ARC REVIEW: Four Days – by Jamie Campbell

Title: Four Days
Author: Jamie Campbell

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 5th 2015
Publisher: Eltham Press
Finished reading: June 17th 2017
Pages: 135

“In tennis, inches add up to miles. In life they add up that way too. The trick of it is to understand that fact.”

*** 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 read Jamie Campbell‘s other short novel The Thankful back in January and enjoyed it, so I found myself looking forward to Four Days as well. This short novel actually has a complete different focus and is more of a contemporary romance story packed with sports and roadtrip elements. Four Days has less romance than I would have expected initially and is actually more focused on the main character Luci trying to deal with a broken relationship and her tennis career not going as well as she would have liked. Luci has to rediscover herself and the roadtrip can be seen as a symbol for this journey. I’m a big travel fan, so I really enjoyed the descriptions of the different parts of New Zealands the characters were driving though. And although I’m not a big fan of tennis myself (I prefer rugby!), I liked the way these elements play a big role in this story. Four Days definitely has a huge dose of sports incorporated into the plot! The story is also quite easy to read and I liked the fact Dutch words were used here and there. It might just be the philologist in me, but I always love when different languages are incorporated into the prose, although of course it’s important that the story is still understandable for those who don’t speak the other language like is the case with Four Days. All these points sound positive, so why only a three star rating, would you ask? Two things. First of all, I wasn’t able to connect fully to the characters and some of their actions were a bit annoying. I’m not sure if it’s because it didn’t feel natural or for a different reason, but I wasn’t sure if everything was all that credible. But the biggest reason would be the adult content. I have a huge aversion for any story that includes adult content and trust me, some of the scenes in Four Days are pretty steamy. This is 100% me though and I’m sure romance fans won’t mind them at all. But as this review is about my personal opinion and feelings, the rating reflects just that… There were a lot of things I did like about this story though, so definitely give this one a try if you like a good road trip/sports contemporary and don’t mind the steamy scenes!

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Luci Wijn has been having a lot of bad luck lately, both in her personal and professional life. Her partner cheated on her and her tennis career isn’t going as well as she would have hoped… Is the invitation to her friend’s wedding in New Zealand the escape she needed? Luci has to play in Auckland afterwards anyway, so she travels to the other side of the world to share her friends happiness even though she doesn’t feel great herself. But then there is a strike at the local airport, and her friend’s cousin Jamie has to step in and drive her if she wants to make it to Auckland in time…

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Four Days is without doubt less of a romance story and more of a road trip and sports-focused contemporary read. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the local scenery and the writing style was quite enjoyable to read. I liked the Dutch words popping up every once in a while and how sports played such an important role throughout the story. I wasn’t sure about the characters though and the steamy scenes were a huge turn off for me. But like I said before, if you don’t mind those you will probably enjoy this story a lot!


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ARC REVIEW: Can’t Buy Forever – by Susan Laffoon

Title: Can’t Buy Forever
Author: Susan Laffoon

Genre: YA, Romance, Mystery
First published: June 1st 2015
Publisher: Page Publishing
Finished reading: June 16th 2017
Pages: 218

“Coincidences don’t add up, choices do. We build our life one choice at a time for better or for worse.”

*** 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’ve had Can’t Buy Forever on my TBR for longer than intended, but the cover and promise of a 1950s setting kept calling to me and I finally picked it up a few days ago. I found myself looking forward to it despite the low rating, especially since I’ve been in the mood for historical fiction lately… But I ended up being far from impressed. Honestly, I don’t think I would have made it to the end if this wouldn’t have been an ARC; unfortunately it was a tough battle just making it to the last page. Part of the problem might have been me and others might enjoy this story better, but I will explain below why I ended up having to give Can’t Buy Forever such a low rating.

1. The supposedly 1950s setting is almost non existent except for a few mentions of a date or important event here and there. As a historical fiction fan I felt a bit disappointed by this, especially since the setting is especifically mentioned in the blurb. If you leave out those few time references, this story could have easily been set in the present as well… Such a shame, because a well developed historical setting would have added credibility and dept to the story.

2. I had a lot of problems with the main characters in general. I wasn’t able to connect to them and this made following the story a lot harder. Furthermore, Odessa acts a lot younger than the 18-year-old she is supposed to be… She cries all the time and her feelings for Nicholas are cheesy, not credible and it almost feels as if I were watching a ten-year-old having her first crush on a senior quarterback.

3. The crying. Seriously, how many times do Odessa and the other characters cry during this story?! Once it started to annoy me I just kept seeing those crocodile tears mentioned, and it really started to get on my nerves. It also made their feelings less credible and more cartoonish.

4. It has a love triangle. Or in fact various love triangles if I am more specific. And you all know now much I despise those… I can tolerate them if they are done right, but these examples were quite cringeworthy and the feelings just felt unnatural.

5. I don’t feel there really is a plot and the events themselves don’t really seem credible or make sense. I mean, Roark is supposed to get away with all he does?? And Odessa just accepts all what happens? And we as a reader just have to accept everything that happens as well without a proper explanation? The lack of plot or at least a proper idea of what is going on also made it a lot harder to follow; it just didn’t feel like a coherent story at all and almost like a delusional ramble of one of the main characters on their deathbed.

6. I wasn’t able to connect to the writing style at all. I don’t see the lack of grammar and mistakes mentiones in many reviews I saw on Goodreads, but the sentences don’t flow and it was really hard to keep track of the story and read more than a few pages at a time. The writing style was one of the reasons I considered a DNF various times during this story… And I’m still wondering if that would have been a better choice.

Enough of the negative… There were some interesting aspects about this story, especifically Nicholas’ history and the gypsy references. I can’t go into details without revealing too much, but a focus on those and further development of those elements would probably have improved the story considerably. Without a proper explanation, the credibility of it all was simply lost. I really wanted to like this story, but as you might have guessed of this rather lenghty (for me) list, unfortunately I just couldn’t.

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Odessa Drake decides to change her destiny and moves in with her widowed great aunt Flo in Mineville, New York. Her aunt owns a boarding house and Dessa spends her days helping her out, working to keep the house running when she isn’t at school. Then Nicholas shows up and he is given the attic for lack of other space; four years later, he is one of the few boarders still in the house. They have grown fond of each other despite the fact that Dessa really doesn’t know a lot about Nicholas… But Nicholas has a reason to keep the past buried, and things might become dangerous when he gets too close. What secrets does he keep and how do they affect Dessa?

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I was actually looking forward to Can’t Buy Forever as the blurb sounded quite interesting, but unfortunately I ended up having a completely different experience instead. I won’t repeat all the details I’ve mentioned above since I’ve already talked about each point extensively, but it does become clear it was far too easy to find things that didn’t work for me in the story. Was it just me or is the book to blame as well? I won’t be the judge to read the sentence, but at least I’ve put in my two cents.


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ARC REVIEW: Now I Rise – by Kiersten White @kierstenwhite @DelacortePress

Title: Now I Rise
(The Conqueror’s Saga #2)
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: June 27th 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: June 13th 2017
Pages: 496

“The world will destroy her in the end. Too much spark leads to explosions. But your sister will destroy as much as she can before she goes out. She will go down in flames and blood.”

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

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I admit I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to this series, but I was hooked as soon as I finished the first chapter of And I Darken. I had the privilege of receiving an ARC copy of the sequel early (trust me, I still can’t believe my request was actually approved!), and after finishing the first book I wanted to continue with the sequel right away. Now I Rise by no means suffers from the so-called ‘weak-sequel-syndrome’. This second book of The Conqueror’s Saga starts out strong and stays that way until the very end. The focus is slightly different than in the first book, mostly because it has two completely different storylines this time and the story switches between those POVs. I personally liked this change and it didn’t distract from the main plot at all, especially since there is still an obvious connection between the two storylines both through the characters and the plot itself. I also liked the glbt elements in the series in general, although I do have to say the love triangle bits did started to bother me as well as some of the decisions of the characters. This is probably the only negative thing I could find about this series though! Because there is no doubt I’m truly enjoying this Vlad The Impaler based series so far. Another thing that stood out for me is that there is more action and more fighting in Now I Rise, although it is balanced with further excellent character development and detailed descriptions of the worldbuilding and historical references that will make it feel as if you were back in the 15th century yourself. Because there is no doubt that Kiersten White‘s writing style is wonderful and will have you under its spell… Well written, beautiful, rich, engaging and highly addictive: Now I Rise will have you in its claws and won’t let you go until you reach the last page, leaving you wanting for more. Thankfully the sequel doesn’t end with that big of a cliffhanger, making the wait for book three a little more tolerable… Although it’s still going to be a long one.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first  book yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Lada Dracul decided to start fighting to fulfill her own dreams, but that will be more difficult than it seems. Because she has no allies and no throne: just herself and a handful of loyal men. She wasn’t able to secure the Wallachian throne as easily as was promised, but is determined to punish anyone who dares to stand in her way and prevent her from succeeding. On the other hand, Radu is still at Mehmed’s side with a completely different goal in mind. One that will ask even more from Radu than he has already given… What will happen to them and will they be able to succeed in their goals?

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After already enjoying And I Darken I had high hopes for the sequel, and Now I Rise definitely didn’t disappoint. There is a slightly different focus in the sequel, but I personally liked these changes and two different storylines each with a lot of action, intrigue and its own web of secrets and lies. The historical worldbuilding is very well done and sets the right atmosphere for what is already an excellent story. I wasn’t a fan of some of the romance and I didn’t agree with every decision made, but those are only minor complaints compared to my love for the writing style. I can’t wait to try more of Kiersten White‘s books in the future! And The Conqueror’s Saga book three is going straight to my list of most anticipated 2018 releases. Is it June 2018 yet?


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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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BOOK REVIEW: Love, & You – by Gretchen Gomez

Title: Love, & You
Author: Gretchen Gomez

Genre: Poetry, Non Fiction, Romance
First published: April 4th 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: June 4th 2017
Pages: 142

“addiction
comes
in
different
forms

i was the addict.
he was the drug.

and every time i tried
to go into detox, he kept
coming back to me
with pretty hello’s.”


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I normally don’t tend to review the poetry I read, but I just HAD to make an exception for Love, & You, a poetry bundle written by fellow book blogger Gretchen Gomez (chicnerdreads). I’m sure most have already heard about her blog and wonderful poetry posts, but make sure to visit her if you haven’t! ❤

I remember adding Love, & You to my wishlist as soon as I first heard about it and my interest increased steadily as I read glowing after glowing review. But I have to give credit when it’s due and say it was actually Amanda’s wonderful review that sealed the deal for me, confirming just how much I would be able to relate to the poems. And she was 100% right. It’s been days since I devoured Love, & You in record time, and I still haven’t recovered from the emotion overload. Because to say it crudely: damn, that girl can write powerful poetry! Wonderful, emotional, raw, beautiful, powerful, strong, exceptional… Trust me, I can keep the adjectives going for a long time if you let me. This poetry bundle is all about her experience with a toxic relationship and her slow recovery from it. The poems are highly personal and it really feels you get to know her a lot better through her poems. I truly admire her courage first talking about such a personal topic and then going ahead and publishing the poems afterwards!

It’s not widely known, but I was unfortunate enough to have a quite similar experience with a toxic relationship in the past. The details don’t really matter right now, but it did mean that the poems in Love, & You made an even bigger impact on me than they would to others who haven’t had such an experience. Trust me, she doesn’t exaggerate the effects of such a relationship and its looong and difficult road to recovery. Writing (both poems and other forms) can be a very important form of self-therapy and I loved learning more about her journey through her writing. I wrote some poems myself after my experience that helped me learn about the past and accept what happened, but those just seemed like silly scribblings compared to those shared in Love, & You. I loved both the writing style, form and the way the different emotions are voiced. It’s not often that I’m left speechless, but I found myself lost for words after finishing this bundle. Thank you for describing my own feelings and memories so much better than I could ever done!

It’s easy to say I can highly recommend Love, & You.


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ARC REVIEW: The Gypsy Moth Summer – by Julia Fierro

Title: The Gypsy Moth Summer
Author: Julia Fierro

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 6th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 2nd 2017
Pages: 400

“What good are the rules,” Jules asked, “the laws, moral this and that, when you can’t follow them and protect your family at the same time?”

*** 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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Ever since I first heard about The Gypsy Moth Summer I’ve been intrigued by this story. I’ve heard lots of interesting things about it since I first added it to my list, but somehow it has taken me months to actually pick it up. One of the reasons is probably that I tend to have mixed reactions when it comes to literary fiction… And unfortunately The Gypsy Moth Summer ended up being one of those books where the genre just didn’t work for me. I really wanted to like this story and the plot is without doubt both intriguing and well developed. I liked the idea behind the island of Avalon, its history and all events leading up to its ‘climax’ during the summer of 1992. Why wasn’t my reading experience better then, would you wonder? First of all, during the whole length of this story I found myself unable to connect to the characters OR get used to the writing style, which put a mayor damper on things. I’m not saying this story isn’t well written, but it’s what you call an acquired taste or at least doesn’t appeal to everyone. It just all felt a bit too chaotic to my taste and I personally struggled with this story. I understand the gypsy moth information bits are used to bind the plot together and these insects play a both a literal and symbolic role in the story, but unfortunately they mostly ended up distracting from the plot. And as for the characters: like I said before I found it impossible to warm up to them and I couldn’t really appreciate the liberal use of sex, drugs and alcohol in the story without consequences either. It might be that those elements are used to symbolize the chaos unfolding on the island, but it mostly made me dislike the characters even more. All in all The Gypsy Moth Summer definitely wasn’t for me… But if you enjoy reading literally fiction and like the sound of this story, don’t let my review discourage you.

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It’s the summer of 1992 on Avalon, a small islett off the coast of Long Island. The normally quiet island is being invaded by gypsy moths, the caterpillars eating everything that they can find and becoming a true plague. The insects are becoming one of the main topics of conversation on the island, but that is not the only thing the islanders talk about. Leslie Day Marshall, the daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family, returns to the island with her husband and children. Nothing special would you say, but the fact is that Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American and the island is packed with predominantly white conservatives quick to form their opinions about the family… And than there is the topic of the factory and the graffiti.

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I really wanted to enjoy this story and I still think the plot itself is both rich, provoking and fascinating, but unfortunately The Gypsy Moth Summer ended up being one of those titles that just isn’t for me. Literary fiction can go either way with me in general, so that might just have been the problem here; if you enjoy the genre I would suggest still giving this story a go. That said, I couldn’t ignore the chaotic feel of the storytelling, my lack of connection to the characters, certain elements that bothered me or the fact I couldn’t warm up to the writing style.


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ARC REVIEW: Heartborn – by Terry Maggert

Title: Heartborn
Author: Terry Maggert

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 1st 2016
Finished reading: May 28th 2017
Pages: 238

“Sometimes, she thought books had been the only thing other than the love her parents that kept her from quitting. They were old friends who never left, and always took her by the hand to go someplace her broken body could not.”

*** 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 haven’t read all that many books about angels before and I was intrigued by both the cover and blurb when I first heard about Heartborn. What I didn’t realize until later is that this is actually the first book of a series… And that’s probably why I was kind of surprised when I reached the last page of this story. Heartborn definitely ends right when things are starting to make more sense and the story was becoming more interesting. This was one of the main things I was struggling with as I was reading this story: the credibility of it all and the lack of worldbuilding/descriptions of the word the angels live in. I liked that Heartborn is a story that is a mix of the ‘real’ world and the fantasy, linked together through the characters, and it definitely made the story more interesting. But even though I liked Livvy’s character (‘real’ world) in general, I had serious doubts about her reactions to everything. I mean, she somehow takes the news of a completely foreign world being out there somewhere without even a complaint or thinking twice? And she just accepts and gobbles up everything Keiron and the others say without completely freaking out? Not credible at all. And then I’m not even talking about the insta-love happening somewhere in the middle.  Also, I can’t go into details without spoilers, but let’s just say that I felt there was a lack of balance in the plot; some parts felt rushed and lacked explaining, while others started to drag. The ‘angel’ chapters were interesting enough, but I would have liked to see more details and worldbuilding to properly enjoy them. This fantasy world has a lot of promise, but didn’t reach its full potential for me. All in all not as good as I would have hoped it would be.

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Livvy Foster was born with only half a heart, and has somehow completely surprised everyone and survived to reach her seventeenth birthday. Life hasn’t been easy on her and she bears the scars to prove it; forced to live slow as to not damage further her already weak heart. She has only just started working in the library when she meets Keiron. What she doesn’t know is that there is a whole lot more about him than just another library visitor… Because he has come from a place far away, a guardian angel pushed from high above with a mission to save her. What will happen to the two?

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Now I’ve read Heartborn I can’t deny there is a lot of potential in this story, and it’s a shame the fantasy world has been described only so briefly. An extra 100 pages or so would have helped develop their world better and that would probably help enjoying this story a lot better. I also had problems with the credibility of it all, mostly due to Livvy’s reactions to so many (for her) shocking details. The final part of the story also felt a bit rushed and the ending abrupt. All in all a lot of potential, but in the end it just didn’t work for me.


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