March 2019 – Monthly Book Wrap Up

monthly wrap up - january book blog diary of difference children of blood and bone nicholas sparks tomi adeyemi leigh bardugo holly smale happy girl lucky girl with a pearl earring court of thorns and roses sarah j maas

Hello everyone! It’s finally time for my March Wrap Up. This month went so quickly for me. I managed to read and review 8 books. I have a few books that I did finish, but haven’t written a review for them yet, so they will go on top of the April list.

I have also continued with my Down The TBR Hole Tag and I am excited to see what progress I will make this year. Below are all four posts I did this month:

TBR Hole #21🌟TBR Hole #22🌟TBR Hole #23🌟 TBR Hole #24🌟TBR Hole #25

Books I read:

monthly wrap up march once upon a river the guilty party to best the boys romanov blog blogging book books goodreads netgalley

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield – ★★

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is a story that had the perfect plot potential to be amazing, but it didn’t deliver at all. As a huge fan of storytelling, this was a big disappointment for me, the biggest one so far in 2019. 

Goodreads 

Blood Moon: Part 1 by S. Yurvati – ★★

A beautiful writing, but a confusing adventure, mixed with Out-Of-Earth creatures that don’t really appear until the end of the book, a very disturbing plot, however, a very promising ending as well. I can’t say I enjoyed this book, but it did leave me curious to read the next one. 

Goodreads

The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath – ★★★★

A mystery that left me curious until the very end. A psychological paradise of a thriller that captures people at their very worst, right when they realise their lives are at stake. These people did nothing. But that doesn’t mean they’re innocent… 

Goodreads

To Best The Boys by Mary Weber – ★★

The blurb sounds so good, and the cover is gorgeous. I hate to say this, but the book seems like an unfinished draft. It seemed so promising, and all I thought I would get out of this was non-existent.

Goodreads 

Beast Rider by Tony Johnston – ★

A fantasy that stays true to many young people, that dare cross a border, searching for a better life. A fantasy, but also a cruel reality of what truly happens to these young boys and girls, and all the journeys they have to go through, fighting for a better tomorrow.

Goodreads

Romanov by Nadine Brandes – ★★

A wonderful and magical tale, with a history behind it of a mysterious family, especially their end – this book brought tears on my eyes and made me think about the power of forgiveness and love. A true masterpiece.

Goodreads 

The Battle of Trafalgar Square – David Winship – ★★

I dived into ‘’The Battle of Trafalgar Square’ not knowing what to expect. This is a book where two pigeons are the main characters and through dialogue and presentation they share this historic battle, but from their point of view.

Goodreads

The Devil’s Apprentice (The Great Devil War #1) – Kenneth B. Andersen – ★★★★

Possibly the best Young-Adult Fantasy I have read this year. Enter and discover Hell and see how it works, meet the Devil and learn why we need evil in order to be good! A fantastic story and great adventures await in Hell. Read this at your own risk! 

Goodreads 

How did your March go? How many books did you read and what was your book of the month?

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Romanov – Nadine Brandes [BOOK REVIEW]

Goodreads 

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★★★★

From the author of Fawkes comes a magical take on the story of Anastasia Romanov.

The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it.

Ever since I read Fawkes, I knew I loved Nadine’s writing, and when Romanov was announced, I couldn’t be happier. As I have spend my childhood and young adult life in the Balkans, whilst travelling across Europe, I have always admired Russia, and always enjoyed reading all the theories about the Romanov family.

As a child I would be told stories and fairy tales, I would watch the Disney adaptation of Anastasia, and as I was growing up, I would read history books and fiction on this very subject. When I got my hands on ‘’Romanov’’, I knew I would be up for an adventure, with lots of expectations, but what I never knew was that I would be blown away of how beautiful this book is!

This book is split into two main parts, before and after the Romanov’s execution, but it is also split into the first being the historical part, and the second being the fictional part. Both parts of the book are quite intense, and very different emotions come up to surface, but they are both very powerful throughout, and fitted together quite well.

In the first part, we are introduced to the Romanov family, and how they are kept as hostages by the Bolsheviks. It would’ve been much better if we had more details on the pre-hostage period, why the revolution began, why the king abducted the throne, who are the Bolsheviks and what they believed in. The book starts in the middle of this whole situation, and whilst I knew the beginning before, I am certain a lot of people wouldn’t have.

The history, as much accurate as it was, also had a personalized feeling that the author wanted to give. I have to admit, a lot of the details, especially around the family were quite accurate. The family did stick together and loved each other, they did have secrets and they did make friends with their captors. Anastasia’s brother did indeed had hemophilia and Rasputin was allegedly helping him. However, the author decided to put her personal feelings into the history as well. The king is presented as a wonderful leader that cares about the people. I understand that we see this story from Anastasia’s point of view, and as his daughter, she is supposed to see her father as the best figure in the world. But I still believe this part should be more objective, if not from Anastasia’s point of view, then at least by the king’s actions and dialogues. The other big element that bothered me was the portrayal of Rasputin. He is shown in this book as a family helper and a kind man, when in fact, he was far from that. In the history books, he is described as a madman, a creepy person, and the king was not happy of him coming in the house. The family’s secrecy and the queen’s silent domination over the king, together with Rasputin’s doings were the start of the revolution, and I believe that it one of the required truths that this books should have included, but didn’t. And that troubled me.

On top of this, is the Russian language used throughout this book. There were a lot of spelling errors, and misinterpretations. And whilst I can understand these words, many people can’t, and translation wasn’t provided in the book. Also, I really found this quote interesting, talking about the Russian culture, and how they don’t show emotions. Just a note – this is most of the time true, people won’t be nice to strangers, but actually, Russian people are quite friendly and emotional as well.

‘’We Russians weren’t required to share any amount of emotion we didn’t want to.’’

Apart from these few things that slightly bothered me, I really enjoyed this book. Anastasia is an amazing character, and through her we can see her love towards her family, her country, and even towards the people that wish her harm. We get to see her love, cry, be hurt, be afraid, forgive, and grow throughout the book, and her journey was magical.

‘’As I lay in the grass next to the spell that could rid me of heart pain, I realized that a part of forgiveness was accepting the things someone had done – and the pain that came with that – and moving on with love. Forgiveness was a personal battle that must always be fought in my heart.’’

I loved the beginning of the book the most. The setting was well-written, and I got the feel the same way as the Romanov family did. They tried to act as if everything was normal, when in fact, they were held captive, and moved out of their home. They weren’t allowed to go out in the garden often, and when they did have this opportunity, they enjoyed every single second of it. And they all had hope every single day. They kept smiling and stayed together.

There are number of scenes that will always stay close to my heart – the relationship between Zash and Anastasia (as unrealistic as it might be), always kept me on my toes, his desperation, and his guilt, and her ability to forgive and love regardless.

The brother’s illness, and his persistence through it. His motivation and his will to never give up. The love he holds for his family, and especially his sister Anastasia, and the toughness and not letting go. A few scenes were unrealistic with him, as I hardly believe anyone suffering from hemophilia can survive all those injuries mentioned in the book and the pools of blood, but above all – this character did achieve what he was meant to do – show hope where there is none.

A wonderful and magical tale, with a history behind it of a mysterious family, especially their end – this book brought tears on my eyes and made me think about the power of forgiveness and love. A true masterpiece.

Thank you to Nadine Brandes, for letting me be a part of her Ninja Team.

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and NetGalley, for providing me with a complimentary ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Beast Rider – Tony Johnston [BOOK REVIEW]

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★★★

A fantasy that stays true to many young people, that dare cross a border, searching for a better life. A fantasy, but also a cruel reality of what truly happens to these young boys and girls, and all the journeys they have to go through, fighting for a better tomorrow.

This is the first book I have read by Tony Johnston, and the reason I chose to read Beast Rider was because we get to see a twelve-year-old Manuel leave his small town in Mexico to join his older brother in the US.

As a girl myself, I had a family member that lived in another country, and I have always had my inner battle of going abroad to search for a better tomorrow and sadness of leaving my old life behind. With Manuel, you get to feel his hopes and fears, his nostalgia for his hometown and family, his thoughts and learnings at every step of his journey.

A few points bothered me slightly; the grammar in this book needs to be edited immediately. The character keeps using two words in a row row, and after a while while, it gets quite off putting off putting (you see what I mean?). I truly hope this is editing mistake, and not a writing style. There are a lot of Mexican words, without any glossary included. I can understand the words, but some people wouldn’t – and not being able to know the meaning can be a nuisance.

While reading about the journey of Manuel, I couldn’t help but remember exactly how I felt in a few points of my journey:

  • To Go or Not To Go

Manuel’s brother left the small Mexican village and now lives in Los Angeles. Manuel loves his big brother, and wants to join him desperately. He secretly plans his journey and decides to leave the town, after a lot of hesitation, in order to find his older brother. The battle between to go or not to go is the biggest battle one person can have with themselves. It is always hard, no matter which way one decides to go. And when Manuel decides it is time to go, I knew exactly how he felt, when I myself made that hard decision as well, and left my comfortable home to go and live in a foreign country.

  • The Journey To a Better Tomorrow

Manuel’s journey is not easy at all. In order to cross the US border, he had to become a ‘’beast rider’’ – someone who hops on a train. He tries multiple times, and various unlucky things happen to him, he gets stopped by the police, he is attached by a gang, people steal his most valuable items. But despite everything, Manuel’s spirit never leaves him, he is always hopeful he will find his brother soon. I loved the motivation and determination in the young Manuel, and it is so amazing to watch him grow through his experiences.

  • The Final Destination – Was This What I Really Wanted?

After all his endeavors, we finally get to see Manuel reunite with his brother. But what happens if you finally reach your destination, and this happens to not be what you wanted to? Manuel struggles to fit in this lifestyle, he can’t recognise himself, or his brother, and he is emotionally wrecked. He misses his family back home, and he realises that what he thought he would achieve once he finds his brother is not happening. When you feel all roads are closing on you, it is time to make a decision. And making his final decision, Manuel proves to have grown so much, and I admired him this entire book.

A beautiful story about all the emotions and journeys that young people go to. We all have dreams, and some of us reach for them, and act on them. Sometimes, these dreams turn out to be our life-changers, and sometimes, these dreams seem great, but are not ours to take. And this book showed me that that’s fine too. It’s okay to realise you suddenly don’t belong. It’s okay to act on your dreams, and it’s also okay to make mistakes. As long as you stay true to yourself, everything will be alright.

Thank you to the publisher Abrams Books and NetGalley, for providing me with a complimentary e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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To Best the Boys – Mary Weber [BOOK REVIEW]

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Synopsis:

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.

Welcome to the Labyrinth.

My Review:

★★

I love Mary Weber as much as her food recipes she shares with us every single month! I don’t usually decide whether to read a certain book by its cover, but this cover made me want to find out more about it. When I read the synopsis, I had to read it, as it captures women fighting for their rights in a young-adult format, and it simply was something I couldn’t miss.

I will be honest with you and say that this book didn’t deliver. Maybe it was my expectations, after all, that got me too excited for my own good.

Let’s start with Rhen. She is a girl that loves science, and her father has taught her everything he knows. They are poor family and don’t have all the equipment in the world, but that doesn’t stop them to keep discovering and learning every day. In their kingdom, an unknown disease comes around, and Rhen’s mum is ill, with no cure yet. Rhen wants desperately to find a cure, and a rich boy wanting to marry her might promise her all the equipment she needs, but now it’s time that she lacks.

When the men’s annual tournament is about to begin, with boys fighting for the science scholarship, Rhen knows that she has no choice but to enter, disguised as a boy, and try to win this – for her, for her dad, and most importantly, for her mum.

The book flows really slowly. We get to about half of the book when Rhen decides to enter the tournament. I expected this to happen in the first couple of chapters, and to then have the adventure from within the labyrinth. For me, it was quite a slow beginning, but some of you might enjoy that. The writing is beautiful throughout.

I loved the fighter within Rhen. She is a fierce person, determined to fight for what she wants. Even though throughout the book she has trouble with realising what is it that she really wants, we can see a bit of character development in her.

As a book that is supposed to cover gender equality, and women fighting for the same rights as men, this book didn’t really deliver. The letter states that every gentleperson – not gentleman. Which means, that inequality never truly exists at all. Women could have entered this competition, but they just chose not to.

The whole competition, the labyrinth and the scholarship lacks details and has enormous loopholes: one scholarship is given to one person – the one that wins the labyrinth. And after the winner is chosen, we have a scene where they all take a test, including the winner?

The disguise was a huge and important part of this book, as Rhen and her friend are pretending to be boys. Rhen cuts her hair, and her friend just pins it and ties it with a hat. They both wear boy clothes and barely remember to lower their voices. And that is all they do to not get recognised. And somehow, the people that know them their whole life fail to recognise them. A bit unbelievable…

I wish I loved this book, because I truly fell in love with the cover and the synopsis. But the whole labyrinth set-up seemed to be a side-story, with the illness being the main story, and the realisation of what Rhen actually wants to achieve. Random characters were introduced, that didn’t drive the story one bit, and the author also happened to throw in an inconsistent romance and a love triangle.

I hate to say this, but the book seems like an unfinished draft. It seemed so promising, and all I thought I would get out of this was non-existent.

I am not sure if I would want to recommend this book to you guys. If you want to give it a try, I encourage you, and would love to talk about it and hear what you think, but if you are here because you loved the synopsis, this book will probably not satisfy you.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and Netgalley, for giving me a complimentary ARC e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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February 2019 – Monthly Book Wrap Up

monthly wrap up - january book blog diary of difference children of blood and bone nicholas sparks tomi adeyemi leigh bardugo holly smale happy girl lucky girl with a pearl earring court of thorns and roses sarah j maas

February was a very hard month for me. I was away for two weeks, and even though I tried to catch up as much as I could with my reading, I haven’t read as much books as I wanted to. See the books I have read below – as usual, click on the book title for a link to my book review.

I focused on my TBR and all the books that I have recently received by authors and publishers. Thank you to all of you, for sending me your books, and don’t worry – I haven’t forgotten about you – I will continue to read your books in March and finish off my never-ending reading list.

I have also continued with my Down The TBR Hole Tag and I am excited to see what progress I will make this year. Below are all four posts I did this month:

🌟TBR Hole #17 🌟 TBR Hole #18  🌟 TBR Hole #19 🌟 TBR Hole #20 🌟

Books I read:

Happy Girl Lucky (The Valentines #1) by Holly Smale – ★★★★★

The Visitor by Ti Ca – ★★

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – ★★★★★

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – ★★★★★

How did your February went? How many books did you read and what was your book of the month?

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