ARC REVIEW: The Girl Made Of Clay – by Nicole Meier

Title: The Girl Made Of Clay
Author: Nicole Meier
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: September 12th 2018
Pages: 304

“For the majority of their lives, they were two lost souls twisting in the wind.”

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

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There were two things that instantly made me want to read The Girl Made Of Clay: the beautiful cover and the promise of an intriguing family drama with an artsy twist. There is no doubt that this story has a lot of potential, and I believe in this case the problem is me and not the story itself. I confess that family dramas are a bit out of my reading comfort zone and they can go either way for me. In this case, unfortunately my reading experience went down a negative road. It wasn’t because of the writing, which was solid and flowed. The Girl Made Of Clay is a mostly character-driven story where the focus is on Sarah and her father TR, but also on the failing relationship between Sarah and her husband. As always with a character-driven story, the connection to the main characters is extremely important and has a big influence in how you perceive a story. Sadly, in The Girl Made Of Clay, I was unable to make such connection. In fact, TR is horrible, Sarah frustratingly annoying and her husband is no good either… Little Sam is the only one that was able to bring a smile to my face. I’m not saying the character development is bad and having flawed characters makes the story that much more realistic. TR isn’t ment to be likeable, and the whole point of this book is that the relationship between Sarah and her father is broken. Still, my aversion towards the characters made it really hard to enjoy the story or to properly care about what would happen to them. I’m not sure about the credibility of some parts of the plot either… But like I said, the main problem for me was the lack of connection to the characters, which made it a struggle to stay focused and keep myself motivated to keep reading. I do think this was mostly me, and I think people who enjoy reading character-driven family dramas and don’t mind flawed and potentially frustrating characters will have a good time with The Girl Made Of Clay.

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Sarah hasn’t spoken with her father for decades, not since he left them all those years ago to live the celebrity lifeas a famous artist. But after Thomas ‘TR’ Harlow is badly injured in a house fire, it seems like he has no one else left to care for him… And suddenly Sarah is forced to care for a man who is basically a stranger to her. Being close to her father again not only brings back old painful memories, but also puts a strain on her already troubled marriage. Sarah is not so sure what to do with the situation, or if she will ever be able to forgive him…

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If you enjoy reading character-driven stories with flawed characters that are described in a realistic way, The Girl Made Of Clay is without doubt an interesting read. The pace is not the fastest, but the story captures quite well how the characters evolve over time. Did I think every aspect of the plot and behavior was credible? Not exactly. Did most of the characters annoy me and made me enjoy the story a lot less? Most definitely. But as one of the cliches goes: ‘it’s not you, it’s me…‘. And I really think that is what happened here.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #46 – The Chaos Of Stars & Bang

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads belonging to different genres. The first is The Chaos Of Stars by Kiersten White, which has an absolutely gorgeous cover but had an absolutely horrible main character who ruined the story for me. The second is Bang by Barry Lyga, a book I’ve been looking forward to since Jasper Dent is one of my absolute favorites, but sadly the story didn’t convince me.


Title: The Chaos Of Stars
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 10th 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: September 5th 2018
Pages: 277

“It’s all a matter of perspective. And maybe we thought we were living one story, when if we look at it a little different, we can reframe everything – all out memories and attributes and experiences – and see that we’re actually living a different story.”


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Let’s face it: The Chaos Of Stars has a drop dead gorgeous cover that makes you want to get a copy instantly. Add the promise of Egyptian mythology included in the plot, and I was instantly sold. I didn’t understand why this book was getting such low ratings on Goodreads, especially since I loved her first two The Conqueror’s Saga books… But let’s just say I found out exactly why not long after I started reading The Chaos Of Stars. It doesn’t happen often that I have such an instant dislike of a character, but Isadora pretty much does the trick. What a whiny, annoying, self-centered, arrogant and disrespectful brat! Basically, she managed to enrage me on every single page, and I had to work hard on my breathing techniques to prevent myself from throwing my kindle against the wall. And no, sadly I’m not exaggerating here. An example? She whines constantly about the fact that she is not immortal, that nobody loves her, that she should be in the center of attention, that other people are less than her… Should I go on, or do you get the idea? Multiply this a couple of times, add a case of insta-love and a couple of other YA cliches and you have the gist of what happens in The Chaos Of Stars. I was hoping to have a lot of Egyptian mythology here, but it was mostly pushed into the background to favor Isadora and her ‘problems’. At least the chapters started with a reference to the mythology, and I liked that some of the characters actually were old Gods. But overall this book sadly was a huge disappointment.


Title: Bang
Author: Barry Lyga

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 18th 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: September 8th 2018
Pages: 304

“Some things are private. And they should stay that way and they get to stay that way.”


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I have been meaning to pick up another of Barry Lyga‘s books for ages. The Jasper Dent series is one of my absolute favorites and I had high hopes for Bang, but sadly it wasn’t as good as I hoped. This by no means had to do with the topic itself, which is really important and I appreciate the author shining a light on what is still considered a taboo. The question of having guns laying around with (small) children involved should never be ignored, as it can have devastating consequences. Likewise, depression and suicide should not be taking lightly either. That said, I felt that there was not enough focus on these two elements in Bang, the story instead concentrating on the whole pizza baking idea and contemporary romance scenes in general. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, since I’m a huge foodie myself, but the story fell rather flat for me. While there are some interesting elements, there was nothing that really stood out for me in Bang, with the topics that are most interesting and heartbreaking being pushed into the background. The writing is solid and some of the pizza recipes were mouthwatering good, but overall Bang wasn’t what I hoped it would be.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #37: It’s Okay To Laugh (DNF) & Britt-Marie Was Here

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Another round of extremes… Not only two different genres here, but also two complete opposite reactions to them. The first, a memoir called It’s Okay To Laugh, turned out to be a DNF read, something that doesn’t happen all that often. The second was actually me playing safe and picking up another book of one of my favorite authors: Britt-Marie Was Here. And this title has only reconfirmed my love for his work.


Title: It’s Okay To Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)
Author: Nora McInerny Purmort

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: May 17th 2016
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Finished reading: August 2nd 2018
Pages: 288
DNF at 66% (190 pages)

“I am creating my own path through my own grief, toward my own version of happiness.”


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I like reading memoirs every once in a while and when I saw It’s Okay To Laugh being compared to the memoirs of Jenny Lawson, I just HAD to get a copy. Fierce and hysterically funny? Sign me up for that! Sadly, I’m feeling kind of cheated now I have picked it up… Because there is no way It’s Okay To Laugh bares any similarities with the work of that author. I know humor is kind of tricky in the first place, and a very personal taste, but to be honest I just didn’t saw any potentially funny moments at all. Could it just have been me not connecting to the book? Maybe. But I would never actually classify this memoir as ‘humor’. I get that the author had to go to through the worst possible time with both her father and husband passing away after a battle with cancer and with her losing her unborn child like that, but I can’t say I enjoyed the way she wrote about it. Both the writing style and tone were just off for me, and it felt rather repetitive and almost nagging to me. Like I said before, I understand her struggle and feel her pain (I just lost my mother in law to cancer as well), I just didn’t want to continue reading about it. If you enjoy reading memoirs and are able to connect to her writing style, your experience with It’s Okay To Laugh might fare better. Just don’t expect any Jenny Lawson humor to appear out of thin air… In a way I feel sad I had to take the decision to DNF this that far into the story, but I had been struggling for a long time and just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading. Here’s to others being able to enjoy the memoir better than me though.


Title: Britt-Marie Was Here
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 3rd 2014
Publisher: Sceptre
Finished reading: August 4th 2018
Pages: 312
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Britt-Marie var här’)

“Sometimes it’s easier to go on living, not even knowing who you are, when at least you know precisely where you are while you go on not knowing.”


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I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman‘s work ever since I finished reading A Man Called Ove, which is one of my absolute top favorites. Britt-Marie Was Here is already the fourth book I’ve picked up, and this story has only reconfirmed my love for his stories. Fredrik Backman is a true master in creating unique and flawed characters that you cannot help falling in love with. It was so great seeing more of Britt-Marie! For those who not know, the main character Britt-Marie first made her appearance in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry (another excellent read by the way!), and I strongly advice reading that one before starting with Britt-Marie Was Here to not miss out on anything. What is both funny and remarkable is that his characters all have their flaws, might be grumpy, unsociable and don’t seem all that likeable when you first meet them. But don’t underestimate the power of Fredrik Backman‘s character development! You will soon find yourself loving each quirky little detail of those characters, grumpy, awkward and unsociable treats and all. Britt-Marie is another excellent example, and I LOVED seeing her character evolve in Borg along with the other main characters. Brilliant brilliant character development and spot on writing! I also really liked how football played a big role in the story and how big of an impact it had on the community. Basically, I loved every single minute of this book, and while nothing can beat Ove, both My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry and Britt-Marie Was Here currently share a second place on my list of Backman favorites.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #36: Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops & Click’d

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around again two different genres… A non fiction book about books I’ve been wanting to pick up for a while and a MG read I decided to pick up on a whim.


Title: Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops
(Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops #1)
Author: Jen Campbell

Genre: Non Fiction, Humor, Books About Books
First published: March 27th 2012
Publisher: Constable
Finished reading: July 30th 2018
Pages: 128

“CUSTOMER: I read a book in the sixties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?”


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I love books about books and after reading The Bookshop Book by the same author back in 2016, I added Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops to my wishlist. It took me longer than expected to actually get, but this was just the right book at the right time for me. This is the perfect book to use as a gift for anyone working in a bookshop or library, or any booklover in general for that matter! Fun, entertaining and full of weird situations that will make both your eyebrows raise and wonder what those customers were thinking when they opened the door to the bookshop that day… But at least it has given us this book to brighten up our day. I like how Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops is divided into three different parts, with the last part being little anecdotes from bookshops around the world. It’s good to know there are weird customers out there in every little corner of the world… Although I’m not sure I would still want to work in a bookshop now. (Just kidding; I would still love to!) Remember this title if you are looking for something fun to gift to a bookish friend.


Title: Click’d
(Codegirls #1)
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 5th 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: July 30th 2018
Pages: 304

“Because I have three best friends.” She pointed to each in turn. “And I don’t need to click with anyone else but you guys.”


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I absolutely loved Every Last Word when I read it back in 2016, so when I was browsing my books the other day and Click’d popped up, I decided to pick it up on a whim hoping to add another favorite to the list. I didn’t realize it was a Middle Grade read before I started it, but I don’t think this has influenced my opinion in a significant way since it’s not the first time I’ve read and loved a MG read. Somehow, Click’d didn’t stand out in the way Every Last Word did, and I ended up feeling slightly disappointed. Click’d wasn’t a bad read and I really liked the idea behind this story, but overall I found the story to be rather bland. The plot has that geeky feel with two of the main characters creating an app/game and the whole progress of coding and dealing with bugs in the code plays a big role throughout the story. The other main theme is friendship, which could work really well, but there were just too many cliches for me involved. I don’t mind a cliche or two, but if there are just too many piling up it starts to get annoying and less interesting. Overall, I think Click’d lacks the little something extra that could have made this story into something wonderful. It’s not bad and without doubt a superfast read, but not the new favorite I was hoping for. The younger half of the MG age group might enjoy the story better though.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #35 – Misery & Kids Of Appetite

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Another round of backlist titles, and two completely different genres and age groups at that. I’ve been meaning to read Misery for years and I already had an idea what it was about… I’m definitely glad I finally did so. It’s not my all time favorite Stephen King, but without doubt a great read. Kids Of Appetite I picked up on a whim browsing my kindle, and I had high hopes because I adored David Arnold’s other book Mosquitoland. Sadly, this story just didn’t work for me.


Title: Misery
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: 1987
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Finished reading: July 27th 2018
Pages: 369

“He felt as he always did when he finished a book — queerly empty, let down, aware that for each little success he had paid a toll of absurdity.”


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I’ve read quite a few Stephen King books over the years, but somehow I never actually picked up Misery until now. Of course I have heard lots of things about the plot, so I had a general idea what the story was about… And I have to say the actual story definitely lived up to expectations. It’s not my absolute favorite King, but there is no doubt that this is one of his better books I’ve read to this date. Misery is more psychological horror than bloody horror in general, although it has a few select scenes that won’t go well with those with a weak stomach. Strong writing… Check. Well developed, disturbing and creepy characters… Check. A healthy dose of suspense… Check. Plot twists… Check. A little torture and blood here and there… Check. I definitely had a great time reading Misery, although it doesn’t feel the right word for a story this creepy. I liked the Misery chapters in between the actual plot, as it added another level and more dept to the plot itself. And I wouldn’t wish Annie upon my worst enemy! Boy, she is a true nutter… Writers, beware. She is stuff nightmares are made of. If you enjoy reading his work, Misery should definitely be on your reading list as well.


Title: Kids Of Appetite
Author: David Arnold

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 29th 2018
Pages: 352

“The kids were more than just a gaggle. They were puzzle pieces, a well-packed trunk, as improbably organized as the improbable shelves in their improbable habitat.”


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I absolutely adored Mosquitoland last year, so I had high hopes for Kids Of Appetite as well. It took me longer than expected to finally get to it… And sadly it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for. I’m actually still surprised and I bit shocked by my reaction to be honest… Because I have to be sincere here and I’m not sure how I made it past the 20% without giving in to the urge to DNF. Do I feel sad? Yes. But unfortunately Kids Of Appetite just wasn’t for me. I have seen this story has pretty extreme reactions, people either loving or strongly disliking it, so definitely don’t give up on it yet if you enjoy stories with unique characters and writing style. Because that’s the main struggle here: the writing. While unique and original, it is something that either works for you and makes you want to sing out loud, OR makes you want to throw things at the wall in frustration. Not that my singing would actually make anyone happy in the first place, but sadly my walls might have taken a hit or two here. I personally really struggled with it all and this made it just really hard both to get a proper feel for things and understand what is exactly going on in the first place. David Arnold is a master in greating unique characters though. Kuddos to him for introducing us to Victor and giving Moebius a spotlight; the other characters definitely weren’t bland either. I’m not sure everything in the plot was actually credible though. In short, Kids Of Appetite is a book of extremes and therefore will provoke strong emotions… So even though this book didn’t work for me, you might just love it instead.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #31 – Prodigy & Turtles All The Way Down

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The first book is the sequel of a series I was supposed to continue ages ago: Prodigy by Marie Lu. It was just as entertaining as the first book! The other title is one I wasn’t sure I wanted to pick up, but after seeing Ashley @ Socially Awkward Bookworm mention it as her biggest surprise of 2018 so far I decided to give it a go. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green… And maybe it was just that I wasn’t in the mood for it, but I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.


Title: Prodigy
(Legend #2)
Author: Marie Lu

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: January 29th 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: July 3rd 2018
Pages: 372

“Maybe I’ve been trying to escape the wrong place and run away from the wrong things.”


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I read Legend back in 2015, and even though I quite enjoyed the first book and vowed to read the sequels soon, somehow that never happened. One of my goals this year is to finish those poor neglected started series, and when I came across my copy of Prodigy I decided to pick it up on a whim. It was surprisingly easy to pick up where the first book had left off without rereading Legend, and there is no doubt this sequel is a very entertaining read. I managed to finish it in no time at all! The dystopian world is quite interesting; not that original maybe but I liked the dynamics. Could I have done without the multiple love triangle trope? Hell yes. Did that made me lower the rating slightly? Positive. But otherwise I found Prodigy to be a fast-pace and engaging YA dystopian read with a lot of promise for book number three. A healthy dose of action and twists are in place, and while not the most original plot, it will manage to grab your attention anyway. I’m looking forward to find out what the final book will bring.


Title: Turtles All The Way Down
Author: John Green

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 6th 2018
Pages: 298

“True terror isn’t being scared, it’s not having a choice in the matter.”


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There is always such a hype around John Green‘s books and I’m sure you are already aware of just how well hyped books and me are getting along. I had made a promise to myself to leave his books be for now after a few ‘it’s not you, it’s probably me‘ experiences… But my curiosity was piqued by Ashley @ Socially Awkward Bookworm when she mentioned Turtles All The Way Down was her biggest surprise of 2018 so far. Do I regret reading the story? No, because I would have always wondered otherwise. Is it a bad read? Not exactly. But it was definitely one of those cases where the story just didn’t work for me. Which is actually kind of strange, because I’m always intrigued by a story with a mental illness theme and I do love my quirky and unique characters. But there was just something about Aza that just didn’t do it for me. There is nothing wrong with the character development and I think John Green did a great job giving us a peek inside her head and how it would be like being her. It just didn’t work for me in particular. The same goes for Daisy, although I do love the fact she writes fan fiction. The plot is a bit farfetched, but it adds a certain air of mystery to the story, transforming it from just another contemporary romance with mental illness angle to something a little more complicated. I do have to admit the pace was pretty slow though, and I could have done without annoying YA tropes like instalove. And was the story exactly credible as a whole? I’m still on the fence about that. But I guess fans of the genre who like their characters unique, flawed and intriguing will probably like Aza and her story as well. Hello, new hyped title on my unpopular opinion review list… Do make yourself comfortable.


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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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