DNF REVIEW: You – by Caroline Kepnes

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Title: You
(You #1)
Author: Caroline Kepnes

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Romance
First published: September 25th 2014
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Finished reading: January 9th 2017
Pages: 433
DNF at 5% (21 pages)
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“Work in a bookstore and learn that most people in this world feel guilty about being who they are.”

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WARNING: Unpopular opinion ahead.

This book by Caroline Kepnes has been on my radar ever since I first found out it had a serial killer element, and I’ve seen lots of positive reviews about You ever since. I was really excited to be finally reading this one and I’m still wondering if I picked up a different story instead, because You left me confused. It’s probably just me, but to be honest I just couldn’t see the why behind the fact that so many people seem to love this story. I normally read at least 50 pages or 10% before I decide to DNF a book, but in this case I just couldn’t take it anymore. Why? First of all, I really disliked the writing style and its constant you, you, you was getting on my nerves. That and the constant swearing and sex talk/scenes left me no other option than calling You my very first DNF this year (and hopefully the last!). I keep feeling I might be missing out on something and it was just the beginning I struggled with, but then again sex talk/scenes and me just don’t go together. I wish I could have discovered more about the serial killer angle though!

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When a beautiful, aspiring writer enters the bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he feels himself forced to Google the name on her credit card after she leaves. And there is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. Even better: she has a public Facebook account and Tweets, telling Joe everything he needs to know about her. Joe decides to create the perfect ‘chance’ meeting, and slowly takes control of her life by creating a series of events that should ensure her walking straight into his waiting arms…

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I have to say that every time I read the blurb again, I want to give this story another try. I have actually tried to continue reading a few times, but especially the sex talk/scenes make me cringe before I finish the first pending page. I think You is a typical case of REALLY not-for-me, although I truly wanted to like this story. I have a weakness for serial killer thrillers, but even that weakness is not enough for me to tolerate adult scenes. Oh well, I guess you can’t like everything…


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BOOK REVIEW: Sanctum – by Madeleine Roux

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Title: Sanctum
(Asylum #2)
Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: YA, Horror, Paranormal
First published: August 26th 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 29th 2016
Pages: 343
Rating 4qqq

“Dan wasn’t sure which was worse – the idea that he was actually being haunted or possessed or whatever, or the idea that this was all in his head.”

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I actually read the first book Asylum back in 2015 and I remember planning to read the sequel soon after that. But other books got in the way, and somehow I soon completely forgot how good this series actually was. I’m regretting this now, because I really enjoyed reading Sanctum. While I don’t think it’s actually as good as the first book, it was still without doubt a solid sequel. It basically has everything I look for in a YA paranormal/horror read: almost no romance, a fast pace, well written, interesting plot and lots of creepy scenes. I’m not completely sure about the character development and some characters can come over as a bit whiney, but the new plot with the carnaval elements is without doubt excellent. There are a few photos included again this time as well, although I wish there would have been more or at least a bit more scary. I guess you can’t have it all… But if you are looking for an entertaining paranormal read that actually focuses on the creepy elements for once, definitely give this series a try.

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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…

Dan, Abby and Jordan are still traumatized by the summer they spent together during the summer program in the Brookline asylum. They would love to move on, but someone seems to be determined to keep the terror alive, sending them photos of an old-timey carnival without further note. They decide to return to New Hampshire College to find out what is going on, even though they promised each other to never go back… Under the guise of a weekend for prospective students, they start their hunt for the truth. Will they be able to figure out who sent those photos and what’s going on? And is it safe for them to be there again in the first place?

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While not as good as the first book, Sanctum is still quite a satisfying sequel to this paranormal horror series. The included photos are a nice touch, although they are not as creepy or numerous as in Asylum (or at least I remember it that way). The fact that it has almost no romance is a huge bonus though, and I really liked both the plot, carnaval and historical elements and the prose itself. Recommended if you like the genre! I will definitely move the third book right to the top of my TBR pile.

ARC REVIEW: Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection – by Barbara Venkataraman

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Title: Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection
Author: Barbara Venkataraman
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime
First published: September 3rd 2014
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: August 2nd 2016
Pages: 360

Rating 3,5qqq

“It’s strange how technology enhances life and diminishes it at the same time.”

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

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I can always enjoy a good cozy mystery read, so when I was approached by the author if I wanted to read and review her collection of three Jamie Quinn stories it was easy to say yes. And Death By Didgeridoo, The Case Of The Killer Divorce and Peril In The Park are without doubt fast-paced and entertaining cozy mysteries that are perfect vacation material. A huge bonus: since important character background is repeated in each sequel, it’s really easy to read them separate as well. The main character herself, Jamie Quinn, is a family law lawyer in a town called Hollywood and I liked the way her character develops during the three books. She sure has some surprises in store for her that are not related to her cases at all! The balance between the cases, PI work and Jamie’s personal life is well done, especially in the first and third book. Peril In The Park is without doubt my absolute favorite of the three, but the other two stories are good as well. If you like cozy mysteries and are looking for a fast-paced and entertaining read, this collection by Barbara Venkataraman is without doubt recommendable.

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Death by Didgeridoo: 3,5/5 stars

Family law lawyer Jamie Quinn is still struggling to deal with the death of her mother, but she is forced to get back to action when her cousin is wrongly accused of murder. Adam is autistic and the whole experience is highly traumatic for him… And the worst part is that the police seem to think he is guilty. It is up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late, because the case is getting a lot of media attention. The victim is a former rock star with a lot of enemies… But who killed him? Jamie asks for the help of an old client and PI, Duke Broussard, but the clock is ticking.

The Case of the Killer Divorce: 3/5 stars

Jamie Quinn has returned to her family law practice after she had to deal with her cousin’s case. Things are going well enough, until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation. Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect, and she decided to yet again hire Duke Broussard to try and clear her client’s name. There are a lot of lies floating around, and it is getting difficult to find out the truth… And it’s not the only thing that goes around in Jamie’s head, since she is also trying to find her long-lost father.

Peril in the Park: 4/5 stars

Someone is trying to make things difficult for Jamie Quinn’s boyfriend. Kip Simons is the new director of Broward County Parks, but it seems like not everybody is happy to welcome him. Someone has been vandalising the parks and there are a lot of unhappy people on the list of suspects. An angry supervisor that wanted the job himself, fired employees… They will have to figure it out soon, because someone has even threatened to do harm if Jamie and Kip don’t back off. Jamie has to call in the help of Duke Broussard yet again to solve the mystery before it’s too late.

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If you like the genre, you will without doubt enjoy these three cozy mystery stories as well. They turned out to be easy to read, fun and fast-paced. All three stories have the perfect mix of contemporary, mystery and legal thriller elements, although the third story Peril In The Park is my absolute favorite. Without doubt recommended for fans of the genre!

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl With All The Gifts – by M.R. Carey

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Title: The Girl With All The Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Genre: Horror, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: January 14th 2014
Publisher: Orbit
Finished reading: July 15th 2016
Pages: 460
Rating 4,5qqq

“It’s not just Pandora who had that inescapable flaw. It seems like everyone has been built in a way that sometimes makes them do wrong and stupid things.”

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I know, I know… I should have known. This book has been recommended to me too many times to count and it’s been on my wishlist for a long time, but I was a bit wary since I’m normally not into stories with zombies. Now I’ve finally read The Girl With All The Gifts, I kind of want to kick myself for waiting this long, because I absolutely loved it! This book written M.R. Carey has shown me I can actually love a zombie story and I love his version of the ‘hungries’ and the special ‘children’. The story is well written and fast-paced, and I loved the many detailed descriptions of the dystopian world the characters have to survive in. Speaking of the characters: I LOVE Melanie! She is such a well developed and intriguing character and she is without doubt one of the reasons this story simply worked. Then again, the character development of all important characters is really well done. The plot was interesting and I personally liked how M.R. Carey decided to end the story. I would love to read a sequel though! So many possibilities… This book is highly recommended and worth the try even if you normally don’t like zombie stories. Trust me, you might be surprised by how much you will enjoy it anyway!

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Melanie is a highly intelligent girl and without doubt very special; there is nothing ordinary about herself or her daily routine. Melanie lives in her cell and waits every morning to be collected for class. Two people then strap her into a wheelchair while Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her the whole time. Why exactly this is necessary Melanie doesn’t know, but most people seem to be wary of her and her classmates. She loves school though, and learning about the world outside. Her favorite teacher would be Miss Justineau, and the days she is in class are Melanie’s favorites. Though whenever Melanie talks about her dreams and future, Justineau becomes sad… Because unlike Melanie, her teacher knows what the world really looks like.

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I’m so glad I finally decided to read The Girl With All The Gifts, because it’s without doubt an excellent read. The plot and plot twists are really interesting and I liked how the story ended. The detailed descriptions and character development made it really easy to enjoy reading this book and Melanie is without doubt one of my new favorite characters. The Girl With All The Gifts is a horror story and it has zombies, but that is not all that there is to it. I can’t go into details because that might spoil the story, but I can say that I would definitely recommend this book!

BOOK REVIEW: The Opposite Of Loneliness – by Marina Keegan

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Title: The Opposite Of Loneliness
Author: Marina Keegan
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Short Stories
First published: April 8th 2014
Finished reading: June 11th 2016
Pages: 208
Rating 3,5qqq

“What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.”

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Those who follow my blog know I like to read a non fiction book or memoir every now and then, so I was excited when The Opposite Of Loneliness came up as one of my TBR jar picks. The story behind this memoir is actually quite tragic: the author Marina Keegan sadly passed away in 2012 after a car accident, and this collection has been created afterwards in her honor. Reading about the actual details is truly heartbreaking, but it doesn’t mean that this memoir gets a free pass to a full 5 star rating. Because if I have to be honest, I expected something better/different out of this short story and essay collection. First of all, I didn’t realize that part of this book is actually a collection of short fictional stories. I don’t mind reading fiction, but it wasn’t what I expected and most stories were a bit too cheesy, romantic or awkward for me. Especially since knowing about the author’s tragic end makes you read some stories under a different light (for example: in Cold Pastoral I felt awkward reading about a main character where her boyfriend dies, while her own boyfriend had to go through a similar situation.) Another story I found slightly disturbing is Reading Aloud, where an older woman reads aloud to a blind young man while she is completely naked. I know it’s fiction and all, but I think I could have gone without that mental image. My favorite of the fiction stories would probably be The Emerald City, since it’s not the typical contemporary romance story. It’s about an officer in Afghanistan who tells about his daily life and concerns to a girl back home. Challenger Deep was also really good. The non fiction section of this memoir is a little too short if you ask me, but provides some very interesting essays and is a satisfying ending to this read. In fact, I would probably have given The Opposite Of Loneliness a higher rating if it would have been just the non fiction essays… This memoir is without doubt still worth reading though.

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The young Yale graduate Marina Keegan was without doubt talented and it shows in this collection of essays and stories. Her essay The Opposite Of Loneliness is probably one of the most famous ones and is without doubt inspiring.

“Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…). We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.”

Only five days after she graduate magna cum laude from Yale, Marina died in a car crash. The people close to hear joined together to create this collection of her best short stories and essays. They are a mix of fiction and non fiction and explore different genres and writing methods.

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Like I said above, I really wanted to like this memoir even better, but there were quite a few fiction short stories I can’t say I enjoyed. Some were a bit disturbing, others made me feel awkward or were too much like a typical cheesy romance story (one even with a love triangle!). There were some exceptions though: especially The Emerald City and Challenger Deep stood out from the rest. The non fiction essays were excellent as well, and most likely ended up improving the rating. I would definitely recommend reading The Opposite Of Loneliness, just make sure to remember it’s not actually just a memoir and also included fictional short stories. That may avoid a similar reaction to the one I had when I was reading the fiction section….

BOOK REVIEW: Leaving Time – by Jodi Picoult

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Title: Leaving Time
Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: October 14th 2014
Finished reading: May 13th 2016
Pages: 416
Rating 3,5qqq

“I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it to the corner of the room—but eventually, you learn to live with it.”

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I personally hadn’t heard of this title before it was chosen as this month’s The Revolving Shelf book club read, but I wasn’t too worried about it since I really enjoyed reading Jodi Picoult‘s other novel The Storyteller last year. And while the plot of Leaving Time is completely different from that novel, I still very much enjoyed reading this story. The plot is basically a missing person (cold) case mixed with a dash of paranormal and a healthy dose of elephant facts. I have admired this stately animals ever since I was little, so I was very pleasantly surprised with the role they played throughout the story. Jenna’s mother Alice goes missing when she is little, and her mother’s study on elephant grief is relevant to both the elephants and human characters in the story. The chapters switch between the POV of different characters and are set both in the past and present. It takes a while to get a proper idea of what is really going on and it might slow down the pace quite a bit, but the ending is without doubt a surprise. The paranormal elements as well as the initial clash between two unlikely allies Virgil and Serenity make typical missing murder case a lot more interesting as well… In short Leaving Time is without doubt an interesting read and worth reading if you like the genre, although I still prefer her other novel The Storyteller.

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Jenna Metcalf’s mother Alice vanished when she was only three years old, and she has been trying to find out where her mother went ever since. Her grandmother doesn’t exactly encourage her, but that doesn’t stop Jenna from searching online, rereading her journals on studying grief among elephants and leaving no stone unturned. She decides it’s about time to take more drastic measures, and calls in the help of two unlikely allies. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic for missing people who seems to have lost her gift after a big case went wrong. Serenity doubts her gift, but Jenna is determined to get her help anyway. The other is Virgil Stanhope, a PI with a complicated background who originally investigated the case when Alice first went missing. Virgil isn’t sure how he can help the girl either, but the three slowly start putting together the pieces of the past anyway… With a very surprising outcome.

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While I didn’t love Leaving Time as much as I thought I would, I still quite enjoyed reading this story. Some of the plot might not be all that credible, but I liked the mix of paranormal elements and a typical mystery read. The elephant info was a huge bonus, although I can understand why some people might see the many facts as something potentially boring or even annoying. It is without doubt something that is an acquired taste… The story has quite a few plot twists though and it has an ending you definitely won’t see coming!

BOOK REVIEW: The Reader On The 6.27 – by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

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Title: The Reader On The 6.27
Author: Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: May 5th 2014
Finished reading: May 12th 2016
Pages: 256
(Originally written in French: “Le liseur du 6h27”)
Rating 4qqq

“For all those fellow commuters, he was the reader, the bizarre character who each weekday would read out, in a loud, clear voice, from the handful of pages he extracted from his briefcase.”

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I picked up my copy of The Reader On The 6.27 on a whim after I saw it mentioned somewhere on a list of books about books. I normally prefer reading the story in its original language, but since my French is a little (read: a lot!) rusty I had no choice but read the English translation. I still wish I would have been able to read Jean-Paul Didierlaurent‘s French prose, but that doesn’t take away this was one excellent story. It is true there isn’t that much of a plot to speak of, but that only brings more attention to the excellent prose. Part of the story almost felt like Fahrenheit 451 (especially the book destroying machine called ‘The Thing’ and the factory in general), but this novel is mostly something completely different that will appeal to most true book lovers out there. The main character Guylain Vignolles hates his job at the book pulping factory and decides to defy the system in his own small way by saving a few random book pages stuck in the bottom of the machine every day. Then every morning on his commute to the factory, he actually reads those random pages out loud to the other passengers! Such an inspiring idea… His quest to find the owner of the usb stick he finds on the train is quite entertaining to read as well, not to mention the random pages, multiple alexandrines and charm of the characters themselves. The Reader On The 6.27 is in one word ‘magnifique‘! Definitely worth reading if you are looking for something different and beautifully written.

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Guylain Vignolles doesn’t exactly have an exciting life. He practically doesn’t have any friends, shares his small appartment with his goldfish and hates his job at the book pulping factory to an extent that even his own mother doesn’t know how he really earns his money. The only thing he looks forward to on his seemingly endless days are his journeys on the 6.27 train. Each morning on his commute to the factory, Guylain opens his case, takes out a few pages he rescued himself from the book pulping machine he calls The Thing the day before and starts reciting aloud the words on those random pages. He doesn’t even make contact with the other passengers, but this daily escape from his reality helps him stay sane. Then one day Guylain finds an abandoned usb stick on the train. He tries to figure out who the owner is, but the only file on it is a diary without a full name or return address… Guylain falls in love with the voice of the young author Julie, and is determined to find her .

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first heard about The Reader On The 6.27, but I was more than pleasantly surprised with what I’ve found. This is without doubt a charming story with interesting characters, beautiful prose, a fast pace and many many bookish references. The random pages, diary entries and alexandrines didn’t distract at all from the main story and actually made me enjoy this book more. Recommended!