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 Little Red Wolf – by Amélie Fléchais

Title: The Little Red Wolf
Author: Amélie Fléchais

Genre: Picture Book, Retelling, Fantasy
First published: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Lion Forge
Finished reading: August 3rd 2017
Pages: 80
(Originally written in French: ‘Le petit loup rouge’)

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

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Every once in a while I start craving something completely different, and the best way to scratch that itch has always been picking up a graphic novel or picture book. I was having exactly that feeling not that long ago when I was browsing Netgalley, and my eyes went wide when I saw the cover of The Little Red Wolf. I immediately fell in love with the cover art and the promise of more lovely illustrations inside, so I hit that Read Now button so hard I almost broke my keyboard. I opened The Little Red Wolf not long after and I wasn’t disappointed by what I found. Such gorgeous illustrations! This little story has actually been published in French in 2014 and is now translated to English so more of us can enjoy it. As the title already hints, The Little Red Wolf is a wonderful retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood and told from the POV of a little wolf cub. The adorable and highly detailed drawings will appeal to young readers and parents alike and will bring a joyful experience discovering all the little details on each page. A little warning though, because this story is both whimsical and tragical at the same time and more sensitive children might not appreciate especially the second part of this picture book. I would personally recommend it for the age of six and up because of that. The Little Red Wolf has a mix of pages with just illustrations and others with more text, but I liked the balance between the two and the pages without text can be used perfectly to interact with young children. The moral of the story is a strong one as well: to show that things can easily be misinterpreted with terrible consequences… Hence the darker and tragic part of the story and a little warning to evaluate beforehand if your child could be affected negatively by that. That said, I personally absolutely loved this little picture book and its wonderful illustrations. Just what I needed!

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A young wolf is sent to his grandmother to bring her a fresh rabbit. His mother has warned him to stay on the path and keep safe from the hunters, but the little wolf is distracted by the wonderful things in the forest. He soon finds himself lost, and then a nice girl appears who offers him help. But is she really as nice as she appears?

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Just give one look at that cover and you will get a pretty good idea of what is waiting for you inside. The illustrations of The Little Red Wolf are absolutely gorgeous and will make you happy by just looking at them. They are very detailed as well; full of little drawings inside drawings to discover the longer you look at each page. The story itself is a mix of typical fairy tale and something a bit more darker and haunting, which is why I don’t think it’s suited for the youngest readers… But age 6 and up should be ok depending on how sensitive the child is to tragic themes.


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ARC REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil – by Tim Symonds @ReadingAlley

Title: Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil
Author: Tim Symonds

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
First published: November 6th 2016
Publisher: MX Publishing
Finished reading: May 31st 2017
Pages: 233

“Chinese dragons don’t have wings but they can fly into the sky. They don’t breathe fire but can summon rain. And like the tiger, if they so wish they embody the spirit and drive to achieve and make progress.”

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

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I was in desperate need of a break from the books I was currently reading and needed something quite different, and that is when I stumbled across this story. I can always appreciate a good historical fiction story, especially when it’s set in a foreign culture… Add a healthy dose of mystery and murder plot and I was sold. Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil is, as you might have guessed from the title, a Sherlock Holmes retelling and a very well executed one as well. I’m sure most people are at least vaguely aware of the original characters and I for myself always enjoy a good retelling around these characters if it’s done right. Tim Symonds without doubt did an excellent job both in keeping true to the essence of the original characters; they felt authentic and I felt as if I were taken back straight to that era. The bantering between Holmes and Watson is perfectly portrayed! Furthermore, the descriptions of China, its customs, characters and other facts is very detailed and it shows that the author has researched the topic thoroughly. The plot is intriguing with quite a lot of twists, although I personally could guess who was behind it all quite early on. This didn’t take away from the reading pleasure though as I enjoyed following Holmes and Watson during their journey. Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon is a very well written historical fiction mystery and the Chinese setting is brilliantly executed. Perfect for fans of the genre!

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It’s the year 1906 and Sherlock Holmes’ skills might be needed once again… Although this time in the faraway Peking. There are rumors a deadly plot is hatching and it’s up to Holmes to discover whether such a plot exists and if so stop it before it’s too late. But who exactly is the intented target in the first place: the young and progressive Ch’ing Emperor or his aunt, the fearsome Empress Dowager Cixi? Either death could lead to a catastrophe and it’s up to Holmes and Watson to try to find and if so unravel everything in time.

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I can always enjoy a good Sherlock Holmes retelling when well executed and that is without doubt the case with Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil. Both the setting and the descriptions are very well done and made me feel as if I were in the room along with the main characters. The outcoming might not have been all that surprising, but the plot twists are still well executed and feel very much like ‘Holmes’. All in all without doubt a very satisfying read.


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ARC REVIEW: Flame In The Mist – by Renee Ahdieh

Title: Flame In The Mist
(Flame In The Mist #1)
Author: Renee Ahdieh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: May 16th 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: May 1st 2017
Pages: 368

“Sometimes we must fall forward to keep moving. Remain motionless—remain unyielding—and you are as good as dead.
Death follows indecision, like a twisted shadow. Fall forward. Keep moving. Even if you must pick yourself up first.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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As soon as I saw the cover and the mention of Mulan, I was sold. Flame In The Mist has been on my list of most anticipated 2017 releases ever since, and I still cannot believe my Netgalley request was actually approved. I read a teaser back in January in one of the Buzz Books editions, and what I saw was GOOD. So good that my expectations were extraordinary high when starting this new series by Renee Ahdieh, but somehow Flame In The Mist managed to be ever better than expected. I practically devoured its pages and loved every single minute of it. The setting, the writing style, the characters (Mariko, Okami!!!), the plot… It doesn’t happen often that I hand out the full five star rating, but I just couldn’t give this story any lower. Both the worldbuilding and the writing style feel rich, engaging and very well developed and executed. I also enjoyed that Flame In The Mist is set in Japan and talks about a culture I’m personally not all that familiar with. The characters started to grow on me almost instantly and I LOVED Mariko as a main character. A little note though: even though this story basically blew me away, I did feel my love would have been even greater without the romance… It’s not all that distracting, but there is a hint of a future love triangle I’m not that sure/happy about. It was too insignificant to influence my rating though. I just cannot wait to find out what the future has in store; the wait for the sequel is surely going to be a long one! If you like the genre, this is definitely a must-read.

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Even though Mariko has a long list of skills, she has long known her future has been out of her hands simply because she was born a girl. She is the daughter of a prominent samurai and at the age of seventeen now promised to the son of the emperor’s favorite consort. Mariko has no choice but to do as her father wishes and accept this political marriage, but it seems like fate has different plans for her in store. In route to the imperial city of Inako, the group is ambushed by a gang of bandits known as the Black Clan and Mariko narrowly escapes with her life… She is believed to be dead, and Mariko decides to use this to try and find the Black Clan. Will she be able to discover who was behind the attack and will she be able to restore the honor of her family?

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If you like well developed fantasy reads with gorgeous prose, setting and interesting characters, you are in for a treat with Flame In The Mist. The only thing that would have made me enjoy this story even more would have been the exclusion of the romance scenes; otherwise this first book of a new series is simply perfect. In fact, I can’t wait to read the sequel and the first book hasn’t even been published yet… More than recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Bull – by David Elliott

Title: Bull
Author: David Elliott

Genre: YA, Poetry, Mythology
First published: March 28th 2017
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: March 16th 2017
Pages: 200

“Minos says I’m nothing more than Nothing.

Can Nothing take a form and call it me?

But Nothing is ever what it seems.

Watch Nothing laugh.

See Nothing cry.

Hear Nothing scream.”

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

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I have a weak spot for (Greek) mythology retellings, so I knew I had to request a copy of Bull as soon as I saw it mentioned last year. Like the title already suggests, this story written by David Elliott is a mythology retelling of the classic Greek Minotaur story I’m sure most have at least heard about. I actually translated part of it during high school so I was looking forward to revisiting the story! One thing is for sure: Bull definitely wasn’t the mythology retelling I was expecting. I’m still not sure what to make of it all, but there is no doubt it was at least both an entertaining and very original retelling. Why? Bull is a story full written in verse and each character in the story has its own unique style; very creative indeed. The writing style made me laugh more than once, although the humor might be a bit unorthodox and I’m still not sure the tone was actually appropriate. To get an idea what I mean, here’s how the story started:

“POSEIDON

Whaddup, bitches?

Am I right or am I right?
That bum Minos deserved what he got.”

Not exactly what you would expect when starting a Theseus and the minotaur retelling, right?! Still, I would recommend this story to anyone searching for an original and slightly bizarre story and to those who enjoy reading in verse and don’t mind a swearword or two.

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A story completely told in verse… Minos wanted to be king and asked for the help of Poseidon, only to deny the God his sacrifice when Minos gets what he wants. Poseidon is furious and decides to punish Minos, but the best revenge is one that’s properly planned and needs time. Minos doesn’t know it yet, but his future will change forever… Because instead of a little boy, Minos’ wife and queen will give birth to the Minotaur. And that sure is something else!

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It personally took me some time to get used to the original and unorthodox way Bull narrates the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, but I can also really appreciate the direction the author decided to take with this retelling. There is no doubt that teenagers will find it easier to connect to Bull than the original story and it has without doubt a high entertainment factor. It’s not for everyone, but the right person will definitely have a blast reading this Minotaur retelling told in verse!


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BOOK REVIEW: Unhooked – by Lisa Maxwell

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Title: Unhooked
Author: Lisa Maxwell

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: January 22nd 2017
Pages: 352
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“Hers might never be calm or easy paintings, but those canvases are the way she keeps herself centered. She needs to create, or she will lose herself bit by bit to her fears and delusions.”

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I had this book by Lisa Maxwell on my radar for a long time, so I was really excited when I saw it was offered as one of the free reads at RivetedLit. I read a sample of Unhooked some time last year and remember being thoroughly impressed by the beginning of this Peter Pan retelling. I was more than excited to be finally continuing this story, but as things advanced and the revamped Neverland worldbuilding was revealed things fell a little flat for me. The beginning was without doubt the strongest part of this book even though it has a minimum amount of ‘magical’ elements. The rest just didn’t live up to expecations… It might be the hint at a love triangle, it might be the whiney main character, but I didn’t enjoy Unhooked as much as I thought I would. The writing style was very enjoyable to read in general; the pace was fast in the beginning, but slowed down considerably later on despite the action scenes. In fact, it took me a lot longer than expected to read it and I barely finished it on the last day the book was available. Such a shame, because it sounded so promising!

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Gwendolyn Allister has been on the run her whole life, all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. This time her fear has brought them to London, far away from the life she had trying to build for the last two years, but luckily she will still have her best friend Olivia with her for the summer… Their vacation won’t be what they were expecting though; both Gwen and Olivia end up being kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world that cannot be real. Has Gwen’s mother been right all this time after all? Gwen finds himself in Neverland, but it’s nothing like the original stories. Will she find a way to rescue Olivia and go back to her own world before it’s too late?

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I have to admit, both the cover, blurb and preview had me literally ‘hooked’. I was really looking forward to continue reading Unhooked, but unfortunately the story started to fall flat for me as I continued reading and discovering more about the revamped Neverland. It’s not that I don’t like the mixed up ‘good’ and ‘bad’, but both the romance and some of the main characters were really starting to get on my nerves. The ending wasn’t really satisfying either… What was a very promising and enjoyable start with a spark, soon started to sizzle out and didn’t manage to convince me in the end.


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ARC REVIEW: Down The Rabbit Hole – by Julia Crane

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Title: Down The Rabbit Hole
Author: Julia Crane

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: December 3rd 2016
Publisher: Valknut Press
Finished reading: December 18th 2016
Pages: 230
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“No one is fully evil. You just have to try harder to be good.”

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

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I have to confess it has been 15-20 years since I last read the original Alice In Wonderland, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love reading a good retelling of the story. It’s easy to say I was especially excited to have my wish granted at Netgalley! I was really looking forward to pick up my copy of Down The Rabbit Hole, but I’m sad to say I didn’t live up to expectations. I remember how happy I was when I first found out it was a retelling, but my initial excitement slowly turned into disappointment. The story started out promising enough and Alice is without doubt an interesting character. Down The Rabbit Hole had a lot of potential, but unfortunately it fell flat as soon as Lacie’s character makes her appearance. The POV switches between the two sisters, but the Lacie chapters are weak and I could’t warm up to her character. To make things worse, there are a lot of innecessary romance scenes (including annoying tropes like insta-love and love triangle) included that that didn’t add anything to the plot. I also found the ending a little too ‘weird’ to my taste… Although the general idea behind the story is without doubt intriguing. That said, Down The Rabbit Hole wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and unfortunately not in a good way. If you don’t mind cheesy romance scenes and a little weird, you will probably enjoy it a lot better than I did though.

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Two sisteres are bound by blood, but separated by magick… Alice lives in Wonderland with her so-called mother the Red Queen, and years of pain and illusion have messed with her mind. She is quite unpredictable and can turn out to be very dangerous… She has watched her twin sister Lacie for years with great envy, although Lacie doesn’t even know she exists. Lacie has been living on Earth for all those years unaware of her destiny, but that will change soon as the date of the prophecy comes closer. According to the prophecy, only one of the twin sisters will survive… Who will it be, or do they find a way around the prophecy?

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I really liked the sound of Down The Rabbit Hole and I always enjoy reading a good retelling. The story started out promising enough, but fell flat as soon as Lacie was introduced. From that point the story was basically a bunch of cheesy romance scenes sprinkled with a little magic that wasn’t enough for me to keep my interest. The ending was a little too weird as well, and quite abrupt. I wish I could have enjoyed this story better, but Down The Rabbit Hole definitely wasn’t for me.