DNF ARC REVIEW: The Noble Path – by Peter May

Title: The Noble Path
Author: Peter May
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: May 31st 1992
Publisher: Quercus Books
Finished reading: October 27th 2019
Pages: 544
DNF at 35% (190 pages)

“Nothing was more difficult in life than coming to terms with your own limitations.”

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

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I have been meaning to try Peter May‘s books for a long time now… In fact, I have a physical copy of Entry Island waiting on my shelves, but somehow I haven’t been able to find time to read it yet. I was stoked when I received the email that my request for The Noble Path was approved a few months back, and after multiple fellow bloggers recommending his work, I fully expected to enjoy my time with this story. And I most definitely never would have guessed I would end up DNFing it instead!

First of all I have to say that this is most likely a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me‘, especially since it has such a high rating on Goodreads and overall positive reviews. I’ve tried really hard to warm up to the story, giving it a second, third and fourth chance and even reading other books in between to see if a change of scenery would help me finally connect to The Noble Path afterwards. But no such luck, and after days of struggling and seeing myself starting to skimread just to try and turn those pages, I knew it was time to just throw in the towel and let this story be. I hardly ever DNF a story and I still feel mighty guilty about this, but it has become painfully clear that The Noble Path just isn’t the right story for me and I might just not have been the right target group to begin with.

I still think that the historical background and setting of The Noble Path is absolutely fascinating. 1978 is a turbulent, dark and bloody time for Cambodia, with the Khmer Rouge reign and devastating genocide. A very disturbing and heartbreaking backdrop for this story, and I do believe the author does a great job with his descriptions of both the Cambodian and Thai setting and the events related to that era in history. It shows a lot of work has gone into research of this period, and I can really appreciate that. That said, I’m just not sure if I’m the right target group for this story. The Noble Path has that Rambo/Die Hard typical action movie vibe with an overload of action, violence and bloody scenes; especially once Elliott is in Asia it almost feels like you reading about a  Rambo II spin-off… Not necessarily a bad thing, but not exactly my cup of tea and it made me struggle to connect to the story.

The Noble Path has quite a few different POVs, and it can be a challenge (especially in the beginning) juggling them as well as trying to connect them to get a full picture of what is going on. I wasn’t really a fan of how the different characters were described, and I once again felt like the wrong target group as the story seemed written for the typical white male audience with its sometimes sexist comments, excessive violence and graphic scenes. I by no means have a weak stomach and don’t mind things getting bloody,dark and violent, but the tone in The Noble Path really put me off. Once again, this is a personal reaction and I’m by no means saying this is a bad read, but it did prevent me from actually reaching that final page. I’m really sad my first encounter with Peter May‘s work ended on this negative note, but I still have hope for his other books… Although I confess that I’m going to take a little break for now.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Lion Tamer Who Lost – by Louise Beech #Orentober @Orendabooks

Title: The Lion Tamer Who Lost
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Fiction, Romance
First published: July 15th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 19th 2019
Pages: 350

“He had nothing again. Nothing he knew, understood well, was familiar with.

But nothing is so much harder after you’ve briefly had something.”


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After reading Call Me Star Girl earlier this year, I had no other option but to add Louise Beech to my list of favorite authors immediately. I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since, although I was also a tad worried as I wasn’t sure how anything could live up to expectations after such a brilliant first impression. I shouldn’t have doubted the power of the words of Louise Beech, because The Lion Tamer Who Lost once again blew me away. It’s been over a week since I finished this heartrending story, and I’m still struggling to put my thoughts together into a somewhat coherent review. I guess it seems to start becoming the standard when it comes to Orenda titles! That said, after many days of procrastinating, it’s time to finally force myself to sit down and get those words on paper.

So, The Lion Tamer Who Lost. I’ve thought long and hard about what my next Louise Beech read was going to be and even asked the opinion of fellow Orenda readers… This seemed to be the title that was mentioned most, and while contemporary romance isn’t exactly my favorite genre, I love stepping out of my comfort zone every once in a while and let a story surprise me. And surprise me it did! I can now add Louise Beech to the short list of authors who can actually make me enjoy the contemporary romance genre… Trust me, not a small feat. This is also a thing I love of her books: just how different and unique each story is! There are not many authors out there who can successfully tackle more than one genre; Louise Beech not only succeeds in that but takes your breath away in the process.

There are so many different elements to love in The Lion Tamer Who Lost, and I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start. But I guess that with such a title, an easy option is the fact that part of the story is set in a lion reserve in Zimbabwe. Talk about an original setting! The many detailed descriptions truly made the lion reserve come alive for me and I loved the fact that the lions play such a big role in the story. I have a special love for any member in the cat family, so seeing Lucy and the others being treated almost like extra characters was a wonderful bonus for me. Likewise, I really enjoyed reading about the lion reserve in general and the different volunteers being there at the same time as main character Ben. While the main focus of the story is of course on Ben and Andrew, I loved just how detailed the character development of the other characters involved was. It added even more dept to what was already a fantastic story!

I just mentioned Ben and Andrew, and they are definitely part of the reason this story works so well. I’m not a big romance fan in general, but I can make a wholehearted exception for my boys Ben and Andrew. I was drawn towards both characters from the very beginning, and I loved seeing both their characters and relationship evolve over time. They won over my heart, made me root for them and then pulled out that very same heart and made it shatter into a million little pieces… I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot to avoid spoilers, but while I didn’t actually cry (I almost never do, so that’s no surprise) I ended up with a huge lump in my throat and in need of an emergency baking session to soothe myself. Any story that is able to provoke such strong emotions is without doubt a little masterpiece to me! Especially one that is so beautifully written and simply both heartwarming and heartbreaking at that.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost also includes other intriguing and sometimes difficult elements such as the LGBT element and the struggle to come out and be accepted as you are, family issues and the battle against cancer. All elements are respectfully and realistically developed and successfully incorporated into what is a rich and intricate plot. Different point of views are used to let us learn more about both Andrew, Ben and even his father… Instead of confusing you, these switches only help enriching this story. I also loved that Andrew writes and hopes to become a successful writer, and that we get a glimpse of what this journey is like through his character. I also loved that little snippets of his story are shared at the beginning of the chapters. It really gave The Lion Tamer Who Lost another unique touch while also given the title an extra meaning. And I loved the idea behind Andrew’s wish box as well!

I can keep rambling about the things I loved in The Lion Tamer Who Lost, but I think it’s pretty obvious by now just how much I enjoyed this story. Whether contemporary romance and drama is your thing or not, you should simply give this story a chance as the words of Louise Beech are like magic and will fully mesmerize you before you finish the first chapter. Alluring, heartrending and simply irresistible… This story will give you all the feels as well as break your heart into a million pieces before you reach that final page!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #129 – Fever 1793 & The Museum Of Extraordinary Things (DNF)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two historical fiction reads that I fully expected to love, but somehow failed to connect to. The historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, but the characters fell a bit flat for me… And with a superslow pace and flat characters, I saw no other option but to DNF The Museum Of Extraordinary Things. Oh yes, sadly it’s time for a double dose of unpopular opinion reviews!


Title: Fever 1793
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
First published: September 1st 2000
Publisher: Aladdin
Finished reading: October 17th 2019
Pages: 252

“Life was a battle, and Mother a tired and bitter captain. The captain I had to obey.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I was browsing for possible titles that are set in the 18th century to read for the final era for the When Are You Reading? challenge when I saw this title pop up. I enjoyed her other title Wintergirls when I read it earlier this year and the historical setting and plot sounded fascinating, so I immediately knew I wanted to read this title. I’m not sure if this was the wrong book at the wrong time for me, or if it’s just that I’m not that used to middle grade books in the first place… But the fact is that I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by this story. First things first, and I have to say that the historical setting is well developed and detailed when it comes to the facts of 18th century Philadelphia and the yellow fever outbreak. It shows that the author has investigated historical facts thoroughly and the descriptions feel realistic and help teach the readers more about yellow fever and the impact of the outbreak back then. I could also appreciate the explanation of what was based on historical facts and what might have been changed in the story. That said, I struggled to connect to the story. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has somewhat to do with the fact that I never felt a real connection with the main characters, making me feel mostly detached from  everything that happened to the main characters. In short, while the historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, the characters somehow ended up falling a bit flat for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you haven’t tried this story yet and are intrigued by the blurb, you shouldn’t hesitate to try your luck.


Title: The Museum Of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: February 18th 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Finished reading: October 21st 2019
Pages: 385
DNF at 38% (146 pages)

“Coney Island was, above all else, a place of dreams, with amusements like no others, rides that defied the rules of gravity, concerts and games of chance, ballrooms with so many electric lights they glowed as if on fire.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’ve been meaning to read this title for a long time, so I was excited when my TBR jar decided it was time to finally read it. The premise of The Museum Of Extraordinary Things sounds fantastic, so I fully expected to enjoy the story… Sadly, surprisingly enough it wasn’t ment to be. I’m not sure if it was just the wrong time for this story or if my book hangerover after finishing The Lion Tamer Who Lost the other day would have made me struggle with any book in the first place… But the fact is, I REALLY struggled with The Museum Of Extraordinary Things and I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading any longer. The pace is so so slow in general and the parts written in cursive are even slower… I had a hard time staying focused on the story and even started skimreading certain parts; definitely not a good sign. On top of that, I found the main characters to be quite flat and cliche… They lacked development for me to make them more rounded (at least in the part I read), and as The Museum Of Extraordinary Things seems to be a more character driven story, this became a real issue for me. I do have to say that the historical setting in early 20th century New York/Coney Island is absolutely fascinating and the historical references are probably the main reason I even made it this far. But as a whole, this story and me definitely didn’t get along.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #127 – The Bride Test & The Twisted Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books that turned out to be great. I wasn’t sure whether to read The Bride Test after my reaction to the first book, but I ended up enjoying the second book better than The Kiss Quotient… I’m glad I took a chance and decided to read it. And The Twisted Tree turned out to be another perfect Halloween read!


Title: The Bride Test
(The Kiss Quotient #2)
Author: Helen Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: October 5th 2019
Pages: 320

“His heart wasn’t made of stone, after all. It just wasn’t like everyone else’s.”


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I admit I took a chance when I decided to get a copy and read The Bride Test. I’m very much allergic to sexy scenes in contemporary romance reads, and after a less than favorable reaction to The Kiss Quotient I thought it would be better to just stay away. But there is no denying that Helen Hoang can write and I love how she develops her characters, so I just couldn’t resist giving this story a try in the end. I’m so glad I did, because while I found the many many sexy scenes to be cringeworthy, I somehow enjoyed the actual story a lot better than the first book. A lot of this has to do with both Esme and Khai, who are both fascinating characters and the reason this story ended up working for me. The background of Esme, a mixed-race girl growing up in the slumps in Vietnam, adds a lot of dept to the story and it was interesting to see her life being turned upside down after she is offered an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Both her personality, endurance and the big contrast with Khai’s character made for some really interesting reading. The autism rep in Khai feels realistic and thorough, and really adds to the story as well. Sure, the many many steamy scenes definitely weren’t for me (I confess I only skimread them), but overall Esme and Khai’s story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I loved the ending as well!


Title: The Twisted Tree
Author: Rachel Burge

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: October 6th 2019
Pages: 180

“Knowing someone’s secrets doesn’t make you feel closer to them – it pushes you away. There are some thing you don’t want to know, trust me.”


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I actually ment to read The Twisted Tree last October, but I wasn’t able to get to it in time and decided to save it for this year’s Halloween month. I had that feeling that it would be a perfect read for the time of the year, and both my instincts and the reviews I read in the past were absolutely right. If you are looking for a little something to get you in the right mood for Halloween, The Twisted Tree is a fantastic choice. Norse mythology, horror and paranormal elements are mixed together with a YA contemporary story in the most successful way… Both the Norse mythology elements and the actual setting on a small island in the middle of nowhere Norway really took this creepy story to the next level. The references to Odin, his ravens and other Norse mythology elements were thorough and formed an important part of the plot. Martha’s family turns out to have a very interesting history, one you only learn about as the main character starts discovering things herself… The spooky is mixed with a healthy dose of thriller elements as well as a few nailbiting moments that will manage to creep you out. I like how the little hint of romance balances out the creepy part of The Twisted Tree, and I myself had a fantastic time reading this story. More than recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #125 – Muse Of Nightmares & Hope And Other Punchlines

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition: two most anticipated books that both lived up to expectations for me. Muse Of Nightmares  by Laini Taylor is the duology conclusion and I once again fell in love with the wonderful wonderful prose. I have loved Julie Buxbaum‘s books in the past, and while Hope And Other Punchlines isn’t my favorite of the bunch, it’s still an excellent read and the 9/11 element is well handled.


Title: Muse Of Nightmares
(Strange The Dreamer #2)
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: September 15th 2019
Pages: 528

“Wishes don’t just come true. They’re only the target you paint around what you want. You still have to hit the bull’s-eye yourself.”

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I admit I’ve been afraid to pick up my copy of Muse Of Nightmares… After being blown away by the first book of this duology, I was afraid it was going to be almost impossible for the sequel to live up to expectations. But I shouldn’t have doubted the power of Laini Taylor‘s absolutely gorgeous prose! Like with Strange The Dreamer, I was absolutely mesmerized by the words she uses to describe both the high fantasy world, its characters and the plot itself. Things can be said about the fact that not all that much seems to be happening considering its 500+ pages, although I did feel there was more going on in the sequel. But personally I didn’t really care as long as I was going to be able to keep lapping up those gorgeous sentences. Muse Of Nightmares proves that the writing and characters truly can make up for a plot that is slightly bland in places and this story blew me away. I mentioned the characters, and they are definitely one of the reasons this duology is on my list of all time favorites. Lazlo, Sarai and the others won over my hard so fast and my heart really went out for them. I love that a lot of the characters are not either good or bad, walking that grey area instead of simply being described as monsters. The worldbuilding of this high fantasy world is again beautifully done and set the right tone for this sequel. I would definitely suggest reading these in order, as Muse Of Nightmares picks up right where the first book ended and you won’t be able to appreciate the sequel without the character and plot development in Strange The Dreamer. Then again, if you don’t mind a slower and more character driven YA fantasy, you will want to spend time devouring the stunning prose in both books anyway.


Title: Hope And Other Punchlines
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 7th 2019 
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: September 26th 2019
Pages: 311

“I’m so, so tired of always worrying about our world splitting into a before and an after again.”

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Julie Buxbaum is one of the select group of authors who can make me enjoy the contemporary romance genre. After loving her first two YA books, it’s easy to say that my expectations were sky high for Hope And Other Punchlines. It might have been the wrong time to pick up this title, or it might have been that my expectations were a tad unrealistic, because while there is no doubt that this story is an excellent read, it didn’t blow me away as I thought it would. There is a lot to love in Hope And Other Punchlines though. First up is the 9/11 element, an event that has made a huge impact on countless of lives and I could really appreciate how Julie Buxbaum incorporated this into the plot. While both the town and the Baby Hope photo are fictional, I do feel they represent the aftermath of 9/11 realistically and show us just how devastating the impact of this single event is even all those years later. Then we have the main characters Abbi, Noah and Jack. While I had certain issues with some actions in the beginning (blackmailing!!!), it is still quite easy for these three characters to win over your heart. The dynamics between geeky Noah, Jack and Abbi will grow into something absolutely adorable and they are definitely part of the reason this book works. Abbi (Baby Hope) is a very interesting character and she makes you think about the impact one little photo can have on both the life of those portrayed and on many others as it becomes a symbol of hope. I personally adored the camp scenes and I thought the story was well balanced in general. Lighter moments are contrasted with not only 9/11 details, but also other heavy themes as Alzheimer and cancer. I finished this story in no time at all and while I do admit it’s not my favorite Julie Buxbaum, I can definitely recommend it to any fan of the contemporary romance genre looking for a story that is both adorable and heartbreaking.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Birthday House – by Jill Treseder #RandomThingsTours #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Birthday House Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this novella that spoke to me and while I did end up having mixed thoughts, there is no doubt that the premise of this story is fascinating. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Birthday House
Author: Jill Treseder
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 24th 2019
Publisher: SilverWood Books
Finished reading: September 14th 2019
Pages: 149

“Gossip is not interested in innocence. It will curdle innocence in the blink of a curious eye.”

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

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When I received the blog tour invitation a while back, there was just something about the blurb that caught my attention straight away. The psychological aspect as well as the past mixing with the present in the form of memories sounded fascinating, and I was also curious about the murder, its effects on Susan and the why and how behind it all. While I did end up having mixed thoughts about The Birthday House, I have to stress that this doesn’t mean it’s a bad read, and the 3 star rating reflects my personal experience with this story. I’ll tell you all about what worked and what didn’t for me below.

First of all I have to say I still feel the premise of The Birthday House is engrossing and it’s without doubt one of the strongest aspects of this novella. While initially the murder is only hinted at, it is the psychological effects of Josephine’s death and the events leading up to that dreaded day in 1955 that have the main focus. Flashbacks to the past play a very important role throughout this novella, as we try to decipher what went on in the Kennedy house and why things happened that way. It was intriguing to discover that the author based this story on an event that happened to her in the past and now uses this story almost as a form of therapy… She stresses that the events in The Birthday House do not reflect what really happened in the case that affected her personally, but it’s only a possible explanation of what could have gone wrong in a similar situation. I applaude the author for being brave enough to face past demons and put it all out in the open…  I can imagine it can’t have been easy digging all those memories up again and her personal experience does give this novella an authentic touch.

That said, there were also certain aspects of The Birthday House I ended up struggling with… I personally wasn’t convinced with the novella having so many different POVs. It felt a bit chaotic and disorganized having to jump between so many characters as well as the past and present, especially for such a short story. I felt I didn’t get to know each character well enough this way, although I do get why the author opted for multiple POVs as I imagine she was trying to show the mental state of and psychological effects on the different characters involved. Still, the story lacked cohesion for me and I personally would have liked to see less POVs (for example by leaving Mrs. Harrison, the housekeeper, out of the mix to name one). I also wasn’t a fan of the tone and writing; it didn’t feel natural and some of the dialogue and thoughts sometimes even felt a bit forced… Susan’s 1955 POV felt a tad too childish as well, and I also felt part of the plot and reasons behind the murder were simply too cliche. This is my personal reaction to this story though and if you are able to connect to the writing and don’t mind a few cliches and a lot of POV switches, The Birthday House does have a captivating premise.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book The Wise Woman Within resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.


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ARC REVIEW: Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again – by Jeremy Greenberg

Title: Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again
Author: Jeremy Greenberg
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Cats
First published: October 8th 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: September 9th 2019
Pages: 64

“Unfortunately we can’t go to the vet at the moment because I’ve unexpectedly died. Yes, it’s very sad. But not that sad, considering I’ve got nine lives and spending one on getting out of going to the vet is a worthy sacrifice.”

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

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I stumbled across this title just when I was looking for a little something different to read… Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again really spoke to me, both because I love cats in general and it sounded like a fun read. I just couldn’t resist the combination of funny letters and cat photos, and I definitely agree with the blurb that this little book would make a perfect gift for cat lovers. Each page spread (or at least it seems that way in the ARC version) has alternately a cat photo and its corresponding letter; the cat ‘writing’ to its owner about something that can be related to the photo. Some of the letters were definitely very funny indeed and cat owners will definitely be able to relate to the different situations and cat behavior described in the letters. It’s a short but sweet read and a perfect way to escape a dreary day and have a laugh. I do hope the photos will be less dark in the printed version, because they appeared very dark in the protected-PDF version (the text pages looked fine so I assume it is a problem with the photos itself). Some details were lost that way and that is truly a shame, considering that the photos are part of the charm of Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again in the first place. That said, any cat lover will have a great time reading this collection of relatable letters.


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