New BFF: In Another Era

BFF

Hi guys! Remember this feature ;)?

It’s been a year but I finally made a new wonderful blog friend! Annelies blogs over at In Another Era and she’s from Belgium too! Some of the things I learned about her so far is that she loves a minimalistic lifestyle, she’s addicted to chocolate and eats it every day (yes girl!! Also, is this a Belgian thing I wonder?), she’s a control freak, very creative and she can still remember the first latin words she learned in school (the little bunny cries). My admiration only grows now because I can’t even remember what I ate yesterday. Anywayyy if you want to hear more about my interesting blogfriend, do keep on reading to hear the rest of our talk.

Name: Annelies

This is me:

Age: I’m 27

Birthday: Born on August 26

I’m just too late then to celebrate your birthday on my blog…

What did you study or do you study now / what is your current job? I have a master’s degree in business communication sciences and I did a postgraduate in Advertising. I’m currently working as a marketing strategist in a web agency in the beautiful city of Leuven in Belgium. We want to make the world, and especially the internet, a better place. That’s why we only work for companies that want to make a good and sustainable impact on society. I work for all different kinds of clients and projects and I have a wonderful bunch of colleagues.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I love travelling to other countries and visiting museums. Here’s two photos taken during my travels in Paris and Valencia, and the other photos in this blogpost were taken in Berlin and Malta.

I go to my dancing classes twice a week. I love watching cycling and especially cyclocross (which is a typical Belgian sport). And apart from that, you can find me walking in the woods or playing with my cats. I also love blogging. I am writing on a Dutch personal blog for more than 5 years now and it really empties my mind to just write about what keeps me busy. And now it was time for an English counterpart focused on my love for books and history.

Do you have any pets?
At the moment I have 12 cats. I know! It wasn’t a deliberate choice. They’re all street cats that were dumped by their owners or kittens from dumped cats. More than 9 of them are above 10 years old so sometimes it feels like I’m living in an elderly home for cats :). I love my cats dearly, but when I will be moving in a few years I don’t know if I want to have some of my own. It breaks my heart when I lose them.

I was able to get 5 of them in one picture :-), they’re the eldest and all siblings.

The cat’s names are: Felix (Feke), Whiskas (Wiske), Toyke, Aico, Gigi, Gimber, Domino (Doke), Fleur, Nette, Lela, Jetta and Simba.

Your favourite color?
Yellow. It’s just a bright and happy color.

   

Hmmm I think I know a few bloggers (but at least one in particular) who looove yellow too!

OK raise your hand if you like yellow 🙂

Do you collect anything (besides books)? 
I don’t collect any stuff. I have a minimalistic mindset. You might be disappointed in a few instances if you see my book collection :).

What’s the name of the book that you’ve had the longest? Have you read it?
That will be a bundle of fairytale stories my grandparents used to read me every day (I was with them before and after school). I believe it was a collection of the brothers Grimm, but I also had a book with nice illustrations and stories about animals. I loved that book.

Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm, German philologist, jurist and mythologist, was born at Hanau, in Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel). He is best known as the discoverer of Grimm’s Law, the author of the monumental German Dictionary, his Deutsche Mythologie and more popularly, with his brother Wilhelm, as one of the Brothers Grimm, as the editor of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Have you ever regretted a book you purchased? A book that sounded so promising but you wished you’d have spent your money on another book after reading it?
Probably, but I’m picky when I purchase a book for my own shelves. So mostly it’s a considered choice. I can’t name a book that I regretted purchasing by heart now.

Do you listen to audio books?

No. My boyfriend is an avid podcast listener and I’m trying for some years now to incorporate that habit in my life also. But I don’t seem to succeed. I’m the kind of person who wants to combine listening to a book with something else, but I also want to give my full attention to the story… So that just doesn’t work out.

When I was a child, I had some cassettes with fairytales (I know, I was raised on fairy tales) that I could listen to for hours. But I’ve lost that habit apparently.

Do you have a favorite genre?
Easy one! Historical fiction is my favorite genre, hence the name of the blog. I love to read stories about times when life was more difficult than now. I just hate these contemporary books where the main characters’s only worry is the fact that her lover didn’t text back just yet.

No, let me read about ancient kingdoms or medieval cities where people have to travel for months to reach their family or lover. Full of adventure, war, drama and real romance.

What is the book highest on your wishlist right now?
I guess that would be the new Elizabeth Freemantle, named ‘the honey and the sting‘. I have all her books in my library and this cover is so pretty.

How is your library organized?
By color and a bit by genre. So all non-fiction books are on one shelf and then my historical fiction collection takes already a few shelfs. I also have my magazines and personal photo albums, my travel guides, some random books… I need more space, ok? :D.

I’m currently building my own house and there will be an office room with walls purely dedicated to become book shelfs. My boyfriend also has a fair collection of books (he reads mostly thrillers and detectives), so we’ll need some space for that. I’d love to work between my piles of books.

Do you read more ebooks or physical books?
I only have a Kindle for a month now, so I still read a lot of physical books. I love to go the library to discover new books and sometimes read another genre. The library is around the corner of my office and has a vast collection, both Dutch and English. But due to the pandemic I am working from home for some time now, so that’s why I bought a Kindle and thus for the moment I’m reading more ebooks.

Do you have a favorite book?
Yes and no. It changes constantly. But if I should choose one, it would be Augustus from John Williams. That book could be a direct translation from one of the ancient Latin texts. It’s so real and written with so much respect for the Roman era. I just love it. I really believe studying Latin made me become such as history lover and also learned me to appreciate different languages and styles of writing.

Synopsis: Augustus is a sweeping narrative that brings vividly to life a compelling cast of historical figures through their letters, dispatches, and memoirs.

A mere eighteen years of age when his uncle, Julius Caesar, is murdered, Octavius Caesar prematurely inherits rule of the Roman Republic. Surrounded by men who are jockeying for power–Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, and Mark Antony–young Octavius must work against the powerful Roman political machinations to claim his destiny as first Roman emperor. Sprung from meticulous research and the pen of a true poet, Augustus tells the story of one man’s dream to liberate a corrupt Rome from the fancy of the capriciously crooked and the wildly wealthy

“One does not deceive oneself about the consequences of one’s acts; one deceives oneself about the ease with which one can live with those consequences.”
― John Williams, Augustus

What’s the cover in your collection that you’re most proud of?
I don’t think many people will agree, but I love the cover of ‘the sins of the house of Borgia‘. Yes, it’s with a nude woman and appeals to an erotic topic. But I love the colors and the gold on the letters. I just find it a very beautiful and attractive cover. Let me, please 😀

The book is also more about life at the Ferrara court in the 15th century, then about the Borgias. Highly recommended (it also goes by the alternative title ‘the book of love’)!

I’m also in love with my deluxe edition of the seven works of Jane Austen. You can slay someone with that book I believe, as it is so so big. And the font is really small. So it took me some years to finish her whole oeuvre, but now I can say I read every Jane Austen book. (Bonus answer: Sense & sensibility is my favorite and I hated Emma so much I could hit her).

Do you have any idea how many books you own? <100, >100, >200, >300 …?
I believe it will be above 100 books, but no more than 200. My mum also has a library in her room that we share. I have never counted them.

What’s the title of the last book you purchased?
I bought The silken rose by Carol MCGrath as a kindle ebook. It’s about Eleanor Of Provence. I’m excited to start reading it.

What was your favorite author when you were a child?
Patrick Lagrou, a Flemish author of children books. His most famous work is also translated in English as ‘Born among the Dolphins‘. Maybe someone here has heard of it?

From which author do you have most books?
I have no idea. I think it will be Tatiana De Rosnay, Elizabeth Freemantle or Joanna Hickson that I own the most books from. But I have copies of a lot of different authors. And I read so many stories from the library that I have no idea about my most read author (and Goodreads deleted that stat apparantly).

Are there books you’ve read 2 or 3 times?
A few, I reread books when I was younger. But now, there are so many books and so little time… There are a lot of books and classics that I want to reread but a new book always appeals to me more in some way.

How many books are there on your Goodreads challenge this year and how many have you read already?
Compared to other book bloggers, I don’t read a lot of books. Building your home by yourself while working full-time is not the best combination for your reading time. I can promise you that :D.

My Goodreads challenge says I need to read 35 books and secretly I hope to finish around 40. My best reading year was 2018, when I read 40 books. At the moment I have read 23 books this year and I’m 2 books ahead on schedule. To my defense, I read books with an average length above 450 pages, so at the end of the year I have read a lot of pages. Sometimes more than fellow Dutch bloggers who read 10 books more. It’s the quality of the books that counts (and I just like big books).

I would be happy to connect on Goodreads by the way.

Can you spell your name with the first letters of titles in your book case? 
I’m blessed to have a long name :D.

A column of fire by Ken Follett
Nancy Bilyeau – The crown
Northhanger abbey by Jane Austen
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman
Lynn Andrews – the queen’s promise
I Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
Elizabeth Freemantle – The queen’s gambit
Sunne in splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

And that’s a wrap for today! This was so much fun again. Thank you soooo much Annelies for participating!

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In case you missed it, here are the 5 last BFF’s (Blog Friends Forever) I posted about. You can find the tab with links to these and the previous posts on my home page.

Alexandra – Alexandra Wolfe
Kelly – FromBelgiumWithBookLove
Deborah – The Reading Chick
Jonetta – The Blue Mood Cafe
Zoé – Zooloo’s Book Diary

I would really really love more friends in my BFF club so give me a shout if you want to be featured! I’m especially thinking of all newbie bloggers here who we don’t know very well yet!

The Chain by Adrian McKinty #BookReview

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You just dropped off your child at the bus stop. A panicked stranger calls your phone. Your child has been kidnapped, and the stranger explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger. The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. Your child will be released only when the next victim’s parents kidnap yet another child, and most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don’t kidnap a child, or if the next parents don’t kidnap a child, your child will be murdered. You are now part of The Chain.

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I’m late to the party as ever because I had this book for a while but then I suddenly had a really good reason to bump this novel to the top of my reading list. See just last month I found out that The Chain is the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year. The author leaves Lee Child, Jane Casey, Will Carver and Chris Brookmyre behind him by winning this award. You can imagine that I just had to see for myself what made this novel so special.

And yes The Chain is special, the concept of the novel most of all. It’s a living nightmare when your child is kidnapped and when you are driven to do things that are immoral and criminal even. But wouldn’t you do anything for your child? How far would you go? Is there a limit? Would you harm another child in order to save yours? The whole system is quite a clever set up from the kidnappers and it looks flawless as well. Is there any way to stop this insane thing from happening over and over again? It would seem not and so I kept on reading, hoping that there was going to be a twist, something to change the odds and let the people behind all of it become the ones hunted.

The first half of the novel was gripping and frightening, the tension was hanging in the air and I had my eyes glued to the pages, but when the worst of the worst was over and I relaxed in the second part of the story, it also kind of lost its momentum a little bit. It picked back up again in the very end but it never really reached that same riveting level again as at first.

I did enjoy the characters of Rachel and Pete and they certainly made me wonder how a cancer patient and a heroin addict were going to lead to a twist to the story. Why do Americans always go looking for trouble? I didn’t see this ending well! Rachel and Pete are clever but so are the people behind The Chain so the game is on! I really enjoyed the way the author also wove the past of one of the characters into the present events. I believe that both parties surprised each other, and me in the process as well.

The whole novel is so movie-worthy, I could easily see it vividly in my head so I’m very happy it is already snapped up by Universal and is going to be turned into a movie. I’ll be at the front row to see this one!

 I own a copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

PS. The new WordPress editor didn’t save most of my review the first time I wrote it (which I was much happier with) but it is what it is now ;-). Also I hate that I can’t justify text anymore (at work I have to so it feels wrong) but what can you do huh?

Testing one, two.. one, two.. Are audiobooks for me? 2 #audiobookreviews

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Hello bookworms!

During lockdown I discovered the real deal of audiobooks. Before that I had only listened to a book on the radio via BBC 4 Book at Bedtime (How to Stop Time) but two months ago I was invited to listen to The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney by a publisher and that went ok so I thought I was ready for more. I certainly want to enjoy audiobooks because I can only read one book at a time and if I can listen to books at moments I can’t read then that would be a dream.

After listening to these two novels I still don’t know if it’s something for me though.. maybe I haven’t found the right book, maybe I’m just a very demanding listener, or maybe I haven’t found the right moments yet to listen to them.

A lot of questions and I don’t have the answers yet. Is it worth trying again after these? I think so. I might listen to an extract first though only to hear the narrator’s voice and see if I like listening to that voice because it appears that’s really important to me, and I might continue listening on the train to work, even if that’s only for short periods each day, and not in bed for the moment. I still have to figure out what works best for me but I’m not giving up yet. Even if I can only listen to one audiobook a month that would be twelve more books I could devour each year. Are there any things that work better for you? Let me know if you have! 

The Seventh Victim by Michael Wood

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On Sunday, February 3rd 1990, seven-year-old Danny Redpath disappeared from his home. Four months later, his body was found in the nearby forest, washed clean of all evidence. Over time, more bodies were discovered; more families devastated forever.

Apprehended while attempting to abduct another child, Jonathan Egan-Walsh was charged with the murders of thirteen boys. Convicted on all counts, he received life in prison and went unrepentant, still refusing to reveal the whereabouts of one of his victims, Zachery Marshall.

Twenty-five years later, Zachery’s mother Diane is still searching for his body. When Jonathan dies in custody, she realises she will never know its location – until she receives a letter he left in his cell, in which he admits he was guilty of all the crimes of which he was accused, except the murder of her son.

Diane tracks down the woman in charge of the case at the time, former DI Caroline Turner, and together with Jonathan’s biographer Alex Frost they start to investigate. Could this be the killer’s final twist of the knife – or is he telling the truth at long last? Sooner or later, this secret buried and undisturbed for a quarter of a century will come to light.

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star three and a half

My second audiobook and I really loved the narration this time. Mathew Horne gave a voice to Jonathan Egan-Walsh and Joanne Froggatt narrated all of the women’s voices and I loved listening to her outstanding performance in particular. A trembling voice, shouting with the right amount of anger, she did it all very naturally. I especially loved hearing Hannah, Diane’s mother in the story, she really sounded old!

I’d almost forget to talk about the story itself which was a heart-breaking one although it didn’t break my heart but for the chapters from Jonathan Egan-Walsh, where he tells a little about some of the boys he took. It’s normal in his head, which makes it more shocking to the reader to hear him talking so casually about it. I still don’t really know why he killed them because some of them appeared – his words – happy. Did he just grow tired of them, were they not enough? I was unwillingly fascinated and actually wanted to hear even more from him but the novel focuses on Diane, the woman whose life stood still since the day her little boy Zachery went missing, her ex-husband who tried to move on, and it highlights the difficult relationship with her younger son Markus who suffered greatly throughout the years after his brother went missing.

Retired DC Caroline Turner and her husband Jamie, and Alex Frost, his daughter and his wife Melanie, also each have their own personal and interesting stories to tell while investigating Jonathan’s claim.

It takes a while to fully take off and the mystery stays at the same stage of development for a while but there are twists and turns in the end. I had a hunch how it would end though from very early on so I didn’t feel that elation as others might have had. I liked it overall but didn’t find it a very extraordinary story, we’ve read this plotline before and I think it’s mostly the secondary characters Caroline Turner and Alex Frost and the snippets of Jonathan made it memorable.

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All The Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

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On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his stepmother, Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father. But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife?

As her past entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?

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star three and a half

All The Beautiful Lies was my first novel by Peter Swanson, although I have another paperback of his in one of my unpacked boxes which I hope to get to before I ever move again ;-).

It took me some time to get into the novel because I found it hard to enjoy the narration at the very start. The female narrator ended all the descriptive sentences the same way, with a strong emphasis on the last word, making the last word of each sentense sound a bit elongated and it all sounded a little robotic to my ears. Maybe I’m really fussy now but I didn’t have this issue in the previous audiobook even if there were descriptive paragraphs as well. It went better after a while when there were more conversations breaking up these sections and I felt it went a little more natural in the end (or maybe I got more used to it). I did end up missing a few sections of the novel because I fell asleep a few times though so it didn’t always keep my attention. I think it’s safe to say I love novels with lots of intonation and changes in voices most of all.

As for the story, there’s an enjoyable plotline in the past that follows a young 15 year old Alice and a present plotline from Harry’s point of view who comes back when he hears his father died. He finds it hard to believe that his father had an accident and wonders if his stepmother – the same Alice but older now – has anything to do with it. There’s a recurring theme of young women falling for older men in the novel, of affairs and betrayal.

Most of the novel felt more as family drama than thriller, it’s only in the second part of the novel that the threat becomes really pressing. This certainly made me pay close attention as to what was going on but I found the outcome and truth about what happened to Bill written as a little bit of an easy way out. There was another twist though, almost after the main events were finished, that was hugely unexpected and I found very entertaining. So in the end the story left me quite satisfied after all.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware #BookReview @vintagebooks

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Four friends. One promise. But someone isn’t telling the truth. The twisting new mystery from bestselling phenomenon Ruth Ware.

The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you. Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her.

At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.

Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, not after what they did. It’s time for the women to get their story straight…

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This was the first novel I read by Ruth Ware and in case you missed it on Instagram, I brought a copy of this novel back with me from my holiday in Turkey last year where I swapped it with one of mine (I can’t remember which one) at the hotel. Whatever it was I’m pretty sure it wasn’t nearly as good as this novel though! I chose The Lying Game because I heard only positive echos about the author and her books and also the mere mention of ‘lying’ made me want to be in on whatever secret was being kept. Oh and what a secret it was. Even when you undoubtedly think you’re the only one in the know, you’ll soon find out that you knew just as much as the person sitting next to you.

I liked the present narrative, where Isa, Kate, Thea and Fatima – once 15-year old best friends – are brought back together as adults because something from their past is causing a stir, something is going to come out and it is clear that the bond they had is still in place because they all come running at a moment’s notice after years with barely or no contact at all. What is it that binds them and nobody talks about? Are they going to get their stories straight, are they going to lie some more? 

I loved the other chapters in which Isa revisits her past possibly even more. There was such friendship and loyalty in the chapters and it was very enjoyable to follow them and see the story unfold. The author fed me an idea about what happened through some of the conversations in the present but I couldn’t entertain the idea that what was in my mind could be true. Present and past just didn’t seem compatible and I had no explanation for it at all, it was impossible to see beforehand how and why things would take a bad turn and I just had to sit tight and let all unfold in its own time.

Oh the truth, that horrible, wonderful truth. It startled and surprised me after all. I’d be lying if I said it was anything but amazing. The author really came through in the end and delivered quite a grand apotheosis after such careful world building. It was a slow-burn towards the truth but that last quarter of the book was impossible to put down.

I’m definitely a satisfied and happy reader and I can see why so many others love this author so much. I’m totally joining the club. This novel isn’t going anywhere anymore but is going to have a prominent place in my library!

I received a free copy of this novel from another (unknown) reader. This is my honest opinion.

Love is in the air: Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis #BookReview @LisforLia @TrapezeBooks

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At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

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How many times do you read a novel and when you finished it you want to start reading it all over again? It really doesn’t happen very often to me but this time it did! I absolutely adored this novel! Dear Emmie Blue is a novel about loneliness, homeliness, about family, friendship and love, about caring for someone and being cared for, and of course there’s an utterly enchanting romance involved at the very, very end as well. It’s not only the romance though that makes this book so amazing, all the other characters are so lovely and caring and fill your heart when reading (except maybe Emmie’s mother and Ana, Eliot’s girlfriend). A special mention though for Rosie and Fox, Emmie’s friends and colleagues who work with her at the hotel and who were wonderful and lightened up the mood every time, their comments were truly funny.

I don’t want to get into the plot, if you pay a little attention and have a sixth sense like me you will know where the story is going but that’s absolutely fine because it only builds that anticipation and makes you ache and long for that perfect happy ending.

A little word of warning that this novel does include the mention of abuse, a moment already spoken of in its first pages, but that moment is not written in any detail in the novel, it does play a role in the story though but it certainly shouldn’t hold you back from reading this emotional rollercoaster of a novel.

Dear Emmie Blue was able to do the craziest thing, it brought tears to my eyes and gave me a great big lump in my throat the size of eh.. an avocado more than once when I was reading this. They weren’t all sad tears and I often smiled through my tears but my heart did get a serious beating. The best romance novels are the ones where you truly fall in love a little yourself and you definitely don’t have to worry here, you’ll fall so hard you’ll hit your head. It’s not about the big words, it’s about the small gestures, am I right? The guy in this novel has my heart!

The blurb of this novel states boldly that it is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I’ll tell you even more, it is perfect for fans of Eleanor, of The Flatshare and of The Sight of You (which happen to be three of my favourite novels). If you enjoy reading romance Dear Emmie Blue should be on your list! It’s an absolute winner in the romance genre for me and if this novel doesn’t make my favorite list at the end of the year, I don’t know what will! This novel is guaranteed to be a bestseller and I can’t wait to read this author’s next novel!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Trapeze Books for review. This is still my honest opinion.

Same book, different cover #14

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Happy hump day!

I’m back with 5 new book covers to pick and choose your favorite one. This is just for fun so there are no wrong answers! OK, I’ll go first, then it’s up to you:

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key 01  The Turn of the Key 02  The TUrn of the Key 03

I have cover 2 and I’m also going with that one. I like how big the font is, it’s so in your face that it feels like that’s the most ominous of all the covers.

The Suspect by Lesley Kara

The Suspect 01  The Suspect 02  The Suspect 03

Even though I have the second one, I actually like the first cover most of all. There’s just something about a message slipped beneath a door…

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louise 

DearEmmieBlue  Dear Emmie Blue

They do look alike but I still like the first one more, it’s much clearer this way.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

AGoodGirlsGuidetoMurder 02   AGoodGirlsGuidetoMurder

That’s easy as well, I definitely choose cover 2! The first is too chaotic for me and the second is much organised and nicer to look at.

The Holdout by Graham Moore 

TheHoldout  The Holdout 02

Not so easy but I think cover 1. It’s a really clear image, one person is holding them up and I also like that they chose a different colour to make it even clearer.

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So that’s it. Tell me your thoughts! If you can’t get enough, check out my previous post in the series: Battle Of The Books #13 

Also don’t forget to check out the Secret Library Book Blog where Nicki regularly holds a book battle with AUDIObooks.

The Suspect by Fiona Barton #BookReview

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When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Well I was pulled into this as soon as I read that Alex and Rosie’s carefully planned accommodation in Thailand fell into the water when they arrived and everything was coming down on Alex to find them a place to sleep. I sort of recognized this terrible situation from my own experience and so the start of the story was in this way pretty much a matter of same thing, different country! You see, I was the same age, 18 or 19 years old when I went for a few days to Rome with a school friend and the hostel we didn’t or couldn’t book in advance was not able to put us up when we arrived. My friend wanted to go home right away and although I felt the same, someone had to actually find a solution instead of sulking about it. Looking back now that I finished reading The Suspect, I see it could have turned out very differently when you don’t end up where you’re supposed to be, and I was still quite lucky my friend didn’t turn out to be such a poser like Rosie. Yep there was no love lost for her and if it would have been only her who went missing I wouldn’t have nearly felt as bad about it as I felt with both girls gone missing but as it was I did feel much concern for Alex and I (secretly) hoped she’d ditch Rosie in time.

This is the second novel I read by Fiona Barton and I enjoyed this novel more than my first one, The Widow. It’s still a bit of a slow burner too with lots of vagueness and mystery but I was more invested in the story, and I especially liked the multiple POV’s and timelines. The story is partly told by Alex – one of the girls – through e-mails to her friend Mags at home about her time in Thailand, and she gives the unfiltered truth about her time with Rosie who forgets about their planning as soon as she sets foot there and is only interested in guys and partying. The author builds up the suspense with every new and worrying email from Alex and it didn’t take long at all to feel that nothing good could come out of this.

The rest of the story of the missing girls is covered by 3 more perspectives, namely by The Reporter (Kate), The Detective (DI Bob Sparkes) and The Mother (Lesley O’Connor). The author mixes things up nicely by changing Kate’s perspective drastically because yes she might be a journalist always looking for that next scoop but she is also a mother and as it happens she’s not a stranger to the situation Lesley and Jenny, the girls’ mothers find themselves in with her own son Jake travelling in Thailand for 2 years without giving a peep himself the last few months. Suddenly the media, fellow colleagues, are chasing her too for an interview and how much is she supposed to say?

Of course I knew the mention of Jake meant something and that he must be involved in some way. The girls were maybe a little too straightforward good girl/bad girl characters but the author put a lot of effort into creating this ambiguity about Jake, she kept me guessing if he was a good guy or a bad guy. The ending was satisfying although I found the biggest twist to be one that came well before the end of the story and from a corner I totally hadn’t anticipated.

All in all a good story you might want to let your children read before going on holiday on their own for the first time. If they ask one more time what could possibly go wrong you should simply put this novel into their hands.

I received a copy of this novel from a blogfriend. This is my honest opinion.

The Minders by John Marrs #BookReview

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Five strangers guard our secrets.
Only four can be trusted…

In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become Minders – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country’s most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew.

But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect…

The Minders is published in e-format on 23 July 2020 and will follow in paperback on 17 September. US paperback publication will follow in February 2021.

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When has this author ever let you down? The answer is NEVER!

I recommend you read The One and Passengers first because the author gives little nods to these books, combining finding your match through DNA with driving autonomous cars and introducing a new trend in the future: storing information in our heads. We are still in danger of The Hacking Collective though, the same hackers who were able to create chaos and mayhem when driving autonomous became the new normal. So the government came up with a brilliant idea (well at least they think so) and that’s storing sensitive information in people’s minds. Sounds simple and it is but have you ever thought about the consequences? The pressure of knowing things and not being allowed to share them with people you care for, even if it would give them peace? Marrs always makes the impossible still look authentic and apart from making it seem so real he also gives so much room for thought every time.

The Minders follows 5 people who – for very different reasons – start over somewhere else, get a new chance at a new life, a better life. But will they get it? Can they leave their old life behind, can they change who they are as much as is needed? They get strict instructions not to contact people from their past or the other minders but it’s clear that every one of them is struggling with their new identity and each one of them reacts differently. As always the backstories of every character were very distinctive and made them all such interesting characters to follow. I found Flick and Sinead the characters who pulled most on my heartstrings though, as opposed to the men Bruno and Charlie, but all of them made for addictive chapters. There was also another character Emilia in the picture but we don’t know a lot about her, she doesn’t remember anything. Someone’s after her but it’s a mystery who. Who should she trust? The mystery woman who warns her or her husband who she doesn’t remember either? The truth and her role in the whole picture left me speechless. Gripping chapters, ruthless (gasp worthy) murders (the first one left me particularly stunned), cliffhanger-endings, you get it all in this novel.

If you enjoyed The One and Passengers you already know the fantastic reading experience that awaits you when you pick this one up. If not, you really don’t know what you’re missing! I have to say that I still loved the previous two novels a teensy bit more but I can’t really explain what did it and in the end it doesn’t really matter as his three books are brilliant, more brilliant and most brilliant.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher DelRey via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

The Day My Grandfather Was A Hero by Paulus Hochgatterer #BookReview

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In October 1944, a thirteen-year-old girl arrives in a tiny farming community in Lower Austria, at some distance from the main theatre of war. She remembers very little about how she got there, it seems she has suffered trauma from bombardment. One night a few months later, a young, emaciated Russian appears, a deserter from forced labour in the east. He has nothing with him but a canvas roll, which he guards like a hawk. Their burgeoning friendship is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a group of Wehrmacht soldiers in retreat, who commandeer the farm.

Paulus Hochgatterer’s intensely atmospheric, resonant novel is like a painting in itself, a beautiful observation of small shifts from apathy in a community not directly affected by the war, but exhausted by it nonetheless; individual acts of moral bravery which to some extent have the power to change the course of history.

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When I heard about this novel, it didn’t take more than a second to know that I wanted to read the story of a young girl during WWII. The girl is the person guiding us through the story but it’s mainly about a painting that really went missing during the war and where this novella gives a version of what possibly happened.

This short novella covers in merely 112 pages in fact the way of life in Austria for a family of farmers. The characters here fold back on themselves and they very much live in their own microcosmos in the country side. While it might seem at first that the war is not close by for them – you won’t read about invasions, raids, hunger or camps – it is a false feeling, even they can’t escape from danger. Yes the war is almost at its end as the date reads March 14, 1945 in the first chapter but that doesn’t mean that the threat is gone or that they have come out of it unscathed.

Nelli is the anchor point throughout the story but the story’s orbit extends to the farmer and his wife and their 5 children. Nelli – only 13 years old – is the most interesting character for half of the novel though as she’s lost her memory yet the scarring is right under the surface and it shines through intermittently via an astuteness that is quite extraordinary for a 13-year old. She has a special fondness for stories of martyrs for example and has no problem regaling an audience with vivid descriptions of ways to murder somebody.

I was well aware that she had a vivid imagination so it was difficult to know what the truth was. She often tells two versions of events and sometimes I was hoping that the alternate version of events that she proposed right after the one that was first mentioned was actually the one to be true. Who knows though? Did someone walk away or was this person killed after all, we’ll never really know… and exactly that play with the reader’s emotions, kindling that hope that we still carry in ourselves for the most positive outcome, is what made this novel extraordinary.

It did take me a bit of time and some research to find out more about the political situation in Austria at the time and the characters positions. ‘It’s only the Wehrmacht’ introduced me to their new visitors but I would have enjoyed it if the author had described their situation in more detail as it left me confused at first. The author also put a lot of effort into describing the landscape, the sky and air etc. which I could really imagine but not all of his characters came alive as much as Nelli’s surroundings unfortunately.

It was a interesting short story and Nelli allowed me to read a ‘could have happened’ story about a painting that really went missing in 1945. Above all this she made me realise that heroes don’t always get their fame. There were good people who acted and were never named. There are still so many stories untold, people who were brave and never received the recognition they deserved. It’s time to take notice and this novella is a great tribute for any unnamed heroes.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher MacLehose for review. This review is my honest opinion.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson #BookReview

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The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth . . . ?

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I have already bought Holly Jackson’s next novel, Good Girl Bad Blood so yes I absolutely bloody loved this YA mystery. It’s been so long since I read something YA that was so highly entertaining and well plotted.

Under the pretext of writing her EPC school project about the role of the media when  high school student Andie Bell disappeared 5 years before, Pippa goes on a quest to discover what happened to her. Andie’s body was never found and Pippa has her doubts about the alleged killer since the very beginning so this is her chance to dig in and she’s quite brilliant at this digging in. Pippa is your next Veronica Mars and there’s no trouble big enough for her so she goes to investigate, interview, befriend strangers or occasionally even trespass a friend’s house.

What I absolutely loved the most about this novel was the long list of suspects that Pippa compiles while working this case. It seems Andie wasn’t the perfect sweet girl that the media made of her after all. There were plenty of twists and turns and while Pippa started out with one suspect, the clues she follows make her add loads of suspects to the list. She didn’t make it easy on me as the list grows and grows.

Holly Jackson surprised me with her debut novel. She made the story really engaging as well by including sms conversations, police reports, productions logs where she includes the transcripts of interviews and most importantly shares her thoughts and conclusions of what she has discovered so far. As a reader you’re totally on the same page as Pippa that way and it’s pretty addictive to keep on reading so you can discover even more.

There’s much to like about this book. The protagonist is young but clever, she’s not your usual detective or journalist so people don’t see her as threat and she’s not running into dead ends right away, it’s silly how they underestimate her. It makes this novel a fast and easy read. She also gets help from Ravi, Sal’s brother who also believes in his innocence and although Pippa does most of the legwork and everything, his contributions were just what the story needed. I also thought I felt a spark of interest between them early on in the story and while it never takes the upperhand, I was actually hoping for them to give in as it would make me quite happy.

Overall an entirely compelling novel with a great ending too. I can’t wait to read her next book and I can only hope it’ll be just as great as this one.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.