ARC REVIEW: Mala Vida – by Marc Fernandez

Title: Mala Vida
Author: Marc Fernandez
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2015
Publisher: Arcade
Finished reading: January 5th 2019
Pages: 240
(Originally written in French: ‘Mala Vida’)

“Franco is dead, but not the evil he brought into the world.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqq

I’ve had an interest in Spanish history and especially the Franco period even before I picked it as my thesis subject. It’s easy to say that when I came across Mala Vida and read the blurb I was sold immediately. A story partially set in one of my favorite European cities and one I know closely: check. An intriguing historical background and mystery: check. A healthy dose of crime fiction, suspense and plot twists: check. Oh yes, while Mala Vida is mostly a contemporary crime thriller, it also included a historical element and a very intriguing and devastating one at that. This story was originally written in French back in 2015, and will be available in English next week. The translation works splendidly and I had a great time reading this story. The writing style made it easy to keep myself invested in the story; there are flashbacks, different point of views and plot twists that will keep you on edge until you have everything figured out. The setting was a huge bonus for me and I liked the inclusion of cultural elements to make the setting feel more authentic. The historical case discussed in Mala Vida is fascinating and I liked how we get multiple views on the topic through the different characters. Diego’s character is very interesting and I liked that he is a journalist. The same goes for the other main characters: each has their own personality, background and adds a little something unique to the story. All in all a very successful read for me!

shortsummary1reviewqqq

The radical right has just won the election after twelve years of Socialist rule in Spain, and things are about to change drastically. As the country is preparing itself to retrace its steps to the past, there are other things happening as well. A series of murders is committed in various cities in Spain, and there are no clues found as to who is behind them or why they were killed. There seems to be no obvious connection between them, but isn’t there? And that is not all either, because a national scandal is about to be revealed as well…

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

If you like stories with an international setting that can offer a little something different and outside the box, you should definitely consider Mala Vida. Part legal thriller, part historical, part mystery and part crime fiction, this story is a mix of a lot of different elements and very well executed at that. I personally loved the Spanish setting, the diversity of the main characters and the story as a whole. The historical element is both well executed and shocking and will definitely leave a mark… A very interesting read and one I’m very glad I came across.


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramFacebookBloglovin’.

YVO’S SHORTIES #71 – Big Little Lies & Outlander

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I have been meaning to read for a long time and finally decided to read in 2018. Both turned out to be more than pleasant surprises! Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.


Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: July 29th 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 23rd 2018
Pages: 460

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”


myrambles1reviewqqq

I’ve been meaning to read another Liane Moriarty book for a long time, and I’m probably the last person on earth to finally pick up Big Little Lies. I kind of picked it up on a whim while browsing my kindle, and I definitely not regret making that decision. There is no doubt that Liane Moriarty knows how to write an intriguing mystery that goes out with a huge bang. I liked how she kept what happened that fatal night a secret in such a way that you don’t have a clue about the who or why until the final bombshell is dropped. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming! The plot is both intricate and well constructed and part of the reason this story is such a success. I liked the idea of following the three main characters is the weeks before the incident, especially since they are mixed with those police interview bits to keep you intrigued and curious about what happened. You will be on the edge of your seat until you find out all the details! I wasn’t sure about every character, but their development is without doubt very well done. Each character has its own background and problems, and while there were a few cliches involved, I could really appreciate the abuse angle and the necessary attention it brings to the fact it ‘can happen to anyone’. There is a lot of drama and some of it was a bit farfetched, but the ending definitely makes up for it. All in all Big Little Lies was a success for me and I’ll be looking forward to watching the TV adaptation.


Title: Outlander
(Outlander #1)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
First published: June 1st 1991
Publisher: Dell
Finished reading: December 28th 2018
Pages: 866

“Sometimes our best actions result in things that are most regrettable. And yet you could not have acted otherwise.”


myrambles1reviewqqq

I have been meaning to read Outlander for years now, but both the sheer size of the books and the fact that I wasn’t sure the story would be for me made me hesitate for a long time. I don’t mind big books if they are good, but I feared there would be way too much romance involved for me to tolerate… But Outlander turned out to be the exception to that rule. Once I finally started reading and finished the first few chapters, I knew Outlander and me were going to get along just fine. All in all it took me about a week to finish it, which is not bad at all for such a beast of a book… And I had a surprisingly good time with it as well. Why surprisingly, would you say? Well, there are a lot of sexy scenes involved in Outlander, something that normally makes me drop a book like hot coals and discard it right away. They still made me cringe at points (adult content just isn’t for me ladies!), but the rest of the story was intriguing enough for me to tolerate them. The writing is excellent and the worldbuilding is sublime. I really felt like I were in Scotland myself along with the main characters; the descriptions of both the time period and surroundings extremely well done. The time travel aspect is also very interesting, especially since it comes back repeatedly in for example Claire’s profession as a nurse in the 20th century. I really liked Jamie as a character and while Claire can be exasperating at points, she does make for a good story. The story flowed well and managed to keep my attention all the way to the end. I’m definitely glad I finally give in and read Outlander, and I will be looking forward to read the sequel this year.


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramFacebookBloglovin’.

YVO’S SHORTIES #64: An Officer And A Spy (DNF) & Educated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t manage to convince me. The first, An Officer And A Spy by Robbert Harris, sadly a DNF, something that rarely happens. And I had high hopes for Educated by Tara Westover after so many glowing reviews, but I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again.


Title: An Officer And A Spy
Author: Robert Harris

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 26th 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: November 12th 2018 
Pages: 429
DNF at 30% (129 pages)

“It seems to be a necessary part of the criminal mentality: to survive captivity, one must somehow convince oneself one is not guilty.”


myrambles1reviewqqq

An Officer And A Spy is one of my TBR jar picks and a title I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I had been looking forward to it despite the mixed reviews, mostly because the setting sounded fascinating. I still think the setting on its own is very interesting and the general plot has a lot of potential. A possibly wrongly convicted officer, espionage, the threat of a war and other struggles definitely sound like a good recipe for a successful historical fiction read. Sadly, the execution of those elements in An Officer And A Spy just didn’t work for me. I have picked it up only to put it down again after only a few pages multiple times over the last few weeks. I’ve tried and tried to at least make it to the end to see if things improved later on, but in the end I decided to make the difficult decision to just DNF it. I hardly ever give up on a book, so it definitely makes me sad to do so… But between the superslow pace, writing style, too many descriptions and a lack of interest in both the plot and the characters, I think this was the right choice for me. An Officer And A Spy just never grabbed me and I was never able to stay interested in the story… It’s very possible this story simply wasn’t for me even though historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. A lot of readers did love it, so definitely don’t give up on it if you are thinking about reading it.


Title: Educated
Author: Tara Westover

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: November 14th 2018
Pages: 352

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occured to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”


myrambles1reviewqqq

It’s unpopular opinion time again… You’ve been warned. 

I have been looking forward to finally read Educated for months now, especially after reading so many glowing reviews. This is probably one of the reasons my expectations might have been too high, that and the fact that this memoir has been compared to The Glass Castle. The fact is: I was quite underwhelmed by all of it. This was not what I was expecting, and I feel sad for feeling this way, but it is what it is… I’m going to try and explain the reasons why. First of all, I know that I’m a skeptical person, and I don’t tend to believe things easily just because they are written down on paper. I also had a hard time believing Tara Westover‘s story as it was written down. Please don’t tell me I’m implying she is a liar, which I’m not. I do believe that she wrote Educated based on her memories, memories that can have gotten distorted over time especially if her early life has been such a struggle. And I really had to take her story with a whole lot of grains of salt to be able to continue reading. Like I said, I’m not saying she hasn’t had a tough life, or that her family didn’t do what they did, just that I didn’t find her story as told credible. I mean, for a survivalist family living in the mountains they sure have a lot of luxuries including at some point even a phone, TV and internet (not talking about the enormous mansion they seem to be having in the end). Her family life definitely wasn’t standard, with them not even having a birth certificate for a long time, not going to school and working in the junkyard etc etc. But I would rather call it eccentric for the most part instead. Also, at one point she describes her father as bipolar, something that is never confirmed as the same disease prevents him getting a medical diagnose. Still, I would have liked to have seen this angle developed further rather than just throwing the ‘bipolar’ word out and leave it at that. Another thing that bothered me were the many many serious accidents, a few life threatening, and somehow they are all healed with essential oils and other herbal cures? I do believe in holistic treatments along with medical care, but this is just getting too hard to believe. (I’m not saying they weren’t injured, just that the injuries maybe weren’t as bad as they remembered?) Anyhow, this reckless behavior and indifference towards general safety of others and the ‘miracle’ recoveries were just too much for the skeptical person in me to handle. Another thing I found hard to believe? Where all the money came from. First we are told they are poor, then money starts popping up everywhere somehow. I can get why her childhood chapters are a bit vague about money, but how on earth did she get the money together to get into a prestigious college and university? I know there are grants, but they don’t cover it all and it is a LOT of money we are talking about and very prestigious and expensive education. I mean, she goes to the UK and studies abroad for a long time? And then travels back and forth between the US and the UK multiple times? The flights alone cost a fortune, and surely aren’t covered by grants. A real mystery to me. There is also the question how she got into college in the first place, especially since she was never really educated at home in the first place. Somehow being able to get a superhigh score just by teaching herself advanced math and everything else in the test just doesn’t come over as credible to the skeptical me. Maybe she had a higher level of education than stated in the memoir before she started preparing herself for the test? I don’t know, but as it is Educated wasn’t at all credible to me. I’m not saying her being able to get her degrees isn’t admirable, and I’m sure she’s had a hard life especially with her despicable brother Shawn (I’m not even going into the abuse and her brother here, or we could still be talking tomorrow), but sadly her memoir wasn’t able to convince me.


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramFacebookBloglovin’.

ARC REVIEW: The Getaway Girls – by Dee MacDonald @bookouture

Title: The Getaway Girls
Author: Dee MacDonald
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 30th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 7th 2018
Pages: 

“Was the world her oyster? Silly cliché, that! The world was more like the carrot, dangling seductively in front of her nose.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqq

Wait, what? It’s All About Books featuring a contemporary romance read, and with such a high rating at that? Don’t be too surprised, because I can enjoy the genre every once in a while if I’m in the mood for it. And this is exactly what happened when I saw The Getaway Girls. Suffering from the so-called travel bug myself, I love road trip stories. It doesn’t really matter to me if I have visited those places myself, as reading about them makes it feel as if I were on a mini vacation in the first place and I love discovering new places to visit… But when I found out part of the story was set in Italy, I was sold. I have such great memories of this country and I couldn’t wait to discover what the main characters would encounter! I picked up The Getaway Girls on a day I really needed something light, entertaining, fun and engaging to distract myself, and this story delivered exactly that. I LOVED that the three main characters are seventy-year-olds and that they going on a road trip together. The character development is spot on and I really liked just how different their personalities and backgrounds were. It was great to see how they reacted to each other and they journey, and I had a wonderful time following them on their journey. It’s not all fun as they are trying to run away from Maggie’s dodgy partner Ringer, and I really liked that aspect of the plot as it added a little suspense to the whole story as well. But my favorite part of The Getaway Girls has without doubt to do with the descriptions of the places they visited. It almost felt I was on vacation in France and Italy as well! A welcome distraction from the cold winter months down here in Argentina… I had a blast reading this story and I liked how each of the three main characters got her own ending. It’s definitely made me curious about The Runaway Wife as well as I really liked Connie’s character! If you are a fan of the genre, this one is a must-read.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Connie is free to make her own decisions for the first time in decades, and she has been dreaming of an adventure. She doesn’t seem to be the only one though, as Gill and Maggie from her flower arranging class love the sound of her plans. And soon the two want to tag along with her idea of traveling to southern Italy in a campervan to find her roots. A journey that will take them through France first and will take them to places and new experiences they never thought they would be having… Will the three be able to reach their destination safely?

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

If you love a good road trip story with well developed and interesting characters, lots of sightseeing, funny moments, a dash of suspense and a dose of romance that is just right, you will love The Getaway Girls as well. I had so much fun following Connie, Gill and Maggie around and I loved the fact that they were seventy-year-olds, as I don’t see older main characters around that often. Entertaining, uplifting, a pinch of suspense and a healthy dose of summer romance… This story will make you forget about your own problems for a while as you join the main characters on their journey.


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramFacebookBloglovin’.

YVO’S SHORTIES #27: The Orphan’s Tale & Murder On The Orient Express

Another day and another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Bringing you more shortie reviews of books I read during my hiatus. The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff has been on my list for a long time, and turned out to be just as good as I thought it would be. And I have been meaning to read more of Agatha Christie‘s work for a long time, so accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express movie turned out to be the perfect excuse to do so.


Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff

Genre: Historical Fiction, War
First published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: Mira Books
Finished reading: May 18th 2018
Pages: 353

“Sometimes our forever life does not last as long as we think.”


myrambles1reviewqqq

After a very difficult but extraordinary visit to the Auschwitz camps, I wanted to read another historical fiction story set during WWII to commemorate. I was browsing my kindle and my eyes fell on The Orphan’s Tale, a title I have been meaning to pick up for a long time, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do so. While not exactly the story set in one of the camps I was looking for, this story shows the struggle and fear of the Jews trying to hide their true identity. The Orphan’s Tale has a wide variety of different characters and this diversity was one of the reasons this story worked. The circus setting with all its descriptions and opportunities for plot twists and new angles definitely was another key element. The writing is solid and makes it really easy to fully emerge yourself and keep reading to find out what will happen to the main characters. There comes the only minor flaw I experienced myself though: I didn’t agree with every decision of the characters and somehow it wasn’t as easy to get a proper feeling of some of them. This feeling of slight uneasiness and frustration made me lower the rating slightly, but overall The Orphan’s Tale is without doubt among the better WWII historical fiction stories I’ve read to this date.


Title: Murder On The Orient Express
(Hercule Poirot #10)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Classics
First published: 1926
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: May 21st 2018
Pages: 256

“I know human nature, my friend, and I tell you that, suddenly confronted with the possibility of being tried for murder, the most innocent person will lose their head and do the most absurd things.”


myrambles1reviewqqq

I’ve been meaning to pick up another Agatha Christie book ever since I finished And Then There Were None back in 2015, but somehow I never did. So I guess accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express was a blessing in disguise, because since I normally never watch the movie before reading the book, of course I had to immediately remedy that. I had high hopes for the book, and even though I haven’t read the previous Hercule Poirot books yet, I was able to enjoy book number ten anyway. Because Agatha Christie writes in a way that will draw your attention from the start, and she gives just enough background of the main characters to be able to form an idea of their past without the previous books. I still want to read the other nine titles before this one as well of course, and the copies are on my list. But the fact is that Murder On The Orient Express can easily be read as a stand-alone as well and what a good story at that. From the main character to the development of the other characters, the mystery, the way Hercule Poirot conducts his investigation… There is just something about it that will fascinate you completely and any mystery/thriller fan will find themselves flying through it. I personally liked both movie and book equally, although I still wish I would have read the book first, because I had the actors stuck in my head and the descriptions of the characters in the book don’t really match. Thankfully the script itself follows the original plot closely; one of the reasons the adaptation was so successful to me. Murder On The Orient Express has shown me I really need to get copies of more of Agatha Christie‘s books soon, because I have truly been missing out by not reading them.


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramFacebookBloglovin’.

ARC REVIEW: Castle Of Water – by Dane Huckelbridge @Huckelbridge @StMartinsPress

Title: Castle Of Water
Author: Dane Huckelbridge

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 4th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press 
Finished reading: April 16th 2017
Pages: 288

“With his box-cutter knife in one hand and waterproof flashlight in the other, Barry felt, for the first time in his life, like a man. A terrified man on the verge of  wetting his loincloth, but a man nevertheless.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqq

Sometimes (cover)love at first sight can lead to something extraordinary. When I first saw Dane Huckelbridge‘s debut novel Castle Of Water mentioned, I couldn’t stop staring at the cover. The color combination, the abstract sunset over the sea… Just gorgeous. Of course I had no other choice but to request a copy, especially since the story itself sounded really intriguing as well. And Castle Of Water is without doubt a little masterpiece. It’s a story about how two unlikely characters end up as castaways on a deserted island together and how they manage to survive… A modern ‘Robinson Crusoe‘ twist that captured my attention from the very first page. The characters are spot on and their development is brilliantly done. It’s really interesting to see how both Barry and Sophie react to the things that happen to them on the island and I love LOVE their bantering! I like that they represent different nationalities as well as personalities and it without doubt adds an original touch to an already excellent story and plot. The writing style really stands out as well; well written, enjoyable to read and even funny at points. I also loved the incorporation of many French elements/words, which were easy to understand and didn’t slow down the pace even though my French is pretty basic. I honestly couldn’t find something I didn’t like about this novel… So as you might have already guessed, I can more than recommend Castle Of Water if you enjoy the genre. You won’t be disappointed!

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Sophie Ducel and Barry Bleecker decided to travel to French Polynesia for very different reasons… Sophie wanted to visit the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel, during her honeymoon with her new husband. Barry Bleecker decided to give up his job in Manhattan finance and chase his painting dreams instead; seeking creative inspiration in the place where his idol, Paul Gauguin, found it as well. The two didn’t know each other until they bordered the small plane sharing the same destination. And then their plane is downed in the middle of the Sout Pacific, and Sophie and Barry are the sole survivors. They find themselves stranded on a tiny island hundreds of miles from civilization… And they will have to learn to work together if they want to have any chance of survival and ever finding a way back home. Which might be more difficult than it sounds, because the two strangers couldn’t have been more different.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

While it was the beautiful cover that made me first want to pick up this novel, it was the story and writing style itself that managed to blow me away in the end. Castle Of Water is basically a modern castaway story with a twist, and I loved every single moment of it. The prose is just wonderful and combined with the well developed and loveable characters you are definitely in for a treat. An emotional rollercoaster, in the best possible way!


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramFacebookBloglovin’.

BOOK REVIEW: The Little Prince – by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

brthelittleprince

Title: The Little Prince
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Genre: Middle Grade, Classics, Fantasy
First published: 1943
Finished reading: May 27th 2016
Pages: 98
(Originally written in French: ‘Le Petit Prince’)
Rating 3qqq

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.

myrambles1reviewqqq

I think this is one of those cases where I should have either read this classic 15-20 years ago or have waited until I have kids of my own to read the story to… Because I didn’t enjoy The Little Prince as much as I thought I would. Sure, it’s an interesting enough middle grade story with illustrations and all, but I have to be honest and say I wasn’t exactly blown away by it. It is a quick read and I’m sure children will enjoy it, but I can’t say the story sticked with me. In fact, only a week after reading this story which was originally written in French, I’m having a hard time remembering specific details… Which isn’t exactly a good sign. I’m not saying The Little Prince is a bad read, but I do think this classic has to be read at the right time and wasn’t really ment for adults in the first place.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

A little boy decides to leave the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, even though it means he has to leave behind his precious flower. He travels from planet to planet and learns more about the strange behavior of adults through the persons that live on those planets. Afer a long journey he finally ends up on Earth and meets the writer of this story in the middle of nowhere… And the writer is so moved by this meeting later on, that he decides to write down the little boy’s story.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

I have been trying to read more classics lately and The Little Prince was high on my list. I somehow never read this middle grade story when I was younger (as far as I can remember), and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this read as much as an adult. It’s not that the story is badly written and the illustrations will work perfectly with children, but I just didn’t find this classic by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry memorable at all. It might be the most translated book in the French language, but it sure isn’t my favorite.