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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ARC REVIEW: Mona Lisas And Little White Lies – by John Herrick

Title: Mona Lisas And Little White Lies
Author: John Herrick
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 19th 2019
Publisher: Segue Blue
Finished reading: February 8th 2019
Pages: 324

“Unlike men – and cars, for that matter – a new tire had never let her down.”

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

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Surprised to see this title on my little blog? I know I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, but I like to read something different every once in a while. There was just something about this title that caught my eye, and maybe the fact that it’s due to be published on my birthday was a sign? Anyhow, while I do think that contemporary romance fans will enjoy Mona Lisas And Little White Lies better than I did, I still had a good time reading it. I really liked the premise of this story. The artist inspired by a face he only saw once in all those years, the down to earth car mechanic who doesn’t know the power behind her appearance… The art, the chance meeting, the different worlds colliding: the story definitely has all the signs of that feel-good fairytale romance. The main characters Lily and Ryder are easy to like and each have their own personality. I like my quirky characters with flaws and they do feel quite realistic. Their story sounds like something straight out of a movie and it’s a story romance fans most likely will fall in love with. For me, there were a bit too many cliches involved, including romance tropes as insta-love and a love triangle. The whole ‘little white lies’ part felt a bit forced, as well as the final part of the story. Their reactions to the plot twist reveal and aftermath were a bit too cliche and over the top for me, but then again I’m not a drama fan. Some parts were a bit underdeveloped as well, including for example Aaron’s past and the role of Chase in the story. I really liked the many descriptions of Thailand though! Overall Mona Lisas And Little White Lies was an entertaining and fluffy contemporary romance read I can recommend to fans of the genre.

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Ryder saw Lily only once a couple of years ago, but has never been able to forget her face. He has incorporated her into his art for years now, using Lily as his muse for commercials and other art alike. Everybody wonders who this woman in his art is, but he never reveals her identity… Mostly because he doesn’t have a clue who or where she is. Then Lily’s friends see one of his commercials and Lily is determined to confront the artist about using her face without permision. But what will this meeting lead to?

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If you enjoy cute ‘love at first sight’ stories with quirky and flawed characters that are easy to like, you will probably love Mona Lisas And Little White Lies. The general idea behind this story is interesting and I loved the many art, car and Thailand references. The plot did get a bit predictable and cliche at points, and the dose of drama was a bit high towards the ending, but overall this was still a satisfying contemporary romance read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #78 – The Last Time I Lied & The Painted Veil

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a 2018 release I wasn’t able to get to last year and a classic I’ve been meaning to read for a while. The first, The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager, went better than I hoped and I ended up really enjoying it. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham sadly wasn’t really my cup of tea though.


Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 3rd 2018
Publisher: Dutton
Finished reading: January 19th 2019
Pages: 384

“Above all, I’m scared that if I keep digging, I might not like what I’ll find.”


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There has been a lot of hype around The Last Time I Lied, but after my experience with Final Girls I decided to stay away for a while before finally picking it up. I’m not sure if this tactic helped or if I found his second book to be simply better than his debut, but the fact is: no unpopular opinion review this time around. Oh yes, you can say I really enjoyed my time with The Last Time I Lied. (What’s with all those books with ‘lie’ in the title though?) The writing is strong and draws you right in; the descriptions of the art and surroundings are done in such a way that really makes them come alive. This story has a dual timeline, where we slowly learn more about what happened fifteen years ago, what is happenening at the camp right now and how the two relate… Using the unreliable narrator technique and a whole bunch of twists, secrets and lies, Riley Sager will be able to keep you guessing about what really happened all those years ago. And not only that, because things are happening in the present as well that make you wondering what is really going on and who is behind it all. The final twists were definitely a surprise! I’m not sure if Emma and the other characters are exactly likeable, but they feel well developed and the Lake Midnight setting is both eerie and fits the story. This feeling that something is off sets the right atmosphere for a story that will keep you engaged until you find out every last detail about that night the girls disappeared and how everything affects Emma and the others in the present. I can understand the love for The Last Time I Lied now!


Title: The Painted Veil
Author: W. Somerset Maugham

Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: April 1925
Publisher: Vintage
Finished reading: January 20th 2019
Pages: 280

“You know, my dear child, that one cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one’s soul.”


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While I was browsing for something a little different to read, I stumbled upon my copy of The Painted Veil. I was looking forward to a historical fiction read and the promise of a foreign setting in the 1920s sounded great. Add the fact that reading it would mean crossing off my first classic of the year early, and I was fully convinced. What I didn’t expect is just how focused this story is on the romance, adultery and love triangle. This never goes well for me and I guess it’s part of the reason I’m guessing The Painted Veil simply wasn’t for me despite my love for historical fiction. I do have to say the setting was well developed and the many descriptions of especially the Meitan-Fu area were really detailed and made it come alive. The foreign culture is probably the most interesting aspect of this story, and it’s a shame there is not more focus on it. The Painted Veil is a character driven story with especially Kitty in the spotlight. You can guess that being unable to connect to her presented a big problem for me… Likewise, I can’t say I was charmed by the other characters either. I am very curious about the movie though, which I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about. But sadly the book didn’t manage to blow me away.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #67 – Blue Blood & Girl With A Pearl Earring

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two older releases and two completely different genres. The first a detective thriller sequel of a Danish author: Blue Blood by Sara Blaedel. The second a historical fiction modern classic set in 1660s Delft: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Both were solid reads though.


Title: Blue Blood
(Louise Rick #2)
Author: Sara Blaedel

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2005
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: November 29th 2018
Pages: 448
(Originally written in Danish: ‘Kald Mig Prinsesse’)


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I always have a weak spot for detective thrillers, and I just couldn’t resist buying a copy of Blue Blood when I first saw it. I didn’t realize it was actually the second book of a series at the time, but thankfully the story can be read as a stand-alone as well. This translation from a Danish crime writer (also called Call Me Princess in some translations) was without doubt an entertaining ride. The writing style was easy to like, and I just loved the setting in Denmark. I was drawn to the story and plot straight away, and found myself literally flying through the pages… Trigger warnings are in place for rape and violence, but the subject is really well handled and reading more about the dangers of online dating is definitely intriguing. The main characters Louise Rick was quite easy to connect to, and I didn’t feel I was missing too much background information by not reading the first book (I’m not saying I don’t want to now though). I could have done without the cheating/romance subplot, but thankfully the main focus was on the case itself. I liked how things developed and even though I had some ideas about how things would end, Blue Blood also had some surprises in store. Fast, entertaining and just the right amount of suspense… I will definitely be reading more of Sara Blaedel‘s books.


Title: Girl With A Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2000
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2018
Pages: 233

“He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face.”


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I’ve been meaning to read this modern classic for ages, and the When Are You Reading? challenge turned out to be a perfect excuse to do so. I’ve seen the painting of the story with my own eyes quite some years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to read about the story behind it. Girl With A Pearl Earring turned out to be a very interesting story set in the 1660s in a Dutch city called Delft. The description of both the setting and era is very well done, and I like how the author stayed true to the Dutch names. The writing was solid and made it easy to follow Griet’s story as things develop. The fact that Griet’s father is a tile painter is interesting, as Delft is famous for its blue and white decorations… And Vermeer is a very famous painter of course as well. I liked reading about her experience as a maid in the house of a famous author. The dynamics of a girl without experience being thrown into a new job and a family not sure how to react to Griet were interesting. There were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way though. The first is the love triangle, which partly ruined the story for me. Is this seriously necessary?! I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more without the appearance of that trope. I also wasn’t sure about the interactions between Griet and some of the Vermeer family members… I still think it was a solid read and I enjoyed reading it for the most part though.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Goldfinch – by Donna Tartt

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Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: October 22nd 2013
Finished reading: August 31st 2015
Pages: 771
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“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”

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I’ve had a copy of The Goldfinch on my TBR shelf pretty much ever since it came out, but somehow I have been a bit hesitant to actually start reading it. It’s quite a big read and although I normally don’t mind those, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the slow pace (especially in the beginning). I will have to agree with those complaints. There is no doubt that The Goldfinch is a very well written novel and I enjoyed Donna Tartt‘s prose in general. But the mere fact that it took me almost two months to actually finish the novel and I was able to finish no less than 44! other novels while I was ‘not’ reading this one says a lot about The Goldfinch… The story itself is very interesting and I liked the idea of the journey of both the main character and the painting, but the pace was so slow that it took me a hard time to stay focused. I have the feeling that I would have liked the novel a lot better if it would have been at least 200 pages shorter. Sure, that way it loses some of its literary value, but it would be way more pleasant to read. Would I recommend this one? If you like literary fiction, love art and don’t mind a big book with a slow pace, The Goldfinch is without doubt an interesting read.

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Theo Decker survives an explosion in a New York museum and a valuable painting comes into his possession. His mother didn’t survive the accident and his father had abandoned them some time before, so Theo finds him without a real home. He is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend and is having difficulties adapting to this new strange life without his mother. The only thing that reminds him of her is the small captivating painting of a goldfinch; a painting the whole world has been looking for ever since the explosion. The goldfinch travels with Theo throughout the years and brings him to different cities, adventures and even countries. As an adult, the painting has become dangerous and is his actions all those years ago came back to haunt him…

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The Goldfinch is without doubt a beautifully written novel and I can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Still, the pace was so slow in the beginning that it is very hard to stay focused and continue reading until the pace finally picks up. The last part set in Amsterdam is without doubt the part with the most action in it, and I really enjoyed the many cultural references. It made me crave some of the local food; boy do I miss zuurkool! The prose is very well written and I found many inspiring quotes while I was reading. That said, I don’t think The Goldfinch is a read for everyone. If you have the time and don’t mind the effort, it can be an interesting read though.