ARC REVIEW: The Yellow Envelope – by Kim Dinan

Title: The Yellow Envelope
Author: Kim Dinan

Genre: Non Fiction, Travel, Memoir
First published: April 1st 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Finished reading: March 28th 2017
Pages: 320

“At the end of the day, the money itself is just paper. What gives the whole experience meaning are the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that come with giving the money away in ways that make you smile and make your heart sing.”

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

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I might have mentioned my love for travel once or twice before, and as soon as I saw this travel memoir I had to request a copy. I enjoy reading non fiction and I’ve had the chance to visit both Peru and Ecuador twice, so I was looking forward to read about the author’s experience in those countries as well as those in Asia. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy The Yellow Envelope as much as I thought I would and the story fell kind of flat for me. Rather than a true travel memoir, this story has mostly been a (rather self-centered) description of the author’s failing relationship with her husband, feelings and journey of self-discovery; definitely not what I expected at all and not as enjoyable to read either. Another thing that bothered me were the (negative) cliches about the countries they visited; I’ve traveled both alone and with my partner in both Ecuador and Peru during roughly the same time period (2012-2013) and I don’t think the descriptions of those countries are just or accurate. I also felt that both countries and people in general were talked down to; each country/culture/person is unique in its own way and the negativity really bothered me. I also don’t think it is right to claim there is a correct/superior way to travel either; each person should be able to decide which way is best for them and the ‘superior’ tone was actually quite annoying. And that’s coming from someone who has traveled for a long time without a real home as well, so I kind of know what I’m talking about. I’ll stop this rant and say that if you are looking for a memoir about the story of the road to self-discovery with just a hint of travel, The Yellow Envelope will probably interest you.

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Kim Dinan decided she wanted a change in her life and three years later both Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs and travel around the world. They are given a yellow envelope by another couple: inside a check and instructions to give the money away during their travels. There are only three rules: don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away. Kim and Brian travel through Ecuado, Peru, India, Nepal and other countries, and will face many obstacles along the way.

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I normally enjoy reading non fiction and I love anything that has to do with travel, but this memoir didn’t manage to convince me. Not only was the actual talk about traveling and the different countries limited, but the main focus was actually on the author, her feelings and self-discovery. This could have been an interesting read anyway once I adjusted my expectations, but I was really bothered by the tone and the fact that the different countries/cultures/persons were talked down to and didn’t receive it’s proper respect. I understand that it’s hard to portray a foreign culture properly (I’ve had this experience lots of times myself), but this just wasn’t the way. I liked the idea of the yellow envelope and what it represents though; it was probably the strongest feature of this memoir.


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ARC REVIEW: Rose Petal Graves – by Olivia Wildenstein

Title: Rose Petal Graves
(The Lost Clan #1)
Author: Olivia Wildenstein

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 29th 2017
Publisher: Weapenry Co-Op
Finished reading: March 27th 2017
Pages: 390

“You make your own happyiness, Kajika. Just like you create your own destiny.”

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

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This first book of a new fantasy series has definitely been a case of instant cover-love, and I admit I was superficial enough to request a copy of Rose Petal Graves mostly based on the cover. The blurb was really promising as well: a story involving a poweful tribe of Gottwa Indians, ancient graves and mysterious things happening in a quiet town… Sounds great! Add the line that Rose Petal Graves is basically a mix between myth and fantasy and something between A Court Of Thorns And Roses and Pocahontas, and I was sold. Unfortunately, I dont’ think the actual story lived up to expectations. Rose Petal Graves started interesting enough and I still like the general idea behind this story (the mix of myth and fantast with fae and fae hunters), but I encountered quite a few problems along the way. The biggest turn off for me was also very much a cliche. Because Rose Petal Graves turned out to be yet another YA fantasy series destroyed by a… yes, you can already guess… a freaking LOVE TRIANGLE!! I’ve become seriously allergic to them, and this particular case is no different. Too many forbidden love interests and love triangles seriously distracted from the rest of the story, and the fact that the main character (Cat) changes ‘teams’ constantly doesn’t really help either. That leads me to another point: the credibility of the plot and the actions of the main character(s) in general. There were parts I just didn’t find credible at all… An example? Why does Cat trust the very same persons that might have hurt her mother? And why does she keep talking to certain characters after she finds out the truth? Thankfully it was a fast read at least and I guess those who don’t mind a love triangle or two will probably enjoy this story a lot better.

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Cat left the quiet town where she grew up in to study, but found herself back unexpectedly after her mother died suddenly. Her dad said she suffered a stroke after she dug up one of the ancient graves in their backyard… But Cat is not so sure. She has the feeling something is off, and not just because the only thing she finds inside the old coffin is fresh rose petals. Does it have something to do with the tribe of Gottwa Indians that founded the town all that time ago? Cat will soon have to deal with some unwelcome visitors…

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I was actually really looking forward to this read, mostly because I haven’t read that many Indian-inspired stories before. Unfortunately, the story kind of fell flat for me. Annoying tropes like love triangles, problems with credibility of the plot and characters and a lack of dept in the Indian myths and fae world; it’s not a bad read, but I was hoping for something better. I would probably still read a sequel at some point though, just to see how things would develop over time.


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ARC REVIEW: Missing – by Monty Marsden

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Title: Missing
Author: Monty Marsden

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Aria
Finished reading: February 1st 2017
Pages: 266
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“Patience is like a tree – the roots are bitter, but the fruits are most sweet.”

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

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This story was actually published over two months ago, but somehow it got mixed up with other ARCs and I didn’t read it on time. Oops? I always have a weak spot for a good thriller and I have an (unhealthy?) obsession for stories about serial killers. Add an Italian setting and I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Missing. The author Monty Marsden is actually Italian; something I didn’t realize immediately, but it shows in the detailed descriptions and this book is in fact actually a translation. I was completely ready to dive into this serial killer mystery, but I ended up taking a very long time to finish it. I’m not sure if part of the essence of this story is lost in translation, but it all just felt way too chaotic and it took a long time before things started to make sense for me. The many POV switches distracted from the main plot and had me confused which characters were actually important in the story. That said, the introduction of Claps, suffering from aphasia (the struggle to comprehend and use words and verbal expressions) added a whole different level to the plot. He is a truly fascinating character and I enjoyed following his development. All in all Missing is not the best mystery I’ve read, although part might have been lost in translation and it did have its charm.

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Ami lives with her family in a little village in Lombardy, a seemingly safe and dusty place. But that is until one day Ami steps out of her house to go to school and never comes back nor did she ever make it to school. Her father raises the alarm and they start an immediate search for the little girl. Police Commisioner Sensi leads the investigation, and they seem to have found a trail straight away. But three months later, they still haven’t found Ami and they don’t have a solid lead as to what happened to her. Sensi decides to talk to his old friend Dr. Claps, a renowned criminologist who had to retire after suffering from aphasia. Because Ami doesn’t seem to be the only little girl who went missing, and Sensi needs all the help he can get to solve the mystery…

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I was really looking forward to Missing, especially after I found out about its Italian setting and the involvement of a serial killer. It’s not that the case itself isn’t intriguing and I really enjoyed the setting, but I somehow I had a really hard time reading this story. It just all felt chaotic with too many different characters/POVs being introduced without a proper connection… And I had a hard time understanding the relevance of some of the chapters. Things started to make sense later on in the story, but for me it was too little too late. Missing is a story with a lot of potential and interesting characters, and I kind of wish my Italian would be good enough to read the original version just to see if it was just the translation that let me down…


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BOOK REVIEW: What Light – by Jay Asher

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Title: What Light
Author: Jay Asher

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Finished reading: December 23rd 2016
Pages: 272
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“People think what they want. That’s what I’ve had to accept,” he says. “I can fight it, but that’s exhausting. I can feel hurt about it, but that’s torture. Or I can decide it’s their loss.”

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I realized the other week I had been completely neglecting my Holiday themed reads this year, so this is me making up for that. I didn’t have too many Christmas themed stories on my TBR pile, but I’ve seen What Light around and I decided to give it a go. I read Thirteen Reasons Why last year and I was thoroughly impressed by it, so I had high hopes for this story as well. Unfortunately, I ended up being quite disappointed by What Light even though I should have known the purpose of this story would be completely different. I couldn’t help but feeling What Light was basically a whole lot of cheesiness, cliches and drama wrapped in shiny paper and Christmas lights to make it appropriate for the Holiday season. I liked the idea of the Christmas tree lot and the family returning to it every year. The prose was also easy to read and the pace is quite fast. But there was just SO MUCH DRAMA everywhere! It almost felt like an overdose, and not in a good way. Part of the problem might just be me though, and I’m sure contemporary romance fans will probably enjoy the story a lot better than I did. Just make sure what you sign up for…

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Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Orgeon, and every year they pack up and move to California to sell their trees during the season. Sierra spends most of her time in Oregon along with her two best friends, but whenever she is in California her life is completely different. She has another best friend there and it means that leaving one place always means missing the other… And this particular Christmas, something else will complicate her situation even further. Sierra meets Caleb at her Christmas tree lot, and even though her best friend had initially encouraged her to date, she doesn’t seem to approve of Caleb… Are the rumors around Caleb’s past true?

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If you are looking for a sappy and drama-filled Christmas read, you will probably enjoy What Light a lot better than I did. It is quite fast-paced and easy to read, but I personally found there was just too much drama going on for it to be a feel-good Christmas read. It just all felt a bit too exaggerated and I’m not sure up until what point it was actually credible. I have to confess I didn’t connect to the characters either… It might have just been me, but unfortunately I wasn’t a fan of this story.

ARC REVIEW: Down The Rabbit Hole – by Julia Crane

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Title: Down The Rabbit Hole
Author: Julia Crane

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: December 3rd 2016
Publisher: Valknut Press
Finished reading: December 18th 2016
Pages: 230
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“No one is fully evil. You just have to try harder to be good.”

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

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I have to confess it has been 15-20 years since I last read the original Alice In Wonderland, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love reading a good retelling of the story. It’s easy to say I was especially excited to have my wish granted at Netgalley! I was really looking forward to pick up my copy of Down The Rabbit Hole, but I’m sad to say I didn’t live up to expectations. I remember how happy I was when I first found out it was a retelling, but my initial excitement slowly turned into disappointment. The story started out promising enough and Alice is without doubt an interesting character. Down The Rabbit Hole had a lot of potential, but unfortunately it fell flat as soon as Lacie’s character makes her appearance. The POV switches between the two sisters, but the Lacie chapters are weak and I could’t warm up to her character. To make things worse, there are a lot of innecessary romance scenes (including annoying tropes like insta-love and love triangle) included that that didn’t add anything to the plot. I also found the ending a little too ‘weird’ to my taste… Although the general idea behind the story is without doubt intriguing. That said, Down The Rabbit Hole wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and unfortunately not in a good way. If you don’t mind cheesy romance scenes and a little weird, you will probably enjoy it a lot better than I did though.

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Two sisteres are bound by blood, but separated by magick… Alice lives in Wonderland with her so-called mother the Red Queen, and years of pain and illusion have messed with her mind. She is quite unpredictable and can turn out to be very dangerous… She has watched her twin sister Lacie for years with great envy, although Lacie doesn’t even know she exists. Lacie has been living on Earth for all those years unaware of her destiny, but that will change soon as the date of the prophecy comes closer. According to the prophecy, only one of the twin sisters will survive… Who will it be, or do they find a way around the prophecy?

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I really liked the sound of Down The Rabbit Hole and I always enjoy reading a good retelling. The story started out promising enough, but fell flat as soon as Lacie was introduced. From that point the story was basically a bunch of cheesy romance scenes sprinkled with a little magic that wasn’t enough for me to keep my interest. The ending was a little too weird as well, and quite abrupt. I wish I could have enjoyed this story better, but Down The Rabbit Hole definitely wasn’t for me.

ARC REVIEW: Another Day Gone – by Eliza Graham

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Title: Another Day Gone
Author: Eliza Graham

Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary
First published: November 22nd 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: December 2nd 2016
Pages: 322
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“Come on, sweetheart, or it’ll be another day gone.”

*** 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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Another Day Gone belongs to one of my favorite genres, so it is easy to say I had high hopes for this book. Historical fiction, set during various generations, interesting blurb… It ticked all the right boxes, but unfortunately I ended up having a hard time enjoying this novel written by Eliza Graham. I couldn’t get a proper feel for the story OR characters and it was all kind of confusing at times. It took a long time for it to become clear what the story exactly was about and to connect the different chapters and characters correctly. The plot twists and hidden information about the past were probably supposed to be tactics to increase the suspense, but I actually found them rather annoying instead of entertaining. That said, it does show Another Day Gone is a well-researched story and there is no doubt it has a lot of potential. I seem to be in the minority when it comes to my opinion, because most people seem to love it, but I’m afraid I just couldn’t warm up to the story or characters. If you like the genre, I would suggest still giving it a try though, because it might just be another case of the ‘unpopular opinion curse‘.

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Just before the outbreak of WWII a terrorist bomb explodes on a busy street in Coventry. A man is hanged based on the witness account of a young girl, but as time goes on the girl is starting to doubt her testimony. It’s too late to save the man, but that doesn’t mean she will ever forget… Over sixty years later, Sara returns to her childhood home in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings. There she discovers that her sister Polly, who was missing for more than ten years, has finally returned. Why did she come back now? And where did she go in the first place? And that is not the only mystery in the family, as their nanny, Bridie, seems to be hiding a family secret of her own…

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Like I said before, Another Day Gone has a lot of potential and it is without doubt a well-researched novel with an interesting topic. That said, I can’t say I actually enjoyed reading this story. It had a slow pace and I had a hard time getting a proper feel for the story. It was quite confusing how the different chapters and characters fit together at first, and while that might have been done to increase the suspense, I personally couldn’t appreciate it. I seem to be in the minority though, so give this novel a try if you think you would enjoy it.

ARC REVIEW: Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love – by Jay Spencer Green

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Title: Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love
Author: Jay Spencer Green

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 28th 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: October 11th 2016
Pages: 236
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“Every single day there are billions of acts of generosity, of good deeds, of cooperation. Just because they’re not on the news… well, the job of the news is to report extraordinary events, and if extraordinary events are bad, presumably the ordinary things, the things not worth mentioning because they’re so commonplace, are good.”

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

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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead. I was sent a copy of Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love by the author some time ago and it sounded like a fun contemporary read. I was looking forward to it, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I’m not sure the problem is the book itself though, because the rest of the reviews have been really positive so far. I guess this is just another of those cases where the book simply isn’t for me… There was just too much explicit sex talk, romance and colorful language involved to my taste, but then again the romance genre is not really my thing in the first place. Due to those elements I found it really hard to warm up to the story, which is a shame because the plot is without doubt interesting. I’m not completely sure about the characters either, but that might just be related to the before mentioned elements and the appearance of an annoying love triangle. I loved the geocaching elements though! In short, I’m having a hard time properly reviewing Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love and if you like contemporary romance and don’t mind ‘adult’ content and colorful language, definitely don’t rule this one out.

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Bookish Ivy Feckett is smart and sensitive, but also a little socially awkward and doesn’t have a lot of experience with relationships or dealing with men in general. Her search for love has never gone smoothly, although she has never tried actively before either. Then she meets her boss, the rich and handsome Ned Hartfield, and she cannot stop thinking about him. Not sure what to do, she asks for the advice of her flatmates and her best friend Sam, which will cause a lot of awkward moments since Sam has been secretly in love with her for a long time. Is Ned really so ‘perfect’ as he appears to be? And what will happen to her weekly search for geocaches with Sam?

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Like I said before, this book is probably yet another title to add to my list of books that are simply not for me. I’m not really a fan of the romance genre, especially if there is a lot of explicit sex talk and general colorful language involved. And Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love definitely has a lot of both. Looking at the other reviews, I guess I’m in the minority when it comes to my opinion… So if you like the genre and don’t mind the ‘adult’ content, you will probably enjoy reading this story.