YVO’S SHORTIES #24: The Poison Plot & A Secondhand Lie

Time for a last round of Yvo’s Shorties before our trip! Sadly this time they were not the best of reads… The first, a NG ARC called The Poison Plot by Elaine Forman Crane, turned out to be my second DNF of the year. And the second is a companion novella of a book (A Secondhand Life) I really enjoyed reading earlier this month, but the novella fell flat for me. A Secondhand Lie by Pamela Crane… I recommend sticking with the actual book with this one.


Title: The Poison Plot
Author: Elaine Forman Crane

Genre: Non Fiction, Historical
First published: May 15th 2018
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Finished reading: April 17th 2018
Pages: 264
DNF at 31% (82 pages)

“Then again, there is no hard evidence that Mary actually tried to poison Benedict or that he was in fact poisoned.”

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


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Fact: the blurb of The Poison Plot immediately had me under its spell. I enjoy a good non fiction read every once in a while and the promise of a murder plot and a 18th century setting sounded like a perfect match. So even though I had seen mixed reviews before I started it, I had still high hopes for The Poison Plot. Sadly, I did not have the positive reaction I was hoping to have to the story. In fact, I struggled right from the start and after several tries and careful consideration I had no other option than to make this book my second DNF this year. Am I sad to have to make this difficult decision? Yes. But I will try to explain below why. First of all, the writing style is dry, formal and hard to get into. This made it considerably harder to keep reading. Also, the whole mystery around the case is basically revealed in the prologue, leaving little to look forward to in the rest of the book. And as has been stated various times in the book, there is no hard evidence Mary tried to poison Benedict or that he even was poisoned at all. Doesn’t that mean that the whole ‘poison plot’ this book is based on is actually nonexistent? Especially since this is supposed to be a NON fiction account based on facts. Related to this is the cheer amount of guesswork about Mary’s life in general and what happened with all the if, would, probably, may have... I understand there are not that many details available of that era, but no facts means no accurate account of the supposed ‘poison plot’ and Mary’s life can be given. This guesswork really bothered me and I would have preferred this being converted in a historical fiction read based on available information instead. This would probably make the story a lot more readable as well. Another thing that made me DNF The Poison Plot were the constant and repeatedly mentions of random details and facts of the time period without it having a solid connection to Mary. There is an overdose of unimportant details and information of the era, and honestly I don’t really care about the minute weather details or what someone may or may not could have bought and when. Especially since most of the time there was no direct link to Mary or the other key characters. I tried really hard to keep reading, as I wanted to learn more about the supposed murder plot and what really happened. Unfortunately, between the writing style, guesswork, unimportant detail overdose and lack of connection of most of the content to the main characters, I found myself having no other option than to DNF it.


Title: A Secondhand Lie
(Killer Thriller #0.5)
Author: Pamela Crane

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: December 8th 2015
Publisher: Tabella House
Finished reading: April 18th 2018
Pages: 97

“In the pregnant pause between my birth and death, life had become little more than a series of cruel jokes, and I was always the punch line.”


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After reading A Secondhand Life earlier this month and being really impressed with it, I decided to get a copy of the companion novella as well and read it. I normally don’t read a lot of novellas, but I was curious about what really happened to Landon’s dad and I wanted to seein what ways A Secondhand Lie connected to the main story. I’m glad there are no obvious spoilers involved, although I do advice reading A Secondhand Life first just in case. It will also give you a better feel for the main characters. Because on it’s own, I can’t say I was all that impressed by the novella. It’s not a bad read and it adds a few new details to Landon’s life, but overall I don’t think it’s necessary to read it. The whole mystery around his dad’s arrest kind of fell flat for me, especially after the truth was revealed. Way too simple and not all that satisfying! Some scenes of A Secondhand Life were also repeated, but might feel out of context if you haven’t read the actual story. The writing is good and I liked the difference in style when the POV changes. But overall, I would recommend sticking with A Secondhand Life instead or at least not read this novella without having read the actual story first.


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Graffiti Palace by A.G. Lombardo

Title: Graffiti Palace
Author: A.G. Lombardo
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
First published: March 13th 2018
Publisher: MCD
Finished reading: March 9th 2018 
Pages: 336
DNF at 49% (165 pages)

“At the mystic interstice where the mind and the beating heart held the brush or the spray can and the paint touched the inanimate skin of the city, who could really say where one began and the other ended?”

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

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It’s August 1965 in Los Angeles and Americo Monk is trying to return home to his girlfriend Karmann. He is known throughout the neighborhood as the man who keeps track of the graffiti decorating the community… And relatively safe among the different gangs and police. But this might mean nothing during the Watts Riots, because his status won’t take away the fact that there is nothing but chaos all around. Chaos that will lead him on different and surprising paths that won’t directly lead home…

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I admit I was intrigued by Graffiti Palace as soon as I saw the cover and read the blurb. I have an interest in stories involving race problematics and I have to admit I don’t know much about the era this story is set in other than just the bare details. I was looking forward to exploring this setting as well as learning more about this particular situation and find out how the graffiti element fits in. Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I thought it would be. I’ve tried several times over the last two weeks to start reading Graffiti Palace, but unfortunately I have been struggling with it right from the very first page. The main thing that stood out for me was the writing style, which simply wasn’t for me. It felt confusing, chaotic, haltering… And it simply made it hard to make sense of it all. Some might call it literary fiction, colorful and exuberant prose, but the sad hard facts are that I personally found it a constant struggle to reach the end of each page. The endless descriptions of just about every little tiny detail didn’t help warming up to the story either… Don’t get me wrong, I love a good detailed description in a story, but this was just way too much unrelevant details and too little focus on a possible plot itself. The parts where Monk wandered around the city were slightly better in the sense there were less descriptions and more ‘action’, but whenever Karmann’s POV popped up the pace slowed down to an almost full stop. Monk’s character has a lot of potential, I stil like the idea of the graffiti and what the art stands for and the potential of the riots and the race problematics being represented by the different groups that form part of the community. Graffiti Palace had all the potential to blow me away, but instead I was left struggling and feeling confused about it all. I really tried to continue reading to see if things would improve, but I had to give up when I reached the halfway mark and couldn’t see things getting better. I just felt this story was trying to hard to stand out and the writing style and descriptions too unlikeable and hard to read to be called lush and wonderful. I’m guessing the right person will most likely enjoy this story significantly better than I did, but I do believe this Graffiti Palace is not for everyone. I’m still sad I had to make the decision to DNF though.


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ARC REVIEW: Bentwhistle The Dragon: A Threat From The Past – by Paul Cude

Title: Bentwhistle The Dragon: A Threat From The Past
Author: Paul Cude

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
First published: October 19th 2011
Finished reading: September 29th 2017
Pages: 486
DNF at 49% (238 pages)

“The valuable lesson you should have learned, was that evil comes in many guises, not always visible to everyone.”

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

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It’s easy to say I have a weak spot for any story involving dragons as they are my favorite of mythical creatures. This story had me at the title, because how could I resist a new fantasy series where dragons play such a big role? I was really looking forward to start reading Bentwhistle The Dragon, and even though it took me longer than planned to actually pick it up my initial excitement was still there. That’s why it’s such a shock I had to make the hard decision to DNF this story. Because let’s face it: that almost never happens… But honestly, I’ve tried. Really tried. I’m not saying the writing is bad and it truly shows just how much time is put into the detailed and extensive descriptions and worldbuilding in general. This attention to detail is what stands out in this story and I can always appreciate when this much time is dedicated to creating a believable and well developed fantasy world. BUT. The thing is, the pace is supersuperSUPER slow and I just couldn’t get myself to keep interest. I don’t mind a slower pace if I get detailed descriptions in return, but I think in the case of Bentwhistle The Dragon it was kind of a description overdose. One superlong and extensive description after the other kind of had the reverse effect on me and instead of finding myself intrigued by a story about my favorite mythical creature, I was actually rather bored by it all. Because I have to be honest and say that nothing much really happens during the first half of the story especially considering it has over 200 pages. I definitely would have expected a lot more action or at least some suspense… I don’t think the age group would be happy with so many descriptions or the lack of action either, and I felt the tone was off for a YA story (too ‘formal’?). All in all Bentwhistle The Dragon definitely wasn’t for me, and unfortunately I just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading all those extensive descriptions hoping something exciting would happen in the second half. Especially since I found the mystery and ‘dangerous’ situation not suspenseful at all and to be honest rather lacking for what is labeled as a fantasy adventure story… I’m sad to see this dragon story on my very short list of DNF reads.

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Dragons have walked among humans for a long time, and nobody seems to be aware of them… Because the dragons are disguised as humans and live among them, infiltrating the human world in key positions to guide and protect them. They can change forms at will, although dragons are always careful to not reveal their secrets. But something is off, and it might be up to three young dragons to put a stop to it before it’s too late… Will they be able to?

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I had really high hopes for Bentwhistle The Dragon, and that’s why it makes me extra sad I had to make the though decision to DNF it. This almost never happens, but I struggled so much with the endless descriptions and superslow pace that I just couldn’t get myself to read the second part as well. I was really surprised by the lack of action as well, especially since it’s labeled as a fantasy adventure story… The worldbuilding is excellent and extensive, but in this case it might have been too much detail and the balance between plot/action and description was lost. Such a shame! I really wanted to enjoy this one.


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ARC REVIEW: Bookishly Ever After – by Isabel Bandeira

Title: Bookishly Ever After
(Ever After #1)
Author: Isabel Bandeira

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 19th 2016
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Finished reading: July 19th 2017
Pages: 378
DNF at 32% (121 pages)

“I loved new books . The crisp pages, the smell, and the sense of potential as I carefully broke in the spine made getting them one of the best feelings in the world.”

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

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First of all I want to make clear contemporary romance isn’t really my thing and this may or may not have influenced my opinion. As much as I hate being negative in my reviews, I also made a promise to always give my 100% honest opinion and exactly that is reflected below. I also want to stress that I can’t remember ever wishing for a Netgalley copy of this novel in the first place and the granted wish message in my inbox came as a huge surprise. I’ve been wary to pick up Bookishly Ever After ever since, mostly because I wasn’t sure it would be for me… I liked the sound of a bookish main character though, because don’t we booklovers all love our bookish characters?! I approached Bookishly Ever After with caution, but unfortunately immediately realized it was going to be a struggle. Basically this contemporary romance story has one cheesy high school cliche stacked on top of another up until the point I felt like I was drowning in them. And Bookishly Ever After isn’t only stuffed with cheesy cliches, but also has an overdose of annoying romance tropes as instalove and love triangles. This alone is enough for me to run away and hide in a corner, but since I normally never DNF my ARCs I decided to give this story a chance. Trust me, I’ve tried really hard to like this story. REALLY hard. But in the end I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was never able to connect to the writing style and felt it simply didn’t flow. The plot wasn’t really present and the chapters didn’t seem to connect naturally… And the characters. One more annoying, flat and cliche than the other! I thought I would at least be able to like or relate to bookish Phoebe, but I was wrong. She only managed to frustrate me and it just all didn’t feel natural. Am I partly to blame for this DNF? Yes. The blurb should have warned me to stay far far away from this one… Still, I’ve read AND loved romantic contemporaries before and Bookishly Ever After definitely ticked a lot of no-go boxes for me. Approach with care! Romance lovers who don’t mind cliches will most likely have a more positive experience though.

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The sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martin can most likely either be found with her nose in a YA fantasy book with magic and a hot paranormal love interest or dreaming about its characters… In a perfect world, her life would be just like the books she loves to read, but real life doesn’t come remotely close. She has her crush-from-a-distance, but when someone a lot closer to her might actually like her she doesn’t know what to do. Phoebe turns to her friends and favorite books for advice…

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I’m going to be honest and say I don’t think I would have picked up this story if this wouldn’t have turned up on my Netgalley shelf. I’m not a big fan of (cheesy) contemporary romance in the first place and Bookishly Ever After makes it definitely VERY easy to overdose on the high school cliches and romance tropes incorporated into the story. I’ve tried really hard to see beyond the cliches, but found myself too frustrated to be able to continue and finish the story. And I tell you, it makes me very sad to call Bookishly Ever After my second DNF this year! Part of the problem is definitely me though and I can see why fans of the genre would be able to enjoy it a lot better. Oh well, I guess we can’t like them all, can we?


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DNF REVIEW: You – by Caroline Kepnes

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Title: You
(You #1)
Author: Caroline Kepnes

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Romance
First published: September 25th 2014
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Finished reading: January 9th 2017
Pages: 433
DNF at 5% (21 pages)
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“Work in a bookstore and learn that most people in this world feel guilty about being who they are.”

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WARNING: Unpopular opinion ahead.

This book by Caroline Kepnes has been on my radar ever since I first found out it had a serial killer element, and I’ve seen lots of positive reviews about You ever since. I was really excited to be finally reading this one and I’m still wondering if I picked up a different story instead, because You left me confused. It’s probably just me, but to be honest I just couldn’t see the why behind the fact that so many people seem to love this story. I normally read at least 50 pages or 10% before I decide to DNF a book, but in this case I just couldn’t take it anymore. Why? First of all, I really disliked the writing style and its constant you, you, you was getting on my nerves. That and the constant swearing and sex talk/scenes left me no other option than calling You my very first DNF this year (and hopefully the last!). I keep feeling I might be missing out on something and it was just the beginning I struggled with, but then again sex talk/scenes and me just don’t go together. I wish I could have discovered more about the serial killer angle though!

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When a beautiful, aspiring writer enters the bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he feels himself forced to Google the name on her credit card after she leaves. And there is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. Even better: she has a public Facebook account and Tweets, telling Joe everything he needs to know about her. Joe decides to create the perfect ‘chance’ meeting, and slowly takes control of her life by creating a series of events that should ensure her walking straight into his waiting arms…

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I have to say that every time I read the blurb again, I want to give this story another try. I have actually tried to continue reading a few times, but especially the sex talk/scenes make me cringe before I finish the first pending page. I think You is a typical case of REALLY not-for-me, although I truly wanted to like this story. I have a weakness for serial killer thrillers, but even that weakness is not enough for me to tolerate adult scenes. Oh well, I guess you can’t like everything…


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Tipping Point – by Tomas Byrne

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Title: Tipping Point
Author: Tomas Byrne

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Political
First published: October 3rd 2016
Publisher: Delta Stream Books
Finished reading: December 13th 2016
Pages: 414
DNF at 41%
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“The past is a tricky thing, Joe. Don’t pull the puzzle any more apart, or you might not fit the pieces back together.”

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

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I was invited to join Reading Alley last month, and I picked Tipping Point by Tomas Byrne as my very first Reading Alley ARC. Even though political stories are normally not really my cup of tea, I was really intrigued by the blurb of this story and the potential connections to the actual world climate change situation. I had high hopes for this story, but unfortunately I ended up having to make the though decision to DNF it. I’m not saying Tipping Point is a bad read and the right person will probably love the story. In fact most reviews I have seen so far are really positive, so the main problem is most likely me and not this political thriller. That doesn’t take away I had a hard time to stay focused on the story and plot, both because the pace was quite slow and the ‘preachy/dry’ feel of all elements related to politics and climate change. I had put the story on hold two or three times before deciding not to finish it, and that made me conclude that this story simply isn’t for me. If you like political thrillers and don’t mind a slowish pace, I would definitely suggest giving Tipping Point a chance though. The story has without doubt a lot of potential!

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Both Joe Hawkins and Kate Farrow used to work for the government, and are now whistleblowers wanted by the US and UK authorities. They have been exiled from their homelands after divulging information relating to a corrupt arms-for-oil deal, and are currently on the run. They are getting tired of running though, and they finally get a chance to fight back as they learn about the dubious events at the headquartes of an environmental group in California. Will they be able to find a way to finally stop running?

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I don’t often decide to DNF a book, but I had such a hard time reading Tipping Point that I made an exception. I’m by no means saying it’s a bad read, but sometimes you just know a story isn’t for you. The slowish pace and ‘dry’ political elements made it impossible for me to properly enjoy this novel, which is a shame because I liked the sound of the plot. I seem to be in the minority though, so if you like the genre I suggest giving Tipping Point a shot.

DNF REVIEW: Careless In Red – by Elizabeth George

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Title: Careless In Red
(Inspector Lynley #15)
Author: Elizabeth George
Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Crime
First published: 2008
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Finished reading: August 30th 2016
Pages: 568
DNF at page 80
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WARNING: upopopular opinion ahead!! Honestly, I’ve tried. I think this is only the second or third book I have ever DNFed and I still feel a bit guilty for doing so… I must have started reading Careless In Red at least four or five times before over the last two years, but I just can’t bring myself to keep reading. There are too many storylines and the pace is slower than a sleeping snail. On top of that the descriptions are superlong, dull and the story itself just doesn’t grab my attention either. It’s honestly a shame because this book belongs to one of my favorite genres… And I’m aware Careless In Red is actually book nr. 15 in a series, but after this sample I don’t think I want to read the first book after all. I know a lot of people seem to enjoy this series, but it definitely isn’t for me.

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Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley retreated to Cornwall after his wife was murdered. There he spends six solitary weeks hiking the coastline, but he cannot seem to escape his memories. On the forty-third day of his walk, Lynley discovers the body of a young man who seems to have fallen to his death. He has no choice but to abandon his solitary life and has to ask for reinforcements. While the closest town seems to be an unlikely place for murder, it soon becomes clear that a killer is indeed at work. And this time, Lynley is not a detective but a witness, and even a possible suspect…

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I always enjoy reading a good mystery/detective story, but somehow I never managed to read but a few pages at the time of this fifteenth book in the Inspector Lynley series. The pace is so slow and the descriptions are so long that it’s really hard to stay focused, and I also found that it had way too many storylines going on. That said, I’ve only managed to read the first 80 pages, so things might improve later on. I guess I will never know…