ARC REVIEW: The Echo Room – by Parker Peevyhouse

Title: The Echo Room
Author: Parker Peevyhouse
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
First published: September 11th 2018
Publisher: Tor Teen
Finished reading: August 3rd 2018
Pages: 320

“He’d known other empty places, knew how quickly they could fill with dread.”

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

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When I first saw this book mentioned, I was immediately intrigued by both cover and blurb. There is just something about it that sounds dark and menacing; the promise of a very good dark thriller, especially with the potential amnesia angle. What I can say is that The Echo Room definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s one of those books that either works for you, or it doesn’t… And sadly I belong to the second group. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot to avoid ruining surprises, but let’s just say it’s more appropriate to call The Echo Room a science fiction read rather than a dark thriller. And I think I appreciated the whole idea behind this book a lot better than reading the actual story. There is no doubt that the author has thought up something really inventive and has come up with an original way to tell this story. Like the main characters, we are completely left in the dark about crucial information that would make it easier to understand what is really going on… While this can add a lot of intrigue when done right, I don’t think I actually appreciated this technique in The Echo Room. I mostly felt the story was too vague and strange to be actually able to connect to it. I wasn’t sure about the writing either, as the chapters just felt way too repetitive and didn’t manage to keep me interested. Like I said before, I understand the reason behind this repetition and I find the idea itself ingenious; I just didn’t enjoy actually reading it. I had problems with the main characters as well… Especially Rett came over as a bit whiny. Overall I thought The Echo Room was based on a very ingenious and inspiring idea, but unfortunately I liked the idea of this book a lot better than reading the actual story. This might just have been because The Echo Room simply isn’t for me, so if you are into science fiction and don’t mind repetition, you might just have a blast reading this one.

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When Rett wakes up on the floor of a cold and dark room, he doesn’t know where he is or how he got there. The worst part is that he is locked in… and he is not alone. A girl named Bryn is trapped in the room with him, and neither trusts the other. Instead of working together, they each try to find out what is really happening and how to get out… They realize they will have to work together if they ever want to escape, but can they really trust each other?

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If you like science fiction, are looking for something different and don’t mind repetition in the plot, you will probably enjoy The Echo Room a lot better than I did. I still really like the idea behind this story, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy actually reading it. Between the lack of crucial information, repetitive chapters and lack of connection to the story and characters I had a hard time making it to the final page, although things did improve later on. The story was just too strange and vague for me… But like I said before, the problem might just have been me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #35 – Misery & Kids Of Appetite

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Another round of backlist titles, and two completely different genres and age groups at that. I’ve been meaning to read Misery for years and I already had an idea what it was about… I’m definitely glad I finally did so. It’s not my all time favorite Stephen King, but without doubt a great read. Kids Of Appetite I picked up on a whim browsing my kindle, and I had high hopes because I adored David Arnold’s other book Mosquitoland. Sadly, this story just didn’t work for me.


Title: Misery
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: 1987
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Finished reading: July 27th 2018
Pages: 369

“He felt as he always did when he finished a book — queerly empty, let down, aware that for each little success he had paid a toll of absurdity.”


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I’ve read quite a few Stephen King books over the years, but somehow I never actually picked up Misery until now. Of course I have heard lots of things about the plot, so I had a general idea what the story was about… And I have to say the actual story definitely lived up to expectations. It’s not my absolute favorite King, but there is no doubt that this is one of his better books I’ve read to this date. Misery is more psychological horror than bloody horror in general, although it has a few select scenes that won’t go well with those with a weak stomach. Strong writing… Check. Well developed, disturbing and creepy characters… Check. A healthy dose of suspense… Check. Plot twists… Check. A little torture and blood here and there… Check. I definitely had a great time reading Misery, although it doesn’t feel the right word for a story this creepy. I liked the Misery chapters in between the actual plot, as it added another level and more dept to the plot itself. And I wouldn’t wish Annie upon my worst enemy! Boy, she is a true nutter… Writers, beware. She is stuff nightmares are made of. If you enjoy reading his work, Misery should definitely be on your reading list as well.


Title: Kids Of Appetite
Author: David Arnold

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 29th 2018
Pages: 352

“The kids were more than just a gaggle. They were puzzle pieces, a well-packed trunk, as improbably organized as the improbable shelves in their improbable habitat.”


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I absolutely adored Mosquitoland last year, so I had high hopes for Kids Of Appetite as well. It took me longer than expected to finally get to it… And sadly it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for. I’m actually still surprised and I bit shocked by my reaction to be honest… Because I have to be sincere here and I’m not sure how I made it past the 20% without giving in to the urge to DNF. Do I feel sad? Yes. But unfortunately Kids Of Appetite just wasn’t for me. I have seen this story has pretty extreme reactions, people either loving or strongly disliking it, so definitely don’t give up on it yet if you enjoy stories with unique characters and writing style. Because that’s the main struggle here: the writing. While unique and original, it is something that either works for you and makes you want to sing out loud, OR makes you want to throw things at the wall in frustration. Not that my singing would actually make anyone happy in the first place, but sadly my walls might have taken a hit or two here. I personally really struggled with it all and this made it just really hard both to get a proper feel for things and understand what is exactly going on in the first place. David Arnold is a master in greating unique characters though. Kuddos to him for introducing us to Victor and giving Moebius a spotlight; the other characters definitely weren’t bland either. I’m not sure everything in the plot was actually credible though. In short, Kids Of Appetite is a book of extremes and therefore will provoke strong emotions… So even though this book didn’t work for me, you might just love it instead.


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ARC REVIEW: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade – by Miriam McNamara

Title: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade
Author: Miriam McNamara
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: June 19th 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Finished reading: June 11th 2018
Pages: 336

“All that water, bits of land – so many places she could be in this new world. But for all of Anne’s geography lessons, Mary was still hopeless at figuring out where exactly she might fit in it.”

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

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I love a good pirate story and the blurb of The Unbinding Of Mary Reade sounds just as fantastic as the gorgeous cover, so I’ve been really excited to finally read this one. And with its f/f romance, I thought it would be a perfect story to read during pride month as well. Alas it seems like it wasn’t ment to be. I didn’t check the reviews before starting this one, or at least I would have been warned… Because The Unbinding Of Mary Reade unfortunately turned out to be quite a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the idea behind this book, the possibilities of the setting, the f/f romance, the characters… But the execution was just completely off for me. I will try to explain why this book didn’t work for me below. First of all, I struggled with the writing style, which felt halted with dialogues that didn’t seem natural. The use of ‘bad grammar’ in the dialogues only distracted (aka annoyed) me instead of adding the right historical atmosphere. Also, the constant switching back and forth in time was really distracting and made it hard to stay focused on the main plot. Especially since the chapters set in London basically didn’t add anything substantial to the story and were extremely dull. In fact, I found the story in general quite boring, and how is that possible for a story with gay pirates in it?? For a book about pirates, there were almost no action scenes or even scenes on a boat included in the plot. And that was quite a disappointment, since there was basically nothing of note to fill this huge hole of lack of action. Ok, characters. The characters in general lacked development and were rather bland. Anne almost felt like a caricature and while Mary had all the potential of being a fascinating character, she mostly fell flat for me and I wasn’t able to believe either of their feelings or actions. This lack of credibility extends to the other characters as well. Also, trigger warnings are in place for homophobia, transphobia, (sexual) abuse and sexism in general. I get that we are talking about an 18th century setting, but this was just too much. In short, while I still love the idea behind this story, the execution was rather poorly and The Unbinding Of Mary Reade turned out to be a rather chaoticly written, dull and not credible love story. Did I expect this reaction? No, but unfortunately I can’t change the way I feel about this one.

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When Mary was really young, her mother saw no other way to keep their mouths fed than to disguise her little girl as a boy and pass her off as her dead child Mark. Mark has a wealthy granny that will take care of her only grandchild and heir… So there is no place for a girl in Mary’s world, and she has to be Mark at all time to not see her life fall apart. This gets harder as the years go on and she falls in love with her childhood friend Nat. And when she is discovered, she flees London with Nat and boards a Caribbean merchant ship as a sailor. But what will the future bring?

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I keep repeating: I still love the idea behind this story and I truly wish I could have enjoyed The Unbinding Of Mary Reade better. Unfortunately, I found the execution lacking in various ways, and I had a hard time finishing this one. Between the chaotic writing style that didn’t flow, a rather dull plot, bland characters, lack of action and a not so credible display of emotions, I can’t say I was impressed. Where were the pirates, were was the action? Why did we have to read so much about Mary’s past in London, if her life on the Caribbean Sea is what really counts for this story? Why wasn’t there more focus on Mary and Anne? Why the excessive amount of sexism, homophobia, transphobia and sexual assault? The tone for this supposedly YA rated story was completely off, especially since Mary felt younger than the age group during most of the story. All in all not the story I was hoping for.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #21: Wink Poppy Midnight & My Sister’s Keeper

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t turn out to be positive reading experiences, and both had something to do with a character and the way they behaved. Winky Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult… Continue to find out more about the why of the lower ratings.


Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 22nd 2016
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: March 10th 2018
Pages: 352

“All the strangest things are true.”


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Wink Poppy Midnight was a tbr jar pick and a title I have been looking forward to read despite the mixed reviews. I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover! And the story itself sounded really promising as well. As soon as I started reading Wink Poppy Midnight, I was blown away by the writing style. So so beautiful, mysterious and intriguing! The writing style is by far what stood out most for me in this book and it’s the only reason I’m giving this story the benefit of the doubt. Because I absolutely loved how April Genevieve Tucholke tells her stories, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Why the low rating, would you ask? I’m keeping things simple and give one main reason: Poppy. I understand we are not supposed to like her in the first place, but I absolutely utterly despised her character. This extremely negative feeling for Poppy ruined the reading experience for me and made it really hard to just forget about her and enjoy the other chapters. Wink Poppy Midnight is told from the POV of the three main characters Wink, Poppy and Midnight, whimsical names that alone set the right tone for this story. This multiple POV layout didn’t distract me, since I liked discovering new things and see how the personality of each character shines through in the writing and dialogue. BUT. While I absolutely adored Wink and liked Midnight as well, my negative feelings for Poppy were so strong the rest was kind of blurred out. Gone were my feelings for the fabulous writing, gone was my love for the whimsical and magical realism feel of the plot and incorporation of fairy tale elements (my second favorite thing of Wink Poppy Midnight!). What was left were the ashes of a story that could have ended up being one of my all time favorites… If it wouldn’t have been for Poppy dancing on its tomb.


Title: My Sister’s Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 6th 2004
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Finished reading: March 14th 2018
Pages: 423

“It is the things you cannot see coming that are strong enough to kill you.”


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WARNING: Unpopular opinion review and rant ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Trust me, I’m still shocked about this rating and reaction I had to My Sister’s Keeper, especially since I’ve read and enjoyed several of Jodi Picoult‘s other novels in the past. I fully expected to add this title to that list, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I was hoping for. I’m not saying the writing is bad, which would be a lie since it is just as strong as ever and of a quality I’ve become to expect of her work. And without doubt the plot is complex and well developed with many different POVs and angles to try and get a full picture of what is going on. BUT. What ruined this story for me and basically turned me into a giant red angry monster spitting out flames and throwing things at the wall (no actual objects were harmed during this read), was the topic and more especifically the views on that topic. As soon as I got a glimpse of what really was going on, I started to get very angry very fast. Honestly, I don’t think I would have ever read it if I would have known My Sister’s Keeper was centered around these views. Complicated and uncomfortable moral topic and unorthodox views? Maybe, but I couldn’t care less if they were represented right because I was just too angry to pay attention. People might be offended by this, but I’m totally on Anna’s side here. She should NOT be treated as a walking human donor bank and just being pressured to give up everything and go through all those treatments just because her parents say so… It should be her choice and her choice alone. And honestly, the whole reason they had her in the first place made me sick. This book and especially Sara were so SO infuriating! Her with her saying she ‘cares’ for Anna, but only thinks of Kate and having Anna as a spare ready to give up whatever part of her body they need next. And I’m not even talking about their older brother, completely ignored as well. I get that having a child with leukemia is horrible and kind of makes you forget about anything else, but still… It’s no excuse to treat your other kids that way, and definitely not to do those things to Anna, treating her like she’s some object and ignoring her when she’s not needed. Ugh. I’m feeling the anger rise again just as I type up this review… Simply disgusting. These strong negative feelings made it impossible for me to try and enjoy the other aspects and side stories of My Sister’s Keeper, which had potential on it’s own but lost its charm since I was seeing everything through a red haze. Oh yes, this book was able to provoke strong feelings, just not the positive ones I was expecting. Most people do seem to enjoy it though, so if you think you would enjoy it, don’t give up on it yet. Just don’t make me discuss this story ever again…


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ARC REVIEW: A Castle In Romagna – by Igor Stiks

Title: A Castle In Romagna
Author: Igor Stiks
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2000
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2018
Pages: 128
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Dvorac u Romagni’)

“He was overcome by the immobility one feels upon meeting something long sought after, that silent tension of the body that, before we take the object into our hands, forces us to pause for a moment, as if every passing second increases its value.”

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

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One of my goals this year is to read more international authors and translation, and I’ve been meaning to read more historical fiction that is not set during WWII as well. A Castle In Romagna manages to tick both boxes, and the blurb itself had me more than intrigued. Sadly, my reading experience wasn’t what I hoped it would be… Here’s why. First of all, I REALLY struggled with the writing style. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact it is a translation and some of the magic is lost, but I do know it was really hard to stay focused and keep reading. The prose doesn’t flow and more often than not ‘formal’ or less natural phrases are thrown in. This slows down the pace considerably and kept distracting me from trying to follow the plot. Another thing that didn’t work for me was the dual storyline. I felt neither story had enough dept because of it, especially since this novel is not that long to start with. Both plot, background and characters in both storylines lacked fleshing out and honestly I think I would have rather seen two completely separate stories. Also, I think the connection of the two storylines through the 1995 setting and friar telling both stories was actually quite weak, as apart from the fact that both storylines are about doomed love they do not have all that much in common. I do have to say both the 16th century setting and the one in 1948 have a lot of potential, and I truly wish each would have been more developed. As it is, I failed to connect to any of the characters and I’m afraid to say I wasn’t able to enjoy my time with A Castle In Romagna.

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A young refugee of the Bosnian conflict decides to visit the old Mardi castle in the north of Italy in 1995. But instead of wandering around exploring the fortress, he will meet a guide who will tell him all about the past: both his own and how he ended up as a refugee himself in Italy in 1948 and the tragic fate of the poet Enzo Strecci back in the 16th century.

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I had such high hopes for this story, especially since the blurb sounded really promising, but unfortunately the story fell completely flat for me. Between the writing style, lack of dept and development in both the plot and characters and the failed dual storyline, I had a hard time reading A Castle In Romagna. Although I keep wondering if some of its charm has been lost in translation.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #7: Captain Alatriste & Utopia


Time for more Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I will be reviewing the last two books I read in 2017. Basically I picked up these two instead of other titles to try and finish at least two more challenges before the end of the year. I was supposed to read these long before, but with the slump and all things got a little last minute. Oops? The first is my first and only Spanish read last year called El Capitán Alatriste (Captain Alatriste) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, which is set in 17th century Spain.The second is a long pending classic called Utopia by Thomas More, first published back in 1516.


Title: Captain Alatriste
(Adventures Of Captain Alatriste #1)
Author: Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure
First published: January 2nd 1996
Publisher: Alfaguara
Finished reading: December 30th 2017
Pages: 242
(Read in original language, Spanish: ‘El Capitán Alatriste’)

“No era el hombre más honesto ni el más piadoso, pero era un hombre valiente.”


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I had made a promise to myself last year to start reading more in Spanish again, but apparently that promise was soon forgotten… I only just managed to squeeze in this story before 2017 ended, which definitely wasn’t what I had originally planned for the year. I have read Arturo Pérez-Reverte‘s work in the past, so I thought the first book of the Adventures Of Captain Alatriste would be a safe bet. This first book is simply named after the main character of this series set in 17th century Spain: El Capitán Alatriste. I have a weak spot for both historical fiction and books set in one of my favorite countries, Spain, so I thought I would really enjoy this one. Unfortunately, things turned out to be different. I know Spanish isn’t my native language, but I both have a degree in Spanish Philology and have been using Spanish daily for years, so I can confirm the language itself wasn’t a barrier. What did slow me down considerably is the general tone and pace of the story, and the fact that nothing much happened during the story. Not only was the historical setting quite weak and could have been elaborated a lot more, but I also found the way the story was told through someone close to Alatriste not entertaining at all. This probably has a lot to do with the writing as well as the lack of a proper plot and more action… I did appreciate the incorporation of old Spanish literature in the text. But still, I definitely won’t be continuing this series any time soon.


Title: Utopia
Author: Thomas More

Genre: Classics, Philosophy, Politics
First published: 1516
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 31st 2017
Pages: 135

“Pride thinks it’s own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.”


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I’ve had this classic on my TBR pile for ages now, and to be honest I was a bit intimidated by the fact that Utopia was published that long ago. This kind of classics are not always easy to read, but thankfully the English translation I read was not difficult to read at all. Thomas More wrote Utopia originally in Latin back in 1516, and in it he reveals some both very interesting and puzzling ideas on what the ideal society would look like. I can’t say I agree with everything he said, but every aspect of the Utopian society is well elaborated and shows exactly how things would work for the inhabitants of Utopia. The beginning of Utopia reads a bit slow, but as soon as the story starts elaborating the different aspects of Utopian life the pace picks up considerably. All in all quite an interesting read for those who are interested in philosophy and politics.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #1: Still Life With Tornado & We Have Always Lived In The Castle


Say hello to a new feature on It’s All About Books! As you all probably already know, I’ve been fighting with a rather stubborn reading and blogging slump during the last few months and it’s been a real struggle… I managed to get more or less back to reading, but as the pending book reviews started piling up the whole ‘getting back to blogging’ was getting more and more difficult to achieve. Currently the list of pending reviews is about twenty books long and while I know I don’t HAVE to review every book, I feel bad if I not at least mention a few things about each one. Hence, Yvo’s Shorties was born. Similar to my normal reviews, but with a 2×1 book bonus in each post that includes my rambles about both.

Let’s get started with the first edition! *drumroll*

Featuring Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King and We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson


Title: Still Life With Tornado
Author: A.S. King

Genre: YA, Magical Realism, Contemporary
First published: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: December 14th 2017
Pages: 295

“I put out my umbrella and open it. There is a tornado of bullshit in our house. When it’s over, we will be okay.”

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This book has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, but the blurb sounded fascinating and I just couldn’t resist giving it a go. Fact: magical realism and me don’t always get along all that well. It’s a peculiar genre that either works for you or doesn’t, and for me it really depends on the execution if I’m able to enjoy the magical realism elements. Unfortunately in the case of Still Life Of Tornado I wasn’t convinced. First of all and more importantly, I really didn’t like the writing style, tone or main character (or other characters for that matter) and this hugely impacted my reading experience. I’m not saying the writing style is bad, but it’s definitely one that isn’t for everyone. The lack of connection to the characters and my struggles with the writing style made it hard for me to keep myself focused on the story, but that wasn’t all. Honestly, I felt that nothing really made sense to me at all and my eyebrows worked overtime while I was reading Still Life With Tornado. Magical realism or not, this book is definitely not my cup of tea. Still, I also feel the right person could really enjoy this quirky story.


Title: We Have Always Lived In The Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Gothic
First published: 1962
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 22nd 2017
Pages: 146

“I remember that I stood on the library steps holding my books and looking for a minute at the soft hinted green in the branches against the sky and wishing, as I always did, that I could walk home across the sky instead of through the village.”

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I have been wanting to read this modern classic for ages now, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up my copy of We Have Always Lived In The Castle. I truly had the feeling this was going to be another new favorite classic, so I was really surprised when I ended up having a completely different reading experience instead. I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up We Have Always Lived In The Castle, but it definitely wasn’t what I found when I started reading. Because honestly, nothing much really happens during all those pages. The promise of suspense is there, and the mystery around what happened at the Blackwood estate, but those promises didn’t come true. Instead, I found it a rather dull story about two quirky sisters living isolated in a mansion, and I was almost bored while I was kept waiting with my fingers crossed and hoping to see something would actually happen. I’m not sure what to think of the ending either… The writing was interesting and I can see why it has turned into a modern classic, but personally I was quite disappointed with what I found. Fans of slowpaced, mostly character-driven stories will probably enjoy this story a lot more though.


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