ARC REVIEW: The Girl Made Of Clay – by Nicole Meier

Title: The Girl Made Of Clay
Author: Nicole Meier
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: September 12th 2018
Pages: 304

“For the majority of their lives, they were two lost souls twisting in the wind.”

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

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There were two things that instantly made me want to read The Girl Made Of Clay: the beautiful cover and the promise of an intriguing family drama with an artsy twist. There is no doubt that this story has a lot of potential, and I believe in this case the problem is me and not the story itself. I confess that family dramas are a bit out of my reading comfort zone and they can go either way for me. In this case, unfortunately my reading experience went down a negative road. It wasn’t because of the writing, which was solid and flowed. The Girl Made Of Clay is a mostly character-driven story where the focus is on Sarah and her father TR, but also on the failing relationship between Sarah and her husband. As always with a character-driven story, the connection to the main characters is extremely important and has a big influence in how you perceive a story. Sadly, in The Girl Made Of Clay, I was unable to make such connection. In fact, TR is horrible, Sarah frustratingly annoying and her husband is no good either… Little Sam is the only one that was able to bring a smile to my face. I’m not saying the character development is bad and having flawed characters makes the story that much more realistic. TR isn’t ment to be likeable, and the whole point of this book is that the relationship between Sarah and her father is broken. Still, my aversion towards the characters made it really hard to enjoy the story or to properly care about what would happen to them. I’m not sure about the credibility of some parts of the plot either… But like I said, the main problem for me was the lack of connection to the characters, which made it a struggle to stay focused and keep myself motivated to keep reading. I do think this was mostly me, and I think people who enjoy reading character-driven family dramas and don’t mind flawed and potentially frustrating characters will have a good time with The Girl Made Of Clay.

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Sarah hasn’t spoken with her father for decades, not since he left them all those years ago to live the celebrity lifeas a famous artist. But after Thomas ‘TR’ Harlow is badly injured in a house fire, it seems like he has no one else left to care for him… And suddenly Sarah is forced to care for a man who is basically a stranger to her. Being close to her father again not only brings back old painful memories, but also puts a strain on her already troubled marriage. Sarah is not so sure what to do with the situation, or if she will ever be able to forgive him…

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If you enjoy reading character-driven stories with flawed characters that are described in a realistic way, The Girl Made Of Clay is without doubt an interesting read. The pace is not the fastest, but the story captures quite well how the characters evolve over time. Did I think every aspect of the plot and behavior was credible? Not exactly. Did most of the characters annoy me and made me enjoy the story a lot less? Most definitely. But as one of the cliches goes: ‘it’s not you, it’s me…‘. And I really think that is what happened here.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #45 – The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo & Orange Is The New Black

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around not only two books belonging to a completely different genre, but also two completely different reactions to the story. Despite not being my typical genre, I absolutely loved The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. I should have never doubted all those raving reviews! Orange Is The New Black on the other hand was a huge disappointment.


Title: The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: September 2nd 2018
Pages: 388

“No one is all good or all bad. I know this, of course, I had to learn it at a young age. But sometimes it’s easy to forget just how true it is.”


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Fact: I’ve been a tiny bit afraid to pick up this one. Partly because of all those raving reviews and you all know how I react to hyped books most of the time, and partly because it’s not my typical genre… But I should have never doubted those reviews. The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo had me hook, line and sinker. Not only was I impressed by the writing style right from the very first page, it was the story itself that fascinated me as well. The idea of the biography, the aged actress finally revealing all about her past… Everything just clicked for me. Even though Evelyn Hugo herself is not exactly likeable and has done some horrendous things in her life, somehow between the way she was portrayed in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo and the way she tells Monique all her secrets without hiding the ugly details she really grows on you. I was actually surprised by just how much I was able to connect to her character! I also loved how big of a role diversity played in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. It was interesting to see how gay, lesbian and bisexual characters were treated in that particular era, and how the views on the lgbt community affected the Hollywood stars. The historical setting in general is very well done and I highly enjoyed fully diving into that era. I also enjoyed the way this story was told: partly set in the present as Evelyn finally tells her story to Monique, and mostly set in the past, where Evelyn gives us her life story through her seven husbands she has been with during her life. My favorite characters were without doubt Harry and Celia, and the character development in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is sublime. I never imagined enjoying this book so much, but this is one of those books that you just HAVE to try even if you aren’t sure the genre would be for you. Trust me, you will regret it if you don’t.


Title: Orange Is The New Black
Author: Piper Kerman

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: April 6th 2010
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Finished reading: September 3rd 2018
Pages: 298

“Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the world, a place where the U.S. government now puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient-people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled.”


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I actually saw the first episode of the TV series based on this memoir a while back, but I decided to not continue watching as I wasn’t impressed by what I had seen. I still wanted to give the memoir a go though, mostly because I normally never watch a series or movie before reading the book in the first place. So when Orange Is The New Black fitted one of the N.E.W.T. prompts, of course I saw it as a sign to pick it up. Sadly, it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for. It seems my feelings during my supershort experience watching the TV series pretty much summed up my feelings for this memoir as well. What went wrong for me? First of all, I never got used to the writing style or tone, which of course made it harder to connect to the story. Secondly, I had a huge problem with Piper Kerman herself. She comes over as someone mostly self-centered, who sees herself as someone above the rest and doesn’t seem to want to admit what she did back in 1993 was wrong. Reading about her views on the prison world made me cringe at points, and while it was interesting to learn more about some of the inmates, I felt it lacked coherence and the story just didn’t flow for me. More importantly, I felt she was trying to be too politically correct and by saying she wasn’t discriminating, it mostly came over as the other way around. The ending was also really abrupt, and didn’t give real closure after such a detailed description of her time in jail. The story dragged at points and it was hard to keep myself interested and make it to the end… The fact that I did was more due to the other characters involved than Piper Kerman herself. All in all unfortunately not exactly a winner for me.


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ARC REVIEW: Run And Hide – by Alan McDermott

Title: Run And Hide
Author: Alan McDermott
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Action
First published: August 22nd 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: July 26th 2018
Pages: 304

“When we signed up, we were sold a dream. America’s invisible protectors, keeping the country safe from enemies foreign and domestic.”

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

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Before I start with my review, I have to be honest here and say I’m probably not the right target group for this one. While I like my thrillers fast and action-packed, it becomes pretty obvious early on that Run And Hide is basically a male-focused story and some of the comments included can come over as sexist. This probably has had a negative influence on my opinion and I do think male readers who like fast spy and action thrillers will have a lot better time than I did with this story. But let’s talk a bit further about my own experience with this story. Besides the sometimes crude comments and other possibly sexist references, I had a hard time connecting to the writing style in general. This made it harder to fully focus on the story and keep myself invested in the plot. The plot itself was a little too much for me and not credible at all, but I guess it would probably make for a perfect Hollywood blockbuster action movie. Over the top, extreme, with a lot of gun action and fighting scenes… National safety at stake and a conspiracy plot and all; oh yes, Run And Hide would probably translate very well to the screen. As a book I wasn’t too sure the story actually worked though. There were too many different storylines and POVs for me, making it hard tracking them all and figuring out who is who. While most of them turned out to be important to the plot, I would have preferred less POVs and a more indirect introduction instead. The main characters have potential, but I personally wasn’t convinced by how Eva Driscoll was described. Again, this might have just been me not belonging to the intended target group though. Overall I was fully expecting to enjoy this story better, especially since I like a healthy dose of action scenes, but sadly Run And Hide wasn’t for me.

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Eva Driscoll is used to be the one doing the chasing, but now the bad guys are after her and they won’t stoy until she’s dead. Eva has been on edge ever since she heard her brother was killed in a fake suicide, and decides to team up with the one person who can help her find the answers she needs. Together, they are determined to find out why members of the Special Forces squad both Eva’s brother and her new partner Rees Colback belonged to are dying under suspicious circumstances.

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Run And Hide is fast, ruthless and lethal. I’m positive the right target group will absolutely love this action-packed spy thriller that reads like a blockbuster action movie. I myself had problems with both the credibility, male-focused comments and writing style in general, but like I said before that might just be me not being the right target group for this one. If you are able to connect to the writing style, you won’t find a boring minute in this story.


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ARC REVIEW: The Year Of The Snake – by M.J. Trow #buddyread

Title: The Year Of The Snake
Author: M.J. Trow & Maryanne Coleman
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: July 1st 2018
Publisher: Endeavour Media
Finished reading: June 24th 2018
Pages: 313

“There comes a time when even the luckiest of charms runs out.”

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

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

This was actually a buddy read with the wonderful Nicki @ Secret Library Book Blog… I’m so happy she asked me to read this title together, because I’m not sure how I would have made it to the end otherwise. Oh yes, let’s just say my encounter with this story wasn’t an entirely positive one. I was initially drawn to both the cover of The Year Of The Snake and the promise of a story set in ancient Rome. I was already familiar with the general details around Emperor Nero and his reputation, and I had high hopes for this story connected to him. Sadly, The Year Of The Snake turned out to be quite a disappointment for me, and I found especially the first half of the story to be quite weak. The promise of a good story is there, with a murder mystery, a cult and the ruthless Emperor, but the execution for me was lacking. Why? The first thing that stood out for me were the formatting problems, which made it harder to read the story. I can forgive those since it’s an ARC and not a final version, but still. I wasn’t a fan of the writing style and tone in general (including crude language) and the many many POV switches every other page made it a lot harder to keep track of the story and the different characters. In fact, I found the plot itself quite weak and chaotic and would have preferred a more ordered storyline with a lot less switches and more time to get used to each character. This would have made the story and plot a lot stronger for me. It also would have helped connecting to the characters in a more solid way, which as it is I wasn’t really able to do. To be honest, I found most characters to be rather flat and lacking a more detailed description… But. I do have to say things improved considerably in the second half of the story, after the investigation of Nerva’s death intensifies and we see just what Nero and his mother are actually made of. This higher level of suspense and intrigue being incorporated into the plot saved the story for me, and the final twist was quite a good one as well. All in all, whiile the story behind The Year Of The Snake sounds really promising, the execution needs a lot of editing for me to really work.

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When Senator Gaius Lucius Nerva dies a few days after he had taken ill at a dinner party, the recently freed slave Calidus is the only one to suspect it wasn’t a natural death. And as he organizes the funeral ceremonies, he becomes more and more convinced that his former master was murdered. Calidus starts an investigation, which is harder than it seems with his status as a freedman. And he sure is stepping on a lot of important toes to get to the truth…

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I was really looking forward to this one since I can’t seem to find that much historical fiction reads with an ancient Rome setting, but sadly this one didn’t hit the mark for me. While the general idea behind The Year Of The Snake sounds promising and has a lot of potential, I ended up struggling considerably with the story itself. Thanks again Nicki for making this ride more bearable! The story wasn’t all bad and has it’s positive points, especially in the second half when things become more intense. But between the chaotic feel, lack of proper plot, too many POV switches, crude language and lack of connection to both the writing style AND characters, it definitely wasn’t an easy read for me.


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ARC REVIEW: The Map Of Us – by Jules Preston

Title: The Map Of Us
Author: Jules Preston
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 4th 2018
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Finished reading: June 13th 2018
Pages: 180

“Me being me isn’t always easy on those I love.”

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

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I stumbled across this title after reading Inge’s review earlier this month, and even though unfortunately she wasn’t able to enjoy it better, my curiosity was piqued and I knew I couldn’t let this story go. Quirky characters? A comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine? Where can I sign up for that?! The Map Of Us sounded like one of those stories you either hate or love, especially since the connection to the characters seems all important in this story. Quirky and unusual characters can go both ways, and while I love my characters that way, they often are not for everyone. One of the reasons I ended up enjoying The Map Of Us better than I thought I would was exactly that: my ability to appreciate and embrace the quirkiness of Tilly and Violet. And I think this story has a lot of potential, although I had my doubts about the execution in certain areas. The first thing I struggled with was the writing style, which I somehow didn’t manage to get used to. Short phrases can mess up the pace and make the story feel haltered… But more than that, I especially struggled with the chapters in Dad’s POV. I’m sad to say I had to skimread those since I couldn’t get used to them. And talking about POVs, I felt there were too many different POVs in the story, making it harder to connect with at least one of them. I think I would have enjoyed the story that much better if it would have been told from just Violet’s or Tilly’s POV, or just the two of them at least. I never got a proper feel for any characters due to the many switches and it made the story feel quite messy and for me it lacked cohesion. That is, until the final stage when everything is rushed to be connected together. I did like the quirkiness of The Map Of Us and both Violet and Tilly have so much potential! I just wish they would have gotten their chance in the spotlight rather than being squeezed in between the other POVs.

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Violet North has been abandoned by her family, but somehow manages to overcome her difficulties and survive in a big house all on her own. Then her life changes forever in the space of just 37 words with a stranger at her front door… And not only that, but a whole fictional world has opened up for her as well, with the help of a blue typewriter she borrowed from one of her neighbors. Decades later, her granddaughter Tilly sees her marriage fall apart. Tilly has always been good with numbers, and compiles a detailed statistical report to help find out exactly why and when it went wrong. The Compatibility Index has consequences she had never forseen when she first created it though…

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Like I said before, The Map Of Us has a lot of potential, both because of the general idea behind it and the two most important characters Tilly and Violet. I honestly feel that with more development and focus on those two characters, a more fluent writing style and less jumping between different characters would have made The Map Of Us into another fantastic read similar to the likes of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. As it is, I don’t think that comparison would do The Map Of Us a favor, since unfortunately they are not on the same level. But I do want to stress that especially Tilly has the same potential and quirkiness in her personality that made Eleanor Oliphant into such a success for me. So again, with more focus and development of that character (and Violet as well), I would probably have enjoyed The Map Of Us considerably better.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #25: Summer Of Sloane & Scrappy Little Nobody

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties and the first round of Europe trip books! Summer Of Sloane was a TBR jar pick I thought would be a perfect way to start my vacation, but it didn’t turned out to be as good as I hoped. Scrappy Little Nobody I picked up in the hope of finding something entertaining and funny to read, and while it wasn’t a bad read, my lack of familiarity with Anna Kendrick might have had a negative effect on my overall opinion.


Title: Summer Of Sloane
Author: Erin L. Schneider

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: April 22nd
Pages: 304

“We all make mistakes, but hating someone for one they’ve made can ruin your life if you let it.”


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Summer Of Sloane was my latest TBR jar pick and after posponing it for a long time, I thought this YA contemporary would be the perfect way to start my Europe trip. I actually finished it in the last days before our flight, as it is a superfast read. As the cover already suggests, Summer Of Sloane is what you call the perfect beach read. The writing style is easy on the eye and reads superfast, and romance fans will probably have a great time with this one. Because there is no doubt this story has a very high dose of romance, including love triangles and a whole lot of drama. While it was an easy read and had all the signs of being entertaining, it sadly was just way too heavy on the drama for me to be still enjoyable. True, I’m not a real romance fan and I’m practically allergic to love triangle, but it wasn’t just that on its own that bothered me. The constant drama and Sloane herself just really got on my nerves. I mean, if she doesn’t want her boyfriend or friend ruining her vacation after what they did, why not simply block there phone numbers and emails? Why do we as readers have to suffer through her constant complaining after she received yet another message she didn’t want to see? The love triangles and romance scenes themselves were supercheesy as well, but I guess if you are looking for an easy read and love the genre, you will enjoy Summer Of Sloane a lot better than I did.


Title: Scrappy Little Nobody
Author: Anna Kendrick

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: May 8th 2018
Pages: 304

“That night, I resolved to keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.”


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I picked up this memoir on a whim on the plane, wanting for something light and hopefully funny. I actually didn’t read a lot and ended up finishing it a lot later during our trip (the first week was too hectic to read much), but I guess most will finish this one superfast. It’s quite easy to read and has both funny and very personal moments of her life included. I admit I’m not really familiar with her work and that might have had an negative influence in my opinion. That said, I do admit it’s not the first memoir of famous personalities I’m not familiar with I’ve read, and I was still able to enjoy some of those more than I did Scrappy Little Nobody. I don’t mean this memoir is a bad read though, and I guess there were some parts that were really entertaining while others were brutally honest. I really liked that of Anna Kendrick, letting us get a glimpse of what it was like growing up for her. And I’m sure fans of her work will love this one.


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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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