Cleo - Lucy Coats


I'm finally getting through my TBR-pile and trust me readers, this one is a goodie! I got Cleo by Lucy Coats originally from Netgalley, but the file was almost unreadable. Luckily, Lucy is one of the nicest authors I know and send me a gorgeous paperback version of the book in a customised Cleo envelope! Of course, I'm super grateful for her kindness, but it doesn't influence my review in any way.



Her precious mother is dead - and it isn't an accident! The young Cleopatra - Pharaoh's illegitimate daughter - must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis's power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis's power - on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the über-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo's powerful destiny is about to unfold...


Now I've been looking at the Goodreads page of this book a little bit and saw lots of comments about the maturity of Cleo. The maturity of YA narrators is something I always focus on and when a 16 year old acts 14 (in Goose for example) or acts older (the reason why I hated Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe), I immediately dislike the book.

However, I do not agree with all the other Goodreads reviews: I liked Cleo's maturity. Is she bratty, naive and demanding? Yes, she is, but then again she's also a Pharaoh's daughter who always, even when she flees the castle, has people doing her every beckoning. Being raised like that would make anyone bratty and demanding and her lack of experience completely explains her naive nature in my eyes. I will say that if you want a sarcastic, cynical Cleopatra that has maturity beyond her age, especially because she's so special, you're better off picking up another historical novel about Cleopatra.

Fantasy elements

When I talked to Lucy, she told me she loved the Grave Mercy series and reading this book I can definitely see the influences. (Lucy just informed me that she read GM AFTER writing Cleo! So I guess it's just not influence but just a very happy coincidence!) Cleo is clearly mostly a historical fiction book, with the emphasis on Cleopatra's youth and her life in Egypt. However that's not the only thing in this book; Cleo can communicate with the Gods. With communicating I don't mean Percy Jackson-style communication with the Gods, but more visions and voices inside Cleo's head. This adds an element of originality to the story which means that even hardcore Egyptian history lovers can be surprised by this book.

The only small downside to the fantasy elements, and to the book overall for me, was the role it plays in the love story. Cleo sees a boy named Khai right before she flees the palace. She doesn't see him for four years, yet she has these dreams in which she can communicate with him. This seemed odd to me and her extreme fixation on these dreams and Khai annoyed me. She's the chosen one, she has to save Egypt, I'm sure she could think of more important things than a boy (but then again, she's a teenager so maybe she can't).


This book is a solid four out of five stars for me. Besides my annoyance with the paranormal romance, this story was nearly flawless. Cleo was a realistic royal teenager and I loved seeing her grow throughout the story. I think this book is a great read for anyone who enjoys Grave Mercy or the Percy Jackson books.

Have you read this book? Please share your thoughts below! 

The Queen of the Tearling - Erica Johansen


Someday I'll be completely on schedule with all my blog posts. That day is clearly not today. In April, the Booksplosion book of the month was The Queen of the Tearling: a book I picked up months ago and hadn't read yet. I decided that Booksplosion was a great motivation to read it and now, a month too late, here is my review!



On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.


Kelsea "not another girl" narrator

I must admit that I have conflicted feelings about this book. The main thing I didn't like was the fact that Kelsea, the new Queen, comes across as "very different from normal girls". While I usually crave diversity in YA narrators, it just didn't work for Kelsea. It was too forced and unbelievable. I get that you want to make a main character different, but she's a young girl who suddenly becomes a queen. Would she really be that heroic? Could she be that intelligent? Would she be that emotionally strong? I am not convinced at all.

Can we do YA without a love story? YES WE CAN.

What I did love about this story is the fact that there is no real love story. Kelsea is young, so obviously she's thinking about men and what she's feeling but there is no real focus on it. There's no traditional love interest and that is absolutely perfect in this book. It wouldn't work, it would distract the reader from the already very complicated plot and it would make Kelsea even more cliché than she already was. I loved that the author was brave enough to just leave the love story out of it (at least for this first book of the series).

Plotting genius

And she might have left the love story out of it, because she was already juggling a million plot events. Honestly, this book is a great how-to guide for plotting. There's so much happening, yet everything is paced perfectly and makes perfect sense. There's slavery, wars, different narratives, childhood problems, parent problems,... This book combines everything and does it in a fantastic way. 

The one drawback about this, for some readers, is that there's jumping of point of view and this is done quite inconsistently. I didn't always understand why we had to hear from certain characters at certain times. Besides being confusing at times, it also means that the reader basically knows everything and especially more than Kelsea. This frustrated me because it made it even harder to relate to Kelsea, a character I didn't like to begin with. I wish I had just known her point of view about the story.


On Goodreads, I gave this book four stars, because there's no half star option. However, my true rating is 3.5 out of 5. This was a good book and I did enjoy reading it, but I was also frustrated throughout and I just wish I could pick this book up and re-write it a bit. But with this potential, I'm hoping the next book in the series will be a 5 stars.

The Golden Prince - Rebecca Dean


Find it on bookdepository here

When I was about 18, I went through an intense historical fiction phase. It was all I read and I thought they were the only books I could enjoy. Then I discovered YA and got distracted by so many other books I could read.

But my 2015 resolution is to pick up more historical fiction novels because they always surprise me with how much I love them. Unfortunately, The Golden Prince might not have been the right book to start with.

Starting this review, I must admit that I know almost nothing about prince Edward or the life he had, so I can't comment on the historical accuracy of this particular story. If you are looking for details about this, I suggest you go to the goodreads page, because a lot of reviewers do focus on this. 




It’s 1912, and seventeen-year-old Prince Edward, England’s Golden Prince of Wales, is feeling the burden of his position. As heir to the greatest throne in the world, he hates the constrictions and superficial demands of his royal life. His father, King George, is a harsh disciplinarian, and his mother, Queen Mary, is reserved and cold. Other than his siblings, he has no friends and despairs at his isolation and loneliness.  

However, when unexpected circumstances bring him to Snowberry Manor, home of the four Houghton sisters, his life suddenly seems more interesting. As he secretly spends more time with Lily, the youngest of the girls, he finds himself falling hopelessly in love.    

But Lily is not royal, and a thousand years of precedent insist that future Queens of England are of royal blood. Worse, King George reveals he already has a princess in line for Edward to marry. Will the strength of their love be enough or will destiny tear them apart? 


A plot as slow as the typical 1912's country day

I loved the idea of a prince meeting a normal girl and falling in love with her - it is basically the premise of all my favourite Disney movies. But with this story, the writing just really let me down. The story was sooooo slow at the beginning. There were six characters introduced and alternating between each one for different events meant that some things just dragged on far too long. I respect authors who try the multiple point of views, but when it slows the story down like this, it just isn't worth it.

The story started to get more interested about 200 pages in. You know the characters, you know their background, and events can really start happening. That last third of the book was gold, but you do have to struggle through 200 pages to get there.

The Houghton girls

Though the summary makes it sound like it's a love story, I warn you to not be fooled. The love story is only part of the story. The narration switches between Edward and Lily (whose main focus is their love for each other), but also between Rose, Marigold and Iris who are Lily's sisters and all have very different lives.

While Iris is also worried about love (more specifically marrying someone), Rose and Marigold have completely other concerns. Rose is a suffragette who is trying to combine country life with fighting for women's rights. Marigold is "loose" (term used in the book) and tries to find a rich, older, influential man to make her happy. Both these sisters go against the mainstream of things and the last thing on their mind is a soppy love story. So if you just want romance - don't read this book. If you're interested in different women from the same time period - then do. I highly enjoyed Rose's suffragette story and it was the surprise of the book for me. 

The Prince

However, the book is entitled The Golden Prince, so he should be the main focus of this story, right? Wrong.

Though Prince Edward is the key to a lot of major plot elements to happen, he is one of the most uninteresting characters in the book. Though he narrates quite a bit, he never really has any depth in his story. His main focus is making friends and falling in love and honestly, he does that quiet quickly and carelessly. Though it is clear that the author wanted to show how lonely Edward is, dhe just doesn't explain it enough to really understand his actions. I wish there was more depth to him, because he is completely overshadowed by all the Houghton girls. 


I honestly must admit that I don't really know what to say about this book. It was nothing like I expected: I thought it was a story about Prince Edward's love life. Instead it really was the story of the Houghton girls and Edward was just a semi-uninteresting side character. Added to that, the story also read really slowly for the first part, which made it hard to stick to it. Sorry Golden Prince, but you're not gold for me - three stars. 

Damascena - Holly Lynn Payne

RATING ★★★☆☆

As I mentioned before, as a reviewer you read two kinds of books: ones that you immediately know the rating of (whether that's good or bad) and books that you are conflicted about.

Damascena by Holly Payne is part of the second group of books. I finished it well over a month ago and sat down to write my review and just couldn't do it. Did I love it? Did I hate it? I actually didn't know how I felt about it, so I had to let it rest for a bit.



Holly Payne’s spellbinding tale brings the unparalleled poet, Mevlana Rumi, to life, and transports readers to the enchanting world of 13th century Persia. Simply but elegantly told, the story unravels the mystery surrounding a legendary orphaned girl, who discovers her gift of turning roses into oil. Named after the flowering rosa damascena, the girl reluctantly assumes the role of a living saint for the miracles she performs—longing for the only one that matters: finding her mother. Deeply wounded by the separation since birth, Damascena undergoes a riveting transformation when she meets Rumi and finally discovers the secret of the rose. 

Imbued with rich historical research and inspired by the devastating disappearance of Rumi’s most lauded spiritual companion, Shams of Tabriz, Holly Payne has courageously opened herself to receive Rumi’s teachings and offer a timeless love story. Inspiring and magical, the story of Damascena transmits the wisdom of the heart, inviting us to transform our pain into love

Plot and writing

I had to copy the Goodreads summary because it's so hard to decide what is a spoiler and what isn't, since the whole story is one big surprise after another. That's also the thing I liked about the plot: it was so original. I've never heard of Rumi before and was completely unfamiliar with his work, so I liked reading about his life and how it ties in with rose girl Damascena.

Damascena's life is followed in the story and I love the growth she undergoes from young girl to young woman. The insight in her personality and thoughts made complete sense and it was easy to connect to her as a narrator.

This is then combined with amazing writing. Like honestly truly amazing. Great descriptions, great characters and a great flow meant that this story was mostly a breeze to read, even with the heavy subject. Holly Payne is so talented and I can't wait to read more of her. Historical fiction is difficult, but I feel like her writing really lends itself to the genre.

Too spiritual

However, though I feel like I love every separate element of the story, I didn't really connect to the whole of Damascena. And this is where it gets tricky, because I'm not sure why. Like I mentioned, the writing is superb and the characters are great. But I just didn't really like the story and I think it's because the plot is too spiritual for my liking. As I mentioned before, I enjoy stories that are grounded in reality and this was just too religious for me. The roses and God.... I don't buy that kind of stuff and I don't understand the strong connection Damascena feels to God. So even though I could relate to her as a character, I couldn't identify with her which made the story kind of boring towards the end. The plot kept me reading, but I just skimmed the religious parts at a certain point.


But, having said that, I still have to give this book a three out of five. The writing was some of the best writing I've read this year and I really appreciate the research the author had to do to write this story. I wish I could give it more, but it wasn't my kind of book. However, if you like historical fiction tied in with religion and spirituality, you'll fall in love with this book.