YVO’S SHORTIES #111 – The Broken Ones & The Boy Who Steals Houses

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two different genres and two different reactions to the stories. I picked up The Broken Ones on a whim and while it was a fast read, it failed to blow me away. The Boy Who Steals Houses on the other hand was one of my most anticipated releases this year and an absolutely brilliant read.


Title: The Broken Ones
Author: Sarah A. Denzil

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 24th 2016
Finished reading: June 30th 2019
Pages: 199

“Sometimes I wonder who is hunting whom. There are times when I feel like an animal stuck in a trap – and there are other times when I feel like a hunter stalking a dangerous wild animal, treading softly through the forest.”


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I was browsing my kindle the other day and picked up this title on a whim as I was looking for a quick dose of psychological thriller. This is my first experience with Sarah A. Denzil‘s work, although I do have other titles waiting on my TBR. I was looking forward to The Broken Ones, but while I finished it in record time, I have to say I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. One of the main focuses of the story is on Alzheimer, and while it can be hard for those who have seen the disease destroy memories of someone close to them (like myself), it was also interesting to see its effects on both Sophie’s mother and those close to her. I would have liked a little more development to give it a more realistic representation, but overall it’s not too bad considering the length of the story. Sophie’s mother has a horrible personality though and I despised her even thoughI thought I would feel bad for her for having early onset Alzheimer. The same goes for Sophie herself: she is a rather spineless woman who basically suffered emotional abuse by her mother her whole life, never got to live her own life because of it and still doesn’t stand up for herself even now. Utterly frustrating and it made it hard to connect to characters and story because of that. The plot itself is interesting, although the plot twists are a bit farfetched and I did guess the big surprise quite early on in the story. The Broken Ones isn’t a bad story and without doubt a quick read, but sadly it failed to blow me away.


Title: The Boy Who Steals Houses
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: July 3rd 2019
Pages: 347

“A family. A home. I really want a… h-home.”
“But you can’t steal it.”
“I know,” Sam whispers. I know I know I know.
“You have to build it.”


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I’m still kicking myself for not reading A Thousand Perfect Notes sooner, and I knew I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. I’ve been dying to read The Boy Who Steals Houses ever since my preorder arrived in April, and I’m so glad I finally had time to do so! This title was one of my most anticipated releases this year and I can say it has without doubt lived up to expectations. What an absolutely wonderful and heartbreaking read! You will want to clear your schedule for this little gem, because once you meet the main characters Sam, Moxie and Avery you will find yourself unable to say goodbye to them and stop reading. The writing style is engaging and wonderful; the characters and their descriptions are likewise excellently done. There is just something about Sam, Moxie and Avery that made them win over my heart almost immediately, and my heart ached for them as their story slowly revealed itself. Their development is realistic and the incorporation of the anxiety and autism elements are both authentic and brilliantly handled. Wonderful prose, characters that will win over your heart, anxiety and autism rep, tragedy and lots of food references… What more could you wish for? Trigger warnings are in place for elements such as violence, abuse and bullying, but each element is well incorporated into the plot. The Boy Who Steals Houses is a heartbreaking read and you will want to have a box of tissues at hand just to be safe, because I myself couldn’t keep it dry… And trust me, that doesn’t happen often. Sam, Moxie and Avery won over my heart, crushed it into a million pieces and left me a complete puddle of mess by the time I reach the final page. Go read this absolutely wonderful story if you haven’t already! You won’t regret it.


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ARC REVIEW: Trance – by Adam Southward

Title: Trance
Author: Adam Southward
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: July 4th 2019
Pages: 332

“We understand so much, yet so little. Delving into people’s minds is an immature science, even for those of us who have studied it for years.”

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

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I admit it was hook, line and sinker when I saw the cover of Trance and read the blurb. The promise of a dangerous character with the ability to control minds sounded absolutely fantastic, and there was no way I was going to be able to resist reading it. It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, because unfortunately I can’t say I was convinced by the story itself and I ended up having mixed thoughts. I still think the premise of this story is absolutely engrossing and probably the strongest aspect of this book. The suspect of this story, Victor Lazar, is a fascinatingly disturbing character; his mental ability makes this story step on the border of science fiction and paranormal activity and without doubt gives Trance a unique touch. As a result, it is hard to place Trance into a single genre and box, and instead we have an interesting mix of elements and storylines. It was especially fascinating to read more about Victor’s past and everything that happened in Romania. It might not be all that credible, but if you keep your mind open and don’t mind a sci-fi feel, you will find it to be an intriguing angle.

Now we arrive at one of the problems I had with Trance: the main character Alex Madison. On its own, I could really appreciate the psychology angle of this story. Instead of focusing on the crime and detective elements, Trance is more about trying to understand Victor Lazam and using psychology to analyze what goes on in his mind. The thing is… Alex basically is a spineless and despicable person; a pathetic whiner who is addicted to Xanax and an adulterer at that. I found the characters in general to be unlikeable, but my aversion to Alex made it very hard to keep invested in the story or care about what happened to them. Victor, disturbing as he was, at least made for an interesting character… Alex not so much. I also found part of the plot and character development to be rather unbelievable and this lack of credibility kind of put a damper on things. Things were too conveniently connected and the transition between different scenes and chapters wasn’t always all that fluid. I also struggled with the abrupt ending, and found the final scenes to be rather lacking. I still think the premise of Trance is simply captivating and the genre fluidity gave the story an unique touch, but sadly I ended up having mixed thoughts about the execution.


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ARC REVIEW: The Victim – by Max Manning

Title: The Victim
Author: Max Manning
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: June 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“Life is a game of lies, and death is the only truth. Time to play.”

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

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There was just something about the cover and its contrast that caught my eye when I first saw it, and as soon as I read the blurb I was sold. There is no doubt that the premise of The Victim is simply fascinating; a story where we follow two alternative storylines based on the decision of the main character Gem to fight or surrender during an attack in the first chapters. This is without doubt an unique concept and one that will also make you wonder what you would do yourself in a similar situation… And you will soon realize that there is a reason you won’t find solid advice on the matter, as there seems to be no clear correct answer as to what you should do as every perp and situation is unique. It was very interesting to see the consequences of both choices for Gem, not only the direct consequences but also how her life was changed afterwards.

Like I said, this concept of having two alternative storylines, one where Gem surrendered and one where Gem decided to fight, definitely makes for an unique read. I do have to say that things can get quite confusing as we not only have to keep apart two different versions of Gem’s story, but also what happens to other characters after her decision to fight or surrender. While at all times it is specified which storyline you are currently reading, it is kind of hard to keep track of which event belongs to what storyline and all that information might be a little too much to juggle at one time. I myself definitely wish I would have thought to take notes when I started reading, because it would have been easier to keep both versions apart that way. As you can imagine, this confusion and difficulty to separate and follow both alternative storylines did take away some of the reading pleasure for me. I can’t say I wasn’t a fan of the main characters either, and Gem started to frustrate me after a while… I did think that the suspect was an interesting character and I enjoyed finding out more about his past and motive. Did I think certain aspects of the plot and especially the ending were not all that credible? Yes. Did I end up having mixed thoughts about The Victim? Also yes. But I can’t deny it’s a very original concept and fans of the thriller genre will most likely find themselves intrigued.


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ARC REVIEW: Thirteen – by Steve Cavanagh @Flatironbooks

Title: Thirteen
(Eddie Flynn #4)

Author: Steve Cavanagh
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 25th 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Finished reading: June 21st 2019
Pages: 336

“In a criminal trial, forensic evidence is God. But I’m a defense attorney. I’ve got the devil on my side. And he doesn’t play fair.”

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


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I’ve had Steve Cavanagh‘s books on my radar for quite some time now, so I was stoked when I discovered that my request for an ARC of Thirteen was approved a while back. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Eddie Flynn series in general, and even though this is already book four in the series, it has been promised to me and I can now confirm that the story works really well as a stand-alone as well. Although I can garantuee you that you will want to add the other three books to your wishlist straight away, as there is just something about the main character that makes you want to have more and more and more. Oh yes, this book was without doubt highly addictive, delightfully twisted and one hell of a ride!

This story had me at the cover. I mean, the whole the serial killer isn’t on trial, he’s on the jury alone instantly makes the heart of any thriller fan skip a beat, or am I wrong? Reading that kind of phrase on the cover gives you a lot of expectations, and those expectations were without doubt met in Thirteen. What a ride! This fourth book can be seen as a mix of a legal and serial killer thriller where we get the best of both worlds and a LOT of action and disturbing twists at that. It’s clear from the beginning that the main character Eddie Flynn isn’t exactly the type of guy to follow the rules, his past as a con artist confirming that, and he is without doubt a much more interesting character because of this. The story is told with a dual POV, switching between Eddie Flynn and Joshua Kane, and giving us an insight in both sides of the law. Joshua Kane is without doubt one of the most fascinating and disturbing serial killers I’ve read about in a while, and even though the cover gives away part of the twist, his undercover identity won’t be revealed until later and trust me, it will be hard to see that twist coming.

The plot is complex, cleverly constructed and hides the right key elements and information to keep you on your toes as you try to figure out if Bobby is really innocent and if so, how on earth the real killer was able to set him up so thoroughly. And what about the significance of the dollar bill? And the “accidents” that keep happening around those involved in the case? I loved seeing this story slowly unravel and show its secrets, and I bow to Steve Cavanagh for creating such a fascinating serial killer as well as giving us a healthy dose of legal thriller, plain old investigation work and action. There are lots of different elements involved, all mixed together to create the perfect and addictive thriller cocktail you will be wanting to drink in one sitting. Thirteen is a fast, disturbing an shocking legal thriller with a serial killer twist… Oh yes, I’m definitely a Steve Cavanagh fan now.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #108 – Dear Evan Hansen & The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two contemporary reads… Sadly Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich failed to blow me away, but The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen completely won over my heart. It’s a must-read for fans of A Man Called Ove!!


Title: Dear Evan Hansen
Author: Val Emmich

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 9th 2018
Publisher: Poppy
Finished reading: June 17th 2019 
Pages: 352

“Fantasies always sound good, but they’re no help when reality comes and shoves you to the ground.”


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I’ve had Dear Evan Hansen on my radar for a while and decided to pick it up on a whim while browsing my kindle for contemporary titles. I initially thought it was going to be a great title for Pride month, but I guess I remembered the facts wrong as the LGBT element hardly plays a role in Dear Evan Hansen. Instead, the focus is on the main character and his mental health issues and anxiety. I’m always interested in stories with that angle, so I didn’t mind that much at first, but I’m not sure I actually like the execution here. Why? Well, I felt there was just too much focus on Evan’s mental problems as a personality trait and I didn’t feel his character was all that developed otherwise; making him essentionally one dimensional and not at all easy to connect to. I understand social awkwardness and anxiety on a personal level, and I don’t feel that Evan was necesarity a realistic and thorough representation of this. He almost felt like a cartoon of himself; his mental issues used as a way to ‘spice up’ the plot and create new plot angles. And to be honest I’m not sure what to think about that. I wasn’t a fan of the plot itself either; I found it rather tasteless to be honest and quite unrealistic as well. The writing wasn’t bad and the story reads fast generally, although I wasn’t happy with the tone sometimes. I do have to confess I have never seen the Broadway show, and this might have had an influence on my reading experience? I’m not sure, but what I do know that this story definitely wasn’t for me. I seem to be in the minority though, so definitely give it a shot if you think you would enjoy it!


Title: The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen
(Hendrik Groen #1)
Author: Hendrik Groen

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: June 1st 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: June 18th 2019
Pages: 400
(Originally written in Dutch: ‘Pogingen Iets Van Het Leven Te Maken’)

“Loneliness can sometimes feel even worse when you’re with other people.”


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As soon as I read the blurb of The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen for the first time two years ago, I knew I HAD to read it. There was just something about the story that made me think of grumpy Ove in A Man Called Ove, one of my all time favorite characters and stories, so there was just no way I was going to pass up on this read. The book is actually a translation of an originally Dutch publication, and the funny part is that for a long time it wasn’t sure who exactly was behind this little masterpiece. Yes, The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen was written under a pseudonym and the author didn’t want his identity to be revealed… Which means that we sadly won’t be able to meet the infamous Hendrik Groen in person. And how would I have loved to do that! I have a feeling Ove and Hendrik would have been great friends and I fell in love with his character right away. The slight grumpiness, the sarcastic humor, his attitude towards the world, the Old But Not Dead club in general… Everything just clicked perfectly and I had a blast reading about their adventures. The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen is exactly that: a diary. The story is told through (almost) daily entries in Hendrik Groen’s diary, and through his diary we get to learn more about both himself, the care home and its inhabitants, the care system and Dutch politics/key events in 2013 and last but not least the members of the Old But Not Dead club. I loved the idea behind this club and how Hendrik and his friends decided to keep enjoying life while they still can. The outings were fun to read about and I really loved seeing both their characters and their bond develop over time. The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen isn’t all fun and there are a few sad moments included that will most likely make your eyes water. And the ending most definitely left me wanting more more… Hendrik Groen is without doubt a character that will stay with me for a long time! Funny, entertaining and heartfelt: fans of strong main characters, sarcastic humor and A Man Called Ove should consider The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen a must-read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #107 – Two Boys Kissing & My Lovely Wife

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two different genres, a backlist title and a new release… The first is Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, which I picked up both for Pride month and for the banned books prompt. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the writing style at all though. New release My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing turned out to be a delightfully shocking read though.


Title: Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 27th 2013
Publisher: Egmont UK
Finished reading: June 15th 2019
Pages: 239

“He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.”


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I was browsing banned books for a challenge, came across Two Boys Kissing and thought it would be a perfect choice for Pride month as well. I was curious to see why this story ended up on the banned books list, although I already feared (correctly) that it would have to do with the LGBT element. Sadly, I ended up having mixed thoughts about Two Boys Kissing… It had nothing to do with the actual content, and I’m sad this story was put on the banned books list, but there was something else I really struggled with. What? While I loved the idea behind this story and the symbolism in general, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style at all. The whole second/third person POV was both alienating and extremely annoying and made me enjoy the story a lot less than I thought I would. It might be an original way of telling the story (I don’t deny that), but sadly I really didn’t get along with the writing style at all. I’m positive I would have rated this story a lot higher if we would have read about the main characters from their POV; dual or multiple would have been the same. Instead, we have the strange voice of ‘past unidentified LGBT persons’ and a whole bunch of random characters the story keeps switching between… It takes a long time to keep them apart, seeing how everyone fits and realize which is actually the main story; the fact that there were so many character/POV switches made it really hard to keep track of the story and stay invested. I can’t deny Two Boys Kissing has a strong LGBT message though, and I loved the idea of the record breaking and the background of each character. Two Boys Kissing wasn’t for me due to the writing style, but I can see why so many love it.


Title: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 26th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: June 16th 2019
Pages: 384

“Now I see my mistake. Focusing only on my family has left me isolated and alone, except for one old friend who can never know the truth.”


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My Lovely Wife has been everywhere these past couple of months and I finally found time to see what all the buzz is about. I admit I went in blind, thinking I was going to find a nice and docil domestic thriller despite the knife on the cover… I couldn’t have been more wrong. What a delightfully twisted and properly disturbing read! If you are, like me, strangely into serial killer stories, imagine finding not one, but TWO in one story… And a couple at that! As soon as I was hit with that mindblowing information, I was hooked. And not just ‘normal’ hooked; I literally read the whole thing in one sitting by candle light (not by choice though as we had a country wide power failure that day), not caring if I was basically ruining my eyes or if had other things to do. I just HAD to know how things would develop and how twisted things were going to get. Trust me, you will never guess just how crazy and disturbing My Lovely Wife is prepared to go for our reading entertainment. I’ve seen people questioning the credibility of it all, and they do have a point, but I was too busy devouring every single world of this twisted masterpiece to really care. A double dose of secret identities, two serial killers, a conspiracy plot, lots of twists and one heck of a shocking surprise as the story takes a turn you won’t see coming… If you haven’t read My Lovely Wife yet, make sure to clear your schedule before you start, because trust me, you will find yourself unable to stop reading.


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ARC REVIEW: The Friend Who Lied – by Rachel Amphlett @RachelAmphlett

Title: The Friend Who Lied
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 9th 2019
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: June 11th 2019
Pages: 362

“Not one of them thought to ask if what was printed was the truth. They never do.”

*** 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 think most will know by now that I’m a huge fan of the Kay Hunter series… I’ve been so ever since I finally read Scared To Death and first met the character last year. So it’s easy to understand that saying I’ve been excited to see if my love for her first step into the psychological thriller genre would be just as great would be an understatement. Guess what? I discovered Rachel Amphlett definitely has more than one genre under her belt! Be ready for another bout of raving rambles, because I’m not sure if I can write an unbiased review for The Friend Who Lied.

My brain had to cool off a few days before I was able to start writing a somewhat coherent review… What a read! My love for the psychological thriller genre is great and I tend to read a lot of them during the year, but I can already feel that The Friend Who Lied is a serious contender for my 2019 favorites list. What made this story stand out from the rest? It’s a combination of different elements actually, but let’s see if I can unravel my feelings for this review. The first thing that made this story so successful for me was the writing style. Sharp, well executed and engaging, The Friend Who Lied will manage to grab you from the very first page and doesn’t let go until you reach the last. You will forget about your surroundings, you will forget about the time passing, instead concentrating on Lisa’s story and what really happened that day in the escape room. And there we have another element that leaded to success: the well known amnesia or memory loss angle. While it’s true that this element has been used a lot in psychological thrillers in recent years, when done right it can add a healthy dose of suspense and intrigue to the plot. And guess what? I definitely loved how this element was incorporated into The Friend Who Lied. Having the main character Lisa waking up from surgery not remembering how she got there or what happened before she ended up at the hospital is simply fascinating… And the amnesia is not just an easy way out to adding more suspense either, as it is explained later why Lisa doesn’t remember anything in the first place and the reason is key to the overall plot.

Talking about the plot… We have the past and the present and a couple of different POVs to play with. While the main focus of the story is on Lisa, we will hear from her other friends as well as needed, and they will help slowly unravel secrets of both the past and present. The main question is of course what happened in the escape room that day, but trust me, that won’t be the only secret at play in this story. Oh no, The Friend Who Lied will uncover a whole web of secrets and lies before you reach that final chapter. The characters are each both well developed and feel realistic. The fact that Lisa just had to go through a kidney transplant is fascinating and plays an important role in the plot as well… It was intriguing reading about how she is trying to cope with the surgery as well as the memory loss and questions about the circumstances around Simon’s death. Not all characters are all that likeable, but each has its role to play in the plot and together they take the story to the next level. And that final reveal! I definitely didn’t see the full truth train coming before it hit me at full speed. If you are wondering what your next psychological thriller should be, you have just found your recommendation. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed when you pick up The Friend Who Lied!


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