Review | The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope

“Divorce is a terrible thing, but sometimes to stay married is even more terrible.” 4/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: missing children, old photographs, new babies, manipulation and a strong maternal bond.

Read the chilling and completely heartwrenching story of a mother’s worst nightmare: her child being stolen—and what happens when he returns.
Six years ago

Megan waits at the school gates for her six-year-old son, Daniel. As the playground empties, panic bubbles inside her. Daniel is nowhere to be found. Her darling son is missing.

Six years later

After years of sleepless nights and endless days of missing her son, Megan finally gets the call she has been dreaming about. Daniel has walked into a police station in a remote town just a few miles away.

Megan is overjoyed—her son is finally coming home. She has kept Daniel’s room, with his Cookie Monster poster on the wall and a stack of Lego under the bed, in perfect shape to welcome him back. But when he returns, there is something different about Daniel…

According to the police, Daniel was kidnapped by his father. After his dad died in a fire, Daniel was finally able to escape. Desperate to find out the truth, Megan tries to talk to her little boy—but he barely answers her questions. Longing to help him heal, Megan tries everything—his favourite chocolate milkshake, a reunion with his best friend, a present for every birthday missed—but still, Daniel is distant.

And as they struggle to connect, Megan begins to suspect that there is more to the story. Soon, she fears that her son is hiding a secret. A secret that could destroy her family…

This book was so crazy!

In this story we follow a family of three: the mother Megan, the father Greg and the 6 year-old son Daniel. Megan was physically and mentally abused for years by her husband, so they got a divorce to live their separate lives. A few months after their separation, Megan goes to pick Daniel from school but soon finds out that Greg picked him up without permission first and they’re gone without a trace. Yes, Greg abducted his son! So for 6 years Daniel was missing… until one day he returned out of nowhere. His mother is thrilled he is back to her, and she tries to reconnect with him and integrate him in her new family. The weird thing is Daniel is not the same… and I’ll leave it at that!

I felt so sorry for the mother! I just can’t imagine what it was like to go through a grief process, wondering where your kid is or even if he is alive. Oh and the guilt she must have felt! And then trying to deal with his behavior after coming back and trying your best to make things work for everyone. Not an easy scenario, but she definitely had my sympathy.

I personally had no idea of what was going to happen by the end of the story, but I was pleased with how it turned out. It was insane, but well done!

This is a disturbing story about the maternal bond, manipulation and toxic parents. It was heartbreaking, but very entertaining. I highly recommend it!

Review | Thornhill by Pam Smy

“All I wanted was a friend.” 5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: bullies, orphans, The Secret Garden, loneliness, trashed rooms, ruined homework, lost keys, handmade dolls, care givers, beautiful gardens, bacon sandwiches, thumps, a black raven, a single friend and a silent girl.

Parallel plotlines, one told in text and one in art, inform each other as a young girl unravels the mystery of a ghost next door.
Mary is an orphan at the Thornhill Institute for Children at the very moment that it’s closing down for good. But when a bully goes too far, Mary’s revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

Years later, Ella moves to a new town where she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute. Determined to befriend the mysterious, evasive girl she sees there, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s history and uncover its secrets.

Ella’s story is told through striking, bold art; Mary’s is told through diary entries. Each informs the other until the two eventually intersect to reveal the truth behind Thornhill’s shadowy past, once and for all. Strikingly told and masterfully illustrated, Pam Smy bends genres and expectations alike.

This was absolutely creepy and sad. And I loved it.

I absolutely loved how this book was presented. It was very different from what I’m used to reading without a doubt. I loved the illustrations (beautiful!), I loved how the story was told in a diary format, I loved the creepiness and gothic nature of it all!

But also, the whole story made me very sad. She was just a normal girl trying to survive there, trying to make friends. She just wanted someone to care, someone to understand her.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked this up, since I knew nothing about it. But I’m so glad I did. This was creepy and disturbing and chilling and atmospheric and sad and haunting… in the best way possible. This is a unique book, one I will never forget.

(PS: That last illustration though… chills!)

Wrap-Up | What I Read in August 2022

Hello friends!

Another month, another Wrap Up – you know the drill! As usual, today I’m sharing with you what I have read in the month of August.

And by the way, I’m sorry this Wrap Up is coming a little late. I just had surgery, so I had to take care of some things before it happened and now I’m still taking it easy with my recovery. I haven’t been able to do a lot here on the blog other than posting my usual reviews. But I’m coming back slowly and I’m starting with this overdue Wrap Up! 🙂

August was a great reading month, knowing how low my book count has been in the last few months. I’ve read a grand total of 8 books, which was pretty good! I missed reading this much. Ready to check what I’ve read this past month? Here we go!

  1. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy: 5/5⭐
  2. How to American by Jimmy O. Yang: 4.25/5
  3. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle: 4/5⭐
  4. Everything is OK by Debbie Tung: 4.25/5⭐
  5. The Blouse by Bastien Vivès: 1/5⭐
  6. The Power is Within You by Louise Hay: 5/5⭐
  7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket #1) by Roald Dahl: 5/5⭐
  8. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Charlie Bucket #2) by Roald Dahl: 2.75/5⭐

Interesting list, right? I’ve picked some great non-fiction books that are most of my highest ratings! Jennette McCurdy’s book was incredible and honestly one of the best memoirs I have ever read – if you haven’t read that one, I highly recommend it! Other than the non-fiction books, I have also picked an arc named “The Blouse” (which was terrible, in my humble opinion) and the very well-known duology “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” from Roald Dahl! I loved the first book of the duology, but I didn’t love the second book and I ended up giving it a negative rating! I’ll be posting the reviews for these books soon.

August was a better month than I was expecting! I’m surprised with the amount of books I was able to read knowing I haven’t read that much in the last few months.

Knowing we’re already in the middle of September, I don’t think I’ll be able to read much more this month. As of today, I am currently reading three books… but I don’t think I’ll be picking any more books soon. My focus right now is on my health and well-being, and I don’t feel like reading at the moment. We’ll see how the month goes, but I’m sure I’ll read at least one book in September!

What about you guys? How was your reading month? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading friends, I’ll catch you guys later!

Review | The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

“Worry gives a small thing big shadows.” 5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: white kimonos, letters, new homes, the military, cemeteries, new friendships, old photos and the massive cultural differences between Americans and the Japanese.

Oceans and decades apart, two women are inextricably bound by the secrets between them.

Japan, 1957. Seventeen-year-old Naoko Nakamura’s prearranged marriage to the son of her father’s business associate would secure her family’s status in their traditional Japanese community, but Naoko has fallen for another man—an American sailor, a gaijin—and to marry him would bring great shame upon her entire family. When it’s learned Naoko carries the sailor’s child, she’s cast out in disgrace and forced to make unimaginable choices with consequences that will ripple across generations.

America, present day. Tori Kovač, caring for her dying father, finds a letter containing a shocking revelation—one that calls into question everything she understood about him, her family and herself. Setting out to learn the truth behind the letter, Tori’s journey leads her halfway around the world to a remote seaside village in Japan, where she must confront the demons of the past to pave a way for redemption.

In breathtaking prose and inspired by true stories from a devastating and little-known era in Japanese and American history, The Woman in the White Kimono illuminates a searing portrait of one woman torn between her culture and her heart, and another woman on a journey to discover the true meaning of home.

This book was absolutely stunning!

Maybe I’m being biased because sometimes it reminded me of my all-time favorite book “Memoirs of a Geisha”, but I couldn’t help falling in love with this story. I admit I didn’t have a lot of expectations when I first picked up this book because I never even heard about it before, but it turned out to be a great book with a great story.

Let’s start with the writing! This book is beautifully written and the reading experience is very immersive. Not only will you feel like you traveled in time, but you also get a good glimpse of what life in Japan was like in 1957. Clearly the author did a lot of research to create an accurate atmosphere, and as a reader I appreciate it a lot. Another thing I thought was cool is that the author used Japanese terms in the book like for example “Okasa” – mother – because it added another layer on creating a good and accurate setting for the story.

I also liked how the author used two different time periods for the story. It worked very well, and by the time these timelines converge the story is blended perfectly and the big revelation is made!

One thing I thought was really interesting was knowing the author based this book on a real story. The inspiration came from someone close to her that lived a similar reality, so she worked on this fictional story for years before publishing it. So kudos to her for creating this work of art based on a true story!

This is so much more than a love story. It’s a story about heartbreak, love and loss. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but definitely worth the time. Just remember to grab your tissues before picking this one up!

Review | The Puppet Show (Washington Poe #1) by M.W. Craven

This wasn’t about justice, Poe. It was never about justice.” 4.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: vengeance, suspensions, bullying, data analysts, burnt men and teamwork.

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive…

I stopped picking up detective thrillers a while ago because I started losing interest in them. I just don’t have the patience to pick up a super long series following the same detectives solving different cases. It’s just a matter of personal taste!

Now, with that being said, I saw this book and I was immediately intrigued by the title and the synopsis. At the time I didn’t know this was the first book in a series and I only found out about halfway through the book. Still, I read the entire thing and I enjoyed it to the point that I would continue reading this series.

Our main detective in this book is Washington Poe. He returned to work after being suspended for making a mistake during a previous investigation. He is now helping the team identify the “Immolation Man”, who kills his victims by burning them. He soon finds out that there is a connection between him and the killer. With the help of Tilly Bradshaw and Stephanie Flynn, Poe tries to unveil the mystery surrounding the “Immolation Man”!

There are many great things about this book, but what really stood out to me was the writing, the fast pace of the story, the crazy amount of surprises and twists, and of course, the characters! Poe is a great main character. I usually have a hard time connecting to the detectives in these kinds of books, but I had no trouble connecting to him as a character. He is full of wisdom, courage and strength. Another character I loved was Tilly, the data analyst!  She was fantastic and I was so happy Poe and her developed a true friendship. That was an incredible duo!

Just a heads up: if you’re going into this book for the title like I did, you are wasting your time. I was a little disappointed to find out the title has little to do with the content of the book. This story wasn’t what I was expecting, but I still liked it a lot in the end.

I’m impressed. For a detective thriller this was pretty good.

Review | XOXO by Axie Oh

“If cellists have fan clubs, Jenny, I want to join yours.” 4/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: idols, karaoke, single mothers, cello, prestigious music schools, difficult roommates, concerts and sick grandmothers.

Cello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.

Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.

When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love.

This was so cute!

I’m slowly diving into these Kpop books and I’m seriously having the time of my life. This romance story between an average girl and a Kpop idol was the perfect balance of fluff and seriousness. There’s a bit of a forbidden romance going on in this, so things get a little complicated since Jaewoo is famous and can’t start any scandals! Still, I really liked seeing them spend time and get to know each other with time.

I really liked the setting for the story and how they had to cross paths several times since they were both attending the same fancy music school in Seoul. I also liked how the author gave them very different musical skills, since Jenny is an elite cellist and Jaewoo’s classes are more “idol oriented”.

I liked all the characters in this, but I personally think the secondary plot with Jenny’s roommate and the other band member was kind of too much for me. The fact that the roommate had such a remarkable evolution in another character’s book was a little weird and took away the focus from the main characters. I love secondary characters and secondary plots, but this overshadowed the main story.

With that said, I still loved this story! It was a very light and fun read. Now that I’m down this rabbit hole, I want to find more YA K-pop books.

Review | Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

“I put my pen to the paper and began to write. I’d made so many wishes for so many couples quietly in my head as they drove away, but writing the words out made it seem more real, possible. For them, and maybe for me.

FOR YOU, I WISH FOR SECOND CHANCES.

I folded it shut, then put it on the wall before I could change my mind, right above Jilly’s. […] When I looked back at the wish wall from a distance, it was a sea of squares: I couldn’t even find mine among them. So many things we ask for, hope for, prayers put out into a world so wide: there was no way they could all be answered. But you had to keep asking. If you didn’t, nothing even had a chance of coming true.” 4/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: Lexi Navigator ringtones, wedding plans, emotional brides, romantic photoshoots, fresh flowers, dogs in bandanas, school shootings, dealing with grief, beach nights, first love, summer parties, coffee and pie, friendship, centerpieces, amazing families, coffee shops, blowing candles for wishes, the Conga, anagrams, writting novels, alien experts, a phone lady and a lot of dates.

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

I was in the mood to read a nice fluffy cute love story, and my first thought was: Sarah Dessen. I have yet so much to explore from her world, and I thought the synopsis of Once and For All was exactly what I needed. I only read Along for the Ride from her, and I’m so glad I did because… there was a crossover moment from that book! When she talks about the boardwalk of Colby and “Pie and Coffee”, I couldn’t stop smiling! Then Auden and Eli were there eating pie and drinking coffee, and… oh boy, my heart was full!

Since I don’t have a lot of experience with other Sarah Dessen novels, I can’t compare this one to the others. But I thought it was a cute book! Along for the Ride is still my favorite though.

I found it interesting that it all revolved around wedding planners, and I loved to see the “backstage” of the whole wedding process. I also found Ambrose very interesting. It’s not very common (at least for me) to see a love interest so… Well, let’s just say he’s special! It was very refreshing for me!

I also loved her “family” dynamics! I really liked how Louna had her mother and William, and how they were close and interacted like a family. I also felt so bad for what happened to Ethan, and of course, for what Louna was going through. I don’t know why, but it affected me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I really felt her pain.

I think it’s beautifully written and it’s a great book for summer! I really need to read more books from Sarah Dessen.