ARC REVIEW: The List – by Patricia Forde

Title: The List
Author: Patricia Forde

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: April 16th 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Finished reading: July 14th 2017
Pages: 336
(Original title: ‘The Wordsmith’)

“There’s always truth in dreams. Don’t you know that? We have to learn what they mean, that’s all.”

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

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I admit I wanted to read The List as soon as I saw that absolutely stunning cover; yes, even before I read the blurb which only confirmed my desire to read this story. The List was actually originally published two years ago under a different title, but will be republished next month with this stunning cover. Now I have read it there is no doubt that this debut novel by Patricia Forde is based on a very fascinating concept. The List is set in a dystopian world where most of the world is destroyed by the Melting, most people now forced to live in the city of Ark and their surroundings because there is nowhere else left. The founder of Ark is Noa (see the biblical references yet?) and he has restricted the use of language to just 500 approved words… His belief of humanity being able to use/abuse words and words bringing doom to the human kind is fascinating and I would definitely have given The List a full 5 stars for originality. The so-called List speak is fascinating (although that might just be the philologist in me talking) and the List itself plays a central role in the story. The worldbuilding is intriguing and even though the plot itself isn’t all that exciting I’m sure it will be fitting enough for the age group. The List is ment as a Middle Grade read and I admit I don’t have a lot of experience reading stories for this age. Still, I do believe the tone doesn’t always felt right (too adult) and I personally had difficulties connecting to the writing style. As fascinating as the concept of this story sounded, I don’t think I enjoyed actually reading about it as much as I would have hoped… I also struggled to connect to the characters and personally didn’t like Letta at all. She seemed quite bland as a main character and I’m not sure if she will be able to win over the target group either; this has most likely to do with the lack of character development in general. The ending itself wasn’t really satisfying either and it took me a lot longer than expected to finish this story. In short, while I loved certain elements of The List (the concept, the List-speak), I also struggled with other elements and all in all unfortunately I ended up having mixed thoughts.

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After the Melting, only the lucky have survived and most of them live in the city of Ark. To keep things running smoothly the founder Noa has speech constrained to 500 approved words; if you speak outside the approved lexicon you will face banishment. Only a few people are able to speak freely, and only in private: the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta belong to that group. When her master dies, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith and charged with collecting and saving words. But she doesn’t realize something sinister is going on in Ark… Something that will have devastating effects if not prevented.

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The List is without doubt based on a very fascinating and original concept I would easily have given the highest rating for. The language elements are very interesting as well and this was definitely my favorite element of the story. That said, it did take me way longer than expected to read this Middle Grade story and I had difficulties connecting to both the writing style and the characters. I ended up having mixed thoughts about The List, but I guess the story can go either way for you.


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ARC REVIEW: Slip – by David Estes

Title: Slip
(Slip #1)
Author: David Estes

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: December 1st 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: July 8th 2017
Pages: 416

“I AM weak. We all are. Only through our positive thinking and actions do we become strong. Even the weakest person in the world can become the strongest in their own mind.”

*** 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’ve had this series on my radar for a long time, so when I saw a copy pop up on Netgalley earlier this year I thought it was the perfect excuse to finally get to it. And although it still took longer than expected to pick up my copy of Slip, it was just the story I was looking for when I did. I admit I have been trying to avoid the whole dystopian genre this year, mostly because in general they seem to have lost their originality and ‘spark’ for me. The blurb of Slip triggered something though and now I’ve read the story I still think the idea behind this story is very interesting. I’m not sure if I can call it original, but this alternative world seems to be well developed and the ‘new’ government and their methods to control without doubt controversial. I did have some difficulties adapting to the somewhat childish tone of the writing style; especially in the first bit of the story when the main character is younger. Things did improve later on, although I felt the tone was slightly off throughout the story. The writing style is quite fast to read though and I liked how this alternate world had its own vocabulary for things. The pace did slow a bit due to the many different storylines and characters making their appearance during the story. I actually found myself to be a bit confused about where everybody fit at points, although that feeling mostly went away in the second half of Slip. Another bonus: there is only limited romance involved! True, there is a slight hint of a love triangle as well, but in this first book those with love triangle allergies (like me) are still safe. All in all it wasn’t a bad read and dystopia fans will probably enjoy this one quite a lot.

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After the floods part of the USA is now permanently under water and the Reorganized United States of America has to implement drastic population control measures to control the situation. The threat of not having enough resources and food to sustain the growing population is the main reason there is now a new law: someone must die before another can be born, and birth authorization must be paid before having a child. Experts have discovered the optimal population number, and with this new law this number should stay the same. The government organization Pop Con is responible for making sure everyone sticks to the law… Meaning terminating any children resulting from unauthorized births no matter what age. But what happens if one of them manages to slip through the cracks?

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There is no doubt the concept behind Slip is very interesting even though I’m not sure if the story is actually all that original. With so many storylines and characters the plot feels a bit chaotic at points and it can get a bit confusing, but I guess it does add some dept to the story. The tone was a little off for me as well, but in general this was still a solid dystopian read. Plus, not having to deal with a huge dose of sappy romance was an added bonus!


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ARC REVIEW: The Book Of Whispers – by Kimberley Starr

Title: The Book Of Whispers
Author: Kimberley Starr

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: October 3rd 2016
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: June 15th 2017
Pages: 386

“I have a voice, I have words. I run to a future where there’s the possibility of using them.”

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

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I admit I have a weird obsession with any title that has the word ‘book’ or anything book-related in them, so combined with a stunning cover The Book Of Whispers was immediately on my radar. I requested a copy of this story mostly based on this obsession, and didn’t realize before I started reading it that it had such a low Goodreads rating OR the fact that demons play such a big role in the story. To be honest, now I reread the blurb I don’t understand how I could have missed that part… Because what I thought would be a historical (medieval) fiction about a mysterious book actually turned out to be more of a demon-infested fantasy read. Stories involving demons are always  a hit or miss for me, so I guess I have myself to blame for that part… It wasn’t just the demon overload that didn’t work for me though, but also the way they were incorporated into the story. Especially in the beginning this mix of historical and fantasy felt awkward and the many many descriptions of the demons and all their strange forms slowed down the pace considerably. Trust me, there were many many eyebrow raises before the story started to flow better! Luckily the book itself made its appearance quite early on; otherwise I’m not sure if I would have decided to continue this story. I liked the medieval setting and the crusade and the idea behind The Book Of Whispers is without doubt an interesting and original one. I appreciate what the author wanted to do by mixing a traditional crusade story with fantasy and its complexity when trying to balance those elements; I just didn’t enjoy actually reading it. Mind, this could have been just me and my aversion to demons… Although I had a hard time connecting to the writing style or characters as well. Apart from the awkward demon descriptions that slowed down the pace, the writing style in general didn’t flow and felt a bit like trying to drive a car that is running out of fuel. This haltered feel did fade away a bit towards the ending, but all in all I struggled considerably reaching the final page. As for the characters: like I said, I had a hard time connecting to them and some of them were quite annoying. I liked that the demons were connected to the seven sins, but some of the characters were basically caricatures of those sins and maybe not that credible. Also, the romance. Boy, did I struggle with that feature. I know I’m almost never a fan, but besides the fact that this story has a love triangle, I found the romance in general didn’t feel credible at all and mostly a cliche. I can’t go into details without spoilers, but insta-love and all those sappy and cliche descriptions and feelings? Definitely could have done without that. There were some twists though and I liked the historical elements. The ending was interesting enough as well I guess. And there is no doubt this book surprised me, although in my case not in a good way…

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Set in Tuscany, 1096 AD, Luca is the young heir to the title of Conte de Falconi. He has a problem though: he can see demons and has strange dreams that sometimes predict the future. Luca is forced to keep this a secret since people either don’t believe him or are afraid of him… But when he sees his father murdered in one of those dreams, he is determined to stop this vision from coming true. This means following him on the great pilgrimage to capture the Holy Lands against his wishes… But will also be complicated when his father gives him an ancient book that holds a lot of mysteries just before they leave.

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I like stories with a medieval setting and I was definitely looking forward to The Book Of Whispers, but in the end it just wasn’t for me and not just because of the demon overload. The writing style, the demon descriptions, the characters, the romance… There was a lot that unfortunately didn’t work for me and the historical setting couldn’t make up for this. The idea behind The Book Of Whispers is very original though and it must have been a lot of work to mix both elements. There is no doubt this story had a lot of potential…


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ARC REVIEW: Now I Rise – by Kiersten White @kierstenwhite @DelacortePress

Title: Now I Rise
(The Conqueror’s Saga #2)
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: June 27th 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: June 13th 2017
Pages: 496

“The world will destroy her in the end. Too much spark leads to explosions. But your sister will destroy as much as she can before she goes out. She will go down in flames and blood.”

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

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I admit I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to this series, but I was hooked as soon as I finished the first chapter of And I Darken. I had the privilege of receiving an ARC copy of the sequel early (trust me, I still can’t believe my request was actually approved!), and after finishing the first book I wanted to continue with the sequel right away. Now I Rise by no means suffers from the so-called ‘weak-sequel-syndrome’. This second book of The Conqueror’s Saga starts out strong and stays that way until the very end. The focus is slightly different than in the first book, mostly because it has two completely different storylines this time and the story switches between those POVs. I personally liked this change and it didn’t distract from the main plot at all, especially since there is still an obvious connection between the two storylines both through the characters and the plot itself. I also liked the glbt elements in the series in general, although I do have to say the love triangle bits did started to bother me as well as some of the decisions of the characters. This is probably the only negative thing I could find about this series though! Because there is no doubt I’m truly enjoying this Vlad The Impaler based series so far. Another thing that stood out for me is that there is more action and more fighting in Now I Rise, although it is balanced with further excellent character development and detailed descriptions of the worldbuilding and historical references that will make it feel as if you were back in the 15th century yourself. Because there is no doubt that Kiersten White‘s writing style is wonderful and will have you under its spell… Well written, beautiful, rich, engaging and highly addictive: Now I Rise will have you in its claws and won’t let you go until you reach the last page, leaving you wanting for more. Thankfully the sequel doesn’t end with that big of a cliffhanger, making the wait for book three a little more tolerable… Although it’s still going to be a long one.

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

Lada Dracul decided to start fighting to fulfill her own dreams, but that will be more difficult than it seems. Because she has no allies and no throne: just herself and a handful of loyal men. She wasn’t able to secure the Wallachian throne as easily as was promised, but is determined to punish anyone who dares to stand in her way and prevent her from succeeding. On the other hand, Radu is still at Mehmed’s side with a completely different goal in mind. One that will ask even more from Radu than he has already given… What will happen to them and will they be able to succeed in their goals?

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After already enjoying And I Darken I had high hopes for the sequel, and Now I Rise definitely didn’t disappoint. There is a slightly different focus in the sequel, but I personally liked these changes and two different storylines each with a lot of action, intrigue and its own web of secrets and lies. The historical worldbuilding is very well done and sets the right atmosphere for what is already an excellent story. I wasn’t a fan of some of the romance and I didn’t agree with every decision made, but those are only minor complaints compared to my love for the writing style. I can’t wait to try more of Kiersten White‘s books in the future! And The Conqueror’s Saga book three is going straight to my list of most anticipated 2018 releases. Is it June 2018 yet?


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BOOK REVIEW: And I Darken – by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken
(The Conqueror’s Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: June 28th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: June 8th 2017
Pages: 498

“There is power in stillness. There is power in watching, waiting, saying the right thing at the right time to the right person. There is power in being a woman – oh yes, power in these bodies you gaze upon with derision.”

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I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I first heard about it last year, and not just because of the beautiful cover… Because the combination of medieval setting, potentially strong main character and intriguing plot just sounded to good to be true. Why didn’t I pick up And I Darken earlier, would you say? Part of the reason is most likely the enormous hype around this story, because hyped books and me don’t really go along in general. I’ve seen quite a few mixed reviews out there, making me feel a bit hesitant to pick it up… But I just couldn’t resist the historical setting and reference to Vlad the Impaler in the end. And while I had a few minor complaints that made me remove a star from what I initially thought would be a perfect rating, I ended up enjoying And I Darken so much better than I thought I would. It’s my first experience with Kiersten White‘s writing style (if you don’t count her short story in My True Love Gave To Me, which I LOVED), and it has been a very positive one. Her writing style is beautiful, rich and very engaging and made this story so much more enjoyable.  Both the worldbuilding and descriptions are extensive and well executed; it really felt as if I was transported back in time and fully merged into the world along with the main characters. The plot is very intriguing and full of twists, secrets and surprises. I could have done without the love triangle/ forbidden love parts, but I guess that is just me not liking romance in the first place. As for the characters: some of them are not exactly likeable, but I ended up being able to connect to most of them anyway. I found myself to be fully absorbed into this story and rooting for those characters I favored more… I didn’t approve of every decision they made, but the character development in general is without doubt excellent. In short I had a great time raeding And I Darken in general, and I can’t wait to continue with Now I Rise! If you like reading YA fantasy and find historical twists and retellings just as intriguing as I do, definitely give this series a go.

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Lada Dragwlya might have been born a girl, but she is by no means the weak and docile princess her father suspected her to be. There is a fire in her, something that seems to be missing in her gentle younger brother, Radu… But that didn’t stop him from abandoning them both to be raised in the Ottoman courts as a form for the sultan to control their father. Lada and Radu are now pawns in a vicious game and their lineage makes them both special and targets at the same time. Lada only really want to find a way back home to Wallachia and claim her birthright, but Radu only wants to find a place where he feels safe. Both seem impossible, but everything changes as they meet Mehmed, the son of the sultan… Things are never as they seem and feelings can change, but what will happen to them in the end?

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It took me a long time to finally pick up my copy of And I Darken, but I’m definitely glad I’ve done so. I’ve fallen in love with Kiersten White‘s writing style and her ability to create an extensive worldbuilding filled with excellent descriptions and an intriguing plot. And while it wasn’t the 5 star read I thought it would be after reading the first few chapters, there is no doubt a very much enjoyed reading Lada, Radu and Mehmed’s story and I can’t wait to find out what the future has in store.


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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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BOOK REVIEW: Stardust – by Neil Gaiman

Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman

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

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

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

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

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


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