ARC REVIEW: The Gypsy Moth Summer – by Julia Fierro

Title: The Gypsy Moth Summer
Author: Julia Fierro

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 6th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 2nd 2017
Pages: 400

“What good are the rules,” Jules asked, “the laws, moral this and that, when you can’t follow them and protect your family at the same time?”

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

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Ever since I first heard about The Gypsy Moth Summer I’ve been intrigued by this story. I’ve heard lots of interesting things about it since I first added it to my list, but somehow it has taken me months to actually pick it up. One of the reasons is probably that I tend to have mixed reactions when it comes to literary fiction… And unfortunately The Gypsy Moth Summer ended up being one of those books where the genre just didn’t work for me. I really wanted to like this story and the plot is without doubt both intriguing and well developed. I liked the idea behind the island of Avalon, its history and all events leading up to its ‘climax’ during the summer of 1992. Why wasn’t my reading experience better then, would you wonder? First of all, during the whole length of this story I found myself unable to connect to the characters OR get used to the writing style, which put a mayor damper on things. I’m not saying this story isn’t well written, but it’s what you call an acquired taste or at least doesn’t appeal to everyone. It just all felt a bit too chaotic to my taste and I personally struggled with this story. I understand the gypsy moth information bits are used to bind the plot together and these insects play a both a literal and symbolic role in the story, but unfortunately they mostly ended up distracting from the plot. And as for the characters: like I said before I found it impossible to warm up to them and I couldn’t really appreciate the liberal use of sex, drugs and alcohol in the story without consequences either. It might be that those elements are used to symbolize the chaos unfolding on the island, but it mostly made me dislike the characters even more. All in all The Gypsy Moth Summer definitely wasn’t for me… But if you enjoy reading literally fiction and like the sound of this story, don’t let my review discourage you.

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It’s the summer of 1992 on Avalon, a small islett off the coast of Long Island. The normally quiet island is being invaded by gypsy moths, the caterpillars eating everything that they can find and becoming a true plague. The insects are becoming one of the main topics of conversation on the island, but that is not the only thing the islanders talk about. Leslie Day Marshall, the daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family, returns to the island with her husband and children. Nothing special would you say, but the fact is that Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American and the island is packed with predominantly white conservatives quick to form their opinions about the family… And than there is the topic of the factory and the graffiti.

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I really wanted to enjoy this story and I still think the plot itself is both rich, provoking and fascinating, but unfortunately The Gypsy Moth Summer ended up being one of those titles that just isn’t for me. Literary fiction can go either way with me in general, so that might just have been the problem here; if you enjoy the genre I would suggest still giving this story a go. That said, I couldn’t ignore the chaotic feel of the storytelling, my lack of connection to the characters, certain elements that bothered me or the fact I couldn’t warm up to the writing style.


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ARC REVIEW: Heartborn – by Terry Maggert

Title: Heartborn
Author: Terry Maggert

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 1st 2016
Finished reading: May 28th 2017
Pages: 238

“Sometimes, she thought books had been the only thing other than the love her parents that kept her from quitting. They were old friends who never left, and always took her by the hand to go someplace her broken body could not.”

*** 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 haven’t read all that many books about angels before and I was intrigued by both the cover and blurb when I first heard about Heartborn. What I didn’t realize until later is that this is actually the first book of a series… And that’s probably why I was kind of surprised when I reached the last page of this story. Heartborn definitely ends right when things are starting to make more sense and the story was becoming more interesting. This was one of the main things I was struggling with as I was reading this story: the credibility of it all and the lack of worldbuilding/descriptions of the word the angels live in. I liked that Heartborn is a story that is a mix of the ‘real’ world and the fantasy, linked together through the characters, and it definitely made the story more interesting. But even though I liked Livvy’s character (‘real’ world) in general, I had serious doubts about her reactions to everything. I mean, she somehow takes the news of a completely foreign world being out there somewhere without even a complaint or thinking twice? And she just accepts and gobbles up everything Keiron and the others say without completely freaking out? Not credible at all. And then I’m not even talking about the insta-love happening somewhere in the middle.  Also, I can’t go into details without spoilers, but let’s just say that I felt there was a lack of balance in the plot; some parts felt rushed and lacked explaining, while others started to drag. The ‘angel’ chapters were interesting enough, but I would have liked to see more details and worldbuilding to properly enjoy them. This fantasy world has a lot of promise, but didn’t reach its full potential for me. All in all not as good as I would have hoped it would be.

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Livvy Foster was born with only half a heart, and has somehow completely surprised everyone and survived to reach her seventeenth birthday. Life hasn’t been easy on her and she bears the scars to prove it; forced to live slow as to not damage further her already weak heart. She has only just started working in the library when she meets Keiron. What she doesn’t know is that there is a whole lot more about him than just another library visitor… Because he has come from a place far away, a guardian angel pushed from high above with a mission to save her. What will happen to the two?

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Now I’ve read Heartborn I can’t deny there is a lot of potential in this story, and it’s a shame the fantasy world has been described only so briefly. An extra 100 pages or so would have helped develop their world better and that would probably help enjoying this story a lot better. I also had problems with the credibility of it all, mostly due to Livvy’s reactions to so many (for her) shocking details. The final part of the story also felt a bit rushed and the ending abrupt. All in all a lot of potential, but in the end it just didn’t work for me.


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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.