BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Broken Things – by Sara Barnard

Title: Beautiful Broken Things
Author: Sara Barnard

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: February 11th 2016
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Finished reading: August 2nd 2017
Pages: 322

“Everyone says apologizing works, but it never really does. Not quickly enough anyway.”

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I’ve been meaning to pick up Beautiful Broken Things for quite some time now, so I was quite happy when my TBR jar decided for me it was time to read my copy. I always have mixed experiences with YA contemporaries, but I was drawn to this cover and blurb like a bee to honey. And to be honest, I initially really enjoyed reading it. The first thing that stands out is the writing style, which is very engaging and makes it very easy to read this story. I found myself literally flying through the pages at first. Even though the plot itself isn’t all that special and nothing I haven’t seen before in the genre, I had a great time reading it. There are quite a few high school cliches involved though which I could have done without as well as the jealousy and the whole new friend/third wheel theme. I had mixed feelings about the characters and as the story continued especially Caddy really started to bother me. Both her attitude and her idea that having bad things happen to you make you more interesting is not only frustrating but almost offensive. It’s one of the reasons I started to enjoy Beautiful Broken Things less and less and ended up having to give a lot lower rating than I initially suspected. Sure, Suzanne’s character is quite interesting and opens the way to talk about important themes as abuse and its consequences and mental health, but her reactions are also almost cliche at points and I’m not sure I’m happy with the final developments and the ending. All in all it wasn’t the reading experience I was hoping for… Beautiful Broken Things had a quite strong start because of the enjoyable writing style, but didn’t manage to convince me in the end. Part of the problem might have been me, so if you love the genre and don’t mind cliches it’s still worth giving a go.

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Caddy and Rosie have been best friends for years and even though they go to different high schools, they are inseparable. Caddy has always been the quiet one though and when she turns sixteen she wants to make some changes in her life. And then Rosie meets Suzanne, a new girl at her school and they become friends. Suzanne is everything Caddy wants to be and she is jealous of their friendship. Things are becoming a whole lot more complicated… Especially when Caddy starts to get knowing Suzanne better. What will happen to the three girls?

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Initially I thought I was really going to enjoy this story and the writing style is without doubt enjoyable at first. I can’t point out the exact moment I started to enjoy Beautiful Broken Things less, but there is no doubt that the final part of this story didn’t live up to the promising start. There were certain things that started to bother me: the cliches, some of the characters and the way they act and think, the way important (darker) themes are handled… All in all not what I expected.


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BOOK REVIEW: Love May Fail – by Matthew Quick

Title: Love May Fail
Author: Matthew Quick

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
First published: June 4th 2015
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: July 31st 2017
Pages: 419

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”

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I liked Matthew Quick‘s unconventional writing style and characters in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, so when I was desperately looking for something different I turned to his work again. I found a copy of Love May Fail on my shelves and decided to pick it up; and I definitely got what I was looking for. This book is by no means conventional! I’m still not sure what to make of this book even days after finishing it. There were things/elements I liked or appreciated and there were others I wasn’t so sure about, but what is true that Love May Fail is different. Both the writing style and tone are very unconventional, blunt, brutally honest but also refreshing. That said, there was also a lot of swearing and negativity involved… So this unique feel can go both ways. The same thing goes for the characters. Most of them earn points for brutal honesty, uniqueness and having that ‘spark’, but I don’t think I actually liked them. Portia had all those elements (she definitely has balls), but somehow I never actually warmed up to her. It is true though that at least she was able to provoke strong emotions, even if those were mostly negative. I couldn’t stand Mr. Vernon though. What is true though is that important themes as mental illness, depression, suicide, midlife crisis and hoarding play an important role in the story and seems to be portrayed quite realistically. Matthew Quick isn’t afraid to step on a few toes and says things as they are in a blunt and brutally honest way. And I don’t think I have ever read about a hoarder before! In short I can applaude the diversity. I also liked the novel writing bits and insight in the publishing world. Still, I can’t say I actually loved reading Love May Fail. It won’t make it to my favorites list, but there is no doubt there is something about this story.

A little warning: don’t read Love May Fail if you are sensitive to darker themes, adult content and swearing.

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After Portia Kane finds her pornographer husband cheating on her with a girl half her age, she decides she has had enough. She is having a meltdown; escapes her fabulous life in Florida and then returns to her mother’s house in South Jersey. There she realizes things in her hometown haven’t changed all that much and she will have to face the memories of her unhappy childhood. Her mother is still a hoarder and Portia doesn’t know how to help her get better… So when she finds out what happened to her favorite English teacher, she decides to do something to help him instead. But how to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped in the first place?

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If you are looking for something different, there is no doubt that Love May Fail will deliver. There is nothing conventional about this story and I guess it is kind of refreshing. Love May Fail won’t be for everyone since it has a lot of trigger warnings for darker themes, adult content and swearing, but I’m sure the right person will appreciate the brutal honesty and blunt, raw and ‘out there’ feel of it all. I personally ended up having mixed thoughts about this one, but I do believe this book can go either way.


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ARC REVIEW: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well – by Bridget Geraghty @ReadingAlley

Title: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well
Author: Bridget Geraghty

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 28th 2016
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: June 1st 2017
Pages: 101

“Thoughts are the same as wishes. They lead us to where we are going.”

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

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I recently realized I had yet to pick up a Middle Grade read this year, and that’s when I stumbled upon this story. I was intrigued by the cover and initially wrongly assumed it was going to be a fantasy read, but Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is actually a contemporary fiction read about (among other things) loss, grief and the moving on. It’s quite a short story, but I think it manages to portray those topics quite realistically while still being understanding and appealing to the age group (roughly 8-12 years). I did have slight doubts about some of Molly’s behavior and the credibility of some of her actions; not everything seemed to be all that realistic and I was surprised by how easily both Molly and Henry seemed to accept everything at their grandparents’ farm. The development of Molly didn’t always seem natural, but it does have a nice message of accepting changes and learning to move on after a traumatic event. I’m sure it will appeal to the age group as the writing style is very easy to read as well and simply flows. I might have had some doubts while reading Molly Bell And The Wishing Well, but it was still a very interesting read with some endearing moments.

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Molly Bell hasn’t been feeling like herself ever since her mother passed away two years ago, and hasn’t even played her favorite sport anymore since. Now her father is getting remarried and she is not sure what to think of her new stepmother… To make things worse, this deal also included a new six-year-old stepbrother named Henry. The two don’t really get along, but will have to find a way to do so as they will be spending time together on Molly’s grandparents’ farm while their parents go on their honeymoon. Molly learns of the wishing well on the property, and after her Aunt Joan tells her every wish she made there came true, Molly is determined to make some wishes of her own… But does she truly know what she wants to wish for?

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Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is without doubt a quick read with a writing style that flows and will appear to the age group. I had some doubts about certain actions of the main characters and its credibility, but in general I really liked how this story portrayed how to deal with loss, grief and moving on after a traumatic event. The wishing well is used as part of this journey and the descriptions of the daily life on the farm will appeal to the younger readers as well.


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ARC REVIEW: Manipulated Lives – by H.A. Leuschel

Title: Manipulated Lives
Author: H.A. Leuschel

Genre: Short Stories, Realistic Fiction, Psychology
First published: June 8th 2016
Finished reading: May 14th 2017
Pages: 274

“Can there be only one truth? What if we are all creating our own truth, as we often need to, on a daily basis?”

*** 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 have a weak spot for realistic fiction stories with a psychology angle, so I was immediately intrigued when I first read about Manipulated Lives. This is actually a collection of five short stories about five different characters who have had to deal with manipulators at different stages of their lives and the damage this experience has done to them. I enjoy reading short stories every once in a while and it definitely takes a whole different set of skills to write them properly. Manipulated Lives is without doubt an example of excellent short story writing. The stories were both intriguing and did an excellent job of describing the complex emotions and reactions to the manipulations. Without doubt a great read if you like the genre!

I will be doing this review slightly different than usual and both give a quick summary and my thoughts on each of the five short stories below instead of having a separate summary section.

The Narcissist
This collection starts strong with a story about a manipulator with Alzheimer not longer remembering why he is incarcelated or what he was doing to his family and others during all those years. This memory angle made the story into a truly fascinating read and it was interesting how the main character reacted to certain things and learn more about what he did in the past in the first place. Not my favorite of the bundle, but without doubt one of the better ones.

Tess And Tattoos
The second story was one of my favorites and a really accurate, intriguing and heartbreaking description of how manipulators can truly ruin someone for life… Tess is an interesting character and an older woman who now lives a lonely life and never has anyone visiting her. Her friendship with Sandra is touching and I love the symbolism of the tattoo. Interesting ending as well!

The Spell
The third story is probably one of the most detailed ones and one of my favorites. It’s impressive how many twists and how much character development is included in this short story.  It’s about Sophie meeting a little boy Leo and later his father; she is charmed by Leo right away and that connection makes her blind for the strange vibes his father David gives off. It’s true Sophie is a bit naive, but I guess manipulators always look for ‘weak/easy’ victims and it’s truly interesting how David is able to worm his way into her life that fast.

Runaway Girl
The fourth story is about a younger manipulation victim; the teenage Holly. This one is probably my least favorite of the bunch even though it is an accurate description of a situation that happens all too often at high schools (unfortunately). What I found less credible is that the main character Holly was first described as an independent and smart teenager and then seemed to be completely blind around Luke even though he’s basically a classic manipulator. But it’s definitely another eye-opener when it comes to how one manipulator can damage a lot of victims when not stopped on time…

My Perfect Child
The last story is about a woman thinking her child is perfect and overprotecting him ever since he was born; indulging him in everything and turning him in a skilled manipulator. She didn’t want to see her child as anything less than perfect and ignored all the signs for so long that it was already too late to change direction… Not one of my favorites, but without doubt a great example how love imakes someone blind and can change perception of both daily situations and their consequences.

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I have been wanting to pick up this collection of short stories about different characters dealing with the consequences of manipulators for a long time now, especially since I’ve seen various glowing reviews in the past. And I’m definitely glad I finally picked it up, because I really enjoyed reading them. Every story deals with a different angle and they are truly fascinating. My favorite story would be between the second and the third story; my least favorite probably either number four or five, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t still good. If psychology fascinates you or you enjoy realistic fiction in general, Manipulated Lives is definitely a great read.


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BOOK REVIEW: Room – by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: September 13th 2010
Publisher: Picador
Finished reading: May 9th 2017
Pages: 321

“Just because you’ve never met them doesn’t mean they’re not real. There’s more things on earth than you ever dreamed about.”

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I know for a fact it’s not true, but I feel like I’m about the last person on earth to read this book. I have been hearing so many great things about it over the years, and I still don’t know why I haven’t picked it up before… I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so now though, because Room is without doubt one of the most powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking stories I’ve read this year. The first thing that stands out is the fact that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old boy, which makes the story that much more powerful and unique. Jack’s voice made a huge impact on me and it’s a story that will stay with me for a long time. It actually made me think of The Boy With The Striped Pajamas (another of my all time favorites), which uses a similar technique to narrate a rather shocking story and is just as powerful. Another thing that stood out for me in Room is the excellent execution of Jack’s reactions, emotions and feelings in general to Room and the Outside. In fact, the writing style in general is wonderful; I literally flew through the pages and finished it in less than a day. The character development is also excellent and it’s very intriguing to see how everything that happens to both Jack and his mother affects them. If you haven’t read this little masterpiece yet, I suggest you do! If you like the genre, you won’t be disappointed.

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Jack has been living with his Ma in Room for as long as he can remember, and he is excited about his fifth birthday. Room has a locked door and a skylight, and measures exactly eleven feet by eleven feet. It’s also the whole world for Jack; the rest of it being Outside and nothing what he sees on the TV is truly real. In fact, only him, Ma and the things in Room are… Until the day Ma admits that there is actually a world outside.

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I still can’t believe it took me years to finally pick up my copy of Room, but it is without doubt one of my new all time favorites. The story itself is already both dark, shocking and powerful, but what makes Room even more special is that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old boy. Jack is a truly fascinating and unique character and having the opportunity to follow both him and Ma is a true blessing. This story will definitely stay with me for a long time! As you might have guessed, I can highly recommend this story.


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BOOK REVIEW: Small Great Things – by Jodi Picoult

Title: Small Great Things
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: April 27th 2017
Pages: 470

“That’s because racism isn’t just about hate. We all have biases, even if don’t think we do. It’s because racism is also about who has power…and who has access to it.”


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Small Great Things is one of those books I’ve heard nothing but great things about and was really excited to read, but somehow it took me months to actually pick it up. Not for any specific reason and definitely not because I didn’t want to, especially since I’ve read and enjoyed a few Jodi Picoult novels in the past, but somehow I always ended up with a different title in my hands instead. And right now, I kind of want to kick myself for waiting this long to pick up my copy. Because there is no doubt that Small Great Things is an emotional, well written, powerful and unforgettable story. Simply brilliant!

I’m actually having a hard time getting my thoughts properly on paper, but I’m going to try and explain why this story is THAT good anyway. First of all, Small Great Things focuses on the very important topic of racism and racial problematics. This alone was enough for me to want to read the story, but what stands out is the excellent execution of this topic. The diversity of the characters Jodi Picoult used to tell this story is spot on, as well as their development. We see the story develop through the eyes of both the African American nurse Ruth, the white supremacist Turk who just lost his baby and Ruth’s (white) lawyer Kennedy. Through this diverse collection of characters Jodi Picoult is able to address a wide variety of issues related to race problematics, resulting in a VERY powerful story that will stay with you for a long time. This is a story that will make you think: like the author says, racism isn’t just about active racism; passive racism is just as dangerous and something we don’t tend to pay enough attention to. But there is more. Not only is Small Great Things a story with a very important topic that is well executed and with diverse and well developed characters, the plot itself is also intriguing and the whole message behind this story is very powerful. And to top things off, the prose is just as good as every other aspect of this novel. As you might have guessed, I can more than recommend Small Great Things.

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The African American Ruth Jefferson has been working as a delivery nurse in a Connecticut hospital for more than twenty years, and she has never had a complaint. But when one day she begins a routin checkup on a newborn, his parents don’t seem too happy about having Ruth as a nurse. They are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth to touch their child… Minutes later, Ruth hears she is no longer to come close to the child. There’s nothing to be done, but then the next day Ruth is faced with an impossible dilemma. The baby goes in cardiac distress when she is alone in the nursery; should she obey orders and stay away or try to save him? Sadly the baby dies and his parents blame Ruth for his death. Ruth soon faces a murder charge, and the one person that might keep her out of prison is the white public defender Kennedy McQuarrie. But when Kennedy tells Ruth they aren’t to mention anything related to racism during court, Ruth isn’t so sure if Kennedy is the right person to represent her…

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Small Great Things is without doubt my new favorite Jodi Picoult novel, and I don’t think it will be easy to outdo this story. From the prose to the diverse, intriguing and well developed characters; from the well executed and important topic of racism to the very powerful message behind this story… Everything just points towards the fact that this story is a very important, powerful and brilliant modern take on such a complicated topic.


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ARC REVIEW: Ginny Moon – by Benjamin Ludwig

Title: Ginny Moon
Author: Benjamin Ludwig

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Park Row Books
Finished reading: April 22nd 2017
Pages: 368

“No one can hear what I say inside my head because that’s where my brain is. It helps me do things when no one is looking.”

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

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I’ve seen so many raving reviews about this book around the blogosphere that I just HAD to request a copy so I wouldn’t have to wait until the publish date to read it. It’s easy to say I was really looking forward to (The Original) Ginny Moon… And I kind of feel bad that I ended up having mixed feelings about the story instead. I can’t deny it’s a well written, unique story with one of the most intriguing main characters I’ve encountered this year. The author did a more than excellent job of describing and portraying the autistic Ginny and it has been truly fascinating to be able to have a glimpse inside her head. It really shows that Benjamin Ludwig has personal experience with autism and both the character development and behavior feel authentic. That said, it took me longer than expected to get used to the voice of the autistic Ginny and I found myself a bit confused in the beginning. Like I said before, the author did an excellent job of describing autism and what it is like to live and interact with someone autistic, but I did understand why her ‘Forever’ parent got so frustrated with her at times. I felt the same frustation as well and it made me enjoy the story slightly less than I thought I would, although this has nothing to do with the story itself and I want to stress that the author did a brilliant job of putting autism in the spotlight it deserves. And there is no doubt Ginny Moon will leave her mark and will stay with you for a long time…

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Ginny Moon has been in foster care for years, and she is currently living with her fourth forever family. Everybody keeps saying she sound feel happy that she has finally found parents who will love her… But Ginny has never forgotten what happened all that time ago, something she feels she will have to put right no matter what. But it is kind of hard to explain things to the rest of the world when you can’t find the right words to express yourself… Or people don’t seem to understand what she has been trying to tell them all this time.

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First of all, I want to stress that my slightly lower rating has nothing to do with the excellence of this book, but more with my feelings of frustration as I was reading it. Ginny’s character will provoke strong emotions, and while mine weren’t completely positive, there is no doubt she will still stay with me for a long time. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with an autistic main character before (even though it’s such an important topic), and the author did a brilliant job of accurately describing what it’s like living with autism. Ginny Moon: A very important and truly unique story and character!


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