ARC REVIEW: Her Last Secret – by Barbara Copperthwaite @bookouture

Title: Her Last Secret
Author: Barbara Copperthwaite

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 13th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 24th 2017
Pages: ?

“Life was sweet. Until it turned sour.”

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

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I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Lies earlier this year, so I was really looking forward to Barbara Copperthwaite‘s newest psychological thriller. And as the title might already suggest, this one is yet another story packed until its limits with lies and secrets. Her Last Secret is mostly a character-driven psychological thriller and focuses on the many different characters that play a role in the event of that damned Christmas day. I do have to admit the pace was initially a lot slower than expected and I found myself struggling a little in the beginning. This was due both to the slower pace and my lack of connection to the characters. Somehow was never able to warm up to any of the main characters (except mayby for Mouse) and some of their actions and opinions actually started to frustrate me (the father is despicable!). I can’t deny their development feels realistic and rounded though; each of them having a different web of lies and secrets and adding a different level to the story. This complexity of characters and different subplots is what saved this story for me. Once you get used to the different characters, start learning about the events leading up to Christmas day and start guessing what really happened, you will find yourself hooked. The second half of the story definitely made up for the slow start for me. I loved the whole countdown idea and how slowly more of the present day event is revealed… Leaving you in the dark and guessing what could have happened and who is to blame as you learn more about the characters. And the final part is more than shocking! Basically, Her Last Secret will make you think a lot of things and suspect a lot of people, but I can garantuee you won’t guess the final truth about what really happened. I could also really appreciate the role (cyber)bullying played in this story. All in all, if you enjoy reading character-driven psychological thrillers, you will have a great time with this one.

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On the outside, they seemed like a perfect family. Ben Thomas is a successful business and lives with his wife Dominique in a beautiful house along with their two daughters Ruby and Mouse. But this perfect image is just a mirage, as they seem to be hiding a lot of secrets… And then on Christmas day the police is called to their home, only to find a horrific scene. What happened in their home? What secrets were they hiding? And did those secrets have anything to do with what happened on Christmas day?

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Her Last Secret turned out to be a slowburner for me. While I initially struggled with the slower pace and my lack of connection to the characters, I was seriously hooked by the time I reached the second half. This character-driven psychological thriller has more layers than an onion and a huge dose of secrets to go with it. The complexity of the plot and how the different storylines slowly merge is what makes this story so intriguing; the countdown chapters mixed with the slow Christmas day revelations only add to the suspense.


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ARC REVIEW: Things I’m Seeing Without You – by Peter Bognanni

Title: Things I’m Seeing Without You
Author: Peter Bognanni

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: September 20th 2017
Pages: 336

“What I mean is that nothing ever happens the way itt’s supposed to. Everything is messed up. Everything is flawed. And if we didn’t have imperfection, I’m not sure what we would have left.”

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

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I confess: this was 100% a cover-love decision since I just couldn’t say no to such a stunning cover. Things I’m Seeing Without You is a YA contemporary read that mixes romance with more serious themes as death and grief and even has a dose of humor as well. There is no doubt that the writing style is very engaging and I was able to connect instantly to the story. I liked Tess’ sassy tone and took an instant liking to the writing, making Things I’m Seeing Without You a very enjoyable read. I do have to say that the main character’s sarcasm and humor are probably not for everyone, explaining the mixed reviews out there… But if you are able to connect, you are in for a treat. The whole funeral business definitely gives this story a unique touch and adds a little something to the plot as well. I’m not sure if everything is all that credible and I had a few eyebrow-raising moments here and there, especially concerning the credibility of the final part of Things I’m Seeing Without You. Somehow I just don’t think they would ever been able to do what they did or even get there in the first place… And it’s one of the reasons I had to lower the rating. I’m still on the fence when it comes to the main characters; I liked Tess even though she is a handful, but I never really did warm up to Daniel completely. But like I said before, the whole special funeral business added a little spark to the story and definitely managed to introduce some ‘light’ moments in what is otherwise mainly a sad story about death, loss and how to deal with it all. It’s a fast-paced and entertaining YA contemporary read I’m sure fans of the genre will be able to enjoy. The writing might not be everyone’s taste, but I personally felt an instant connection and Things I’m Seeing Without You is definitely worth the try.

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Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler hasn’t been the same after the death of Jonah. Even though they only met once in real life, they have been talking over texts and long e-mails for months and were in love… And she never saw his suicide coming. She continues to write to Jonah as a way of dealing with her grief, and also decides to drop out of high school because she couldn’t deal with it any longer. She returns to her father’s home, where she discovers his newest business: an alternative funeral business with very special clients…

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Things I’m Seeing Without You is without doubt a fast-paced and entertaining YA contemporary read despite the more serious themes. The fact that death, loss and grief is mixed with humor as well is refreshing and the funeral business added a really unique touch to the story. I’m not sure about the credibility of certain part of the plot and the actions of the characters, but there is one thing for sure: you will fly through this read. I personally liked Tess with all her flaws and complicated personality; the sassy tone of the story definitely complements her character. This story might not be for everyone, but I can definitely suggest giving it a try!


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ARC REVIEW: The Mistake – by K.L. Slater @bookouture

Title: The Mistake
Author: K.L. Slater

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 4th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 19th 2017
Pages: 268

“Books helped me get well back then and I feel happiest now when I’m around them. Sometimes I wish I could put up a camp bed in the back office, and then I’d never need to go home at all.”

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

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I have been looking forward to a new K.L. Slater thriller ever since I finished Liar and I was more than excited when I first heard about The Mistake. And although it turned out not being my favorite of the bunch, The Mistake is without doubt still a very well written and suspenseful psychological thriller. The writing both draws you in and makes you fly through the pages. The plot was an interesting one and the situation and consequences of grooming are very thoroughly and realistically described. It’s not a theme I have seen all that often before in psychological thrillers and I could really appreciate the spotlight on something that unfortunately happens way too often to vulnerable (young) women. I also liked the idea of the chapters going back between past and present; showing this way both what happened all those years ago and how this effected Rose’s life even after all those years. This all sounds really positive, so why ‘only’ a 4 star rating? The main reason were the main characters, which I found highly unlikeable and made me enjoy the story less than expected. Rose and Garreth made me cringe A LOT. Unlikeable or not, the grooming is very well described as well as the consequences those actions have for the people around them. This is not a happy read and will provoke strong emotions. Realistic, full of twists, suspenseful, intriguing, provoking… All words that apply to The Mistake. Recommended for fans of the genre.

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Sixteen years ago, Rose took her eight-year-old brother Billy out flying his kite and he went missing. Two days later, he was found dead… And Rose has never fully recovered from the trauma. The person who did this to Billy is behind bars, but did they convict the right man? Rose never doubted this up until she finds something in the attic room of a trusted neighbor… And every painful detail of her past comes back to haunt her.

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Even though The Mistake wasn´t my absolute favorite, there is no denying it is still a very good psychological thriller with an important theme (grooming). The writing is excellent as always and manages to draw you right in; the plot is well developed and has quite a few twists and turns that will surprise you. The flashbacks to the past don’t distract and instead add to the overall richness of the plot; the grooming is very well described and feels realistic. The only problem I had was with the main characters: I never managed to warm up to Rose or Garreth and felt frustrated especially with Rose. Although I guess Garreth wasn’t ment to be likeable in the first place… The rest of the story is excellent though and will appeal to any fan of more character-driven psychological thrillers.


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BOOK REVIEW: Beartown – by Fredrik Backman

Title: Beartown
(Björnstad #1)
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Sports
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: September 15th 2017
Pages:432 
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Björnstad’)

“The very worst events in life have that effect on a family: we always remember, more sharply than anything else, the last happy moments before everything fell apart.”

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Fredrik Backman managed to blow me completely away with his story A Man Called Ove last year, which turned out to be one of my new all time favorites. I’ve been wanting to read one of his other books ever since… So now I finally have more time to read my own books, I decided to pick up my copy of his newest story Beartown. Confession: I’m not a hockey fan at all, so I wasn’t sure if reading a book centered around this sport would work for me. Also, my love for A Man Called Ove is so great that I wasn’t sure if another book would be able to live up to that level of wonderfulness. And it turned out my fears were grounded, because I do think Beartown came nowhere close to reaching that level. BUT. It is also true that this is a completely different story and should be evaluated as such. Because don’t get me wrong, it was without doubt a very good story and it shows Fredrik Backman is a brilliant writer. That said, I wish I could rate both halves of this book separately, because I had a completely different experience for both. While I had my doubts about Beartown during the first half of this story, all of this faded into the background when I reached the second part. Because by the time I reached the final page I was left with a broken heart and my emotions all over the place. It’s impressive that just one book is able to provoke so many contradicting emotions… What started out as a story with a lot of potential, but something that wasn’t able to convince me yet, ended in something I could easy have given a full 5 star rating for. In the beginning, I found myself struggling with the amount of characters and POVs that made it quite hard to keep track of them all. The writing was good, but somehow didn’t manage to lure me in completely and all the hockey talk wasn’t for me either. I found myself not as invested and I was feeling quite disappointed since I LOVED the characters in A Man Called Ove and was hooked right from the first page. Beartown turned out to be a slowburner instead, and while it took me about half the book to get used to the huge cast of characters, writing and situation in Beartown, as soon as I did I was hooked. This story has a few trigger warnings for the more sensitive readers, but the themes discussed in this story and the way the characters react to different situations are both intriguing, messy, realistic and will provoke very powerful emotions. You will love them, hate them, want to yell at them, slap them, hug them, make their pain go away… And you will feel powerless as you turn page after page and see how things unfold. So if you, like me, aren’t immediately convinced by this story, struggle with the multiple POVs and aren’t a hockey fan, don’t discard this book. Beartown is one of those stories where things will most definitely get better; although better is an understatement for the brilliant and realistic execution of the second half.

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Beartown is a tiny community deep in the forest and a true hockey town. Some say Beartown is finished and things have been going downhill for a while. Their hockey team hasn’t shown any true potential in years and jobs have been disappearing as the forest slowly reclaims her territory. But the people in Beartown still believe tomorrow will be better than today, and their junior ice hockey team might be the key to that dream. They are about to compete in the national semi-finals; if they win, this could mean Beartown is back on the so-called hockey map. So all the hopes and dreams of the town now rest of the shoulders of a bunch of teenage boys… How will they react to the pressure? Will they be able to win the game? And what will this whole experience do to their young minds?

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I have called Beartown a slowburner before, and I think this is just the right term for my feelings for this book. It took me a while to warm up to this story and to be honest in the beginning I wasn’t convinced by the multiple POVs and the amount of characters introduced. I’m not a hockey fan and I wasn’t sure if I could handle the prominent role the sport has in the story… But all those worries disappeared as soon as I reached the second half and found myself fully invested. I don’t want to give away too much to avoid spoilers (since the original blurb had a few as well), but some things will happen that will provoke very strong emotions and these feelings won’t let you go until you reach the final page. The fact that there are so many conflicting emotions will leave you wrecked, but fully satisfied. The ending is quite interesting as well, and will make you wonder about how the story started. All in all recommended despite the not that convincing start!


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ARC REVIEW: The Dollmaker Of Krakow – by R.M. Romero

Title: The Dollmaker Of Krakow
Author: R.M. Romero

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: September 12th 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: September 13th 2017
Pages: 336

“You can destroy a person, Karolina, but destroying their story is far more difficult. No one is ever really lost as long as their story still exists.”

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

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I was drawn to this book as soon as I saw the stunning cover, and when I found out it was a story set during WWII I was sold. I know I don’t read a lot of middle grade novels, but I do like to mix things up a bit every once in a while and this sounded like the perfect book to do so. The Dollmaker Of Krakow has been compared to The Boy In The Striped Pajamas (one of my all time favorites) and not only has a stunning cover, but also a wonderful story. This middle grade story is not just another historical fiction read with a WWII setting. With The Dollmaker Of Krakow, R.M. Romero has created a truly unique story that is a perfectly balanced mix of historical facts and fantasy with a touch of magical realism and a fairytale-like feel. There is magic, there are talking dolls brought to life, but there is also the brutal reality of the war and what the Germans were doing to the Jews during that period. Innocence is mixed with a somber reality in a way that is truly moving and very beautifully crafted. It’s hard to properly label this story, but there is no doubt about the originality and uniqueness of The Dollmaker Of Krakow. I would recommend this story for the ages of ten and up due to the sensitive historical elements (holocaust references) included, but I am positive they will be completely charmed by this fairytale-like mix of fantasy and reality. The writing style reads like a dream and I really liked the contrast between Karolina’s world and the real one. The characters are also well developed and used perfectly to demostrate the situation of both Jews and the people close to them during the war. It will definitely help make the younger readers reflect in an innocent way and leave breadcrumbs of information that will stay with them without the story feeling like a history lesson. All in all definitely recommended!

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Karolina used to live in the Land of the Dolls as a seamstress, happy to work for her king and queen, but one day they are overthrown by Rats and the dolls are no longer safe. A strange wind spirits her away from her home and suddenly she finds herself in Krakow… Right in the middle of the shop of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power he didn’t know he had. They will soon find out they benefit mutually from their company, and they  even make new friends with a violin-playing father and his daughter. But the Nazi soldiers come to Krakow and Karolina and the Dollmaker soon realize their new Jewish friends are in danger…

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I was sold as soon as I saw the cover and blurb, and there is no doubt that the writing is just as beautiful as the stunning cover. The Dollmaker Of Krakow is a truly unique story that mixes historical events with a fairytale-like fantasy world and sometimes feels a lot like magical realism. This innocent way of approaching the holocaust is a truly fascinating angle and very well executed; the fantasy elements only add to the overal originality of the story.


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BOOK REVIEW: Our Dark Duet – by Victoria Schwab @veschwab

Title: Our Dark Duet
(Monsters Of Verity #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 12th 2017
Pages: 533

“The world was complicated. Life was hard. And so often, living hurt. So make it worth the pain.”

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It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab‘s books and my review might sound a bit biased or like a typical fangirl blabbering about how awesome this particular book was. Because I’m not going to lie and say that even though I finished Our Dark Duet quite a few days ago, I still haven’t recovered. I read the first book of this duology, This Savage Song, last year and completely fell in love with the worldbuilding, writing and characters. It’s true nothing can quite replace or outshine the Shades Of Magic series, but I like to see them as two completely separate stories and worlds to love and cherish. I reread the first book before starting the sequel, and this has definitely reconfirmed my love for this duology. The worldbuilding is actually quite simple and the strength of this story is in both the brilliant writing, the main characters and the constant threat of danger and monsters hiding in dark corners as well as on the next page. Our Dark Duet adds a whole different level and a new monster to the equation, and I quite liked this addition. I just loved seeing my favorite characters evolve and react to the dangerous situations they find themselves in… And even though the ending crushed me, I realy admire Victoria Schwab for her courage to do what she did. This story set in a dystopian world where monsters are real has never been a happy story, and by no means can be called just another sappy YA fantasy story. Because Monsters Of Verity is anything but. Sure, there is a dash of romance included, but there’s no love triangle, no cheesy romance scenes, no all-consuming romantic plot. No, instead you get a double dose of suspense, action, monsters and a whole lot of awesomeness in general. To say that the writing is excellent is an understatement, but then again it is Victoria Schwab we are talking about. Don’t compare this duology to Shades Of Magic, because you will most likely end up being disappointed. Instead, see Monsters Of Verity as something new and completely different, and let the characters and their dystopian world full of monsters enchant you.

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

There is no way back after what happened… Nearly six months after Kate and August first met, the war between monsters and humans has become very real. August Flynn has always wanted to be human, but knows he will always be a monster in the end. He will have to make some difficult choices now he is seen as a leader during the battle agains the other monsters. Kate Harker on the other hand is far away in Prosperity hunting the monsters the people living there don’t even know that exist… Doing what she does best until a new monster shows up and messes up everything. What will happen to the two characters and Verity in general? Will the monsters finally win?

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Error, page not found… Excuse me while my mind recovers from the blow. Because WOW. Victoria Schwab wasn’t kidding when she said this wasn’t a happy story; I admire her all the more for it even though this book kind of broke my heart… Bulldozer or not, I loved this story and how things developed after the first book ended. I’m not saying this Monsters Of Verity duology can compete with the Shades Of Magic trilogy, but I like to see them as two completely separate series that both deserve all the love. Because both have deserved a well earned place among my other all time favorite books and characters. I’m having a feeling Kate, August, Kell and Lila would make a very interesting group indeed! 😉


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ARC REVIEW: The Surrogate – by Louise Jensen @Fab_fiction @bookouture

Title: The Surrogate
Author: Louise Jensen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 27th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 7th 2017
Pages: 374

“But then, we all have things to hide, don’t we? Our version of the truth is pliable, we mould our reality to mask our lies, and sometimes it sounds so plausible we even convince ourselves.”

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

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After reading The Sister and The Gift last year, I was left no other option than to add any future Louise Jensen books straight to my most-anticipated-releases list. This is exactly what happened as soon as I heard about her newest book The Surrogate and I was over the moon when I was granted a copy early. And WOW. Be ready to get your socks blown off when you read this psychological thriller! Basically I was left speechless and mindblown when I reached the final page, and to be honest I still haven’t recovered fully from this story. What starts out as an excellent, but seemingly straightforward psychological thriller will manage to leave you flabbergasted before you reach the ending… Because there is one thing I know: I was SO wrong about every single suspicion I had while was reading The SurrogateLouise Jensen is a pro at creating the perfect suspenseful atmosphere with that feeling you can’t trust anyone or anything… But she is also brilliant at misleading her readers. It doesn’t happen often, but The Surrogate managed to surprise me entirely with the final twists and I just love whenever that happens! Apart from the final plot twists bombs, the plot itself is very well executed and very capable of misleading you without losing your interest as you suspect you have already figured everything out quite early on. The suspense and suspicions are real until the very end and combined with the excellent writing you will find it really hard to put this story down before you know what happened and will happen to the main characters. The characters themselves are well developed and feel realistic, even though if I am honest I didn’t exactly like them. I found Kat to be a bit too trusting, but I guess this part of her personality does make the story work all the better. And this minor speed bump by no means makes The Surrogate any less brilliant. If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers, I can highly recommend Louise Jensen‘s work in general. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed by her books!

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Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, but maybe it just wasn’t ment to be… Kat cannot get pregnant and their efforts to adopt a little one into their family haven’t been successful. Something always seems to go wrong and they are on the point of giving up; they simply cannot take the stress anymore. But then Kat runs into her childhood friend Lisa by chance and it seems like the couple has been given one last chance to fulfill their wish. It all sounds too good to be true… Can Lisa really be trusted with something this delicate?

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If you are looking for your next psychological thriller, you have just found your story. Because The Surrogate is perfect for any fan of the genre and will leave you both speechless and mindblown by the last page. The story starts out rather conventional and gives you that false security that you have already figured out what is probably going to happen… And then the plot twists bombs start falling and you will discover you were SO wrong about everything. Oh yes, The Surrogate will mess with your mind and you will love every single minute of it. Because this is one brilliantly executed psychological thriller.


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