ARC REVIEW: The Merchant’s Pearl – by Amie O’Brien @merchantspearl

Title: The Merchant’s Pearl
(The Merchant’s Pearl Saga #1)
Author: Amie O’Brien

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: July 24th 2016
Publisher: BookBaby
Finished reading: June 23rd 2017
Pages: 466

“I just wish I understood what it all means sometimes—why one person rises while the other falls? Why one set of feet must be kissed while the other’s gets stepped upon?”

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

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I confess it took me longer than expected to finally pick up my copy of The Merchant’s Pearl. I had been saying I was going to pick it up for ages, but somehow I was afraid this historical fiction story was going to be way too heavy on the romance for me after rereading the blurb a while ago. Thankfully this was actually one of the few exceptions were I was wrong. There is no doubt that I ended up enjoying way better than I ever could have hoped for… I enjoy reading historical fiction in general and the Ottoman empire setting is without doubt well executed in The Merchant’s Pearl. The many descriptions of the palace, its surroundings and the things that happened there helped create a very vivid and rich image of how it would have been like living there as a concubine. I’m not sure if it all actually felt late 19th century, but I personally didn’t mind as those descriptions were more than enough to set the right atmosphere. I do have to say it took me a lot longer than expected to actually finish The Merchant’s Pearl. Part of it might have been me, part of it might have been the somewhat slower pace, but at 466 pages the story might possibly have felt a bit overlong… There is no doubt that I still very much enjoyed reading this story though. Especially the first half or so stood out for me, not only due to the lack of romance but also because of the dynamics between Leila and Emre. The second half had considerably more romance scenes, drama, jealousy and a few other cliches that made me enjoy the overall story slightly less than I expected after the first few chapters. Especially anything related to the drama between the concubines was a bit too much for me, although I guess this probably did happen all the time in a harem. I did like both Leila and Emre more in the first half though, as they started to get on my nerves sometimes later on in the story. Like I said, the second half had too much drama in it to my taste, but I still liked it and the descriptions stayed strong until the very end. All in all The Merchant’s Pearl is a very interesting historical fiction read that romance fans will appreciate even better than I did.

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Sarai grew up as a missionary’s daughter and lived a happy life up until the day her parents are murdered when she’s eleven. The people that took her in initially sold her to the palace, where she was to be a concubine-in-waiting for the Ottoman Sultan Aziz. Now called Leila, she tries to be invisible, but one of his sons, Prince Emre, has set her eyes on her and claims her for his own. Leila never wanted this life in the first place, but now she has to compete against the other girls in his harem… And one of them seems to be determined to make her life miserable. Will Leila ever adapt to her new life?

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My favorite part of The Merchant’s Pearl is hands down the existence of many detailed descriptions of the inner workings of the Ottoman palace and empire of that time. It was really interesting to see how things worked back then and how life was for a concubine… The pace was a bit slow, but the writing style was beautiful. I liked most of the characters as well, although some of their actions started to annoy me during the second half of the story. But that might just have been me and my aversion to anything too overly romance/drama in the first place. If you like historical fiction and romance, you will enjoy reading this one!


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ARC REVIEW: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well – by Bridget Geraghty @ReadingAlley

Title: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well
Author: Bridget Geraghty

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 28th 2016
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: June 1st 2017
Pages: 101

“Thoughts are the same as wishes. They lead us to where we are going.”

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

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I recently realized I had yet to pick up a Middle Grade read this year, and that’s when I stumbled upon this story. I was intrigued by the cover and initially wrongly assumed it was going to be a fantasy read, but Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is actually a contemporary fiction read about (among other things) loss, grief and the moving on. It’s quite a short story, but I think it manages to portray those topics quite realistically while still being understanding and appealing to the age group (roughly 8-12 years). I did have slight doubts about some of Molly’s behavior and the credibility of some of her actions; not everything seemed to be all that realistic and I was surprised by how easily both Molly and Henry seemed to accept everything at their grandparents’ farm. The development of Molly didn’t always seem natural, but it does have a nice message of accepting changes and learning to move on after a traumatic event. I’m sure it will appeal to the age group as the writing style is very easy to read as well and simply flows. I might have had some doubts while reading Molly Bell And The Wishing Well, but it was still a very interesting read with some endearing moments.

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Molly Bell hasn’t been feeling like herself ever since her mother passed away two years ago, and hasn’t even played her favorite sport anymore since. Now her father is getting remarried and she is not sure what to think of her new stepmother… To make things worse, this deal also included a new six-year-old stepbrother named Henry. The two don’t really get along, but will have to find a way to do so as they will be spending time together on Molly’s grandparents’ farm while their parents go on their honeymoon. Molly learns of the wishing well on the property, and after her Aunt Joan tells her every wish she made there came true, Molly is determined to make some wishes of her own… But does she truly know what she wants to wish for?

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Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is without doubt a quick read with a writing style that flows and will appear to the age group. I had some doubts about certain actions of the main characters and its credibility, but in general I really liked how this story portrayed how to deal with loss, grief and moving on after a traumatic event. The wishing well is used as part of this journey and the descriptions of the daily life on the farm will appeal to the younger readers as well.


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ARC REVIEW: The Serial Killer’s Daughter – by Lesley Welsh @bookouture

Title: The Serial Killer’s Daughter
Author: Lesley Welsh

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 14th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: May 29th 2017
Pages: 335

“She remembered her mother telling her that discerning the truth in Don’s lies was like unravelling knotted string.”

*** 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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Call me weird, but mention a serial killer and I instantly want to read your thriller. So mention one in the title and I’m sold as soon as I first hear about it… And that is exactly what happened when I saw The Serial Killer’s Daughter mentioned. One of my absolute all time favorites (hint: Jasper Dent) features the son of a serial killer, so having another story focus on the child of a ‘monster’ had me hooked instantly. Now I’ve read The Serial Killer’s Daughter, I do have to say that it’s the first time that the title is actually a spoiler for me. Why? As much as it was what first peaked my interest, I would have liked not knowing the dad was a serial killer beforehand and it takes away some of the suspense around Don’s character. The character development in this psychological thriller is sublime though and this is without doubt one of the most twisted serial killers I’ve encountered with. I liked that it’s not just about the killer and both the daughter and other characters play an important role in the story. There are some very dark and gruesome details in certain parts of the story, so beware if you are sensitive to those. They fit remarkably well in the story though and it only adds to the description and characterization of an extremely violent, arrogant sociopath and manipulator. The pace is a tad slow and there is less action that I would have expected, but the focus in The Serial Killer’s Daughter is on the characters instead and the plot is without doubt very twisty.

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Suzanne has never been close to her father Don and hasn’t been in contact for years… But still her life changes forever the day she receives a visit from Rose Anderson, the woman who has been living with him. She tells Suzanne that her father died she wants Suzanne to have his possessions; including a series of notebooks and a mysterious collection of photographs of various women. One of the women is actually her friend Sophie, who died ten years ago in a mysterious fire, and she wonders why her father would have a photo of her. Suzanne’s mother warns her to stay away, but Suzanne cannot let the past rest and decided to read the journals to find out more about her father’s life. But she might end up finding a lot more than she had signed up for…

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Although the title The Serial Killer’s Daughter is actually sort of a spoiler of what is to come, there is no doubt that this story is a well written character-driven psychological thriller with a sublime character development. The pace is a bit slow and there might not be as much action as you would suspect there to be in a serial killer thriller, but the story is full of twists and the characters more than make up for it. You will be able to meet one for the most twisted and creepy serial killers I’ve encountered with to this date and get to know him (almost too) intimately; definitely the stuff nightmares are made from.


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ARC REVIEW: The Last Valentine – by Felix Alexander @ReadingAlley

Title: The Last Valentine
Author: Felix Alexander

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
First published: February 13th 2017
Publisher: ForeverPoetic
Finished reading: May 24th 2017
Pages: 241

“In their infinite wisdom they fail to realize that love keeps us young after youth has passed and is the only memory worth remembering when the shadows of forgetfulness linger on the horizon of old age.”

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

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I love stories with a different setting so the fact that The Last Valentine is set in Puerto Rico was a big selling point for me. Add the promise of the combination of a historical fiction and mystery read, and I just knew I had to read this story…And it has definitely turned out to be an enjoyable read. Both the 1930s setting in Puerto Rico and the whole mystery around the labyrinth of love letters stood out for me. The descriptions are well done and I found myself looking forward to discover more about both the characters and what would happen to them. The writing style is enjoyable and also very quotable. I loved the inclusion of various Spanish words in the prose; it made the story feel that much more authentic without slowing down the pace for those who don’t understand the language. The main plot of trying to unravel the mysteries around the labyrinth is intertwined with various love stories, secrets and conspiracies that will keep you interested until the very end. I did feel the dose of forbidden love, love triangles and romance in general was a bit too high for me and some of the characters started to annoy me because of it, but that might just have been me not liking those elements in general in the first place. It’s not just the romance between the characters though, because The Last Valentine also talks a lot about romance itself with the help of for example love letters, romance quotes etc. If you enjoy a well written romance novel with a dose of mystery and historical facts will probably enjoy it even better than I did!

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Olivia Villalobos is the daughter of a drunkard police investigator and never knew the truth behind the disappearance of her mother. One day she finds a bloodstained love letter in the hidden compartment of her father’s coat… she is convinced it belonged to the man recently found dead, and is determined to find the Labyrinth of Love Letters to deliver it before someone else takes it away. The labyrinth is believed to be an urban legend, but is that all there is to the mysterious place? Olivia starts her search with the help of her best friend Isaac Quintero and soon they realize they might find more than they were looking for…

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The Last Valentine isn’t just another historical romance novel. The 1930s setting in Puerto Rico is without doubt well executed and helped set the right atmosphere, but it is the whole mystery around the Labyrinth of Love Letters and other secrets and conspiracies that will keep you intrigued until the very end. The dose of (sappy) romance cliches was a bit too high for me, but I did appreciate the many quotable references to romance in general. Romance fans will most likely love this story!


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BOOK REVIEW: Stardust – by Neil Gaiman

Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: February 1st 1999
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Finished reading: May 15th 2017
Pages: 266

“You have to believe. Otherwise, it will never happen.”

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It’s basically a miracle I could even see the cover of this one with all the dust it has been collecting for years… I guess it was about time I picked it up! Now I’ve read it, I can say Stardust is without doubt another well written and entertaining fantasy read, but it reads a bit slow and all in all I didn’t find it as good as some of my Neil Gaiman favorites. Stardust is one of those exceptions where I have actually seen the movie first, something I prefer not happening because it tends to alter the reading experience. It’s probably what happened here as well, because I kept thinking of the movie as I were reading Stardust… And this is one of the rare cases where I actually enjoyed the movie better than the book. I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that the pace was more enjoyable in the movie and I liked the dynamics between Tristran and Yvaine better. And the Robert De Niro scenes are just priceless. 😉 Back to the book, the slower pace used to tell this story made the whole journey feel a bit less adventurous and exciting and Stardust didn’t manage to blow me away like other books I’ve read by this author. The characters were interesting enough and I really liked the worldbuilding, but I also felt the so-called ‘spark’ was missing from this one. It’s without doubt an entertaining fairytale-like fantasy read, but I’ll stick with the movie for this once.

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Like many men of the small village of Wall, Tristran Thorn is in love with the beautiful Victoria and will do anything to win over her cold heart. This even includes finding the star they watch fall from the sky one day and bringing it back to her. Tristran is determined to do so, even if he must go to the other side of the ancient wall that gives the village its name. Normally people aren’t allow to cross to the other side, but an exception is made for him because of his past… And he soon finds out all about what’s on the other side: Faerie, where nothing is what he could ever have imagined.

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I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman‘s work and I have read various of his novels, but this one was somehow always pushed back down the TBR pile. I can’t explain why, especially since I really enjoyed the movie and have seen it various times over the years… But I’m without doubt glad I finally read the original story. Stardust turned out to be one of those rare exceptions were I liked the movie better, but the book is still a quite entertaining and enjoyable read. It reads a bit slow and wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, but then again it’s hard to live up to books like Neverwhere and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane in the first place.


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ARC REVIEW: Roses Of May – by Dot Hutchison @DotHutchison @ThomasMercerUK

Title: Roses Of May
(The Collector #2)
Author: Dot Hutchison

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: May 23rd 2017
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: May 11th 2017
Pages: 300

“The public steals tragedies from victims. … These things happened to us, to our loved ones, but it hits the news and suddenly everyone with a TV or computer feels like they’re entitled to our reactions and recoveries.”

*** 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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I’m going to be honest and admit I was completely unaware The Butterfly Garden was actually the first book of a trilogy when I read it last year. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw Roses Of May mentioned and realized it was a sequel; I instantly knew I had to read it after my experience with the first book. It was interesting how some of the main characters of The Butterfly Garden reacted after what happened in the first book, but Roses Of May can in fact also be read as a stand-alone since it’s mainly about a completely different case and serial killer. Dot Hutchison has without doubt created another creeper with this one and the case is intriguing, although I do have to say I was slightly disappointed by the fact I figured out his identity really early on in the story. The writing style is just as enjoyable as book one and I liked the main character Priya, her kick-ass attitude and relation with the feds. I think I still prefer the first book, just because it made a little more impact for being such a dark, twisted and shocking story, but Roses Of May has its share of horror as well. I liked that the POV switches between the present and the voice of the killer… It really adds to his character. As with the first book, it has a rather closed ending, so no painful cliffhangers (thankfully). I’ll be wondering what the third and final book will be about though!

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

Four months after what happened in the Garden, the three FBI agents Brandon Eddison, Victor Hanoverian and Mercedes Ramirez are still dealing with the aftermath. The butterflies are still struggling to adjust to life on the outside, but that is not the only case on their mind. Because as the winter slowly coming to an end, a different serial killer seems to be preparing to find himself another victim… And the agents know that if they don’t find him, another young woman will turn up dead in a church with her throat slit and her body surrounded by flowers. Will they be able to stop them on time? And what has Priya, one of the victims’ sister, to do with all of this?

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While not as strong or twisted as the first book, I still very much enjoyed Roses Of May. Especially the final part had a very fast pace and the writing style is very enjoyable to read. The serial killer and plot itself are both intriguing and the chapters with the killer’s thoughts added another level of suspense. I also might or might not have squealed when I saw my name mentioned in the story (doesn’t happen often, trust me!). The plot twists are interesting as well, although I did find out the killer’s identity early on. Without doubt still recommended though!


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ARC REVIEW: Riven – by Belina Crawford

Title: Riven
(The Hero Rebellion #2)
Author: Belinda Crawford

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Fantasy
First published: October 4th 2016
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Finished reading: April 29th 2017
Pages: 250

Instead, she reached out to touch her mum’s mind. And ran smack-bang into a mawberry-flavoured wall. She glared at Fink.

He twitched an ear. Manners, he thought to her.

*** 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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Riven is the second book of The Hero Rebellion series I started reading last year. It’s also probably one of the few YA sci-fi/fantasy series out there that is 100% romance free thanks to the fact that the author Belinda Crawford probably dislikes cheesy romance as much as I do. I enjoy reading the genre and tend to tolerate the romance since it seems to go with it, so not having to deal with it in The Hero Rebellion is definitely a rare treat. This story focuses on the worldbuilding of Jørn instead and is stuffed to its limit with action and more action. As soon as you start reading, you find yourself right in the middle of the action and that won’t stop until you reach the last page. The worldbuilding is interesting and I love the idea behind it; the Jørn creatures and the many street races are probably my favorite part of this series. The main character Hero’s powers and colorful ‘thought’-speaking can get a bit confusing if you are not used to it (it took me a bit longer to get used to this time), but there is no doubt it is one of the most original features of this sci-fi world. Riven ends with a cliffhanger that definitely makes me want to find out what happens next… Because there is still much to learn about Jørn and the main characters. I did feel the plot wasn’t as interesting as in book one, but that just might be because part of it was a preparation of what is still to come. If you enjoy the genre and like me are allergic to romance, this one is just for you!

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

Hero Regan is a telepath and the first of a new subspecies of human; an experiment to try and find a way for the human race to survive on Jørn. But something seems to be wrong after all that happened lately. Her brain is acting up, and that might just be directly related to the ‘bad thing’. Her genetically engineered companion Fink is acting up as well… And even though she already has too many things to deal with, the Librarian once again needs her help to save the world and it doesn’t seem like she has a choice in the matter. Will Hero be able to deal with all of this?

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Riven is without doubt an action-packed and entertaining sci-fi read and the best part is that it’s 100% romance free. I struggled a bit more to get used to the whole ‘thought-talking’ and ‘colored/scented thoughts’ thing, but it is without doubt a very original concept. The plot itself wasn’t as strong as in Hero, but it did sound promising for the things that are still to come. I will be looking forward to book three!


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