ARC REVIEW: Romanov – by Nadine Brandes

Title: Romanov
Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: April 29th 2019
Pages: 352

“Something you should learn about us Romanovs is that we like to defy supposed tos.”

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


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I knew I had to read this book as soon as I first heard about it. A magical retelling of the story of Anastasia Romanov? How can I resist that?! I confess I had forgotten a lot of details around the Romanov family and their tragic ending… But that didn’t make me enjoy Romanov any less. This retelling mixes historical facts and magic in an expert way and gives us a whole new take on the events set in 1918 Russia. While Romanov can mostly be considered and in fact mainly reads like a historical fiction story, there are also magical elements incorporated that give the story a little something extra. I really liked the magic as described in Romanov and I almost wished we would have seen and learned more of it during the story. Instead, the main focus is on the Romanov family and what happens to them after Nastya’s father had to abdict and the whole family is exiled in Siberia. It’s a story of a family fighting to stay together while they try to hold on to a shred of dignity… The mayority of the story is focused on their time as prisoners in exile and not on the events after as I would have guessed. I enjoyed the writing style, although I do have to admit that the pace is considerably slow and this might be a turn off for those who don’t enjoy slower and more character driven historical fiction. Romanov focuses mostly on the characters and their development, and only gives you a healthy dose of action and magic more towards the ending. I personally didn’t really mind most of the time, although the middle part could get a tad too slow and tedious. The characters and magical take on this famous family mostly made up for it though, and I can definitely recommend it. Historical fiction fans: don’t be put off by the fantasy elements in this story, as it’s surprisingly light on the magic and focuses mainly on the historical elements.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #97 – Before She Knew Him & These Broken Stars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title; a winner and a story that wasn’t for me. I’ve been wanting to read more of Peter Swanson ever since I finished The Kind Worth Killing, and I’m glad I finally did. I absolutely loved Before She Knew Him! On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if These Broken Stars would be for me as I feared it would be too heavy on the romance, and I definitely should have listened to my instincts.


Title: Before She Knew Him
Author: Peter Swanson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: April 26th 2019
Pages: 320

“I’m on a small boat in the middle of a huge storm. I need to ride the waves and wait for it all to blow over.”


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I’ve been meaning to read more Peter Swanson ever since I read The Kind Worth Killing back in 2017. When I saw the @criminallygoodbookclub on Instagram had chosen his newest story Before She Knew Him as their April read, I knew I had to join them and finally follow up on my intentions. I’m glad I did, because the story definitely lived up to expectations… What a read! After a string of reads that failed to blow me away completely, I finally found myself fully absorbed in a story again and posponed all plans until I had reached the final page. Before She Knew Him is well written, suspenseful and has an enormous plot twist bomb towards the end that will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. With the help of different POVs we get an insight in the lives of Hen and her neighbor Matthew. Both are flawed and fascinating characters and the driving forces behind the story. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but between the mental health angle and the unsolved murders, you will have a lot of suspense and intrigue waiting for you. The fact that Hen knows things early on, but nobody believes her because of her past with mental health (bipolar) problems, is both a very interesting and almost hardbreaking situation as people tend to judge without getting the full picture first. Not every character is all that likeable, but they feel real and their flaws are what makes Before She Knew Him so fascinating. This story also packs a HUGE surprise you won’t see coming at all… And I love it when a story is able to mislead me so well I actually yelled ‘WHAT?!?!’ when I stumbled across the reveal. If you enjoy the genre, Before She Knew Him is definitely a story not to miss.


Title: These Broken Stars
(Starbound #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: December 10th 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: April 27th 2019
Pages: 384

“Funny how I was old enough by sixteen to drink, fight, and vote, but eve two years later, I’m too young to respect.”


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I’ve had this series on my TBR for a long time, never actually picking it up as I wasn’t sure the story would be for me. Let’s face it: the cover is a strong indicator that These Broken Stars would be very heavy on the romance… But after Across The Universe pleasantly surprised me earlier this month, I decided to risk it. Unfortunately, my instincts turned out to be right this time around. Because there is one thing that is certain, and that is that These Broken Stars is oozing with sappy romance scenes. What I hoped would be an interesting science fiction story set in space, soon turned into a survival story on a foreign planet after only a few chapters… The main characters more busy with ‘ignoring’ their feelings and the whole forbidden love vibe than actually exploring or having interesting things happening to them. The survival angle could have been interesting enough once you get over the fact you won’t be getting more space actions or a true explanation behind the crash, but to be honest I was rather bored instead most of the time. For such an interesting setting, nothing much was actually happening. The story instead focuses almost completely on Lilac and Tarver and their complicated relationship. The rich heiress and the poor soldier stranded on an unknown planet after a crash; a forbidden love bout to happen. Can it get any more cliche than that? The only reason I decided to stick it through until the end is that the writing itself is engaging and made it easier to keep turning those pages even though nothing interesting was happening most of the time. Overall These Broken Stars had some very interesting ideas and a promising setting, but sadly those elements weren’t developed or taken advantage of. Romance fans who enjoy a forbidden romance story with a space setting will probably appreciate this first book of the Starbound series a lot more though.


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O.W.L.’s Magical Readathon 2019: It’s A Wrap! #OWLsReadathon2019

I had such a great time participating in this readathon! It started on April 1st and runs the whole month until April 30th… But I’m happy to announce that I’ve been able to complete all twelve O.W.L. exams already with three days to spare! It was a close call, mostly because I had a pile of ARCs I had to go through as well, but I’m happy to have finished all titles in time. Before I continue: if you want to learn more about the readathon, you can hear all about it in Book Roast‘s video below.

I’ve decided to officially go for the Magizoologist carreer this year, which means I will be concentrating on the N.E.W.T.s for Care Of Magical Creatures, Charms, Herbology and Potions when the N.E.W.T.s Readathon goes live in August. First things first though… Below a complete list of the books I read for my O.W.L.s. Covers of the books read for the different Hogwarts subjects are shown first in the order I read them and then marked green with the date I finished them added in the list that follows.

PROGRESS REPORT

Passed Hogwarts subjects: Charms // Muggle Studies // Defense Against The Dark Arts // Potions // Herbology // Ancient Runes // Transfiguration // Divination // Care Of Magical Creatures // Arithmancy // History Of Magic // Astronomy

#LIBRARIAN#
Ancient Runes: SONG OF SACRIFICE by Janell Rhianonn (finished April 9th 2019)
Arithmancy: THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (finished April 21st 2019)
Defense Against The Dark Arts: RELEASE by Patrick Ness (finished April 4th 2019)
History Of Magic: THE MURDER ON THE LINKS by Agatha Christie (finished April 24th 2019)
Transfiguration: HOW TO WALK AWAY by Katherine Center (finished April 13th 2019)

#MAGIZOOLOGIST#
Care Of Magical Creatures: THE WOLF BORDER by Sarah Hall (finished April 20th 2019)
Charms: DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid (finished March 28th 2019)
Herbology: THE MURMUR OF BEES by Sofia Segovia (finished April 7th 2019
Potions: THE DARE by Carol Wyer (finished April 5th 2019)

#OTHERS#
Astronomy: THESE BROKEN STARS by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner (finished 27th 2019)
Divination: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis (finished April 14th 2019)
Muggle Studies: THE SILVER LADIES OF PENNY LANE by Dee MacDonald (finished April 2nd 2019)


Have you joined the challenge? How are you doing so far?


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Down The TBR Hole #3

It’s been too long since I last did one of these posts! About 14 months ago… Whoops? My Goodreads want-to-read shelf has of course only increased since then I desperately need to do some Spring cleaning. Down The TBR Hole was created by Lost in a Story and this meme will hopefully help me declutter my Goodreads shelf and control the damage by cleaning out a bit.

This is how it works:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Here we go, shall we?

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YVO’S SHORTIES #96 – The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society & The Murder On The Links

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, and probably should have sooner, because I ended up really enjoying both. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows turned out to be a wonderful piece of historical fiction written in epistolary form… And my third meeting with Hercule Poirot in The Murder In The Links turned out to be another successful one.


Title: The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: July 10th 2008
Publisher: The Dial Press
Finished reading: April 22nd 2019
Pages: 322

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”


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I’ve been meaning to read The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society for years now, but somehow I always ended up posponing it. Lately I’ve been wanting to watch the adaptation on Netflix though, so I decided to finally read it so I could do so. The genre is right up my alley, as I love WWII historical fiction, and I really liked the setting on Guernsey as well since I don’t think I’ve read about the Channel Islands as a setting in stories before. Not only the historical and geographical setting made this story into a success for me, but also the format that is chosen to narrate this story. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel, where the story is told through a series of letters and occasionally telegrams written between a wide variety of different characters. While I admit it took me a little while to keep track of all those different characters, they all added their little touch to the story and I especially loved those letters set in Guernsey. It was interesting to see the different characters and relationships evolve over time, and while I could have done without the whole ‘Mark’ romance, the rest of the story mostly made up for it. Juliet grows a lot during the story, and will definitely win you over before you reach the final page. The star of the story for me is Elizabeth though; the glue that connects everything together. The letters are written in such a way that the personality of the characters shines through; something that takes this story to the next level. More devastating WWII facts are mixed with humor and ‘lighter’ scenes, creating a well-balanced story that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Both historical fiction and romantic drama fans will have a wonderful time with The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society.


Title: The Murder On The Links
(Hercule Poirot #2)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: May 1923
Publisher: Harper Collins
Finished reading: April 25th 2019
Pages: 272

“Mon ami, a clue of two feet long is every bit as valuable as one measuring two millimetres! But it is the romantic idea that all important clues must be infinitesimal.”


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Although I started this series out of order a year ago by reading book number ten first (Murder On The Orient Express), I made a promise to myself to try and read them in order in the future. I read the first book later last year, and although it took me longer than expected to get to The Murder On The Links, I’m definitely glad I finally did so. I really enjoyed spending more time with Hercule Poirot. He is such an interesting character! I love the way he investigates by using what he calls using his grey cells, and deducts and discovers the truth by noticing things others might overlook. The writing makes it very easy to fly through this classic, and I had an excellent time trying to discover the hidden clues along with Poirot. Mr. Hastings can get quite annoying, but I tried not to focus on that and enjoy the investigation instead. The Murder On The Links is mostly set in a small village in France, and the story without doubt has an interesting set of characters. Detective Giraud made an excellent contrast with Hercule Poirot, as his investigation methods and ideas are completely opposite to our main character. I personally really liked this rivalry and different takes on what was happening. I had a great time with this second book and I will definitely be looking forward to see more of Hercule Poirot in the future.


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ARC REVIEW: The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek – by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: April 23rd 2019
Pages: 320

“Lots of cures are worse than what they aim to cure.”

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

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I love bookish books and I was intrigued by this story as soon as I first read the blurb. What makes this historical fiction story set in 1936 Kentucky so fascinating is that it’s based on true events. Both the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians and the blue-skinned people of Kentucky have existed and it’s fascinating to learn more about them. The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek is well researched and gives you a lot of details about the Pack Horse Librarians, created after the Roosevelt’s New Deal Acts. It also gives you insight in the condition of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky, and while some aspects have been altered (dates of the medical research for example), it gives you a general idea of the phenomenon. This story is also about race problematics and racism; the mountain folk discriminating all non-white inhabitants without exception. While it took me a considerably long time to warm up to the writing style, once I finally did I finished the story in one sitting. The driving force behind this story is Cussy Mary, a character that will win over your heart and one that will probably stay with me for a long time. She is what you call a flawed character, but the good parts of her personality really shine through and I loved reading about her, her job and her patrons. A little warning: some scenes are a bit graphic and there are definitely a few devastating and heartbreaking moments included especially in the second half. Make sure to have your tissues close just in case! I personally found The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek a fascinating story and while it had a slow start for me, I soon found myself I couldn’t stop reading. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction based on true events, loves unique characters and doesn’t mind a tear or two.


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WWW Wednesdays #219 – April 24th

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’m finally meeting Hercule Poirot again and started the second book The Murder On The Links yesterday… I’m hoping to get through to it soon. I’m also starting Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson in the hope I can finish it in time for Janel’s Instagram @criminallygoodbookclub…

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall (2/5 stars) REVIEW
The Wolf Border was very close to getting me in a slump, and not in a good way. I literally made every possible excuse to not pick up my copy and do something else instead, and it took me considerably longer to finally reach that last page. I even thought about just DNFing it multiple times… In short, I don’t think The Wolf Border and me were ment to be.

2. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (4/5 stars) REVIEW 26/04
The genre is right up my alley, as I love WWII historical fiction, and I really liked the setting on Guernsey as well since I don’t think I’ve read about the Channel Islands as a setting in stories before. Not only the historical and geographical setting made this story into a success for me, but also the format that is chosen to narrate this story. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel, where the story is told through a series of letters and occasionally telegrams written between a wide variety of different characters. While I admit it took me a little while to keep track of all those different characters, they all added their little touch to the story and I especially loved those letters set in Guernsey.

3. The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (4/5 stars) REVIEW 25/04

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I still need to read a final book to complete my O.W.L.s for the Magical readathon… I had a different title picked originally, but I needed a little break from historical fiction so I’ve decided to read These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner instead. I also need to start making a dent in my May NG ARCs as a few are due soon… First up are Romanov by Nadine Brandes and Middlegame by Seanan McGuire. My TBR jar pick is still Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain; that one will definitely have to wait until next month. xD


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ARC REVIEW: The Dare – by Carol Wyer

Title: The Dare
(Detective Natalie Ward #3)

Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 25th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 5th 2019
Pages: 348

“Tiredness mingled with the damp made Natalie shiver and she shoved her hands deep into her jacket pockets to warm them.”

*** 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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Carol Wyer has done it again! She has proven me once again you can’t go wrong with her books and she is one of my go-to authors whenever I’m in the mood for an entertaining and fast-paced detective thriller. The Dare is already book number three of the Detective Natalie Ward series… And her team has another complicated case on their hands. While Natalie has never managed to grow on me completely (I can’t put my finger on the why though), what I love is the dynamics between the different members of her team. They all have their own unique personalities and add a little something to the investigation; sometimes the story switches to one of their POVs as well. In The Dare the story alternates between the police and the killer. We slowly learn more about the killer’s past, the meaning behind the title, the significance of the snake and why he does what he does. It shows the danger of the internet and its influence on teenagers… Especially since the younger generation seems to be getting more tech savy than their parents every second. There are a lot of twists and turns involved in The Dare, adding to the overall suspense and keeping you invested until the final reveals. Things will also get quite personal and a lot will be at stake for Natalie this time around. If you are a fan of fast-paced, well written and entertaining detective thrillers, you should definitely try meeting Natalie Ward.

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

When Jane arrives home a little later than usual, she realizes that her thirteen-year-old daugher Savannah never came home. She immediately starts searching and soon after raises the alarm. Detective Natalie Ward and her team don’t have a lot of clues, and the race against the clock is one they won’t be able to win… Not even 24 hours later Savannah’s body is found close to her home. There isn’t a lot of evidence available, making it hard for the team to find solid clues and a suspects. And things are getting even more acute as another teenager goes missing the same day. Will they be able to catch whoever is behind it all on time?

If you are looking for a well written, suspenseful and entertaining detective thriller that reads like a train, you know you can always turn to Carol Wyer. Both this series and her detective thrillers in general have been consistently solid so far and The Dare is no exception to that rule. I found myself flying through those pages to discover more about the killer and how things would unfold… It’s true I never grew to like Natalie as a character, but her team’s chemistry mostly makes up for that. And I’ll definitely be looking forward to discover whatever will be thrown at them next.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #95 – Across The Universe & The Wolf Border

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres… The first a YA scifi story that turned out to be a pleasant surprise and also surprisingly light on the romance: Across The Universe by Beth Revis. I can’t say I was a fan of The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall though.


Title: Across The Universe
(Across The Universe #1)
Author: Beth Revis

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: January 11th 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Finished reading: April 14th 2019
Pages: 399

“Everything is wrong here. Shattered. Broken. Like the light.”


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I’ve been wondering whether I should try this series for years, mostly because I was fearing a romance overdose and wasn’t sure if it would be for me. I’m glad I finally gave in and tried Across The Universe, because my instincts turned out to be wrong this time around. Despite the romantic cover, this first book of a YA science fiction series set in space is surprisingly light on the romance. There are hints of it now and then, but the main focus is the fact that the story is set on a space ship and the mysterious attacks that take place. And as you might guess, that is a huge bonus for me! The writing is engaging and this story is really easy to read. I liked the setting on the ship and how the story is able to show us the effect of having to live on a ship for generations has on its inhabitants. The story has a dual POV, where we alternated between Amy and Elder. Amy’s situation is without doubt interesting and is the driving force behind the plot. I wasn’t sure about the whole Elder/Eldest idea and I did guess some of the plot twists, but overall Across The Universe was a very entertaining story to read and I liked how a murder mystery was mixed in with the science fiction elements. I’m definitely curious to find out how this series will continue now.


Title: The Wolf Border
Author: Sarah Hall

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Finished reading: April 20th 2019
Pages: 435

“There seems no need for anything else now. There is no wound. The only wound is life, recklessly creating it, knowing that it will never be safe, it will never last; it will only ever be real.”


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I got a copy of The Wolf Border at a hostel book exchange during our Europe trip last year, intrigued by the cover and blurb and the promise of a story set in the wilderness. I’ve been looking forward to finally read it, and I thought the O.W.L.s Readathon was a great excuse to do so… I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had to this story though. Why? The fact is, The Wolf Border was very close to getting me in a slump, and not in a good way. I literally made every possible excuse to not pick up my copy and do something else instead, and it took me considerably longer to finally reach that last page. I even thought about just DNFing it multiple times… In short, I don’t think The Wolf Border and me were ment to be. The first thing that surprised (and disappointed me) was the fact that the wilderness and wolves don’t play as much of a significant role in the story as the blurb lets to believe, the plot instead mostly focusing on Rachel and her complicated life. This story is mainly something that can be classified as a family drama with an overdose of unnecessarily explicit adult scenes (another turn off for me), with the wolves playing a background role rather than being the main attraction. Sure, some things can be said about the comparison of animal instincts and behavior between human and animal. This can be considered an interesting aspect of this story; the underlying message that we are still basically animals in the end. BUT. It’s hard thinking about this comparison and its cleverness when you can’t stand the characters and don’t feel a connection to them at all… The same goes for the writing style. The sentences are halted and the prose doesn’t seem to flow at all; making it hard to stay invested and focus on the story. I know some have loved The Wolf Border and I’m glad, but I personally had a really hard time finishing it for various reasons. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m hoping others will like its taste.


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April BD #bookhaul

They are here! The main part of what I call my ‘useless old Dutch bank account made useful’ book haul… With a little help of a book fairy called Eva. 😉 ❤ I already shared them on Instagram a few days ago, but I thought I would show my haul on my blog as well as it doesn’t happen often I’m able to get so many books in one go. 😉

So far 16 out of the 20 ordered books have arrived… The four remaining titles are either already on its way as well or still waiting to be (re)published.

This haul also includes my giveaway prize I won on Twitter, hosted by the wonderful @sdavreads back in February. I could pick any 2019 contemporary romance title and I chose a preorder of The Boy Who Steals Houses. ❤

A full list of all 17 books with details below!

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