ARC REVIEW: The Echo Room – by Parker Peevyhouse

Title: The Echo Room
Author: Parker Peevyhouse
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
First published: September 11th 2018
Publisher: Tor Teen
Finished reading: August 3rd 2018
Pages: 320

“He’d known other empty places, knew how quickly they could fill with dread.”

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

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When I first saw this book mentioned, I was immediately intrigued by both cover and blurb. There is just something about it that sounds dark and menacing; the promise of a very good dark thriller, especially with the potential amnesia angle. What I can say is that The Echo Room definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s one of those books that either works for you, or it doesn’t… And sadly I belong to the second group. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot to avoid ruining surprises, but let’s just say it’s more appropriate to call The Echo Room a science fiction read rather than a dark thriller. And I think I appreciated the whole idea behind this book a lot better than reading the actual story. There is no doubt that the author has thought up something really inventive and has come up with an original way to tell this story. Like the main characters, we are completely left in the dark about crucial information that would make it easier to understand what is really going on… While this can add a lot of intrigue when done right, I don’t think I actually appreciated this technique in The Echo Room. I mostly felt the story was too vague and strange to be actually able to connect to it. I wasn’t sure about the writing either, as the chapters just felt way too repetitive and didn’t manage to keep me interested. Like I said before, I understand the reason behind this repetition and I find the idea itself ingenious; I just didn’t enjoy actually reading it. I had problems with the main characters as well… Especially Rett came over as a bit whiny. Overall I thought The Echo Room was based on a very ingenious and inspiring idea, but unfortunately I liked the idea of this book a lot better than reading the actual story. This might just have been because The Echo Room simply isn’t for me, so if you are into science fiction and don’t mind repetition, you might just have a blast reading this one.

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When Rett wakes up on the floor of a cold and dark room, he doesn’t know where he is or how he got there. The worst part is that he is locked in… and he is not alone. A girl named Bryn is trapped in the room with him, and neither trusts the other. Instead of working together, they each try to find out what is really happening and how to get out… They realize they will have to work together if they ever want to escape, but can they really trust each other?

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If you like science fiction, are looking for something different and don’t mind repetition in the plot, you will probably enjoy The Echo Room a lot better than I did. I still really like the idea behind this story, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy actually reading it. Between the lack of crucial information, repetitive chapters and lack of connection to the story and characters I had a hard time making it to the final page, although things did improve later on. The story was just too strange and vague for me… But like I said before, the problem might just have been me.


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ARC REVIEW: My Real Name Is Hanna – by Tara Lynn Masih

Title: My Real Name Is Hanna
Author: Tara Lynn Masih
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: September 11th 2018
Publisher: Mandel Vilar Press
Finished reading: July 23rd 2018
Pages: 208

“Life is not good, however you are living it, if you become like those who don’t value you.”

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

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Give me a WWII historical fiction story and I’m sold. Add a lesser known setting (Ukraine), and I’m just about jumping up and down from sheer excitement. Oh yes, I had high expectations for My Real Name Is Hanna and not just because of the beautiful cover and comparison to Between Shades Of Gray. While I do have to note that the ARC version I read had a lot of editing issues (both related to the font, repeated words over and over again and sentences being cut and never finished), I am confident those issues will be fixed in the final sentence and therefore I won’t hold it against the story itself. And there is no doubt that this story set in WWII Ukraine is absolutely wonderful. Though not based on a specific true story, the events are all too real and will shine a light on how Jewish families tried to hide and survive in Ukraine. Both descriptions of the setting and the different characters make the story really come alive and it feels as if you are living the horrific experiences along with them. I really liked the writing style and the way the story was told; the inclusion of local customs a huge bonus. The character development is thorough as well and it was interesting to see them evolve over time, reacting to the increasingly dire situation. If you are like me a fan of WWII survivor stories, My Real Name Is Hanna is a must-read.

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Hanna Slivka is still young when Hitler’s army crosses the border to Ukraine, and soon the Germans are closing in. Her shtetele used to be run by Russians, and she used to spend her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings as well as helping her neighbor with her decorative pysanky eggs. But all that ends when the Germans take over, and both Hanna, her family and other Jewish families are forced to flee the shtetele in order to try and stay alive.

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I was drawn to My Real Name Is Hanna from the very first time I saw it mentioned. I have a weak spot for WWII stories and this one sounded particularly interesting. And there is no doubt that this YA historical fiction story delivered. Well written, well developed, emotional, harrowing, heartbreaking and with a healthy dose of local customs and excellent descriptions of the setting… Oh yes, there is a lot to love in My Real Name Is Hanna. This book shouldn’t be missing from the wishlist of any WWII historcial fiction fan.


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ARC REVIEW: The Death And Life Of Eleanor Parker – by Kerry Wilkinson @bookouture

Title: The Death And Life Of Eleanor Parker
Author: Kerry Wilkinson
Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: July 26th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 14th 2018
Pages: 315

“The moment you allow yourself to be frightened of everything is the moment you stop living your life.”

*** 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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!! Happy publication day !!

I was intrigued by both the cover and blurb as soon as I first heard about The Death And Life Of Eleanor Parker, and I just couldn’t resist temptation. And WOW, this story is definitely something else! I’ve enjoyed reading Kerry Wilkinson’s books in the past, and while going down a different road with this story, the writing is just as solid as ever. It’s really easy to fully emerge yourself in the story when the writing simply flows and grabs you straight away. The plot itself is both fascinating, surprising and quite original. Ever seen the movie Deaeth Becomes Her with Bruce Willis, Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep? The main character of this story would sort of be a teenage version of Goldie or Meryl, then add a murder mystery and a healthy dose of teenage drama: an improvised recipe for The Death And Life Of Eleanor Parker. Could I have done without the love triangle? Yes please. Did certain aspects of the behavior of the main characters annoy me? Without doubt. But I was so intrigued by Ellie’s situation I was able to forgive the story for it. Mystery with a hint of paranormal and a LOT of plot twists; oh yes, you will be in for one entertaining and intriguing ride. Although there are many suspects, I’m sure you won’t be able to guess the final outcome early on! I really enjoyed this original twist to what could have been just another murder mystery mixed with YA elements. Different in this case is definitely a good thing!

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When seventeen-year-old Eleanor Parker wakes up one morning cold and alone in the river, she has no memory of how she got there or what happened to her. Last year, a girl from the same village was drowned in the same river… Is she a victim of the same killer, especially since the killer was never caught? She has no proof though and she is still walking, although she notices a few disturbing changes in herself… And things get worse when another teenager disappears.

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If you are looking for something different, fascinating and entertaining to read, definitely give The Death And Life Of Eleanor Parker a go. I love my murder mysteries, but personally I really liked the added paranormal touches as it was a nice counterweight for the more cliche teenage drama and love triangle. The plot is well developed with some mayor plot twists that will make you doubt everything until the final twists are revealed. Definitely one of the more original stories I’ve read this year!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #32 – Champion & The Year Of The Rat

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Another YA edition… The first a final book of a trilogy, Champion by Marie Lu, which I didn’t find to be as strong as the first two books. The other title is my first Dutch read of the year. A Dutch translation of The Year Of The Rat by Clare Furniss, which was quite good overall.


Title: Champion
(Legend #3)
Author: Marie Lu

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 5th 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: July 8th 2018
Pages: 384

“Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. Days don’t last forever, you know. But I’ll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that.”


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I decided to pick up Legend book number three shortly after finishing the second one as part of the promise to myself to start finishing more series. After enjoying the first two books, I was actually quite surprised I didn’t enjoy the final book of the trilogy as much as the previous two. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I think it has to do with the fact that I just didn’t think the plot was as interesting as I would have hoped for a final book. Also, the love triangle really started to get on my nerves… But then again I’m never a fan of those in the first place. Champion wasn’t a bad read, but it lacked the little something extra from the previous books for me. Sure, the writing has the same quality and I guess fans of the genre and series will have a good time with it, but I hoped for something more. This also goes for the ending, which I didn’t like at all. It’s kind of an ending that can go either way for you though, because there are some twists that will definitely mess with your emotions and it depends on how you react to that. All in all not a bad read, but I had hoped for a stronger ending of the Legend trilogy.


Title: The Year Of The Rat
Author: Clare Furniss

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: April 24th 2014
Publisher: Querido
Finished reading: July 10th 2018
Pages: 272
(Read in Dutch: ‘Het Jaar Dat De Wereld Op Zijn Kop Stond’)

“You shouldn’t be wasting your time worrying about what’s going to happen after you die. It’s pointless. Think about what’s happening now. In your life. That’s what’s important. ”


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I still can’t believe I was able to finish my Dutch read of the year this quickly! The Dutch translation of The Year Of The Rat was quite a fast read and that definitely helped me reach the final page easily. I’m not a fan of reading in Dutch, but I liked this story well enough and it was interesting to see what loss and grief can do to a person. Although not perfect, the story itself was well developed and I definitely appreciated that there almost wasn’t any romance included in the plot. The Year Of The Rat is a mostly family focused and character driven story where we follow the main character Pearl as she tries to deal with the fact that her mother died giving birth to her little sister. While I can’t say I was able to connect to the main character, there is no doubt some very powerful emotions are described; it’s a story that will make you think. If you are looking for something easy and fluffy, you are definitely looking at the wrong story, because you will find some very difficult moments in this read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #31 – Prodigy & Turtles All The Way Down

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The first book is the sequel of a series I was supposed to continue ages ago: Prodigy by Marie Lu. It was just as entertaining as the first book! The other title is one I wasn’t sure I wanted to pick up, but after seeing Ashley @ Socially Awkward Bookworm mention it as her biggest surprise of 2018 so far I decided to give it a go. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green… And maybe it was just that I wasn’t in the mood for it, but I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.


Title: Prodigy
(Legend #2)
Author: Marie Lu

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: January 29th 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: July 3rd 2018
Pages: 372

“Maybe I’ve been trying to escape the wrong place and run away from the wrong things.”


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I read Legend back in 2015, and even though I quite enjoyed the first book and vowed to read the sequels soon, somehow that never happened. One of my goals this year is to finish those poor neglected started series, and when I came across my copy of Prodigy I decided to pick it up on a whim. It was surprisingly easy to pick up where the first book had left off without rereading Legend, and there is no doubt this sequel is a very entertaining read. I managed to finish it in no time at all! The dystopian world is quite interesting; not that original maybe but I liked the dynamics. Could I have done without the multiple love triangle trope? Hell yes. Did that made me lower the rating slightly? Positive. But otherwise I found Prodigy to be a fast-pace and engaging YA dystopian read with a lot of promise for book number three. A healthy dose of action and twists are in place, and while not the most original plot, it will manage to grab your attention anyway. I’m looking forward to find out what the final book will bring.


Title: Turtles All The Way Down
Author: John Green

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 6th 2018
Pages: 298

“True terror isn’t being scared, it’s not having a choice in the matter.”


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There is always such a hype around John Green‘s books and I’m sure you are already aware of just how well hyped books and me are getting along. I had made a promise to myself to leave his books be for now after a few ‘it’s not you, it’s probably me‘ experiences… But my curiosity was piqued by Ashley @ Socially Awkward Bookworm when she mentioned Turtles All The Way Down was her biggest surprise of 2018 so far. Do I regret reading the story? No, because I would have always wondered otherwise. Is it a bad read? Not exactly. But it was definitely one of those cases where the story just didn’t work for me. Which is actually kind of strange, because I’m always intrigued by a story with a mental illness theme and I do love my quirky and unique characters. But there was just something about Aza that just didn’t do it for me. There is nothing wrong with the character development and I think John Green did a great job giving us a peek inside her head and how it would be like being her. It just didn’t work for me in particular. The same goes for Daisy, although I do love the fact she writes fan fiction. The plot is a bit farfetched, but it adds a certain air of mystery to the story, transforming it from just another contemporary romance with mental illness angle to something a little more complicated. I do have to admit the pace was pretty slow though, and I could have done without annoying YA tropes like instalove. And was the story exactly credible as a whole? I’m still on the fence about that. But I guess fans of the genre who like their characters unique, flawed and intriguing will probably like Aza and her story as well. Hello, new hyped title on my unpopular opinion review list… Do make yourself comfortable.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #30 – When The Moon Was Ours & Bad Romance

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads I’ve been meaning to read for a while. While the prose in When The Moon Was Ours was absolutely gorgeous, I struggled with the magical realism elements. Bad Romance is such an emotionally difficult read! The love triangle was a let down and things can get frustrating, but there is no doubt Heather Demetrios described a toxic relationship perfectly.


Title: When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magical Realism
First published: October 4th 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Finished reading: June 26th 2018
Pages: 288

“He was a comet burning through the night sky, and Samira was the trail of dust and ice streaking after him.”


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Dear magical realism, it’s not you, it’s me. See, somehow we just can’t seem to get along… I’ve tried, really tried, but I think we should take a break from each other for now. Oh yes, it’s unpopular opinion time again. When I first started reading When The Moon Was Ours, I was blown away by the gorgeous prose and I was sure I was going to absolutely love the story. And there are definitely a lot of things to love in the story. Where did it go wrong for me then? Like I said, the problem is me, not When The Moon Was Ours. This simply is another case of the magical realism and me not being able to connect rather than a story not well written. The writing style is beautiful, lyrical and something to fall in love with on its own. The main characters are both so unique, mysterious and fascinating that you cannot help but feel for them. I LOVED the Spanish elements included (alfajores!!) as well as the queer references and Sam and his ‘bacha posh’ life. This book is an ode to unique and quirky characters and diversity in general. Sam and Miel are both wonderful characters and I loved the dynamics between them. But. Like I said before, I really struggled with the magical realism and it made it harder to fully appreciate the story. Otherwise When The Moon Was Ours is an absolutely stunning read, so if you don’t mind magical realism in your stories, this one is an absolute must-read.


Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt And Co.
Finished reading: June 30th 2018
Pages: 368

“When I feel trapped, afraid, lonely, I only have to look up at the sky and think: this is what people in Morocco look at when they see the sky. And India, Thailand, South Africa. Korea and Chile and Italy. The world, I remind myself, is mine, if only I have the courage to grasp it when the opportunity is given to me.”


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I’ve had lots of people warning me to brace myself before picking up Bad Romance, because it would be an emotionally draining read. I can definitely understand that warning now. Bad Romance will make you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, outraged and basically an emotional wreck. Oh yes, this is not an easy read and painfully accurate in describing how a toxic relationship can destroy a person. Coming from someone who had the back luck of being in a toxic relationship once, I can fully relate to the main character Grace. Did I want to scream at her to get the hell out? Yes. Was I frustrated by how blind she was to what Gavin was doing to her? Yes. Did I shake my head as she let him take away her freedom piece by piece? Yes. But this is exactly what a toxic relationship will do to the victim and while painfully frustrating at times, Heather Demetrios deserves a round of applause for getting these words on paper no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. I could have done without the love triangle, which put kind of a damper on things for me, but overall Bad Romance is a very strong read that will stay with me for a long time. Emotionally draining, but o so satisfying in the end.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #29: The Upside Of Unrequited & The Border

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads… The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli I was sure I was going to love, but somehow ended up being another unpopular opinion review. The Border by Steve Schafer on the other hand was absolutely brilliant.


Title: The Upside Of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 11th 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: June 21st 2018
Pages: 352

“We like who we like. Who cares if someone else doesn’t get it?”


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Oh hello unpopular opinion review! I guess we meet once again… I truly wish we wouldn’t have crossed paths this time around though. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda has to be one of my all time favorite YA books, so of course I was fully expecting to love this story as well. I’m still kind of shocked I ended up having this reaction, but I guess it is what it is. Fact: the problem isn’t the writing, which is without doubt excellent and made The Upside Of Unrequited into a really fast and entertaining read. I like the idea of having twins as main characters and the lgbt elements made this story into the perfect read for Pride Month. The twins moms are the cutest! The artsy/pinterest vibe was also a great touch. But. And here comes the main problem: I really struggled with Molly’s character. Not only did her choices annoy me and she helped introduce a love triangle to the plot that really bothered me… But I also found her whole attitude and negativity towards her own body quite frustrating. Having struggled with my weight just about my whole life, I know how it feels having to deal with rejection and negativity of others, but I don’t think Molly’s character gives the right message to those who struggle with the same problem. And we don’t have a lot of ‘bigger’ main characters to look up to in stories in the first place… So Molly was quite a let down for me. I also felt like The Upside Of Unrequited was almost trying to be too diverse and squeeze in too many diverse characters into one story. But yeah, that is mostly just me since everybody including my neighbor’s cat seems to love this story, so do take my rambles with a grain of salt.


Title: The Border
Author: Steve Schafer

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 5th 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Finished reading: June 24th 2018
Pages: 364

“We are right on the border. The border. Of story, of legend, of dreams. ut we might as well be on the moon. So famous, yet so desolate.”


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Weird fact: I have a strange fascination for any story related to the war on drugs, cartels and the consequences of both. After a course or two during Uni, a thesis and quite a few related books, TV shows and movies, my thirst for this theme still hasn’t lessened. So honestly I should have known this book would hit the right spot even before I started it. The Border is more about the cartels and the consequences of antagonizing them than the actual war on drugs, but the theme is without doubt fascinating. The narcos killing the families of the main characters is sadly enough not all that uncommon, and neither is the hunt that starts afterwards. I really liked how Steve Schafer isn’t afraid to state the hard, painful and shocking facts, describing to us in a realistic way how the teens have to run for their lives. The incorporation of Spanish into the writing was spot on and added more authenticity to the story; the descriptions of both characters and setting detailed and realistic. The writing style managed to put me under its spell and I couldn’t let this story go until the very end. Ever feel like putting everything on hold until you reach the final page? That is what happened while I was reading The Border. This is not a happy story and the characters truly struggle; some parts are truly heartbreaking and make sure you have some tissues at hand just in case. But this realistic rendering of the four Mexican teens trying to cross the desert to reach the safety of US territory is simply sublime. I can highly recommend reading this one if you are interested in the theme, or if you enjoy reading realistically described (YA) thrillers.


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