ARC REVIEW: Song Of Sacrifice – by Janell Rhiannon

Title: Song Of Sacrifice
(Homeric Chronicles #1)
Author: Janell Rhiannon
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Fantasy
First published: December 26th 2018
Finished reading: April 9th 2019
Pages: 426

“The more time passes, the more keenly we feel our losses carved into our very soul, even as the memories fade around the edges.”

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

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I always love discovering (Greek) mythology inspired stories and as soon as I read the blurb of Song Of Sacrifice I knew I had no other choice but to read it. This first installment of the Homeric Chronicles is set in the years leading up to the famous Troyan War (1295-1251 BCE) and includes a wide variety of myths, stories and different characters. If you enjoy reading about the Troyan war and happened to cause it, I can without doubt recommend Song Of Sacrifice! It truly shows that the author has investigated the topic thoroughly and then succeeded to combine an impressive amount of different stories and characters in such a way that it flowed in a coherent and chronological way. Some minor changes have been made, but I love how true to the original versions Song Of Sacrifice stays. Any Greek mythology fan will be able to appreciate that! The writing is more than solid and is very easy to read. And while there are many different characters and settings, it never distracted or confused me as I was reading the story (although I guess it does help having a general idea of who the main characters involved are). In fact, I loved the fact that the story doesn’t focus on just one character, but instead offers us multiple views and stories to treasure. This gives Song Of Sacrifice a multidimensional and rich feel and definitely added to my positive experience with this story. Gods and humans alike play a role in this story, and I think descriptions and historical setting are spot on. A fair warning for adult content and trigger warning worthy topics as abuse, rape and violence, but it kind of goes with Greek mythology stories as they can get pretty brutal. Song Of Sacrifice is part of a series, and book one doesn’t actually get to the point of the Troyan war yet, but reading about the (lesser known) years leading up to the war is just as fascinating. Fans of historical fiction and Greek mythology retellings will love spending time with this story.


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ARC REVIEW: The Silver Ladies Of Penny Lane – by Dee MacDonald

Title: The Silver Ladies Of Penny Lane
Author: Dee MacDonald
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 24th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 2nd 2019
Pages: 275

“These things usually happen when you aren’t looking for them.”

*** 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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I was really looking forward to spend time with The Silver Ladies Of Penny Lane, especially since I loved the writing style and humor in The Getaway Girls last year. I was fully expecting to be having a blast while reading Dee MacDonald‘s newest title, but I guess it just wasn’t ment to be… And I turned out having a completely different reaction instead. It’s unpopular opinion time again! Because I ended up having quite a few issues with this story and surprisingly none had to do with the fact that the contemporary romance genre normally isn’t really for me. I’ll try to explain why The Silver Ladies Of Penny Lane didn’t work for me below.

The first and most important issue I had with this story had to do with one of Tess’ dates… More especifically the one in the hotel. I don’t want to give away too many details to avoid spoilers, but basically what is described can be considered rape. Disgusting enough on its own and trigger warning worthy, but to make things even worse Tess tries to justify it and blames herself? No, no, NO!! I nearly stopped reading there and then because of this scene. Another thing that bothered me considerably is that way this story completely destroys body positivity. I mean, Tess believing she has to lose weight in order for her to look good, be successful and find a man? Not only shallow but completely contradicts the image their own shop tries to portray. Characters in general are discriminated and talked about negatively because of their weight and appearance and this really left me with a sour taste in my mouth. The story itself is filled with cliches and not in a good way… I personally couldn’t even find the humor in them this time around. I also failed to connect to the main characters, mostly due to how they behaved and the negativity towards others. The dates themselves were so cliche that they are almost offensive and most characters really lacked fleshing out for me. A shame, because I was really looking forward to see more mature main characters for a change. What I did like? The writing does read quite fast and I loved the descriptions of the different places of their Greek cruise. This travel element was probably my favorite part of the story. Otherwise, unfortunately this turned out to be a rather disappointing journey for me. I do hope others will react differently to The Silver Ladies Of Penny Lane!

Tess and Orla have been best friend for a long time and have worked together in a dressmakers shop on the corner of Penny Lane for quite some time. Then one day, sixty-two-year-old Tess decides she wants something more out of the rest of her days and wants to rediscover herself… Hoping to find someone special to spend those days with sooner than later. Orla convinces her to join a dating agency, resulting in some very interesting meetings… And a cruise visiting the Greek islands on the menu as well.

I definitely wasn’t expecting to be having this reaction to The Silver Ladies Of Penny Lane, but it is what it is I guess… I turned out having various serious issues with this story, a lot relating to how characters behaved and were portrayed. I apologize if this review turned into a rant, but I really couldn’t help but getting my feelings out there since it doesn’t happen often I have this strong of a reaction to a story. I do hope others will have a better time with The Silver Ladies Of Penny Lane though.


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ARC REVIEW: The Fever King – by Victoria Lee

Title: The Fever King
(Feverwake #1)
Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: March 1st 2019
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: March 5th 2019
Pages: 376

“Everything worth doing had its risks. Sometimes you had to do the wrong thing to achieve something better.”

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

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It was coverlove at first sight when I saw The Fever King first mentioned and after investigating further I really liked the sound of the blurb was well. I think that magic acting like a virus is a fascinating idea and a great starting point for a new series… The Fever King is set in a dystopian alternative future where a magical virus has been killing a lot of people for more than a century; the survivors end up being witchings with supernatural powers. They are basically a mix between witches and superheroes and it is an interesting take on the whole ‘a spider bit me’ phenomenon. Not everything about the plot might be all that original, but it is the characters who make this story stand out for me. For a YA dystopian series, there is a lot of focus on the characters rather than the dystopian world, but in this case I didn’t mind that much. Would I have liked to see more development of the alternative future the characters have to struggle in? Maybe. But Noam, Dara and even Lehrer make up for those holes and make this story worthwhile. Noam and Dara are easy to like and it was interesting seeing their characters and interaction evolve over time. Even Lehrer proved to be an interesting character, although I did had my guesses about him which turned out to be right… The other characters could have had more character development though. I did like how none of the three main characters is clearly good or bad, the author instead opting for blurred lines and basically humanity. The story started out quite slow, but picked up in the second half up to the point that it felt like a race against the clock. The writing is overall engaging and makes it easy to get to know and root for certain characters. Some of the plot twists were easy to guess and I didn’t agree with everything, but overall this was without doubt a very entertaining start of a new series. It does end with a cliffhanger though, so you’ve been warned…

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Noam has spent his whole life trying to help refugees fleeing magical outbreaks and trying to live in the nation of Carolinia. He was born here, but his parents have always been illegal… One day, Noam wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the magical virus that has been tormenting the country for over a century. Him surviving means he is now a witching, and powerful enough to attract the attention of the Minister Of Defense Calix Lehrer himself. They soon discover his ability to control technology, and Noam accepts Lehrer’s offer to train him personally as a way to fight for the rights of the refugees from the inside. But that is easier said than done…

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Gorgeous cover aside, this was without doubt an entertaining start of a new dystopian alternative future series. In The Fever King magic is in fact a virus that will kill most and leave the survivors with superpowers. A very interesting take on magic and without doubt one of the stronger features of this story. While the worldbuilding is a bit simple and not that developed, the three most important characters (Noam, Dara and Lehrer) mostly make up for it as they all have something special to add to the story. I would have liked to see the other important characters being more developed though, and the pace did start out a bit slow. But the story ends in a whirlwind and will definitely leave you craving for more.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #87 – Be Frank With Me & A Thousand Perfect Notes

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a story that unfortunately disappointed me and another that completely blew me away. The only thing that saved me from DNFing Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson was the main character… While I enjoyed every single perfect second of A Thousand Perfect Notes by our fellow book blogger C.G. Drews.


Title: Be Frank With Me
Author: Julia Claiborne Johnson

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: February 25th 2019
Pages: 309

“Sometimes just explaining your predicament–to a bartender, a priest, the old woman in a shift and flip-flops cleaning the lint traps in the Laundromat dryers–is all it takes to see a way out of it.”


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I have been meaning to pick up Be Frank With Me for quite some time now, mostly because I love my quirky characters and Frank sounded like someone I just HAD to meet. My TBR jar thought it was about time I finally read it, and although my experience wasn’t all that positive there is one thing for sure: I’m glad I finally did get to know him. The premise behind this story on its own is quite interesting, with the reclusive writer being forced to write a few book after falling for a ponzi scheme. But M.M. Banning, also Mimi, doesn’t steal the show nor is the main character here. Not even the narrator of this story, Alice, seems to be in the true spotlight. Oh no, that place is reserved for the young Frank. He is the sole reason I made it to the final page, because there were things I unfortunately struggled with considerably… There was just something about the writing style in Be Frank With Me that made it hard for me to stay focused and the slow pace didn’t help either. The plot is pretty basic and I really felt the story dragged in parts. I wasn’t at all interested in what was happening in the Bel Air house in general or if Mimi would ever finish her book… Not a good feeling to start with. The many Hollywood references and Frank being Frank were what made me keep reading though. His character is both quirky and unique and is definitely what makes me give this story the benefit of the doubt.


Title: A Thousand Perfect Notes
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 7th 2018
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: March 3rd 2019
Pages: 288

“Music is nothing unless it fills your soul with colour and passion and dreams.”


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It’s always fantastic to see a fellow book blogger being published and I’m sure a lot of you now C.G. Drews for either her Paperfury book blog or gorgeous Instagram account (or both!). Her debut A Thousand Perfect Notes was published last year and I’m still kicking myself I didn’t pick it up sooner… Because the reviews are right: this is an absolutely fantastic and heartbreaking read! Well worth the 5 stars and without doubt one of my 2019 favorites. There is just something about the writing style that will draw you right in and I wasn’t able to let go until I reached the final page. I loved how big of a role music played throughout the story, the many musical references both relevant to the plot and enchanting at the same time. The power of A Thousand Perfect Notes is in its characters though. Both Beck, August and Joey are so easy to love; you will adopt them straight away and your heart will ache for them as the plot evolves. I love how the personality of Beck and August are completely contrary and balance each other that way. The Maestro is a horrible character and source of a few trigger warning worthy elements including abuse and violence. She is the perfect villian for this story though and I loved her background and the fact German words are incorporated in the text. A Thousand Perfect Notes will make you laugh and cry and the characters will stay with you for a long time. It’s a fantastic contemporary read which balances happy moments and a romantic interest with a thousand musical notes and a dark twist. If you like the genre and haven’t read this debut yet, you should definitely remedy that. I personally can’t wait until her new story comes out in April!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Pumilio Child – by Judy McInerney #randomthingstour

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Pumilio Child Random Things Tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. The Pumilio Child has first been published last year and has been put in the spotlight during the blog tour which started on February 25th and will continue until March 6th. Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Pumilio Child

Title: The Pumilio Child
Author: Judy McInerney
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 20th 2018
Publisher: Unbound Digital
Finished reading: February 23rd 2019
Pages: 405

“It is nature. And the will of the Divine. That’s how life is. Cruel and unfair. We may question the injustice, but we both know we are powerless against it.”

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

Ya Ling’s cultured life of privilege in Beijing is cruelly cut short when she is abducted and shipped to the slave market in Venice. When Mantegna sees her chained to a post, his initial intention is to paint her exotic beauty, but he soon he desires her company for pleasures of a more private nature. Ya Ling has two ambitions, to ruin Mantegna, then to escape back to her family in China. However, Mantegna’s latest commission, two huge frescos for the ruling Gonzaga family, make him invincible.

Will Ya Ling survive? And can she succeed?

Give me the promise of a historical fiction story with a foreign setting and other cultures to explore and I’m sold without needing to know more. This is exactly what happened when I first heard about The Pumilio Child and its mix of Chinese and Italian culture. The setting on its own is fascinating, and I loved the little glimpses of 15th century Mongol/Han culture in Beijing and life in the same period in Italy. The writing is quite engaging and includes lots of descriptions of both places. I did find the timelapses in especially the part set in Italy to be quite random and without warning though; sometimes days, months or even years passed between one sentence and the other just like that. This made the story feel less coherent and disturbed the flow of the plot. The ending was a bit abrupt; especially if you consider the fact that a lot of the plot was quite slow and the story dragged in parts.

As for the characters: I’m not completely positive Ya Ling is that credible as a character. She seems overconfident and able to overcome enormous obstacles so far from home even after such a shelted childhood in a completely different country and culture… The way she acted and some of the things she did just didn’t manage to convince me. I loved the details about the healing and different plants as well as the details about the Asian culture though. On the other side we have Mantegna. I confess I don’t know anything about the real Mantegna, so I wasn’t offended by the fact that he is supposedly nothing like the character as described in The Pumilio Child. He is absolutely despicable in the story, but I guess every story needs a villain… I loved the many descriptions of the art though. Trigger warnings are in place for (child) abuse, rape, discrimination and violence among other things. Then again, the story is set back in the 15th century, so we are all aware of the fac tthat women (and especially slaves) are not treated the same way back then.

There were things I liked in this story, including the foreign culture and many references to the healing abilities of Ya Ling and her family. There is a lot to say about the plot as well, with the various surprises it has in store and twists you probably won’t see coming. The story didn’t seem to flow all that well though, mainly due to the sudden timelapses and jumping in time. When you see a characters with lots of details about daily life and a really slow pace, only for them to suddenly be days/months/years in the future in a completely different situation, this can become a bit confusing. Also, after such a slow-paced and character driven start, the final part of The Pumilio Child (starting with their final time at the court) felt a bit rushed and the ending was too abrupt for me.

That said, The Pumilio Child is by no means a bad read and historical fiction fans who like character driven stories with a foreign setting will have a great time discovering all about Ya Ling’s unfortunate life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Judy McInerney has lived and worked in London for most of her professional life. Living in the Middle East, she managed to get lost in the desert, and to live through a military coup. After teaching in Abu Dhabi and starting her own business in Turkey, she returned to London and completed a creative writing course at Goldsmiths. Writing for food and travel guides has enabled her to justify travelling and eating out far too often

As a frequent traveller to China over the last thirty years she has seen the country undergo massive seismic changes, – from the times of Mao jackets and vast shoals of bicycles meandering along every hutong, to the present day, where Beijing is bigger than Belgium and has six million cars. She still travels in China each year to keep in close touch with family there. She also has a longstanding love affair with Italy, particularly the Renaissance cities of the north. Mantua is an undiscovered gem, both magical and macabre.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pumilio-Child-Judy-McInerney/


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YVO’S SHORTIES #84 – Half Lies & To Make Monsters Out Of Girls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two short reads I picked up to fit two BTB Epic Bingo prompts: the prequel novella Half Lies by Sally Green and the poetry bundle To Make Monsters Out Of Girls by Amanda Lovelace.


Title: Half Lies
(The Half Bad Trilogy #0.5)
Author: Sally Green

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: November 13th 2014
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 72

“Who would think that a drunken misery-guts like him could be so poetic? But then again maybe that’s what poets and artists are like. “


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I should have known after my less than satisfying experience with Half Bad last year, but since I already owned a copy of the prequel novella AND both sequels I’m giving the trilogy another chance. I’m having a feeling Half Lies wasn’t the best place to start… Novellas are always short and not having a well developed plot and characters is not that much of a surprise. Still, I found myself craving to know more about their past in France and I would have liked to see more focus on magic as well. Instead, Half Lies was basically a sappy forbidden love story where two quite cliche characters fall in love a la Romeo and Juliet. I liked the Giving details and the discovering of power bits, but like I said before those elements are mostly pushed into the background (except for Gabriel’s problems with his power). My biggest struggle was with the writing style. There is just something about the way this story is written that is a huge turn off for me… This might have had to do with the abuse of brackets or short sentences, although it might just have been the writing style as a whole as I remember having similar problems in Half Bad. All in all this prequel novella wasn’t really a success for me and the ending felt a bit abrupt… I’m hoping my experience with the sequel will be a better one.


Title: To Make Monsters Out Of Girls
(Things That H(a)unt #1)
Author: Amanda Lovelace

Genre: Poetry, Feminism
First published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: February 10th 2019
Pages: 168

“there was
no comfort

 

to be
found in

 

the
pages

 

that once
pulled me

 

through
it all.

 

– you took things i didn’t know you could take.”


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After reading and enjoying the Women Are Some Kind Of Magic poetry bundles, I decided to try Amanda Lovelace‘s other bundle To Make Monsters Out Of Girls as well. Her poems are easy to recognize and this was another excellent collection. It is true that the structure of the poems is simplistic and basically seems like hitting the space bar ever few words, but I personally think this simple style gives the words and message behind the poems even more power. Amanda Lovelace writes without fear and is fully open about her experience with abusive and toxic relationships in the past. She uses words to not only express feelings, but fight those monsters and free herself (and hopefully others) in the end. I’ve said it before, but these stories are very easy to relate to for anyone who has experienced a toxic relationship (or is still experiencing it) and will provide both comfort and and empowering message to let you know you are worthy and can beat that monster. It’s not the style, but the words and the emotions behind those words that make To Make Monsters Out Of Girls into such a success for me. Her poetry isn’t for everyone, but those who can connect to her words will be able to treasure it.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #83 – The Bitter Kingdom & Friend Request

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two books I ended up enjoying. The series conclusion The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson and the psychological thriller Friend Request by Laura Marshall.


Title: The Bitter Kingdom
(Fire And Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: April 14th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: February 6th 2019
Pages: 490

“It’s the highest art form, deceiving without lying. A word is the only thing in the world made more powerful by absence than existence.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books yet. You’ve been warned…

I first started this series back in 2015, and it took me a long time before I finally continued it… Not because I didn’t enjoy the first book, but simply because other books got in the way. I finally read the novellas last year, and after reading the second book last month I was determined to read the third and final book ASAP so I could finish the series while memories were still fresh. I’m without doubt glad I picked up the final book, because The Bitter Kingdom definitely made this series end on a high note! I’m not sure if it is my new favorite, but I’m happy to say that all three Fire And Thorns books stay consistently strong and the final book doesn’t disappoint at all. Why was The Bitter Kingdom such a success for me? First of all, I could really appreciate the chapters from Hector’s POV. They were both refreshing and definitely a welcome addition to the story! I also liked how we finally get to learn more about Inverno and see more of that part of the world… The high fantasy worldbuilding is one of the best features of this series and it’s always great to see it expand. The writing is engaging and it makes it really easy to just keep turning the pages. The plot itself isn’t all that complicated, but offers enough action and a romance that will warm your heart instead of annoy you. The end did feel a bit too easy, but overall it does provide closure for this series and its character. I really enjoyed my time with this trilogy and can highly recommend it to fans of the genre.


Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 9th 2017
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 384

“I’m in a hall of mirrors, full of distorted reflections and false endings. I’ve lost track of which way I came in and I have no idea how to get out.”


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I recently bought a copy of Friend Request on a whim after remembering it being mentioned various times back when it was first published, and I couldn’t resist picking it up when I was in the mood for the genre. There is no doubt that Friend Request was a very entertaining psychological thriller with a few twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. The story starts slow and it takes a while for the pace to pick up. Basically, the first half has more of a character driven slower psychological thriller, while the second half is more of a suspenseful crime thriller with a fast pace and quite a lot of action. This made the story feel a bit unbalanced, but the second half made the story that much more thrilling. I mentioned twists I didn’t see coming, and this was definitely true, but I cannot help but wonder if some weren’t a bit too farfetched and dark compared to how the story first started? I do love my surprises though, so I’m a bit on the fence about how to feel about all this. I personally preferred the chapters set in 2016 over those in 1989, mostly because I’m not a real fan of high school drama and bullying. That said, both timelines seem well developed and help creating the suspense and intrigue around Maria and what is happening to Louise in the present. As for Louise: she can be quite annoying and I don’t understand some of her decisions, but her character with all its flaws does feel convincingly realistic. The mystery around what happened to Maria in 1989 and who is behind the messages in 2016 will definitely keep you intrigued until you find out the truth… And it will be hard to see that final twist coming. All in all Friend Request was still a very entertaining read despite the flaws I mentioned.


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