YVO’S SHORTIES #129 – Fever 1793 & The Museum Of Extraordinary Things (DNF)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two historical fiction reads that I fully expected to love, but somehow failed to connect to. The historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, but the characters fell a bit flat for me… And with a superslow pace and flat characters, I saw no other option but to DNF The Museum Of Extraordinary Things. Oh yes, sadly it’s time for a double dose of unpopular opinion reviews!


Title: Fever 1793
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
First published: September 1st 2000
Publisher: Aladdin
Finished reading: October 17th 2019
Pages: 252

“Life was a battle, and Mother a tired and bitter captain. The captain I had to obey.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I was browsing for possible titles that are set in the 18th century to read for the final era for the When Are You Reading? challenge when I saw this title pop up. I enjoyed her other title Wintergirls when I read it earlier this year and the historical setting and plot sounded fascinating, so I immediately knew I wanted to read this title. I’m not sure if this was the wrong book at the wrong time for me, or if it’s just that I’m not that used to middle grade books in the first place… But the fact is that I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by this story. First things first, and I have to say that the historical setting is well developed and detailed when it comes to the facts of 18th century Philadelphia and the yellow fever outbreak. It shows that the author has investigated historical facts thoroughly and the descriptions feel realistic and help teach the readers more about yellow fever and the impact of the outbreak back then. I could also appreciate the explanation of what was based on historical facts and what might have been changed in the story. That said, I struggled to connect to the story. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has somewhat to do with the fact that I never felt a real connection with the main characters, making me feel mostly detached from  everything that happened to the main characters. In short, while the historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, the characters somehow ended up falling a bit flat for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you haven’t tried this story yet and are intrigued by the blurb, you shouldn’t hesitate to try your luck.


Title: The Museum Of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: February 18th 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Finished reading: October 21st 2019
Pages: 385
DNF at 38% (146 pages)

“Coney Island was, above all else, a place of dreams, with amusements like no others, rides that defied the rules of gravity, concerts and games of chance, ballrooms with so many electric lights they glowed as if on fire.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’ve been meaning to read this title for a long time, so I was excited when my TBR jar decided it was time to finally read it. The premise of The Museum Of Extraordinary Things sounds fantastic, so I fully expected to enjoy the story… Sadly, surprisingly enough it wasn’t ment to be. I’m not sure if it was just the wrong time for this story or if my book hangerover after finishing The Lion Tamer Who Lost the other day would have made me struggle with any book in the first place… But the fact is, I REALLY struggled with The Museum Of Extraordinary Things and I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading any longer. The pace is so so slow in general and the parts written in cursive are even slower… I had a hard time staying focused on the story and even started skimreading certain parts; definitely not a good sign. On top of that, I found the main characters to be quite flat and cliche… They lacked development for me to make them more rounded (at least in the part I read), and as The Museum Of Extraordinary Things seems to be a more character driven story, this became a real issue for me. I do have to say that the historical setting in early 20th century New York/Coney Island is absolutely fascinating and the historical references are probably the main reason I even made it this far. But as a whole, this story and me definitely didn’t get along.


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #4: Alex And Eliza & Herding Cats (ARC)


Time for more Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I will be reviewing two books I read a while ago… One historical fiction romance and a graphic novel which is actually an ARC and due to be published later this year; namely Alex And Eliza by Melissa De La Cruz and Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen.


Title: Alex And Eliza
(Alex & Eliza #1)
Author: Melissa De La Cruz

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: April 11th 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 19th 2017
Pages: 368

“Alexander Hamilton, widely reputed to be the most eloquent man in the United States Of America, had, for the first time in his life, been rendered speechless.”


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I know most people are probably aware of the fact that I’m not a romance fan, so it might seem like a strange choice to pick up a novel like Alex And Eliza. But while I’m not a fan of the romance genre, I do love my historical fiction and my interest was peaked when I read the blurb. No, I am not familiar with the details of Alex Hamilton’s life nor did I see the Hamilton musical. Call me ignorant, but that part of American history was never talked about in the country I grew up in. I was looking forward to find out more about Hamilton’s life and importance in history and historical timeframe in general, since it’s been a while since I’ve read a story set in the 18th century… And to be honest, I found myself being mostly disappointed with the historical aspect of Alex And Eliza. Instead of a detailed historical setting and information about Hamilton’s life, this is mainly a love story that could have been about any random high society girl and boy without important family name or money. I don’t have the feeling at all that I know more about Hamilton’s life after finishing it and I wasn’t a fan of the character development either. The romance… I know it isn’t my thing in general, but between the love triangle and the way the lovebirds acted, it was quite a turn off for me. I guess romance fans who don’t mind the lack of historical details will be able to enjoy the story a lot better than me though.


Title: Herding Cats
(Sarah’s Scribbles #3)
Author: Sarah Andersen

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor
First published: March 27th 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: December 3rd 2017 
Pages: 112


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I enjoyed reading Big Mushy Happy Lump last year, so I just couldn’t resist requesting a copy of Herding Cats when I saw it. I don’t really read a lot of graphic novels, but I like both the style of the illustrations and the topics the author talks about. Daily life mixed with anxiety topics and all in all things that I personally can easily relate to. And while I had fun reading Herding Cats, I felt some of the spark of her previous graphic novel was missing… I especially loved the cat and reading related graphics, which I obviously could really relate to, but other pages didn’t manage to speak to me in a way I was expecting when I started reading it. Herding Cats is still a fun read though and perfect to take a little break, get yourself a cuppa and just absorb those pages. Coming out in March!


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