t receive it’s proper respect. I understand that it’s hard to portray a foreign culture properly (I’ve had this experience lots of times myself), but this just wasn’t the way. I liked the idea of the yellow envelope and what it represents though; it was probably the strongest feature of this memoir.


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