BLOG TOUR REVIEW: A Song Of Isolation – by Michael J. Malone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the A Song Of Isolation Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been wanting to try Michael J. Malone‘s stories for a long time now as I keep hearing fantastic things about his books. I even have a couple of his backlist titles waiting on my kindle, so I’m still not sure why I didn’t follow through with my intentions until now… But what I do know is that I mean to return to his writing ASAP after a fantastic first experience with his work. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: A Song Of Isolation
Author: Michael J. Malone
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 17th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 18th 2020
Pages: 300

“Please. Live well. Be my revenge, Amelie.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Michael J. Malone’s psychological thrillers for quite some time now, and especially since as far as I can remember I’ve only seen positive reviews so far. I figured that joining the blog tour for his newest title A Song Of Isolation would be both the perfect way to ensure I finally tried his work and also the little push I needed to pick up the backlist titles I have waiting on my kindle as well… And now that I have finally sampled his writing, I am most definitely hungry for more. Atmospheric, compelling, powerful, moving, brutal, emotional… A Song Of Isolation will claw its way into your head and heart and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

The story is told with the help of a multiple POV structure that follows three different characters over time: Amelie, Dave and Damaris. On top of this, the story is divided into three different years… First we have the flashbacks Amelie experiences from her time in London back in 2010 that will help explain why she moved to Scotland. Then we have the part of the story set in 2015, where all three characters feature and most of the time is spent. This part includes some fascinating perspectives on Dave’s side including the day when Dave is first arrested, the trial and the chapters set in prison. Then we have Damaris and the effect the events have on her during and after the trial… And last but not least Amelie struggling to support Dave and her time in France afterwards. The last part of the story is set in 2019, and this is were everything comes together and the story will have more than one surprise for you in store.

Nothing is as it seems in A Song Of Isolation and you are constantly wondering about what is true and what ended up being a fabrication. As the truth about the whole situation is key in interpreting the story, it feels as if you are walking on a knife’s edge the whole time, and this suspense never went away. The story includes multiple difficult themes, including child abuse, the possibility of false imprisonment, dealing with the aftermath of negative press, stalking, mental health issues and grief. Each element is incorporated realistically and fitted very well in the story as a whole, rather than just being a little something extra designed to shock alone. I was especially intrigued by the questions this story raises about child abuse and possible false imprisonment. I’m all for believing the child and its accusations first to protect the child, but what if the accusations are wrong? This could utterly destroy the life of an innocent man, but on the other hand you don’t want a guilty predator to get away with what he did… This dilemma really messed with my head and it’s one of the reasons this story ended up having such an impact on me.

The psychological aspect in general and the development of the different characters in play is simply sublime. Each felt realistic, flawed and really added something special to the story; while not all were exactly likeable, I couldn’t help but feeling that urge to discover how they would evolve and what would happen to them. Especially those chapters set in prison were fascinating, and I love the chapters set in France too as the descriptions really made Bordeaux come alive for me… But A Song Of Isolation as a whole is designed to mesmerize. The writing itself is a true pleasure to the eye and mind. In fact, the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is because I started it too late in the day and couldn’t afford an all-nighter… Because trust me, it was extremely hard to tear my eyes off those pages and stop reading.

A Song Of Isolation was my first experience with his books, but I will rectify that mistake soon. I have multiple of his backlist titles all ready and waiting for me on my kindle and I have no doubt that they will bring more hours filled with a fantastic reading experience. Fans of darker psychological thrillers NEED to read this one!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died and In the Absence of Miracles soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber &
Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.


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AUDIO ARC REVIEW: The Switch – by Beth O’Leary @MacmillanAudio #netgalleyaudio

Title: The Switch
Author: Beth O’Leary
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 16th 2020
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Finished reading: July 25th 2020
Pages: 336

Duration audiobook 10 hours 11 minutes
Narrated by Alison Steadman & Daisy Edgar-Jones

“There is no elixir for this. All you can do is keep moving forward even when it hurts like hell.”

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

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I had actually read The Switch already in June, but as I really enjoyed my time with both Eileens the first time around and I kept hearing how wonderful the audiobook was, I just couldn’t resist trying this format too. I must say that I think I liked my experience with this story even more the second time around! The audiobook version is indeed marvelous and fits the story very well.

I’m still pretty new with the whole audiobook experience, but I have to say The Switch has only reconfirmed that I have to give this format a chance. I think the audio version only enhanced my experience with this story. This book is narrated by Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones, and both do a fantastic job giving both Eileens a voice. I especially loved the voice of grandma Eileen, as it fitted the image I had of her in my head perfectly. That said, Lena’s voice was very suitable too, and I like how both narrators changed their voice slightly whenever other characters are speaking. The pace and flow of the story was spot on, and the different emotions are well portrayed. If you enjoy audiobooks, I would definitely recommend trying the audio experience of The Switch!

As for the story itself… I know that contemporary romance isn’t my typical genre, but there are times when I crave a good contemporary and a select few authors can really make me enjoy the genre. I discovered last year that Beth O’Leary is one of them when I read The Flatshare and even the sexy scenes couldn’t put me off the rest of that story. I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Switch after that, especially when I discovered that it involved an older main characters as well as a life swap element. I must say that I had an excellent time with this story, and she is now officially another of my to-go-to authors when I’m in the mood for the genre.

I think I might have enjoyed The Switch even a tiny bit more than her debut, mostly due to the focus on the relationship between the three generations of Cotton women and both Eileens more specifically. Sure, there were a couple of cliches involved. Sure, I saw the love interests coming from far far away. Sure, the story includes both the love triangle and cheating element I’m not a big fan of at all. But somehow, this just didn’t matter all that much, as I was having too much fun getting to know both Eileens and their adventures after the swap. This is both a fun and heartfelt story that will make you forget about your own problems for a little while… It’s the perfect escape from reality and the main characters will win over your heart in no time at all. If you enjoy the genre, The Switch is a little gem!


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ARC REVIEW: Entre Senderos De Lavanda – by Mariela Gimenez

Title: Entre Senderos De Lavanda
Author: Mariela Gimenez
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: November 1st 2019
Publisher: V&R Editoras
Finished reading: July 6th 2020
Pages: 464

“There was no greater loneliness than feeling adrift like a kite loose in the wind.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Babelio and V&R Editoras as part of the Masa Crítica Argentina program in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit that I was intrigued as soon as I saw that gorgeous cover and read the summary. Entre Senderos De Lavanda sounded like the perfect story to read in between my thrillers: a wonderful piece of contemporary romance as well as a story of self discovery. I was curious to see how the title would fit in the story, and I have been looking forward to spend time with this book ever since. I ended up having a wonderful time with Entre Senderos De Lavanda; completely swept away to the French lavender fields and into the lives of Anna and the Duvall family.

The first thing that stood out for me was the setting in France. First in Marseilles, but mostly in the small town of Gordes in the middle of lavander filled Provence, this setting makes the perfect backdrop for this story. I loved how the lavender fields were incorporated into the plot and had a hiddden meaning to more than one character. The wonderful descriptions really made the setting come alive for me, and I could almost smell the lavender fields as I imagined travelling there myself and walking alongside the main characters.

The story is told with the help of a multiple point of view structure, and while the two main point of views are probably Anna and Pascal, we will visit most of the main characters along the way and I quite liked being able to get a glimpse inside the different perspectives. As far as the characters go, I was able to connect to them quite easily and I found myself to be rooting for them the whole time. While I wasn’t a fan of the love triangle element, I did love the character development in general. This development was thorough, felt realistic and really made the different characters come alive for me. They each have their flaws, making it only easier to relate to them and appreciate their development and growth even more. While the main focus is on Anna, most other characters will have some form of growth and each and every single one adds something extra to the plot.

The plot itself was more than solid. I really liked that this isn’t just another contemporary romance story about falling in love, but instead we also see Anna trying to find herself as well as reconnecting with what is left of her family. Not only that, we also find Anna grieving her mother and trying to make peace with both the past and present… And we have the whole Duvall family as well as Anna’s grandfather to consider too; each with their own little background and substories in the plot. It’s an interesting cast of characters that I loved seeing interact and grow over time; the plot and plot twists were handled brilliantly and I found myself to be glued to the pages as a result.

I really enjoyed the writing too, which flowed naturally and made it really easy to keep reading. The story is divided into different parts, and each chapter begins with a little quote by multiple authors that fits the current situation in the plot. I really loved this attention to detail; the same goes for the beautiful illustrations throughout my copy of Entre Senderos De Lavanda as well as the cover itself. I had a fantastic time reading this story, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for a beautifully written, emotional and engaging contemporary romance story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #171 – The Ten Thousand Doors Of January & The Switch #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two ventures into genres I don’t read all that often, but both turned out to be very successful experiences. I have found a new all time favorite in The Ten Thousand Doors Of January, which turned out to be an absolutely stunning read. And I had a great time with the two Eileen’s in The Switch.


Title: The Ten Thousand Doors Of January
Author: Alix E. Harrow

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: September 10th 2019
Publisher: Redhook
Finished reading: June 19th 2020
Pages: 385

“Because the place you are born isn’t necessarily the place you belong.”


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I admit that this was cover love at first sight, but as soon as I read the blurb I knew I was most likely going to love The Ten Thousand Doors Of January. And after seeing one glowing review after the other, I decided to save it until I was in need of a story that could really blow me away… That time had come, and my instincts about this book turned out to be 200% on point. What an absolutely stunning and breathtaking read! I don’t even know where and how to start explaining this beauty of a story, as The Ten Thousand Doors Of January is one of those books where you should go in blind in the first place to fully explore and capture its magic. Historical fiction is mixed with fantasy in the most exquisite way, and I loved discovering more about January, the mysterious Doors, the magic and Adelaide’s adventures. This story is complex, this story is stunningly written, this story fits so cleverly together once you have all the pieces… It’s an absolute masterpiece I cannot recommend enough. I’m truly lost for words here, and will just throw in the following cliche phrase to finish these rambles: ‘just read the damn book‘. Trust me, you will be in for an absolute magical treat!


Title: The Switch
Author: Beth O’Leary

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 16th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: June 21st 2020
Pages: 336

“There is no elixir for this. All you can do is keep moving forward even when it hurts like hell.”


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I know contemporary romance isn’t really my genre, but there are times when I crave a good contemporary and a select few authors can actually make me really enjoy the genre. I discovered last year Beth O’Leary is one of them when I read The Flatshare, and even the sexy scenes couldn’t put me off the rest of that story. I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Switch after that, especially when I discovered it involved an older main character as well as a life swap element. I must say that I had an excellent time with this story, and she is now officially another of my to-go-to authors when I’m in the mood for the genre. I think I might have enjoyed The Switch even a tiny bit more, mostly due to the focus on the relationship between the three generations of Cotton women and both Eileen’s more specifically. Sure, there were a couple of cliches involved. Sure, I saw the love interests coming from far far away. Sure, the story includes both the love triangle and cheating element I’m not a big fan of at all. But somehow, this just didn’t matter all that much, as I was having too much fun getting to know both Eileen’s and their adventures after the swap. This is both a fun and heartfelt story that will make you forget about your own problems for a little while… It’s the perfect escape from reality and the main characters will win over your heart in no time at all. If you enjoy the genre, The Switch is a little gem!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #159 – The Girl In The Tree (DNF) & The Light Between Oceans

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around an ARC I had to sadly take the decision to DNF quite early on despite being excited to finally read it (The Girl In The Tree) and a backlist title I’ve been meaning to read for ages now and I definitely wish I would have picked up sooner (The Light Between Oceans).


Title: The Girl In The Tree
Author: Şebnem İşigüzel

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 2016
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Finished reading: April 16th 2020
Pages: 360
DNF at 11% (40 pages)
(Originally written in Turkish: ‘Ağaçtaki Kız’)

“Laughter is the wind of the mind and soul – it picks you up and whisks you far away.”

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


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I was actually really looking forward to The Girl In The Tree, as the blurb sounded intriguing and I always love discovering new international authors. I certainly wasn’t expecting to have the reaction I had when I finally started reading it… But it is what it is I guess. I hate DNFing this early in a story and I feel more than guilty, but I just couldn’t take it anymore… I will keep this DNF review short as I only managed to read 11% (about 40 pages) before I threw in the towel, but I’ll try to explain shortly why I made the difficult decision to DNF this early on.

First of all, I struggled to connect with the writing. And with struggle, I mean REALLY struggling, and I wasn’t able to enjoy it at all. But more importantly, there was no plot whatsoever to speak of and the story seemed more like a collection of brain farts, random thoughts and random facts about characters you don’t know being thrown at you… Mixed in with random pop culture elements including Twilight and (the death of) Amy Whinehouse. I sadly found the whole ordeal to be tasteless, chaotic, confusing and I really couldn’t be bothered wasting more of my time to see if things would improve later on. Oh yes, this story definitely hit a nerve, and not in a good way. Such a shame, because I was actually looking forward to reading this… Don’t give up on The Girl In The Tree on my account though, as it seems like you will either love or hate this story depending on how you react to the writing style. It’s a book of extremes and most certainly not for everyone… And that includes myself sadly.


Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 2012
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: April 17th 2020
Pages: 356

“There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up The Light Between Oceans for years now. I’m not sure why it took me this long to actually read it, as I’m a big fan of historical fiction and settings that enable me to travel to places I’ve never been… But what I do know is that I regret not reading this story sooner now. The post WWI setting on a small island near the Australian coast, the lighthouse keeper element, the strong presence of the ocean… These elements really gave The Light Between Oceans a more than solid base to build the rest of the story around, and especially the Janus Rock setting and lighthouse references made the story stand out for me. The main focus of the story is on family life, both grief and struggles related to multiple miscarriages and the arrival of the ‘mystery’ baby on the small island and its consequences for the future. It was interesting to follow both Tom and Isabel as they try to overcome the struggles life keeps throwing at them… And although I don’t agree with some decisions and certain behavior, I still had a great time reading about both their lives. The Light Between Oceans is a mostly character driven book with a fascinating setting that gives the story the perfect backdrop to develop both plot and characters. And while there were certain elements/details especially in the second half that started to irk me, I still ended up really enjoying my time with this historical fiction read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #157 – The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper & Meet Cute

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a double dose of contemporary, although only one of them was successful… I’ve been meaning to read The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper for years now, and I’m definitely glad I finally did. On the other hand, I was looking forward to a cute contemporary romance read, but sadly the cover of Meet Cute was false advertisement and the sexy and considerably dark contemporary read wasn’t what I hoped for or enjoyed.


Title: The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper
Author: Phaedra Patrick

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: January 29th 2016
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: April 9th 2020 
Pages: 336

“Some people live for the day and don’t look back. Why look back at the past if you’re happy with the present?”


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I’ve been meaning to read The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper for years now, and I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so now… I loved my time with Arthur Pepper! I had my suspicions after rereading the blurb I would enjoy this book, and the story definitely has that A Man Called Ove vibe. Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper has led an ordinary life and is still grieving his wife who passed away almost a year ago. He loves to keep a schedule and prefers to avoid social obligations… Until he finds a charm bracelet belonging to his late wife that he has never seen before, and he decides to try and discover the stories behind the charms. The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper will bring both tears as well as a smile to your face as you follow Arthur on his journey. His character was easy to warm up to, and the other characters in play were likewise (mostly) easy to like. It’s a proper feel-good story and tearjerker in one, and without doubt the exact right read I needed in these strange times. The writing is wonderful and makes it really easy to keep turning those pages… I finished The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper in no time at all. I really liked the development of Arthur’s character too and the ending was satisfying enough too. If you enjoy the contemporary genre, this story is an excellent choice.


Title: Meet Cute
Author: Helena Hunting

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 9th 2019
Publisher: Forever
Finished reading: April 11th 2020
Pages: 384

“I think you learn how to live with holes in your heart. You can’t patch them up, or plug them with other people, but you find ways to make it bearable, if that makes sense.”


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Aaaaaand I call this one: fooled by the cover! I was looking for a cute contemporary romance read to distract myself, and as soon as I saw Meet Cute I thought I had hit the jackpot. I was willing to forgive the sexy part as I really needed a romantic comedy in my life… But I guess the cover was completely false advertisement, as Meet Cute is mostly a considerably dark and depressing contemporary read which deals alternately with grief after the death of both parents in an accident and with a whole bunch of sexy scenes and cringeworthy ‘enemy to lover‘ trope cliches. I can overcome sexy scenes if the rest of the story is good enough to distract, but in this case it just wasn’t ment to be. The characters lacked a proper development beyond cliches for me; especially the character dynamics and the easy way Kailyn overcomes her issues and forgives Dax so easily. I think the only positive part was the interaction between Emme, Kailyn and Dax, but overall there was just something about the writing that didn’t do it for me. Too many cliches and I found the dialogues to be rather lacking too… Also, that ending was way too convenient and rushed. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time once again!


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ARC REVIEW: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes – by Ruth Hogan

Title: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes
Author: Ruth Hogan
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2018
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: May 16th 2019
Pages: 320

“When the music ends for someone you love you don’t stop dancing. You dance for them as well.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Ruth Hogan‘s work so I was really excited to receive a copy of The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes on my kindle. And while my reading experience turned out to be different than what I was expecting and it ended up being not exactly my cup of tea, I also understand the love for this story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes is by no means a bad read (quite the contrary in fact) and the three star rating reflects my personal experience with the story rather than the quality itself. Every book has its target group and while the story sadly wasn’t a right fit for me, I could also really appreciate it for what it was. Let’s make it clear from the start that The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes has a considerably slow pace and is mainly a character-driven story. The power behind this read is Ruth Hogan‘s ability to create quirky, flawed and unique characters that will most likely stay with you for quite some time. A lot of time is invested in the description and development of the different characters. While I could really appreciate that and I do love my quirky and unique characters, for me personally it slowed down the pace too much and I struggled to connect and stay invested in the story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes uses a dual POV and follows two ‘broken’ women each with their own past and problems. Sadly, I failed to connect fully to Alice and Masha, but what was even worse is that I guessed the mayor final plot twist right from the beginning. I kept hoping I was wrong… And it was quite a disappointment to discover I was right all along. I really liked Edward, Sally and Kitty though and I loved the hidden meaning behind Haizum’s name (and the fact a dog plays a considerable role in the story). Masha’s romance was too cliche for me, but I did enjoy seeing her character evolve over time and slowly learn how to deal with the death of her son. I’m having a feeling fans of slower and mostly character-driven contemporary dramas and those who love quirky and unique characters will have a wonderful time with The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #32 – Champion & The Year Of The Rat

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Another YA edition… The first a final book of a trilogy, Champion by Marie Lu, which I didn’t find to be as strong as the first two books. The other title is my first Dutch read of the year. A Dutch translation of The Year Of The Rat by Clare Furniss, which was quite good overall.


Title: Champion
(Legend #3)
Author: Marie Lu

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 5th 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: July 8th 2018
Pages: 384

“Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. Days don’t last forever, you know. But I’ll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that.”


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I decided to pick up Legend book number three shortly after finishing the second one as part of the promise to myself to start finishing more series. After enjoying the first two books, I was actually quite surprised I didn’t enjoy the final book of the trilogy as much as the previous two. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I think it has to do with the fact that I just didn’t think the plot was as interesting as I would have hoped for a final book. Also, the love triangle really started to get on my nerves… But then again I’m never a fan of those in the first place. Champion wasn’t a bad read, but it lacked the little something extra from the previous books for me. Sure, the writing has the same quality and I guess fans of the genre and series will have a good time with it, but I hoped for something more. This also goes for the ending, which I didn’t like at all. It’s kind of an ending that can go either way for you though, because there are some twists that will definitely mess with your emotions and it depends on how you react to that. All in all not a bad read, but I had hoped for a stronger ending of the Legend trilogy.


Title: The Year Of The Rat
Author: Clare Furniss

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: April 24th 2014
Publisher: Querido
Finished reading: July 10th 2018
Pages: 272
(Read in Dutch: ‘Het Jaar Dat De Wereld Op Zijn Kop Stond’)

“You shouldn’t be wasting your time worrying about what’s going to happen after you die. It’s pointless. Think about what’s happening now. In your life. That’s what’s important. ”


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I still can’t believe I was able to finish my Dutch read of the year this quickly! The Dutch translation of The Year Of The Rat was quite a fast read and that definitely helped me reach the final page easily. I’m not a fan of reading in Dutch, but I liked this story well enough and it was interesting to see what loss and grief can do to a person. Although not perfect, the story itself was well developed and I definitely appreciated that there almost wasn’t any romance included in the plot. The Year Of The Rat is a mostly family focused and character driven story where we follow the main character Pearl as she tries to deal with the fact that her mother died giving birth to her little sister. While I can’t say I was able to connect to the main character, there is no doubt some very powerful emotions are described; it’s a story that will make you think. If you are looking for something easy and fluffy, you are definitely looking at the wrong story, because you will find some very difficult moments in this read.


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