ARC REVIEW: Proof Of Lies – by Diana Rodriguez Wallach @EntangledTeen

Title: Proof Of Lies
(Anastasia Phoenix #1)
Author: Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Finished reading: February 23rd 2018
Pages: 400

“People don’t become powerful without having secrets.”

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


I have stumbled across this series recently after I was invited to join the blog tour for the sequel. I love myself a good spy thriller and I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Proof Of Lies. An international setting, conspiracy theories… Can it get any better than that? This is definitely my kind of story and decided to dive into the first book straight away. I confess it took me a little while, but as soon as the story changed setting I was completely hooked. Where the story starts out a little slow despite everything that happens, the second half was that fully made my heart race. Partly because it was set in Italy and the descriptions of the different places were very well done, but also because of the non stop action and plot twists as Anastasia is trying to find her sister. The first part set in the US did serve very well as an introduction and base line which the rest of the plot stands on. Another thing I really liked (probably the philologist in me speaking here) were the introduction of (mainly) Spanish phrases into the text. I did detect some spelling mistakes, but it’s always tricky when it comes to foreign languages in texts. The mention of local food was another nice touch, although I do have to say that even though I’m Dutch I had never heard of ‘spekdik’ before. Might just be me though… As for the characters, I kind of have a weak spot for Marcus, probably because he’s from Madrid and I spent some time there studying abroad. And I agree with Anastasia: I do love a Spanish accent. Talking about Anastasia though, I think she is the main reason I couldn’t rate this story higher than I did. Instead of feeling sorry and rooting for her, I found myself rather annoyed by her dramatic, whiny and dramaqueen attitude. I can understand feeling low after all that happened, but she really took it to extremes… The constant ‘I can’t have anything positive happening to me while my sister is gone’ and ‘I shouldn’t be flirting for the same reason’ and the crying in general really were too much for me. And as for the romance… The romance itself wasn’t as bad, but Anastasia’s attitude towards it was. One moment she was all over him, then the next she’s all cold and distant because it’s not fair to her sister… What about the other person in the equation? Ugh. The writing really flows though and makes it easy to keep turning those pages. And while I had my guesses, the plot twists and conspiracy theory elements are well executed and mostly managed to surprise me. Also, that ending! I will definitely be looking forward to the sequel to find out what happens next. In short, this YA spy thriller is fast-paced and entertaining and perfect for fans of the Embassy Row and The Conspiracy Of Us series.


Anastasia Phoenix has been moving all around the globe ever since she was little, her scientist parents being transferred multiple times over the years and taking their two daughters with them. Their latest home in Boston became a lot more permanent when both parents die in a car crash, and Anastasia’s older sister Keira is left to take care of both of them. But now Keira has disappeared and the police presume her dead… The only one who believes she is still alive is Anastasia, and she is determined to find her. But that is easier said than done…


I have a weak spot for both an international setting and the whole spy/conspiracy theory element, so reading Proof Of Lies was an easy choice. Both these elements were what made this first book of a new series into a succesful and entertaining read for me. While I can’t say I liked the main character, not only because she is over dramatic and whiny, but also because she is quite naive and doesn’t seem to care about possible consequences of her actions, I somehow still very much enjoyed reading about her search for her sister. The non stop action and international setting in the second half definitely had a lot to do with that. I did wonder about the credibility of it all (A teenager in Europe without supervision?? Everything that happens to them in general??), but I guess at least the second part can be explained away by the conspiracy itself. All in all without doubt still a very entertaining read and I will be looking forward to read the sequel.


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ARC REVIEW: Missing – by Monty Marsden


Title: Missing
Author: Monty Marsden

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Aria
Finished reading: February 1st 2017
Pages: 266
Rating 2,5qqq

“Patience is like a tree – the roots are bitter, but the fruits are most sweet.”

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


This story was actually published over two months ago, but somehow it got mixed up with other ARCs and I didn’t read it on time. Oops? I always have a weak spot for a good thriller and I have an (unhealthy?) obsession for stories about serial killers. Add an Italian setting and I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Missing. The author Monty Marsden is actually Italian; something I didn’t realize immediately, but it shows in the detailed descriptions and this book is in fact actually a translation. I was completely ready to dive into this serial killer mystery, but I ended up taking a very long time to finish it. I’m not sure if part of the essence of this story is lost in translation, but it all just felt way too chaotic and it took a long time before things started to make sense for me. The many POV switches distracted from the main plot and had me confused which characters were actually important in the story. That said, the introduction of Claps, suffering from aphasia (the struggle to comprehend and use words and verbal expressions) added a whole different level to the plot. He is a truly fascinating character and I enjoyed following his development. All in all Missing is not the best mystery I’ve read, although part might have been lost in translation and it did have its charm.


Ami lives with her family in a little village in Lombardy, a seemingly safe and dusty place. But that is until one day Ami steps out of her house to go to school and never comes back nor did she ever make it to school. Her father raises the alarm and they start an immediate search for the little girl. Police Commisioner Sensi leads the investigation, and they seem to have found a trail straight away. But three months later, they still haven’t found Ami and they don’t have a solid lead as to what happened to her. Sensi decides to talk to his old friend Dr. Claps, a renowned criminologist who had to retire after suffering from aphasia. Because Ami doesn’t seem to be the only little girl who went missing, and Sensi needs all the help he can get to solve the mystery…


I was really looking forward to Missing, especially after I found out about its Italian setting and the involvement of a serial killer. It’s not that the case itself isn’t intriguing and I really enjoyed the setting, but I somehow I had a really hard time reading this story. It just all felt chaotic with too many different characters/POVs being introduced without a proper connection… And I had a hard time understanding the relevance of some of the chapters. Things started to make sense later on in the story, but for me it was too little too late. Missing is a story with a lot of potential and interesting characters, and I kind of wish my Italian would be good enough to read the original version just to see if it was just the translation that let me down…


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ARC REVIEW: Eternal War: Armies Of Saints – by Livio Gambarini


Title: Eternal War: Armies Of Saints
Author: Livio Gambarini
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: June 5th 2015
Finished reading: January 25th 2016
Pages: 184
Rating 3,5qqq

“Life is filled with doing terrible things and those who want to survive definitely have to do the worst of them.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqqEver since my Latin classes and visiting Rome twice (and Pompeii once) during high school I have been in love with Italy and its history. Being lucky enough to have lived in Southern Italy during three months has only deepened that connection… So when I was asked if I wanted to read a historical fiction/fantasy story both written by an Italian author (Livio Gambarini) and set in medieval Florence, I immediately said yes. I was lucky enough to receive an English translation published by Acheron Books, which really enabled me to properly enjoy Eternal War: Armies Of Saints (my Italian unfortunately is less than mediocre). The mix between fantasy and historical fiction is well done and I liked the fact that the story was set in Dante’s Florence. The story keeps switching between the material and spiritual world and this can become a bit confusing in the beginning, but once I got used to it the connection was actually quite interesting. Both Guido and Kabal are intriguing characters and the worldbuilding (especially the fantasy elements) is very imaginative. If you like the genre, I would definitely recommend reading this book.

The war between the Guelphs and Ghibellines has been taking its toll on many families, but still their seems to be no end in sight. The conflict seems to go deeper than the two sides realize, as the spirit world seems to be involved in their war as well… Spirits have been guiding over their respective families during centuries, both protecting them and improving their own status in the spirit world. We follow Guido Cavalcanti and the spirit that guides the family, Kabal, as they both try to save the family from being completely destroyed. Guido is both a warrior and a poet, but due to a trick under the spell of the daughter of his enemy. He is determined to marry the girl he loves, but Kabal knows better and tries to both stop Guido from making a mistake and save the city… Will he be able to succeed before it’s too late?


Eternal War: Armies Of Saints is without doubt a very intriguing read that mixes the historical and fantastical elements perfectly. I admit it takes a while to get used to the constant switches between the material and spiritual world, but once I did I really enjoyed this read. I do wish my Italian would have been good enough to read it in the original language, because I have the feeling Livio Gambarini‘s prose could have been appreciated even better in Italian… But I can’t deny I enjoyed the world he created in his novel and the idea of spirits guiding their families and living lives of their own. Recommended if you want to read an interesting historical fiction story with a fantasy twist.

BOOK REVIEW: Masquerade – by Kylie Fornasier


Title: Masquerade
Author: Kylie Fornasier
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: July 23rd 2014
Finished reading: July 27th 2015
Pages: 304
Rating 2

“Venice is a stage, Orelia. Pretend for no other reason than to act like everybody else.”


I decided to read Masquerade mostly because I liked the cover and blurb and needed a book set in the 18th century for the When Are You Reading? challenge. I was expecting a historical fiction novel with many details about Venice and the Carnevale, but unfortunately this novel by Kylie Fornasier is mostly focused on the romance scenes. I guess some people might actually prefer this, but I was really looking forward to a proper historical fiction read… Plus, the main characters weren’t exactly to my liking and were behaving like a bunch of ignorant (and sometimes spoiled) little brats. The prose is mostly average, although there are many Italian words included that might make it difficult to read this novel if you don’t have at least some basic knowledge of the language. There is a glossary in the end to explain what the words mean, but still… I personally felt that only some of the Italian words were actually adding something to the story. (Mostly those related to the Carnevale.) The pace is quite fast though and if you don’t mind annoying characters and are looking for a rather sappy romance story to read on the beach, Masquerade might work for you. I myself was quite disappointed by this read though.


It is the first time Orelia Rossetti arrives in Venice and she is just in time for the Carnevale of 1750. After her mother dies, she has nowhere else to go but to her uncle’s house… A man she has never met so far. When they meet it turns out her mother had a dark secret, and her uncle makes her promise not to tell anyone who she really is. Orelia doesn’t understand why, but she is determined find out at some point… But first his daughters Angelique and Veronica will introduce Orelia to Venice and the many parties during Carnevale. She doesn’t really know how to fit in, having grown up in a small town in the mountains, but with the help of the two sisters she soon starts enjoying the theatres, ballrooms and other fun events. It turns out Orelia is not the only one with a secret…


The blurb sounded very interesting and I was really looking forward to Masquerade. I normally enjoy reading historical fiction, but this is more of a romance novel with some references to the Carnevale. The characters were a bit bland and Orelia’s ‘big’ secret should have played a bigger role in the whole story. It sure would have made this read that much more interesting… Now I was mostly annoyed by the actions of the main characters and the prose could have been better as well. All in all quite a disappointing read!

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Ruins – by Jess Walter


Title: Beautiful Ruins
Author: Jess Walter
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: June 2012
Finished reading: February 16th 2015
Pages: 337
Rating 3

“Stories are people. I’m a story, you’re a story… your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we’re less alone.”


My copy of Beautiful Ruins had been collecting dust on my TBR pile for quite some time before I actually picked it up. When I first saw the cover, I had a flashback of my months living in Southern Italy. So when I found out the story was actually set in a small town along the Italian coastline I was immediately sold. I didn’t realize Jess Walter didn’t stick to the Italian 1962 setting and switches back and forth to contemporary Hollywood though. Those who know me, know I don’t like romance or Hollywood scenes for that matter. I guess that’s why that part of this book let me down; I just didn’t expect Beautiful Ruins to turn out that way. Still, the Italian chapters are interesting. In true historical fiction style, the chapters take you back to 1962 where Pasquale Tursi owns a small hotel and is surprised to have not one, but two American guests staying there at one point. One of them is a retired soldier and now writer (Alvis Bender), the other an actress (Dee Moore) who is sent away from a movie set in Rome when she became ill… The Hollywood chapters are full of cliches and not exactly to my liking; the Hollywood producer Michael Deane a despicable person and hard to relate to. In short, I’m having mixed feelings about this novel, but I guess it’s worth reading if you don’t mind historical fiction being mixed with contemporary Hollywood scenes and (cheesy) romance.


It is 1962 and Pasquale Tursi is back running the only hotel in his small village after his father died. Porto Vergogna is too small to have any tourist attractions, but Pasquale dreams of changing his village into one American tourists would enjoy. An American writer, Alvis Bender, visits his hotel every year, but the young Italian wants more… Then one day his dreams seem to come true when a mysterious American woman shows up at his small beach. Dee Moore is an actress who is part of the Cleopatra movie currently being made in Rome, but she became sick on set… They sent her to Porto Vergogna to recover and wait for a special treatment in Switzerland. Pasquale starts to have feelings for the woman even though they have problems communicating, and doesn’t hesitate helping her when the producers seem to have forgotten Dee. He travels all the way to Rome to confront them, and soon finds out the truth about Dee’s disease…

Meanwhile in contemporary Hollywood, Claire is not happy with her current life. When she started working for famous producer Michael Deane, she didn’t expect to be making cheap TV programs instead of interesting movies… So when they offer her a job as a movie museum curator, she is highly tempted. Her stripclub visiting boyfriend is also getting on her nerves, and she is wondering whether she needs a fresh start… And that is when Shane and Pasquale turn up at the studio. Claire doesn’t know it yet, but her weekend is about to become way more interesting when her boss asks her to help him locate a ghost from the past…


There is also a third storyline set in the UK that I’m not mentioning in the summary because of potential spoilers. What I can say is that this storyline adds some dept to the story and is definitely better than the Hollywood chapters. There were too many cliches used in Beautiful Ruins though, which is a shame because the story itself has a lot of potential. I especially enjoyed the chapters set in Italy; the way Jess Walter describes the scenery makes me want to pack my bags and travel to Italy straight away. Alvis and his unfinished book about his experiences in WWII are a welcoming distraction from the Hollywood scenes and I liked the fact that Jess Walter decided to include some Italian in his prose. (I found out I still remembered some of my crappy Italian, hurray!) In short, Beautiful Ruins is a nice novel to read if you like historical fiction and don’t mind a few cliches and Hollywood scenes… I guess it would be a perfect beach read.