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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YVO’S SHORTIES #21: Wink Poppy Midnight & My Sister’s Keeper

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t turn out to be positive reading experiences, and both had something to do with a character and the way they behaved. Winky Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult… Continue to find out more about the why of the lower ratings.


Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 22nd 2016
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: March 10th 2018
Pages: 352

“All the strangest things are true.”


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Wink Poppy Midnight was a tbr jar pick and a title I have been looking forward to read despite the mixed reviews. I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover! And the story itself sounded really promising as well. As soon as I started reading Wink Poppy Midnight, I was blown away by the writing style. So so beautiful, mysterious and intriguing! The writing style is by far what stood out most for me in this book and it’s the only reason I’m giving this story the benefit of the doubt. Because I absolutely loved how April Genevieve Tucholke tells her stories, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Why the low rating, would you ask? I’m keeping things simple and give one main reason: Poppy. I understand we are not supposed to like her in the first place, but I absolutely utterly despised her character. This extremely negative feeling for Poppy ruined the reading experience for me and made it really hard to just forget about her and enjoy the other chapters. Wink Poppy Midnight is told from the POV of the three main characters Wink, Poppy and Midnight, whimsical names that alone set the right tone for this story. This multiple POV layout didn’t distract me, since I liked discovering new things and see how the personality of each character shines through in the writing and dialogue. BUT. While I absolutely adored Wink and liked Midnight as well, my negative feelings for Poppy were so strong the rest was kind of blurred out. Gone were my feelings for the fabulous writing, gone was my love for the whimsical and magical realism feel of the plot and incorporation of fairy tale elements (my second favorite thing of Wink Poppy Midnight!). What was left were the ashes of a story that could have ended up being one of my all time favorites… If it wouldn’t have been for Poppy dancing on its tomb.


Title: My Sister’s Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 6th 2004
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Finished reading: March 14th 2018
Pages: 423

“It is the things you cannot see coming that are strong enough to kill you.”


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WARNING: Unpopular opinion review and rant ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Trust me, I’m still shocked about this rating and reaction I had to My Sister’s Keeper, especially since I’ve read and enjoyed several of Jodi Picoult‘s other novels in the past. I fully expected to add this title to that list, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I was hoping for. I’m not saying the writing is bad, which would be a lie since it is just as strong as ever and of a quality I’ve become to expect of her work. And without doubt the plot is complex and well developed with many different POVs and angles to try and get a full picture of what is going on. BUT. What ruined this story for me and basically turned me into a giant red angry monster spitting out flames and throwing things at the wall (no actual objects were harmed during this read), was the topic and more especifically the views on that topic. As soon as I got a glimpse of what really was going on, I started to get very angry very fast. Honestly, I don’t think I would have ever read it if I would have known My Sister’s Keeper was centered around these views. Complicated and uncomfortable moral topic and unorthodox views? Maybe, but I couldn’t care less if they were represented right because I was just too angry to pay attention. People might be offended by this, but I’m totally on Anna’s side here. She should NOT be treated as a walking human donor bank and just being pressured to give up everything and go through all those treatments just because her parents say so… It should be her choice and her choice alone. And honestly, the whole reason they had her in the first place made me sick. This book and especially Sara were so SO infuriating! Her with her saying she ‘cares’ for Anna, but only thinks of Kate and having Anna as a spare ready to give up whatever part of her body they need next. And I’m not even talking about their older brother, completely ignored as well. I get that having a child with leukemia is horrible and kind of makes you forget about anything else, but still… It’s no excuse to treat your other kids that way, and definitely not to do those things to Anna, treating her like she’s some object and ignoring her when she’s not needed. Ugh. I’m feeling the anger rise again just as I type up this review… Simply disgusting. These strong negative feelings made it impossible for me to try and enjoy the other aspects and side stories of My Sister’s Keeper, which had potential on it’s own but lost its charm since I was seeing everything through a red haze. Oh yes, this book was able to provoke strong feelings, just not the positive ones I was expecting. Most people do seem to enjoy it though, so if you think you would enjoy it, don’t give up on it yet. Just don’t make me discuss this story ever again…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #20: The Last Star & With Malice

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time one series finale and a backlist title I randomly picked up… The Last Star by Rick Yancey wasn’t the best experience out there and unfortunately I was already fearing that reaction. Thankfully it does mean I have one less series to finish now! And despite the mixed reviews out there, I ended up really enjoying With Malice by Eileen Cook.


Title: The Last Star
(The 5th Wave #3)
Author: Rick Yancey

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 24th 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: March 1st 2018
Pages: 338

“She was the mayfly, here for a day, then gone. She was the last star, burning bright in a sea of limitless black.”


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WARNING: possible rant and unpopular opinion review ahead. DON’T READ if you haven’t read the first two books yet! There might be spoilers.

I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t really looking forward to this one, especially since the first two books were kind of a disappointment for me. But since I already had a copy on my kindle and I’m trying to finish those unfinished series, I decided to give it a go anyway. If anything, I think having such low expectations has helped me actually finish The Last Star. Because unfortunately my suspicions turned out to be right… And I can’t say I had a great time reading this one. The first thing that went wrong was right at the beginning. Why? Let’s just say I nearly stopped reading after the first couple of pages of religious babble. This chapter was completely different in style and tone and frankly kind of ruined the introduction to this final book to me… I know it has some connection to what happens later, but I still think the story would have been better off without it. That said, I had a hard time keeping up with the many POV switches and going back and forth between 2nd and 3rd person… This slowed down the pace considerably and made it even harder to connect to the story. As for the characters… Unfortunately taking a break from the series didn’t change my opinion of them. I can’t stand Cassie or Evan and everything they represent… The icky romance scenes almost made me vomit and the constant ‘wanting for sacrifice’ just didn’t help me warming up to them. In fact, the only character I sort of rooted for was Zombie. But in general, I can’t say I really cared about what happened to them. Which is kind of important in a dystopian story where the main goal is finding out if and how the characters survive everything that is thrown at them. The ending was kind of cheesy as well… The only thing I did like was the non stop action, which at least served to take my mind off other things temporarily. But all in all, this series definitely wasn’t for me.


Title: With Malice
Author: Eileen Cook

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: March 6th 2018
Pages: 320

“Who we are is what comes out when shit goes bad. You can’t tell anything about a person when things are great. If you want to really know someone, be there when everything goes to hell.”


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I picked With Malice on a whim after seeing it mentioned somewhere and liking the little sample I read of the book. I had my doubts since I’ve seen mixed reviews out there, but in this case I think having let the hype die down has worked it its advantage. Because somehow I ended up really enjoying this one. I’m a sucker for a good amnesia angle plot and this one definitely ticked all the right boxes. Amnesia and aphasia played a big role in the story, and I liked how the author not only used it to keep us guessing about what happened, but also showed how it was like for the main character not to remember everything. The writing is engaging and superfast; I literally flew through this one and not just because I wanted to find out what had really happened. Some have compared this story to Dangerous Girls, and I can definitely see With Malice having the same vibe. There are a lot of twists and misinformation surrounding the accident and death of Simone, and with no reliable source of information we are left guessing about what really happened. I really liked the incorporation of police interviews, FB comments and other outside ‘sources’ into the text. A nice little original touch that also helped creating the right atmosphere. Because what the story is trying to tell is right: the truth itself is not as important as what people think is the truth. Did I like Jill? I’m not sure. Was I frustrated by how they treated her? Possibly. Did the whole Italian lover and love triangle angle bother me? Very plausible. But that doesn’t take away I found myself very much entertained while reading this one. Also, interesting ending! Although it can be taken both ways… But still, I was more than pleasantly surprised by With Malice.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #18: As Dead As It Gets & Take The Key And Lock Her Up

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a double dose of third and final book of a series… Yes, I’ll be marking two more series as finished with this post! Sadly both of these weren’t as good as I hoped. As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender is a bit stronger than the sequel, but the main character is annoying and I still prefer book one. Take The Key And Lock Her Up by Ally Carter is by far the weakest book of the series and I don’t really care for the ending either… Things have been going downhill since book one. Oh well, at least it’s two series less to worry about right?


Title: As Dead As It Gets
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #3)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: May 15th 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: February 1st 2018 
Pages: 448

“Find the people who treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Tell everyone else to go to hell. And don’t look back.”


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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Don’t read my rambles if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet… You’ve been warned.

As part of my promise to finally start finishing those poor neglected series, I decided to pick up the third and final book of the Bad Girls Don’t Die trilogy while my memories of the second book were still fresh. And while I still think the first book is the strongest, As Dead As It Gets without doubt makes a comeback from what I call a ‘weak-second-book-syndrome’. No more sunny and miss nice girl, because Alexis has another paranormal problem on her hand and things are quickly spiralling out of hand… And things might turn ugly. The writing is engaging and reads superfast as always, making As Dead As It Gets a fun, exciting and speedy paranormal read. The plot is darker than the second book and adds a level of suspension to the story… Without doubt an interesting final adventure, although I’m still on the fence whether I like the ending or not. Strong final words though! I do have to say I still find Alexis annoying with her whole ‘I need to do this alone’, ‘I clearly need help, but I won’t ask anybody even if they are willing’ and ‘I don’t want others hurt, but they somehow do anyway’ attitude. I could have done without the love triangle as well… But there is no doubt that As Dead As It Gets is still a solid and entertaining YA paranormal read.


Title: Take The Key And Lock Her Up
(Embassy Row #3)
Author: Ally Carter

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: December 27th 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: February 7th 2018
Pages: 336

“There are some ghosts that live inside us, and we can never lose them, no matter how far we run.”


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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Don’t read my rambles if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet… You’ve been warned.

I was a big fan of the first book when I read it back in 2015. I liked the sequel as well, although the main character was realy started to bother me… But still I had added this third and final book to my list of most-anticipated 2016 releases. Why didn’t I pick up Take The Key And Lock Her Up sooner then? I have no idea, other than that it probably slipped between the cracks of my exploding TBR pile. I had forgotten about the details, including the supposedly enormous cliffhanger ending, by the time I was able to get to it… But it was quite easy to pick up the thread anyway. That said, it was by no means the reading experience I was hoping for. Unfortunately, Take The Key And Lock Her Up is by far the weakest book of the trilogy and it’s sad to see a series end on this note as it started out so promising. One of the biggest problems I had was with the main character Grace. I already had these feelings in the sequel, but Grace becomes almost unbearable in book three with her constant whining about just how crazy she is, how she is endangering others by just being close, that she should be punished, that she doesn’t deserve positive things happening to her etc… Yawn. Her whole attitude, dialogue and actions seriously annoyed me and it was one of the reasons the final book didn’t work for me. I wasn’t 100% convinced by the writing either, but this is probably mostly related to Grace and her dialogue. And the whole love triangle and romance put a damper on things as well. As for the plot… If you look critically, nothing much is actually happening during this final adventure, or at least I missed the intensity and suspense. It has some interesting pointers, but overall I was quite disappointed by Take The Key And Lock Her Up.


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ARC REVIEW: Unclean Spirits – by Chuck Wendig

Title: Unclean Spirits
(Gods & Monsters #1)
Author: Chuck Wendig
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror, Mythology
First published: May 5th 2013
Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Finished reading: January 30th 2018
Pages: 320

“Hope, a mirage in the desert, a curtain of vapor forming for us an image of that which we most sincerly desire. Hope is not an oasis but rather, a trap.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

This is one of those cases where I should have investigated better before requesting a copy, because I am so NOT the target group for this one. And this had a big influence on the lowish rating. Unclean Spirits definitely feels written for the more ‘macho’ male readers who like a lot of action, graphic scenes, violence, swearing and adult content in general. AKA 200% not my cup of tea… And it showed. While I did like the short and direct writing style Chuck Wendig uses to bulldozer through this story, I wasn’t a fan at all of the constant swearing and existence of graphic/adult scenes. This has more to do with me not being the target group than the story itself being a bad one, but trigger warnings are definitely in place here. Due to the general tone and wrong target group, I had a really hard time connecting to the characters as well, but I guess this is understandable being in my situation and all. I do have to say I loved the whole mythology angle and this was what saved Unclean Spirits for me. The urban fantasy genre shows and the mix of real world and supernatural is quite balanced. Mythology played a role throughout the story and I liked how many different gods and religions were incorporated. The plot itself had a lot of potential as well. So if you think you are the right target group for Unclean Spirits, you will probably have a heck of a ride waiting for you.

This publication also includes a short story by Pat Kelleher called Drag Hunt which is related to Unclean Spirits. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to read past the first chapter and therefore cannot give a proper opinion of it… There was simply zero connection between the writing style and me and I couldn’t bear to keep reading. (Since the writing style in Unclean Spirits was one of the few things that made me keep going and not DNF it.)

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Cason Cole had his whole life turned upside down five years ago when he not only lost his wife and son, but was forced to work for a man who holds nothing dear and respects no law. Five years later, somehow his boss ends up dying at his feet, and Cason thinks he is finally free… But this doesn’t turn out to be true. He gets the shock of his life as he is told that gods and goddesses are real and they are not exactly playing nice. Will he find a way to free himself and be with his wife and son again? Things are not going to be easy…

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Completely wrong target group or not, I do have to agree the whole mythology angle is quite fascinating. It’s one of the reasons I actually made it to the end of Unclean Spirits… Because it painfully showed just how much this story just wasn’t for me. The graphic scenes, the adult content, the swearing, the excessive violence… It was all just too much and distracted from a plot with quite some potential. Don’t get me wrong though, because I have the feeling the right target group will probably have a way more positive experience.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #16: Born A Crime & Halfway (ARC)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time about two completely different books… The first a memoir I’ve been meaning to read for some time now: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. And just as everyone kept saying as they recommended this title to me, it was GOOD. The second was an ARC I’ve been meaning to read for ages now… Halfway by Lokesh Sharma. Unfortunately that one didn’t work for me.


Title: Born A Crime
Author: Trevor Noah

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Finished reading: January 25th 2018
Pages: 304

“Regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”


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One of my goals this year is to read more memoirs and international authors, and Born A Crime has been on my list ever since it was first published. The apartheid has always intrigued me and Trevor Noah‘s memoir sounded like a fascinating account during that time. Of course the many many recommendations have helped put this story on my radar as well… And I’m glad I finally got the chance to read it. Because there is one thing for sure: Born A Crime is a very powerful and thought provoking read. I already knew the apartheid was going to be an intriguing topic, and Trevor Noah does an excellent job narrating his personal experience during the end of the apartheid as well as his mother’s experience. He balances these personal accounts with a lot of background information and facts about apartheid that are relevant to that particular account he was talking about. These little chapters were both extremely helpful to those who want to learn more about apartheid and fascinating as well. His writing style, honest tone and willingness to put it all on paper, even if it might shed a negative light on his life is something I could highly appreciate. Honest, heartbreaking, funny, engaging and gripping… Born A Crime is a memoir you will not soon forget. Haven’t read it yet? If memoirs are your kind of book, you definitely should remedy that!


Title: Halfway
(Aspiration For Deliverance #1)
Author: Lokesh Sharma

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
First published: January 29th 2017
Finished reading: Januart 27th 2018
Pages: 220

“We want others to care about us. But without feelings, nobody would care about anybody.”

*** 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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True, I don’t read a whole lot of science fiction stories, but I have enjoyed the genre in the past and I had high hopes for Halfway. It took me way longer than expected to finally pick it up, mostly due to the slump, but I was looking forward to it… Sadly I didn’t have the reading experience I was expecting to have. Unpopular opinion ahead! I went in looking forward to emerge myself fully in a new futuristic world, but I was actually mostly confused during a long time. While Halfway has a substantial amount of descriptions, I still feel the worldbuilding of Enigma isn’t really fleshed out and this made me never fully adapt to this world. The many descriptions only slowed down the pace for me… Another thing that bothered me was the lack of a proper plot. Between the descriptions and character background detail that doesn’t have a clear connection to Enigma for a really long time, I didn’t feel the story was really going anywhere. There are some hints at a war and a threat, but it almost feels as if all important details are pushed into the background as Halfway focuses more on the history of some of the main characters. The Enigma chapters and character memoires were so dissociated that I had a hard time connecting everything (again, lack of plot), and this confusion influenced my reading experience considerably. All in all a story that definitely isn’t for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #15: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo & From Bad To Cursed


Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! No more backlog reviews, so from now on it’s only books I’ve actually read this year. The first is one of the (hopefully) various memoirs I will be reading this year: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. I had high hopes for this one besides the fact I’m not familiar with her at all, but I just couldn’t connect to her writing style and her humor definitely wasn’t for me. The other title on her is the Bad Girls Don’t Die sequel From Bad To Cursed by Katie Alender, which turned out to be a disappointment as well. A shame, because I loved the first book!


Title: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo
Author: Amy Schumer

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: August 16th 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books
Finished reading: January 23rd 2018
Pages: 323

“If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them—like the sun.”


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I have a weird fascination with reading memoirs even from persons I’m not really familiar with. So even though I don’t really know Amy Schumer or her work, I was still intrigued enough to want to pick up The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. The fact that this memoir has been praised a LOT did also help of course. I was fully expecting to be loving this read, but I ended up feeling the complete opposite. Oh yes, it’s time for another unpopular review… Did you really think I could go that long without one? I don’t think my opinion has all that much to do with the fact I don’t really know her… It’s more that her writing style, crudy humor and sexual talk simply aren’t a right fit for me. The humor felt kind of forced-funny, but then again my sense of humor has always been a bit ‘special’ and I don’t like what most people like. What was a surprise is that The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo was actually a lot darker and self-confessional than I thought it would be, especially since it’s labeled humor. Kuddos to her for having the guts to share all this personal stuff… Although if I got it right she kind of does the same thing in her shows. I guess her humor and writing style either works for you, or it doesn’t. Unfortunately I belong to the second group, and honestly I kind of struggled making it to the last page. Oh well, we can’t like them all, can we?


Title: From Bad To Cursed
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #2)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: June 14th 2011
Publisher: Hyperion
Finished reading: January 20th 2018
Pages: 442

“Stay sunny, we said to each other.
Because if you don’t the whole world will know you’re a monster.”


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I read the first book back in 2016 for Halloween, and while I really enjoyed that one, I somehow ever picked up the sequels. No longer, because I’ve vowed to finish this trilogy before the end of February. Book number two starts off quite a few months after the first book finished its story… And in From Bad To Cursed the sisters will have another dose of the supernatural. Sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy this sequel as much as I thought I would. I still love the writing style, which is engaging, flowing and makes you fly through the story. But I wasn’t so sure about the plot. The idea behind From Bad To Cursed is an interesting one and definitely involves a healthy dose of creepy, BUT I wasn’t so happy with all those high school cliches included as well as a lot of ‘perfect pretty girl’ cliches. A bunch of teenage girls playing perfect and bitching to others if they don’t dress perfectly, eat the right food and say the right things? No thank you. The way both Alexis and Kasey behaved really started to bother me as well. I’m still hoping it was just this particular ‘problem’ they had to deal with that made them unlikeable and I’m having hopes for the final book. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to like that one better!


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