ARC REVIEW: Small Spaces – by Katherine Arden

Title: Small Spaces
(Small Spaces #1)

Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: MG, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Even bad things can lead to good.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been meaning to try Katherine Arden‘s work for a long time now… It’s true that I was planning to read the Winternight trilogy first, but I simply couldn’t resist the sound of this middle grade paranormal horror story when I saw it on Twitter. The grey and cold weather we are facing down here was the perfect backdrop for Small Spaces, a story that it set close to Halloween and gives off that creepy and dark October vibe. Although it shows that Small Spaces written for younger middle graders, it’s probably still a fun read for the older half of the target group as well. The key is in the story giving off the right horror vibe with the help of the descriptions… Although I wish there would have more dept and development in both the worldbuilding and characters, I really liked the idea behind Small Spaces. Ollie is without doubt an interesting character, and it’s understandable why she has the leading role in this first book of the series. It’s true I would have loved to see her character more developed, but she did grow over time and I enjoyed learning more about her relationship with her parents. The writing is engaging and makes you fly through the pages… I did find some of the dialogue to be too childish and not all that natural, but overall Small Spaces was still an interesting read. The story in the book Ollie snatched from the mysterous lady, the mist, the disappearances, the situation Ollie, Coco and Brian find themselves in afterwards… They all give off that paranormal horror and ghost vibe that is both properly creepy while still being appropriate for the target group. Small Spaces is without doubt a story that would be perfect addition for your Halloween month TBR.


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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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ARC REVIEW: Trance – by Adam Southward

Title: Trance
Author: Adam Southward
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: July 4th 2019
Pages: 332

“We understand so much, yet so little. Delving into people’s minds is an immature science, even for those of us who have studied it for years.”

*** 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 admit it was hook, line and sinker when I saw the cover of Trance and read the blurb. The promise of a dangerous character with the ability to control minds sounded absolutely fantastic, and there was no way I was going to be able to resist reading it. It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, because unfortunately I can’t say I was convinced by the story itself and I ended up having mixed thoughts. I still think the premise of this story is absolutely engrossing and probably the strongest aspect of this book. The suspect of this story, Victor Lazar, is a fascinatingly disturbing character; his mental ability makes this story step on the border of science fiction and paranormal activity and without doubt gives Trance a unique touch. As a result, it is hard to place Trance into a single genre and box, and instead we have an interesting mix of elements and storylines. It was especially fascinating to read more about Victor’s past and everything that happened in Romania. It might not be all that credible, but if you keep your mind open and don’t mind a sci-fi feel, you will find it to be an intriguing angle.

Now we arrive at one of the problems I had with Trance: the main character Alex Madison. On its own, I could really appreciate the psychology angle of this story. Instead of focusing on the crime and detective elements, Trance is more about trying to understand Victor Lazam and using psychology to analyze what goes on in his mind. The thing is… Alex basically is a spineless and despicable person; a pathetic whiner who is addicted to Xanax and an adulterer at that. I found the characters in general to be unlikeable, but my aversion to Alex made it very hard to keep invested in the story or care about what happened to them. Victor, disturbing as he was, at least made for an interesting character… Alex not so much. I also found part of the plot and character development to be rather unbelievable and this lack of credibility kind of put a damper on things. Things were too conveniently connected and the transition between different scenes and chapters wasn’t always all that fluid. I also struggled with the abrupt ending, and found the final scenes to be rather lacking. I still think the premise of Trance is simply captivating and the genre fluidity gave the story an unique touch, but sadly I ended up having mixed thoughts about the execution.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #101 – The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall & Trouble Makes A Comeback

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition with a TBR jar pick and a title I picked up for a challenge. Both had some positive and negative elements, although I did enjoy Katie Alender’The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall better than Stephanie Tromly‘s sequel Trouble Makes A Comeback.


Title: The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Point
Finished reading: May 13th 2019 
Pages: 329

“Of all the things I would have guessed about being dead, I definitely didn’t expect that it would sometimes feel exactly like high school.”


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I’ve enjoyed Katie Alender‘s books in the past so I was excited when my TBR jar thought it was time to pick up this title. I admit I was expecting something a little more creepy than what I ended up with. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t save it for the Halloween month now… It’s true that there are elements of suspense and there are some creepy moments and secrets hidden in Hysteria Hall, but overall I found the majority of them to be cliche. And this took away most of the scary factor… There are a lot of cliches involved in general, related to both ghosts, family drama and even a love triangle. Oh yes, even when the main character is dead we don’t escape the dreaded love triangle! This wasn’t even my main concern with Delia though. I didn’t find her strong enough as a main character to carry the story; for example Maria came over as a considerably more interesting character to follow. There was a lot of potential to make this story more disturbing; I think most will agree a haunted and abandoned asylum is the perfect eery setting for a horror story. But The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall took a different turn and instead mellowed things down considerably. On the other hand this was still quite a fun and fast read! Just don’t expect to be scared away, as for a haunted asylum story it’s surprisingly light on the horror.


Title: Trouble Makes A Comeback
(Trouble #2)
Author: Stephanie Tromly

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: May 14th 2019
Pages: 304

“Forgetting about the bad times… that isn’t happiness. That’s amnesia.”


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I picked up this title mostly on a whim as I needed a change of genre and this title fits one of the prompts for the BTB Bingo challenge. It’s been a while since I read the first book, so I had totally forgotten about my issues with the first book… It turns out I ended up having the exact same issues with the sequel and I should I have checked my previous review better before deciding to read Trouble Makes A Comeback. I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. It’s true that the story reads superfast and there are entertaining parts. BUT. I had huge doubts about the credibility of it all and the fact that you are constantly reminded of THE love triangle is beyond annoying. In fact, it’s more than a triangle; a square maybe? Anyhow, this story is packed with high school and romance cliches and between those and the lack of credibility of the plot I had a lot of eyebrow raising going on. As for the characters… While I can appreciate a bit of dry humor, I felt like the characters (and the story for that matter) were trying too hard to be funny and it kind of had the opposite effect on me. Between the cliches around the different characters and the love triangle overshadowing any hope of an interesting and edgy plot, I don’t think me and this series are ment to be. Contemporary romance fans who like their stories with a hint of mystery will probably have a better time with Trouble Makes A Comeback though.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #99 – Sweetheart & Alice In Zombieland

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres and two completely different reading experiences… While I loved my second meeting with Archie and Gretchen in Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain, I couldn’t say the same for Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter. That one is without doubt a series I won’t be continuing any time soon (more likely never).


Title: Sweetheart
(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)
Author: Chelsea Cain

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 1st 2008
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: May 2nd 2019
Pages: 328

“It broke his heart. Not because she was worried that he was in danger, but because she thought she had a chance of saving him.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first book yet. 

I can’t believe it took me three years and a TBR jar to finally continue this series. I remember loving the first book way back: the serial killler up close and personal, the broken characters, the suspense, the sheer twistedness of it all. This series is exactly my cup of tea, but somehow it got lost between the other books on my TBR mountain. I’m definitely going to remedy that though, because Sweetheart has definitely reconfirmed my love for this series. What a delightfully disturbing and twisted read! I always love it when we get to see a serial killer up close and Gretchen Lowell is without doubt one to reckon with. I advice reading this series in order, because you will be missing out on details behind Archie’s state of mind and his unique relationship with Gretchen otherwise… Personally, details came back soon after I started reading Sweetheart and I found myself forgetting about prior engagements, hiding in a corner and just turning those pages instead. Both Gretchen and Archie play a key role in this series and having both a detective and serial killer that present definitely takes Sweetheart to a different level. It was fascinating to see how past events have affected Archie up to a point even his family and friends don’t seem to recognize him… This story has twists, turns and a healthy dose of action and suspense as well as an insight in the psychological aspects. You’ll be having a hard time putting this one down before you find out what happens, and the cliffhanger will most definitely leave you wanting for more. Guess who isn’t going to wait that long this time around to pick up book number three?


Title: Alice In Zombieland
(White Rabbit Chronicles #1)
Author: Gena Showalter

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 25th 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Finished reading: May 5th 2019
Pages: 408

“Truly living required risk.”


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I admit I was a bit wary to pick up this title, but I decided to pick it up anyway since I already had a copy on my kindle and needed it for a prompt of the BTB Bingo challenge. Unlike what you might guess from the pun in Alice In Zombieland, this first book of a series actually has very little to do with the original story. Wait, this isn’t a retelling? Nope, I would never consider calling it that. Why? Well, apart from the main character being called Alice and a white rabbit cloud appearing repeatedly, there are no references to or similarities between the classic and this concoction. I was surprised and a little disappointed after such a clear reference to it with the title and cover art. Instead, we have a story about zombies where we encounter a different kind of unread this time around; they are basically spirits and a lot more difficult to fight than your regular brain eaters. This could have been a premise for a very bloody and disturbing read, but sadly the fighting scenes and horror have been taken over almost completely by an overdose of cheesy and sappy romance scenes, a very frustrating love triangle and a whole lot of high school drama. The romance alone was so unbelievably cringeworthy I almost stopped reading there and then… Especially since some of those scenes were definitely too steamy to be appropriate for YA. The love triangle itself is so cliche it could have been an example in a dictionary… And all the high school drama, catfights and popularity contests in general were another huge turn off. Like I said, the idea behind the zombies is interesting and I would have loved to learn more about them and have more background on the slayers. The fighting scenes were pretty dark and did get bloody and almost horror worthy, but it’s almost like those scenes were put in as an afterthought. Alice In Zombieland and me definitely didn’t get along and it will be no surprise I won’t be picking up the next book any time soon (more likely never). If you don’t mind a huge amount of cheesy romance, cliches and high school drama and on top of that don’t object to a few dark and disturbing zombie fighting scenes either, you might have a better time with this story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #97 – Before She Knew Him & These Broken Stars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title; a winner and a story that wasn’t for me. I’ve been wanting to read more of Peter Swanson ever since I finished The Kind Worth Killing, and I’m glad I finally did. I absolutely loved Before She Knew Him! On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if These Broken Stars would be for me as I feared it would be too heavy on the romance, and I definitely should have listened to my instincts.


Title: Before She Knew Him
Author: Peter Swanson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: April 26th 2019
Pages: 320

“I’m on a small boat in the middle of a huge storm. I need to ride the waves and wait for it all to blow over.”


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I’ve been meaning to read more Peter Swanson ever since I read The Kind Worth Killing back in 2017. When I saw the @criminallygoodbookclub on Instagram had chosen his newest story Before She Knew Him as their April read, I knew I had to join them and finally follow up on my intentions. I’m glad I did, because the story definitely lived up to expectations… What a read! After a string of reads that failed to blow me away completely, I finally found myself fully absorbed in a story again and posponed all plans until I had reached the final page. Before She Knew Him is well written, suspenseful and has an enormous plot twist bomb towards the end that will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. With the help of different POVs we get an insight in the lives of Hen and her neighbor Matthew. Both are flawed and fascinating characters and the driving forces behind the story. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but between the mental health angle and the unsolved murders, you will have a lot of suspense and intrigue waiting for you. The fact that Hen knows things early on, but nobody believes her because of her past with mental health (bipolar) problems, is both a very interesting and almost hardbreaking situation as people tend to judge without getting the full picture first. Not every character is all that likeable, but they feel real and their flaws are what makes Before She Knew Him so fascinating. This story also packs a HUGE surprise you won’t see coming at all… And I love it when a story is able to mislead me so well I actually yelled ‘WHAT?!?!’ when I stumbled across the reveal. If you enjoy the genre, Before She Knew Him is definitely a story not to miss.


Title: These Broken Stars
(Starbound #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: December 10th 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: April 27th 2019
Pages: 384

“Funny how I was old enough by sixteen to drink, fight, and vote, but eve two years later, I’m too young to respect.”


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I’ve had this series on my TBR for a long time, never actually picking it up as I wasn’t sure the story would be for me. Let’s face it: the cover is a strong indicator that These Broken Stars would be very heavy on the romance… But after Across The Universe pleasantly surprised me earlier this month, I decided to risk it. Unfortunately, my instincts turned out to be right this time around. Because there is one thing that is certain, and that is that These Broken Stars is oozing with sappy romance scenes. What I hoped would be an interesting science fiction story set in space, soon turned into a survival story on a foreign planet after only a few chapters… The main characters more busy with ‘ignoring’ their feelings and the whole forbidden love vibe than actually exploring or having interesting things happening to them. The survival angle could have been interesting enough once you get over the fact you won’t be getting more space actions or a true explanation behind the crash, but to be honest I was rather bored instead most of the time. For such an interesting setting, nothing much was actually happening. The story instead focuses almost completely on Lilac and Tarver and their complicated relationship. The rich heiress and the poor soldier stranded on an unknown planet after a crash; a forbidden love bout to happen. Can it get any more cliche than that? The only reason I decided to stick it through until the end is that the writing itself is engaging and made it easier to keep turning those pages even though nothing interesting was happening most of the time. Overall These Broken Stars had some very interesting ideas and a promising setting, but sadly those elements weren’t developed or taken advantage of. Romance fans who enjoy a forbidden romance story with a space setting will probably appreciate this first book of the Starbound series a lot more though.


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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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