ARC REVIEW: The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter – by Julia Drosten

Title: The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter
Author: Julia Drosten
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: August 8th 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: March 26th 2018
Pages: 295
(Originally written in German: ‘Die Elefantenhüterin’)

“Sometimes it’s very hard not to follow the path of revenge.”

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

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I have a weak spot for historical fiction, especially if they are set in an era or country I’m not all that familiar with. I was instantly intrigued when I first read about The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter, with its promises of a country/culture I don’t know much about as well as the era the story takes place. The 19th century history of Ceylon (now called Scri Lanka) is a fascinating background for this story and the descriptions of both the country itself and the customs and culture are lavishly and thoroughly described. It is really easy to imagine how Ceylon would have looked like from the descriptions alone! And it also shows the background for this story was very well researched and put together. Sadly, somehow I didn’t manage to get a proper feel for The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter though. While I love thorough descriptions, especially of places that are foreign to me, I started to wonder about the balance of those descriptions and the actual plot. It is true that the descriptions help set the right atmosphere and foreign setting/era, but they also slowed down the pace considerably. And not just the pace, because I also felt the transition from background descriptions to the more active parts was quite haltered and as a consequence the story didn’t really flow. I can’t put my finger on the why exactly, but I think my mixed feelings had a lot to do with the general tone and writing style as well. Both seemed distant and not natural, and the second especially stood out in the dialogues. And in general, even though they story describes some pretty barbaric events, it doesn’t seem to be able to provoke true emotions due to this feeling of distance. The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter has a lot of potential and the main characters have an interesting story, but sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy this story better. I’m still wondering if part of my problem with the tone and writing style could have been due to the fact this novel is a translation though, and some of its original charm might have been lost.

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In the royal city of Kandy, the king’s elephant keeper’s wife gives birth to a daughter the same day the king’s favorite elephant gives birth to her young. The couple was desperate for a boy to ensure the line of succession, and the mother hides her daughter’s gender by raising her as a boy. Phera and her elephant Siddhi become close friends and spends most of her time with the animal. Phera realizes she is not like other boys, but her parents force her to keep her true gender a secret… Until the British colonists invade Ceylon and they have to flee the capital.

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I really wanted to like this one and I still think the plot itself has a lot of potential. The worldbuilding and descriptions of the era and setting are thorough and it shows the background of The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter was very well researched. Sadly, I’m still on the fence about this one, as I didn’t manage to enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem was the tone and writing style as well as the fact the story didn’t really flow… Which made it hard to properly connect to the story. The setting is fascinating though as well as the time period the story is set in with its consequences of the British invasion.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #18: As Dead As It Gets & Take The Key And Lock Her Up

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a double dose of third and final book of a series… Yes, I’ll be marking two more series as finished with this post! Sadly both of these weren’t as good as I hoped. As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender is a bit stronger than the sequel, but the main character is annoying and I still prefer book one. Take The Key And Lock Her Up by Ally Carter is by far the weakest book of the series and I don’t really care for the ending either… Things have been going downhill since book one. Oh well, at least it’s two series less to worry about right?


Title: As Dead As It Gets
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #3)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: May 15th 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: February 1st 2018 
Pages: 448

“Find the people who treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Tell everyone else to go to hell. And don’t look back.”


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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Don’t read my rambles if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet… You’ve been warned.

As part of my promise to finally start finishing those poor neglected series, I decided to pick up the third and final book of the Bad Girls Don’t Die trilogy while my memories of the second book were still fresh. And while I still think the first book is the strongest, As Dead As It Gets without doubt makes a comeback from what I call a ‘weak-second-book-syndrome’. No more sunny and miss nice girl, because Alexis has another paranormal problem on her hand and things are quickly spiralling out of hand… And things might turn ugly. The writing is engaging and reads superfast as always, making As Dead As It Gets a fun, exciting and speedy paranormal read. The plot is darker than the second book and adds a level of suspension to the story… Without doubt an interesting final adventure, although I’m still on the fence whether I like the ending or not. Strong final words though! I do have to say I still find Alexis annoying with her whole ‘I need to do this alone’, ‘I clearly need help, but I won’t ask anybody even if they are willing’ and ‘I don’t want others hurt, but they somehow do anyway’ attitude. I could have done without the love triangle as well… But there is no doubt that As Dead As It Gets is still a solid and entertaining YA paranormal read.


Title: Take The Key And Lock Her Up
(Embassy Row #3)
Author: Ally Carter

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: December 27th 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: February 7th 2018
Pages: 336

“There are some ghosts that live inside us, and we can never lose them, no matter how far we run.”


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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Don’t read my rambles if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet… You’ve been warned.

I was a big fan of the first book when I read it back in 2015. I liked the sequel as well, although the main character was realy started to bother me… But still I had added this third and final book to my list of most-anticipated 2016 releases. Why didn’t I pick up Take The Key And Lock Her Up sooner then? I have no idea, other than that it probably slipped between the cracks of my exploding TBR pile. I had forgotten about the details, including the supposedly enormous cliffhanger ending, by the time I was able to get to it… But it was quite easy to pick up the thread anyway. That said, it was by no means the reading experience I was hoping for. Unfortunately, Take The Key And Lock Her Up is by far the weakest book of the trilogy and it’s sad to see a series end on this note as it started out so promising. One of the biggest problems I had was with the main character Grace. I already had these feelings in the sequel, but Grace becomes almost unbearable in book three with her constant whining about just how crazy she is, how she is endangering others by just being close, that she should be punished, that she doesn’t deserve positive things happening to her etc… Yawn. Her whole attitude, dialogue and actions seriously annoyed me and it was one of the reasons the final book didn’t work for me. I wasn’t 100% convinced by the writing either, but this is probably mostly related to Grace and her dialogue. And the whole love triangle and romance put a damper on things as well. As for the plot… If you look critically, nothing much is actually happening during this final adventure, or at least I missed the intensity and suspense. It has some interesting pointers, but overall I was quite disappointed by Take The Key And Lock Her Up.


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ARC REVIEW: A Castle In Romagna – by Igor Stiks

Title: A Castle In Romagna
Author: Igor Stiks
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2000
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2018
Pages: 128
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Dvorac u Romagni’)

“He was overcome by the immobility one feels upon meeting something long sought after, that silent tension of the body that, before we take the object into our hands, forces us to pause for a moment, as if every passing second increases its value.”

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

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One of my goals this year is to read more international authors and translation, and I’ve been meaning to read more historical fiction that is not set during WWII as well. A Castle In Romagna manages to tick both boxes, and the blurb itself had me more than intrigued. Sadly, my reading experience wasn’t what I hoped it would be… Here’s why. First of all, I REALLY struggled with the writing style. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact it is a translation and some of the magic is lost, but I do know it was really hard to stay focused and keep reading. The prose doesn’t flow and more often than not ‘formal’ or less natural phrases are thrown in. This slows down the pace considerably and kept distracting me from trying to follow the plot. Another thing that didn’t work for me was the dual storyline. I felt neither story had enough dept because of it, especially since this novel is not that long to start with. Both plot, background and characters in both storylines lacked fleshing out and honestly I think I would have rather seen two completely separate stories. Also, I think the connection of the two storylines through the 1995 setting and friar telling both stories was actually quite weak, as apart from the fact that both storylines are about doomed love they do not have all that much in common. I do have to say both the 16th century setting and the one in 1948 have a lot of potential, and I truly wish each would have been more developed. As it is, I failed to connect to any of the characters and I’m afraid to say I wasn’t able to enjoy my time with A Castle In Romagna.

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A young refugee of the Bosnian conflict decides to visit the old Mardi castle in the north of Italy in 1995. But instead of wandering around exploring the fortress, he will meet a guide who will tell him all about the past: both his own and how he ended up as a refugee himself in Italy in 1948 and the tragic fate of the poet Enzo Strecci back in the 16th century.

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I had such high hopes for this story, especially since the blurb sounded really promising, but unfortunately the story fell completely flat for me. Between the writing style, lack of dept and development in both the plot and characters and the failed dual storyline, I had a hard time reading A Castle In Romagna. Although I keep wondering if some of its charm has been lost in translation.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #13: The Ends Of The World & The Hating Game


Ready for another round of Yvo’s Shorties? This time around I will be reviewing two books I actually read this year. Shocking, I know haha. Both are Beat The Backlist books and titles I’ve been meaning to read for a while… The first to finish a series: The Ends Of The World by Maggie Hall. The second from a genre I normally tend to stay away from, but ended up being a more than pleasant surprise: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.


Title: The Ends Of The World
(The Conspiracy Of Us #3)
Author: Maggie Hall

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 18th 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 10th 2018
Pages: 320

“You’re a survivor. I’d never wish it on anyone, but you’re just like the rest of us now. Welcome to the world’s worst club.”


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I picked up this title as part of my goal to finish more series this year. I really enjoyed the first two books of this trilogy so I was looking forward to it, but unfortunately the third and final book The Ends Of The World ended up disappointing me. Why? First of all, I found there was way too much focus on the romance, significantly more than in the previous books and this took away a lot of the magic of this series. Sappy romance scenes, cliches, love triangle, you name it; this third book is coated with it and I wasn’t happy with that development. Especially since I enjoyed the first books a LOT. The spark that put this series on my radar in the first place was definitely missing in The Ends Of The World and I found there was too much focus on the political side rather than the mystery and conspiracy. The international settings saved this final book for me somewhat, but  all in all not the thrilling and explosive ending I was expecting.


Title: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 9th 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: January 12th 2018
Pages: 387

“Both love and hate are mirror versions of the same game – and you have to win. Why? Your heart and your ego. Trust me, I should know.”


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Spoiler alert: I usually don’t like the romance genre, especially if it involves sexy scenes and love triangles. Was I afraid to go against my instinct and pick up The Hating Game? Hell yeah, but sometimes you just have to think outside the box, jump right in and live a little. Right? And I guess my jump into the unknown has turned out to be a right bet this time. Oh yes, I definitely understand why so many people love this book now. Because even though I’m not into romance and hate both sexy scenes and love triangles, Sally Thorne made me completely forget about that and I had a blast reading this one. Even though there are a lot of cliches in this book and the whole ‘gorgeous, gorgeous, I’m drooling’ thing can get annoying, somehow the dynamics worked and resulted in a highly entertaining read. It’s a miracle, but I here’s the proof I can actually enjoy a sexy romance read. Shocking, I know.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #7: Captain Alatriste & Utopia


Time for more Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I will be reviewing the last two books I read in 2017. Basically I picked up these two instead of other titles to try and finish at least two more challenges before the end of the year. I was supposed to read these long before, but with the slump and all things got a little last minute. Oops? The first is my first and only Spanish read last year called El Capitán Alatriste (Captain Alatriste) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, which is set in 17th century Spain.The second is a long pending classic called Utopia by Thomas More, first published back in 1516.


Title: Captain Alatriste
(Adventures Of Captain Alatriste #1)
Author: Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure
First published: January 2nd 1996
Publisher: Alfaguara
Finished reading: December 30th 2017
Pages: 242
(Read in original language, Spanish: ‘El Capitán Alatriste’)

“No era el hombre más honesto ni el más piadoso, pero era un hombre valiente.”


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I had made a promise to myself last year to start reading more in Spanish again, but apparently that promise was soon forgotten… I only just managed to squeeze in this story before 2017 ended, which definitely wasn’t what I had originally planned for the year. I have read Arturo Pérez-Reverte‘s work in the past, so I thought the first book of the Adventures Of Captain Alatriste would be a safe bet. This first book is simply named after the main character of this series set in 17th century Spain: El Capitán Alatriste. I have a weak spot for both historical fiction and books set in one of my favorite countries, Spain, so I thought I would really enjoy this one. Unfortunately, things turned out to be different. I know Spanish isn’t my native language, but I both have a degree in Spanish Philology and have been using Spanish daily for years, so I can confirm the language itself wasn’t a barrier. What did slow me down considerably is the general tone and pace of the story, and the fact that nothing much happened during the story. Not only was the historical setting quite weak and could have been elaborated a lot more, but I also found the way the story was told through someone close to Alatriste not entertaining at all. This probably has a lot to do with the writing as well as the lack of a proper plot and more action… I did appreciate the incorporation of old Spanish literature in the text. But still, I definitely won’t be continuing this series any time soon.


Title: Utopia
Author: Thomas More

Genre: Classics, Philosophy, Politics
First published: 1516
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 31st 2017
Pages: 135

“Pride thinks it’s own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.”


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I’ve had this classic on my TBR pile for ages now, and to be honest I was a bit intimidated by the fact that Utopia was published that long ago. This kind of classics are not always easy to read, but thankfully the English translation I read was not difficult to read at all. Thomas More wrote Utopia originally in Latin back in 1516, and in it he reveals some both very interesting and puzzling ideas on what the ideal society would look like. I can’t say I agree with everything he said, but every aspect of the Utopian society is well elaborated and shows exactly how things would work for the inhabitants of Utopia. The beginning of Utopia reads a bit slow, but as soon as the story starts elaborating the different aspects of Utopian life the pace picks up considerably. All in all quite an interesting read for those who are interested in philosophy and politics.


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ARC REVIEW: The Stolen Girls – by Patricia Gibney @trisha460 @bookouture

Title: The Stolen Girls
(Detective Lottie Parker #2)
Author: Patricia Gibney

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 6th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 3rd 2017
Pages: 459

“Sometimes what’s in front of our eyes is so close, we can’t see the full picture.”

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

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!!!Happy publication day!!!

I have been a Lottie Parker fan ever since I finished The Missing Ones and likewise I have been looking forward to read more about her next adventure. Now I’ve read The Stolen Girls there is no doubt left: Lottie Parker has that special something that makes her into one heck of a detective AND main character. Sure, things can be said about her messed up private life being a cliche, but I personally like her style and attitude while trying to solve a case. And she will have her hands full in The Stolen Girls, that’s for sure! This sequel is once again a bit longer than your average psychological thriller, but this only enhanced the richness and complexity of the plot without slowing down the pace. There are a bunch of different storylines and lots of different things happening that might or not be connected… Keeping you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out what is really going on, who is who and who is behind it all. The flashbacks to the past and the whole Kosovo angle in general were probably my favorite part of the story and I liked how well these elements were connected with the rest of the story. The Stolen Girls is packed with plot twists and misleading details that will keep you guessing about the truth and it took me a long time to figure it all out. I just love when that happens! In short I can really recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a well written detective thriller with a complex and rich plot, a lot of action and a healthy dose of kickass personality!

Just little trigger warning for those who are sensitive to graphic/violent scenes, abuse, self harm/cutting and animal cruelty; some of the scenes in this book are potentially shocking. 

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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…

The body of a pregnant young women is found one Monday morning and Detective Lottie Parker and her team are on the case. Then later the same day a mother and her son visit Lottie Parker’s house begging for help to find a lost friend… Could this be the same girl? Then a second body is found by the same man, and things are getting more intense. Both girls met their ends in a similar way and Lottie and her team will have to work fast to find a way to connect the two murders… Because two more girls go missing soon afterwards. Is it another serial killer they are hunting or is something bigger going on?

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There is no doubt that The Stolen Girls is just as strong as the first book and one hell of a ride. The books of this series are a bit longer than average, but besides the fact that the stories are very well written they have the added bonus of having a complex, rich and intriguing plot and different storylines without slowing down the pace. Some of the themes might be potentially shocking/intense, so a little warning if you aren’t up for that, but I personally had a great time reading The Stolen Girls. I just loved the complexity of the different storylines, how everything connected in the end and the Kosovo flashbacks in general! The Stolen Girls is without doubt another winner and I can’t wait for the next Lottie Parker adventure.


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ARC REVIEW: Devastation Road – by Jason Hewitt

Title: Devastation Road
Author: Jason Hewitt

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 3rd 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Finished reading: July 1st 2017
Pages: 384

“Strange how memories were breaking through as if he’d slipped under ice and now there were patches of it starting to melt so he could see snippets of the life he once had on the surface. Just when he thought his memory was improving, just when he thought he could retain the events of a day, something always disappeared in turn.”

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

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

This is going to be my third ‘unpopular opinion’ review in a row; what is happening to me?! I enjoy reading historical fiction in general and actually have a special interest in any story related to WWII. Devastation Road sounded particularly interesting due to the fact that the main character has amnesia and I found myself really looking forward to read this novel. Devastation Road has received a lot of praise so far and I was expecting to be adding another positive review to the mix myself, but unfortunately I didn’t have the same reading experience as most people. First of all I want to make clear that the idea behind this story is without doubt fascinating: an English soldier in 1945 who has amnesia and doesn’t remember that last four years nor can retain new memories. I could also really appreciate the many descriptions of the places the characters passed through, flashbacks and historical details in general. But. And there is where the tricky part comes in… I REALLY struggled with the writing style. Instead of luring me in, the first pages and chapters only managed to frustrate me and disconnect me from the story with the constant repeat of he, he, he in the sentences. Somehow the prose didn’t flow and I had a hard time figuring out what was going on… This is possibly ment to portray the main character and his amnesia, but it made it really hard for me to properly enjoy the story. That said, apart from the writing style I found it also extremely hard to connect to the characters AND plot itself. It’s not that the main character aren’t intriguing and each has their own history, but somehow I found myself mostly detached from them. And while I normally love the use of foreign languages in a story, I think in the case of Janeck it only made it more difficult to connect to him. I mentioned the flow of the writing style before, and I think I had the same problem with the plot itself. The story goes from memory to present to past and completely different scenes without warning and although this once again can be seen as a representation of amnesia, I found myself really struggling to keep track instead. Devastation Road had all the signs of being an excellent read and the problem might have been just me since so many seem to love this story, but unfortunately I struggled along with the characters to reach the final page. And I still feel kind of sad I wasn’t able to enjoy it more.

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In the final stretch of WWII, a man wakes up in a field in a country he doesn’t know. He is injured and can’t seem to remember how he got there in the first place… In fact, only flashes of memory come back to him and he only has a vague recollection of joining the war he is currently in the middle of. His name is Owen and he is trying to get back to England, although this isn’t easy with his amnesia. He finds help in unlikely places, although he is not sure why exactly they help him or what they want from him. Will his memory get better and will he make it to safety?

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I really wanted to enjoy Devastation Road, especially since it is a combination of two topics that fascinate me: WWII and amnesia. Unfortunately I found it extremely hard to connect to the writing style, characters AND plot… And honestly I think I would probably have opted for a DNF if this weren’t an ARC. I seem to be in the minority though since most reviews have been really positive, so give this one a chance if this sounds like your cup of tea!


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