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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ARC REVIEW: Castle Of Water – by Dane Huckelbridge

Title: Castle Of Water
Author: Dane Huckelbridge

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 4th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press 
Finished reading: April 16th 2017
Pages: 288

“With his box-cutter knife in one hand and waterproof flashlight in the other, Barry felt, for the first time in his life, like a man. A terrified man on the verge of  wetting his loincloth, but a man nevertheless.”

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

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Sometimes (cover)love at first sight can lead to something extraordinary. When I first saw Dane Huckelbridge‘s debut novel Castle Of Water mentioned, I couldn’t stop staring at the cover. The color combination, the abstract sunset over the sea… Just gorgeous. Of course I had no other choice but to request a copy, especially since the story itself sounded really intriguing as well. And Castle Of Water is without doubt a little masterpiece. It’s a story about how two unlikely characters end up as castaways on a deserted island together and how they manage to survive… A modern ‘Robinson Crusoe‘ twist that captured my attention from the very first page. The characters are spot on and their development is brilliantly done. It’s really interesting to see how both Barry and Sophie react to the things that happen to them on the island and I love LOVE their bantering! I like that they represent different nationalities as well as personalities and it without doubt adds an original touch to an already excellent story and plot. The writing style really stands out as well; well written, enjoyable to read and even funny at points. I also loved the incorporation of many French elements/words, which were easy to understand and didn’t slow down the pace even though my French is pretty basic. I honestly couldn’t find something I didn’t like about this novel… So as you might have already guessed, I can more than recommend Castle Of Water if you enjoy the genre. You won’t be disappointed!

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Sophie Ducel and Barry Bleecker decided to travel to French Polynesia for very different reasons… Sophie wanted to visit the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel, during her honeymoon with her new husband. Barry Bleecker decided to give up his job in Manhattan finance and chase his painting dreams instead; seeking creative inspiration in the place where his idol, Paul Gauguin, found it as well. The two didn’t know each other until they bordered the small plane sharing the same destination. And then their plane is downed in the middle of the Sout Pacific, and Sophie and Barry are the sole survivors. They find themselves stranded on a tiny island hundreds of miles from civilization… And they will have to learn to work together if they want to have any chance of survival and ever finding a way back home. Which might be more difficult than it sounds, because the two strangers couldn’t have been more different.

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While it was the beautiful cover that made me first want to pick up this novel, it was the story and writing style itself that managed to blow me away in the end. Castle Of Water is basically a modern castaway story with a twist, and I loved every single moment of it. The prose is just wonderful and combined with the well developed and loveable characters you are definitely in for a treat. An emotional rollercoaster, in the best possible way!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Start Of Me And You – by Emery Lord

Title: The Start of Me And You
Author: Emery Lord

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 31st 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Finished reading: April 14th 2017
Pages: 376

“In books, sometimes the foreshadowing is so obvious that you know what’s going to happen. But knowing what happens isn’t the same as knowing how it happens. Getting there is the best part.”

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Confession: contemporary romance is not really my thing and I normally tend to avoid the genre… But I was in desperate need for a change of genre and I enjoyed Emery Lord‘s other story When We Collided, so I decided to give The Start Of Me And You a go. I didn’t read the blurb before I started and I thought it was going to be a ‘happy’ read, so it’s easy to say I was surprised when I was confronted with another case of grief instead. Although the sad part was mostly in the beginning. The writing style itself is very enjoyable to read and I literally flew through the pages. Like many YA contemporary romance novels I’ve read in the past, the plot of The Start Of Me And You is quite cheesy and predictable and unfortunately this is yet another story with one of the most annoying romance tropes possible: a love triangle. And quite a frustrating love triangle as well as the main character Paige is SO blind during most of the story! I had mixed thoughts about the characters (LOVED Max, wasn’t so sure of Paige for example), but I did enjoy all those little geeky elements that were included. Like I said before, about 90% of the story is way too cheesy for me and the plot was quite predictable, but I can see why fans of the genre would love The Start Of Me And You. I personally didn’t love it, but I did enjoy it better than I thought I would. Without doubt an easy, entertaining and fluffy read!

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Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident last year, and she is still struggling to get her life back on track. People still feel sorry for her and give her THAT LOOK all the time, but Paige has a plan this time for a fresh start at her high school. Five simple steps that should help her convince everyone she’s back to normal… Including finally getting her old crush Ryan Chase to date her. But that plan will not work out as she thought it would… And she might end up doing something completely different instead.

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If you are a fan of slightly cheesy, predictable but incredibly fluffy YA contemporary romance stories, you will probably end up loving The Start Of Me And You. Personally it was a little too sweet to my taste, but it was a rather welcome break from more ‘serious’ books… This story starts out a little sad, but is mostly about Paige trying to get her life back on track. It’s a cute read, but the love triangle did get quite annoying after a while (especially since Max is so adorkable!). All in all not the best I’ve read, but without doubt still satisfying.


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