BOOK REVIEW: Heartless – by Marissa Meyer

Title: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: November 8th 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Finished reading: September 28th 2017
Pages: 453 

“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”

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I’m a big fan of Marissa Meyer ever since I first I first started The Lunar Chronicles, so adding Heartless to my wishlist was a no-brainer. I’m still surprised it took me this long to pick up one of my most anticipated releases from last year… Although I did hear some mixed things about it that made me wonder. And guess what? Here’s another unpopular opinion coming up. Again. Because despite my initial expectations and feelings, I didn’t end up loving Heartless like I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, when I started reading this I was sure I was absolutely going to love this story. The writing is wonderful and simply enchanting and had me hooked right from the first page. I dived right into this magical retelling and had a blast reading about Cath and her baking. A little warning there: this story will make you crave both baking and eating all those sweets and tarts! Seriously mouthwatering… Everything went perfect up until the love triangle was introduced. Oh yes, Heartless is yet another YA fantasy story that suffers from the dreaded romance trope. Unfortunately things went downhill fast after that and I was really frustrated by all that romantic blabbering and love triangle related nonsense. It nearly broke my heart because I absolutely loved the story before that! So it’s easy to say the love triangle business put a mayor damper on what could have been a delightful and positively delicious read. The final part was a bit of a surprise, although I’m not sure what to think of it. All in all not the reaction I was hoping to have after finishing Heartless…Trust me, I’m feeling disappointed as well to feel this way.

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Catherine has been dreaming for years to open her own bakery one day and sell the pastries everybody seems to love. She is a very talented baker, but her parents have other plans for her in store. The unmarried King himself seems to show a special interest in Cath and it is her mother’s dream for her daughter to be queen one day. Even though Catherine doesn’t agree and wants a different future for herself. And then she meets the mysterious Jest at the ball where the King is about to propose to her… And things take a different turn.

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I really wanted to love Heartless and I was sure I was going to after reading the first couple of chapters. The writing is wonderful and take you right to the magical world these famous characters live in. I just loved Cath and her baking; I’m craving to start baking something myself right now (and eating it afterwards of course!). Everything was going great until the love triangle, which positively ruined Heartless for me. After the introduction of this romance trope, the main focus was on this relation and I felt kind of betrayed. Oh well, most people seem to love this story, so I guess this will be yet another unpopular opinion to add to the mix… If you dislike love triangles as much as I do, consider yourself warned though.


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ARC REVIEW: The Secret Of Heaven – by Felix Alexander @ReadingAlley

Title: The Secret Of Heaven
(Aiden Leonardo #1)
Author: Felix Alexander

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Adventure
First published: 2016
Publisher: ForeverPoetic
Finished reading: August 22nd 2017
Pages: 311

“The truth must be understood. Not solely for the purpose of being accepted, but for humanity as a whole to achieve enlightenment.”

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

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Every once in a while I like to change up genres and read something different. And while The Secret Of Heaven is partly a thriller, it was the promise of adventure and ancient mysteries that closed the deal for me. I love reading about conspiracy theories and secret societies so it is easy to say I was looking forward to this one, especially since I had previously enjoyed one of the author’s stories. Unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. I’m not sure if it just was me reading The Secret Of Heaven at the wrong time, but I really struggled to get a proper feel for this story. There are a lot of different characters involved and this makes it hard to keep up wih the what and who and how everything connects. More than once I had to stop reading and try to remember what the role of a certain character was and this slowed down the pace considerably. The plot also felt pretty chaotic and kept jumping back and forth between characters… Which took a while to get used to. I have to be honest here and say it took me a lot longer than expected to finish The Secret Of Heaven. The writing wasn’t bad and it really shows that the author has taken the time to investigate the historical details thoroughly. The (historical) descriptions are extensive and show just how important the so-called Lost Bible is… That said, those descriptions did also slow down the pace and while I normally love historical elements in a story, they didn’t manage to convince me in The Secret Of Heaven. As for the characters and their actions… I wasn’t really able to connect to them as there are simply too many characters in play in the first place; also, I’m not sure everything that happens in the plot is exactly credible. And while it kind of has that Dan Brown feel and sounds really promising, The Secret Of Heaven unfortunately didn’t manage to blow me away. Such a shame, because the story has a lot of potential!

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Professor of Biblical Studies Aiden Leonardo was the last person to see Lazzaro de Medici before he was murdered, so of course he instantly becomes the main suspect. The thing is: he cannot remember what happened the night before… Although he is certain he would never harm the man that took him in when his mother died. Something more complicated than just a simple murder seems to be at play though and Aiden soon finds himself right in the middle of a conspiracy, a hunt for a Lost Bible and a secret organization known as The Group. What will happen to Aiden and will they be able to find what they are looking for before it’s too late?

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I really thought I was going to enjoy this one and I’m still wondering if I picked it up at the wrong time, but the fact is that The Secret Of Heaven didn’t manage to convince me in the end. The writing isn’t bad and it shows that the historical elements are very well researched, but there were too many characters involved and the pace wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be with the extensive descriptions slowing it down. I normally love historical details so I was really surprised I wasn’t able to enjoy this story more!


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BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Broken Things – by Sara Barnard

Title: Beautiful Broken Things
Author: Sara Barnard

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: February 11th 2016
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Finished reading: August 2nd 2017
Pages: 322

“Everyone says apologizing works, but it never really does. Not quickly enough anyway.”

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I’ve been meaning to pick up Beautiful Broken Things for quite some time now, so I was quite happy when my TBR jar decided for me it was time to read my copy. I always have mixed experiences with YA contemporaries, but I was drawn to this cover and blurb like a bee to honey. And to be honest, I initially really enjoyed reading it. The first thing that stands out is the writing style, which is very engaging and makes it very easy to read this story. I found myself literally flying through the pages at first. Even though the plot itself isn’t all that special and nothing I haven’t seen before in the genre, I had a great time reading it. There are quite a few high school cliches involved though which I could have done without as well as the jealousy and the whole new friend/third wheel theme. I had mixed feelings about the characters and as the story continued especially Caddy really started to bother me. Both her attitude and her idea that having bad things happen to you make you more interesting is not only frustrating but almost offensive. It’s one of the reasons I started to enjoy Beautiful Broken Things less and less and ended up having to give a lot lower rating than I initially suspected. Sure, Suzanne’s character is quite interesting and opens the way to talk about important themes as abuse and its consequences and mental health, but her reactions are also almost cliche at points and I’m not sure I’m happy with the final developments and the ending. All in all it wasn’t the reading experience I was hoping for… Beautiful Broken Things had a quite strong start because of the enjoyable writing style, but didn’t manage to convince me in the end. Part of the problem might have been me, so if you love the genre and don’t mind cliches it’s still worth giving a go.

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Caddy and Rosie have been best friends for years and even though they go to different high schools, they are inseparable. Caddy has always been the quiet one though and when she turns sixteen she wants to make some changes in her life. And then Rosie meets Suzanne, a new girl at her school and they become friends. Suzanne is everything Caddy wants to be and she is jealous of their friendship. Things are becoming a whole lot more complicated… Especially when Caddy starts to get knowing Suzanne better. What will happen to the three girls?

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Initially I thought I was really going to enjoy this story and the writing style is without doubt enjoyable at first. I can’t point out the exact moment I started to enjoy Beautiful Broken Things less, but there is no doubt that the final part of this story didn’t live up to the promising start. There were certain things that started to bother me: the cliches, some of the characters and the way they act and think, the way important (darker) themes are handled… All in all not what I expected.


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ARC REVIEW: Americosis Vol. 4 – by Haydn Wilks

Title: Americosis Vol. 4
Author: Haydn Wilks

Genre: Short Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: December 2nd 2016
Finished reading: July 25th 2017
Pages: 56

“It’s all madness.”

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

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First of all a little note: since the cover is basically a swearword, I’ve decided not to display it on my blog for personal reasons. It’s bad enough it already shows up on my Goodreads timeline as it is. xD

The quote above describes these Americosis volumes perfectly: absolute madness. I’ve read the first three volumes in the past, so I did know exactly what I signed up for… There is nothing ordinary about the world created in Americosis, the plot or the characters. And it has been one heck of a crazy and absurd ride so far! Volume four continues where the last part ended; there is almost no recap so it’s important to read/remember the previous volumes to make sense of it all. Although ‘making sense’ maybe isn’t the right phrase to look for, because I don’t think Americosis is ment to make sense in the first place. Volume four had a few very interesting elements I liked; predominantly the parts set in the future (4046). The idea of every person having a different vision of what happened since the moment in history they were snatched away is intriguing and would be a great topic for a standalone novella or novel. Just imagine the endless possibilities of famous personalities of the past getting together and share their version of the ‘future’! This new storyline added a whole new interesting level to the story and made me curious about the finale… But I do have to say there were some things that started to bother me. I don’t think Americosis Vol. 4 has changed much in tone, but somehow the EXCESSIVE and CONSTANT swearing started to get to me. I don’t mind a swearword or two as long as its use is constructive, but I felt it really crossed the line in this volume. I basically have a quote where a variation of the word ‘f*ck‘ is used no less than eleven!! times in one sentence; overkill much? Apart from the swearing, the story is also very graphic and violent in general and stuffed with adult and sex-related comments and scenes. In short there is no doubt this short story isn’t for everyone… Only a select few will be able to truly savour it and I can see why the target group would be predominantly adult (white) male. If you like crazy, graphic, messy, chaotic, dystopian, violent and all over the place stories, Americosis will probably be for you. There’s one thing for sure: you won’t be bored with this one!

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

Things have slowly started to get out of control… The race against the clock for the Savior is real and he will have to fight hard to be able to reach his goal before it’s too late. Because America is being destroyed from the inside, and it’s winning. In the mean time, the Presidential race is going strong… And the two candidates will do whatever it takes to win.

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It might just have been I wasn’t in the right mood when I read Volume 4 and that’s why I rated it slightly lower than the previous three… But I did feel the excessive swearing and graphic scenes started to get out of control. It does read like a train and is basically an explosion of action and absurdness right in the middle of a dystopian America. The right person will probably love Americosis, but it is without doubt an acquired taste. The storyline set in the future was fascinating though!


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ARC REVIEW: Bookishly Ever After – by Isabel Bandeira

Title: Bookishly Ever After
(Ever After #1)
Author: Isabel Bandeira

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 19th 2016
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Finished reading: July 19th 2017
Pages: 378
DNF at 32% (121 pages)

“I loved new books . The crisp pages, the smell, and the sense of potential as I carefully broke in the spine made getting them one of the best feelings in the world.”

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

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First of all I want to make clear contemporary romance isn’t really my thing and this may or may not have influenced my opinion. As much as I hate being negative in my reviews, I also made a promise to always give my 100% honest opinion and exactly that is reflected below. I also want to stress that I can’t remember ever wishing for a Netgalley copy of this novel in the first place and the granted wish message in my inbox came as a huge surprise. I’ve been wary to pick up Bookishly Ever After ever since, mostly because I wasn’t sure it would be for me… I liked the sound of a bookish main character though, because don’t we booklovers all love our bookish characters?! I approached Bookishly Ever After with caution, but unfortunately immediately realized it was going to be a struggle. Basically this contemporary romance story has one cheesy high school cliche stacked on top of another up until the point I felt like I was drowning in them. And Bookishly Ever After isn’t only stuffed with cheesy cliches, but also has an overdose of annoying romance tropes as instalove and love triangles. This alone is enough for me to run away and hide in a corner, but since I normally never DNF my ARCs I decided to give this story a chance. Trust me, I’ve tried really hard to like this story. REALLY hard. But in the end I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was never able to connect to the writing style and felt it simply didn’t flow. The plot wasn’t really present and the chapters didn’t seem to connect naturally… And the characters. One more annoying, flat and cliche than the other! I thought I would at least be able to like or relate to bookish Phoebe, but I was wrong. She only managed to frustrate me and it just all didn’t feel natural. Am I partly to blame for this DNF? Yes. The blurb should have warned me to stay far far away from this one… Still, I’ve read AND loved romantic contemporaries before and Bookishly Ever After definitely ticked a lot of no-go boxes for me. Approach with care! Romance lovers who don’t mind cliches will most likely have a more positive experience though.

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The sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martin can most likely either be found with her nose in a YA fantasy book with magic and a hot paranormal love interest or dreaming about its characters… In a perfect world, her life would be just like the books she loves to read, but real life doesn’t come remotely close. She has her crush-from-a-distance, but when someone a lot closer to her might actually like her she doesn’t know what to do. Phoebe turns to her friends and favorite books for advice…

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I’m going to be honest and say I don’t think I would have picked up this story if this wouldn’t have turned up on my Netgalley shelf. I’m not a big fan of (cheesy) contemporary romance in the first place and Bookishly Ever After makes it definitely VERY easy to overdose on the high school cliches and romance tropes incorporated into the story. I’ve tried really hard to see beyond the cliches, but found myself too frustrated to be able to continue and finish the story. And I tell you, it makes me very sad to call Bookishly Ever After my second DNF this year! Part of the problem is definitely me though and I can see why fans of the genre would be able to enjoy it a lot better. Oh well, I guess we can’t like them all, can we?


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ARC REVIEW: The Merchant’s Pearl – by Amie O’Brien @merchantspearl

Title: The Merchant’s Pearl
(The Merchant’s Pearl Saga #1)
Author: Amie O’Brien

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: July 24th 2016
Publisher: BookBaby
Finished reading: June 23rd 2017
Pages: 466

“I just wish I understood what it all means sometimes—why one person rises while the other falls? Why one set of feet must be kissed while the other’s gets stepped upon?”

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

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I confess it took me longer than expected to finally pick up my copy of The Merchant’s Pearl. I had been saying I was going to pick it up for ages, but somehow I was afraid this historical fiction story was going to be way too heavy on the romance for me after rereading the blurb a while ago. Thankfully this was actually one of the few exceptions were I was wrong. There is no doubt that I ended up enjoying way better than I ever could have hoped for… I enjoy reading historical fiction in general and the Ottoman empire setting is without doubt well executed in The Merchant’s Pearl. The many descriptions of the palace, its surroundings and the things that happened there helped create a very vivid and rich image of how it would have been like living there as a concubine. I’m not sure if it all actually felt late 19th century, but I personally didn’t mind as those descriptions were more than enough to set the right atmosphere. I do have to say it took me a lot longer than expected to actually finish The Merchant’s Pearl. Part of it might have been me, part of it might have been the somewhat slower pace, but at 466 pages the story might possibly have felt a bit overlong… There is no doubt that I still very much enjoyed reading this story though. Especially the first half or so stood out for me, not only due to the lack of romance but also because of the dynamics between Leila and Emre. The second half had considerably more romance scenes, drama, jealousy and a few other cliches that made me enjoy the overall story slightly less than I expected after the first few chapters. Especially anything related to the drama between the concubines was a bit too much for me, although I guess this probably did happen all the time in a harem. I did like both Leila and Emre more in the first half though, as they started to get on my nerves sometimes later on in the story. Like I said, the second half had too much drama in it to my taste, but I still liked it and the descriptions stayed strong until the very end. All in all The Merchant’s Pearl is a very interesting historical fiction read that romance fans will appreciate even better than I did.

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Sarai grew up as a missionary’s daughter and lived a happy life up until the day her parents are murdered when she’s eleven. The people that took her in initially sold her to the palace, where she was to be a concubine-in-waiting for the Ottoman Sultan Aziz. Now called Leila, she tries to be invisible, but one of his sons, Prince Emre, has set her eyes on her and claims her for his own. Leila never wanted this life in the first place, but now she has to compete against the other girls in his harem… And one of them seems to be determined to make her life miserable. Will Leila ever adapt to her new life?

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My favorite part of The Merchant’s Pearl is hands down the existence of many detailed descriptions of the inner workings of the Ottoman palace and empire of that time. It was really interesting to see how things worked back then and how life was for a concubine… The pace was a bit slow, but the writing style was beautiful. I liked most of the characters as well, although some of their actions started to annoy me during the second half of the story. But that might just have been me and my aversion to anything too overly romance/drama in the first place. If you like historical fiction and romance, you will enjoy reading this one!


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ARC REVIEW: The Book Of Whispers – by Kimberley Starr

Title: The Book Of Whispers
Author: Kimberley Starr

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: October 3rd 2016
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: June 15th 2017
Pages: 386

“I have a voice, I have words. I run to a future where there’s the possibility of using them.”

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

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I admit I have a weird obsession with any title that has the word ‘book’ or anything book-related in them, so combined with a stunning cover The Book Of Whispers was immediately on my radar. I requested a copy of this story mostly based on this obsession, and didn’t realize before I started reading it that it had such a low Goodreads rating OR the fact that demons play such a big role in the story. To be honest, now I reread the blurb I don’t understand how I could have missed that part… Because what I thought would be a historical (medieval) fiction about a mysterious book actually turned out to be more of a demon-infested fantasy read. Stories involving demons are always  a hit or miss for me, so I guess I have myself to blame for that part… It wasn’t just the demon overload that didn’t work for me though, but also the way they were incorporated into the story. Especially in the beginning this mix of historical and fantasy felt awkward and the many many descriptions of the demons and all their strange forms slowed down the pace considerably. Trust me, there were many many eyebrow raises before the story started to flow better! Luckily the book itself made its appearance quite early on; otherwise I’m not sure if I would have decided to continue this story. I liked the medieval setting and the crusade and the idea behind The Book Of Whispers is without doubt an interesting and original one. I appreciate what the author wanted to do by mixing a traditional crusade story with fantasy and its complexity when trying to balance those elements; I just didn’t enjoy actually reading it. Mind, this could have been just me and my aversion to demons… Although I had a hard time connecting to the writing style or characters as well. Apart from the awkward demon descriptions that slowed down the pace, the writing style in general didn’t flow and felt a bit like trying to drive a car that is running out of fuel. This haltered feel did fade away a bit towards the ending, but all in all I struggled considerably reaching the final page. As for the characters: like I said, I had a hard time connecting to them and some of them were quite annoying. I liked that the demons were connected to the seven sins, but some of the characters were basically caricatures of those sins and maybe not that credible. Also, the romance. Boy, did I struggle with that feature. I know I’m almost never a fan, but besides the fact that this story has a love triangle, I found the romance in general didn’t feel credible at all and mostly a cliche. I can’t go into details without spoilers, but insta-love and all those sappy and cliche descriptions and feelings? Definitely could have done without that. There were some twists though and I liked the historical elements. The ending was interesting enough as well I guess. And there is no doubt this book surprised me, although in my case not in a good way…

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Set in Tuscany, 1096 AD, Luca is the young heir to the title of Conte de Falconi. He has a problem though: he can see demons and has strange dreams that sometimes predict the future. Luca is forced to keep this a secret since people either don’t believe him or are afraid of him… But when he sees his father murdered in one of those dreams, he is determined to stop this vision from coming true. This means following him on the great pilgrimage to capture the Holy Lands against his wishes… But will also be complicated when his father gives him an ancient book that holds a lot of mysteries just before they leave.

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I like stories with a medieval setting and I was definitely looking forward to The Book Of Whispers, but in the end it just wasn’t for me and not just because of the demon overload. The writing style, the demon descriptions, the characters, the romance… There was a lot that unfortunately didn’t work for me and the historical setting couldn’t make up for this. The idea behind The Book Of Whispers is very original though and it must have been a lot of work to mix both elements. There is no doubt this story had a lot of potential…


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