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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BOOK REVIEW: And I Darken – by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken
(The Conqueror’s Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: June 28th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: June 8th 2017
Pages: 498

“There is power in stillness. There is power in watching, waiting, saying the right thing at the right time to the right person. There is power in being a woman – oh yes, power in these bodies you gaze upon with derision.”

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I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I first heard about it last year, and not just because of the beautiful cover… Because the combination of medieval setting, potentially strong main character and intriguing plot just sounded to good to be true. Why didn’t I pick up And I Darken earlier, would you say? Part of the reason is most likely the enormous hype around this story, because hyped books and me don’t really go along in general. I’ve seen quite a few mixed reviews out there, making me feel a bit hesitant to pick it up… But I just couldn’t resist the historical setting and reference to Vlad the Impaler in the end. And while I had a few minor complaints that made me remove a star from what I initially thought would be a perfect rating, I ended up enjoying And I Darken so much better than I thought I would. It’s my first experience with Kiersten White‘s writing style (if you don’t count her short story in My True Love Gave To Me, which I LOVED), and it has been a very positive one. Her writing style is beautiful, rich and very engaging and made this story so much more enjoyable.  Both the worldbuilding and descriptions are extensive and well executed; it really felt as if I was transported back in time and fully merged into the world along with the main characters. The plot is very intriguing and full of twists, secrets and surprises. I could have done without the love triangle/ forbidden love parts, but I guess that is just me not liking romance in the first place. As for the characters: some of them are not exactly likeable, but I ended up being able to connect to most of them anyway. I found myself to be fully absorbed into this story and rooting for those characters I favored more… I didn’t approve of every decision they made, but the character development in general is without doubt excellent. In short I had a great time raeding And I Darken in general, and I can’t wait to continue with Now I Rise! If you like reading YA fantasy and find historical twists and retellings just as intriguing as I do, definitely give this series a go.

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Lada Dragwlya might have been born a girl, but she is by no means the weak and docile princess her father suspected her to be. There is a fire in her, something that seems to be missing in her gentle younger brother, Radu… But that didn’t stop him from abandoning them both to be raised in the Ottoman courts as a form for the sultan to control their father. Lada and Radu are now pawns in a vicious game and their lineage makes them both special and targets at the same time. Lada only really want to find a way back home to Wallachia and claim her birthright, but Radu only wants to find a place where he feels safe. Both seem impossible, but everything changes as they meet Mehmed, the son of the sultan… Things are never as they seem and feelings can change, but what will happen to them in the end?

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It took me a long time to finally pick up my copy of And I Darken, but I’m definitely glad I’ve done so. I’ve fallen in love with Kiersten White‘s writing style and her ability to create an extensive worldbuilding filled with excellent descriptions and an intriguing plot. And while it wasn’t the 5 star read I thought it would be after reading the first few chapters, there is no doubt a very much enjoyed reading Lada, Radu and Mehmed’s story and I can’t wait to find out what the future has in store.


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ARC REVIEW: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well – by Bridget Geraghty @ReadingAlley

Title: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well
Author: Bridget Geraghty

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 28th 2016
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: June 1st 2017
Pages: 101

“Thoughts are the same as wishes. They lead us to where we are going.”

*** 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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I recently realized I had yet to pick up a Middle Grade read this year, and that’s when I stumbled upon this story. I was intrigued by the cover and initially wrongly assumed it was going to be a fantasy read, but Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is actually a contemporary fiction read about (among other things) loss, grief and the moving on. It’s quite a short story, but I think it manages to portray those topics quite realistically while still being understanding and appealing to the age group (roughly 8-12 years). I did have slight doubts about some of Molly’s behavior and the credibility of some of her actions; not everything seemed to be all that realistic and I was surprised by how easily both Molly and Henry seemed to accept everything at their grandparents’ farm. The development of Molly didn’t always seem natural, but it does have a nice message of accepting changes and learning to move on after a traumatic event. I’m sure it will appeal to the age group as the writing style is very easy to read as well and simply flows. I might have had some doubts while reading Molly Bell And The Wishing Well, but it was still a very interesting read with some endearing moments.

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Molly Bell hasn’t been feeling like herself ever since her mother passed away two years ago, and hasn’t even played her favorite sport anymore since. Now her father is getting remarried and she is not sure what to think of her new stepmother… To make things worse, this deal also included a new six-year-old stepbrother named Henry. The two don’t really get along, but will have to find a way to do so as they will be spending time together on Molly’s grandparents’ farm while their parents go on their honeymoon. Molly learns of the wishing well on the property, and after her Aunt Joan tells her every wish she made there came true, Molly is determined to make some wishes of her own… But does she truly know what she wants to wish for?

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Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is without doubt a quick read with a writing style that flows and will appear to the age group. I had some doubts about certain actions of the main characters and its credibility, but in general I really liked how this story portrayed how to deal with loss, grief and moving on after a traumatic event. The wishing well is used as part of this journey and the descriptions of the daily life on the farm will appeal to the younger readers as well.


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