ARC REVIEW: The Last Gods Of Indochine – by Samuel Ferrer

Title: The Last Gods Of Indochine
Author: Samuel Ferrer

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Signal 8 Press
Finished reading: March 13th 2017
Pages: 422

“I told Jean-Luc I feared entering a world where everyone is a stranger; the truth is, I am escaping from a world where everyone knew me too well.”

*** 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 I’m terribly behind with my ARCs and this historical fiction story was long overdue. The Last Gods Of Indochine belongs to one of my favorite genres and both the Cambodian setting, era and reference to local mythology had me intrigued immediately. This novel by Samuel Ferrer surely didn’t disappoint. The Last Gods Of Indochine is mostly set in Cambodia and has two main storylines: one set in the 1920s and one set in the 13th century. I was instantly charmed by the story of Paaku the Lotus-Born all those centuries ago, and the mythology and ideas of his world are intriguing. His chapters are without doubt my favorite part of this novel, and I enjoyed learning more about both his world and his character. I wasn’t instantly convinced by Jacquie on the other hand, and it took me some time to connect to her. It was very interesting to read about her journey to Cambodia though and the circumstances under which both her grandfather before her and Jacquie herself had to travel in those days. I also particularly enjoyed their travels within Cambodia and it was nice to see both storylines slowly connect. In short, The Last Gods Of Indochine is a well written historical fiction story with an intriguing plot and a fascinating read in general for fans of the genre.

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In medieval Cambodia, Paaku the Lotus-Born is an orphan raised by a Vishu priest. One day something incredible happens and the community starts to believe Paaku might be the incarnation of a god… Something that might turn out to be dangerous for him and he is not sure if he wants that title in the first place. Meanwhile, in 1921, Jacquie follows the footsteps of her grandfather and travels to Indochina. Her grandfather was a famous explorer who died during his travels, and Jacquie wants to learn more about the country he explored. Soon she starts learning about the tragedy of Paaku’s history and the storylines slowly intertwine…

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If you enjoy reading well written historical fiction stories with an interesting setting and a touch of (Asian) mythology, The Last Gods Of Indochine is an excellent choice. Two stories set in two completely different centuries slowly start to intertwine… And the ‘modern’ world clashes with the medieval story. I had a great time reading this novel and especially Paaku’s POV stood out from me. Such a fascinating story!


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ARC REVIEW: I Found You – by Lisa Jewell

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Title: I Found You
Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: June 30th 2016
Publisher: Arrow
Finished reading: March 2nd 2017
Pages: 448

“The world is full of stories. But the one story he really needs to know is buried somewhere so deep inside him he’s scared he’ll never get to it.”

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

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Basically this book has been on my radar ever since I first found out about it, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when my Netgalley request was actually approved. Let’s face it, the whole amnesia angle has been used a lot lately in psychological thrillers and this element on its own isn’t all that original anymore. However, something about the blurb of I Found You instantly caught my attention and had me wonder about the story behind the main characters. And my instincts were right, because this psychological thriller by Lisa Jewell has literally blown me away. Such fascinating main characters and character development! The writing style and the plot managed to draw me in right from the start and the different storylines only help adding to the initial suspense. The plot twists are executed brilliantly and kept you guessing about the true identities and what really happened right until the end. Twisted, suspenseful, well written, intriguing plot… I Found You definitely has it all. The fact that one of the main characters (‘Frank’) has amnesia might not be original, but the plot itself is without doubt fascinating. If you like the genre, you will definitely enjoy this little gem. This version is due to be published in two days!

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In East Yorkshire, single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. The man doesn’t seem to remember anything and doesn’t have anything on him to identify him either… And when his memory doesn’t come back, Alice decides to invite him into her home against better judgement. He could be anyone after all… But Alice is determined to help the stranger, now called ‘Frank’ by the family just so he has a name. Memories are slowly coming back to him, but it is hard for Frank to make sense of them… And what about the husband of Lily Monrose, who disapeared one evening and left her all alone in a foreign country? Are the two cases related? Or simply a coincidence?

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If you enjoy reading suspenseful psychological thrillers with interesting characters and surprising plot twists, you will probably enjoy I Found You as much as I did. I was hooked right from the start and had a great time finding out more about the main characters, what really happened in the past and what happened to Lily’s husband as well. The writing style is a really treat and I can definitely recommend this book.


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ARC REVIEW: A Gentleman In Moscow – by Amor Towles

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Title: A Gentleman In Moscow
Author: Amor Towles

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Hutchinson
Finished reading: February 24th 2017
Pages: 462
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“No matter how much time passes, those we have loved never slip away from us entirely.”

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

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I first heard about this book last year and originally wanted to read it before the Goodreads Choice Awards last November, but I wasn’t able to get a copy in time. I’ve heard nothing but great things about A Gentleman In Moscow ever since and I was delighted to both find it mentioned at Netgalley AND actually receive an ARC copy of it shortly after. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but it’s been a while since I last read a story set in Russia. This novel by Amor Towles starts in the 1920s and follows the main character during the next two decades, successfully combining historical facts with the personal stories of the characters and making A Gentleman In Moscow that much more intriguing to read. Sure, this novel has quite a slow pace and that might disencourage some readers. But the prose and descriptions more than make up for it and the slow pace can be explained in the first place by the fact that it’s a mostly character-driven story. It’s beautifully written story that will appeal to both fans of the historical fiction genre and to those who enjoy a proper character-driven story. Because it’s the main characters who make this book into such a lovely story; without Count Alexander Rostov and his new friends at the hotel, this story would simply fall apart.

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On 21 June 1922, the life of Count Alexandre Rostov is about to change forever… In fact, he is lucky to be still alive the next day. The Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is forced to spend the rest of his days inside the Hotel Metropol just across the Red Square. And they don’t take him to his usual suite either; he is led to a small attic room without even a proper window. Rostov is forced to embrace his new life stripped of everything that used to define him, and it makes him question what makes us who we are… And during his years at the Metropol, he slowly starts to discover new ways to find purpose in his life.

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If you want to try the historical fiction genre, but are afraid of dense fact-ridden bricks that are difficult to read, A Gentleman In Moscow will come to the rescue. It’s true that the pace is a bit slow, but apart from the beautiful descriptions of the 20th century Russia this novel is mostly about the life of Count Alexander Rostov inside the hotel and the way his character develops over time. It’s a truly fascinating read and the prose is wonderful; more than recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The Killing Game – by J.S. Carol

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Title: The Killing Game
Author: J.S. Carol

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: February 22nd 2017
Pages: 380
Rating 4,5qqq

“It didn’t matter how sparkling the future was, the past always had a way of sneaking up on you when you least expected it.”

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

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I actually feel REALLY bad I didn’t manage to read this title by J.S. Carol sooner, because I was supposed to pick it up over FOUR months ago… I guess book alone was enough punishment for that fact already, because this was one hell of an intense ride! The Killing Game is not just another fast-paced, action packed and intriguing thriller full of surprises. Sure, it has all those elements and more, but what is more important than that is the originality of the plot. After one too many crime thriller (don’t get me wrong; I love the genre), The Killing Game is like taking a refreshing dive in the sea on a hot summer day. Because instead of your typical thriller plot, this story is centered around a very messy and dangerous hostage situation. To make things even more interesting, you learn more about the POV of both the bad guy, the victims and the press as the situation evolves. This multifaceted aspect of The Killing Game made the story just that much more intense to read, and then I’m not even talking about the explosion of plot twists and excellent writing! I wasn’t sure about the Hollywood setting before I started reading this story, but I was easily convinced by the more than twisted start. I guess money really can’t buy you everything… If you are looking for an excellent and refreshing thriller you won’t be able to put down, this one is a great option.

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JJ Johnson is a very talented publicist and can make any problem just about disappear… But even her skills have a limit. When she is having lunch in a famous restaurant along with a few of Hollywood’s hottest stars, a masked and armed man walks in and takes them all hostage. The man is more than dangerous and carries a bomb; word soon spreads of the hostage situation and both the victims and the police will have to bargain for the lives of those inside the restaurant. Killing him is no option, because if his heart rate changes too much the bomb will go off… How will they be able to save everyone before it’s too late? The clock is ticking…

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I have to be honest and say I wasn’t sure about the Hollywood element at first, but it fit in brilliantly with the rest of the story. The famous characters work in perfect harmony with the whole hostage situation, press chaos and backstory in general, and I can garantuee you the ending will be a surprise. Well written, fast-paced, full of twists and impossible to put down; The Killing Game is without doubt an excellent thriller read!


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ARC REVIEW: The Truth Will Out – by Brian Cleary

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Title: The Truth Will Out
Author: Brian Cleary

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 12th 2016 
Finished reading: February 15th 2017
Pages: 220
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“He just couldn’t believe that he could do it. But what he didn’t know was whether he couldn’t believe it or that he didn’t want to believe it.”

*** 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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Confession: it took me way longer than planned to finally pick up my copy of The Truth Will Out, but I’m glad I was finally able to. I already had a feeling this novel by Brian Cleary was probably going to be a good one, especially with such an explosive blurb… And my instincts didn’t fail me: the story had me hooked right from the first sentence. If you are looking for a disturbing, twisted and well written crime thriller that reads like a train, you’ve just found an excellent candidate. The Truth Will Out is set in Ireland, partly in the 1970s and partly in the present. The main character Jamie is accused of having attacked and brutally raped one of his best friends, Mary Kate, and the evidence against him is truly overwhelming. He does have a violent history, but would he really be able to do such a thing? The case is without doubt fascinating, especially since you go back and forth from the past and slowly learn more about Jamie and the other main characters. Do I understand why Jamie never spoke up and revealed a secret that might prove his innocence? No. But it definitely makes for a great plot twist. Speaking of those, The Truth Will Out is literally packed with excellent plot twists that will keep you guessing at what exactly is going on for a long time. In short, this crime thriller is a well written, properly disturbing and gripping story I can recommend to any fan of the genre.

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Jamie, Shane and Mary Kate practically grew up together and have been friends for a long time. But their friendship is about to be tested as one night Mary Kate is brutally attacked and raped and now lies in a coma. Jamie was found unconscious close to her body, and he is an instant suspect. The evidence against him is overwhelming; the fact that he cannot remember what happened that night doesn’t really help either. But even though Jamie has a secret that might help prove his innocence, he decides to leave his fate in the hands of God. If he is supposed to be innocent, then Mary Kate will wake up from her coma and reveal the real attacker. Only, life doesn’t always work that way…

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Not only is this story packed with plot twists, action and an intriguing plot, it was also really interesting to learn more about the main characters and their development. This crime thriller is set in Ireland and has a diverse plot with a wide variety of different characters that will each add a little something to the story. Corrupt guards, a private detective, a serial killer, an unexperienced solicitor and more; you won’t find a boring moment in this story!


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BOOK REVIEW: Rebel Of The Sands – by Alwyn Hamilton

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Title: Rebel Of The Sands
(Rebel Of The Sands #1)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: February 13th 2017
Pages: 320
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“The world makes things for each place. Fish for the sea, Rocs for the mountain skies, and girls with sun in their skin and perfect aim for a desert that doesn’t let weakness live.”

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Dear Rebel Of The Sands, why have I managed to ignore you for nearly a year?! I’m still kicking myself for not picking up this first book of a fantastic new YA fantasy series… But I guess it does mean I can read the sequel straight away! I admit I have heard mixed things about this story in the past, and that might just be why I was so hesitant to pick it up in the first place. I normally tend to have bad luck with popular books, but I’m glad that Rebel Of The Sands has proven to be an exception. I’m glad I finally gave this story a chance and I loved even better than expected! I’ve basically fallen in love with the worldbuilding, characters and writing style from the beginning… Alwyn Hamilton writes in a way that draws you right in and even though the whole strong-female-character thing in YA fantasy isn’t all that original, I was thoroughly charmed by Amani anyway. Together with Jin, Shazad and many other characters she managed to win over my heart and I had a blast following them on their journey through the desert. The worldbuilding is so interesting! I’ve heard complains about the ‘mythical’ being lost by the ‘western’ feel of the descriptions and some of the scenes, but I personally really liked the mix of two different elements. Great prose and characters, interesting plot and worldbuilding, lots of action, a healthy dose of action and magic: Rebel Of The Sands has all the ingredients to enchant you.

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Amani Al’Hiza lives in the small desert town of Dustwalk and basically learned to shoot like an expert when she was only a little girl. There is not much to do in Dustwalk and Amani has become a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim… But that won’t help her escape before she either loses her freedom or her life. When another bad decision brings her to a shooting contest, she meets the mysterious foreigner Jin. Amani sees him as the perfect escape route, although it won’t be easy to escape with both their lives… And she definitely didn’t imagine escaping riding a mythical horse she didn’t know still existed. And she will soon learn a whole lot more about her country as they try to find their way to safety.

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Thank you Traitor To The Throne for finally making me read the first book! I’m so glad I was approved for an ARC of the sequel, because I still feel I have been missing out by not reading Rebel Of The Sands sooner. I know this story has a lot of mixed reviews, but if you ask me it’s definitely worth the try. This series has the perfect combination of interesting worldbuilding, great characters and well written prose; the magic and mythical elements make Rebel Of The Sands into something special. I will be looking forward to read more about Amani and Jin’s adventures for sure!


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ARC REVIEW: Missing – by Monty Marsden

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Title: Missing
Author: Monty Marsden

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Aria
Finished reading: February 1st 2017
Pages: 266
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“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! ***

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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.

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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…

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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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