ARC REVIEW: The Murmur Of Bees – by Sofia Segovia @amazonpub

Title: The Murmur Of Bees
Author: Sofia Segovia 
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: March 1st 2015
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: April 7th 2019
Pages: 471
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘El Murmullo De Las Abejas’)

“Simonopio was for the outdoors, for the wild. He was for reading life, not books.”

*** 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 was attracted to this story as a bee to honey right from the very first time I saw it mentioned. I love stories with an international setting and I’m always trying to read more international authors… In The Murmur Of Bees I got both. This story was originally written in Spanish in 2015, and its translation is scheduled to be published later this month. It’s a historical fiction tale set in early 20th century Mexico, where historical facts are mixed with the surreal in such a way that will keep you invested until the very end. With an air of the writing style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Murmur Of Bees tells us the story of a wealthy land owner family and how the appearance of the mysterious Simonopio both saved and changed their lives forever. The writing is lush and wonderful and will truly transport you to a different time and country… It’s a story of love, joy, sadness and desperation; a story of different generations, family and a country damaged by war and the 1918 influenza outbreak. Rather than magical realism, I would call The Murmur Of Bees an extraordinary work of historical fiction with a hint of the surreal. Both Simonopio and his bees and the folklore tales incorporated into stories are incorporated in such a way that they create a perfect balance with the rest of the plot and they give The Murmur Of Bees an unique touch. The historical setting is well developed and it really shows the author has well researched the era and has also included details of historical events partly or completely. The result is a complex and enchanting story and a journey any fan of the genre will enjoy undertaking.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #88 – And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer & The Enchanted

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories I highly enjoyed for different reasons… The novella And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer by one of my favorite authors Fredrik Backman and a story I had to put on hold the first time around but highly enjoyed: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.


Title: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Novella
First published: August 24th 2015
Publisher: Atria books
Finished reading: March 4th 2019
Pages: 97
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Och varje morgon blir vägen hem längre och längre’)

“I’m constantly reading a book with a missing page, and it’s always the most important one.”


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I think most of you are already aware of the fact I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman‘s work… I decided to pick up this novella first before hopefully diving into the Beartown sequel next month. Novellas can go either way for me, as I normally prefer a more developed story, but there are exceptions where I’m able to connect to a short story in the same way. And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer is one of those exceptions. Not only is it good to see Alzheimer in the spotlight, we also see its effects on both the person itself and those close in a refreshing way. This novella has an almost surreal touch where memories and the real world overlap and exist at the same time. I love the way Fredrik Backman uses the prose and memories to help understand what it would be like having a fading memory. Past and present are liquid as we see the grandfather, his son and grandson in different stages of their life in such a way that erases all boundaries. The representation of the grandfather’s memories as a square where persons and objects alike are incorporated is fascinating… Especially how the square changes over time as Alzheimer starts taking over his brain. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking family focused story that is well worth your time.


Title: The Enchanted
Author: Rene Denfeld

Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Phoenix
Finished reading: March 7th 2019
Pages: 233

“After a time, it seemed that the world inside the books became my world. So when I thought of my childhood, it was dandelion wine and ice cream on a summer porch, like Ray Bradbury, and catching catfish with Huck Finn. My own memories receded and the book memories became the real memories, far more than the outside, far more even than in here.”


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I remember first trying to read this story a few years ago and being unable to connect to the magical realism elements of the story… It really shows that there is something as the right or wrong time to pick up a book, because this time I was fully mesmerized by this magical story. The Enchanted isn’t for everyone and if you are not a fan of magical realism I won’t suggest reading it. If you are open to the genre though, this story will prove to be a little gem. The story behind The Enchanted is actually quite dark, as the main setting is inside Death Row of a maximum security prison. We get to know some of the darkest and most dangerous criminals in a very special way, and it’s an interesting as well as very disturbing glimpse inside their heads. I love how we hop between different characters in such a flowing way that really helps keep everything connected. One of the voices only has his identity revealed at the very end, but this doesn’t mean the story doesn’t make sense or is harder to follow. No, you will get swept up in the whirlwind that is this magical story and savour each and every single magical realism element that will help soothen the sometimes difficult and disturbing subjects as (child) abuse, violence and mental health. Rene Denfeld did a fantastic job combining the different elements, waving them together in such a way that will leave you speechless by the time you reach the final page. The writing, the magical realism, the characters, the contrast of the fantastical and brutal reality… It’s true that The Enchanted is not for everyone, but the right person will be just as enchanted as I found myself to be.


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ARC REVIEW: The Bird King – by G. Willow Wilson @groveatlantic

Title: The Bird King
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Grove Press
Finished reading: February 28th 2019
Pages: 440

“Once a story leaves the hands of its author, it belongs to the reader. And the reader may see any number of things, conflicting things, contradictory things.”

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

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I confess: the cover put me under its spell immediately and I knew I wanted to read this story even before I read the blurb. The premise of the story only enhanced my feelings though, as I’ve always had a special connection with Spain and its history. The mention of Granada alone, a city I’ve been lucky enough to visit myself and admire with my own eyes, would have been enough to make me jump up and down out of joy. Add the promise of a historical fiction setting with a focus on the last sultan of Muslim Spain, a setting right in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition and a fantasy twist, and I knew The Bird King was going to be something special. My instincts turned out to be right: this was such a stunning and absolutely fantastic read! It becomes clear from the beginning that the power of The Bird King is in the prose, attention to historical details and the hint of magical realism in part of the elements. The lines between fiction and fantasy are blurred and balanced in such a way that will surely mesmerize you before you reach the final page. The attention to detail and many descriptions really make the story and its characters come alive. We get a glimpse inside the Alhambra and its daily life under the last sultan and all things culture related. We also get an idea what the Spanish Inquisition was prepared to do in that time, although that is not the main focus of this story. Like I said before, the fantasy elements almost have a magical realism feel about them, something that really worked for me in this story. Each character is unique, well developed and easy to like… You will find yourself rooting for Fatima and Hassan and crossing your fingers they will be able to escape and find the mythical island where the bird king lives. People have complained about the slow pace, and while I agree the pace is indeed rather slow, it also makes it easier to fully savour the prose and all those wonderful descriptions and details. It helped me absorb every single detail all the better and I personally enjoyed every single minute of my time with The Bird King.

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Fatima has been part of the royal court of the last sultan of Muslim Spain ever since she was born, now a concubine to the sultan himself. She has been provided with everything she could wish for except for one thing: her freedom. Her closest friend Hassan is the palace mapmaker with a fascinating secret… He can draw maps of places he has never seen before in his life and even bend the shape of reality. This extraordinary gift is what will endanger his life when the representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender. His gift is seen as sorcery and they demand Hassan to be handed over to the Spanish Inquisition… But Fatima cannot bear to part with her only true friend and will try anything for the two to escape their fate.

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Yes, the story of The Bird King is without doubt just as beautiful as that stunning cover. It’s a perfect mix of historical fiction elements, a magical realism feel and fantasy elements… With different cultures coming together through the journey of Fatima, Hassan and the people they meet along the way. The historical setting, details and descriptions are perfectly elaborated with a gorgeous and magical prose you will cannot help but fall in love with. The pace of this story is slow, but it will make it that much easier to fully savour every single chapter and detail of their journey. Fans of slower-paced historical fiction stories who don’t mind a little fantasy mixed in will most likely enjoy this fantastic story as much as I did.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #53 – The Walls Around Us & Love And Gelato

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around another YA edition, although the books belong to different genres. The first was an absolute cover love case and a story that managed to surprise me. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma has to be one of the few stories were magical realism as an element didn’t actually bother me. The other is a typical contemporary romance story set abroad, Love And Gelato by Jenna Evan Welch, and was too cliche for me to properly enjoy.


Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: October 6th 2018
Pages: 319

“Our private taste in books showed a hint of our secret selves, and sometimes I was the only one who got to see those secrets.”


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This is one of those books I just knew I had to read without even knowing what it was about… The power of a beautiful cover. It’s also one of those books where it’s better to go in blind, because the full effect of it will be that much more powerful. The Walls Around Us isn’t your ordinary YA story. Strange, captivating. brutal, mesmerizing… You will be in for a ride with this one. You think this is just another thrilling crime story when you start reading, with a hint of a teenage Orange Is The New Black and a bit of Black Swan. But The Walls Around Us offers us more than that. It’s one of the first times magical realism is used in a story that didn’t actually bother me. Instead, the strangeness and beautiful descriptions took me on a journey along with the main characters, enjoying my time discovering what exactly was going on. The prison scenes were fascinating, and the many dance related scenes were a nice touch as well. I can’t say I was a fan of most of the main characters, but they did work perfectly in The Walls Around Us I guess. I enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would, and all in all it was more than a pleasant surprise. I don’t think The Walls Around Us is for everyone, but the right person will be just as mesmerized by this strange and magical story as I found myself to be.


Title: Love & Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch 

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: October 9th 2018
Pages: 400

“You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it’s for the same two things.”
“What?”
“Love and gelato.”


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I know contemporary romance isn’t really my thing, but I have fond memories of my various stays in Italy and I really felt like travelling back there again through this story. I mean, who can resist that setting and the possible talk about a lot of delicious Italian ice cream? Because there is one thing true: Love & Gelato makes you crave all kinds of Italian food. And the author did an excellent job at describing the city of Florence and the setting in general. It almost felt I was there along with the main characters! The setting was probably my favorite part of this story, and I liked the idea of the journal and Lina learning more about her mom that way. The writing makes it easy to fly through this story as well… But there were also a few things that really bothered me as well. The first elephant in the room is of course the dreaded love triangle. Why o why do most YA books have to be ruined by this trope? I would have loved this story so much better without it… Because the love triangle (or in fact multiple ones) also ment the introduction of a whole lot of cliches. And cringeworthy moments. And more cliches. It ended up being just too much for me, although I have the suspicion fans of contemporary romance stories will enjoy Love & Gelato a lot better than I did. It’s also the perfect summer/beach read despite some sad and deeper moments.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #30 – When The Moon Was Ours & Bad Romance

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads I’ve been meaning to read for a while. While the prose in When The Moon Was Ours was absolutely gorgeous, I struggled with the magical realism elements. Bad Romance is such an emotionally difficult read! The love triangle was a let down and things can get frustrating, but there is no doubt Heather Demetrios described a toxic relationship perfectly.


Title: When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magical Realism
First published: October 4th 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Finished reading: June 26th 2018
Pages: 288

“He was a comet burning through the night sky, and Samira was the trail of dust and ice streaking after him.”


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Dear magical realism, it’s not you, it’s me. See, somehow we just can’t seem to get along… I’ve tried, really tried, but I think we should take a break from each other for now. Oh yes, it’s unpopular opinion time again. When I first started reading When The Moon Was Ours, I was blown away by the gorgeous prose and I was sure I was going to absolutely love the story. And there are definitely a lot of things to love in the story. Where did it go wrong for me then? Like I said, the problem is me, not When The Moon Was Ours. This simply is another case of the magical realism and me not being able to connect rather than a story not well written. The writing style is beautiful, lyrical and something to fall in love with on its own. The main characters are both so unique, mysterious and fascinating that you cannot help but feel for them. I LOVED the Spanish elements included (alfajores!!) as well as the queer references and Sam and his ‘bacha posh’ life. This book is an ode to unique and quirky characters and diversity in general. Sam and Miel are both wonderful characters and I loved the dynamics between them. But. Like I said before, I really struggled with the magical realism and it made it harder to fully appreciate the story. Otherwise When The Moon Was Ours is an absolutely stunning read, so if you don’t mind magical realism in your stories, this one is an absolute must-read.


Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt And Co.
Finished reading: June 30th 2018
Pages: 368

“When I feel trapped, afraid, lonely, I only have to look up at the sky and think: this is what people in Morocco look at when they see the sky. And India, Thailand, South Africa. Korea and Chile and Italy. The world, I remind myself, is mine, if only I have the courage to grasp it when the opportunity is given to me.”


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I’ve had lots of people warning me to brace myself before picking up Bad Romance, because it would be an emotionally draining read. I can definitely understand that warning now. Bad Romance will make you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, outraged and basically an emotional wreck. Oh yes, this is not an easy read and painfully accurate in describing how a toxic relationship can destroy a person. Coming from someone who had the back luck of being in a toxic relationship once, I can fully relate to the main character Grace. Did I want to scream at her to get the hell out? Yes. Was I frustrated by how blind she was to what Gavin was doing to her? Yes. Did I shake my head as she let him take away her freedom piece by piece? Yes. But this is exactly what a toxic relationship will do to the victim and while painfully frustrating at times, Heather Demetrios deserves a round of applause for getting these words on paper no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. I could have done without the love triangle, which put kind of a damper on things for me, but overall Bad Romance is a very strong read that will stay with me for a long time. Emotionally draining, but o so satisfying in the end.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #26: Black-Eyed Susans & My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time yet two more books I read during my hiatus… Two titles I’ve been meaning to read for ages, and both turned out to be excellent reads. The first, Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin, I’ve been meaning to read ever since it came out, so it was about time I finally did. The second, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, was an easy choice as well. A Man Called Ove is one of my all time favorite stories, so I have been wanting to explore more of his work… And this one came in close second.


Title: Black-Eyed Susans
Author: Julia Heaberlin

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 11th 2015
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: May 10th 2018
Pages: 369

“You’ll always get to the right answer if you slow down and think about it.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this thriller ever since I first heard about it back in 2015, and I’m not sure what happened that I managed to pospone it for almost three years. But better later than never right? It might have been that I had superhigh expectations for Black-Eyed Susans, but while I thought it was a very solid read, the story didn’t manage to blow me away completely. I can’t exactly put my finger on the why though. The writing is strong and definitely draws you right in, and the serial killer is definitely another creeper. You will have a healthy dose of suspense and twisted scenes in Black-Eyed Susans! The plot itself is strong as well, although a possible weak spot might be the dual storyline, where the story splits between past and present. It did distract a little from the things that were happening, although I do admit it was a good way to add more intrigue and tension to the story. And there is no doubt I’m very happy to have finally read Black-Eyed Susans, because it was without doubt an excellent, intriguing and slightly disturbing thriller.


Title: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy
First published: 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 14th 2018
Pages: 372
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Min mormor hälsar och säger förlåt’)

“It’s hard to help those who don’t want to help themselves.”


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I’m sure a few are already aware of the fact I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman’s work, or at least that A Man Called Ove is one of my all time favorite stories (and Ove one of my favorite characters). I’ve been meaning to slowly go through his other books ever since, and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry is my third experience with his work. And I can tell you, this story has only reconfirmed my love for his stories! The writing in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry is just so Backman, meaning I absolutely devoured its pages and loved it right from the very first chapter. Fredrik Backman has a talent for creating the most amazing, quirky and strong characters you will connect to straight away. In this story we meet a fair amount of new quirky characters that will win over your heart completely. I also loved the mix of reality and fantasy in the plot, and the humor mixed with more serious moments. Talk about a perfect balance! And while A Man Called Ove is still my absolute favorite, this one comes a really close second. I can’t wait to read Britt-Marie Was Here now, which follows the story of one of the characters mentioned in this one!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #21: Wink Poppy Midnight & My Sister’s Keeper

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t turn out to be positive reading experiences, and both had something to do with a character and the way they behaved. Winky Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult… Continue to find out more about the why of the lower ratings.


Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 22nd 2016
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: March 10th 2018
Pages: 352

“All the strangest things are true.”


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Wink Poppy Midnight was a tbr jar pick and a title I have been looking forward to read despite the mixed reviews. I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover! And the story itself sounded really promising as well. As soon as I started reading Wink Poppy Midnight, I was blown away by the writing style. So so beautiful, mysterious and intriguing! The writing style is by far what stood out most for me in this book and it’s the only reason I’m giving this story the benefit of the doubt. Because I absolutely loved how April Genevieve Tucholke tells her stories, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Why the low rating, would you ask? I’m keeping things simple and give one main reason: Poppy. I understand we are not supposed to like her in the first place, but I absolutely utterly despised her character. This extremely negative feeling for Poppy ruined the reading experience for me and made it really hard to just forget about her and enjoy the other chapters. Wink Poppy Midnight is told from the POV of the three main characters Wink, Poppy and Midnight, whimsical names that alone set the right tone for this story. This multiple POV layout didn’t distract me, since I liked discovering new things and see how the personality of each character shines through in the writing and dialogue. BUT. While I absolutely adored Wink and liked Midnight as well, my negative feelings for Poppy were so strong the rest was kind of blurred out. Gone were my feelings for the fabulous writing, gone was my love for the whimsical and magical realism feel of the plot and incorporation of fairy tale elements (my second favorite thing of Wink Poppy Midnight!). What was left were the ashes of a story that could have ended up being one of my all time favorites… If it wouldn’t have been for Poppy dancing on its tomb.


Title: My Sister’s Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 6th 2004
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Finished reading: March 14th 2018
Pages: 423

“It is the things you cannot see coming that are strong enough to kill you.”


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WARNING: Unpopular opinion review and rant ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Trust me, I’m still shocked about this rating and reaction I had to My Sister’s Keeper, especially since I’ve read and enjoyed several of Jodi Picoult‘s other novels in the past. I fully expected to add this title to that list, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I was hoping for. I’m not saying the writing is bad, which would be a lie since it is just as strong as ever and of a quality I’ve become to expect of her work. And without doubt the plot is complex and well developed with many different POVs and angles to try and get a full picture of what is going on. BUT. What ruined this story for me and basically turned me into a giant red angry monster spitting out flames and throwing things at the wall (no actual objects were harmed during this read), was the topic and more especifically the views on that topic. As soon as I got a glimpse of what really was going on, I started to get very angry very fast. Honestly, I don’t think I would have ever read it if I would have known My Sister’s Keeper was centered around these views. Complicated and uncomfortable moral topic and unorthodox views? Maybe, but I couldn’t care less if they were represented right because I was just too angry to pay attention. People might be offended by this, but I’m totally on Anna’s side here. She should NOT be treated as a walking human donor bank and just being pressured to give up everything and go through all those treatments just because her parents say so… It should be her choice and her choice alone. And honestly, the whole reason they had her in the first place made me sick. This book and especially Sara were so SO infuriating! Her with her saying she ‘cares’ for Anna, but only thinks of Kate and having Anna as a spare ready to give up whatever part of her body they need next. And I’m not even talking about their older brother, completely ignored as well. I get that having a child with leukemia is horrible and kind of makes you forget about anything else, but still… It’s no excuse to treat your other kids that way, and definitely not to do those things to Anna, treating her like she’s some object and ignoring her when she’s not needed. Ugh. I’m feeling the anger rise again just as I type up this review… Simply disgusting. These strong negative feelings made it impossible for me to try and enjoy the other aspects and side stories of My Sister’s Keeper, which had potential on it’s own but lost its charm since I was seeing everything through a red haze. Oh yes, this book was able to provoke strong feelings, just not the positive ones I was expecting. Most people do seem to enjoy it though, so if you think you would enjoy it, don’t give up on it yet. Just don’t make me discuss this story ever again…


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