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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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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ARC REVIEW: The Secret Of Heaven – by Felix Alexander @ReadingAlley

Title: The Secret Of Heaven
(Aiden Leonardo #1)
Author: Felix Alexander

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Adventure
First published: 2016
Publisher: ForeverPoetic
Finished reading: August 22nd 2017
Pages: 311

“The truth must be understood. Not solely for the purpose of being accepted, but for humanity as a whole to achieve enlightenment.”

*** 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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Every once in a while I like to change up genres and read something different. And while The Secret Of Heaven is partly a thriller, it was the promise of adventure and ancient mysteries that closed the deal for me. I love reading about conspiracy theories and secret societies so it is easy to say I was looking forward to this one, especially since I had previously enjoyed one of the author’s stories. Unfortunately things didn’t work out that way. I’m not sure if it just was me reading The Secret Of Heaven at the wrong time, but I really struggled to get a proper feel for this story. There are a lot of different characters involved and this makes it hard to keep up wih the what and who and how everything connects. More than once I had to stop reading and try to remember what the role of a certain character was and this slowed down the pace considerably. The plot also felt pretty chaotic and kept jumping back and forth between characters… Which took a while to get used to. I have to be honest here and say it took me a lot longer than expected to finish The Secret Of Heaven. The writing wasn’t bad and it really shows that the author has taken the time to investigate the historical details thoroughly. The (historical) descriptions are extensive and show just how important the so-called Lost Bible is… That said, those descriptions did also slow down the pace and while I normally love historical elements in a story, they didn’t manage to convince me in The Secret Of Heaven. As for the characters and their actions… I wasn’t really able to connect to them as there are simply too many characters in play in the first place; also, I’m not sure everything that happens in the plot is exactly credible. And while it kind of has that Dan Brown feel and sounds really promising, The Secret Of Heaven unfortunately didn’t manage to blow me away. Such a shame, because the story has a lot of potential!

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Professor of Biblical Studies Aiden Leonardo was the last person to see Lazzaro de Medici before he was murdered, so of course he instantly becomes the main suspect. The thing is: he cannot remember what happened the night before… Although he is certain he would never harm the man that took him in when his mother died. Something more complicated than just a simple murder seems to be at play though and Aiden soon finds himself right in the middle of a conspiracy, a hunt for a Lost Bible and a secret organization known as The Group. What will happen to Aiden and will they be able to find what they are looking for before it’s too late?

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I really thought I was going to enjoy this one and I’m still wondering if I picked it up at the wrong time, but the fact is that The Secret Of Heaven didn’t manage to convince me in the end. The writing isn’t bad and it shows that the historical elements are very well researched, but there were too many characters involved and the pace wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be with the extensive descriptions slowing it down. I normally love historical details so I was really surprised I wasn’t able to enjoy this story more!


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BOOK REVIEW: Confess – by Colleen Hoover

Title: Confess
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, New Adult
First published: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: July 16th 2017
Pages: 320

“Selflessness. It should be the basis of every relationship. If a person truly cares about you, they’ll get more pleasure from the way they make you feel, rather than the way you make them feel.”

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Spoiler alert: I seem to be having a love-hate relationship with Colleen Hoover‘s books. I know contemporary romance normally isn’t my thing at all and you might ask yourself: why on earth pick up a book belonging to a genre that’s not for you in the first place? Well, mostly because Colleen Hoover is one of the few authors that has been able to give solid proof (a.k.a. November 9 and It Ends With Us) that I can actually love a contemporary romance story. So when I was looking for something completely different to read, I turned to CoHo again and decided to pick up on of her novels still on my TBR. I mainly picked Confess because I was curious about the anonymous confessions incorporated into the story. And now I’ve finished reading it, I still think this is the strongest element of this novel. I just love the idea of the anonymous confessions made into art, the symbolisms and the fact that the actual paintings are shown in the novel. The confessions, both anonymous and those of the main characters, play a big role throughout the story and the title is definitely spot on. I initially received mainly positive vibes as I was reading Confess and I really thought it was going to be another winner for me, but unfortunately this feeling didn’t last. It wasn’t the writing style, which was just as good as ever and one of the reasons her books are just so damn readable. BUT. And here come two big issues… 1. The characters. 2. Instalove. I was able to tolerate the main characters initially, mostly because the writing style is very enjoyable and I was intrigued by the confessions and paintings. I even forgave the cliches initially… But this all went south when both Auburn and Owen started to annoy me. Even worse: other characters started popping up that provoked even worse feelings and that was not even the end of it. Because Confess suffers from a very heavy case of one of the most annoying romantic tropes: instalove. Auburn and Owen… Sorry, I just wasn’t able to believe it and it was really hard to keep taking the story seriously when I couldn’t take serious their (inter)actions. I was about halfway through when Confess had officially lost me to an instalove overdose. Which is a shame, because Confess does touch some very important topics and brings to light just how toxic and manipulative human beings can be. I can really see why people would love this story, but Confess was most definitely a solid case of ‘not-for-me’.

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Auburn Reed has been having a rough couple of years and has moved to Dallas to try and rebuild her shattered life. She has been fighting for a long time and her goals seem to be very close now… But it seems like life will be never easy for her. Auburn was just looking for a second job to get more money, but she ended up finding a whole lot more when she walks into a Dallas art studio and meets the artist and owner Owen Gentry. They share an instant attraction and Auburn decides to take a chance and put her heart first. But Owen has been keeping secrets from her… Secrets that might ruin the last thing in her life that is important to her.

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First of all I have to say that Confess by no means is a bad read, and I’m probably partly to blame for this story and me not being a right match. The writing style is just so readable and I do love the idea of the confessions turned into art and the way confessions are incorporated into the story itself. Confess isn’t just another sappy romance story and has a few very dark themes, but in the end it was the instalove overdose and inability to tolerate the main characters that ruined the reading experience for me. Oh well, I guess we can’t like them all… And what I said before is true: Colleen Hoover is always able to provoke very strong reactions with her stories whether they are positive or negative. And that is always a good sign.


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ARC REVIEW: Reported Missing – by Sarah Wray @bookouture

Title: Reported Missing
Author: Sarah Wray

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: July 14th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 10th 2017
Pages: 356

“My guts clench, a phantom pain where my instinct used to be, telling me what to do, showing me the way. Nowthe needle just spins and spins.”

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

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Ever since I first saw that cover and read the blurb I have been looking forward to pick up Reported Missing. I’m a sucker for a good psychological thriller and this story had all the signs of being another winner. Unfortunately I ended up having a completely different reading experience. This is going to be a though review to write… I’m still surprised to say this myself, but this is the first Bookouture thriller ever that actually ended up disappointing me. It’s such a shame, because I do feel the concept itself has a lot of potential. Reported Missing is ment to be more of a character driven story than a fast-paced thriller, something that can go both ways with me because the main character has to be very strong to keep me interested. And this was exactly one of my problems: I was never able to connect to the main character and I actually found her mostly dull and annoying even. Her reaction to her husband going missing under suspicious circumstances and the aftermatch is understandable in a way, but unfortunately actually reading about it didn’t seem to do the trick for me. Instead of a fascinating characterization with mental health/illness elements and a dose of suspense, I found myself rather struggling to keep interest in Reported Missing. The pace is considerably slow and basically nothing much is happening during the story. Part of this can be explained by the fact that Reported Missing is mostly focused on the character development, but this doesn’t take away that I really struggled to keep focused and continue reading. Things did improve slightly in the second half, making things a little more interesting, but overall I don’t think I would have reached that part in the first place if it would have been an ARC. Because unfortunately the urge to DNF was real… All in all not the thrilling experience I was expecting.

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Four months ago, Rebecca’s husband disappeared and he hasn’t been heard from since. But he wasn’t the only one that day: 14-year-old Kayleigh also disappeared without a trace. Is this just a coincidence or are the two connected? Rebecca wants to believe so, but the rest of the town seems to think otherwise as the police start to think the two cases might be connected. It’s getting harder to trust his innocence, and the angry town blames her for what her husband might have possibly done. But did he actually have something to do with Kayleigh’s disappearance? And where are the two in the first place?

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I was really looking forward to Reported Missing, but unfortunately I ended up having a completely different reading experience. While the concept sounded really promising, there wasn’t much happening during the story and the pace is considerably slow. This psychological thriller is mostly focused on the character development, but I found myself unable to connect to the main character and this made it really hard to keep interested in the story. In short unfortunately not what I was expecting at all.


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ARC REVIEW: Devastation Road – by Jason Hewitt

Title: Devastation Road
Author: Jason Hewitt

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 3rd 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Finished reading: July 1st 2017
Pages: 384

“Strange how memories were breaking through as if he’d slipped under ice and now there were patches of it starting to melt so he could see snippets of the life he once had on the surface. Just when he thought his memory was improving, just when he thought he could retain the events of a day, something always disappeared in turn.”

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

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

This is going to be my third ‘unpopular opinion’ review in a row; what is happening to me?! I enjoy reading historical fiction in general and actually have a special interest in any story related to WWII. Devastation Road sounded particularly interesting due to the fact that the main character has amnesia and I found myself really looking forward to read this novel. Devastation Road has received a lot of praise so far and I was expecting to be adding another positive review to the mix myself, but unfortunately I didn’t have the same reading experience as most people. First of all I want to make clear that the idea behind this story is without doubt fascinating: an English soldier in 1945 who has amnesia and doesn’t remember that last four years nor can retain new memories. I could also really appreciate the many descriptions of the places the characters passed through, flashbacks and historical details in general. But. And there is where the tricky part comes in… I REALLY struggled with the writing style. Instead of luring me in, the first pages and chapters only managed to frustrate me and disconnect me from the story with the constant repeat of he, he, he in the sentences. Somehow the prose didn’t flow and I had a hard time figuring out what was going on… This is possibly ment to portray the main character and his amnesia, but it made it really hard for me to properly enjoy the story. That said, apart from the writing style I found it also extremely hard to connect to the characters AND plot itself. It’s not that the main character aren’t intriguing and each has their own history, but somehow I found myself mostly detached from them. And while I normally love the use of foreign languages in a story, I think in the case of Janeck it only made it more difficult to connect to him. I mentioned the flow of the writing style before, and I think I had the same problem with the plot itself. The story goes from memory to present to past and completely different scenes without warning and although this once again can be seen as a representation of amnesia, I found myself really struggling to keep track instead. Devastation Road had all the signs of being an excellent read and the problem might have been just me since so many seem to love this story, but unfortunately I struggled along with the characters to reach the final page. And I still feel kind of sad I wasn’t able to enjoy it more.

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In the final stretch of WWII, a man wakes up in a field in a country he doesn’t know. He is injured and can’t seem to remember how he got there in the first place… In fact, only flashes of memory come back to him and he only has a vague recollection of joining the war he is currently in the middle of. His name is Owen and he is trying to get back to England, although this isn’t easy with his amnesia. He finds help in unlikely places, although he is not sure why exactly they help him or what they want from him. Will his memory get better and will he make it to safety?

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I really wanted to enjoy Devastation Road, especially since it is a combination of two topics that fascinate me: WWII and amnesia. Unfortunately I found it extremely hard to connect to the writing style, characters AND plot… And honestly I think I would probably have opted for a DNF if this weren’t an ARC. I seem to be in the minority though since most reviews have been really positive, so give this one a chance if this sounds like your cup of tea!


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ARC REVIEW: The Book Of Whispers – by Kimberley Starr

Title: The Book Of Whispers
Author: Kimberley Starr

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: October 3rd 2016
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: June 15th 2017
Pages: 386

“I have a voice, I have words. I run to a future where there’s the possibility of using them.”

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

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I admit I have a weird obsession with any title that has the word ‘book’ or anything book-related in them, so combined with a stunning cover The Book Of Whispers was immediately on my radar. I requested a copy of this story mostly based on this obsession, and didn’t realize before I started reading it that it had such a low Goodreads rating OR the fact that demons play such a big role in the story. To be honest, now I reread the blurb I don’t understand how I could have missed that part… Because what I thought would be a historical (medieval) fiction about a mysterious book actually turned out to be more of a demon-infested fantasy read. Stories involving demons are always  a hit or miss for me, so I guess I have myself to blame for that part… It wasn’t just the demon overload that didn’t work for me though, but also the way they were incorporated into the story. Especially in the beginning this mix of historical and fantasy felt awkward and the many many descriptions of the demons and all their strange forms slowed down the pace considerably. Trust me, there were many many eyebrow raises before the story started to flow better! Luckily the book itself made its appearance quite early on; otherwise I’m not sure if I would have decided to continue this story. I liked the medieval setting and the crusade and the idea behind The Book Of Whispers is without doubt an interesting and original one. I appreciate what the author wanted to do by mixing a traditional crusade story with fantasy and its complexity when trying to balance those elements; I just didn’t enjoy actually reading it. Mind, this could have been just me and my aversion to demons… Although I had a hard time connecting to the writing style or characters as well. Apart from the awkward demon descriptions that slowed down the pace, the writing style in general didn’t flow and felt a bit like trying to drive a car that is running out of fuel. This haltered feel did fade away a bit towards the ending, but all in all I struggled considerably reaching the final page. As for the characters: like I said, I had a hard time connecting to them and some of them were quite annoying. I liked that the demons were connected to the seven sins, but some of the characters were basically caricatures of those sins and maybe not that credible. Also, the romance. Boy, did I struggle with that feature. I know I’m almost never a fan, but besides the fact that this story has a love triangle, I found the romance in general didn’t feel credible at all and mostly a cliche. I can’t go into details without spoilers, but insta-love and all those sappy and cliche descriptions and feelings? Definitely could have done without that. There were some twists though and I liked the historical elements. The ending was interesting enough as well I guess. And there is no doubt this book surprised me, although in my case not in a good way…

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Set in Tuscany, 1096 AD, Luca is the young heir to the title of Conte de Falconi. He has a problem though: he can see demons and has strange dreams that sometimes predict the future. Luca is forced to keep this a secret since people either don’t believe him or are afraid of him… But when he sees his father murdered in one of those dreams, he is determined to stop this vision from coming true. This means following him on the great pilgrimage to capture the Holy Lands against his wishes… But will also be complicated when his father gives him an ancient book that holds a lot of mysteries just before they leave.

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I like stories with a medieval setting and I was definitely looking forward to The Book Of Whispers, but in the end it just wasn’t for me and not just because of the demon overload. The writing style, the demon descriptions, the characters, the romance… There was a lot that unfortunately didn’t work for me and the historical setting couldn’t make up for this. The idea behind The Book Of Whispers is very original though and it must have been a lot of work to mix both elements. There is no doubt this story had a lot of potential…


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