ARC REVIEW: The Map Of Us – by Jules Preston

Title: The Map Of Us
Author: Jules Preston
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 4th 2018
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Finished reading: June 13th 2018
Pages: 180

“Me being me isn’t always easy on those I love.”

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

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I stumbled across this title after reading Inge’s review earlier this month, and even though unfortunately she wasn’t able to enjoy it better, my curiosity was piqued and I knew I couldn’t let this story go. Quirky characters? A comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine? Where can I sign up for that?! The Map Of Us sounded like one of those stories you either hate or love, especially since the connection to the characters seems all important in this story. Quirky and unusual characters can go both ways, and while I love my characters that way, they often are not for everyone. One of the reasons I ended up enjoying The Map Of Us better than I thought I would was exactly that: my ability to appreciate and embrace the quirkiness of Tilly and Violet. And I think this story has a lot of potential, although I had my doubts about the execution in certain areas. The first thing I struggled with was the writing style, which I somehow didn’t manage to get used to. Short phrases can mess up the pace and make the story feel haltered… But more than that, I especially struggled with the chapters in Dad’s POV. I’m sad to say I had to skimread those since I couldn’t get used to them. And talking about POVs, I felt there were too many different POVs in the story, making it harder to connect with at least one of them. I think I would have enjoyed the story that much better if it would have been told from just Violet’s or Tilly’s POV, or just the two of them at least. I never got a proper feel for any characters due to the many switches and it made the story feel quite messy and for me it lacked cohesion. That is, until the final stage when everything is rushed to be connected together. I did like the quirkiness of The Map Of Us and both Violet and Tilly have so much potential! I just wish they would have gotten their chance in the spotlight rather than being squeezed in between the other POVs.

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Violet North has been abandoned by her family, but somehow manages to overcome her difficulties and survive in a big house all on her own. Then her life changes forever in the space of just 37 words with a stranger at her front door… And not only that, but a whole fictional world has opened up for her as well, with the help of a blue typewriter she borrowed from one of her neighbors. Decades later, her granddaughter Tilly sees her marriage fall apart. Tilly has always been good with numbers, and compiles a detailed statistical report to help find out exactly why and when it went wrong. The Compatibility Index has consequences she had never forseen when she first created it though…

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Like I said before, The Map Of Us has a lot of potential, both because of the general idea behind it and the two most important characters Tilly and Violet. I honestly feel that with more development and focus on those two characters, a more fluent writing style and less jumping between different characters would have made The Map Of Us into another fantastic read similar to the likes of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. As it is, I don’t think that comparison would do The Map Of Us a favor, since unfortunately they are not on the same level. But I do want to stress that especially Tilly has the same potential and quirkiness in her personality that made Eleanor Oliphant into such a success for me. So again, with more focus and development of that character (and Violet as well), I would probably have enjoyed The Map Of Us considerably better.


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ARC REVIEW: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade – by Miriam McNamara

Title: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade
Author: Miriam McNamara
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: June 19th 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Finished reading: June 11th 2018
Pages: 336

“All that water, bits of land – so many places she could be in this new world. But for all of Anne’s geography lessons, Mary was still hopeless at figuring out where exactly she might fit in it.”

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

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I love a good pirate story and the blurb of The Unbinding Of Mary Reade sounds just as fantastic as the gorgeous cover, so I’ve been really excited to finally read this one. And with its f/f romance, I thought it would be a perfect story to read during pride month as well. Alas it seems like it wasn’t ment to be. I didn’t check the reviews before starting this one, or at least I would have been warned… Because The Unbinding Of Mary Reade unfortunately turned out to be quite a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the idea behind this book, the possibilities of the setting, the f/f romance, the characters… But the execution was just completely off for me. I will try to explain why this book didn’t work for me below. First of all, I struggled with the writing style, which felt halted with dialogues that didn’t seem natural. The use of ‘bad grammar’ in the dialogues only distracted (aka annoyed) me instead of adding the right historical atmosphere. Also, the constant switching back and forth in time was really distracting and made it hard to stay focused on the main plot. Especially since the chapters set in London basically didn’t add anything substantial to the story and were extremely dull. In fact, I found the story in general quite boring, and how is that possible for a story with gay pirates in it?? For a book about pirates, there were almost no action scenes or even scenes on a boat included in the plot. And that was quite a disappointment, since there was basically nothing of note to fill this huge hole of lack of action. Ok, characters. The characters in general lacked development and were rather bland. Anne almost felt like a caricature and while Mary had all the potential of being a fascinating character, she mostly fell flat for me and I wasn’t able to believe either of their feelings or actions. This lack of credibility extends to the other characters as well. Also, trigger warnings are in place for homophobia, transphobia, (sexual) abuse and sexism in general. I get that we are talking about an 18th century setting, but this was just too much. In short, while I still love the idea behind this story, the execution was rather poorly and The Unbinding Of Mary Reade turned out to be a rather chaoticly written, dull and not credible love story. Did I expect this reaction? No, but unfortunately I can’t change the way I feel about this one.

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When Mary was really young, her mother saw no other way to keep their mouths fed than to disguise her little girl as a boy and pass her off as her dead child Mark. Mark has a wealthy granny that will take care of her only grandchild and heir… So there is no place for a girl in Mary’s world, and she has to be Mark at all time to not see her life fall apart. This gets harder as the years go on and she falls in love with her childhood friend Nat. And when she is discovered, she flees London with Nat and boards a Caribbean merchant ship as a sailor. But what will the future bring?

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I keep repeating: I still love the idea behind this story and I truly wish I could have enjoyed The Unbinding Of Mary Reade better. Unfortunately, I found the execution lacking in various ways, and I had a hard time finishing this one. Between the chaotic writing style that didn’t flow, a rather dull plot, bland characters, lack of action and a not so credible display of emotions, I can’t say I was impressed. Where were the pirates, were was the action? Why did we have to read so much about Mary’s past in London, if her life on the Caribbean Sea is what really counts for this story? Why wasn’t there more focus on Mary and Anne? Why the excessive amount of sexism, homophobia, transphobia and sexual assault? The tone for this supposedly YA rated story was completely off, especially since Mary felt younger than the age group during most of the story. All in all not the story I was hoping for.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #27: The Orphan’s Tale & Murder On The Orient Express

Another day and another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Bringing you more shortie reviews of books I read during my hiatus. The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff has been on my list for a long time, and turned out to be just as good as I thought it would be. And I have been meaning to read more of Agatha Christie‘s work for a long time, so accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express movie turned out to be the perfect excuse to do so.


Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff

Genre: Historical Fiction, War
First published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: Mira Books
Finished reading: May 18th 2018
Pages: 353

“Sometimes our forever life does not last as long as we think.”


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After a very difficult but extraordinary visit to the Auschwitz camps, I wanted to read another historical fiction story set during WWII to commemorate. I was browsing my kindle and my eyes fell on The Orphan’s Tale, a title I have been meaning to pick up for a long time, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do so. While not exactly the story set in one of the camps I was looking for, this story shows the struggle and fear of the Jews trying to hide their true identity. The Orphan’s Tale has a wide variety of different characters and this diversity was one of the reasons this story worked. The circus setting with all its descriptions and opportunities for plot twists and new angles definitely was another key element. The writing is solid and makes it really easy to fully emerge yourself and keep reading to find out what will happen to the main characters. There comes the only minor flaw I experienced myself though: I didn’t agree with every decision of the characters and somehow it wasn’t as easy to get a proper feeling of some of them. This feeling of slight uneasiness and frustration made me lower the rating slightly, but overall The Orphan’s Tale is without doubt among the better WWII historical fiction stories I’ve read to this date.


Title: Murder On The Orient Express
(Hercule Poirot #10)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Classics
First published: 1926
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: May 21st 2018
Pages: 256

“I know human nature, my friend, and I tell you that, suddenly confronted with the possibility of being tried for murder, the most innocent person will lose their head and do the most absurd things.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up another Agatha Christie book ever since I finished And Then There Were None back in 2015, but somehow I never did. So I guess accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express was a blessing in disguise, because since I normally never watch the movie before reading the book, of course I had to immediately remedy that. I had high hopes for the book, and even though I haven’t read the previous Hercule Poirot books yet, I was able to enjoy book number ten anyway. Because Agatha Christie writes in a way that will draw your attention from the start, and she gives just enough background of the main characters to be able to form an idea of their past without the previous books. I still want to read the other nine titles before this one as well of course, and the copies are on my list. But the fact is that Murder On The Orient Express can easily be read as a stand-alone as well and what a good story at that. From the main character to the development of the other characters, the mystery, the way Hercule Poirot conducts his investigation… There is just something about it that will fascinate you completely and any mystery/thriller fan will find themselves flying through it. I personally liked both movie and book equally, although I still wish I would have read the book first, because I had the actors stuck in my head and the descriptions of the characters in the book don’t really match. Thankfully the script itself follows the original plot closely; one of the reasons the adaptation was so successful to me. Murder On The Orient Express has shown me I really need to get copies of more of Agatha Christie‘s books soon, because I have truly been missing out by not reading them.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lost For Words Bookshop – by Stephanie Butland

Title: The Lost For Words Bookshop 
Author: Stephanie Butland
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 20th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 9th 2018
Pages: 368

“Our pasts are as unfixed as our futures, if you think about it. And I like the freedom I have to tell a different story.”

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

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Here we go again: unpopular opinion time. Trust me, I was fully expecting to love this story, especially since I have a weak spot for books about books… But I guess it turns out it wasn’t ment to be. On its own The Lost For Words Bookshop has all the right elements to turn the story into a success. And that is probably one of the reasons I’ve seen only glowing reviews so far. I’m asking myself now: why didn’t enjoy this story better then? Well, first of all it’s probably me that is part of the problem. Because let’s face it, introduce a love triangle and I start sneezing. But surprisingly it wasn’t exactly the romance in this story that bothered me. The main problem I had was with the main characters, who somehow I just wasn’t able to get a proper feel for. Which is strange, because each of them is well developed, feels real and adds a little something to the story. But it is what it is, and I can’t change my feelings. Another thing that I wasn’t so sure about were the flashback chapters, going back to Loveday’s childhood. Instead of adding dept and intrigue to the plot, I mostly felt it interrupted the flow of the present storyline, especially since both seemed to have a quite different writing style. The switches were actually one of the reasons it took me longer than expected to finish this read. That said, I did love the incorporation of poems, many many bookish references and of course Loveday’s tattoos and their meaning. A true bliss for any booklover to find. Likewise, the descriptions of the bookstore make me wish I could visit the place myself. But somehow, The Lost For Words Bookshop just didn’t hit home for me. Being able to see some of the plot twists coming from a mile away didn’t help either… But like I said, I’m in the minority here and fans of contemporary romance with a darker twists will probably enjoy this one a lot better than I did. Because there is no doubt that Loveday’s past is no joke.

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Loveday Cardew has been working in Archie’s bookshop ever since she was fifteen, and to be honest she prefers books over people. Books have always played a role in her life, and she even has the first lines of the novels that mean the most to her tattooed on her skin. Loveday doesn’t want to get close to a lot of people for a reason though, as she is trying to hide her past… Something she will never want to talk about. But after certain books arrived at the bookshop, she is starting to wonder if someone knows about her mysterious past after all…

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On its own, The Lost For Words Bookshop seems to be having all the right elements. It has a lot of bookish references to fall in love with, complicated and well developed characters, suspense and a mysterious past, drama, a healthy dose of romance for the romance fans… I was expecting to love this one, but somehow I wasn’t completely convinced. Between the lack of connection to the characters, love triangle and past-present storyline switches that didn’t feel natural to me, I ended up taking a lot longer than I thought I would to finish this one. There were elements I loved of course, including the bookish elements and Archie’s character. And I’m positive most of you will enjoy this story a lot more than I did.


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ARC REVIEW: The Namarielle – by Julien Jamar

Title: The Namarielle
(Chronicles Of Lashai #1)
Author: Julien Jamar
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: January 19th 2018
Publisher: BooksGoSocial
Finished reading: May 23rd 2018
Pages: 349

“There is power in love that cannot be attained any other way.”

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

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I admit I kind of requesting this first book of a YA fantasy series on a whim after falling in love with the cover. There is just something about The Namarielle that instantly made me want to read it, and it turns out that my coverlove instinct was solid. Because there is no doubt I very much enjoyed this story! I’ve become a bit wary of YA fantasy series due to the amount of romance and repetitive plots, but I was pleasantly surprised by The Namarielle. The writing is engaging and made it really easy to emerge yourself into this new fantasy world. I enjoyed the worldbuilding and the promise of an interesting past, complicated and dangerous present and the promise of a better future. Would I have liked to see the worldbuilding even more detailed? Maybe. But I’m guessing that we will see even more of Lashai in the sequel. The characters are interesting, although a bit cliche with Cassai with her mysterious past and Elian with his secrets. The connection between them is a nice touch, although a bit cheesy as well… And some of the reactions and actions of the main characters could get annoying. I did like the inclusion of different fantasy characters like werewolves and fae. They add a little extra to the plot and I’m hoping to see more of at least the fae in the sequel. I did have some problems with the frequent POV switches though, because that made it a lot more difficult to connect to the different characters. But in general this was a highly entertaining and enjoyable first book of what looks to be a promising series.

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Cassai grew up on a small farm hidden away from the rest of the world… Until one day she is no longer safe there. It looks like the people closest to her have been hiding things from Cassai, secrets that will change her life forever… If she can make it out alive. Because Lashai isn’t as it used to be under the Namarielle, and not following every order is very dangerous indeed. Especially with a history like she has, even if Cassai can’t really remember who she really is…

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The Namarielle is a very entertaining and interesting first book of a new YA fantasy series. I really liked the worldbuilding and potential of Lashai, although I would have liked to learn even more about the world… But I’m hoping the sequel will give us more details. The characters are interesting enough, even though there are quite a few cliches, and I liked the special connection of Cassai. The constant POV switches did make it harder to connect to the main characters though. But all in all it was still a solid read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #25: Summer Of Sloane & Scrappy Little Nobody

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties and the first round of Europe trip books! Summer Of Sloane was a TBR jar pick I thought would be a perfect way to start my vacation, but it didn’t turned out to be as good as I hoped. Scrappy Little Nobody I picked up in the hope of finding something entertaining and funny to read, and while it wasn’t a bad read, my lack of familiarity with Anna Kendrick might have had a negative effect on my overall opinion.


Title: Summer Of Sloane
Author: Erin L. Schneider

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: April 22nd
Pages: 304

“We all make mistakes, but hating someone for one they’ve made can ruin your life if you let it.”


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Summer Of Sloane was my latest TBR jar pick and after posponing it for a long time, I thought this YA contemporary would be the perfect way to start my Europe trip. I actually finished it in the last days before our flight, as it is a superfast read. As the cover already suggests, Summer Of Sloane is what you call the perfect beach read. The writing style is easy on the eye and reads superfast, and romance fans will probably have a great time with this one. Because there is no doubt this story has a very high dose of romance, including love triangles and a whole lot of drama. While it was an easy read and had all the signs of being entertaining, it sadly was just way too heavy on the drama for me to be still enjoyable. True, I’m not a real romance fan and I’m practically allergic to love triangle, but it wasn’t just that on its own that bothered me. The constant drama and Sloane herself just really got on my nerves. I mean, if she doesn’t want her boyfriend or friend ruining her vacation after what they did, why not simply block there phone numbers and emails? Why do we as readers have to suffer through her constant complaining after she received yet another message she didn’t want to see? The love triangles and romance scenes themselves were supercheesy as well, but I guess if you are looking for an easy read and love the genre, you will enjoy Summer Of Sloane a lot better than I did.


Title: Scrappy Little Nobody
Author: Anna Kendrick

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: May 8th 2018
Pages: 304

“That night, I resolved to keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.”


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I picked up this memoir on a whim on the plane, wanting for something light and hopefully funny. I actually didn’t read a lot and ended up finishing it a lot later during our trip (the first week was too hectic to read much), but I guess most will finish this one superfast. It’s quite easy to read and has both funny and very personal moments of her life included. I admit I’m not really familiar with her work and that might have had an negative influence in my opinion. That said, I do admit it’s not the first memoir of famous personalities I’m not familiar with I’ve read, and I was still able to enjoy some of those more than I did Scrappy Little Nobody. I don’t mean this memoir is a bad read though, and I guess there were some parts that were really entertaining while others were brutally honest. I really liked that of Anna Kendrick, letting us get a glimpse of what it was like growing up for her. And I’m sure fans of her work will love this one.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #22: Cocktails And Dreams & Wing Jones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two contemporary romance reads I ended up actually enjoying despite the fact that the genre isn’t really for me. Cocktails And Dreams by A.L. Michael was such a fun read and I loved the writing style! And I loved the running element, mixed race main characters and the dragon/lioness symbolism in Wing Jones by Katherine Webber.


Title: Cocktails And Dreams
(Martini Club #1)
Author: A.L. Michael

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 24th 2017
Publisher: Canelo
Finished reading: March 15th 2018
Pages: 209

“Actually, what I really needed was my best friend, and a glass of wine the size of my face.”


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Fact: the contemporary romance genre and me don’t always get along. Also a fact: I can still really enjoy a contemporary romance story under the right circumstances. And this has a lot to do with both my mood and if the author is able to manage to convince me. It doesn’t happen all that often, but Cocktails And Dreams turned out to be one of those exceptions. Because I absolutely adored this story! I was in desperate need of something fun and entertaining to read and this book worked like magic. I had so much fun reading Cocktails And Dreams, and this is coming from someone who is normally allergic to romance… So if you like the genre, you will have a blast while reading this one. The writing style is engaging, easy to read and has just the right pace to allow for well developed characters and an interesting plot. The characters are really easy to like and this made me connect to the story right away… And I just loved the food and drink elements in the story, which added a little something to the plot as well. The descriptions of the different foods and drinks are simply mouth watering and will make you want to try everything out yourself! I also loved the Martini Club setting and the way the different relationships developed. I’m not too sure what to think about Savvy’s mother, but I guess it does give the story an edge. Cocktails And Dreams is such an easy story to love though! And I will definitely be looking out to get a copy of the sequel, because the writing style is fabulous.


Title: Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 5th 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: March 24th 2018
Pages: 378

“But when I’m running, I don’t feel like an idiot. I feel free, like anything is possible. Like I’m not running from something, but for something.”


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I kind of picked up this title on a whim after seeing it mentioned recently, and I thought it would be a nice change of genre. Wing Jones is a YA contemporary romance story with a twist. You will find a healthy dose of drama, with the main character Wing’s brother being in a coma after a car accident he was to blame for. There will be romance scenes as well, which can be distracting, but gladly at least did not include a love triangle. But the main element of Wing Jones, besides showing how they have to live with the aftermath of the accident, is running. I just love how important running is in this story and how Wing uses this newly found talent to try to move on and make a life for herself. I really liked the characters in general as well as the fact that the Jones family is mixed race and how this is represented in the story. Very well done! I also loved the lioness and the dragon and how they were being used as symbols for Wing’s heritance. A little magical touch in an otherwise ‘realistic’ story and it added a little something extra to it. I did feel the middle part dragged a little and the ending was a bit rushed, but overall I had a great time reading Wing Jones. The romance and insecurity of Wing were a tad annoying as well, but the running and dragon/lioness elements made me mostly forget about that. If you enjoy reading YA contempories with a healthy dose of drama, this one will be a very good fit for you.


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