ARC REVIEW: The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter – by Julia Drosten

Title: The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter
Author: Julia Drosten
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: August 8th 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: March 26th 2018
Pages: 295
(Originally written in German: ‘Die Elefantenhüterin’)

“Sometimes it’s very hard not to follow the path of revenge.”

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

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I have a weak spot for historical fiction, especially if they are set in an era or country I’m not all that familiar with. I was instantly intrigued when I first read about The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter, with its promises of a country/culture I don’t know much about as well as the era the story takes place. The 19th century history of Ceylon (now called Scri Lanka) is a fascinating background for this story and the descriptions of both the country itself and the customs and culture are lavishly and thoroughly described. It is really easy to imagine how Ceylon would have looked like from the descriptions alone! And it also shows the background for this story was very well researched and put together. Sadly, somehow I didn’t manage to get a proper feel for The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter though. While I love thorough descriptions, especially of places that are foreign to me, I started to wonder about the balance of those descriptions and the actual plot. It is true that the descriptions help set the right atmosphere and foreign setting/era, but they also slowed down the pace considerably. And not just the pace, because I also felt the transition from background descriptions to the more active parts was quite haltered and as a consequence the story didn’t really flow. I can’t put my finger on the why exactly, but I think my mixed feelings had a lot to do with the general tone and writing style as well. Both seemed distant and not natural, and the second especially stood out in the dialogues. And in general, even though they story describes some pretty barbaric events, it doesn’t seem to be able to provoke true emotions due to this feeling of distance. The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter has a lot of potential and the main characters have an interesting story, but sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy this story better. I’m still wondering if part of my problem with the tone and writing style could have been due to the fact this novel is a translation though, and some of its original charm might have been lost.

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In the royal city of Kandy, the king’s elephant keeper’s wife gives birth to a daughter the same day the king’s favorite elephant gives birth to her young. The couple was desperate for a boy to ensure the line of succession, and the mother hides her daughter’s gender by raising her as a boy. Phera and her elephant Siddhi become close friends and spends most of her time with the animal. Phera realizes she is not like other boys, but her parents force her to keep her true gender a secret… Until the British colonists invade Ceylon and they have to flee the capital.

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I really wanted to like this one and I still think the plot itself has a lot of potential. The worldbuilding and descriptions of the era and setting are thorough and it shows the background of The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter was very well researched. Sadly, I’m still on the fence about this one, as I didn’t manage to enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem was the tone and writing style as well as the fact the story didn’t really flow… Which made it hard to properly connect to the story. The setting is fascinating though as well as the time period the story is set in with its consequences of the British invasion.


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Stacking The Shelves #39 – March 31st

Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga’s Reviews and is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

 The first addition wasn’t planned, because I never ever expected to actually win a giveaway one day, but somehow I did and on top of that it was for a book in a series I’ve been meaning to read for ages! Thank you dear Meggy, I can’t wait to finally meet Kay Hunter! ❤ ❤ And a huge thank you to the wonderful Rachel Amphlett for not only sending me my giveaway prize, but also offering to add me to her blogger list and give access to the previous books as well. ❤ ❤ Such a wonderful late birthday present!!

Ah, and I ended up requesting a Netgalley title as well. Oops? But that is only because I don’t think I’ve ever read a viking story before, and after the Vikings TV show I’m pretty much obsessed with the culture. Fingers crossed the story will be a good one! 

# GIVEAWAY #

❤ ❤ ❤ Again a huge thank you to the wonderful Meggy and Rachel Amphlett!! ❤ ❤ ❤

# SENT BY AUTHOR #

Not only was the wonderful Rachel Amphlett nice enough to host a giveaway for the newest Kay Hunter novel through Meggy’s blog, but she also offered me to join her blogger list after sending my prize! I have been meaning to start this series for ages now, so I’m so excited to be finally doing so soon! Kay Hunter, here I come.

 

# NETGALLEY ARC #

Click on the summaries below to go to the Goodreads page… (I’m only featuring the first Kay Hunter book to avoid spoilers.)

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ARC REVIEW: Deadly Secrets – by Robert Bryndza @bookouture @RobertBryndza

Title: Deadly Secrets
(DCI Erika Foster #6)
Author: Robert Bryndza
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 13th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: March 23rd 2018
Pages: 270

“Are you kidding me? How many times have you put yourself in danger? You’ve been beaten up more times that Jackie Chan. You’re like the bionic woman!”

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

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the DCI Erika Foster series and I have been following her adventures closely ever since I read the first book back in 2016. Of course I had this newest book Deadly Secrets on my list of most-anticipated releases and I’m pretty sure I squeeled when my request was approved. Talk about a perfect (late) birthday present! I literally dropped everything as soon as my copy appeared on my kindle just so I could start reading Deadly Secrets straight away. And this newest installment has exactly the same high quality of writing, plot development, twists and the healthy dose of suspense and action I have become used to with this series. I found myself hooked right from the very first page as there is just something about the writing that draws you right in. And what a way to start this thriller! Deadly Secrets can be read as a standalone since the case itself is easy to follow on its own, but you do miss background information about the main characters. And the other books are so good, you will definitely be missing out by not reading them in the first place! Erika Foster is a character I’ve come to love and her investigations are always intense with lots of twists and turns. In Deadly Secrets, she is not as present as in previous books due to circumstances I can’t reveal because of spoilers, but I like the direction the story takes. The case itself seems to be rather straightforward at first glance, and I even thought I had it all figured out at some points, but trust me, you will be wrong. Misleading plot twists to the win! The ending was definitely a surprise and rather intense… And I’m definitely curious about what will happen in the future. Fast-paced, suspenseful, intense and highly entertaining: Deadly Secrets and the DCI Erika Foster series in general is a must-read for detective thriller fans!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first five books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

After a mother wakes up to find her daughter’s blood-soaked body frozen on her doorstep, DCI Erika Foster stumbles upon the murder scene on her way to a Christmas lunch. She quickly steps in and takes over the lead of the case, determined to find out who is behind the murder. They have a lot of suspects, but not so many solid leads. And what looks like a pretty straightforward case, soon becomes more complicated as they uncover more and more secrets and lies…

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I had high expectations for this newest DCI Erika Foster story and I’m happy to say those expectations were more than met. I enjoyed every single minute of Deadly Secrets! Book number six takes a bit of a different direction and Erika Foster is not as present as normal, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of action and a very interesting police investigation to follow. This case is another disturbing one that will lead to many misleading twists as the team is trying to untangle the lies and secrets that surround the life of the victim. Very much recommended for fans of the genre!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #22: Cocktails And Dreams & Wing Jones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two contemporary romance reads I ended up actually enjoying despite the fact that the genre isn’t really for me. Cocktails And Dreams by A.L. Michael was such a fun read and I loved the writing style! And I loved the running element, mixed race main characters and the dragon/lioness symbolism in Wing Jones by Katherine Webber.


Title: Cocktails And Dreams
(Martini Club #1)
Author: A.L. Michael

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 24th 2017
Publisher: Canelo
Finished reading: March 15th 2018
Pages: 209

“Actually, what I really needed was my best friend, and a glass of wine the size of my face.”


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Fact: the contemporary romance genre and me don’t always get along. Also a fact: I can still really enjoy a contemporary romance story under the right circumstances. And this has a lot to do with both my mood and if the author is able to manage to convince me. It doesn’t happen all that often, but Cocktails And Dreams turned out to be one of those exceptions. Because I absolutely adored this story! I was in desperate need of something fun and entertaining to read and this book worked like magic. I had so much fun reading Cocktails And Dreams, and this is coming from someone who is normally allergic to romance… So if you like the genre, you will have a blast while reading this one. The writing style is engaging, easy to read and has just the right pace to allow for well developed characters and an interesting plot. The characters are really easy to like and this made me connect to the story right away… And I just loved the food and drink elements in the story, which added a little something to the plot as well. The descriptions of the different foods and drinks are simply mouth watering and will make you want to try everything out yourself! I also loved the Martini Club setting and the way the different relationships developed. I’m not too sure what to think about Savvy’s mother, but I guess it does give the story an edge. Cocktails And Dreams is such an easy story to love though! And I will definitely be looking out to get a copy of the sequel, because the writing style is fabulous.


Title: Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 5th 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: March 24th 2018
Pages: 378

“But when I’m running, I don’t feel like an idiot. I feel free, like anything is possible. Like I’m not running from something, but for something.”


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I kind of picked up this title on a whim after seeing it mentioned recently, and I thought it would be a nice change of genre. Wing Jones is a YA contemporary romance story with a twist. You will find a healthy dose of drama, with the main character Wing’s brother being in a coma after a car accident he was to blame for. There will be romance scenes as well, which can be distracting, but gladly at least did not include a love triangle. But the main element of Wing Jones, besides showing how they have to live with the aftermath of the accident, is running. I just love how important running is in this story and how Wing uses this newly found talent to try to move on and make a life for herself. I really liked the characters in general as well as the fact that the Jones family is mixed race and how this is represented in the story. Very well done! I also loved the lioness and the dragon and how they were being used as symbols for Wing’s heritance. A little magical touch in an otherwise ‘realistic’ story and it added a little something extra to it. I did feel the middle part dragged a little and the ending was a bit rushed, but overall I had a great time reading Wing Jones. The romance and insecurity of Wing were a tad annoying as well, but the running and dragon/lioness elements made me mostly forget about that. If you enjoy reading YA contempories with a healthy dose of drama, this one will be a very good fit for you.


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WWW Wednesdays 169 – March 28th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I started reading one my pending ARCs The Good Twin by Marti Green yesterday evening, and although it’s still early days, I’m having high hopes for this one. I’m also about to finally pick up Ready Player One by Ernest Cline… I’ve been saying this for ages, but now the time has finally come! Definitely looking forward to it.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Deadly Secrets by Robert Bryndza (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 30/03
I had high expectations for this newest DCI Erika Foster story and I’m happy to say those expectations were more than met. I enjoyed every single minute of Deadly Secrets! Book number six takes a bit of a different direction and Erika Foster is not as present as normal, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of action and a very interesting police investigation to follow. This case is another disturbing one that will lead to many misleading twists as the team is trying to untangle the lies and secrets that surround the life of the victim. Very much recommended for fans of the genre!

2. Wing Jones by Katherine Webber (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 29/03
Wing Jones is a YA contemporary romance story with a twist. You will find a healthy dose of drama, with the main character Wing’s brother being in a coma after a car accident he was to blame for. There will be romance scenes as well, which can be distracting, but gladly at least did not include a love triangle. But the main element of Wing Jones, besides showing how they have to live with the aftermath of the accident, is running. I just love how important running is in this story and how Wing uses this newly found talent to try to move on and make a life for herself.

3. The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter by Julia Drosten (2,5/5 stars) REVIEW 31/03
I really wanted to like this one and I still think the plot itself has a lot of potential. The worldbuilding and descriptions of the era and setting are thorough and it shows the background of The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter was very well researched. Sadly, I’m still on the fence about this one, as I didn’t manage to enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem was the tone and writing style as well as the fact the story didn’t really flow… Which made it hard to properly connect to the story. The setting is fascinating though as well as the time period the story is set in with its consequences of the British invasion.

4. Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys (4/5 stars) REVIEW 08/04
I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction in general and I hadn’t heard about the Wilhelm Gustloff incident before, so that was a double bonus for me. It truly shows in the little details just how well researched this novel is and the descriptions made it feel as if you were there yourself along with the characters.  I admit it took me a while to get used to the multiple POVs and remembering who is who, which slowed down the pace inicially, but each different character and POV does show a different view on the situation and add something to the story.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I have two pending ARCs lined up next. The first, Jilliand by Clare Gutierrez, I’m super excited about since it’s a historical fiction read about vikings that made me think of the TV show Vikings immediately (which is a good thing, since it’s one of my favorites!). I’m looking forward to A Secondhand Life by Pamela Crane as well since the blurb sounds brilliant. And I’m superhappy to be finally starting with the Kay Hunter series! I will definitely be starting with Scared To Death by Rachel Amphlett ASAP. My latest TBR jar pick is still Summer Of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider.


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Teaser Tuesdays #171 – March 27th: Salt To The Sea

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme hosted at The Purple Booker. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I’m finally reading Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys! I’m a big fan of her other novels, so I’m still not sure why it took me this long to actually pick up this title. I’m having very high hopes for this one, so fingers crossed it will be another good one.

My teaser (4%):

“I thought of the countless refugees trekking toward freedom. How many millions of people had lost their home and family during the war? I had aggree with Mother to look to the future, but secretly I dreamed of returning to the past.”

What are you reading right now?


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ARC REVIEW: The Silent Kookaburra – by Liza Perrat

Title: The Silent Kookaburra
Author: Liza Perrat
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: November 29th 2016
Finished reading: March 19th 2018
Pages: 309

“It wasn’t true what Dad said: that time heals wounds and grief. Time was not healing mine. The grief pain wasn’t fading; it was getting worse, and in a colder, uglier way.”

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

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I was excited to be given the chance to read The Silent Kookaburra, especially since fellow bloggers enjoyed it. And while it took me considerably longer than expected to finally get to it, that excitement was just as strong when I finally did pick it up. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up having the reading experience I was expecting to have. A big part of the problem here is me though, and not the book itself… I’ll try to explain why. The writing is wonderful and I just loved the incorporation of many Australian elements that made the story feel authentic. From the slang to the beautiful descriptions of the plants and animals… It really helped setting the right atmosphere. This is more of a family drama rather than the psychological thriller I was expecting, but that was not the problem here. The Silent Kookaburra has an element I just couldn’t stomach and it made it really hard for me to keep reading. What element? One of the characters is a pedophile, and there are quite a few scenes where a trigger warning should have been in place and reading about what he was doing seriously made me feel sick. I’m not saying it is badly described and if you are not bothered by reading about a pedophile at work, you will probably find this story fascinating. But I was mostly disgusted by it all and I don’t think I would have read it if I would have realized beforehand a pedophile character had such a big role in this story. (I realize there were hints in the blurb, but the importance of this element in the story really made me too uncomfortable.) But like I said, this feeling is highly personal and has nothing to do with the quality of the story or the writing itself. And it doesn’t take away the fact I loved the Australian vibe of the story with its many descriptions and use of ‘slang’. The final reveal was an interesting twist as well, although I do have to say I kind of saw it coming. But overall, if you think the pedophile scenes won’t bother you that much, The Silent Kookaburra will make for a very interesting and atmospheric domestic drama.

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Tanya Randall would love to have a normal and happy family, but things haven’t been the same for a long time. But then their luck seems to change as her mom is finally pregnant again, this time managing to give birth to a healthy little girl. Shelley is a true miracle baby and seems to be able to fuse the family back together… Until she gets sick and the peace is disturbed once again. Right in the middle of all of this, Tanya meets an uncle she didn’t even know she had, because her family refuses to talk about him. And then disaster strikes one summer day…

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Both the writing, descriptions and general setting of this story are very well done and I loved the use of so many local expressions and descriptions of the Australian plants and animals. I am glad I read it on my kindle though to help me with the meaning of some of the words! The Silent Kookaburra is more of a domestic/family drama with a dash of mystery around what happened that summer… With an interesting final twist. The whole pedophile element did make me very uncomfortable and make me feel sick. Call me weird, but while I can manage horror, gruesome murder and violence, don’t touch my animals and don’t mention child abuse in detail. This reaction is highly personal though and if you don’t mind this element in a story, don’t let my review stop you from reading The Silent Kookaburra.


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