ARC REVIEW: Small Time Crimes – by Paul D. Brazill

Title: Small Time Crimes
Author: Paul D. Brazill
Genre: Short Stories, Thriller, Horror
First published: July 31st 2018
Finished reading: October 29th 2018
Pages: 197

“He’d known that if you pulled on that particular thread hard enough your whole life would unravel, but pull he did.”

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

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I was looking forward to this short story bundle, as it sounded like the perfect way to get myself in the Halloween mood. Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be. Part of me thinks I’m the wrong target group for Small Time Crimes, although I normally love my dark humor and I don’t mind violence and graphic scenes. But this was just too much for me. I didn’t like the writing style, most of the stories completely lacked plots or stopped in the middle of a story, some were simply disgusting and unfortunately my overall experience wasn’t a good one. Below lightning speed thoughts (read: rant) and ratings on each short story. Continue reading

YVO’S SHORTIES #56 – Rebel & Evidence Of The Affair

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA sci-fi sequel and a contemporary romance novella… Two completely different genres, but both stories I enjoyed.


Title: Rebel
(Reboot #2)
Author: Amy Tintera

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 13th 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: October 20th 2018
Pages: 352

“Maybe you need to take a look at who I am, instead of who you wish I were.”


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It took me years to finally start this duology, but after enjoying Reboot recently I decided to pick up the sequel while the first book was still fresh in my memories. I have to say that the second book didn’t disappoint and is just as good or even slightly better than the first. Between the writing style and likeable characters it was really easy to fly through Rebel. Sure, I would have liked to see a slightly more complicated and developed dystopian world, but its simplicity didn’t bother me all that much either. The idea behind the Reboot duology might not be completely original, but it works as a charm anyway. This success has a lot to do with the writing, fast pace and the main characters. Wren and Callum are so easy to like and the romance somehow didn’t bother me at all… The humor is spot on and it was interesting to see how the duology ended. I really appreciate this story being wrapped up in two books; it saves us from the story being dragged out and instead gives us two strong books to savour. If you haven’t read this duology yet, enjoy reading YA sci-fi/dystopian stories and like me treasure ‘love triangle free’ stories, both Reboot and Rebel are must-reads.


Title: Evidence Of The Affair
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Novella
First published: September 20th 2018
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Finished reading: October 21st 2018
Pages: 115

“It is funny the crazy things our brains make up to save us from the truth.”


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Even though contemporary romance isn’t really my genre, ever since reading The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo I had no choice but add Taylor Jenkins Reid to my list of exceptions. There is just something about the way she writes that makes me forget all about the fact that is not my favorite genre, and she is one of the few authors that can make me enjoy it. I’ve heard great things about this novella, and there is no doubt that Evidence Of The Affair has only reconfirmed to me that I have to read more of her work. I loved the fact that the story is told exclusively through letters, and just how well we get to know the characters despite its short length. It was interesting to see how things developed, and I actually quite liked the ending as well. It’s short, well written, well crafted and entertaining, and 200% worth your time.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #51 – Norse Mythology & Pretty Little Liars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a hit and a miss… Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman turned out to be just as wonderful as the cover and I had a great time exploring the different Norse myths. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard on the other hand turned out to be a huge disappointment I wish I would have DNFed… Unpopular opinion review ahead!


Title: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Short Stories, Fantasy, Mythology
First published: February 7th 2017
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 304

“The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place, with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.”


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I’m a huge fan of both anything that Neil Gaiman writes and the Vikings TV show, and I’m always interested in mythology stories as well. So basically Norse Mythology is a triple hit, and I knew there was a good chance I was going to enjoy this one. And that is exactly what happened! I didn’t know that many details about the Norse myths apart from the known Odin, Thor, Loki and a few other elements mentioned in the TV show, so it was a fascinating and wonderful ride to learn more about all those characters and stories. Norse Mythology is a collection of short stories, but told in a way that really flows and makes it easy to connect the different characters, myths and happenings. The writing is of course rock solid and of a high quality I’ve come to expect of Neil Gaiman. If you are interested in Norse mythology in particular or simply are looking for a well written and interesting collection of short stories, I can highly recommend this one. Let’s face it, the cover art alone makes you want to own a copy in the first place!


Title: Pretty Little Liars
(Pretty Little Liars #1)
Author: Sara Shepard

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2006
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: September 21st 2018
Pages: 304

“I’m still here, bitches. And I know everything.” -A”


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I have been doubting whether I should read this series for years now… I know it is a popular series and there is even a TV show, but I just got that vibe that this one won’t be for me. I guess I wish I would have listened to those instincts now, because hello unpopular opinion review once again! Oh yes, there is one thing that is for sure: Pretty Little Liars 200% isn’t for me. The only reason I didn’t DNF is that I needed it for a challenge, and didn’t have time to go looking for a different title that fitted the prompt… That bad? Oh yes. Highly annoying and frustratingly obnoxious characters… Check. One high school cliche stacked on top of another high school cliche… Check. Writing I couldn’t connect to and atrocious behavior of the main characters… Check. Plot that didn’t do anything for me at all… Check. Lack of connection to the characters and plot and overall lack of interest in how things would evolve… Check. I did warn you it was going to be another unpopular opinion review! Let’s think what I did like… Probably the fact that Aria lived a while in Iceland and the European references. Although it’s mostly about the booze and how liberal everything is supposed to be, so still a let down. Yeah, Pretty Little Liars and me definitely didn’t get along, but at least it’s one more series to cross off the to-read list.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #50 – The King’s Guard & Radiance Of Tomorrow

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today two completely different reads, but both worthwhile. The King’s Guard is the third and final Fire And Thorns novella and without doubt my favorite of the bunch. And I have been wanting to read Radiance Of Tomorrow forever, especially since Ishmael Beah‘s memoir made such an impact. This fictional story also set in his country Sierra Leone is another powerful and heartbreaking read.


Title: The King’s Guard
(Fire And Thorns #0.7)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 30th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 19th 2018
Pages: 111

“The less you say, the more your words will matter.”


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I have been reading the Fire And Thorns novellas before tackling the sequel, and I have to say this third and final one is probably my favorite of the bunch. The King’s Guard is partly set in the royal palace and is partly an adventure and rescue mission. Hector makes a great main character of this novella and his character is very easy to like. The writing is solid as always and I managed to read it in no time at all… The plot and setting are well fleshed out for a novella and I had a great time reading this one. These novellas are a great addition to the original series and especially the last two novellas are without doubt worth the read if you enjoy the series.


Title: Radiance Of Tomorrow
Author: Ishmael Beah

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
First published: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 256

“We must live in the radiance of tomorrow, as our ancestors have suggested in their tales. For what is yet to come tomorrow has possibilities, and we must think of it, the simplest glimpse of that possibility of goodness. That will be our strength. That has always been our strength.”


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A Long Way Gone is one of the most devastating and heartbreaking memoirs I’ve read to this date, and well written at that. I’ve been meaning to read Radiance Of Tomorrow for years now, and I’m glad I’ve finally had the opportunity to do so. While Radiance Of Tomorrow is a fictional story this time around, it has the same setting in Sierra Leone and the same emotional rollercoaster ride. Make sure to brace yourself before you start this one, because it won’t be a happy journey. Radiance Of Tomorrow tells the story of what happens in the ruined village Imperi after the war in Sierra Leone ended. The beginning sets the tone of what will become a heartbreaking, devastating and very emotional read, with little lights shining upon the hope the characters have things will become better in the future. Descriptions of both characters and setting are excellently done and I loved the ‘fusion’ of different languages as the author translated expressions from other languages literally to describe things. This book shows us what it was like for the locals after the war, the struggles still there as they try to survive with all odds against them. You will take the characters under your wing and suffer with them as setbacks occur… Radiance Of Tomorrow has a wonderful bigger message and is without doubt a very powerful and emotional read. I’m glad I decided to finally pick up!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #49 – The Shattered Mountain & The Ballroom

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a novella and a historical fiction read. The Shattered Mountain was a short and interesting addition to the Fire And Thorns series. And I had great hopes for The Ballroom, especially since the setting is fascinating, but the story fell flat for me.


Title: The Shattered Mountain
(Fire And Thorns #0.6)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 26th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 15th 2018
Pages: 106

“Maybe a large, single dose of pain now is better than the slow, burning pain of withering hope.”


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I read the first Fire And Thorns novella earlier this month, and then decided to try and read the other two as well before continuing with the sequel. There is no doubt that this second novella is a lot stronger than the first one. I think this has a lot to do with the main character of this short story, which is quite easy to like and root for. Mara is a very interesting and strong character and she does some amazing things along with the other characters. The romance in The Shattered Mountain didn’t bother me one bit even though some cliches were involved. I think this mostly has to do with the fact there is a lot of focus on the dire situation the group is in instead as well as the worldbuilding of this high fantasy story. The writing is solid and makes it easy to fly through the pages… This novella is definitely worth your time if you enjoy the series.


Title: The Ballroom
Author: Anna Hope

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: February 11th 2016
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Finished reading: September 17th 2018
Pages: 320

“Free. This small hard word that felt so cold. Could you live inside a word like that?”


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I first added The Ballroom to my TBR because of the cover as well as the promise of a fascinating historical setting and a mental health angle. It took me longer than planned to get to it, but the readathon was an excellent excuse to finally do so. There is no doubt that this historical fiction read set in a 1911 asylum has a very interesting premise and a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the story sort of fell flat for me… Part of this feeling has to do with the fact that the pace was considerably slow and it took me a lot longer than expected to read this story. The focus was on the characters and their development, but sadly there was nothing much for me to keep me focused to them or create a proper connection; instead I was mostly left both just wanting to get it over it and wanting the story to deliver something more. The fact that Charles is a very unlikeable character doesn’t really help either. Because as always with character-driven stories, being able to connect to the main characters is key. Surprisingly though, the romance in this story didn’t bother me that much. Fans of slower paced and character-driven historical fiction reads with an interesting setting and a Shakespearean love story will have a great time reading The Ballroom.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #40 – Uprooted & The Shadow Cats

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two YA Fantasy reads that didn’t really convince me in the end… The first Uprooted, started out excellent but more and more things started to disappoint me. The second, The Shadow Cats, was short and the writing was solid, but the characters mostly let me down.


Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Del Rey
Finished reading: August 19th 2018
Pages: 465

“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”


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I’ve been wanting to read Uprooted for years, but it was one of those titles that somehow escaped the top of my TBR pile every time and I kept posponing it. But no longer… I finally picked up my copy of Uprooted thinking it was going to be a dragon story, but I definitely didn’t remember the facts right. This isn’t a story about the mythical dragon, although there are other creatures involved. Was this a disappointment? Maybe, because I do love my dragon stories, but between the writing style, interesting worldbuilding and magic it was easy to forget all about that. Initially, I really enjoyed this story and I was positive it would receive a really high rating. The writing style is just wonderful, the worldbuilding is intriguing, I loved the many references to the Polish culture and Agnieszka’s character has an interesting background. I liked seeing the magic evolve and even tolerated the Dragon. But why o why does this story have to be destroyed by unnecessary and disturbing romance?!?! Seriously, I don’t understand the why of the introduction of this element, especially since it’s abrupt and doesn’t really make sense. Also, there was one x-rated scene that I found really unfit for a YA book. The romance alone made me lower the rating considerably, but that wasn’t the only thing that bothered me. The pace was quite slow at points, making the story drag. Especially when Agnieszka is in the capital… And her character in general, with the repeated descriptions of her clumsiness and ragged appearance, really started to get on my nerves. Still, with the wonderful writing and the interesting worldbuilding, I’m glad I had the chance to get to know this story.


Title: The Shadow Cats
(Fire And Thorns #0.5)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 17th 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: August 20th 2018
Pages: 54

“It’s a beautiful weed,” Elisa answers. “And the perfect flower for you to carry, for it is like the people of Khelia, strong and unstoppable, capable of blooming and thriving where nothing else can grow.”


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I really enjoyed the first book despite a few little problems I encountered back in 2015, but somehow I never picked up the sequels. I was going to read book two originally, but then remembered I had a copy of the novellas as well, so I decided to read those first. The Shadow Cats is actually a prequel to the first book and focuses more on Elisa’s older sister Alodia. I never really liked her, but if possible she comes over as even worse in this novella. Arrogant, aloof and speaking horribly about her sister… Yes, there isn’t a lot to love about her. And what about her running off alone?? Elisa was quite annoying as well, with her answer to everything being she needs to pray more. I did really like Lupita’s character though. The writing is solid as well and I loved the use of many Spanish words, both in names and other descriptions. Very creative!


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ARC REVIEW: My Sweet Friend – by H.A. Leuschel @HALeuschel

Title: My Sweet Friend
Author: H.A. Leuschel
Genre: Novella, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 6th 2017
Finished reading: March 2nd 2018
Pages: 92

“Some people have a special antenna for detecting fears and weaknesses in others.”

*** 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’m aware of the fact I don’t read all that many novellas, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate them. In fact, I think of them as taking the art of storytelling to the next level, because it is just so much harder to write a convincing story when you have a limited amount of pages to do so. After enjoying Manipulated Lives last year, there was no doubt I wanted to try the author’s newest novella as well. Not only is the psychological angle in her stories intriguing, but her writing style is really engaging and she makes it easy to connect to the characters. My Sweet Friend is no different, and is without doubt my new favorite. I found myself invested into the story right from the start and the writing was both engaging and flowed naturally. The introduction of the manipulative element is subtle at first, but very well and realistically developed. Despite its limited pages, My Sweet Friend is able to create a dept in both characters as well as creating a hint of suspense and several twists. The dual POV works really well and helps you understand and see both sides of the relationship. While I do think Rosie is a bit naive, I do think her character is very realistic. And that can also be said for Alexa, who is not exactly likeable, but fits her role perfectly. The psychological effect of manipulation is well described and also show the consequences for both sides. The plot itself is an interesting one and well fleshed out for a novella. I had a great time reading My Sweet Friend! One of the better novellas out there I’ve read to this date… Although it did leave me craving for more information about Alexa’s background.

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Alexa is the new member of a Parisian PR company and seems to be an energetic and charming woman as well as professional. She is quick to befriend her colleagues Rosie and Jack and seems to be the perfect match for her new team. Most of them seem to grow to her instantly, but is she really who she claims to be? And can first impressions ever be trusted?

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My Sweet Friend is the perfect example of a novella done right. With a well developed plot with interesting and fleshed out characters and a writing that simply flows it’s hard not to like this story. The manipulation element is incorporated in a way that feels completely natural and instead of it being forced on you, it shows up gradually. The switching back and forward between Rosie and Alexa helped set the right atmosphere as well as show the different sides of the effects of a manipulative relationship. The story will also have some surprises in store for you! Definitely recommended.


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