YVO’S SHORTIES #127 – The Bride Test & The Twisted Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books that turned out to be great. I wasn’t sure whether to read The Bride Test after my reaction to the first book, but I ended up enjoying the second book better than The Kiss Quotient… I’m glad I took a chance and decided to read it. And The Twisted Tree turned out to be another perfect Halloween read!


Title: The Bride Test
(The Kiss Quotient #2)
Author: Helen Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: October 5th 2019
Pages: 320

“His heart wasn’t made of stone, after all. It just wasn’t like everyone else’s.”


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I admit I took a chance when I decided to get a copy and read The Bride Test. I’m very much allergic to sexy scenes in contemporary romance reads, and after a less than favorable reaction to The Kiss Quotient I thought it would be better to just stay away. But there is no denying that Helen Hoang can write and I love how she develops her characters, so I just couldn’t resist giving this story a try in the end. I’m so glad I did, because while I found the many many sexy scenes to be cringeworthy, I somehow enjoyed the actual story a lot better than the first book. A lot of this has to do with both Esme and Khai, who are both fascinating characters and the reason this story ended up working for me. The background of Esme, a mixed-race girl growing up in the slumps in Vietnam, adds a lot of dept to the story and it was interesting to see her life being turned upside down after she is offered an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Both her personality, endurance and the big contrast with Khai’s character made for some really interesting reading. The autism rep in Khai feels realistic and thorough, and really adds to the story as well. Sure, the many many steamy scenes definitely weren’t for me (I confess I only skimread them), but overall Esme and Khai’s story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I loved the ending as well!


Title: The Twisted Tree
Author: Rachel Burge

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: October 6th 2019
Pages: 180

“Knowing someone’s secrets doesn’t make you feel closer to them – it pushes you away. There are some thing you don’t want to know, trust me.”


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I actually ment to read The Twisted Tree last October, but I wasn’t able to get to it in time and decided to save it for this year’s Halloween month. I had that feeling that it would be a perfect read for the time of the year, and both my instincts and the reviews I read in the past were absolutely right. If you are looking for a little something to get you in the right mood for Halloween, The Twisted Tree is a fantastic choice. Norse mythology, horror and paranormal elements are mixed together with a YA contemporary story in the most successful way… Both the Norse mythology elements and the actual setting on a small island in the middle of nowhere Norway really took this creepy story to the next level. The references to Odin, his ravens and other Norse mythology elements were thorough and formed an important part of the plot. Martha’s family turns out to have a very interesting history, one you only learn about as the main character starts discovering things herself… The spooky is mixed with a healthy dose of thriller elements as well as a few nailbiting moments that will manage to creep you out. I like how the little hint of romance balances out the creepy part of The Twisted Tree, and I myself had a fantastic time reading this story. More than recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: I Will Make You Pay – by Teresa Driscoll

Title: I Will Make You Pay
Author: Teresa Driscoll
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 10th 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: September 21st 2019
Pages: 317

“We hope that no one is hurt, we wish no ill. And yet? We secretly want a story all the same.”

*** 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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!! Happy publication day !!

I’ve been meaning to try Teresa Driscoll‘s books for quite some time now, so when I saw I Will Make You Pay and read the blurb I just couldn’t resist. There is just something about the premise of this story and the stalker plot that made me want to read it straight away. And while I did ended up having some minor issues with it, overall it was without doubt a solid psychological thriller read.

I Will Make You Pay starts out as most regular psychological thrillers, but your attention is soon captured when the main character Alice receives the threatening phone call at the newspaper where she works as a journalist. This phone call marks the start of the so-called stalker plot and definitely takes the story to the next level. The story switches between past and present and gives us different POVs as well. On top of that, one of the storylines mentions a little boy and his grandmother without revealing how it all connects to the present situation, making you wonder how everything fits in. There are different layers as well as plot twists and secrets involved, all trying to throw you off the scent of the truth while they try to mislead you. I admit I guessed the ending quite early on though, but that might just be me reading too many books of the genre.

As for the main characters… Despite the fact that it should be easy to warm up to Alice and feel bad about what is happening to her, somehow I never really connected to her. I’m not sure exactly why, but there was just something about her actions and behavior that really irked me… Likewise, most of the other characters failed to charm me, with the exception of private investigator Matthew. I liked both his character and the different angle he provided to the story… Having a private investigator working on the stalking case while also working informally with the police definitely made the story more interesting. The whole journalist angle made for an interesting element as well, especially relating to the dangers behind sharing too much of your personal life and always being on the hunt for a good story seemingly no matter what the cost. The flashback chapters were intruiging enough, although they didn’t seem to be too relevant to the story at first… I’m still not sure what to feel about the ending though, as it felt a bit like an anticlimax. That said, psychological thriller fans will most likely have a good time reading I Will Make You Pay.


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ARC REVIEW: Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again – by Jeremy Greenberg

Title: Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again
Author: Jeremy Greenberg
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Cats
First published: October 8th 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: September 9th 2019
Pages: 64

“Unfortunately we can’t go to the vet at the moment because I’ve unexpectedly died. Yes, it’s very sad. But not that sad, considering I’ve got nine lives and spending one on getting out of going to the vet is a worthy sacrifice.”

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

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I stumbled across this title just when I was looking for a little something different to read… Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again really spoke to me, both because I love cats in general and it sounded like a fun read. I just couldn’t resist the combination of funny letters and cat photos, and I definitely agree with the blurb that this little book would make a perfect gift for cat lovers. Each page spread (or at least it seems that way in the ARC version) has alternately a cat photo and its corresponding letter; the cat ‘writing’ to its owner about something that can be related to the photo. Some of the letters were definitely very funny indeed and cat owners will definitely be able to relate to the different situations and cat behavior described in the letters. It’s a short but sweet read and a perfect way to escape a dreary day and have a laugh. I do hope the photos will be less dark in the printed version, because they appeared very dark in the protected-PDF version (the text pages looked fine so I assume it is a problem with the photos itself). Some details were lost that way and that is truly a shame, considering that the photos are part of the charm of Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again in the first place. That said, any cat lover will have a great time reading this collection of relatable letters.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #123 – The Madness Underneath & The Hiding Place

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two reads that both turned out to be entertaining, but still not as good as I hoped they would be. The sequel The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson and The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor


Title: The Madness Underneath
(Shades Of London #2)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: February 1st 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: August 28th 2019
Pages: 304

“They knew I would do a better job of berating myself for being an idiot than they ever could and that waiting for the punishment was much worse than the actual punishment.

 

The tick tick tick is much worse than the boom.”


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Fun fact: the first book of this series was a TBR jar pick as well, and while I really enjoyed it, it still took me three years and another nudge from my TBR jar to finally pick up the sequel. This ment I didn’t remember all the details about the events in the first book, but it was quite easy to get the gist after the first couple of chapters. I really like the idea behind the Shades Of London series. It’s YA paranormal fantasy and horror with a twist, the snarky humor giving you a break from the darker scenes. I do believe this sequel is not as strong as the first book though… This feeling has to do both with the plot itself, the characters and the romance involved. The plot, while interesting enough, did miss that spark of the first book. It might have been the simple fact that it’s hard to live up to the previous Jack The Ripper inspired plot, but I found certain parts of the plot quite slow and sometimes not all that credible. I also had issues with certain actions and the behavior of certain characters… Part of this feeling has to do with the fact that we have to deal with a considerable amount of romance and teen angst in this sequel; something I didn’t expect at all and definitely wasn’t my cup of tea. I still liked the writing though and the humor used was mostly spot on for me. The paranormal elements were likewise interesting and I liked the development of Rory’s special skills. And that mayor cliffhanger ending definitely makes me want to pick up the third book soon despite my reservations.


Title: The Hiding Place
Author: C.J. Tudor

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: August 30th 2019
Pages: 288

“People say time is a great healer. They’re wrong. Time is simply a great eraser. It rolls on and on regardless, eroding our memories, chipping away at those great big boulders of misery until there’s nothing left but sharp little fragments, still painful but small enough to bear.”


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I really enjoyed The Chalk Man last year, and I’ve been looking forward to try C.J. Tudor‘s second book The Hiding Place ever since. It might have been that I set my expectations too high, but I ended up having mixed thoughts about this book. The first thing that stands out is that I underestimated just how dark this story was going to be… I personally didn’t mind, but I do believe The Hiding Place would be classified more accurately with a (paranormal) horror label rather than just a ‘regular’ thriller. Especially the paranormal aspect took me by surprise, as I have to be in the mood for those kind of stories and don’t always react to them positively. It really shows the author uses the work of Stephen King as her inspiration though; The Hiding Place definitely has that King feel with the horror elements, the bugs and the paranormal. Completely original or not, there is one thing for sure: C.J. Tudor sure knows how to write. I found myself flying through the pages, both shocked and entertained by what was happening. I liked the humor used, and while the characters are not exactly likeable, it somehow works for this story. And while I can’t deny I preferred The Chalk ManThe Hiding Place is without doubt still a very entertaining albeit darker than expected read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #114 – Tiger Lily & Pretty Girls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books that failed to convince me completely… I love retellings and I’ve been meaning to read the Peter Pan retelling Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson for quite some time now, but I felt the romance was forced and the so-called spark was missing in general. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter turned out to be a very dark and disturbing read, but I had problems with the credibility of it all.


Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: July 3rd 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 15th 2019
Pages: 309

“Sometimes I think that maybe we are just stories. Like we may as well just be words on a page, because we’re only what we’ve done and what we are going to do.”

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I always love a good retelling and I’ve been meaning to read this Peter Pan retelling for years now. I picked up my copy of Tiger Lily on a whim, looking for something for a little something different to read… And while it served that purpose just fine, I ended up havign mixed thoughts about the story itself. First of all, Tiger Lily is without doubt a fast read and I liked how the story was told from Tink’s POV. We get to know the different characters through her eyes and she plays a small role in the story itself as well. Tiger Lily was also an interesting character as a whole, but unfortunately I felt that the so-called “spark” was missing in the story and certain characters really started to get on my nerves. I wasn’t a fan of the romance either; it felt forced and the love triangle (should I say rectangle?) was quite frustrating as well. The romance just didn’t seem natural at all and wasn’t able to convince me… I would have preferred more focus on Neverland and have other aspects of the characters more developed. I can’t say I was happy with how both the abuse and Tik Tok not being like the rest of the men of the tribe were being handled either. I liked the references to the original Peter Pan story, but as a whole this story failed to convince me completely.


Title: Pretty Girls
Author: Karin Slaughter
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: July 17th 2019
Pages: 548

“Every time she thought she’d hit bottom, he found a way to open a trapdoor and let her sink farther down.”

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I’m so behind when it comes to Karin Slaughter‘s books… I decided to pick up one of her books on a whim, and while I was planning to finally meet Will Trent, I ended up picking up one of her stand-alones instead. Pretty Girls has been on my TBR for quite some time, and it is also a title that has been recommended to me in the past. I’ve been looking forward to read it, and I definitely didn’t realize just how twisted things were going to get during this story. Oh yes, Pretty Girls is without doubt a breathtakingly disturbing read that will chill you to be bone… Just when you think it can’t get more disturbing and twisted, Karin Slaughter let’s you know another nugget of the full truth and disturbing is taken to a whole another level. And again. And again. The quote above describes my own feelings perfectly! Trust me when I tell you that this story isn’t for those with a weak stomach or those who are sensitive to violent scenes… Not only do we have to deal with a remarkably vile serial killer, but there are also a lot of graphic scenes involved that include torture, rape and murder. And things will get darker than a pitchblack night as both Claire and us readers start seeing the full scope of what is going on. Family drama, grief and addiction elements are mixed with a whole lot of violence, a particularly twisted serial killer, a dark and vile secret network and what can be called a conspiracy feel twist.

My main issue with Pretty Girls is simply the credibility of it all. As things were revealed and escalated more and more and more, I caught myself muttering ‘really?’ multiple times. I can’t go into details without spoiling the plot, but here’s an example: I simply don’t think the killer could have gotten away with things that long and the plot development was just way over the top for me. I also didn’t think Claire’s reaction (or Lydia’s) was all that believable as a whole. The writing itself was of course excellent and twistedness of the story without doubt made my blood curl. I just think that less would have been more in this case; less over the top plot twists and increasingly graphic and disturbing scenes, leaving room to breathe and focus on the serial killer and his actions in all his twisted glory. I’m not saying that Pretty Girls was a bad read (on the contrary), but it wasn’t my favorite Slaughter either. If you haven’t tried Pretty Girls yet, definitely make sure to brace yourself for a violent, dark and disturbing ride.


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ARC REVIEW: Small Spaces – by Katherine Arden

Title: Small Spaces
(Small Spaces #1)

Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: MG, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Even bad things can lead to good.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been meaning to try Katherine Arden‘s work for a long time now… It’s true that I was planning to read the Winternight trilogy first, but I simply couldn’t resist the sound of this middle grade paranormal horror story when I saw it on Twitter. The grey and cold weather we are facing down here was the perfect backdrop for Small Spaces, a story that it set close to Halloween and gives off that creepy and dark October vibe. Although it shows that Small Spaces written for younger middle graders, it’s probably still a fun read for the older half of the target group as well. The key is in the story giving off the right horror vibe with the help of the descriptions… Although I wish there would have more dept and development in both the worldbuilding and characters, I really liked the idea behind Small Spaces. Ollie is without doubt an interesting character, and it’s understandable why she has the leading role in this first book of the series. It’s true I would have loved to see her character more developed, but she did grow over time and I enjoyed learning more about her relationship with her parents. The writing is engaging and makes you fly through the pages… I did find some of the dialogue to be too childish and not all that natural, but overall Small Spaces was still an interesting read. The story in the book Ollie snatched from the mysterous lady, the mist, the disappearances, the situation Ollie, Coco and Brian find themselves in afterwards… They all give off that paranormal horror and ghost vibe that is both properly creepy while still being appropriate for the target group. Small Spaces is without doubt a story that would be perfect addition for your Halloween month TBR.


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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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