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!)

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.

Review | Maybe This Time by Kasie West

“I didn’t even care; he tasted like heaven and I felt like I was floating on air.” 4.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: cherries, barns, a ton of skirts, college applications, football, balloons, corn mazes, fancy food, wedding bouquets, eyeliner, blue eyes, expensive suits, pecan pie, brotherhood, catering, designer sketches, calla lilies, rude chefs and beautiful flower arrangements.

One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

Told over the course of one year and following Sophie from event to event, this delightful novel from master of romantic comedy Kasie West shows how love can blossom in unexpected places.

My 10th Kasie West book! I can’t believe I’ve already read 10 books by the ultimate YA queen… that’s insane. I just love how she creates her stories and makes them so light-hearted and fun.

This was still a very different read from Kasie’s regular books since it only took place in specific events over a span of a year. One of my favorite things about this book is the way each event starts. And by this I mean how much I love the way the flowers are highlighted by their descriptions in the beginning.

I also really liked the characters and the hate-to-love romance going on. I just wished this book was released in the spring. This would be perfect for that time of the year!

And even though the book cover is absolutely beautiful, I wish it had something to do with the book itself. The main girl has short hair and doesn’t ride a bike. She has a flower crown, but still, Sophie doesn’t wear flower crowns in the book.

Overall I really enjoyed this book! It’s not my ultimate favorite, but definitely not far from it!

Kasie West is, and forever will be, my YA queen.

Review | Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker

“Money will only make you more of what you already are.” 4/5 stars!

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind reveals the missing link between wanting success and achieving it!

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get rich easily, while others are destined for a life of financial struggle? Is the difference found in their education, intelligence, skills, timing, work habits, contacts, luck, or their choice of jobs, businesses, or investments?

The shocking answer is: None of the above!

In his groundbreaking Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T. Harv Eker states: “Give me five minutes, and I can predict your financial future for the rest of your life!” Eker does this by identifying your “money and success blueprint.” We all have a personal money blueprint ingrained in our subconscious minds, and it is this blueprint, more than anything, that will determine our financial lives. You can know everything about marketing, sales, negotiations, stocks, real estate, and the world of finance, but if your money blueprint is not set for a high level of success, you will never have a lot of money—and if somehow you do, you will most likely lose it! The good news is that now you can actually reset your money blueprint to create natural and automatic success.

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind is two books in one. Part I explains how your money blueprint works. Through Eker’s rare combination of street smarts, humor, and heart, you will learn how your childhood influences have shaped your financial destiny. You will also learn how to identify your own money blueprint and “revise” it to not only create success but, more important, to keep and continually grow it.

In Part II you will be introduced to seventeen “Wealth Files,” which describe exactly how rich people think and act differently than most poor and middle-class people. Each Wealth File includes action steps for you to practice in the real world in order to dramatically increase your income and accumulate wealth.

If you are not doing as well financially as you would like, you will have to change your money blueprint. Unfortunately your current money blueprint will tend to stay with you for the rest of your life, unless you identify and revise it, and that’s exactly what you will do with the help of this extraordinary book. According to T. Harv Eker, it’s simple. If you think like rich people think and do what rich people do, chances are you’ll get rich too!

This book was great! I feel like it has a very strong influence from “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, but it still had the author’s touch, which made it unique.

The money blueprint was one of the most important things I took from this book. If you don’t set your mind for success, it is most likely you will fail and you will never be happy no matter how much money you make. First you need to fix the invisible and then deal with the visible!

Even though this is a book about money, you can definitely apply this book to other areas of your life, because the mindset is what really is important. It’s all about having the right attitude in life!

There are so many great quotes I took from this book that I had a hard time deciding which one I was going to use as a main quote for the review. So here are some of my favorites that I still wanted to include here.

“Your life is not just about you. It’s also about contributing to others. It’s about living true to your mission and reason for being here on this earth at this time. It’s about adding your piece of the puzzle to the world. Most people are so stuck to their egos that everything revolves around me, me, and more me. But if you want to be rich in the truest sense of the word, it can’t only be about you. It has to include adding value to other people’s lives.”

“If you want to fly with the eagles, don’t swim with the ducks!”

“It’s not enough to be in the right place at the right time. You have to be the right person in the right place at the right time.”

“If you shoot for the stars, you’ll at least hit the moon”

“What you focus on expands.”

“Nothing has meaning except for the meaning you give it.”

“Keep your eye on the goal, keep moving toward your target.”

“If you want to change the fruits, you will first have to change the roots. If you want to change the visible, you must first change the invisible.”

“The number one reason most people don’t get what they want is that they don’t know what they want.”

Pretty cool quotes, huh? 

And just as a side note: I also liked when the author asks the readers to touch their heads and say “I have a millionaire mind”. I see why people think it’s corny, but I understand the purpose of connecting the feeling to the thought.

I liked this a lot! It was a quick, informative read that I would recommend to anyone who wants to have a millionaire mind!

Review | Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter (Pretty Girls #0.5)

“The only reason my daughter has not come home is because someone is keeping her.” Keeping her.” 2/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: bars, young girls, and… not much more.

A missing girl in the news reminds Julia Carroll of herself: nineteen, beautiful, blonde hair, blue eyes.

Julia begins to dig deeper and plans an article for her college paper. She becomes gradually more obsessed with the case, never imagining how close she herself is to danger.

Includes an extract from Karin Slaughter’s gripping new novel, Pretty Girls.

What was even the point of this novella? I picked this up right after finishing “Pretty Girls”, and I was expecting to get Julia’s perspective on the night she went missing.

And I guess that’s what you get but… nothing actually happens. There’s a lot of her going to class and thinking about the girls that were missing… and that’s it.

Sure, I understand this is supposed to be a short novella, but I still thought we would get at least something interesting from it. When the story finally got interesting… It ended. So again: what was even the point of this short book?

The only thing I found interesting is how she was a little different from what her sisters described her in the main story. Other than that, it was a waste of time.

Review | Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (Pretty Girls #1)

“It’s the truth. I’m sorry to be blunt about it, but girls don’t like guys who are doormats. Especially pretty girls, because there’s no novelty in it. Guys are hitting on them all of the time. They can’t walk down the street or order a coffee or stand on a corner without some idiot making a comment about how attractive they are. And the women smile because it’s easier than telling them to go fuck themselves. And less dangerous, because if a man rejects a woman, she goes home and cries for a few days. If a woman rejects a man, he can rape and kill her.” 4.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: siblings, diary entries, necklaces, creepy photographs, shocking pasts, a lot of secrets and incredible revelations.

#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.

I know this book is very popular with thriller fans, so I was excited to pick it up and have my own thoughts on it.

My experience reading this book was very positive! Now I get the hype of this story being so immersive and well written, but I still don’t understand why some people say this is the best book they have ever read. I agree that it is a good, well constructed mystery, but in the end it felt just like another thriller to me.

In this book we follow two sisters, Claire and Lydia, who overcome their differences to investigate their sister’s disappearance together. Julia, the missing sister, disappeared a long time ago but now there is evidence that her disappearance may be connected to the disappearance of another girl the same age in the present. And of course, a lot of dark secrets are revealed by the sisters…

The topics in this are pretty heavy and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. There were scenes in here that made me really uncomfortable and I had to stop reading a few times just to breathe and gain courage to keep going. So if you’re considering reading this, be aware of the trigger warnings for: rape, sexual assault, suicide, violence, murder and horrible torture.

The plot was really good, though! There are a lot of surprises and twists, so you feel captivated to keep reading and finding out more. Also, the writing was incredible. I just wonder if it was really necessary to have this big of a book for this story in particular? 

I have two more Karin Slaughter books on my shelf waiting for me and I’m very curious to see what they’re all about. Now I have high expectations! If you love shocking and horrific thrillers, you should seriously consider reading this one!

Review | Everything is OK by Debbie Tung

“Recognize your uniqueness. Be proud of who you are, what you have, what your life is about, and what you want to pursue. Pay attention to your own path. You don’t need validation from others.” 4.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: cute illustrations, depression, mental illness, feelings, being overwhelmed, big workloads and great partners.

From the bestselling author of Quiet Girl in a Noisy World comes a gently humorous and poignant collection of comics about anxiety and depression—because sometimes even the simple things like getting out of bed every day feel like an uphill battle.

Everything Is OK is the story of Debbie Tung’s struggle with anxiety and her experience with depression. She shares what it’s like navigating life, overthinking every possible worst-case scenario, and constantly feeling like all hope is lost.

The book explores her journey to understanding the importance of mental health in her day-to-day life and how she learns to embrace the highs and lows when things feel out of control. Debbie opens up about deeply personal issues and the winding road to recovery, discovers the value of self-love, and rebuilds a more mindful relationship with her mental health.

In this graphic memoir, Debbie aims to provide positive and comforting messages to anyone who is facing similar difficulties or is just trying to get through a tough time in life. She hopes to encourage readers to be kinder to themselves, to know that they are not alone, and that it’s okay to be vulnerable because they are not defined by their mental health struggles. The dark clouds won’t be there forever. Everything will turn out all right.

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised with this book!

This graphic novel is, in essence, a memoir. In it you’ll read about the author’s struggles with mental illness and depression and how she overcame those challenges in her life. She talks about how it started and how people’s expectations built up to her feeling overwhelmed and depressed. She then shares with the reader how she felt and how professional help was crucial in getting her better.

There’s a lot of great things about this book, but what I think makes this book so amazing is how relatable it is and how it almost works as a guide for other people going through the same situation. You get everything here: you read about how it started, how she felt and what she did to overcome it. Not only that but you also get great advice and motivation from her. She touches in a lot of important points like being aware of your internal dialog and taking care of yourself. I’m very glad there are a lot of inspirational and motivational moments in this book!

I was also surprised with the art and how it paired beautifully with the content of the book! It was simple, but beautiful. I really liked how the author used color to highlight the happier times and black/white for the times she was depressed. I also really liked the color scheme the author used for the novel! There’s a lot of purple, pink and blue.

While I was reading this, I kept taking note of the quotes that I loved and there were so many of them. So here are a few of my favorites:

“I used to see my sensitivity as a weakness. I’ve come to understand that it is also my strength.”

“It’s OK to not know what you’re doing. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. It’s OK to feel scared and confused. It’s all OK.”

“I can be really hard on myself. But I’m still learning. I’m trying my best. And that’s what matters.”

“You are allowed to have a little cry. It doesn’t mean you’re not coping. It doesn’t mean you’re failing.”

I’m impressed. Now I have a great book to recommend to other people who are going through the same challenges. I think the author did an amazing job with this book!

A big thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review