ARC REVIEW: Remember Me – by Mario Escobar

Title: Remember Me
Author: Mario Escobar
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: September 14th 2020
Pages: 384
(Originally published in Spanish: ‘Recuérdame’)

“I learned a long time ago that to see what’s right in front of us requires enormous effort, because there’s no man so blind as the one who doesn’t want to see.”

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

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I knew I just HAD to get a copy of Remember Me as soon as I saw that it was a Spanish Civil War novel. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history, and I’ve studied the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath during my Uni years… I actually did hear of the Children Of Morelia already, although I had forgotten about the exact details and I thought this story would be the perfect way to refresh my memory as well as see those historical details combined into a historical fiction read. While I did end up having mixed feelings about this story, both the fact that it’s based on historical events and its incorporation into the plot were probably the strongest element of this story.

Remember Me has multiple international settings as we follow Marco Alcalde and his sisters on their journey. It all starts in Madrid, a city that has a special place in my heart after having lived and studied there for eight months… The mentions of different places within that city brought back memories of my time there and really made the setting come alive for me. I also enjoyed reading about their journey and their time in Mexico, and I loved the fact that I was able to improve my knowledge about this part of Spanish history in general.

The descriptions of the historical situation and escalating violence and struggles during the Spanish Civil War set the right tone for what should have been an emotionally devastating and heartbreaking read. And here is where things went wrong for me… I can’t deny that the events described and the struggles Marco and his family have to face are horrifying, and they do give you an accurate description of the hardships people had to face during and after the civil war. BUT. Sadly, I just couldn’t find any real character development or personality in any of the main characters. I couldn’t for the life of me describe any of the characters by their personality; it is as if they were just tools to describe what happened to the children of Morelia in general and they just lack any characteristics to make them feel unique and real. This made it extremely hard to connect to them and feel for their situation in particular. And I think that if I weren’t so interested in anything related to the Spanish Civil War, I probably would have struggled to make it to the final page. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad read, but it feels more like a summary of the historical events related to the Children of Morelia rather than a historical fiction novel with properly developed characters and emotions. While I feel sad that I wasn’t able to enjoy the story better, I’m still glad I read it for the things I learned about the Spanish Civil War alone though… So I guess Remember Me can go both ways for you depending on how much you care about properly developed and believable characters and/or if you prefer a focus on the historical details instead.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Sight Unseen – by Sandra Ireland @22_ireland @BirlinnBooks @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Sight Unseen Love Books Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Kelly Lacey for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was fully intrigued by this book as soon as I read the blurb, and I most definitely enjoyed my time with this story. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Sight Unseen
(A Sarah Sutherland Thriller #1)
Author: Sandra Ireland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 6th 2020
Publisher: Polygon
Finished reading: July 27th 2020
Pages: 256

“Stories are like puzzles, charity shop jigsaws with half the pieces missing. It’s up to you to fill in the blanks, let your mind form a version of the true picture.”

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

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I admit that I was fully intrigued as soon as I read the blurb of Sight Unseen. The promise of the 1648 flashbacks and a world of witches, scorcery and folklore to contrast the contemporary sounded absolutely fantastic and frankly simply irresistible. I had a feeling that I would enjoy my time with this first book of a new series, and my instincts most definitely turned out to be right. My first meeting with Sarah Sutherland was without doubt a success!

The first thing that stands out is the setting. Sight Unseen takes place in the fictional Kilgour, a small Scottish town with a fascinating history. The many descriptions really made the setting come alive for me and kind of made me wish the town was real so I could visit it someday… The flavor of Scotland is well represented and turns the setting into a real treat. We got to learn more about both the surroundings and the history of Kilgour through the tourist walk the main character Sarah hosts, and it was without doubt an unique way of getting to know the Scottish town.

I loved everything related to the 1648 flashbacks to Alie Gowdie and Rev. William Wilkie’s time. Alie is known as the Kilgour witch and has an intriguing history, and I loved her connection with Sarah as she is currently living in the same house as Alie once inhabited. Sarah has investigated Alie’s life for a long time, and it has been interesting to see more of the true story around Alie slowly come to light. The 1648 scenes without doubt took the story to the next level, and added more dept to the plot as well. The way the new information is comporated into the plot in different ways is a nice touch, and Sarah basically plays historical detective as she tries to unravel the truth of 300 years ago.

I also loved the hint of the paranormal and supernatural in Sight Unseen. We have the story of the witches and the witch hunt of the 17th century, the talk of the devil, the folklore elements, the sightings by Sarah’s father John… All these elements definitely have the story a hint of the haunted and they were a nice contrast with the daily life and other elements in play in the plot. Oh yes, the contemporary storyline is also packed with ‘ordinary’ elements: Sarah’s background, her relationship with her backpacking daughter, Sarah caring for her father, her work in the supermarket, her second job storytelling… All doused with a dose of mystery, romance and a hint of action to spice things up. It was especially fascinating to read more about the so-called Charles Bonnet Syndrome as part of the explanation, as I hadn’t heard of it before and I liked how this element was developed in the story.

It is true that this story could have done without the romance, as it felt forced and not naturally developed. I didn’t think the romance added anything substantial to the plot either, and only distracted from the whole situation with John as well as Alie’s story. Sight Unseen uses a dual POV structure by switching between Rachel and her father John. On top of this, we get 1648 diary fragments written by Rev. William Wilkie as well as different POV fragments which identity is revealed later. The writing is easy on the eye and engaging, and while the pace is slow in points overall Sight Unseen is without doubt a solid and very entertaining read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandra Ireland was awarded a Carnegie-Cameron scholarship to study for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee, graduating with a distinction in 2014. Her work has appeared in various publications and women’s magazines. She is the author of Beneath the Skin (2016), Bone Deep (2018) and The Unmaking of Ellie Rook (2019). She lives in Carnoustie, Scotland.

BUY LINK


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YVO’S SHORTIES #175 – Fruit Of The Drunken Tree & The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two books I’ve had really high expectations for… Sadly, Fruit Of The Drunken Tree didn’t live up to those expectations at all, but The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill turned out to be a delightful read.


Title: Fruit Of The Drunken Tree
Author: Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Doubleday
Finished reading: July 21st 2020
Pages: 304

“War always seemed distant from Bogotá, like niebla descending on the hills and forest of the countryside and jungles. The way it approached us was like fog as well, without us realizing, until it sat embroiling everything around us.”

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Okay… I’m still not sure what happened here, as I really expected to find a new favorite in this story instead. I’ve always had a special interest in stories set in Latin America, and even more so if they are related to the drugs world and/or war on drugs… I thought this story with its 1990s Colombian setting would be a perfect fit for me, and the blurb of Fruit Of The Drunken Tree sounded fantastic as well, but somehow in the end it wasn’t ment to be. Even though I still believe the premise is both powerful, shocking and heartbreaking, the story itself failed to blow me away. I think the main reason I had such a strong negative reaction to Fruit Of The Drunken Tree despite my fascination for the topic had probably to do with the fact that I felt a strong aversion towards the writing style. I didn’t feel it flowed properly and I never connected to the writing, making it very hard to convince myself to keep reading as a result. I have to confess that I skimread at least half of the story; wanting to DNF, but not being able to let the story go completely until I knew what happened. This mostly had to do with the plot and the historical details rather than the main characters themselves, who in turn I never managed to warm up to either. I think this might have been due to the way they were described as well as the way they acted, or maybe even due to the fact that the writing style itself rubbed me the wrong way to such extreme. Either way, sadly Fruit Of The Drunken Tree ended up mosty definitely not being my cup of tea.


Title: The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 9th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: July 23rd 2020
Pages: 351

“She enjoyed people – she really did – she just needed to take them in homeopathic doses; a little of the poison was the cure.”

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I have been craving a good contemporary, and I admit that I have been eyeing The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill for a while now. I love bookish elements in my stories, and this book sounded like a perfect fit… And I definitely ended up having a brilliant time with this story. As I already expected, Nina was easy to like and relate to, and I loved getting to know her better. The characters in general are easy to connect to and I enjoyed spending time with them. Of course I love just how big of a role both books and pop culture play in Nina’s life and the story itself; with references to multiple books, the Harry Potter fandom, Game Of Thrones, The Simpsons, Friends… And we have the bookstore itself in the spotlight too of course. The plot might be a bit cheesy and predictable in points, but personally I was having too much fun to be bothered by it. The romance is quite cheesy as well, but as I liked both characters I really didn’t mind all that much either. I loved seeing Nina connect to the newly found family, and the trivia element was brilliant. The writing itself is super engaging and I literally flew through this story. Fans of the genre will most likely enjoy The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill as much as I did!


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ARC REVIEW: Opium And Absinthe – by Lydia Kang

Title: Opium And Absinthe
Author: Lydia Kang
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
First published: July 1st 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: July 3rd 2020
Pages: 379

“A vampire was shackled, it seemed, to the lusts and needs of his body. Tillie, too, felt her world as a closed casket, always around her, always constricting her.”

*** 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 admit that it was cover love at first sight when I saw Opium And Absinthe, but I was completely sold as soon as I read the blurb. I’ve enjoyed Lydia Kang‘s books, including The Impossible Girl, in the past, and another historical setting with a medical twist sounded simply fantastic. On top of that, Opium And Absinthe promises to present us with a fantasy/horror retelling element involving Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, which had me even more excited. I know I’m basically allergic to vampire stories, but I did actually enjoy the original Dracula classic and I have to say that I really liked how Lydia Kang decided to incorporate this element into her story. It definitely ended up being one of the things that stood out for me!

That said, despite having high expectations for this story, somehow it didn’t work as well as I thought it would for me. I’m struggling to point out exactly why, but I’ll try to explain below. Part of the reason probably has to do with the slow pace as well as a bit of a repetitive plot with surprisingly dull moments. The slower pace made it harder to stay focused, and the lack of surprises and dull moments didn’t help either of course. I know that the book is set in 1899 and things were different back then (I actually enjoyed those historical descriptions), but the plot was just too repetitive and dull for me and it didn’t manage to engage me as I thought it would.

I also struggled with the constant repetition of the opium, morphine and even heroin use as well as the focus on just how dependent the main character Tilly becomes on it as it starts taking over her life and actions. While in a way realistically portrayed, I felt like it was turned into too much of a cliche and I didn’t feel like I was able to get to know the character too well due to this focus on Tillie’s spiralling addiction and the other characters both reacting to and fomenting said addiction. The characters themselves are not likeable at all (with the exception of Ian maybe) and as a result I struggled to connect to them. The main focus is on Tillie, and I found her to be too frustrating to really care for her and once again I found the focus on her substance abuse to be too much of a cliche and it took away the focus from more interesting elements such as the investigation into Lucy’s death, the medical details and the vampire element.

I confess that I saw most of the plot twists coming from a mile away, although I did manage to stumble upon one or two surprises. This wasn’t enough to make up for the things that didn’t work for me though. I liked the historical setting, the Dracula element and the investigation into Lucy’s death as well as the medical details… But the slow pace, the repetitive and sometimes dull plot and constant focus on the substance abuse instead of a proper focus on character and plot development ended up being mostly a letdown for me.


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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 #167 – The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time & Finding Dorothy

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a modern classic and a more recent release I’ve been meaning to read ever since it was released… My time with The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time sadly didn’t up being successful, but Finding Dorothy did hit the mark for me.


Title: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: July 31st 2003
Publisher: Vintage Digital
Finished reading: May 30th 2020 
Pages: 292

“I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them”


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I know I’m probably the last person on the planet to read this book… I’m not sure why I never did, but at least I now know what all the references to this story are about. Sadly, it turned out to be yet another unpopular opinion review though. Oh yes, unfortunately The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time and me weren’t ment to be… First of all, I have to say that I do applaude the originality of the writing style as well as the author enabling us to get a glimpse inside the head of a fifteen-year-old teenager on the autism spectrum. It shows that the author really investigated the matter thoroughly and it’s without doubt the strongest point of this book. The thing is… I somehow got tired of that unique writing style real fast, and the tone sounded really young to be considered YA to be honest. I know Christopher is on the autism spectrum and not like other teenagers, but still… I also hated the fact that animal cruelty appeared in the story, and especially in this banal way. And I wasn’t a fan of the whole cheating/lying about Mother angle either to be honest. All in all I found myself to be unable to connect to this story and I confess that I skimread most of the second half. I still love the idea behind this story and the fact that is shines a spotlight on autism, but sadly the execution just didn’t work for me. Oh well, at least I know this one wasn’t for me now.


Title: Finding Dorothy
Author: Elizabeth Letts
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: February 12th 2019
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: June 3rd 2020
Pages: 352

“Magic isn’t things materializing out of nowhere. Magic is when a lot of people all believe in the same thing at the same time, and somehow we all escape ourselves a little bit and we meet up somewhere, and just for a moment, we taste the sublime.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this story ever since I first heard about Finding Dorothy last year and glowing reviews started popping up. The idea of learning the story behind the famous The Wizard Of Oz book and movie based on real historical facts sounded absolutely fascinating, and I think it’s one of the reasons this book worked so well for me. Basically, Finding Dorothy gives us two for one: not only do we get to follow the making of the The Wizard Of Oz movie with Judy Garland in 1939, but we also go back in time as we get to know both the author Frank L. Baum and his wife Maud. The story switches back between past and present, using the main character Maud as a red thread to weave the two different storylines together… Both storylines complimented each other; the more glamorous 1939 setting giving contrast to the sometimes more harsh and even dire circumstances Maud and Frank found themselves in over the years. While I did find the pace to be a tad slow in parts, the story as a whole did not disappoint and I had a wonderful time learning more about Maud and her family as well as the making of the original movie. Especially little references to the future book that started popping up and being able to read more about Frank’s (probable) inspiration was a wonderful touch. This is fiction mixed with historical facts at its best, and both historical fiction and The Wizard Of Oz fans will be delighted.


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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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ARC REVIEW: Where The Lost Wander – by Amy Harmon

Title: Where The Lost Wander
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: April 28th 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: February 22nd 2020
Pages: 348

“That’s what hope feels like: the best air you’ve ever breathed after the worst fall you’ve ever taken. It hurts.”

*** 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 think that most people will know by now that I’m a huge fan of Amy Harmon‘s work and I’ve been eagerly anticipating her newest title Where The Lost Wander ever since I first heard about it. I was absolutely stoked when I was given the chance to read this story early, and it was without doubt another excellent story. While not my absolute favorite title to date, this is still a beautifully written story that is most definitely able to provoke strong emotions. Without doubt of the same high quality I’ve come to expect of Amy Harmon‘s books!

There is a lot to love in Where The Lost Wander. First up is the historical setting in 19th century United States. Not only is this historical setting wonderfully and exhaustively described, but these same descriptions really made the setting come alive and made it feel as if you were right back in the 19th century. Both the social conflicts, the Native Americans and their culture as well as the racism and struggles are realistically described and added a lot of dept to the story. I personally loved getting a little more insight in the daily life of Native Americans from that era and John was without doubt the perfect character to show us both ‘worlds’.

The plot itself is simply intriguing. The whole ‘looking for a better life in California’ and braving a 1000+ mile trip to get there with only a wagon and some oxes and mules is most definitely not something we could imagine ourselves doing today… It’s a long road filled with dangers, sickness and hardship, but also hope and the promise of a new life and new possibilities for those who reach their final destination. The journey of this particular cast of characters is again thoroughly and realistically described, without leaving out the blunt and sometimes heartbreaking moments along the way. Likewise, the Native American angle and what happened to Naomi are used to give us more insight in both cultures, with the help of John’s character as a tentative connection between both.

Both the writing and the development of the characters are simply wonderful, but that is what I’ve come to expect of anything Amy Harmon writes to be honest. There is a reason she is one of my absolute favorite authors! There are quite a few characters in Where The Lost Wander, but the main focus is on both Naomi and John. The story is told with the help of a dual POV structure, alternating between Naomi and John to help us show both sides especially when they are not together. It is extremely easy to warm up to and grow to love both characters, root for them and keep fingers and toes crossed for a happy ending… And yes, this includes a lot of both heartwarming and hearbreaking moments along the way.

I think the only thing that nagged me a bit was the slow pace. Where The Lost Wander is considerably slow going and at times it was just too slow for me… Although with a story that is mostly focused on the characters, this slower pace shouldn’t come as a total surprise. In short, while this wasn’t my absolute favorite Amy Harmon, I might just have set my expectations too high to begin with. Where The Lost Wander is still an excellent read and if you love slower and character-driven historical fiction with a wonderful cast of characters, a love story and a social conflict angle, you will find yourself falling hopelessly in love with this story.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lost Orphan (The Foundling) – by Stacey Halls

Title: The Lost Orphan
Author: Stacey Halls
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: March 31st 2020
Pages: 352

“It was the greatest difference between us. To her, money was a pool to drink deeply from. Me, I was parched.”

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

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I confess that I was in the minority last year and somehow I wasn’t that big of a fan of  Stacey Halls‘ debut The Familiars despite being intrigued the premise. After hearing a lot of positive things about her second book The Foundling (or The Lost Orphan), I just couldn’t resist giving her work another go anyway, especially since I was once again intrigued by the blurb. I’m glad I made that decision now, because this story most definitely hit the mark for me.

I’m a fan of the historical fiction genre in general and both the 18th century setting in London and the plot itself were excellently developed in The Lost Orphan. Most historical fiction stories I’ve had the chance to read are set in Victorian London, so it was a nice change of scenery to go back one more century and get a proper glimpse of the 18th century. The descriptions and development of the setting are extensive and really set the right tone for the rest of the story. The story behind the The Foundling hospital and poor women giving up their babies is a tragic one… And Stacey Halls definitely raised an interesting question: in an era where the poor are mostly illiterate, how can the women be certain to ever see their babies again if they want to reclaim them, even if they have a token? This question is the base of the plot of this story, and it was intriguing to see it developed and have both sides of the story explained.

The Lost Orphan uses two different POVs, and this way we get to see both sides of London society as well as both sides of the story of the missing baby. Bess (Eliza) represents the poor and is the one who was forced to give up her baby six years ago as she wasn’t married and the baby’s father was dead. Alexandra represents the wealthy and shows us a widow with mental health issues (including a form of agoraphobia and OCD) trying to raise her only child. The story switches between the two women to help us show both their stories and give us a glimpse of how both the poor and rich lived back then.Their lives meet when Eliza starts working as a nursemaid for Alexandra’s daughter Charlotte… And although the truth about the situation can be guessed easily, the development of both characters, their background and reasons to do what they do really enhanced the story for me. The Lost Orphan is mostly character-driven and focuses on character development and growth rather than including a lot of action… Although the chapters involving Bess (Eliza) are a lot more lively.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but what I can say is that if you enjoy well written historical fiction with thoroughly developed and basically flawed characters as well as a story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Lost Orphan or The Foundling is an excellent choice.


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ARC REVIEW: The Body In The Garden – by Katharine Schellman

Title: The Body In The Garden
(Lily Adler Mystery #1)

Author: Katharine Schellman
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: March 7th 2020
Pages: 336

“Secrets. Lily narrowed her eyes as she looked around the crowded ballroom. She could practically feel them in the air: the secrets, the gossip, and the scandal.”

*** 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 confess it was the gorgeous cover that first lured me in, but as soon as I read the blurb I was completely convinced I had to add The Body In The Garden to my wishlist. I love a good historical mystery and between the 1815 London setting and the hint at a newly widowed main character investigating a murder I was fully intrigued. This debut is the first of a new historical (cozy) mystery series and while it failed to blow me away personally, I do believe cozy mystery fans will be in for a treat.

I think that part of the problem The Body In The Garden didn’t work all that well for me was the fact that this story might simply not have been a right fit. While I love historical fiction in general and I do love a good mystery, I tend to prefer mysteries with a slightly faster pace and less frivolous characters and high society talk a lot better. This is of course my own fault as I should have read the blurb more thoroughly, but it is what it is I guess. That said, there is no denying that the pace of this first Lily Alder Mystery book is considerably slow. True, the murder itself happens quickly enough, but the aftermath tends to focus more on society events and interactions rather than the murder investigation itself. For someone who always enjoys the investigation part of a murder mystery the most, this was a bit of a let down… The more suspenseful parts were a bit too far apart for me and I struggled to stay focused on the story as it was. That said, I do have to say that the final twist was brilliant developed and a pleasant surprise to end this story with.

The historical setting in The Body In The Garden was well developed, and I could really appreciate how the author incorporated race problematics into the story with the help of two mixed-race characters (Ofelia and Jack). It was interesting to see 19th century society react to both characters. Talking about the characters, we can see quite a big cast of main and secundary characters in this story, which will definitely keep you on your toes if you want to keep up with who is who. Jack is easy to like as a character, and his rogue charm comes of the pages beautifully. That said, I can’t say that I was a fan of Lily. While I appreciate her stubbornness and fierce belief in what is right and wrong, it soon started to get a bit old that she was always right and that she didn’t want anyone helping her. The whole constant remembering of her deceased husband was really getting annoying as well; I know her being a widow is fundamental for the plot as she wouldn’t be able to move so freely otherwise, but that doesn’t mean we have to be reminded of it every few pages… Also, her behavior seemed to be a bit too modern for the time period she lived in.

The writing itself is easy on the eye, and I still believe the idea behind this new historical (cozy) mystery series is fascinating. I loved the historical setting in 1815 London and the final twist was without doubt well played. I did have some issues with The Body In The Garden, including the pace, focus on frivolous high society events and characters, but I also think this might not have been exactly right story for me. If you enjoy character-driven and slower paced cozy mysteries with a historical setting and a hint of crime, you will be in for a treat with The Body In the Garden.


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