ARC REVIEW: The Dollmaker Of Krakow – by R.M. Romero

Title: The Dollmaker Of Krakow
Author: R.M. Romero

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: September 12th 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: September 13th 2017
Pages: 336

“You can destroy a person, Karolina, but destroying their story is far more difficult. No one is ever really lost as long as their story still exists.”

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

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I was drawn to this book as soon as I saw the stunning cover, and when I found out it was a story set during WWII I was sold. I know I don’t read a lot of middle grade novels, but I do like to mix things up a bit every once in a while and this sounded like the perfect book to do so. The Dollmaker Of Krakow has been compared to The Boy In The Striped Pajamas (one of my all time favorites) and not only has a stunning cover, but also a wonderful story. This middle grade story is not just another historical fiction read with a WWII setting. With The Dollmaker Of Krakow, R.M. Romero has created a truly unique story that is a perfectly balanced mix of historical facts and fantasy with a touch of magical realism and a fairytale-like feel. There is magic, there are talking dolls brought to life, but there is also the brutal reality of the war and what the Germans were doing to the Jews during that period. Innocence is mixed with a somber reality in a way that is truly moving and very beautifully crafted. It’s hard to properly label this story, but there is no doubt about the originality and uniqueness of The Dollmaker Of Krakow. I would recommend this story for the ages of ten and up due to the sensitive historical elements (holocaust references) included, but I am positive they will be completely charmed by this fairytale-like mix of fantasy and reality. The writing style reads like a dream and I really liked the contrast between Karolina’s world and the real one. The characters are also well developed and used perfectly to demostrate the situation of both Jews and the people close to them during the war. It will definitely help make the younger readers reflect in an innocent way and leave breadcrumbs of information that will stay with them without the story feeling like a history lesson. All in all definitely recommended!

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Karolina used to live in the Land of the Dolls as a seamstress, happy to work for her king and queen, but one day they are overthrown by Rats and the dolls are no longer safe. A strange wind spirits her away from her home and suddenly she finds herself in Krakow… Right in the middle of the shop of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power he didn’t know he had. They will soon find out they benefit mutually from their company, and they  even make new friends with a violin-playing father and his daughter. But the Nazi soldiers come to Krakow and Karolina and the Dollmaker soon realize their new Jewish friends are in danger…

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I was sold as soon as I saw the cover and blurb, and there is no doubt that the writing is just as beautiful as the stunning cover. The Dollmaker Of Krakow is a truly unique story that mixes historical events with a fairytale-like fantasy world and sometimes feels a lot like magical realism. This innocent way of approaching the holocaust is a truly fascinating angle and very well executed; the fantasy elements only add to the overal originality of the story.


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BOOK REVIEW: Our Dark Duet – by Victoria Schwab @veschwab

Title: Our Dark Duet
(Monsters Of Verity #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 12th 2017
Pages: 533

“The world was complicated. Life was hard. And so often, living hurt. So make it worth the pain.”

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It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab‘s books and my review might sound a bit biased or like a typical fangirl blabbering about how awesome this particular book was. Because I’m not going to lie and say that even though I finished Our Dark Duet quite a few days ago, I still haven’t recovered. I read the first book of this duology, This Savage Song, last year and completely fell in love with the worldbuilding, writing and characters. It’s true nothing can quite replace or outshine the Shades Of Magic series, but I like to see them as two completely separate stories and worlds to love and cherish. I reread the first book before starting the sequel, and this has definitely reconfirmed my love for this duology. The worldbuilding is actually quite simple and the strength of this story is in both the brilliant writing, the main characters and the constant threat of danger and monsters hiding in dark corners as well as on the next page. Our Dark Duet adds a whole different level and a new monster to the equation, and I quite liked this addition. I just loved seeing my favorite characters evolve and react to the dangerous situations they find themselves in… And even though the ending crushed me, I realy admire Victoria Schwab for her courage to do what she did. This story set in a dystopian world where monsters are real has never been a happy story, and by no means can be called just another sappy YA fantasy story. Because Monsters Of Verity is anything but. Sure, there is a dash of romance included, but there’s no love triangle, no cheesy romance scenes, no all-consuming romantic plot. No, instead you get a double dose of suspense, action, monsters and a whole lot of awesomeness in general. To say that the writing is excellent is an understatement, but then again it is Victoria Schwab we are talking about. Don’t compare this duology to Shades Of Magic, because you will most likely end up being disappointed. Instead, see Monsters Of Verity as something new and completely different, and let the characters and their dystopian world full of monsters enchant you.

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

There is no way back after what happened… Nearly six months after Kate and August first met, the war between monsters and humans has become very real. August Flynn has always wanted to be human, but knows he will always be a monster in the end. He will have to make some difficult choices now he is seen as a leader during the battle agains the other monsters. Kate Harker on the other hand is far away in Prosperity hunting the monsters the people living there don’t even know that exist… Doing what she does best until a new monster shows up and messes up everything. What will happen to the two characters and Verity in general? Will the monsters finally win?

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Error, page not found… Excuse me while my mind recovers from the blow. Because WOW. Victoria Schwab wasn’t kidding when she said this wasn’t a happy story; I admire her all the more for it even though this book kind of broke my heart… Bulldozer or not, I loved this story and how things developed after the first book ended. I’m not saying this Monsters Of Verity duology can compete with the Shades Of Magic trilogy, but I like to see them as two completely separate series that both deserve all the love. Because both have deserved a well earned place among my other all time favorite books and characters. I’m having a feeling Kate, August, Kell and Lila would make a very interesting group indeed! 😉


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BOOK REVIEW: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – by Lewis Carroll

Title: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: July 4th 1865
Publisher: Puffin Books
Finished reading: August 29th 2017
Pages: 160

“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”

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I still can’t believe I have never picked up the original version of the famous Alice In Wonderland retellings before! Or at least that I can remember… However it be, I’m glad I finally decided to do so. Because even though Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is a classic and written back in the 19th century, I was surprise by just how easy the prose was to read and how entertaining the story was in general. Sure, there isn’t much of a plot to talk about and nothing really makes sense. Sure, the characters are not really all that developed. Sure, I would have liked to see the whole Wonderland setting more developed. But there is just something about this story that made me smile. Could it have to do with the fact I have been familiar with most of the details around this story since I was little? Maybe. But I had a great time reading this little bundle of nonsense and absurd fantastical ramblings. These words ment only in the best possible ways of course! Do I like some of the retellings better where the worldbuilding is way more extensive and there is actually a plot? Probably. But I’m glad I finally read the original version as was written by Lewis Carroll all those years ago.

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One day Alice follows a peculiar White Rabbit down a rabbit hole, and suddenly finds herself in a completely different world where nothing makes sense. It’s filled with creatures like the Mad Hatter, a disappearing Cheshire Cat, talking animals, the Queen Of Hearts… Nothing is as it seems in this strange world called Wonderland, something that Alice will find out soon enough.

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I kept the summary supershort since I’m positive just about everyone will already be familiar with this classic in the first place. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is surprisingly easy to read for a classic and quite short as well; I was able to fly through it in a blink of an eye. There isn’t much of a plot to talk about and basically nothing really makes sense, but in the end this story was able to bring a smile to my face and sometimes that is just the most important thing. I do realize now most of the retellings are way more detailed than the original story… Something that has truly surprised me.


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BOOK REVIEW: A Monster Calls – by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: May 5th 2011
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: August 19th 2017
Pages: 216

“You do not write your life with words… You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”

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I was initially saving this title for last since so many people call A Monster Calls their absolute favorite Patrick Ness story… But sometimes things don’t work out as planned. The fact that I picked up my copy is mostly to blame to the fact we recently got Netflix and I couldn’t resist watching the movie; since I normally never watch the movie before reading the book, I had to remedy that and read the book straight away. (Did you guess already I LOVED the movie?) And WOW. I completely understand why there is so much love for A Monster Calls, because this story is simply BRILLIANT. It’s Patrick Ness at his best and definitely one of my new all time favorites… The writing is wonderful, engaging, enchanting and will put you under its spell straight away. The mix of reality and fantasy is very well done and I loved the underlying messages than can be applied to the real world. A Monster Calls is a very strong, powerful, scary, emotional and sad story that will manage to win over your heart in less than a heartbeat… I practically devoured its pages and loved the characters and their development. And as for the movie: I loved just how faithful the script was to the dialogue and writing of the book! It’s not seen often that you can literally read and watch at the same time and see the characters say/do the same things… Both book and movie have earned its spot of my all time favorite list and I’m already looking forward to revisit this story in the future. Have you guessed already I can highly recommend this book?

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Conor has been having nightmares nearly every single night since his mother started her treatments, and it’s always the same thing happening. And even though he knows it’s not real, Conor suffers every time he wakes up just before the dreaded thing happens… But then a monster shows up after midnight. And Connor isn’t afraid; no, he’s angry it only wants to tell stories. Because Connor has a lot more important things to worry about… But the monster is something ancient and wild, and demands to be listened to anyway. And so it begins…

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I should have known already I would love this book after seeing so many glowing reviews and after positive experiences with some of his other stories, but WOW. This is hands down my new favorite Patrick Ness story and it will be hard for any other story to live up to this one. Between the brilliant prose, characters, powerful and emotional topics and perfect mix of reality and fantasy there just isn’t something I didn’t love about A Monster Calls. Read this book if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Jungle Book – by Rudyard Kipling

Title: The Jungle Book
Author: Rudyard Kipling

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1894
Publisher: Random House UK
Finished reading: August 14th 2017
Pages: 248

“The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him.”

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I’ve been seriously neglecting my classics this year, but didn’t want to force myself to read something complicated to avoid worsening my slump either. That is when I remembered I had a copy of The Jungle Book on my kindle, and decided to read it on the spot. I must have seen the Disney movie a hundred times when I was little and still remember some of the songs to this date… So I was really looking forward to finally read the original story the movie was based on. And let me tell you, the people of Disney have interpreted Mowgli’s story VERY loosely. I personally didn’t mind that much since it has been ages (read: 15-20 years; damn I feel old!) since I last saw the movie in the first place, but I can imagine true fans of the movie will be surprised when they start reading the classic. I really liked Rudyard Kipling‘s story of Mowgli though and was surprised by how easy it was to understand the prose. It shows in the dialogue this story was written in the 19th century, but the rest of The Jungle Book didn’t feel dated at all. I really enjoyed reading the original version of Mowgli and probably would have rated this book even higher if it wouldn’t have been for the other stories included afterwards. I’ve seen others like those four stories about seals, the mongoose, an elephant and animals used in the army better, but I personally prefered Mowgli. All in all this was definitely still a very positive experience reading a classic and I’m glad I made time to read The Jungle Book.

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A young man-cub barely escapes the claws of the greedy tiger Shere Khan as he is found by Father Wolf and Mother Wolf in the jungle. Shere Khan demands the wolfs to hand the man-cub over, but Father and Mother Wolf are determined to protect the little one and decide to raise the child as their own. Little Mowgli grows up among the wolves, but there will come a time the pack can no longer defend him… And Mowgli will have to learn the secrets of the Jungle in order to survive.

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I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to read this classic. Sure, the dialogues felt a bit dated, but the rest of the writing read naturally and made it really easy to enjoy Mowgli’s story. The other four stories included afterwards weren’t as enjoyable for me and lowered the rating a bit, but all in all I can definitely recommend The Jungle Book to those who are looking for an easy and entertaining classic. The songs at the beginning of the chapters were a nice touch!


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ARC REVIEW: Reincarnation Blues – by Michael Poore

Title: Reincarnation Blues
Author: Michael Poore

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
First published: August 22nd 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Finished reading: August 12th 2017
Pages: 384

“Death was a door. You went through it over and over, but it still terrified people.”

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

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This book isn’t exactly what I would normally pick up, but there was just something about the cover and blurb of Reincarnation Blues that caught my attention and made me want to read it. Reading books out of my comfort zone can go either way, but all in all this novel by Michael Poore turned out to be a little gem. The first thing that stood out when I started reading Reincarnation Blues was the writing style. I fell in love almost immediately with the way this story was told and I found myself completely absorbed into this piece of speculative fiction with a sci-fi twist. This story is about a man called Milo who is reincarnated through many many lifetimes set both in the past, present and future. He is now about to start life number 9.996… Just when he finds out he only has five more lives to get it right and reach Perfection. The chapters are a mix of what happens during these lives, what happens in between and how he fell in love with Death herself.  Some lives are told in more detail while others seem less important, but they all help develop his character in a very fascinating way. Basically you can say Reincarnation Blues is a collection of connecting short stories about the different lives Milo lives and how his actions influence his next life. The romance is subtle, very well done and didn’t bother me at all; the wordbuilding of the different world in between fascinating. I personally didn’t enjoy some of the chapters set in the future (for example chapter 14, which is set in a prison in space) as much as the rest of the story, but that could have been just me not being into full-blown science fiction in the first place. The wonderful writing and rest of the story in general mostly made up for those feelings though. Reincarnation Blues isn’t for everyone, but it is a truly fascinating read that I can definitely recommend if you think this sounds like your cup of tea!

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Milo has been reincarnated nearly 10.000 times when he finds out he only has five more lives to get it right and reach Perfection so he can become part of the Oversoul. He is not sure he truly wants this though because it might affect his relationship withhis one true love: Death herself. They only see each other in between lives and he can’t imagine having to continue without her… But Milo doesn’t seem to have any other option than to try his best, because if he doesn’t get it right before the deadline, his soul will vanish forever. His lives take him from ancient India to outer space to Renaissance Italy to the present day in the hope of finally living that perfect life. Will he be able to reach that goal in time?

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Reincarnation Blues isn’t the type of book I normally pick up, but sometimes browsing outside your comfort zone can bring some very pleasant surprises. This book turned out to be a hidden gem and I really enjoyed following Milo’s story as he lives his lives through time and space. Some chapters were a bit too futuristic for me, but that is probably mostly me since sci-fi isn’t really my genre in the first place. The writing was wonderful though as well as the rest of the story.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Ask And The Answer – by Patrick Ness

Title: The Ask And The Answer
(Chaos Walking #2)
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 4th 2009
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd.
Finished reading: August 7th 2017
Pages: 536

“If you ever see a war,” she says, not looking up from her clipboard, “you’ll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors.”

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Ask me why on earth it took me this long to pick up the sequel, and I don’t have an answer. Ask me why I always ended up reading other series instead of continuing with one I had already started and loved, and I don’t have an answer either. The fact is that it took me just about TWO years before I finally opened my copy of The Ask And The Answer (I checked). Like I said before, I really don’t know why because I loved the first book… And have had Patrick Ness on my list of favorite authors ever since. There is one thing I do know though: I won’t wait this long to read the final book. Because The Ask And The Answer has reminded me just how much I enjoyed reading about this dystopian world. True, the slang the men use still bothered me considerably (it’s probably the philologist in me who’s to blame), but that’s my only real complaint. The whole slang use (cuz, yer, thru, addishun, instruckshuns etc. etc) in Todd’s chapters was highly annoying, but I did appreciate the fact that this way it was very easy to distiguish Viola’s chapters, which do have ‘normal’ language. This sequel is quite easy to follow even if you don’t remember all the details of book one. How I can know this? It had been two years since I read The Knife Of Never Letting Go and I didn’t do a reread before starting with The Ask And The Answer; I was able to pick up the storyline quite easily anyhow. I quite enjoyed the sequel and learn about how things continue and see the main characters develop. The writing style is quite unique and apart from the slang I absolutely loved it. I had a great time reading this story and literally flew through the pages… You don’t feel it at all this book has actually 500+ pages. I can’t wait to read book number three now!

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

They thought they would be safe in Haven, but what they found was something completelydifferent. Because instead of fleeing successfully the army that was trying to catch them, Todd has carried Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy. They are separated and imprisoned, forced to see the new way if they want the other to be safe… But can they be sure the other is still alive? Will they be able to escape and be together again?

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It’s been too long since I read the first book, so I can’t properly compare the two… But what I do know is that I enjoyed The Ask And The Answer just as much as the first book. I had once again the same reaction to the slang the men use in Todd’s chapters, which I found mostly highly annoying. That would be my only real complaint though and I still thoroughly enjoyed this sequel. I’m definitely going to read the third and final book soon now!


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