YVO’S SHORTIES #111 – The Broken Ones & The Boy Who Steals Houses

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two different genres and two different reactions to the stories. I picked up The Broken Ones on a whim and while it was a fast read, it failed to blow me away. The Boy Who Steals Houses on the other hand was one of my most anticipated releases this year and an absolutely brilliant read.


Title: The Broken Ones
Author: Sarah A. Denzil

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 24th 2016
Finished reading: June 30th 2019
Pages: 199

“Sometimes I wonder who is hunting whom. There are times when I feel like an animal stuck in a trap – and there are other times when I feel like a hunter stalking a dangerous wild animal, treading softly through the forest.”


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I was browsing my kindle the other day and picked up this title on a whim as I was looking for a quick dose of psychological thriller. This is my first experience with Sarah A. Denzil‘s work, although I do have other titles waiting on my TBR. I was looking forward to The Broken Ones, but while I finished it in record time, I have to say I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. One of the main focuses of the story is on Alzheimer, and while it can be hard for those who have seen the disease destroy memories of someone close to them (like myself), it was also interesting to see its effects on both Sophie’s mother and those close to her. I would have liked a little more development to give it a more realistic representation, but overall it’s not too bad considering the length of the story. Sophie’s mother has a horrible personality though and I despised her even thoughI thought I would feel bad for her for having early onset Alzheimer. The same goes for Sophie herself: she is a rather spineless woman who basically suffered emotional abuse by her mother her whole life, never got to live her own life because of it and still doesn’t stand up for herself even now. Utterly frustrating and it made it hard to connect to characters and story because of that. The plot itself is interesting, although the plot twists are a bit farfetched and I did guess the big surprise quite early on in the story. The Broken Ones isn’t a bad story and without doubt a quick read, but sadly it failed to blow me away.


Title: The Boy Who Steals Houses
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: July 3rd 2019
Pages: 347

“A family. A home. I really want a… h-home.”
“But you can’t steal it.”
“I know,” Sam whispers. I know I know I know.
“You have to build it.”


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I’m still kicking myself for not reading A Thousand Perfect Notes sooner, and I knew I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. I’ve been dying to read The Boy Who Steals Houses ever since my preorder arrived in April, and I’m so glad I finally had time to do so! This title was one of my most anticipated releases this year and I can say it has without doubt lived up to expectations. What an absolutely wonderful and heartbreaking read! You will want to clear your schedule for this little gem, because once you meet the main characters Sam, Moxie and Avery you will find yourself unable to say goodbye to them and stop reading. The writing style is engaging and wonderful; the characters and their descriptions are likewise excellently done. There is just something about Sam, Moxie and Avery that made them win over my heart almost immediately, and my heart ached for them as their story slowly revealed itself. Their development is realistic and the incorporation of the anxiety and autism elements are both authentic and brilliantly handled. Wonderful prose, characters that will win over your heart, anxiety and autism rep, tragedy and lots of food references… What more could you wish for? Trigger warnings are in place for elements such as violence, abuse and bullying, but each element is well incorporated into the plot. The Boy Who Steals Houses is a heartbreaking read and you will want to have a box of tissues at hand just to be safe, because I myself couldn’t keep it dry… And trust me, that doesn’t happen often. Sam, Moxie and Avery won over my heart, crushed it into a million pieces and left me a complete puddle of mess by the time I reach the final page. Go read this absolutely wonderful story if you haven’t already! You won’t regret it.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #108 – Dear Evan Hansen & The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two contemporary reads… Sadly Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich failed to blow me away, but The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen completely won over my heart. It’s a must-read for fans of A Man Called Ove!!


Title: Dear Evan Hansen
Author: Val Emmich

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 9th 2018
Publisher: Poppy
Finished reading: June 17th 2019 
Pages: 352

“Fantasies always sound good, but they’re no help when reality comes and shoves you to the ground.”


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I’ve had Dear Evan Hansen on my radar for a while and decided to pick it up on a whim while browsing my kindle for contemporary titles. I initially thought it was going to be a great title for Pride month, but I guess I remembered the facts wrong as the LGBT element hardly plays a role in Dear Evan Hansen. Instead, the focus is on the main character and his mental health issues and anxiety. I’m always interested in stories with that angle, so I didn’t mind that much at first, but I’m not sure I actually like the execution here. Why? Well, I felt there was just too much focus on Evan’s mental problems as a personality trait and I didn’t feel his character was all that developed otherwise; making him essentionally one dimensional and not at all easy to connect to. I understand social awkwardness and anxiety on a personal level, and I don’t feel that Evan was necesarity a realistic and thorough representation of this. He almost felt like a cartoon of himself; his mental issues used as a way to ‘spice up’ the plot and create new plot angles. And to be honest I’m not sure what to think about that. I wasn’t a fan of the plot itself either; I found it rather tasteless to be honest and quite unrealistic as well. The writing wasn’t bad and the story reads fast generally, although I wasn’t happy with the tone sometimes. I do have to confess I have never seen the Broadway show, and this might have had an influence on my reading experience? I’m not sure, but what I do know that this story definitely wasn’t for me. I seem to be in the minority though, so definitely give it a shot if you think you would enjoy it!


Title: The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen
(Hendrik Groen #1)
Author: Hendrik Groen

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: June 1st 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: June 18th 2019
Pages: 400
(Originally written in Dutch: ‘Pogingen Iets Van Het Leven Te Maken’)

“Loneliness can sometimes feel even worse when you’re with other people.”


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As soon as I read the blurb of The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen for the first time two years ago, I knew I HAD to read it. There was just something about the story that made me think of grumpy Ove in A Man Called Ove, one of my all time favorite characters and stories, so there was just no way I was going to pass up on this read. The book is actually a translation of an originally Dutch publication, and the funny part is that for a long time it wasn’t sure who exactly was behind this little masterpiece. Yes, The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen was written under a pseudonym and the author didn’t want his identity to be revealed… Which means that we sadly won’t be able to meet the infamous Hendrik Groen in person. And how would I have loved to do that! I have a feeling Ove and Hendrik would have been great friends and I fell in love with his character right away. The slight grumpiness, the sarcastic humor, his attitude towards the world, the Old But Not Dead club in general… Everything just clicked perfectly and I had a blast reading about their adventures. The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen is exactly that: a diary. The story is told through (almost) daily entries in Hendrik Groen’s diary, and through his diary we get to learn more about both himself, the care home and its inhabitants, the care system and Dutch politics/key events in 2013 and last but not least the members of the Old But Not Dead club. I loved the idea behind this club and how Hendrik and his friends decided to keep enjoying life while they still can. The outings were fun to read about and I really loved seeing both their characters and their bond develop over time. The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen isn’t all fun and there are a few sad moments included that will most likely make your eyes water. And the ending most definitely left me wanting more more… Hendrik Groen is without doubt a character that will stay with me for a long time! Funny, entertaining and heartfelt: fans of strong main characters, sarcastic humor and A Man Called Ove should consider The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen a must-read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #105 – We Are Never Meeting In Real Life (DNF) & The Confectioner’s Guild

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I was less lucky with my reading choices… The first, We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby, ended up being a DNF for me as we definitely didn’t get along. The second, The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana, started out good enough, but things soon fizzled out and the story failed to impress me in the end.


Title: We Are Never Meeting In Real Life
Author: Samantha Irby

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Vintage
Finished reading: June 4th 2019
Pages: 272
DNF at 42% (114 pages)

“And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just tell some more stupid jokes. Good thing I’m hilarious.”


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Give me a cat on a cover and I’m immediately intrigued, and give me a promise of a potentially funny memoir and consider me signed up for the challenge. I’ve been looking forward to pick up We Are Never Meeting In Real Life despite the mixed reviews and despite the fact I hadn’t heard of the author before. Maybe I should have checked out her blog to see if her writing style would be for me, because there is one thing for sure: her writing and me definitely didn’t get along. I love my snarky humor, but we are most definitely NOT going to be meeting in real life or getting along for that matter… I’m going to be honest here and say I just felt the author was too full of herself (see quote above) and trying way too hard to be funny and it had the complete opposite effect on me. Add an overdose of sex references to the whole self-centeredness and I had no other option than to simply throw in the towel at 42%. I never like making the decision to DNF a story, but sadly the writing style and content was such a struggle for me that I just couldn’t force myself to read the other 58% of the essays. Hereby I declare We Are Never Meeting In Real Life officially my fourth DNF of the year and it’s easy to say it wasn’t the reading experience I was hoping for. Note to self: next time, don’t get distracted by a cute cat on the cover and investigate first before deciding to read another ‘funny’ memoir. If you are able to connect to her humor and don’t mind a lot of sex-centered comments, you will probably have a better time reading We Are Never Meeting In Real Life though.


Title: The Confectioner’s Guild
(The Confectioner’s Chronicles #1)
Author: Claire Luana

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: October 23rd 2018
Publisher: Live Edge Publishing
Finished reading: June 5th 2019
Pages: 327

“Small things change the course of history.”

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I stumbled upon this series while browsing for books with a food element for a challenge, and both cover and blurb sounded positively delicious. I’ve been looking forward to bite into The Confectioner’s Guild ever since (did I mention before I love baking?), and when I started reading I really liked what I was tasting. The fantasy world, the many many baking references, the mystery around Kasper’s death and Wren’s past, the existence of the Gifted… Oh yes, there were a lot of interesting ingredients in play. The Confectioner’s Guild reads quite fast at first and part of this has to do with the writing, which starts out engaging and interactive. It’s true though that things start slowing down a bit after a while and the initial flame peeters out mostly… I think a lot of it has to do with the introduction of sappy romance in the plot, which distracts from the murder conspiracy and delicious baking elements. It also had to do with Wren, who started to get on my nerves with the whole ‘I can’t trust anyone’ and then ‘I’m trusting them anyway’ repeating over and over again. The romance itself mostly felt forced and unnatural for me, but at least we don’t have a love triangle (or at least for now). I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Confectioner’s Guild, because while I loved certain elements, there were others that failed to convince me including the ending. But there is one thing for sure: you will crave lots of baked goods before you reach the final page! I’m really tempted to make another batch of these rose buttercream cupcakes I prepared two weeks ago for a birthday party just because they match the cupcake that changed Wren’s fate so well. 😉


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ARC REVIEW: The Paper Wasp – by Lauren Acampora

Title: The Paper Wasp
Author: Lauren Acampora
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 11th 2019
Publisher: Grove Press
Finished reading: May 24th 2019
Pages: 240

“No one wants the truth. We don’t want to live with it; we don’t want to bathe in it. We want to supplant it. We want the dream, not the real. We long for fabrication, hallucination, false catastrophe.”

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

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I admit I have been curious about this story as soon as I first saw the cover of The Paper Wasp, and I’ve been looking forward to pick it up ever since. I know it sounds like a cliche, but the phrase ‘it’s not you, it’s me‘ is actually quite a good representation of my feelings about this story. Even though the blurb itself sounded intriguing enough to have my interest piqued immediately, I’m afraid the actual story ended up being not exactly my cup of tea. Of course these feelings are subjective and The Paper Wasp is by no means a bad read, but I’ll try to explain why it wasn’t a right fit for me. It’s hard to put my finger exactly on the why, but I think a lot of my lack of connection to the story had to do with the writing style. The writing and tone of The Paper Wasp was too aloof and cumbersome to my taste and it almost felt as if it was trying to hard to be overly complicated and ‘literary fiction worthy’. I can appreciate lush writing and wonderful phrasing, but in this case I don’t think this particular writing style matched the premise of the story.

The Paper Wasp basically focuses on toxic relationships and the interaction between Abby and Elise. Other characters are in play, but these two women are in the spotlight and the focus is on their relationship and character development. The thing is, I really didn’t like either of them and for a character-driven story this makes it a lot harder to stay invested. The whole Perren angle is used to give the story a surreal air and it can be said that makes the story more unique, but I personally found it to be mostly confusing instead. Abby is a strange strange character, and while I love my quirky and unique characters, she is particularly hard to like. The superficial Hollywood cliche character in Elise is equally difficult to connect with… And these feelings didn’t change as I got to know them better. The ending definitely came as a surprise, but I’m not sure if it was a good surprise this time around. In fact, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the facts and how the plot was developed… Between the overly cumbersome writing style, unlikeable characters and an unconvincing plot development, sadly The Paper Wasp wasn’t my cup of tea. But I also know that the right person will love spending time with this story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #101 – The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall & Trouble Makes A Comeback

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition with a TBR jar pick and a title I picked up for a challenge. Both had some positive and negative elements, although I did enjoy Katie Alender’The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall better than Stephanie Tromly‘s sequel Trouble Makes A Comeback.


Title: The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Point
Finished reading: May 13th 2019 
Pages: 329

“Of all the things I would have guessed about being dead, I definitely didn’t expect that it would sometimes feel exactly like high school.”


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I’ve enjoyed Katie Alender‘s books in the past so I was excited when my TBR jar thought it was time to pick up this title. I admit I was expecting something a little more creepy than what I ended up with. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t save it for the Halloween month now… It’s true that there are elements of suspense and there are some creepy moments and secrets hidden in Hysteria Hall, but overall I found the majority of them to be cliche. And this took away most of the scary factor… There are a lot of cliches involved in general, related to both ghosts, family drama and even a love triangle. Oh yes, even when the main character is dead we don’t escape the dreaded love triangle! This wasn’t even my main concern with Delia though. I didn’t find her strong enough as a main character to carry the story; for example Maria came over as a considerably more interesting character to follow. There was a lot of potential to make this story more disturbing; I think most will agree a haunted and abandoned asylum is the perfect eery setting for a horror story. But The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall took a different turn and instead mellowed things down considerably. On the other hand this was still quite a fun and fast read! Just don’t expect to be scared away, as for a haunted asylum story it’s surprisingly light on the horror.


Title: Trouble Makes A Comeback
(Trouble #2)
Author: Stephanie Tromly

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: May 14th 2019
Pages: 304

“Forgetting about the bad times… that isn’t happiness. That’s amnesia.”


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I picked up this title mostly on a whim as I needed a change of genre and this title fits one of the prompts for the BTB Bingo challenge. It’s been a while since I read the first book, so I had totally forgotten about my issues with the first book… It turns out I ended up having the exact same issues with the sequel and I should I have checked my previous review better before deciding to read Trouble Makes A Comeback. I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. It’s true that the story reads superfast and there are entertaining parts. BUT. I had huge doubts about the credibility of it all and the fact that you are constantly reminded of THE love triangle is beyond annoying. In fact, it’s more than a triangle; a square maybe? Anyhow, this story is packed with high school and romance cliches and between those and the lack of credibility of the plot I had a lot of eyebrow raising going on. As for the characters… While I can appreciate a bit of dry humor, I felt like the characters (and the story for that matter) were trying too hard to be funny and it kind of had the opposite effect on me. Between the cliches around the different characters and the love triangle overshadowing any hope of an interesting and edgy plot, I don’t think me and this series are ment to be. Contemporary romance fans who like their stories with a hint of mystery will probably have a better time with Trouble Makes A Comeback though.


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ARC REVIEW: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes – by Ruth Hogan

Title: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes
Author: Ruth Hogan
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2018
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: May 16th 2019
Pages: 320

“When the music ends for someone you love you don’t stop dancing. You dance for them as well.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Ruth Hogan‘s work so I was really excited to receive a copy of The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes on my kindle. And while my reading experience turned out to be different than what I was expecting and it ended up being not exactly my cup of tea, I also understand the love for this story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes is by no means a bad read (quite the contrary in fact) and the three star rating reflects my personal experience with the story rather than the quality itself. Every book has its target group and while the story sadly wasn’t a right fit for me, I could also really appreciate it for what it was. Let’s make it clear from the start that The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes has a considerably slow pace and is mainly a character-driven story. The power behind this read is Ruth Hogan‘s ability to create quirky, flawed and unique characters that will most likely stay with you for quite some time. A lot of time is invested in the description and development of the different characters. While I could really appreciate that and I do love my quirky and unique characters, for me personally it slowed down the pace too much and I struggled to connect and stay invested in the story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes uses a dual POV and follows two ‘broken’ women each with their own past and problems. Sadly, I failed to connect fully to Alice and Masha, but what was even worse is that I guessed the mayor final plot twist right from the beginning. I kept hoping I was wrong… And it was quite a disappointment to discover I was right all along. I really liked Edward, Sally and Kitty though and I loved the hidden meaning behind Haizum’s name (and the fact a dog plays a considerable role in the story). Masha’s romance was too cliche for me, but I did enjoy seeing her character evolve over time and slowly learn how to deal with the death of her son. I’m having a feeling fans of slower and mostly character-driven contemporary dramas and those who love quirky and unique characters will have a wonderful time with The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Bright Burning Stars blog tour! A huge thanks to Brittani Hilles for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this story that caught my attention right away and I have been excited to read it. And while it turned out to be not entirely my cup of tea, I’m having a feeling the right reader will fall in love with it. Please join me while I share my thoughts on Bright Burning Stars!

Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 21st 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: May 10th 2019
Pages: 304

“Marine, notre monde, this world of ours – the stage and studios and barres – is intense and lonely. There is no space for friendship, love, or even an old and perhaps sacred bond between twins. Nothing shadows the art of dance. It’s a union of body, mind, and music. Classical dance is known for being ruthless.”

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

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Like I said before, there was just something about the blurb of Bright Burning Stars that caught my attention right away and I have been excited to finally read it. It’s true that it turned out to be not entirely my cup of tea, but I do believe the right reader will enjoy this story immensely. Fans of more gritty and slow-paced YA contemporary romance will be in a treat with this ballet-inspired story mainly set within the Paris Opera Ballet School.

Why wasn’t Bright Burning Stars a good fit for me personally? It’s hard to put my finger exactly on the why, but I think part of the reason has to do with the sheer amount of cliche drama relating to both competition, jealousy, romance and friendship. All this drama made it hard for me to stay focused and I confess it took me longer than expected to actually reach the final page. On top of this we have what you can call multiple love triangles and more jealousy and drama resulting from that… And you all know by now how I feel about those pesky love triangles in the first place. I’m sure romance fans who don’t mind a cliche or two will react different to this part of the story though. Another thing I didn’t like was the fact how they skimmed over abortion and basically make it seem like you can just go to the pharmacy, get a little something as if you were buying a cure for a headache and solve your problems that way. I’m not going into the whole abortion discussion, but I do feel this gives the wrong message to teenagers about safe sex and having to face the consequences of your actions and mistakes. Trigger warnings are also in place for other sensitive themes including eating disorders, suicide and drugs. I understand the ballet world is brutal and unrealistic (and basically unhealthy) demands are made of the bodies of the dancers, and I do think this is well portrayed in Bright Burning Stars, but it can potentially trigger more sensitive readers so you’ve been warned.

The story is told with the help of a dual POV, where we get to know Marine and Kate and learn more about how the constant competition has changed their relationship and how their final year once again puts a lot of pressure on both their bodies and their minds. I’m not sure I actually liked them, especially since their is a lot of teenage drama, boy stuff and jealousy involved, but they do help address various issues related to the ballet world. Bright Burning Stars is mostly a character-driven story where we follow the development of Marine and Kate. The pace is considerably slow at times, but shouldn’t be problem for those who enjoy this kind of story. I did wonder about the use of random French words in the text, as they didn’t seem to add anything substantial to the story… And with a Paris setting aren’t they speaking French all the time anyway in the first place? Instead of the French words, I think I would have liked to see more dancing and more descriptions of Paris and the school. But that could have been just me. Overall this was still a solid read, and while not my cup of tea, I can see how others could fall in love with Bright Burning Stars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

SOCIAL LINKS

aksmallwords.com
Twitter: @aksmallwords 
Instagram: @aksmallwords 


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