ARC REVIEW: Daughters Of The Lake – by Wendy Webb

Title: Daughters Of The Lake
Author: Wendy Webb
Genre: Mystery, Gothic, Paranormal
First published: November 1st 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: November 9th 2018
Pages: 317

“But some stories, especially peculiar, hidden ones involving murder and mystery, have a way of bubbling to the surface, especially when wrongs need to be righted.”

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

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Between the cover and blurb I was fully intrigued when I first saw Daughters Of The Lake, the promise of a century old mystery connected with the present a big selling point. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Daughers Of The Lake isn’t just another mystery story with a dual timeline. No, this story has a lot more to offer. A hint of paranormal with a haunted house and ghost and a touch of supernatural with the lake and its folk tale stories; both adding a very original touch to the story and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. Daughters Of The Lake mostly reads like a paranormal gothic romance story, with the romance scenes being very well balanced out with the mystery and intrigue of the past. We have a love triangle, and we have cheating, but somehow I wasn’t as bothered by those tropes as they weren’t the main focus of the story. This perfect balance between the different elements makes it really easy to emerge yourself fully in the story and enjoy the ride. The characters are well developed and even though a few cliches are involved, they were easy to like. Especially Simon and Addie will win over your heart in record time. The writing is also beautiful and really flowed; I really liked the descriptions of both characters and setting. While the setting in Daughters Of The Lake is fictional, it shows that it’s based on real memories as it almost feels as if you were visiting those places yourself. I loved the idea of the lake folk tale and all it entails… The paranormal element and Kate’s dreams are  intriguing without it going over the top and becoming too much. It was fascinating finding out more about the past and it was great to see how things developed in the present as well. Daughters Of The Lake was without doubt a wonderful read that is worth your time.

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After a painful discovery that made Kate Granger realize her marriage is now over, she moved back in with her parents on Lake Superior to think about her future. But fate has different plans for her in store, as a body of a murdered woman is found near her parents’ home. Nobody can identify the woman, except for Kate… She has seen her before in her dreams. And somehow she knew the woman whould have a baby with her. Her reaction turns her into an instant suspect, especially since she can’t exactly tell the police she recognized the woman from her dreams. Kate is determined to find out who she is and what happened to her, especially since her dreams seem to become more intense.

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Daughters Of The Lake is a wonderfully written paranormal romance and mystery story with a gothic feel. What at first glance seems to be a simply mystery and historical crime with a dual timeline turns out to be so much more, giving you a rich and original plot to savour. I especially loved the folk tale elements, and the paranormal touch is well constructed as well. The balance between all those different elements is spot on, and with easy to like characters you will have an excellent time discovering more about the past and how it affects the present. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The Passion According To Carmela – by Marcos Aguinis

Title: The Passion According To Carmela
Author: Marcos Aguinis
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2008
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: October 7th 2018
Pages: 284
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘La pasión según Carmela’)

“At the root of any insanity you’re bound to find great truths.”

*** 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 know I should probably have read this one in Spanish, but since it takes me twice as long to read it and I had the opportunity to read this newly published English translation, I decided to be lazy. I was fascinated by the premise of The Passion According To Carmela as soon as I first started reading it. While I learned a few things about the Cuban Revolution during Uni, most of the history was skimmed over and I was looking forward to learn more about that particular part of Cuban history. The promise of a love story mixed in with a proper look inside the Cuban Revolution just sounded too good to be true, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to read this book. The translation was excellently done and the writing style really flowed. The descriptions both of the Cuban setting and the background information around the Revolution and its consequences for the locals are exhaustive and very thorough. The Passion According To Carmela not only introduces us to the main character and their tragic and complicated love history, but also teaches you about how Fidel Castro came to power and how this effected the country. The prose is easy to on the eye, draws you in and makes it really easy to invest your time in this story. The pace was a bit slow at points, but overall The Passion According To Carmela was a really satisfying read.

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Cuba is on the border of a Revolution, and the country isn’t alone in facing some drastic changes. Carmela Vasconcelos has been living a privileged life so far, but her idealistic ideas and her brother Lucas end up convincing her to join Fidel Castro’s rebels. There she meets the Argentinian socialist Ignacio Deheza, and they are both aware of the instant connection between them. Their passion for both each other and the cause blind them, and they soon discover passion alone might just not be enough… Is the Revolution really everything they thought it would promised to be?

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The Passion According To Carmela is perfect for both historical fiction fans and those who enjoy a good complicated love story. You will come out both exhausted by everything that happens to the main character and having learned more about the Cuban Revolutions and its effects on the locals. Well written, well translation, well executed… It reads a bit slow at points, but the story is without doubt still 100% worth reading.


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ARC REVIEW: A Thousand Devils – by Frank Goldammer

Title: A Thousand Devils
(Max Heller, Dresden Detective #2)
Author: Frank Goldammer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 13th 2017
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: September 25th 2018
Pages: 312
(Originally written in German: ‘Tausend Teufel’)

“Nothing came for free. In a place where so many people hat lost their lives, it was a simple fact that you would pay somehow for still being alive.”

*** 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 really enjoyed reading the first book of this series, The Air Raid Killer, earlier this year, so of course I wanted to read the sequel as well now that it is translated into English (out tomorrow!). I have to say that A Thousand Devils has only increased my interest in this series. The stories are what I call a perfect mix of historical fiction and a detective thriller, with our detective Max Heller trying to solve cases just after WWII in the German city of  Dresden. Talk about a fascinating setting! Learning more about the German situation just after the war is fascinating, especially in the subtle way Frank Goldammer incorporates historical elements. It makes the historical setting feel authentic and it was very interesting to see how the detective tried to do his job in an almost impossibly difficult situation. I feel A Thousand Devils will appeal to both historical fiction fans and detective thriller readers because of the well crafted balance of both genres, although I do have to warn for some graphic scenes, violence and abuse. That said, I think A Thousand Devils was even stronger than the first, and although set just after WWII this time instead of during the last year, you will find plenty of historical facts to absorb. There are lots of twists involved as well, cleverly executed to keep you guessing how everything fits together until the end… I can without doubt recommend this series.

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

Two years after the bombing of Dresden left most of the East German city in ruins, survivors are still struggling to continue their lives and the suffering continues. The winter months have been brutal so far, and with supplies being low everyone has to fight to survive… The German citizens are not happy with the Russian occupation, and the Russians are always trying to keep everything under control. When the both of a brutally stabbed Russian officer is found, detective Max Heller is called to the scene. To make things worse, near to the body they find an abandoned backpack with another man’s head inside… Are the two cases connected? Is this an attack against the Russians or simply an act of rage? Detective Max Heller has a hard time figuring out the facts as he finds obstacles around every single corner.

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Whether you prefer reading historical fiction or detective thrillers, the content of A Thousand Devils will be able to satisfy your needs. It is not easy to combine the two genres in a natural way, but there is no doubt that Frank Goldammer has done an excellent job. From the writing to the plot development, historical details, suspense and characters… Everything just clicks together and makes it easy to imagine just being there right next to Max Heller trying to solve those cases. Recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #50 – The King’s Guard & Radiance Of Tomorrow

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today two completely different reads, but both worthwhile. The King’s Guard is the third and final Fire And Thorns novella and without doubt my favorite of the bunch. And I have been wanting to read Radiance Of Tomorrow forever, especially since Ishmael Beah‘s memoir made such an impact. This fictional story also set in his country Sierra Leone is another powerful and heartbreaking read.


Title: The King’s Guard
(Fire And Thorns #0.7)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 30th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 19th 2018
Pages: 111

“The less you say, the more your words will matter.”


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I have been reading the Fire And Thorns novellas before tackling the sequel, and I have to say this third and final one is probably my favorite of the bunch. The King’s Guard is partly set in the royal palace and is partly an adventure and rescue mission. Hector makes a great main character of this novella and his character is very easy to like. The writing is solid as always and I managed to read it in no time at all… The plot and setting are well fleshed out for a novella and I had a great time reading this one. These novellas are a great addition to the original series and especially the last two novellas are without doubt worth the read if you enjoy the series.


Title: Radiance Of Tomorrow
Author: Ishmael Beah

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
First published: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 256

“We must live in the radiance of tomorrow, as our ancestors have suggested in their tales. For what is yet to come tomorrow has possibilities, and we must think of it, the simplest glimpse of that possibility of goodness. That will be our strength. That has always been our strength.”


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A Long Way Gone is one of the most devastating and heartbreaking memoirs I’ve read to this date, and well written at that. I’ve been meaning to read Radiance Of Tomorrow for years now, and I’m glad I’ve finally had the opportunity to do so. While Radiance Of Tomorrow is a fictional story this time around, it has the same setting in Sierra Leone and the same emotional rollercoaster ride. Make sure to brace yourself before you start this one, because it won’t be a happy journey. Radiance Of Tomorrow tells the story of what happens in the ruined village Imperi after the war in Sierra Leone ended. The beginning sets the tone of what will become a heartbreaking, devastating and very emotional read, with little lights shining upon the hope the characters have things will become better in the future. Descriptions of both characters and setting are excellently done and I loved the ‘fusion’ of different languages as the author translated expressions from other languages literally to describe things. This book shows us what it was like for the locals after the war, the struggles still there as they try to survive with all odds against them. You will take the characters under your wing and suffer with them as setbacks occur… Radiance Of Tomorrow has a wonderful bigger message and is without doubt a very powerful and emotional read. I’m glad I decided to finally pick up!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #45 – The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo & Orange Is The New Black

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around not only two books belonging to a completely different genre, but also two completely different reactions to the story. Despite not being my typical genre, I absolutely loved The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. I should have never doubted all those raving reviews! Orange Is The New Black on the other hand was a huge disappointment.


Title: The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: September 2nd 2018
Pages: 388

“No one is all good or all bad. I know this, of course, I had to learn it at a young age. But sometimes it’s easy to forget just how true it is.”


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Fact: I’ve been a tiny bit afraid to pick up this one. Partly because of all those raving reviews and you all know how I react to hyped books most of the time, and partly because it’s not my typical genre… But I should have never doubted those reviews. The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo had me hook, line and sinker. Not only was I impressed by the writing style right from the very first page, it was the story itself that fascinated me as well. The idea of the biography, the aged actress finally revealing all about her past… Everything just clicked for me. Even though Evelyn Hugo herself is not exactly likeable and has done some horrendous things in her life, somehow between the way she was portrayed in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo and the way she tells Monique all her secrets without hiding the ugly details she really grows on you. I was actually surprised by just how much I was able to connect to her character! I also loved how big of a role diversity played in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. It was interesting to see how gay, lesbian and bisexual characters were treated in that particular era, and how the views on the lgbt community affected the Hollywood stars. The historical setting in general is very well done and I highly enjoyed fully diving into that era. I also enjoyed the way this story was told: partly set in the present as Evelyn finally tells her story to Monique, and mostly set in the past, where Evelyn gives us her life story through her seven husbands she has been with during her life. My favorite characters were without doubt Harry and Celia, and the character development in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is sublime. I never imagined enjoying this book so much, but this is one of those books that you just HAVE to try even if you aren’t sure the genre would be for you. Trust me, you will regret it if you don’t.


Title: Orange Is The New Black
Author: Piper Kerman

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: April 6th 2010
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Finished reading: September 3rd 2018
Pages: 298

“Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the world, a place where the U.S. government now puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient-people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled.”


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I actually saw the first episode of the TV series based on this memoir a while back, but I decided to not continue watching as I wasn’t impressed by what I had seen. I still wanted to give the memoir a go though, mostly because I normally never watch a series or movie before reading the book in the first place. So when Orange Is The New Black fitted one of the N.E.W.T. prompts, of course I saw it as a sign to pick it up. Sadly, it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for. It seems my feelings during my supershort experience watching the TV series pretty much summed up my feelings for this memoir as well. What went wrong for me? First of all, I never got used to the writing style or tone, which of course made it harder to connect to the story. Secondly, I had a huge problem with Piper Kerman herself. She comes over as someone mostly self-centered, who sees herself as someone above the rest and doesn’t seem to want to admit what she did back in 1993 was wrong. Reading about her views on the prison world made me cringe at points, and while it was interesting to learn more about some of the inmates, I felt it lacked coherence and the story just didn’t flow for me. More importantly, I felt she was trying to be too politically correct and by saying she wasn’t discriminating, it mostly came over as the other way around. The ending was also really abrupt, and didn’t give real closure after such a detailed description of her time in jail. The story dragged at points and it was hard to keep myself interested and make it to the end… The fact that I did was more due to the other characters involved than Piper Kerman herself. All in all unfortunately not exactly a winner for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #39: Ink And Bone & The Mysterious Affair At Styles

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around another two titles for the Magical Readathon: O.W.L. Edition. The first, Ink And Bone, I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, but wasn’t as good as I would have hoped after absolutely loving the Stillhouse Lake series. The second, The Mysterious Affair At Styles, is part of a promise to myself to finally start reading more of Agatha Christie‘s work… It was entertaining enough, but I still prefer her And Then There Were None.


Title: Ink And Bone
(The Great Library #1)
Author: Rachel Caine

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: July 7th 2015
Publisher: NAL
Finished reading: August 15th 2018 
Pages: 352

“You have ink in your blood, boy, and no help for it. Books will never be just a business to you.”


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I have had The Great Library series on my TBR for way too long… After my love for the Stillhouse Lake books, I just knew I had to give in and finally try more of her work. And let’s be honest: who can resist after that cover and blurb? I had really high expectations when I started reading Ink And Bone, and this just might have been the problem here. I was really surprised it took me a long long time to get into the story… I can’t exactly put my finger on the way, because the writing itself is excellent, but it might have been the slowish pace or my lack of connection to the plot itself. There is no doubt there is a lot to love in Ink And Bone, from the main bookish references, the idea of the Library to the main characters being trained to work for the Library and the steampunk elements… And of course the war and the Burners threatening the peace. But somehow, I just didn’t feel it. I felt some of the spark was missing, and only towards the final part did that spark finally ignite. The conspiracy plot and the promise of a whole lot more action and twists makes me curious about the second book, and the final part of Ink And Bone is definitely what saved the story for me.


Title: The Mysterious Affair At Styles
(Hercule Poirot #1)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Classics, Mystery, Thriller
First published: 1920
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: August 15th 2018
Pages: 304

“You gave too much rein to your imagination. Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.”


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I’m almost ashamed to admit I’ve only recently started discovering Agatha Christie‘s books, starting with And Then There Were None in 2016. I then read Murder On The Orient Express earlier this year, going against my self imposed rule to try and always read series in order. So this is me trying to make up for that and starting at the beginning, where it all once started. The Mysterious Affair At Styles is actually her very first book and it was interesting to discover how her long career had begun. This first introduction to the famous Hercule Poirot was an interesting one. The references to the war were interesting and gave the story a little something extra. True, the pace was a tad slow and this story is more about cleverly concealed twists and descriptions than real suspense. It was interesting to see how the case evolved over time and how Hastings tried to figure out what really happened, and his interactions with Poirot himself. I figured out the basics of the ending early on, but being able to see the techniques Agatha Christie used to reach that ending was still satisfying. All in all not my favorite, but I’m definitely looking forward to continue the series.


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ARC REVIEW: The Impossible Girl – by Lydia Kang

Title: The Impossible Girl
Author: Lydia Kang
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
First published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: August 13th 2018
Pages: 364

“One always thinks one has forever, and that tomorrow will come to wipe away yesterday’s misfortunes and mistakes to start anew.”

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

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I was intrigued by this title as soon as I saw that cover and read the blurb. I have a weak spot for historical fiction, and the promise of a 1850 setting combined with something a whole lot more sinister (grave robbing) and something fascinating (medical anomalies) sounded too good to be true. But this is exactly what The Impossible Girl delivers, and in a very solid way as well. Between the writing and descriptions it feels as if you were back in 1850 New York along with the main characters, and that is always a great sign of a well developed historical setting. But it is not the setting alone that catches the eye. The main spotlight is for the main character Cora, who is absolutely fascinating. Not only was she born with two hearts, she is also a female resurrectionist in an environment and time not kind to women. Both romance and the mystery of the suspicious deaths are well woven into a plot that will manage to keep your attention. There are also a few twists that will most likely manage to surprise you! It shows that Lydia Kang has medical knowledge, and it was interesting to learn a little more about the different medical anomalies. I also appreciated that while the romance was there, it wasn’t the main focus of the story and therefore didn’t disturb the balance of a very interesting plot. All in all a highly entertaining and slightly disturbing read… Perfect for fans of historical mystery reads with a hint of paranormal! Cora is a character you won’t forget soon.

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Cora Lee has been born out of wedlock, daughter of a wealthy sociality and a Asian immigrant, but that is not the most notable thing about her. In 1850 New York, she is the only female resurrectionist and very good at her job at that. But that is not the only thing; she is also hiding a secret. Because the very same anatomists that pay her big sums of money for bodies with the strangest of anomalies would pay a fortune to get their hands on her very own body. Cora is the girl born with two hearts, a legend among grave robbers and in mortal danger if her secret ever comes out.

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If you are looking for something different to read, don’t mind disturbing the dead and enjoy a well developed historical setting and a strong main character, The Impossible Girl is just the book for you. The perfect balance of a strong historical setting, a dose of creepy, a mystery, some violence and romance makes this story work like a charm. It was interesting to see the story and the characters evolve and I had a great time reading this one.


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