YVO’S SHORTIES #119 – The Dream Thieves & Darius The Great Is Not Okay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The first a sequel that surprisingly enough ended up disappointing me: The Dream Thieves by  Maggie Stiefvater. Be warned for an upcoming unpopular opinion review! Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram turned out to be just as good as people kept promising though.


Title: The Dream Thieves
(The Raven Cycle #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: August 7th 2019
Pages: 453

“All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or keptfrom, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches – that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”


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WARNING: it’s unpopular opinion time again!!

I should have known that the unpopular opinion curse wouldn’t stay away… Because even though I did enjoy the first book The Raven Boys back when I read it in December 2015, I can’t say I felt the same about The Dream Thieves. It’s true that I’ve heard people having mixed reactions to this sequel in general, and I fully understand why now. Unlike the first book, The Dream Thieves almost fully focuses on Ronan, and reactions to the sequel will most likely depend on your reaction to Ronan’s character in general. My reaction on Ronan’s character is actually surprisingly neutral; there are some things I like (including heritage and ‘powers’) and other aspects I found rather annoying (including his attitude), but overall I don’t mind him as a character. Having the focus mainly on Ronan in this story means that the magic of the first book is almost completely lost though… Because it’s the dynamics between the four raven boys and Blue that made that story into a success for me. Apart from the shifted focus, I also found The Dream Thieves to be rather overlong and quite boring in points… I actually caught myself skimreading certain parts, and that is never a good sign. I do have hopes for the final two books, as more than one fellow blogger has called this sequel the weakest link of the series, but I think I’m going to take a little break before I actually continue with The Raven Cycle. Maybe the unpopular opinion curse will get bored and will go away that way!


Title: Darius The Great Is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: August 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.”


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This one has been recommended to me multiple times and I love foreign settings featuring places I’ve never been before, so it’s easy to see why I was really excited to finally pick up Darius The Great Is Not Okay. I have to say it didn’t disappoint at all. While it’s true that it took me a couple of pages before I fully connected to the characters and writing, once I did I was hooked. The power of this story is both in its characters and the descriptions of the setting in Iran and the local culture. Especially the second was thorough, detailed and well developed, making Iran and daily life in Yazd come fully alive for me and it really enhanced my reading experience. Adib Khorram is able to make you feel as if you are right beside Darius in Yazd, discovering more about his family and his roots. Darius made for a very interesting flawed character, his depression and issues with not feeling that he belongs making you think about what it is like to stand in his place and how difficult it can be to overcome a clash of cultures within your own family or even within yourself. Darius doesn’t feel American enough, but doesn’t think he belongs in Iran either, with him not speaking farsi and not knowing a lot about their culture… I really liked how the author developed this theme in what I think is a realistic way; as a Dutch person living in a quite different culture and country (Argentina), I found it really easy to relate to Darius and his struggles. I loved learning more about Iran and seeing the characters grow and develop over time in general…The ending made me kind of sad though. If you enjoy YA fiction with a foreign setting and both interesting and flawed characters, you should definitely read Darius The Great Is Not Okay.


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ARC REVIEW: Along The Broken Bay – by Flora J. Solomon

Title: Along The Broken Bay
Author: Flora J. Solomon
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: July 19th 2019
Pages: 389

“Manila’s magic was gone, replaced by an undercurrent of fear potent enough to be sensed by an observer.”

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

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I have always had a weak spot for historical fiction, and especially if the story is set during WWI or WWII. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Along The Broken Bay, as you don’t often see a WWII fiction setting in the Philippines and Gina’s story of working in the resistance sounded absolutely fascinating. I was looking forward to fully emerge myself in what I thought would be a new favorite story, but sadly fate had a different reaction for me in store. Because while I still think that the premise of this story is fascinating, unfortunately I can’t say I enjoyed the execution all that much. I’ll try to explain below why.

First of all I have to state that the description of the Manila and Zambales mountains settings is thorough and gives us insight in the local flora and fauna. It made the Philippines come alive and gives this WWII fiction read an exotic vibe. I can’t say I was too happy with how the local population was described though, nor how the main characters interacted with them. The demeaning way the locals, their culture and how they interacted was described left me with a very bad taste in my mouth and for me it crossed the line of racial discrimination. I think that the fact that (rich) Americans and Europeans living in Manila might have seen the locals in that way back in the 1940s is no excuse to degrade certain characters in such way. Likewise, I found Gina to be too much of a typical ‘rich white woman with prejudices’ cliche; her constant whining and complaining about the precarious situations she suddenly finds herself in not only distracting but also highly highly annoying. I really couldn’t stand her character, and as the story was basically build around Gina, it was really hard to convince myself to stay invested in the story. In fact, I had such a strong averse reaction to her that I confess that I probably wouldn’t have made it to the final page if this wouldn’t have been an ARC.

The pace in Along The Broken Bay is quite slow as well, and combined with my repulsion for the main character and the way the story treated the local population I ended up struggling considerably to reach the final page. I still think the premise on its own is intriguing, and it was interesting to learn more about how the resistance operated and their network in general. The nightclub was also an interesting twist; the dangers of the operation adding a hint of suspense to the story. The little chapter introductions featuring the thoughts of Gina’s husband Ray while he is separated from his family were likewise a nice touch. And while Along The Broken Bay clearly wasn’t my cup of tea despite my love for the genre, I’ve also seen that most people seem to have a very positive reaction to this story, so definitely don’t give up yet if you are intrigued by the premise.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #112 – Ivory And Bone & House Of Furies

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA fantasy read, one that sadly ended up disappointing me and one that definitely hit the mark. The writing style, POV and dull plot turned Ivory And Bone by Julie Eshbaugh into a struggle for me… House Of Furies by Madeleine Roux on the other hand was creepy, intriguing and very easy to read.


Title: Ivory And Bone
(Ivory And Bone #1)
Author: Julie Eshbaugh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 5th 2019
Pages: 384

“It’s strange how living things seem to shrink when the life is drained from them.”


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I’ve had Ivory And Bone on my radar for a long time now… Despite the mixed reviews I decided to give this story a chance anyway, mostly because I don’t come across pre-historic settings that often and the premise sounded fascinating. I still think the pre-historic timeframe is the most interesting aspect of this story, and I don’t think I would have made it to the last page without it. Oh yes, sadly I belong to the group that didn’t react well to Ivory And Bone. I’ll try to explain briefly why. A lot of my reaction to the story has to do with the fact that part of it is told from a second person POV. I had forgotten how much I despised this technique and I only refrained from DNFing because thankfully it was only used when Kol was talking about or interacting with Mya. Still, I feel I would have enjoyed the story significantly better if it would have used a third or even first person POV instead. Apart from the POV, I found the plot of Ivory And Bone to be rather dull and uneventful during mosty of the story. Which was a huge surprise, considering the pre-historic setting and the situation between the clans. The focus of the story was mostly on daily life within the clans and the whole romance/having to find a mate ordeal. To make things even worse, we even have to deal with a love triangle as well… But at least the romance is mainly slowburn. We do have a bit more action in the second half of the story, but overall I found the plot too slow and too uneventful to keep my attention. I wish I would have loved Ivory And Bone, but sadly we weren’t ment to be…


Title: House Of Furies
(House Of Furies #1)
Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 7th 2019
Pages: 416

“They do not know why they come, but they do, and once they step through the doors, their fate is sealed.”


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My first meeting with the work of Madeleine Roux was with the Asylum series, and I loved my time with those books. I’ve been wanting to pick up House Of Furies ever since… And I thought a dark and cold winter day would be a perfect alternative for the Halloween month to finally pick this paranormal horror/fantasy read up. This new series is without doubt another excellent creation! In fact, I think I might like it even more than the Asylum books… Both the historical setting in general and the descriptions are detailed and give the story the right eery and haunted atmosphere. I think part of the success of this story is the 1810 setting in the Coldthistle House and the sheer creepiness of it all. The writing itself was engaging and made me fly through this story in no time at all. The mystery around the Coldthistle House and its inhabitants is well handled and the not knowing exactly what is going on only adds suspense to the story. We have regular criminals as well as the supernatural incorporated into the plot, and I personally loved the little folklore stories as found in Mr. Morningside’s book. There is no doubt that House Of Furies would make a perfect Halloween read and I’m already looking forward to read the sequel! Because there is one thing for sure: the first book leaves the ending wide open and you will be left craving answers.


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ARC REVIEW: Trance – by Adam Southward

Title: Trance
Author: Adam Southward
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: July 4th 2019
Pages: 332

“We understand so much, yet so little. Delving into people’s minds is an immature science, even for those of us who have studied it for years.”

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

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I admit it was hook, line and sinker when I saw the cover of Trance and read the blurb. The promise of a dangerous character with the ability to control minds sounded absolutely fantastic, and there was no way I was going to be able to resist reading it. It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, because unfortunately I can’t say I was convinced by the story itself and I ended up having mixed thoughts. I still think the premise of this story is absolutely engrossing and probably the strongest aspect of this book. The suspect of this story, Victor Lazar, is a fascinatingly disturbing character; his mental ability makes this story step on the border of science fiction and paranormal activity and without doubt gives Trance a unique touch. As a result, it is hard to place Trance into a single genre and box, and instead we have an interesting mix of elements and storylines. It was especially fascinating to read more about Victor’s past and everything that happened in Romania. It might not be all that credible, but if you keep your mind open and don’t mind a sci-fi feel, you will find it to be an intriguing angle.

Now we arrive at one of the problems I had with Trance: the main character Alex Madison. On its own, I could really appreciate the psychology angle of this story. Instead of focusing on the crime and detective elements, Trance is more about trying to understand Victor Lazam and using psychology to analyze what goes on in his mind. The thing is… Alex basically is a spineless and despicable person; a pathetic whiner who is addicted to Xanax and an adulterer at that. I found the characters in general to be unlikeable, but my aversion to Alex made it very hard to keep invested in the story or care about what happened to them. Victor, disturbing as he was, at least made for an interesting character… Alex not so much. I also found part of the plot and character development to be rather unbelievable and this lack of credibility kind of put a damper on things. Things were too conveniently connected and the transition between different scenes and chapters wasn’t always all that fluid. I also struggled with the abrupt ending, and found the final scenes to be rather lacking. I still think the premise of Trance is simply captivating and the genre fluidity gave the story an unique touch, but sadly I ended up having mixed thoughts about the execution.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #107 – Two Boys Kissing & My Lovely Wife

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two different genres, a backlist title and a new release… The first is Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, which I picked up both for Pride month and for the banned books prompt. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the writing style at all though. New release My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing turned out to be a delightfully shocking read though.


Title: Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 27th 2013
Publisher: Egmont UK
Finished reading: June 15th 2019
Pages: 239

“He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.”


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I was browsing banned books for a challenge, came across Two Boys Kissing and thought it would be a perfect choice for Pride month as well. I was curious to see why this story ended up on the banned books list, although I already feared (correctly) that it would have to do with the LGBT element. Sadly, I ended up having mixed thoughts about Two Boys Kissing… It had nothing to do with the actual content, and I’m sad this story was put on the banned books list, but there was something else I really struggled with. What? While I loved the idea behind this story and the symbolism in general, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style at all. The whole second/third person POV was both alienating and extremely annoying and made me enjoy the story a lot less than I thought I would. It might be an original way of telling the story (I don’t deny that), but sadly I really didn’t get along with the writing style at all. I’m positive I would have rated this story a lot higher if we would have read about the main characters from their POV; dual or multiple would have been the same. Instead, we have the strange voice of ‘past unidentified LGBT persons’ and a whole bunch of random characters the story keeps switching between… It takes a long time to keep them apart, seeing how everyone fits and realize which is actually the main story; the fact that there were so many character/POV switches made it really hard to keep track of the story and stay invested. I can’t deny Two Boys Kissing has a strong LGBT message though, and I loved the idea of the record breaking and the background of each character. Two Boys Kissing wasn’t for me due to the writing style, but I can see why so many love it.


Title: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 26th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: June 16th 2019
Pages: 384

“Now I see my mistake. Focusing only on my family has left me isolated and alone, except for one old friend who can never know the truth.”


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My Lovely Wife has been everywhere these past couple of months and I finally found time to see what all the buzz is about. I admit I went in blind, thinking I was going to find a nice and docil domestic thriller despite the knife on the cover… I couldn’t have been more wrong. What a delightfully twisted and properly disturbing read! If you are, like me, strangely into serial killer stories, imagine finding not one, but TWO in one story… And a couple at that! As soon as I was hit with that mindblowing information, I was hooked. And not just ‘normal’ hooked; I literally read the whole thing in one sitting by candle light (not by choice though as we had a country wide power failure that day), not caring if I was basically ruining my eyes or if had other things to do. I just HAD to know how things would develop and how twisted things were going to get. Trust me, you will never guess just how crazy and disturbing My Lovely Wife is prepared to go for our reading entertainment. I’ve seen people questioning the credibility of it all, and they do have a point, but I was too busy devouring every single world of this twisted masterpiece to really care. A double dose of secret identities, two serial killers, a conspiracy plot, lots of twists and one heck of a shocking surprise as the story takes a turn you won’t see coming… If you haven’t read My Lovely Wife yet, make sure to clear your schedule before you start, because trust me, you will find yourself unable to stop reading.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #87 – Be Frank With Me & A Thousand Perfect Notes

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a story that unfortunately disappointed me and another that completely blew me away. The only thing that saved me from DNFing Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson was the main character… While I enjoyed every single perfect second of A Thousand Perfect Notes by our fellow book blogger C.G. Drews.


Title: Be Frank With Me
Author: Julia Claiborne Johnson

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: February 25th 2019
Pages: 309

“Sometimes just explaining your predicament–to a bartender, a priest, the old woman in a shift and flip-flops cleaning the lint traps in the Laundromat dryers–is all it takes to see a way out of it.”


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I have been meaning to pick up Be Frank With Me for quite some time now, mostly because I love my quirky characters and Frank sounded like someone I just HAD to meet. My TBR jar thought it was about time I finally read it, and although my experience wasn’t all that positive there is one thing for sure: I’m glad I finally did get to know him. The premise behind this story on its own is quite interesting, with the reclusive writer being forced to write a few book after falling for a ponzi scheme. But M.M. Banning, also Mimi, doesn’t steal the show nor is the main character here. Not even the narrator of this story, Alice, seems to be in the true spotlight. Oh no, that place is reserved for the young Frank. He is the sole reason I made it to the final page, because there were things I unfortunately struggled with considerably… There was just something about the writing style in Be Frank With Me that made it hard for me to stay focused and the slow pace didn’t help either. The plot is pretty basic and I really felt the story dragged in parts. I wasn’t at all interested in what was happening in the Bel Air house in general or if Mimi would ever finish her book… Not a good feeling to start with. The many Hollywood references and Frank being Frank were what made me keep reading though. His character is both quirky and unique and is definitely what makes me give this story the benefit of the doubt.


Title: A Thousand Perfect Notes
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 7th 2018
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: March 3rd 2019
Pages: 288

“Music is nothing unless it fills your soul with colour and passion and dreams.”


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It’s always fantastic to see a fellow book blogger being published and I’m sure a lot of you now C.G. Drews for either her Paperfury book blog or gorgeous Instagram account (or both!). Her debut A Thousand Perfect Notes was published last year and I’m still kicking myself I didn’t pick it up sooner… Because the reviews are right: this is an absolutely fantastic and heartbreaking read! Well worth the 5 stars and without doubt one of my 2019 favorites. There is just something about the writing style that will draw you right in and I wasn’t able to let go until I reached the final page. I loved how big of a role music played throughout the story, the many musical references both relevant to the plot and enchanting at the same time. The power of A Thousand Perfect Notes is in its characters though. Both Beck, August and Joey are so easy to love; you will adopt them straight away and your heart will ache for them as the plot evolves. I love how the personality of Beck and August are completely contrary and balance each other that way. The Maestro is a horrible character and source of a few trigger warning worthy elements including abuse and violence. She is the perfect villian for this story though and I loved her background and the fact German words are incorporated in the text. A Thousand Perfect Notes will make you laugh and cry and the characters will stay with you for a long time. It’s a fantastic contemporary read which balances happy moments and a romantic interest with a thousand musical notes and a dark twist. If you like the genre and haven’t read this debut yet, you should definitely remedy that. I personally can’t wait until her new story comes out in April!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #84 – Half Lies & To Make Monsters Out Of Girls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two short reads I picked up to fit two BTB Epic Bingo prompts: the prequel novella Half Lies by Sally Green and the poetry bundle To Make Monsters Out Of Girls by Amanda Lovelace.


Title: Half Lies
(The Half Bad Trilogy #0.5)
Author: Sally Green

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: November 13th 2014
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 72

“Who would think that a drunken misery-guts like him could be so poetic? But then again maybe that’s what poets and artists are like. “


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I should have known after my less than satisfying experience with Half Bad last year, but since I already owned a copy of the prequel novella AND both sequels I’m giving the trilogy another chance. I’m having a feeling Half Lies wasn’t the best place to start… Novellas are always short and not having a well developed plot and characters is not that much of a surprise. Still, I found myself craving to know more about their past in France and I would have liked to see more focus on magic as well. Instead, Half Lies was basically a sappy forbidden love story where two quite cliche characters fall in love a la Romeo and Juliet. I liked the Giving details and the discovering of power bits, but like I said before those elements are mostly pushed into the background (except for Gabriel’s problems with his power). My biggest struggle was with the writing style. There is just something about the way this story is written that is a huge turn off for me… This might have had to do with the abuse of brackets or short sentences, although it might just have been the writing style as a whole as I remember having similar problems in Half Bad. All in all this prequel novella wasn’t really a success for me and the ending felt a bit abrupt… I’m hoping my experience with the sequel will be a better one.


Title: To Make Monsters Out Of Girls
(Things That H(a)unt #1)
Author: Amanda Lovelace

Genre: Poetry, Feminism
First published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: February 10th 2019
Pages: 168

“there was
no comfort

 

to be
found in

 

the
pages

 

that once
pulled me

 

through
it all.

 

– you took things i didn’t know you could take.”


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After reading and enjoying the Women Are Some Kind Of Magic poetry bundles, I decided to try Amanda Lovelace‘s other bundle To Make Monsters Out Of Girls as well. Her poems are easy to recognize and this was another excellent collection. It is true that the structure of the poems is simplistic and basically seems like hitting the space bar ever few words, but I personally think this simple style gives the words and message behind the poems even more power. Amanda Lovelace writes without fear and is fully open about her experience with abusive and toxic relationships in the past. She uses words to not only express feelings, but fight those monsters and free herself (and hopefully others) in the end. I’ve said it before, but these stories are very easy to relate to for anyone who has experienced a toxic relationship (or is still experiencing it) and will provide both comfort and and empowering message to let you know you are worthy and can beat that monster. It’s not the style, but the words and the emotions behind those words that make To Make Monsters Out Of Girls into such a success for me. Her poetry isn’t for everyone, but those who can connect to her words will be able to treasure it.


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