YVO’S SHORTIES #101 – The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall & Trouble Makes A Comeback

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition with a TBR jar pick and a title I picked up for a challenge. Both had some positive and negative elements, although I did enjoy Katie Alender’The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall better than Stephanie Tromly‘s sequel Trouble Makes A Comeback.


Title: The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Point
Finished reading: May 13th 2019 
Pages: 329

“Of all the things I would have guessed about being dead, I definitely didn’t expect that it would sometimes feel exactly like high school.”


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I’ve enjoyed Katie Alender‘s books in the past so I was excited when my TBR jar thought it was time to pick up this title. I admit I was expecting something a little more creepy than what I ended up with. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t save it for the Halloween month now… It’s true that there are elements of suspense and there are some creepy moments and secrets hidden in Hysteria Hall, but overall I found the majority of them to be cliche. And this took away most of the scary factor… There are a lot of cliches involved in general, related to both ghosts, family drama and even a love triangle. Oh yes, even when the main character is dead we don’t escape the dreaded love triangle! This wasn’t even my main concern with Delia though. I didn’t find her strong enough as a main character to carry the story; for example Maria came over as a considerably more interesting character to follow. There was a lot of potential to make this story more disturbing; I think most will agree a haunted and abandoned asylum is the perfect eery setting for a horror story. But The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall took a different turn and instead mellowed things down considerably. On the other hand this was still quite a fun and fast read! Just don’t expect to be scared away, as for a haunted asylum story it’s surprisingly light on the horror.


Title: Trouble Makes A Comeback
(Trouble #2)
Author: Stephanie Tromly

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: May 14th 2019
Pages: 304

“Forgetting about the bad times… that isn’t happiness. That’s amnesia.”


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I picked up this title mostly on a whim as I needed a change of genre and this title fits one of the prompts for the BTB Bingo challenge. It’s been a while since I read the first book, so I had totally forgotten about my issues with the first book… It turns out I ended up having the exact same issues with the sequel and I should I have checked my previous review better before deciding to read Trouble Makes A Comeback. I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. It’s true that the story reads superfast and there are entertaining parts. BUT. I had huge doubts about the credibility of it all and the fact that you are constantly reminded of THE love triangle is beyond annoying. In fact, it’s more than a triangle; a square maybe? Anyhow, this story is packed with high school and romance cliches and between those and the lack of credibility of the plot I had a lot of eyebrow raising going on. As for the characters… While I can appreciate a bit of dry humor, I felt like the characters (and the story for that matter) were trying too hard to be funny and it kind of had the opposite effect on me. Between the cliches around the different characters and the love triangle overshadowing any hope of an interesting and edgy plot, I don’t think me and this series are ment to be. Contemporary romance fans who like their stories with a hint of mystery will probably have a better time with Trouble Makes A Comeback though.


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ARC REVIEW: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes – by Ruth Hogan

Title: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes
Author: Ruth Hogan
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2018
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: May 16th 2019
Pages: 320

“When the music ends for someone you love you don’t stop dancing. You dance for them as well.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Ruth Hogan‘s work so I was really excited to receive a copy of The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes on my kindle. And while my reading experience turned out to be different than what I was expecting and it ended up being not exactly my cup of tea, I also understand the love for this story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes is by no means a bad read (quite the contrary in fact) and the three star rating reflects my personal experience with the story rather than the quality itself. Every book has its target group and while the story sadly wasn’t a right fit for me, I could also really appreciate it for what it was. Let’s make it clear from the start that The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes has a considerably slow pace and is mainly a character-driven story. The power behind this read is Ruth Hogan‘s ability to create quirky, flawed and unique characters that will most likely stay with you for quite some time. A lot of time is invested in the description and development of the different characters. While I could really appreciate that and I do love my quirky and unique characters, for me personally it slowed down the pace too much and I struggled to connect and stay invested in the story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes uses a dual POV and follows two ‘broken’ women each with their own past and problems. Sadly, I failed to connect fully to Alice and Masha, but what was even worse is that I guessed the mayor final plot twist right from the beginning. I kept hoping I was wrong… And it was quite a disappointment to discover I was right all along. I really liked Edward, Sally and Kitty though and I loved the hidden meaning behind Haizum’s name (and the fact a dog plays a considerable role in the story). Masha’s romance was too cliche for me, but I did enjoy seeing her character evolve over time and slowly learn how to deal with the death of her son. I’m having a feeling fans of slower and mostly character-driven contemporary dramas and those who love quirky and unique characters will have a wonderful time with The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Bright Burning Stars blog tour! A huge thanks to Brittani Hilles for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this story that caught my attention right away and I have been excited to read it. And while it turned out to be not entirely my cup of tea, I’m having a feeling the right reader will fall in love with it. Please join me while I share my thoughts on Bright Burning Stars!

Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 21st 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: May 10th 2019
Pages: 304

“Marine, notre monde, this world of ours – the stage and studios and barres – is intense and lonely. There is no space for friendship, love, or even an old and perhaps sacred bond between twins. Nothing shadows the art of dance. It’s a union of body, mind, and music. Classical dance is known for being ruthless.”

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

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Like I said before, there was just something about the blurb of Bright Burning Stars that caught my attention right away and I have been excited to finally read it. It’s true that it turned out to be not entirely my cup of tea, but I do believe the right reader will enjoy this story immensely. Fans of more gritty and slow-paced YA contemporary romance will be in a treat with this ballet-inspired story mainly set within the Paris Opera Ballet School.

Why wasn’t Bright Burning Stars a good fit for me personally? It’s hard to put my finger exactly on the why, but I think part of the reason has to do with the sheer amount of cliche drama relating to both competition, jealousy, romance and friendship. All this drama made it hard for me to stay focused and I confess it took me longer than expected to actually reach the final page. On top of this we have what you can call multiple love triangles and more jealousy and drama resulting from that… And you all know by now how I feel about those pesky love triangles in the first place. I’m sure romance fans who don’t mind a cliche or two will react different to this part of the story though. Another thing I didn’t like was the fact how they skimmed over abortion and basically make it seem like you can just go to the pharmacy, get a little something as if you were buying a cure for a headache and solve your problems that way. I’m not going into the whole abortion discussion, but I do feel this gives the wrong message to teenagers about safe sex and having to face the consequences of your actions and mistakes. Trigger warnings are also in place for other sensitive themes including eating disorders, suicide and drugs. I understand the ballet world is brutal and unrealistic (and basically unhealthy) demands are made of the bodies of the dancers, and I do think this is well portrayed in Bright Burning Stars, but it can potentially trigger more sensitive readers so you’ve been warned.

The story is told with the help of a dual POV, where we get to know Marine and Kate and learn more about how the constant competition has changed their relationship and how their final year once again puts a lot of pressure on both their bodies and their minds. I’m not sure I actually liked them, especially since their is a lot of teenage drama, boy stuff and jealousy involved, but they do help address various issues related to the ballet world. Bright Burning Stars is mostly a character-driven story where we follow the development of Marine and Kate. The pace is considerably slow at times, but shouldn’t be problem for those who enjoy this kind of story. I did wonder about the use of random French words in the text, as they didn’t seem to add anything substantial to the story… And with a Paris setting aren’t they speaking French all the time anyway in the first place? Instead of the French words, I think I would have liked to see more dancing and more descriptions of Paris and the school. But that could have been just me. Overall this was still a solid read, and while not my cup of tea, I can see how others could fall in love with Bright Burning Stars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

SOCIAL LINKS

aksmallwords.com
Twitter: @aksmallwords 
Instagram: @aksmallwords 


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YVO’S SHORTIES #94 – Release & How To Walk Away

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a title I ended up having mixed thoughts about (Release by Patrick Ness) and another I picked up based on recommendations and ended up really enjoying (How To Walk Away by Katherine Center).


Title: Release
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 7th 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: April 4th 2019
Pages: 287

“Blame is a human concept, one of its blackest and most selfish and self-binding.”


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I had been meaning to pick up another Patrick Ness title for a while now, and thought the Magical Readathon was the perfect excuse to do so. I’ve been seeing mixed things about Release ever since it was… errr… released, so I decided to keep expectations low. I’m glad I did, because I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story as well. In fact, something similar happened with The Rest Of Us Just Live Here (the chapter introductions vs. the rest of the chapters) so I’m guessing this particular writing style and me just don’t really get along. What do I mean? Well, while I mostly enjoyed Adam’s chapters, I wasn’t so sure about the other more fantastical one (Katie). Both were so extremely different in tone and even genre that they mostly just clashed for me (like what happened in The Rest Of Us Just Live Here). I know magical realism can go both ways for me and this time around it definitely wasn’t a positive reaction… I had a hard time making sense of Katie’s POV and it mostly just distracted me considerably from what was happening to Adam. The way both POVs finally ‘met’ wasn’t really satisfactory for me either, but that might just be me reacting to the magical realism. I did enjoy the writing in Adam’s POV and I really loved that while the story is basically taking place in just one day, there is a lot going on and you won’t find yourself bored. Adam sure is having a pretty bad day! Religion is involved since it plays such a vital role in Adam’s family (and part of his misery), but nothing too preachy so I didn’t mind. The story wasn’t too heavy on the romance as a whole (something I could really appreciate), and the lgbt elements were well developed. If Release would have been just Adam’s POV and nothing more, I would probably have ended up rating it higher… But Katie’s more unique magical realism chapters kind of put a damper on things for me. Depending on how you react to those chapters you will either absolutely love it or end up having mixed thoughts like me.


Title: How To Walk Away
Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 15th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: April 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“There are all kinds of happy endings.”


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There has been so much hype around How To Walk Away ever since it came out last year that I’ve been a bit afraid to pick it up myself. But after seeing so many raving reviews, I was also curious to find out what I would make of this story myself. I think I’ve become an instant fan of Katherine Center‘s writing, and she is a new addition to my short list of contemporary romance writers that are able to make me enjoy the genre. It took a few chapters to warm me up completely to the characters and the situation, but once I did I was hooked. The writing is excellent and one of the things that really stood out for me. Following the main character as she has to learn to live with the consequences of the accident was both heartbreaking and intriguing, as her struggles and fears are realistically and well described. Chip made me want to hit something, but I guess that fits the purpose of his character… I liked seeing Margaret’s character develop and grow over time though. How To Walk Away isn’t just about recovering after an accident, having to learn to live with a disability and Margaret seeing her life changed forever though. It is also about family and the estranged relationship with her sister. All characters in general are well developed, feel realistic and add there little something to the plot. I could really appreciate this was more of a slowburner romance and instead there is a lot more focus on Margaret’s situation and personal development. The chapters set in Belgium brought back memories of Bruges and made me crave chocolate! The ending of How To Walk Away was without doubt satisfying and I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys the genre.


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ARC REVIEW: Final Betrayal – by Patricia Gibney

Title: Final Betrayal
(Detective Lottie Parker #6)

Author: Patricia Gibney
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 18th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 11th 2019
Pages: 484

“Her subconscious was telling her she had made a mistake all those years ago. Her conscious self told her she hadn’t. Which was correct?”

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

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Most of you are probably already aware of the fact I have been a detective Lottie Parker fan ever since the first book came out and I’ve been closely following the series ever since… The thing is, I’m starting to wonder whether this is turning out to be one of those series that has been going on for too long. Don’t get me wrong, but while I absolutely loved the first four installments, I struggled to warm up to number five and sadly my reaction to book six wasn’t what I was expecting either. I’m not saying Final Betrayal is a bad read at all (I want to make that clear before I continue), but once again I felt that somehow the spark of the first four books was missing. Detective Lottie Parker is known for her complex and shocking detective adventures, and it’s true that this new installment mostly delivers that. But… I felt like Final Betrayal was almost trying to take too much on its plate at the same time. There are so many different POVs, characters and different angles that it’s hard to keep track of it all and instead of adding more tension and suspense, I mostly ended up being frustrated by having to deal with yet another POV jump within the same chapter. There is so much going on at the same time that it feels like you are juggling ten balls at the same time and only have time to look at your hands and not at what really is going on. I had my doubts about the credibility as well, and like in book five, the negative attitude and swearing of some characters started to get on my nerves. As for the plot twists and surprises… I guessed part of the final reveal early on, and I’m not sure I find the final explanations completely satisfying. Sure, there is a lot of action and tension involved in the plot and things will get very personal on multiple levels for Lottie Parker. But unfortunately Final Betrayal failed to hit the mark completely for me this time around. Did I mention it was unpopular opinion time again?

WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first five books yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Amy Whyte and Penny Brogan both disappear after leaving a local nightclub early Sunday morning, but it isn’t until Monday that someone realizes they are gone. Amy’s father reports her missing, and it’s up to detective Lottie Parker to try and discover what happened that night. What originally was a search for one woman soon turns out to be two as Penny cannot be found either. When their bodies are found days later, they are desperate to close the case fast as Amy’s father has a lot of influence. Then things turn even more desperate as two more girls are found… And danger seems to be around every corner.

I was really hoping to fall in love with this series again, but once again the story failed to hit the mark completely for me… It’s not a bad read, the writing still reads lightning-fast and there are a lot of twists and turns involved, but for me sadly the spark of the first four books was missing. I felt there was almost too much going on in Final Betrayal, with multiple characters and POV switches even within the same character. Instead of adding the characteristic dept and complexity to the plot, I rather found it confusing and almost irritating this time around, especially since you never seem to get to settle down with one character for a little while. I had my doubts about the credibility and wasn’t convinced by the final reveals either… It has convinced me Lottie Parker and me are overdue for a little break and I have decided to step away from the series and leave it for those who still feel the same love for Lottie Parker.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #92 – Every Exquisite Thing & Tell The Wolves I’m Home

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two YA reads I’ve been meaning to pick up for a while… Neither managed to blow me away, but I did enjoy Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt better than Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick.


Title: Every Exquisite Thing
Author: Matthew Quick

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 10th 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: March 24th 2019
Pages: 272

“Reading that poem was like putting on the proper prescription glasses after bumping into walls for my entire life.”

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I actually picked up this title on a whim when I was browsing for a contemporary read and I realized it would fit my Author ABC challenge perfectly. I’ve read his work in the past and I especially enjoyed meeting Leonard Peacock, so I was hoping to have a similar experience with Every Exquisite Thing. Unfortunately it just wasn’t ment to be… I love my quirky, flawed and unique characters, and I can appreciate an original writing style. There was just something about both characters and writing that failed to convince me in this story though. I know I’m in the minority here since most people seem to love this story, but it is what it is I guess. While I can say this was a superfast read, the tone and writing style of Every Exquisite Thing really started to get on my nerves and made the reading experience less enjoyable than expected. I also had problems with the main characters… While I like that they are flawed and unique and especially Nanette evolves over time as the story progresses, there was also something about them that really annoyed me and I wasn’t able to connect to them in general. I did love the fact that this story is build around a book called The Bubblegum Reaper, where we see both the influence of the writing on its reader and learn more about the author himself. I also loved the poetry references and the incorporation of Alex’ poetry into the story. Then again, I always love bookish references! This was definitely one of the strongest aspects of the story and you will see influences of The Bubblegum Reaper throughout Every Exquisite Thing. I wasn’t sure about the ending and the characters and writing style weren’t for me, but there is no doubt that this is quite an original coming of age story. If you are able to connect to writing and characters, you will have a great time reading it.


Title: Tell The Wolves I’m Home
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 19th 2012
Publisher: The Dial Press
Finished reading: March 27th 2019
Pages: 367

“And until then I don’t think I really understood the meaning of gone.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up Tell The Wolves I’m Home for ages now, but there was always something that made me pospone it just a little while longer… I’m glad my TBR jar pick thought it was about time I did something about that. I somehow had it in my head that this was a magical realism read, but it turns out I totally misremembered that. Instead, Tell The Wolves I’m Home is a (recent) historical fiction slash contemporary story with a focus on family, AIDS and death. Tough themes that are very tricky to get right and sometimes not that easy to talk about, but the 1987 setting made for a very interesting backdrop for this story. We learn more about prejudices, just how little information about AIDS was available back then and the consequences… While also focusing on family, relationships and dealing with the death of someone close to you. I can’t put my finger on the why, but while I did find the Tell The Wolves I’m Home a very interesting read, there was also something about it that didn’t work for me. Part of this might have to do with the main characters; especially Greta is very frustrating and felt quite cliche. I liked Finn and Toby though, and June was interesting enough as well. I liked the art element in this story and the meaning of the painting of the two sisters. I also liked how we saw the wolves being incorporated into the plot. I could have done without the teenage/high school drama, jealousy and there were other elements that irked me as well. But overall I’m still glad I finally read it.


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ARC REVIEW: I Know You – by Erik Therme

Title: I Know You
Author: Erik Therme
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 12th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: March 23rd 2019
Pages: 217

“Whatever happened next was out of Bree’s hands… and that was the most terrifying thought of all.”

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

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I do love my psychological thrillers, and there was just something about I Know You that sparked my interest when I was invited to read it. While I found myself flying through this story, I do have to confess I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. There is no doubt that I Know You has a fast pace and lots of twists that make the plot keep moving. I managed to finish it in less than a day, which is always a good sign for me with books under 350 pages… The premise of the story is very interesting as well, and I like how this isn’t just another kidnapping case, but also a story about family bonds, flawed characters and mistakes. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but the execution didn’t manage to convince me completely though. Part of this feeling might have had to do with the plot, which I didn’t find all that credible as a whole and the story didn’t seem to flow all that naturally. What do I mean with this? Basically, I didn’t feel the different scenes were connected in a way that felt credible and the plot twists didn’t manage to convince me completely. I was surprised to find myself not all that invested in the story and characters, and I had a hard time staying focused at times. Which is strange in a way, because there is a lot happening to the Walker family and they sure have a heavy dose of hardship handed out to them. I think this feeling might be explained by the fact that I wasn’t able to connect to the characters as much as I hoped, and I would have liked to see them more developed beyond their visible and most pressing flaws. I Know You is by no means a bad read and it has some interesting elements, but overall I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it if you like a good mix of family drama and a kidnapping story though!

Bree Walker has always been looking out for her little sister Alissa, their absent parents forcing the role of her caretaker on Bree. Then Bree discovers sixteen-year-old Alissa isn’t spending time at her best friend’s place like Bree thought she was… And it turns out she has been missing for the last two days. To make things worse, Bree finds Alissa’s backpack abandoned on the steps of their trailer… And a chilling text confirms that something bad happened to her sister. How can Bree get her back?

I Know You is a story with an interesting premise and mix of different elements. I liked how the focus of this story wasn’t just on the kidnapping case, but also on the family drama and flawed characters in general. It is without doubt a superfast read perfect for when you need a little break from life and forget about your own problems. I personally ended up having mixed thoughts, mostly related to the credibility and lack of dept in and connection to the characters… But there is no doubt the story was still entertaining enough.


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