BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Sight Unseen – by Sandra Ireland @22_ireland @BirlinnBooks @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Sight Unseen Love Books Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Kelly Lacey for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was fully intrigued by this book as soon as I read the blurb, and I most definitely enjoyed my time with this story. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Sight Unseen
(A Sarah Sutherland Thriller #1)
Author: Sandra Ireland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 6th 2020
Publisher: Polygon
Finished reading: July 27th 2020
Pages: 256

“Stories are like puzzles, charity shop jigsaws with half the pieces missing. It’s up to you to fill in the blanks, let your mind form a version of the true picture.”

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

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I admit that I was fully intrigued as soon as I read the blurb of Sight Unseen. The promise of the 1648 flashbacks and a world of witches, scorcery and folklore to contrast the contemporary sounded absolutely fantastic and frankly simply irresistible. I had a feeling that I would enjoy my time with this first book of a new series, and my instincts most definitely turned out to be right. My first meeting with Sarah Sutherland was without doubt a success!

The first thing that stands out is the setting. Sight Unseen takes place in the fictional Kilgour, a small Scottish town with a fascinating history. The many descriptions really made the setting come alive for me and kind of made me wish the town was real so I could visit it someday… The flavor of Scotland is well represented and turns the setting into a real treat. We got to learn more about both the surroundings and the history of Kilgour through the tourist walk the main character Sarah hosts, and it was without doubt an unique way of getting to know the Scottish town.

I loved everything related to the 1648 flashbacks to Alie Gowdie and Rev. William Wilkie’s time. Alie is known as the Kilgour witch and has an intriguing history, and I loved her connection with Sarah as she is currently living in the same house as Alie once inhabited. Sarah has investigated Alie’s life for a long time, and it has been interesting to see more of the true story around Alie slowly come to light. The 1648 scenes without doubt took the story to the next level, and added more dept to the plot as well. The way the new information is comporated into the plot in different ways is a nice touch, and Sarah basically plays historical detective as she tries to unravel the truth of 300 years ago.

I also loved the hint of the paranormal and supernatural in Sight Unseen. We have the story of the witches and the witch hunt of the 17th century, the talk of the devil, the folklore elements, the sightings by Sarah’s father John… All these elements definitely have the story a hint of the haunted and they were a nice contrast with the daily life and other elements in play in the plot. Oh yes, the contemporary storyline is also packed with ‘ordinary’ elements: Sarah’s background, her relationship with her backpacking daughter, Sarah caring for her father, her work in the supermarket, her second job storytelling… All doused with a dose of mystery, romance and a hint of action to spice things up. It was especially fascinating to read more about the so-called Charles Bonnet Syndrome as part of the explanation, as I hadn’t heard of it before and I liked how this element was developed in the story.

It is true that this story could have done without the romance, as it felt forced and not naturally developed. I didn’t think the romance added anything substantial to the plot either, and only distracted from the whole situation with John as well as Alie’s story. Sight Unseen uses a dual POV structure by switching between Rachel and her father John. On top of this, we get 1648 diary fragments written by Rev. William Wilkie as well as different POV fragments which identity is revealed later. The writing is easy on the eye and engaging, and while the pace is slow in points overall Sight Unseen is without doubt a solid and very entertaining read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandra Ireland was awarded a Carnegie-Cameron scholarship to study for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee, graduating with a distinction in 2014. Her work has appeared in various publications and women’s magazines. She is the author of Beneath the Skin (2016), Bone Deep (2018) and The Unmaking of Ellie Rook (2019). She lives in Carnoustie, Scotland.

BUY LINK


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YVO’S SHORTIES #173 – Good Girl Bad Girl & The Sun Down Motel #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a double thriller dose with Good Girl Bad Girl by Michael Robotham and The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. Both turned out to be excellent reads!


Title: Good Girl Bad Girl
(Cyrus Haven #1)
Author: Michael Robotham
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 23rd 2019
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: June 28th 2020
Pages: 416

“Evil is not a state, it is a ‘property’, and when a person is in possession of enough ‘property’, it sometimes begins to define them.”

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I’ve been meaning to try this author for quite some time now, and being approved for an ARC of the Cyrus Haven sequel was the perfect excuse to finally do so. Good Girl Bad Girl is without doubt an engaging as well as twisted start of this series. The story uses a dual POV, where we switch between new lead character and psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie (a.k.a. Angel Face). Both have a disturbing background and it was fascinating to see the two matched and develop over time. The main focus of the story is on the new case Cyrus is called in to assist (Jodie’s murder), but both Evie’s past and her present situation play a big role too. The two different storylines mix as well as collide, and it was intriguing to see the different plot twists change the course of the story. I have to say that I was able to guess most of the twists early on, but one or two did hit the mark… The ending was quite open though and I definitely can’t wait to read the sequel to discover how things will continue. Recommended if you like a good crime thriller with a psychology angle and don’t mind things getting pretty dark and twisted in points.


Title: The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: February 18th 2020
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: June 30th 2020
Pages: 336

“The person who could be truly alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one’s thoughts – that person was stronger than anyone else. More ready. More prepared.”

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I’ve heard nothing but great things about this title, and now I’ve had the chance to read The Sun Down Motel myself I can definitely understand the love for this story. This book is most definitely worth the hype, and it turned out to be just as good as I hoped it would be! It’s the perfect mix of paranormal mystery and crime thriller that had me literally racing through the pages. The Sun Down Motel uses a dual POV structure, where we switch back and forth between Vivian in 1982 and Vivian’s niece Carly in 2017. Both the POV switches and plot twists are brilliantly placed; they will keep you in the dark and only slowly reveal what Viv discovered in the past as well as what Carly unravels in the present. I loved both storylines equally, as both characters were easy to connect to and their stories managed to draw me right in. The paranormal aspect is again brilliantly handled; giving the story that creepy vibe as well as an ominous feel. On top of this, the story has the possible serial killer angle and the whole mystery around Viv’s disappearance in 1982… This story has more layers than an onion and you will love peeling away each one to discover the full picture. The Sun Down Motel turned out to be a fantastic reading experience and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who loves a little dose of paranormal with their crime thriller. Creepy, ominous and oh so engaging!


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Sorry I Missed You – by Suzy Krause

Title: Sorry I Missed You
Author: Suzy Krause
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 1st 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: June 5th 2020
Pages: 315
DNF at 51% (161 pages)

“But the abruptness of this leaving, the unexplained nature of it, was torture, and it came as close to killing her as anything ever had.”

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

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I admit I was first drawn in by the cover of Sorry I Missed You, although it was the blurb that ended up convincing me completely and I was really looking forward to read this one. The idea of having three different characters coming together after having experienced some form of ‘ghosting’ sounded fascinating, and the hint at a possible ghost story and mystery involved had me convinced that I was going to have an excellent time with this story. Imagine my surprise when I ended up having a completely different experience instead! I’m not sure if it’s just me, or if the story is (partly) to blame, but the fact remains that Sorry I Missed You and me definitely didn’t get along. I never take the decision to DNF lightly and only resort to it a handful of times each year, but sadly I saw no other way out with this story… I’ll try to explain briefly why.

I think my biggest issue is with the main characters. Or more specifically, just how loathsome and horrible some of them are. Sorry I Missed You is a story with a multiple POV structure and the main focus is on the three tenants Mackenzie, Sunna and Maude as well as their landlord Larry. I cannot describe Maude in any other way than despicable. While the introduction made me feel a bit sorry for her initially, once you see a bit more of her and learn just how bad she treats everyone and only thinks of herself, that feeling disappears into thin air. She doesn’t respect the other characters, she complains all the time, she is extremely rude and basically she is just plain horrible. Sunna is slighly less abhorrent, but still very much unlikeable and pities herself way too much. She just got on my nerves way too fast and things only got worse over time. Mackenzie is probably the easiest character to tolerate and even makes you wonder a bit about what she is hiding, but I honestly didn’t care enough about finding out the truth to keep reading. As for Larry… I think his character was trying to hard, and while I do love a music element in the stories, his character felt too cartoonish and flat to me.

As for the writing… I wasn’t too sure about the tone, and it wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be. Once again, I felt the story was just trying to hard? The paranormal element could have been developed more realistically and the introduction of the mystery around Mackenzie’s past and identity felt forced too… I know that things might have improved in the second half, but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to keep reading to find out as I felt too frustrated by the sheer unlikeability of the main characters among other things. Especially since Sorry I Missed You is a mostly character-driven story in the first place and not being able to tolerate the main characters is simply a huge turn off… I know others did enjoy this story better, so this just could have been a personal reaction of course. But it is what it is I guess.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #165 – The Queen And The Cure & The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two sequels of two completely different genres. One, The Queen And The Cure, turned out to be a more than solid read, while the other, The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man, failed to blow me away…


Title: The Queen And The Cure
(The Bird And The Sword Chronicles #2)
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 9th 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: May 22nd 2020
Pages: 342

“Most of the time the obvious blinds us to the hidden.”

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After enjoying the first book The Bird And The Sword and falling in love with main characters Tiras and Lark, I decided to read the sequel while memories of this high fantasy world were still fresh. I had been looking forward to spend more time with both characters, so I was a bit disappointed when I discovered The Queen And The Cure is mostly focusing on Tiras’ brother Kjell instead. It’s not that I didn’t like his character in the first book, but I liked both Tiras and Lark more… That said, both Kjell and new character Sasha grew on me quickly and I enjoyed seeing their dynamics as well as the characters themselves develop. The writing is just beautiful, but then again I didn’t expect any less of Amy Harmon of course. I loved the new details about the magical elements and it definitely enriched the plot. The whole love triangle vibe was a bit of a let down for me though, and some of the reveals around Kjell and Sasha were just a tad too farfetched as well as too convenient. BUT. I still very much enjoyed this story despite a few misses, and while I do prefer the first book, The Queen And The Cure is still a solid YA high fantasy read.


Title: The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man
(The Hundred-Year-Old Man #2)
Author: Jonas Jonasson
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 2018
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Finished reading: May 26th 2020
Pages: 448
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Hundraettåringen som tänkte att han tänkte för mycket’)

“The hundred-and-one-year-old certainly had his issues, but if there was anything he was good at, it was surviving.”

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The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared is one of my all time favorites, and as soon as I learned that Allan Karlsson would have a second adventure I knew I just HAD to read it. I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up the sequel, but in a way I’m glad as I would surely have felt even more disappointed if I had read it straight after the release in 2018. Oh yes, I feel that The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man by no means lives up to the first book,,. In fact, if it weren’t for the Allan-Julius duo and their dry humor, I don’t think I would have made it to the last page. Why? Well, this sequel is just way too political for me. The story is basically a constant critique on and satire of the recent political situation in the world, including characters such as Trump, Merkel, Kim Jong-Un and Putin… And it was all just too much for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the dry and sarcastic humor and Allan and Julius are once again brilliant, but they were kind of buried under a huge pile of political comments that distracted instead of entertain. I wasn’t too impressed by new character Sabine either… And sadly what was one of my most anticipated releases in 2018 simply fell flat for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #164 – Tweet Cute & The Bird And The Sword

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a YA version, although two different genres… But both turned out to be excellent reads. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord turned out to be the dose of contemporary cuteness I was craving, and The Bird And The Sword by Amy Harmon was a wonderful mix of high fantasy and romance.


Title: Tweet Cute
Author: Emma Lord
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 21st 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Finished reading: May 9th 2020
Pages: 362

“It’s weird, how you have no idea how far you’ve come until suddenly you can’t find the way back.”

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After a few misses with recent romcoms, I was really putting all my hopes on Tweet Cute for one last try… And it looks like I finally hit the jackpot: what an absolutely adorable adorable read this was! Trust me, this book is gold if you are looking for a supercute YA contemporary romance read, and it’s without doubt a debut to keep your eyes on. While not without cliches and even a dose of teen angst, those were mostly forgiven thanks to the sheer cute factor of Tweet Cute as a whole. Both Pepper and Jack are extremely easy to connect to and I loved both the Twitter and the food elements in the story. Warning: this story will make you crave grilled cheese and all kinds of delicious sounding desserts though… Although for me that wasn’t a bad thing. The friends to lovers trope is a bit cliche, but Pepper and Jack make it worth it and I can even forgive the hint at a possible love triangle. There is some teen angst and drama going on at points, but overall I had an excellent time with this supercute read and any fan of fluffy and adorable romcoms should give Tweet Cute a try.


Title: The Bird And The Sword
(The Bird And The Sword Chronicles #1)

Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 6th 2016
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Finished reading: May 19th 2020
Pages: 352

“You are what you are. I am what I am. It matters little what we want.”

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I think that it’s no secret that Amy Harmon is one of my absolute favorite authors and I basically adore anything she writes. One of the things that stands out in her work is just how diverse and unique each story is, spanning different genres and even age groups. The Bird And The Sword is the first book of a YA high fantasy duology which has both a high dose of romance and magic. And while I’m normally not a big fan of too much romance in my fantasy reads, Amy Harmon is one of the few authors who can make it work for me. Of course it’s always a blessing not having to deal with a love triangle… I loved the worldbuilding and the descriptions of Jeru; the main focus is mostly on the magical aspects of the high fantasy world, but this was more than enough for me. The writing is simply wonderful and managed to enchant me from the very first chapter. The main stars of this story are Lark and Tiras though, who basically run the whole show. They are both extremely easy to like, excellently developed and make it almost impossible not to fall in love with this story. I loved every single minute of my time with The Bird And The Sword, and while the ending is close and the book can be considered as a stand-alone, I’m already excited to return to Jeru and meet up with the characters again in the sequel. Recommended to anyone who enjoys a well balanced YA high fantasy with thoroughly developed characters, magic and a dose of romance as well as danger.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #162 – Pet Sematary & Reconstructing Amelia

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles I’ve been meaning to read; one a dark thriller and one a YA mystery TBR jar pick. Pet Sematary by Stephen King turned out to be a great read, but I somehow ended up having mixed feelings about Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight instead…


Title: Pet Sematary
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: November 14th 1983
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: May 2nd 2020
Pages: 561

“It’s like many other things in life, Ellie. You keep on the path and all’s well. You get off it and the next thing you know you’re lost if you’re not lucky.”


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I’m planning on slowly making my way through Stephen King‘s backlist and as I’ve been wanting to watch the new movie adaption I decided to pick up Pet Sematary first… And I ended up having an excellent time reading this story. While I expected the story to be more creepy and full-scale horror than it turned out to be, as a paranormal thriller with psychological horror elements Pet Sematary still aimed to please. The story has got that ominous feel from the start, and while nothing all that much is happening in the beginning, you know things will escalate sooner or later. That ominous feel of danger and the supernatural grows stronger and stronger, and especially once Jud introduces Louis to Ludlow’s secret in the woods… The horror is mostly psychological and slow-building, but well constructed and I liked how the development of this element correlated with the development of the main characters (especially Louis and Jud). There is a lot of focus on the character development in general, and it was fascinating to learn more about the past of Jud as well as the town itself. Likewise, Louis is a fascinating character to follow; especially how he changes and reacts to the different events. If you are looking for a character-driven thriller with paranormal and psychological horror elements, Pet Sematary is a great choice.


Title: Reconstructing Amelia
Author: Kimberly McCreight

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: April 2nd 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: May 5th 2020
Pages: 405

“All they want to do is to put a label on you. Call you this or that. Then that’s all you are, forever.”


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So… I’m not sure if the unpopular opinion curse has struck again, but the fact is that somehow Reconstructing Amelia and me didn’t get along as well as I thought we would. My reading mood has been all over the place lately, so this might just not have been the best time for me to read this story… But the fact is that I ended up having mixed thoughts about Reconstructing Amelia. It took me a long time to get into the story, especially with all the POV changes and timehops… Keeping track of what happened to whom and when felt mostly like a chore as I wasn’t really connecting to the story in the first place. The idea behind this debut is interesting, but even though I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, I wasn’t all that blown away by the execution. It might have been the ending, which was an anti-climax and too convenient to be honest and I expected more. It might have been the high school cliches and all the bitching and bullying element. It might have been the fact that I don’t think the whole investigation is all that credible, especially with Kate being present as the detective investigates and questions people. It might also have been the fact that I never really connected to any of the characters. But the fact is that Reconstructing Amelia didn’t impress me as I thought I would… I seem to be in the minority though?


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: I Am Dust – by Louise Beech #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the I Am Dust Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I consider Louise Beech to be one of my absolute favorite authors and her stories never fail to blow me away completely. I Am Dust is no exception and without doubt one of my favorite books I’ve had the chance to read so far this year. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: I Am Dust
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: February 16th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: March 20th 2020
Pages: 300

“We never forget. We choose not to remember.”

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

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Speechless. Absolutely flabbergasted. Mindblown. Oh yes, Louise Beech has done it once again, and left me a complete blubbering mess. Even though I’m a bit late to the whole party, I’ve considered Louise Beech to be one of my absolute favorite authors ever since my first experience with her work last year (Call Me Star Girl). Each backlist title I’ve had the chance to read since has blown me away, so it’s easy to say that my expectations for I Am Dust were skyhigh. But guess what? Louise Beech not only met those expectations, but stamped all over them and went to the next level! It’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite among her books, as I simply treasure them all, but there is no doubt that I Am Dust is another absolutely stunning read and of an extraordinary quality. And yes, expect me to sound like a squeeling fangirl during the rest of this review, because my brain simply cannot deal with just how good this story was even a week after I finished it. That’s the Beech effect!

So, I Am Dust. I confess I knew I was going to love this story as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, the idea of a murder mystery turned ghost story turned dark psychological thriller with a theatre angle? How can that not be the perfect base for another absolutely fantastic story?! I fell in love with the story and characters even before I started reading, and that is something that doesn’t happen often. From that gorgeous cover, the blurb and the actual story afterwards… There isn’t a thing I didn’t love of my time spent with I Am Dust! I read this story as a birthday gift to myself last month to help distract myself from these dark and strange times, and I just couldn’t have picked a better read to do just that as well as making myself feel better in the process.

There are so many things I loved about I Am Dust and I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start to be honest… Let’s talk about the setting and Dust first. I personally loved the setting in a small town and the focus on the musical world as well as the Dead Wilson Theatre setting. The descriptions really made the setting come alive for me, and gave us readers a little insight in what the musical world looks like from an insider view. Directly related to this is the musical Dust of course, which plays an all important role in the plot. I love how both the musical itself and some of the songs are incorporated into the plot and its words are given a hidden meaning as well as give clues to what might happen. Dust gave this dark psychological thriller an unique twist and was also the perfect backdrop for the paranormal elements in I Am Dust.

I confess that I’m normally not a big fan of the paranormal, but I loved how this element was developed in I Am Dust. The murdered Dust actress haunting the theatre and set, the chapters set in the past with the ouija board, the things happening to the main characters… The different paranormal elements are perfectly developed and really added that ominous and daunting atmosphere to the story. I also liked the structure of the plot as a whole, and how past and present are interlaced to slowly reveal more about the past as well as give you a glimpse of what might happen in the future. Plot twists and timeline switches work together flawlessly and really enhanced the reading experience for me.

As for the characters… The main focus is on Chloe, who is an absolutely fascinating character. Flawed, troubled and somehow more open to the spiritual world, she is the perfect character to shoulder this story and take it to the next level. Jess (or Ginger) is likewise important to the plot, and especially the dynamics between Chloe and Jess and her connection to the musical world. It was interesting to see the two interact and slowly learn more about their shared past as well… The realistic and thorough character development really made them come alive for me and my heart ached for them as things were starting to become complicated. The secondary characters are likewise well rounded and each added their own little touch to the story too.

Both the plot development and writing were absolutely fantastic, and I definitely loved the direction this story took. The ending left me brokenhearted and simply speechless, unable to render a word or properly describe my love for I Am Dust. I still felt like a mess days later, and I still feel these rambles I tried putting on paper don’t do this story justice at all. In a way, I should have just kept it short and said: “do yourself a favor and just read the damn book. I Am Dust will sweep you off your feet and will haunt you even days after you reach that final page. You will be missing out if you don’t add I Am Dust to your wishlist!” I already know this story will be on my list of favorite 2020 reads even this early in the year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To
Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. Her second book, The
Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her
previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely
reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The
Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic
Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the
Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition,
as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her
husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House
Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #156 – Where She Went & Living Dead In Dallas

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a romance binge, one contemporary and one a fantasy read. It turned out to be a hit and miss round: I really enjoyed my time with Where She Went, while I was completely put off by the series after reading Sookie Stackhouse sequel Living Dead In Dallas.


Title: Where She Went
(If I Stay #2)
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 5th 2011
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: April 2nd 2020
Pages: 297

“I find the need to remind myself of the temporariness of a day, to reassure myself that I got through yesterday, I’ll get through today.”

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After taking years to finally pick up my copy of If I Stay, I decided to read the second book as soon as possible so I won’t forget about the details in the first. And as I was craving a contemporary, Where She Went seemed like the perfect fit for me… I’ve heard people saying that they enjoyed the sequel better than the first book, and I’m definitely joining that group now. While I liked the first book and was especially intrigued by the whole POV from an unconscious character, there was just something about Where She Went that made me enjoy Adam and Mia’s story even more. This time around we see things from Adam’s eyes, and the story takes place three years after the first book ends. Once again I loved just how big of a role music plays in the story. Not only are both main characters successful musicians, but we also get little quotes of Adam’s songs he wrote for Shooting Star’s first big album… Quotes that help show us the effects of what happened in the first book on his life, but also were a nice little touch to give the story that little something extra. I really liked the direction the story decided to take, and the ending was just right for me. If you enjoy a good contemporary romance with sad and happy moments alike, this duology is a great choice. You can technically read Where She Went as a stand-alone as well, although you will be missing out on character background and you might not fully understand their dynamics…


Title: Living Dead In Dallas
(Sookie Stackhouse #2)

Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 26th 2002
Publisher: Ace
Finished reading: April 4th 2020
Pages: 289


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Wait, a vampire book on It’s All About Books?!?! Don’t worry, I’m still very much allergic to vampires, and I won’t be reading another one any time soon… I’ve learned from my mistakes. It’s just that somehow I actually really enjoyed the episodes I’ve seen of True Blood years ago and I remembered enjoying the first book back when I read it, so I had high hopes for the sequel as well. I guess I should have known… Sadly, the TV series is in this case so much better than the book! Apart from the almost continuous sex scenes (yuk!), I really couldn’t stand Sookie or Bill. Sookie comes over as arrogant, self absorbed, sex addicted and just oh so full of herself… The constant references to her big boobs and curvy body being irresistible made me gag and the fact she was constantly thinking about sex did the same. What happened to the more innocent and tolerable Sookie in book one? TV Sookie definitely didn’t come over this way… And Bill: I like him in the TV series, but he is one arrogant and inconsiderate bastard in the book. The plot itself wasn’t too much to talk about either… I think I’m just going to leave this series be in the future.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #139 – The Shadow Cabinet & Next Year In Havana

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I read for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge… The first, The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, but the second, Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton, turned out to be absolutely fantastic.


Title: The Shadow Cabinet
(Shades Of London #3)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal 
First published: February 5th 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: December 15th 2019
Pages: 385

“We’re both broken right now. Something’s happened to us. But we can do this. We have to.”


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Say hello to another unpopular opinion ramble! I really enjoyed the first book of the Shades Of London series when I read it back in 2016… And even though I wasn’t as impressed by the sequel when I finally read it a few months back, when I discovered I had to read an urban fantasy for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge my thoughts went to this series almost immediately. I decided to give Rory another shot, and see if the third book would make me fall in love with the series again… Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be and The Shadow Cabinet turned out to be the weakest link of this series yet. I honestly start to believe Shades Of London would have worked better as a stand-alone, going out with a bang after the Jack The Ripper inspired case and just leave it at that… The plot in The Shadow Cabinet seems even more jumbled and farfetched than the sequel, and with many eyebrow raising moments and the characters being possibly even more annoying (Rory, I’m looking at you!) I’m still not sure why I even kept reading. I definitely didn’t enjoy reading about the direction this story seems to be taking, and to be honest I don’t really mind that there still isn’t any news about a possible book four? It’s truly a shame I ended up having this reaction after such a positive first experience with this series, but it is what it is I guess.


Title: Next Year In Havana
Author: Chanel Cleeton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 18th 2019
Pages: 394

“You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures.”


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I have to say I’m still kicking myself for not picking up Next Year In Havana sooner… I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I first heard about it last year, and despite the glowing reviews it took me way longer than expected to actually do so. Say hello to another top read of 2019, just in time before the year is over! Oh yes, I loved every single minute of this story and it will without doubt stay with me for a long time… And I also can’t wait to read When We Left Cuba soon and learn more about Beatriz. First things first though, and let’s talk Next Year In Havana. I do love my historical fiction, and the 1958 Cuban setting was both absolutely fascinating, well researched and excellently described. Chanel Cleeton was able to truly make the setting come alive, using detailed descriptions to paint the perfect portrait of a complicated time in Cuban history. This is a story that will not only entertain, but also teaches you about both past and present. Facts are mixed with fiction in a seamless way, and the two complement each other flawlessly.

The story is told using a dual timeline and two different POVs: Elisa in 1958 and her granddaughter Marisol in 2017. Dual timelines can go both ways for me, as it is extremely hard to balance the two correctly and one normally tends to fall short for me. But not in this case. I absolutely loved both present and past chapters and both Elisa and Marisol are the perfect characters to help us understand more about Cuban life and its history. The characters are another big reason I can call this story a new favorite, and I was able to warm up to them almost instantly. Elisa and her sisters, Ana, Pablo, Marisol, Luis… There are so many characters I loved in this story, and they all play their role in teaching us more about Cuba as well. The plot itself is complex, multilayered and shows a thorough research into Cuban history as well as a wonderful romance story to counter the darker elements in Next Year In Havana. This story is an absolute must-read for historical fiction fans!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #130 – The Near Witch & The Whisper Man

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two titles I’ve been highly anticipating, and both turned out to be solid reads. I still can’t believe I’ve left Victoria Schwab‘s books until last, but I’ve finally read it and I’ve now officially run out of Schwab books to read until next year. xD And I admit I’ve been afraid to actually pick up The Whisper Man because of all the hype around it, but it turned out to be a good one.


Title: The Near Witch
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 2nd 2011
Publisher: Titan Books
Finished reading: October 29th 2019
Pages: 320

“Sometimes people need something -someone- to blame. It gives them peace until they can find the real answers.”


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It’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab‘s books, and I’ve been meaning to read her debut for ages now. I guess in a way I have been saving it, because now I’ve read it I have officially run out of Schwab books to read until new titles are published next year. Not a pleasant thought, although it might give me time to reread some of my favorites in the mean time? First things first though, and let’s talk about her debut. The Near Witch shows just how much she has grown as an author since this first story! I still loved my time with Lexi and Cole of course (then again, I might be a bit biased when it comes to her work), but the story reads a bit slower than usual and if you look at it objectively there isn’t really much going on in the plot. I really wasn’t expecting the pace to be this slow and the romance, while not that present thankfully, still kind of distracted from the fantasy elements in The Near Witch. It might just have been that somehow certain parts of Lexi’s personality started to bother me though, but I did like Cole’s character and what he represented. And the descriptions of the moor setting are simply glorious! Beautifully illustrated and it made the setting really come alive for me… The whole hint at the supernatural is spot on as well; the writing putting you under its spell from the very first chapter. It’s just like magic! I still wish I could have read this debut before her more recent work though, because those titles kind of outshined what is still a wonderful story.


Title: The Whisper Man
Author: Alex North

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 13th 2019
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: October 31st 2019
Pages: 400

“Some investigations stayed with you, sinking their claws in and hanging on, so that you would always have to drag them behind you no matter how hard you tried to dislodge them.”


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I think The Whisper Man is probably one of the most hyped thrillers released this year, and to be honest I’ve been a bit hesitant to pick it up exactly because of that hype. I decided to wait for a while, but I couldn’t resist reading it during Halloween month as more than one had recommended to me it would be perfect for the time of the year. And I definitely agree! The Whisper Man isn’t just another crime thriller, as it toes the line with the horror genre and has quite a few delightfully creepy scenes included. The eery and twisted atmosphere sets the right tone for this story, and I definitely enjoyed my time with The Whisper Man. And while it’s not among my absolute top thriller reads of the year, I can also see why so many people seemed to love it. I had some minor issues with the pace in points as well as the predictability of the plot… The basics behind the plot are not exactly all that original, but I do love the development and execution of that plot. The story definitely ends with a bang as well, although I’m still not sure what to think about how things ended… I did like how past and present were connected, the different POVs helped enriching the plot and it was interesting to see things slowly unfold through the eyes of the different characters. It’s without doubt a solid read and I will be looking forward to read more of his work in the future!


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