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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ARC REVIEW: Her Last Lie – by Amanda Brittany

Title: Her Last Lie
Author: Amanda Brittany

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
First published: January 9th 2018
Publisher: HQ Digital
Finished reading: January 5th 2018
Pages: 288

“When someone you love lets you down, loves someone else, the world turns on its axis. Nothing looks the same anymore, and a distorted image of life appears before you like a scene from a horror movie.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

It was the cover that first attracted me to Her Last Lie, but the promise of a story about a serial killer victim survivor just sounded too good to be true. I’ve been looking forward to pick up this psychological thriller debut ever since… But unfortunately I have to say I ended up having mixed thoughts instead. The writing style itself is engaging and flows, and I liked the incorporation of the little blog bits into the story. That said, I did have a problem with the plot and the focus on the main character and her relationships to men instead of the actual suspense around what happened in Australia and what is happening now. The whole love triangle/cheating was a mayor turn off if you ask me, and the mayority of Her Last Lie felt more like a contemporary romance read with a dash of suspense rather than the psychological thriller I was expecting. I couldn’t stand the main character Isla either, and not just because of her cheating… And I was also disappointed there wasn’t more focus on what happened in Australia. I did love the travel bits and descriptions, especially those set in Sweden. This was also the part where the story finally came alive for me, which is a shame since it’s basically the last 25% or so of Her Last Lie and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it to that point in a normal read. As soon as the scene with the Northern Lights (don’t want to reveal more to avoid spoilers) kicks in, the real suspense finally kicks in and the story manages to grab my attention completely. There are some interesting final reveals and plot twists, although I do admit I saw some of it coming… But still it was a remarkably strong finish to what was for me a quite disappointing, weak and too romance-focused psychological thriller. Like I said, the final part of Her Last Lie definitely shows a lot of potential! But I kind of wish the rest of the story would have followed the same tone.

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Six years ago, Isla was lucky enough to escape the claws of serial killer Carl Jeffery in Australia, and she has been trying to deal with these events ever since. On the outside, she seems to have moved on, working as a freelance travel photographer and writer and having a steady relationship with Jack. But then she receives the letter with the news of a pending appeal for Carl Jeffery… And the past comes straight back to haunt her. Isla needs to escape her life and decided to go through with her solo trip to Canada. Escape is not the only thing she will find there though…

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I had high hopes for Her Last Lie, but unfortunately I can say that only the last part of this story actually lived up to expectations. The writing is good, the premise is promising and the ending is surprisingly strong. There were a few plot twists I didn’t see coming either, and I loved the travel elements. That said, I found there was too much focus on the romantic relationships of the main character, I found the cheating/love triangle highly annoying and the main character itself very unlikeable. My feelings for this book are basically all over the place, because while I felt a strong dislike for the story during most of Her Last Lie, I absolutely loved the final part (starting with the Northern Lights scene). It’s hard to wrap my head around these feelings, but I do admit these positive feelings sure took their time making an appearance. Fans of slower paced psychological thrillers with a romantic focus might enjoy this one a lot better though. Just don’t expect a lot of suspense and excitement until the very end.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #3: IT & Armada


A new year and more Yvo’s Shorties! This time a true book monster and a popular science fiction read… I’ve been meaning to read both for ages and finally did so last year. I’m talking about IT by Stephen King and Armada by Ernest Cline


Title: IT
Author: Stephen King 

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Fantasy
First published: 1986
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: December 4th 2017
Pages: 1.478

“She wanted to scream and couldn’t. The screams were too big to come out.”


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IT is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for ages and never actually picked up, mostly due to the extremely intimidating size of this monster. I don’t mind reading big (read: 800+ pages) books, but IT is on a whole different level… But with the movie coming out last year, I thought it would be the perfect excuse to finally read it. I originally started reading IT in October for Halloween, but the slump got me and I wasn’t able to finish it until December. It wasn’t just the slump though that made me take ages to finish this monster. Because I truly feel it is waaaaaaaaay overlong and has way too many details, descriptions and subplots, making the story drag at points. I honestly think that cutting out at least half of the subplots and pages would have made this story that much more creepy and suspenseful… And without doubt also a real pageturner. As it is, I had a hard time making sense of all the different subplots and characters in the beginning, making it hard to actually enjoy reading it. Things did get better as I started to connect the different parts and things got more creepy, but that dragging feel took a lot of the suspense away for me. The writing was excellent and the idea behind the plot brilliant, but unfortunately the overdose of subplots and characters and dragging feel ended up decreasing the rating considerably and in the end IT was only a 3 star story for me.


Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: YA, Science Fiction
First published: July 14th 2015
Publisher: Cornerstone
Finished reading: November 16th 2017
Pages: 384

“I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, comforted by my half-assed self-diagnosis. Nothing but a mild flare-up of inherited nuttiness, brought on by my lifelong dead-dad fixation and somewhat related self-instituted overexposure to science fiction.”


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Armada is another of those books that has been on my radar for a long time… I’ve actually been wanting to read both this one and Ready Player One ever since they first came out, but somehow I never did. Too many books, too little time sounds just about familiar right? Various fellow book lovers recommended reading Armada first, so when I was in the mood for science fiction I finally did so last November. When I first read the blurb I was 100% convinced I would absolutely love this book. I have a weak spot for geeky books and I’m a former gamer myself, so I thought Armada would be spot on for me. That’s why I was so surprised I ended up having a different reaction instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love LOVE the writing style and I can see why the right target group would absolutely love this story, but the whole war-alien gaming thing just wasn’t for me. Especially in the beginning I had a hard time getting a proper feel for the story, which I found strange since I should have been able to relate at least to the gamer part of it all. Things did get better after the big plot twist bomb about halfway through, and I liked the second half considerably better. But still… I definitely feel this book has a specific target group and unfortunately I don’t belong to that group. Definitely give Armada a go though if you think this story sounds like your cup of tea! The writing will blow your socks off.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #2: The Marble Collector & Our Numbered Days


Today it’s time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Featuring today are two books I’ve read recently: The Marble Collector by Cecelia Ahern and Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn.


Title: The Marble Collector
Author: Cecelia Ahern

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Chick Lit
First published: October 29th 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Finished reading: December 25th 2017
Pages: 304

“Hurtful things are roots, they spread, branch out, creep under the surface touching other parts of the lives of those they hurt. It’s never one mistake, it’s never one moment, it becomes a series of moments, each moment growing roots and spurting in different directions.”


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I know I’m normally not a fan of the contemporary romance/chick lit genre and I tend to stay away from it, but I wanted something different and a lighter read for the Holiday season and The Marble Collector caught my eye. This is my first time reading one of Cecelia Ahern‘s books and I can definitely see why she is such a popular author. Not my thing maybe, but without doubt well developed and well written stories based on what I found in The Marble Collector. It took a little while figuring out the different POVs in the story, but in the end I could really appreciate the complexity and the timeline of the plot. The Irish setting and the whole marble theme were a nice touch and while I wasn’t a big fan of the characters, it was quite easy to become invested in the story anyway. The mystery around the marble collection and the amnesia added some suspense to the plot, and overall this was quite an enjoyable read. Quite low on the romance and mostly focused on family drama and the secrets of a man who can no longer remember… I can see why people would love The Marble Collector and Cecelia Ahern‘s books in general.


Title: Our Numbere Days
Author: Neil Hilborn

Genre: Poetry, Mental Health
First published: May 14th 2015
Publisher: Button Poetry
Finished reading: December 25th 2015
Pages: 72

“Depression wasn’t an endless grey sky, it was no sky at all. I’ve got to go somewhere. I’ve got to go.”


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I don’t read or review a lot of poetry on my blog, but I have a weak spot for strong, emotional poetry, especially related to depression or mental health. I’ve written my share of (bad) poetry in the past when I was in a bad place, and it has helped me feel better… And I’m always interested to see how others express their emotions and pain. Our Numbered Days has been on my radar for a long time, so when I was in the mood for some poetry it was the perfect excuse to finally pick up my copy. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the poems in Our Numbered Days other than that they were mental health related and there has been a lot of praise for one of the poems included in the bundle called OCD. What I have discovered is that Neil Hilborn’s style of poetry simply isn’t for me, and I wasn’t able to connect the way I thought I would be able to because of the topic. This reaction is highly personal and mostly related to the style of the poems, so definitely don’t let this stop you from picking the bundle up yourself if you want to. I do see why OCD is so popular and it was one of my favorites of the bunch, along with probably Still Life With Pills and Skyline With Cranes And Stormcloud. I did have a hard time making sense of some of the poems though… Some seemed almost surreal, while others were direct and to the point. All in all not my favorite poetry bundle, but if you like slam poetry you will probably have a different experience with it.


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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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BOOK REVIEW: Heartless – by Marissa Meyer

Title: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: November 8th 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Finished reading: September 28th 2017
Pages: 453 

“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”

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I’m a big fan of Marissa Meyer ever since I first I first started The Lunar Chronicles, so adding Heartless to my wishlist was a no-brainer. I’m still surprised it took me this long to pick up one of my most anticipated releases from last year… Although I did hear some mixed things about it that made me wonder. And guess what? Here’s another unpopular opinion coming up. Again. Because despite my initial expectations and feelings, I didn’t end up loving Heartless like I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, when I started reading this I was sure I was absolutely going to love this story. The writing is wonderful and simply enchanting and had me hooked right from the first page. I dived right into this magical retelling and had a blast reading about Cath and her baking. A little warning there: this story will make you crave both baking and eating all those sweets and tarts! Seriously mouthwatering… Everything went perfect up until the love triangle was introduced. Oh yes, Heartless is yet another YA fantasy story that suffers from the dreaded romance trope. Unfortunately things went downhill fast after that and I was really frustrated by all that romantic blabbering and love triangle related nonsense. It nearly broke my heart because I absolutely loved the story before that! So it’s easy to say the love triangle business put a mayor damper on what could have been a delightful and positively delicious read. The final part was a bit of a surprise, although I’m not sure what to think of it. All in all not the reaction I was hoping to have after finishing Heartless…Trust me, I’m feeling disappointed as well to feel this way.

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Catherine has been dreaming for years to open her own bakery one day and sell the pastries everybody seems to love. She is a very talented baker, but her parents have other plans for her in store. The unmarried King himself seems to show a special interest in Cath and it is her mother’s dream for her daughter to be queen one day. Even though Catherine doesn’t agree and wants a different future for herself. And then she meets the mysterious Jest at the ball where the King is about to propose to her… And things take a different turn.

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I really wanted to love Heartless and I was sure I was going to after reading the first couple of chapters. The writing is wonderful and take you right to the magical world these famous characters live in. I just loved Cath and her baking; I’m craving to start baking something myself right now (and eating it afterwards of course!). Everything was going great until the love triangle, which positively ruined Heartless for me. After the introduction of this romance trope, the main focus was on this relation and I felt kind of betrayed. Oh well, most people seem to love this story, so I guess this will be yet another unpopular opinion to add to the mix… If you dislike love triangles as much as I do, consider yourself warned though.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Lifeboat – by Charlotte Rogan

Title: The Lifeboat
Author: Charlotte Rogan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Survival
First published: March 29th 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Finished reading: September 26th 2017
Pages: 340

“It’s my experience that we can come up with five reasons why something might have happened, and the truth will always be the sixth.”

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I had a copy of this novel collecting dust on my shelves for over a year now and the other day I decided to pick it up on a whim. I mostly read on my kindle nowadays, but it’s good to have an actual physical copy in my hands every now and then… I admit The Lifeboat was a cover-love buy, although I was also intrigued by the 1914 historical setting. To be honest, I’m still on the fence about this one. The Lifeboat is a character-driven story predominantly set on a lifeboat, where the characters have to survive after their cruiseship sinks on the way to New York. The story is told mostly in diary form where one of the characters relates what happens during that time and some of the story is also dedicated to the aftermath. While I thought the historical setting and tone were well executed and even can be seen in the way the characters interact with each other, I also felt the pace was quite slow and this made it harder to properly enjoy the novel. Honestly, nothing much really happens during the story and it’s mostly about the interactions between the characters and how they react to being is such a dangerous situation. Character-driven stories can be fascinating, especially when the characters find themselves in such a dangerous situation, but I wasn’t convinced by The Lifeboat. Part of this feeling probably has to do with the fact I was never able to connect to the characters, making it harder to care for them or what would happen to them. Grace (the narrator) actually became irritating at one point. I liked how the aftermath and trial is also discussed and how difficult it is to judge people and their actions in such extreme situations though. All in all I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Lifeboat, but fans of character-driven historical fiction novels might have a better time reading this one.

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In the summer of 1914, Grace Winter is on her way back to New York with her new husband Henry on board of a cruiseship. Then the unthinkable happens and the ocean liner suffers a mysterious explosion, sinking the ship. Henry is able to find a place for Grace on one of the lifeboats just before that… Although the survivors on that particular boat soon realize that they are over capacity. If any of them want to survive, they will have to make some sacrifices… What will happen to them? And what about Henry and the others on the cruiseship?

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I had high hopes for this one despite the low rating, mostly because I was in the mood for a proper historical fiction read in the first place. The Lifeboat without doubt had the right historical feel that was even reflected in the way the characters interacted, but I also felt that special spark was missing. Nothing much really happens during the story despite the horrific situation the survivors find themselves in. The aftermath chapters did added something to the plot, although it was mostly talk and unfortunately rather dull. Combined with a slow pace and unlikeable character this wasn’t one of my favorite historical reads.


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