YVO’S SHORTIES #111 – The Broken Ones & The Boy Who Steals Houses

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two different genres and two different reactions to the stories. I picked up The Broken Ones on a whim and while it was a fast read, it failed to blow me away. The Boy Who Steals Houses on the other hand was one of my most anticipated releases this year and an absolutely brilliant read.


Title: The Broken Ones
Author: Sarah A. Denzil

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 24th 2016
Finished reading: June 30th 2019
Pages: 199

“Sometimes I wonder who is hunting whom. There are times when I feel like an animal stuck in a trap – and there are other times when I feel like a hunter stalking a dangerous wild animal, treading softly through the forest.”


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I was browsing my kindle the other day and picked up this title on a whim as I was looking for a quick dose of psychological thriller. This is my first experience with Sarah A. Denzil‘s work, although I do have other titles waiting on my TBR. I was looking forward to The Broken Ones, but while I finished it in record time, I have to say I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. One of the main focuses of the story is on Alzheimer, and while it can be hard for those who have seen the disease destroy memories of someone close to them (like myself), it was also interesting to see its effects on both Sophie’s mother and those close to her. I would have liked a little more development to give it a more realistic representation, but overall it’s not too bad considering the length of the story. Sophie’s mother has a horrible personality though and I despised her even thoughI thought I would feel bad for her for having early onset Alzheimer. The same goes for Sophie herself: she is a rather spineless woman who basically suffered emotional abuse by her mother her whole life, never got to live her own life because of it and still doesn’t stand up for herself even now. Utterly frustrating and it made it hard to connect to characters and story because of that. The plot itself is interesting, although the plot twists are a bit farfetched and I did guess the big surprise quite early on in the story. The Broken Ones isn’t a bad story and without doubt a quick read, but sadly it failed to blow me away.


Title: The Boy Who Steals Houses
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: July 3rd 2019
Pages: 347

“A family. A home. I really want a… h-home.”
“But you can’t steal it.”
“I know,” Sam whispers. I know I know I know.
“You have to build it.”


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I’m still kicking myself for not reading A Thousand Perfect Notes sooner, and I knew I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. I’ve been dying to read The Boy Who Steals Houses ever since my preorder arrived in April, and I’m so glad I finally had time to do so! This title was one of my most anticipated releases this year and I can say it has without doubt lived up to expectations. What an absolutely wonderful and heartbreaking read! You will want to clear your schedule for this little gem, because once you meet the main characters Sam, Moxie and Avery you will find yourself unable to say goodbye to them and stop reading. The writing style is engaging and wonderful; the characters and their descriptions are likewise excellently done. There is just something about Sam, Moxie and Avery that made them win over my heart almost immediately, and my heart ached for them as their story slowly revealed itself. Their development is realistic and the incorporation of the anxiety and autism elements are both authentic and brilliantly handled. Wonderful prose, characters that will win over your heart, anxiety and autism rep, tragedy and lots of food references… What more could you wish for? Trigger warnings are in place for elements such as violence, abuse and bullying, but each element is well incorporated into the plot. The Boy Who Steals Houses is a heartbreaking read and you will want to have a box of tissues at hand just to be safe, because I myself couldn’t keep it dry… And trust me, that doesn’t happen often. Sam, Moxie and Avery won over my heart, crushed it into a million pieces and left me a complete puddle of mess by the time I reach the final page. Go read this absolutely wonderful story if you haven’t already! You won’t regret it.


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ARC REVIEW: Trance – by Adam Southward

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

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

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

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

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


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ARC REVIEW: The Victim – by Max Manning

Title: The Victim
Author: Max Manning
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: June 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“Life is a game of lies, and death is the only truth. Time to play.”

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

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There was just something about the cover and its contrast that caught my eye when I first saw it, and as soon as I read the blurb I was sold. There is no doubt that the premise of The Victim is simply fascinating; a story where we follow two alternative storylines based on the decision of the main character Gem to fight or surrender during an attack in the first chapters. This is without doubt an unique concept and one that will also make you wonder what you would do yourself in a similar situation… And you will soon realize that there is a reason you won’t find solid advice on the matter, as there seems to be no clear correct answer as to what you should do as every perp and situation is unique. It was very interesting to see the consequences of both choices for Gem, not only the direct consequences but also how her life was changed afterwards.

Like I said, this concept of having two alternative storylines, one where Gem surrendered and one where Gem decided to fight, definitely makes for an unique read. I do have to say that things can get quite confusing as we not only have to keep apart two different versions of Gem’s story, but also what happens to other characters after her decision to fight or surrender. While at all times it is specified which storyline you are currently reading, it is kind of hard to keep track of which event belongs to what storyline and all that information might be a little too much to juggle at one time. I myself definitely wish I would have thought to take notes when I started reading, because it would have been easier to keep both versions apart that way. As you can imagine, this confusion and difficulty to separate and follow both alternative storylines did take away some of the reading pleasure for me. I can’t say I wasn’t a fan of the main characters either, and Gem started to frustrate me after a while… I did think that the suspect was an interesting character and I enjoyed finding out more about his past and motive. Did I think certain aspects of the plot and especially the ending were not all that credible? Yes. Did I end up having mixed thoughts about The Victim? Also yes. But I can’t deny it’s a very original concept and fans of the thriller genre will most likely find themselves intrigued.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #107 – Two Boys Kissing & My Lovely Wife

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two different genres, a backlist title and a new release… The first is Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, which I picked up both for Pride month and for the banned books prompt. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the writing style at all though. New release My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing turned out to be a delightfully shocking read though.


Title: Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 27th 2013
Publisher: Egmont UK
Finished reading: June 15th 2019
Pages: 239

“He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.”


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I was browsing banned books for a challenge, came across Two Boys Kissing and thought it would be a perfect choice for Pride month as well. I was curious to see why this story ended up on the banned books list, although I already feared (correctly) that it would have to do with the LGBT element. Sadly, I ended up having mixed thoughts about Two Boys Kissing… It had nothing to do with the actual content, and I’m sad this story was put on the banned books list, but there was something else I really struggled with. What? While I loved the idea behind this story and the symbolism in general, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style at all. The whole second/third person POV was both alienating and extremely annoying and made me enjoy the story a lot less than I thought I would. It might be an original way of telling the story (I don’t deny that), but sadly I really didn’t get along with the writing style at all. I’m positive I would have rated this story a lot higher if we would have read about the main characters from their POV; dual or multiple would have been the same. Instead, we have the strange voice of ‘past unidentified LGBT persons’ and a whole bunch of random characters the story keeps switching between… It takes a long time to keep them apart, seeing how everyone fits and realize which is actually the main story; the fact that there were so many character/POV switches made it really hard to keep track of the story and stay invested. I can’t deny Two Boys Kissing has a strong LGBT message though, and I loved the idea of the record breaking and the background of each character. Two Boys Kissing wasn’t for me due to the writing style, but I can see why so many love it.


Title: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 26th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: June 16th 2019
Pages: 384

“Now I see my mistake. Focusing only on my family has left me isolated and alone, except for one old friend who can never know the truth.”


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My Lovely Wife has been everywhere these past couple of months and I finally found time to see what all the buzz is about. I admit I went in blind, thinking I was going to find a nice and docil domestic thriller despite the knife on the cover… I couldn’t have been more wrong. What a delightfully twisted and properly disturbing read! If you are, like me, strangely into serial killer stories, imagine finding not one, but TWO in one story… And a couple at that! As soon as I was hit with that mindblowing information, I was hooked. And not just ‘normal’ hooked; I literally read the whole thing in one sitting by candle light (not by choice though as we had a country wide power failure that day), not caring if I was basically ruining my eyes or if had other things to do. I just HAD to know how things would develop and how twisted things were going to get. Trust me, you will never guess just how crazy and disturbing My Lovely Wife is prepared to go for our reading entertainment. I’ve seen people questioning the credibility of it all, and they do have a point, but I was too busy devouring every single world of this twisted masterpiece to really care. A double dose of secret identities, two serial killers, a conspiracy plot, lots of twists and one heck of a shocking surprise as the story takes a turn you won’t see coming… If you haven’t read My Lovely Wife yet, make sure to clear your schedule before you start, because trust me, you will find yourself unable to stop reading.


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ARC REVIEW: The Friend Who Lied – by Rachel Amphlett @RachelAmphlett

Title: The Friend Who Lied
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 9th 2019
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: June 11th 2019
Pages: 362

“Not one of them thought to ask if what was printed was the truth. They never do.”

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

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I think most will know by now that I’m a huge fan of the Kay Hunter series… I’ve been so ever since I finally read Scared To Death and first met the character last year. So it’s easy to understand that saying I’ve been excited to see if my love for her first step into the psychological thriller genre would be just as great would be an understatement. Guess what? I discovered Rachel Amphlett definitely has more than one genre under her belt! Be ready for another bout of raving rambles, because I’m not sure if I can write an unbiased review for The Friend Who Lied.

My brain had to cool off a few days before I was able to start writing a somewhat coherent review… What a read! My love for the psychological thriller genre is great and I tend to read a lot of them during the year, but I can already feel that The Friend Who Lied is a serious contender for my 2019 favorites list. What made this story stand out from the rest? It’s a combination of different elements actually, but let’s see if I can unravel my feelings for this review. The first thing that made this story so successful for me was the writing style. Sharp, well executed and engaging, The Friend Who Lied will manage to grab you from the very first page and doesn’t let go until you reach the last. You will forget about your surroundings, you will forget about the time passing, instead concentrating on Lisa’s story and what really happened that day in the escape room. And there we have another element that leaded to success: the well known amnesia or memory loss angle. While it’s true that this element has been used a lot in psychological thrillers in recent years, when done right it can add a healthy dose of suspense and intrigue to the plot. And guess what? I definitely loved how this element was incorporated into The Friend Who Lied. Having the main character Lisa waking up from surgery not remembering how she got there or what happened before she ended up at the hospital is simply fascinating… And the amnesia is not just an easy way out to adding more suspense either, as it is explained later why Lisa doesn’t remember anything in the first place and the reason is key to the overall plot.

Talking about the plot… We have the past and the present and a couple of different POVs to play with. While the main focus of the story is on Lisa, we will hear from her other friends as well as needed, and they will help slowly unravel secrets of both the past and present. The main question is of course what happened in the escape room that day, but trust me, that won’t be the only secret at play in this story. Oh no, The Friend Who Lied will uncover a whole web of secrets and lies before you reach that final chapter. The characters are each both well developed and feel realistic. The fact that Lisa just had to go through a kidney transplant is fascinating and plays an important role in the plot as well… It was intriguing reading about how she is trying to cope with the surgery as well as the memory loss and questions about the circumstances around Simon’s death. Not all characters are all that likeable, but each has its role to play in the plot and together they take the story to the next level. And that final reveal! I definitely didn’t see the full truth train coming before it hit me at full speed. If you are wondering what your next psychological thriller should be, you have just found your recommendation. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed when you pick up The Friend Who Lied!


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ARC REVIEW: The Marriage Betrayal – by Shalini Boland @bookouture

Title: The Marriage Betrayal
Author: Shalini Boland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 8th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 8th 2019
Pages: 273

“Anyone looking would see two young families having a relaxed evening out. They wouldn’t see the discomfort, the anxiety, the resentment. They might even be envious.”

*** 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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It’s true I’m a bit biased when it comes to Shalini Boland‘s work, as I’ve been a fan ever since I had the chance to read The Girl From The Sea back in 2016. Every time I hear a new psychological thriller is about to come out, I immediately add it to my wishlist even before reading the blurb… Shalini Boland‘s psychological thrillers have yet to fail me, and The Marriage Betrayal once again confirmed my love for her writing. Why was this another winner for me?

Well, first of all it’s the writing that draws you right in, sets the tone and won’t let you go until the very end. Every time I pick up a Shalini Boland story, I know I have to clear out my schedule beforehand and make sure nothing will disturb me while I read… Because it’s a garantuee I won’t be wanting to stop reading before I reach the final page if it can be helped. The Marriage Betrayal turned out to be another one of those reads. While it’s true the pace is a tad slow in the beginning, with the first quarter of the story being what seems like a mosty ordinary family vacation in Swanage. There is always a hint of unrest and suspense lying just beneath the surface though; the run down gothic house they rented for the week setting the tone for the atmosphere. Tension is slowly building up as we start getting glimpses of Jake and his sister Lainy’s past, with things escalating as Faye realizes that her husband Jake and their son Dylan are missing. Did something happen to them? Is there something more menacing at play? Secrets and lies are hinted at, but not revealed for a long long time; leaving you guessing what happened with Jake and Lainy in the past and what it has to do with the present. And what other secrets are they all hiding?

Like I said before, the building up is a bit slow and fans of faster psychological thrillers might struggle a bit with the first part of The Marriage Betrayal as there is more focus on the characters and mundane daily activities. I can promise you things WILL escalate and this story has quite a few shocking surprises for you lined up. The Marriage Betrayal will try to mislead you multiple times and try to make you look in the wrong direction… And even though I did start to guess some details of what was coming, there is no way to brace yourself for the end that Shalini Boland has for us in store. WHAT A TWIST!! It’s not often a psychological thriller manages to surprise me, but this twist left me with my mouth hanging wide open and consequently saying ‘NO WAY!’ over and over again. And while I thought that The Marriage Betrayal was a solid 4 star read during most of the story, it deserves an extra half start for the explosive ending alone. Fans of the genre will without doubt have a great time reading this story.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Disappeared – by Amy Lord #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Disappeared Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I think 1984 is one of my favorite dystopian classics along with Fahrenheit 451, so the promise of another dystopian bookish story instantly made me curious. I was definitely happy with what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Disappeared.

Title: The Disappeared
Author: Amy Lord
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2019
Publisher: Unbound
Finished reading: May 27th 2019
Pages: 368

“Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world. They give us a voice. They are fundamental to our being. We shouldn’t have to live without them.”

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

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Both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are among my favorite dystopian classics and I love books about books in general, so it’s easy to understand that when I read the blurb of The Disappeared I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story. I definitely don’t complain about what I found instead either… It might be true that certain aspects of the plot might not be all that original, but there is also no doubt I highly enjoyed my time with The Disappeared. If you enjoy dystopian fiction with a bookish focus, you will be in for a treat with this story.

The Disappeared is set in a near future alternative UK where a new government is in power and controls absolutely everything. Think 1984, think censorship and being forbidden to read certain books or having thoughts that are against the government. The story is set in a terrifying alternative world where there are almost no books, no phones or modern gadgets and people are forced to live in tiny apartments and are no longer allowed luxury… Unless they form part of the new government of course. This contrast between this ‘elite’ life and the rest of the population is a big one, and is described very well with the help of the main character’s mother. The stark contrast between the different lifestyles is showed in Clara’s mom, particularly in how she had to make a choice after Clara’s dad was taken away all those years ago. It’s true that she lives in luxury now, but it came at a price… And would that price be worth it? Clara herself never accepted the new situation and was soon shipped off to boarding school in Scotland. This is yet another example of this contrast as ‘normal’ difficult people tend to disappear into thin air rather than relocated to a remote but safe location.

The story is told in different times and with different perspectives, and that way we learn more about past and present and how things came to be. As always, the younger generation doesn’t really remember the situation before the drastic changes. And with the censorship oppressing free thought, the new generation is not able to learn about it either if they don’t want to be in danger of being taken away. This danger is always present and one wrong thought or word can be your end… As is shown in examples throughout the story. Clara is of course aware of this danger as well, but even though she knows the consequences she is determined to rebel and go against the government anyway.

It’s true that some dystopian cliches are involved and not all aspects of the plot are all that original, but overall it didn’t distract too much. The Disappeared has some pretty brutal moments, especially those related to the interrogation and torture scenes. Action scenes are mixed with slower and more psychological ones, but well enough balanced to keep you going. I’m not sure if the ending was all that credible as things were wrapped up a little too conveniently. Still, there is no doubt that The Disappeared is a very interesting debut that pictures a terrifying alternative world we will hopefully never encounter ourselves. Imagine not being able to read your own books anymore!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from nort-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

 


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