ARC REVIEW: All Things Bright And Strange – by James Markert @tnzfiction

Title: All Things Bright And Strange
Author: James Markert
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian, Magical Realism
First published: January 30th 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: February 28th 2018
Pages: 336

“The beauty of the Bellhaven woods was like a desert mirage – an optical phenomenon inviting trouble, an illusion of light rays that disguised the truth.”

*** I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. ***

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There is just something about the cover that immediately intrigued me, and this book has been on my radar ever since I first heard about it. After I finished another book by the same author, What Blooms From Dust, I just knew I had to read All Things Bright And Strange as soon as possible. Magical realism can kind of be a hit or miss for me depending on how the elements are developed, but I really like how James Markert incorporates them into his stories. All Things Bright And Strange is another example of how I can actually really enjoy magical realism when it’s done right. The story starts out as a typical historical fiction read mostly set in the years after WWI. The main character, Ellsworth, is a WWI veteran along with several other characters, while others have lost someone during the war. I think this is probably my favorite element and the after effects of the war are very well described in the different veterans. A very important topic as well since there isn’t enough awareness when it comes to what veterans are going through! Grumpy Ellsworth really grows on you and he even reminded me a bit of Fredrik Backman‘s Ove (HUGE compliment!). The characters in general are well developed and each plays its role in the events in Bellhaven. Some of their names even have special meanings… But that is something for you to discover as you are reading it  to avoid spoiling surprises. The magical elements mix quite nicely with the historical fiction parts, and the author did a great job creating the right atmosphere for the time period. And the descriptions of the chapel in the woods are wonderful. BUT. There was way too much religious talk to my taste, and All Things Bright And Strange should be classified as Christian fiction. True, a lot of different religions are making their appearance in the story, creating diversity, but I simply feel there was too much religious talking going on and some of it sounded almost like preaching. Which is why I ended up enjoying this one less than What Blooms From Dust, but if you don’t mind a healthy dose of religion in your story, you will enjoy it even better than I did. The descriptions of the strange things that are happening in Bellhaven are simply magical.

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The people of Bellhaven have always looked up to Ellsworth Newberry, asking for his guidance whenever problems arise in town. But after he lost his wife in the town fire and he came back from the war with his hopes for a future as a professional pitcher destroyed, he hasn’t been the same old self. Then he finally sees something strange is going on in Bellhaven… A small chapel is discovered deep in the Bellhaven woods, and it seems to have mysterious healing powers. People keep returning to find peace of mind, but is the chapel really a miracle or a potential problem in disguise?

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When I started reading All Things Bright And Strange, I actually thought I was going to enjoy it even better than What Blooms From Dust. Between the WWI veteran element and grumpy Ellsworth himself, it had all the signs of becoming a true winner… I mean, I even compared Ellsworth to one of my all time favorite characters Ove (A Man Called Ove). These feelings stayed for a long time, but slowly something started to irk me. I’m not a fan of a high dose of religious elements in a story, especially when it starts to sound like preaching. And there just was too much of it in All Things Bright And Strange… Especially in the second half. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I would have liked to see a label calling it Christian fiction. The writing is wonderful though with lots of magical descriptions and a well developed historical setting.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #3: IT & Armada


A new year and more Yvo’s Shorties! This time a true book monster and a popular science fiction read… I’ve been meaning to read both for ages and finally did so last year. I’m talking about IT by Stephen King and Armada by Ernest Cline


Title: IT
Author: Stephen King 

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Fantasy
First published: 1986
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: December 4th 2017
Pages: 1.478

“She wanted to scream and couldn’t. The screams were too big to come out.”


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IT is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for ages and never actually picked up, mostly due to the extremely intimidating size of this monster. I don’t mind reading big (read: 800+ pages) books, but IT is on a whole different level… But with the movie coming out last year, I thought it would be the perfect excuse to finally read it. I originally started reading IT in October for Halloween, but the slump got me and I wasn’t able to finish it until December. It wasn’t just the slump though that made me take ages to finish this monster. Because I truly feel it is waaaaaaaaay overlong and has way too many details, descriptions and subplots, making the story drag at points. I honestly think that cutting out at least half of the subplots and pages would have made this story that much more creepy and suspenseful… And without doubt also a real pageturner. As it is, I had a hard time making sense of all the different subplots and characters in the beginning, making it hard to actually enjoy reading it. Things did get better as I started to connect the different parts and things got more creepy, but that dragging feel took a lot of the suspense away for me. The writing was excellent and the idea behind the plot brilliant, but unfortunately the overdose of subplots and characters and dragging feel ended up decreasing the rating considerably and in the end IT was only a 3 star story for me.


Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: YA, Science Fiction
First published: July 14th 2015
Publisher: Cornerstone
Finished reading: November 16th 2017
Pages: 384

“I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, comforted by my half-assed self-diagnosis. Nothing but a mild flare-up of inherited nuttiness, brought on by my lifelong dead-dad fixation and somewhat related self-instituted overexposure to science fiction.”


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Armada is another of those books that has been on my radar for a long time… I’ve actually been wanting to read both this one and Ready Player One ever since they first came out, but somehow I never did. Too many books, too little time sounds just about familiar right? Various fellow book lovers recommended reading Armada first, so when I was in the mood for science fiction I finally did so last November. When I first read the blurb I was 100% convinced I would absolutely love this book. I have a weak spot for geeky books and I’m a former gamer myself, so I thought Armada would be spot on for me. That’s why I was so surprised I ended up having a different reaction instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love LOVE the writing style and I can see why the right target group would absolutely love this story, but the whole war-alien gaming thing just wasn’t for me. Especially in the beginning I had a hard time getting a proper feel for the story, which I found strange since I should have been able to relate at least to the gamer part of it all. Things did get better after the big plot twist bomb about halfway through, and I liked the second half considerably better. But still… I definitely feel this book has a specific target group and unfortunately I don’t belong to that group. Definitely give Armada a go though if you think this story sounds like your cup of tea! The writing will blow your socks off.


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ARC REVIEW: I Am Behind You – by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Title: I Am Behind You
(Platserna #1)
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Genre: Horror, Dystopia, Paranormal
First published: August 1st 2014
Publisher: Riverrun
Finished reading: September 4th 2017
Pages: 416
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Himmelstrand’)

“The things we take for granted are the things we miss the most when they disappear.”

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

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

Warning: some mild swearing ahead. Couldn’t express my feelings for this one otherwise. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read my share of crazy, weird and quirky stories and I actually enjoy reading them to take a break from the ‘ordinary’. But there is weird, and then there is I Am Behind You. My first thoughts when I started reading were literally: what the hell did I sign up for when I requested a copy?! Because there is one thing for sure, and that is that even after finishing it the only thing my mind is able to process is WTF WTF WTF did I just read?! I Am Behind You is actually a translation of a Swedish novel published back in 2014… I wonder if part of the story was lost in translation and made it more difficult to enjoy it, but considering the other reviews out there I’m quite certain this is not the case. The first thing that stands out to me is the plot, or actually the lack of a plot that actually makes sense. Like the characters, you are left in the middle of an empty field without a clue what is going on. Instead of adding suspense and intrigue, it only made me feel VERY frustrated and added to the overall struggle I had with this story. The worst part is that a lot of things are never explained at all and leave you empty handed and with that WTF feeling I mentioned before. The multiple POVs are also confusing and take a long time to get used to… The flashbacks are a nice touch, and I think I would have actually prefered seeing more of those instead of the current POV since the flashbacks at least made a bit more sense. I wasn’t a fan of the characters at all though. I disliked one even more than the other and this made it very hard to care about them or what would happen to them. And apart from the the lack of a proper plot, multiple POVs, unlikeable characters and the sheer absurdity of it all, I had a hard time connecting to the writing style as well. It might have been the translation, it might have been the writing, but it took me a lot longer than normal to reach the final page and to be honest it was a real struggle. And after such an unsatisfying ending, I kind of wish I could have DNFed this story instead. Because there is one thing for sure: this story 100% isn’t for me. I like weird, I like unconventional, but I Am Behind You was just batshit crazy. Guano style.

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When Molly wakes up early in the morning and asks her mother to go to the bathroom, something strange seems to be going on. Because the toilet block is no longer there. In fact, everything else has gone too and the only thing left are four campers in a neverending field of grass. Where are they? And why are they there in the first place? The four families will do whatever it takes to get back to the ‘normal’ world… But is that even possible?

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I was actually really looking forward to this book, but I guess I should have known after reading the blurb. The thing is: I normally like stories that are unconventional. Call me weird, but I find a dose of crazy to be rather refreshing every once in a while… But I wasn’t prepared for I Am Behind You. Because this story will definitely give you an overdose of crazy. The plot is basically absurd and doesn’t make sense and I was clueless even after reaching the final page. I didn’t manage to connect to the characters or writing style and overall unfortunately I had a really hard struggle with it. The fact that it took me about three times as much as normal to just finish it will say enough… Definitely not a story for me.


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BOOK REVIEW: Never Fade – by Alexandra Bracken

Title: Never Fade
(The Darkest Minds #2)
Author: Alexandra Bracken

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Paranormal
First published: October 15th 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: April 10th 2017
Pages: 507

“Sometimes you’re the one speeding along in a panic, doing too much, not paying attention, wrecking things you don’t mean to. And sometimes life just happens to you, and you can’t dodge it. It crashes into you because it wants to see what you’re made of.”

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After reading and enjoying the first book back in January, I made a promise to read both sequels as soon as possible. It took me a bit longer than expected, but I finally picked up book number two this month… And I have to say that unfortunately Never Fade doesn’t live up to the first book at all for me. While I enjoyed The Darkest Minds even though the plot isn’t all that original anymore, I found Never Fade to be overlong and at times even on the border of boring. The writing style was as good as ever, but it sure took me a lot longer than expected to finish this one… And that is probably due to the fact that both the plot felt a bit thin and some of the characters started to annoy me. Basically, the sequel is about Ruby trying to find someone and messing up along the way, with various people betraying her or not being what they seem to be. Which might still be interesting, but it mostly felt like a ‘copy-repeat’ plot to me instead. Warning: this feeling might also be caused by the fact that Ruby started to frustrate me with the whole ‘I’m dangerous/I can’t be around others/I need to be alone’ thing. It does have a pretty explosive ending though! All in all not what I was expecting at all and yet another series that suffers from the ‘weak-sequel-syndrome’… I will still be reading the final book some time soon though, and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed In The Afterlight will make me enjoy this series again.

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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…

Ruby never wanted her abilities in the first place and doesn’t like using them, but now she’s in the Children’s League she is forced to use them on a daily basis. She has to go on dangerous missions and get the truth out of their enemies, and she only agrees because it’s a way to keep the others safe. But then she finds out something that will change everything… And this new secret mission might just be the most dangerous one yet.

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I was really looking forward to this sequel, especially since I enjoyed The Darkest Minds that much. Unfortunately Never Fade turned out to be another case of ‘weak-sequel-syndrome’. I actually struggled to continue at points as the plot just felt too drawn out; I feel that a similar story could have been told with 150-200 pages less and would probably have been a lot more entertaining. This has nothing to do with the writing style itself though, because Never Fade is without doubt well written. It’s one of the reasons I’m still hopeful for the third book!


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ARC REVIEW: Miranda’s Rights – by Lily Luchesi

Title: Miranda’s Rights
(Paranormal Detectives #2)
Author: Lily Luchesi

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
First published: January 8th 2016
Publisher: Vamptasy Publishing
Finished reading: April 8th 2017
Pages: 128

“Angelica commented that they looked like the most fucked up family in the world. A full vamp, a vamplet and a human, sitting in a bar. They were the start of a bad joke.”

*** 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 the first Paranormal Detectives book back in January and finally found time to continue the series this month. I have to be honest and say I’m not a fan of vampire stories, and that is probably one of the reasons I’m enjoying this series a lot less than other readers. In fact, I’ve decided this series will be the last time I read a story involving these fanged creatures, because it just doesn’t seem fair to the authors reading a genre that doesn’t seem a good fit in the first place.

That said, what probably saved the Paranormal Detectives series and this sequel for me is the fact that it’s not just about vampires; there are a lot of other supernatural creatures involved as well. Werewolves, witches and even demons make their appearance, although the main focus is on vampires as one of the main characters is a vamplet. For a paranormal romance story, there isn’t all that much romance involved (although this sequel does have a love triangle, more romance scenes and it can get a bit sappy). The main focus is on the action, revenge and fights though, and I can really appreciate that. The flashbacks to the different points in history are interesting as well; they are probably my favorite part of the story and explain more about the characters as well. Miranda’s Rights is also a fast read and fans of the genre will probably enjoy it a lot better than I did.

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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…

Danny Mancini has never truly come to terms with the fact that paranormal creatures actually exist, and what he would like most is just forget about the last few months of his life. But that wish doesn’t seem to come true as cursed werewolves show up at his doorstep and try to kill him. He is forced to go back to the Paranormal Investigative Division as his life is at risk… And they need all the help they can get against a powerful old enemy.

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As I said before, my experience with Miranda’s Rights and this series has probably more to do with the fact that I hate vampire stories than the actual story. The story itself is easy to read and has a lot of action; the flashback moments are an interesting way of learning more about the characters. There was a considerable increase in the amount of romance scenes though, and I’m not a fan of the love triangle. Maybe because Miranda felt a bit flat as a character? I’m still curious about what happens next and like I said, if you like the genre definitely give this series a try.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds – by Alexandra Bracken

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Title: The Darkest Minds
(The Darkest Minds #1)
Author: Alexandra Bracken

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: December 18th 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: January 21st 2017
Pages: 499
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“The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”

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I still can’t believe it took me more than TWO years to finally pick up my copy of The Darkest Minds. I’ve been wanting to start this series for ages, but somehow I always ended up picking up a different title instead. But no longer. Now I’ve finally read the first book of this series Alexandra Bracken has me hooked. No more escape for the sequels, because I will be reading them VERY soon for another dose of my favorite Psi characters. I can definitely undestand what all the hype is about now… Sure, the plot isn’t all that original with its dystopian world where kids and teenagers develop a ‘superbrain’ and special powers. But it WAS written back in 2012 so I definitely kept that in mind. And more importantly, this story was just way too entertaining to worry about  the originality in the first place. I liked the main characters and their development, although little Zu is probably my absolute favorite. Ruby on the other hand can come over as a bit whiney at points, but I guess she did have some complicated memories to deal with… Another great feature of The Darkest Minds is without doubt the writing style and pace. The prose was so enjoyable to read and the story itself reads like a train. All in all a promising start of what has all the signs of being a great series!

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When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed even though she didn’t realize it at first. She found out soon enough when her parents locked her up in the garage and called the police instead of celebrating Ruby’s birthday with her. Instead, she was sent to the Thurmond camp along with all the other children who survived the mysterious disease and showed signs of having the new frightening abilities they could not control… And life at Thurmond is tough. Ruby is now sixteen and one of the dangerous ones. They put her in the wrong group when she arrived, saving her life at first but putting her in danger if the truth comes out. She has to escape, but that will only be possible with help from the inside…

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Like I said before, I feel really bad about not picking up this series earlier. As I already suspected, I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Minds and I will be reading the sequels (or at least the second book) next month without fail. Both the writing style and character are easy to like and even though the plot might not be all that original, I enjoyed diving into this dystopian world anyway. Recommended for YA dystopian fans!


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BOOK REVIEW: This Savage Song – by V.E. Schwab

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Title: This Savage Song
(Monsters Of Verity #1)
Author: Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2016
Pages: 464
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“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”

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I think I have mentioned my love for Victoria (V.E.) Schwab‘s books once or twice already this year, and I still don’t know what took me so long to finally pick up this copy of her newest novel and first book of a new series This Savage Song. People kept telling me I should just read this one and that I would love it as much as the other books I had already read, and they were totally right. A Darker Shade Of Magic is still my absolute Schwab favorite, but this one came in a close second! Brilliant, just brilliant. The prose is just excellent and I love LOVE the worldbuilding. Like in Shades Of Magic, the worldbuilding isn’t all that complicated, but this simplicity just WORKS. The idea of Verity with its three types of monsters is intriguing, and I LOVED the main characters August and Kate. Both the dynamics between the characters and their development is very well done and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year. It’s going to be a long wait for sure… V.E. Schwab has definitely proven to be worthy to be in my TOP 10 of all time favorite authors!

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The world has become a dangerous place and the the violence in the city of Verity has begun to breed actual monsters. Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to this divided city… And they are both in danger. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who has made a deal with the monsters and makes the humans pay for his protection. And all August wants is to be human and play a bigger role in protecting the innocent, but he is actually one of the monsters. The two finally meet as August is giving the task to keep an eye on Kate, who has just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned to the city. Nobody can know about his secret, but it’s a hard one to keep…

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I have to admit I’m having a hard time writing something coherent about this book. I feel like a fangirl blabbering all over the place, but This Savage Song is just THAT good. The worldbuilding is quite simply, but excellently done and it makes it really easy to just dive into this story and relate to the main characters. Both Kate and August are well developed and I loved their characters, although August is my absolute favorite. I love the idea of the different monsters and the plot is excellent as well… The story doesn’t end with that big of a cliffhanger either, but I will definitely be waiting impatiently for the second book. It looks like it will be a duology, so I will be rereading this little masterpiece before the sequel next year. And in case you haven’t guessed it yet, I can more than recommend this book!