ARC REVIEW: The Missing Girls – by Carol Wyer @carolewyer @bookouture

Title: The Missing Girls
(DI Robyn Carter #3)
Author: Carol Wyer

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 14th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: August 24th 2017
Pages: 408

“Words can hurt. They can injure as deeply as a knife can, or be as deadly as a gunshot.”

*** 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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The Missing Girls is the third book of a relatively new detective series I’ve become addicted to ever since I read the first book back in February. I admit it wasn’t love at first sight when I first met the main character Robyn Carter, but she has definitely grown on me since that first encounter and I’ve become a fan. The Missing Girls is just as good as the first two books and offers the same quality writing, suspense and another serial killer on the loose. Because there is no doubt about it: these books read like a train. The writing style is very engaging and the pace is fast; combined with the many plot twists you’ll definitely be on your edge of your seat to find out what will happen next. I did guess a few things about the ending early on, but fortunately this didn’t make the journey less enjoyable for me. The social media and cyber bullying theme and the dangers involved were an interesting touch as well. The main characters are well developed and it is great to see Robyn Carter evolve over time as she is trying to recover from her loss. I’m also really liking Ross both as a character and subplot, and the way his storyline also adds a little something to the main plot. And that ending! I’ll definitely be waiting impatiently for book number four to come out… If you enjoy reading fast-paced crime thrillers, definitely give the DI Robyn Carter series a go.

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A body of a teenage girl is found inside the trunk at a Midlands storage unit, and detective Robyn Carter is called in to lead the case. The body has been there for a while and it is too decomposed to find proper clues… But Robyn is determined to catch the one that harmed the girl. The leads seem to go nowhere, but then another body is discovered… And this time the clues are a lot easier to follow and Robyn starts to suspect they might have a serial killer on the loose. Will she be able to find the killer on time? Someone close to her might be in danger…

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The Missing Girls is a true detective thriller winner for quite a few reasons. Fast-paced, well written, a healthy dose of suspense, one creepy serial killer, plot twists, an interesting character… This third book of the DI Robyn Carter series has all that and more. I really liked the way the social media and cyber bullying theme is incorporated into the story and how it shows the dangers of using those apps. The story definitely ends with a bang though and I will be waiting impatiently to find out what will happen next. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore – by Matthew Sullivan @arrowpublishing

Title: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author: Matthew Sullivan

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: August 24th 2017
Publisher: Cornerstone
Finished reading: August 15th 2017
Pages: 336

“I’ve begun to think of it as more graveyard than library. End of the line, you know. Where book-of-the-month club comes to die.”

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

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I always have a weak spot for any book with bookish references or a story that is at least partially set in a bookstore. So as you can imagine, basically Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore had me at the title. This book has been on my list of most anticipated releases ever since I first heard about for it and I’ve been looking forward to read it for ages now. And I can tell you one thing: this novel by Matthew Sullivan doesn’t disappoint. Or more accurately, I enjoyed every single page of this ‘contemporary puzzle and murder mystery in one’. Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore isn’t just another bookish book and actually presents two different mysteries to solve. The first is related to the suicide of one of the bookshop patrons and the other to what happened to one of the clerks twenty years ago. The plot is intriguing and well developed; the plot twists and revelations well balanced and I enjoyed solving the puzzles along with the characters. This book definitely has some surprises in store! The writing style had me hooked from the very first page and was both highly enjoyable, engaging and made it very hard to stop reading before reaching the final page. The bookish references are a true delight for any booklover and I love the role books play in this story in general. The mystery is also well done and there were definitely things I didn’t see coming. You might start wondering about coincidences and some things seem pretty ‘convenient’, but I personally didn’t care. Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore will go straight to my list of favorites!

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Lydia Smith works as a clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore and tries to live a quiet life among her books and the BookFrogs; the regulars who spend their days in the bookstore browsing its shelves. But then one of the BookFrogs, Joey Molina, kills himself in the bookstore. Lydia was Joey’s favorite bookseller and she inherited his meager possessions… And when Lydia flips through his books, she discovers he has destroyed them in a way that is both intriguing and disturbing. Why did Joey do this and what does it mean? Did he want to leave her a message?

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I have been looking forward to this title for a while now and it was without doubt just as good or even better than hoped. I had such a great time reading Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore and the two mysteries/puzzles that are included are both fascinating and well executed. The bookish elements are a true delight and I had a great time discovering more about Joey and Lydia, their past and their development. The writing is wonderful as well and made me fly through the pages… All in all I can highly recommend this title.


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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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BOOK REVIEW: More Happy Than Not – by Adam Silvera

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Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: June 2nd 2015
Finished reading: June 4th 2016
Pages: 336
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“Memories: some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward; some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own. You can’t really know which ones you’ll survive if you don’t stay on the battlefield, bad times shooting at you like bullets. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have plenty of good times to shield you.”

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More Happy Than Not was on my list of most anticipated 2015 releases and I added it to my list months before it was even published, but somehow I never actually picked up my copy until now. It’s easy to say I had really high expectations for this book, and that may or may not have influenced my opinion in a negative way. Because it’s a fact that it took me ages to read this novel by Adam Silvera and I can’t say I enjoyed the first part. The prose and dialogues felt a bit forced and I felt like the story dragged to much in the beginning. To be honest, I actually thought about DNFing it at one point just because it took me so long to get a proper feel for the story… That said, I’m glad I continued reading because the last part of the book was brilliant. I’m not saying it completely made up for the slow start, but it did explain more about what the main character was going through. More Happy Than Not mixes the average contemporary romance story with science fiction elements, which definitely transforms it into an interesting read. The message behind this story is also inspiring, and especially the last part had a lot of really interesting quotes. I have debated whether to give this novel a higher rating, but I can’t ignore the fact that the beginning just didn’t do it for me. Would I recommend it? Probably, with the advice to keep reading even if you don’t really like the beginning.

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 Aaron Soto has been struggling to find happiness again in the months after his father committed suicide. Things have been tough, but his girlfriend Genevieve and his mom have been trying to get him back on the right track. After he tried to end his own life not long after his father died, they seem to be more worried than ever… Because it seems like Aaron is slowly drowning in his own grief. When Genevieve has to leave town for a couple of weeks, Aaron starts hanging out more and more with a new guy, Thomas, instead of with his friends. Thomas seems to understand him a lot better than his old friends and Aaron can’t deny Thomas makes him feel happier than he has been in a long time. But are these feelings just about friendship, or something deeper? And how does Thomas feel about all this? Aaron feels he is making a mess of his life, and is starting to think the revolutionary memory-alteration procedure at the Leteo Institute might be his only way out for a happy and normal life…

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Like I said before, I had really high expectations of More Happy Than Not and the first part actually disappointed me a lot. It took me a long time to get a proper feel for the story; the first part was both slow, the prose felt forced and the story dragged a lot. Still, there is no doubt that the last part of the story is really good and probably would have gotten one of the highest ratings on its own. It’s an interesting topic that manages to raise important questions about glbt acceptance, suicide, happiness and life in general… In short: after a slow start, the second half of the book is definitely a reward and makes this novel worth reading in the end.

BOOK REVIEW: Suicide Notes – by Michael Thomas Ford

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Title: Suicide Notes
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 14th 2008
Finished reading: April 13th 2016
Pages: 295
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“I’m still kind of a mess. But I think we all are. No one’s got it all together. I don’t think you ever do get it totally together. Probably if you did manage to do it you’d spontaneously combust. I think that’s a law of nature. If you ever manage to become perfect, you have to die instantly before you ruin things for everyone else.”

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Suicide Notes is not the first book I’ve read that uses an interesting mix of humor and a serious theme like mental ilness and (teenage) suicide and therefore its plot is not exactly original. In fact, both It’s Kind Of A Funny Story and The Shock Of The Fall use quite a similar setting with a main character inside a psychiatric ward and if I have to be honest I feel those two books mentioned above did a better job especially when it comes to character development and credibility in general. (I’m aware the second title was published years after Suicide Notes, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I think it was better). I want to make clear that I am by no means saying this novel by Michael Thomas Ford was a bad read and I mostly enjoyed reading it, but I did have a few minor problems with it that influenced the rating. First of all, I wasn’t completely convinced by the credibility of the characters and their (lack of) development of both the main character Jeff and the other patients. Also, I’m not sure I appreciate some of the mental ilness, suicide and glbt related humor used during this story. Not only can some of it be found offensive (especially the glbt related parts), I also thought the humor felt forced at points… I do agree the pace is fast and the story is easy to read even though it’s about such a serious theme. I would probably have given it a higher rating if it wouldn’t have been for the last part… I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but it has something to do with the glbt theme that I found slightly offensive and the (sort of) love triangle was somewhat annoying as well.

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When fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day, he finds himself inside the psychiatric ward. Even though he doesn’t really remember what happened the other day, someone clearly made a huge mistake when they brought him to the ward… Jeff is determined to leave as soon as possible, claiming he doesn’t belong there along with the ‘nutjobs’. But what about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart? Jeff doesn’t see what the big deal is about what happened, but other people do seem to be worried about him. It turns out Jeff is part of a forty-five-day program and won’t be able to leave early even though he thinks he is perfectly fine and ‘normal’. But as the days go by, the ‘crazies’ start to seem less crazy and Jeff slowly starts to accept what happened to him…

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Suicide Notes is without doubt an interesting read with a fast pace and a healthy dose of humor to lighten up the serious theme. Still, I do believe there are better books out there with a similar plot. And although I enjoyed reading this novel in general, the characters were not always completely credible and I wasn’t always completely convinced by the humor either. The glbt related parts were probably my least favorite and sometimes even slightly offensive and cliché… But otherwise it is still worth reading if you are interested in the theme.

BOOK REVIEW: Random – by Tom Leveen

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Title: Random
Author: Tom Leveen
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: August 12th 2014
Finished reading: March 30th 2016
Pages: 224
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“’Because that’s what being dead means,’ Andy says. ‘It’s the zenit of ‘never’. Never again, never this, never that. You don’t come back from never. You can’t enjoy never. You just sit there, not existing, not listening to your favorite songs or eating you favorite foods. Never.’”

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I’ve read a few good books about teen suicide and (cyber)bullying in the past (including Tease, Thirteen Reasons Why and Nothing Everything Nothing), so when I first read the blurb of this novel I was immediately interested. Unfortunately cyberbullying is becoming a more urgent problem every day with the internet-focused society we are living in today. Tom Leveen did an excellent job in showing us how something seemingly ‘innocent’ as a few harsh Facebook comments can make someone vulnerable make the decision to end it all. The main character Tori is the perfect example of someone who didn’t see the consequences of her comments, and still thinks she didn’t do anything wrong. The random call and the way she is forced to think about suicide and how she might have played a role in the death of the very person that used to be her friend make this read into something truly intriguing. Random has a fast pace, is easy to read and has just enough plot twists to keep you surprised until the end. The characters might not be completely likeable, but they do feel real and show us what can happen if cyberbullying isn’t taken seriously. Recommended!

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Tori hasn’t been herself lately ever since one of her former friends decided to end his life. Kevin and Tori used to be closer, but when Tori became friends with a bunch of popular people she started to act differently. Her new friends don’t exactly treat Kevin the right way and slowly Tori starts to join them… And when her new friends start leaving harsh comments about everything Kevin writes on her Facebook page, she doesn’t defend him. Feeling desperate to stay popular, she even writes a few nasty comments of her own. Now Tori’s Facebook page is evidence in an upcoming trail with national coverage that wants to convict her group for cyberbullying and being the direct cause of Kevin’s suicide… Tori doesn’t believe she is guilty, but is forced to rethink what happened to him when she receives a random phone call. What seems to be a wrong number turns to be a guy her age that asks her for only one thing: a reason not to kill himself. Tori first thinks he is a fraud, but can she really take the risk and have another possible suicide on her conscience?

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Random is a well written and fast-paced read about a subject that is becoming more and more important as the influence of the internet grows. Cyberbullying is probably more common than the ‘old-fashioned’ bullying known ten years ago, and it is important that the consequences are revealed to the bigger public. Tom Leveen did an excellent job by doing just that in his novel and make us think about how something simple as a few Facebook comments can have a huge impact on someone. I would definitely recommend reading this book if you are interested in the subject.