YVO’S SHORTIES #83 – The Bitter Kingdom & Friend Request

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two books I ended up enjoying. The series conclusion The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson and the psychological thriller Friend Request by Laura Marshall.


Title: The Bitter Kingdom
(Fire And Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: April 14th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: February 6th 2019
Pages: 490

“It’s the highest art form, deceiving without lying. A word is the only thing in the world made more powerful by absence than existence.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books yet. You’ve been warned…

I first started this series back in 2015, and it took me a long time before I finally continued it… Not because I didn’t enjoy the first book, but simply because other books got in the way. I finally read the novellas last year, and after reading the second book last month I was determined to read the third and final book ASAP so I could finish the series while memories were still fresh. I’m without doubt glad I picked up the final book, because The Bitter Kingdom definitely made this series end on a high note! I’m not sure if it is my new favorite, but I’m happy to say that all three Fire And Thorns books stay consistently strong and the final book doesn’t disappoint at all. Why was The Bitter Kingdom such a success for me? First of all, I could really appreciate the chapters from Hector’s POV. They were both refreshing and definitely a welcome addition to the story! I also liked how we finally get to learn more about Inverno and see more of that part of the world… The high fantasy worldbuilding is one of the best features of this series and it’s always great to see it expand. The writing is engaging and it makes it really easy to just keep turning the pages. The plot itself isn’t all that complicated, but offers enough action and a romance that will warm your heart instead of annoy you. The end did feel a bit too easy, but overall it does provide closure for this series and its character. I really enjoyed my time with this trilogy and can highly recommend it to fans of the genre.


Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 9th 2017
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 384

“I’m in a hall of mirrors, full of distorted reflections and false endings. I’ve lost track of which way I came in and I have no idea how to get out.”


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I recently bought a copy of Friend Request on a whim after remembering it being mentioned various times back when it was first published, and I couldn’t resist picking it up when I was in the mood for the genre. There is no doubt that Friend Request was a very entertaining psychological thriller with a few twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. The story starts slow and it takes a while for the pace to pick up. Basically, the first half has more of a character driven slower psychological thriller, while the second half is more of a suspenseful crime thriller with a fast pace and quite a lot of action. This made the story feel a bit unbalanced, but the second half made the story that much more thrilling. I mentioned twists I didn’t see coming, and this was definitely true, but I cannot help but wonder if some weren’t a bit too farfetched and dark compared to how the story first started? I do love my surprises though, so I’m a bit on the fence about how to feel about all this. I personally preferred the chapters set in 2016 over those in 1989, mostly because I’m not a real fan of high school drama and bullying. That said, both timelines seem well developed and help creating the suspense and intrigue around Maria and what is happening to Louise in the present. As for Louise: she can be quite annoying and I don’t understand some of her decisions, but her character with all its flaws does feel convincingly realistic. The mystery around what happened to Maria in 1989 and who is behind the messages in 2016 will definitely keep you intrigued until you find out the truth… And it will be hard to see that final twist coming. All in all Friend Request was still a very entertaining read despite the flaws I mentioned.


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ARC REVIEW: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One – by Amanda Lovelace

Title: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One
(Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #3)
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry, Feminism
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2019
Pages: 208

“only now

 

am i

realizing

 

that is was

all make-believe”

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

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I enjoyed reading the first two poetry bundles last year, so it was an easy decision whether to read the third and final bundle of the Women Are Some Kind Of Magic series. Where Amanda Lovelace‘s poetry might lack in style, complexity and elaboration, it outshines other poetry with its overwhelming and powerful emotions and strong messages. It’s actually combination of the simplicity of the words and the overpowering message they are able to communicate that turns her work into something special for me. I admire her for being able to speak this openly about the past and what happened to her. The bundles talk about the three stages she had to go through (the princess, the witch and finally the mermaid) to be able to start healing herself and keep working on the future. As someone who has been in an abusive relationship herself, it’s really easy to relate to her words and those who have had or are having a more recent experience will find comfort. What made The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One stand out from the others is that Amanda Lovelace mixes fantasy with reality this time, using not only poems but also short paragraphs with odes to famous stories by other authors. And that is not all: in the final part of this bundle you can find thirteen guest poems by other poetry writers with a similar topic mixed in between her work. An original touch and something I could really appreciate. I think the second bundle is still my favorite, but The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One is without doubt a wonderful addition.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #79 – Bright We Burn & Exquisite

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres but two books that were winners for me. The trilogy conclusion Bright We Burn by Kiersten White and the psychological thriller Exquisite by Sarah Stovell.


Title: Bright We Burn
(The Conqueror’s Saga #3)
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: July 10th 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: January 22nd 2019
Pages: 416

“His conflicted past, confusing present, and unknown future were all harsher and more difficult to breathe through than the blistering air inside.”


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WARNING: don’t read if you haven’t read the first two books yet… There might be spoilers.

After reading and loving the first two books of this trilogy back in 2017, I’ve been waiting impatiently for the final book to come out. But somehow, even though it was one of my most anticipated releases, I never actually managed to pick it up last year… I’m definitely glad I finally did pick it up, because I think Bright We Burn is my new favorite of the series. The historical setting, the references to Vlad The Impaler, the worldbuilding, the descriptions, the writing, the characters… There is so much to love here and I have enjoyed every single minute I spent emerged in this world. True, Kiersten White knows how to play with your emotions and stamp on your heart, but only in the best possible way… Because the fact that the twists have an effect on you means you care for the main characters and what happens to them. I personally loved all three main characters not despite, but because of their differences and personal struggles. The character development is very well done in general!  It was interesting to see how things were going to end (because I honestly wasn’t sure which road the author was going to take), and it was without doubt an interesting journey. The ending seemed fitting for this trilogy… It’s hard to compare books since it’s been too long since I read the first two, but what I can definitely say is that The Conqueror’s Saga ends stronger than ever.


Title: Exquisite
Author: Sarah Stovell

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: May 15th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 24th 2019
Pages: 300

“The future isn’t written in stone because of your past. You can change it.”


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I’ve had this story on my TBR for almost two years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally read it. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited about Exquisite; I mean, who wouldn’t be after reading so many wonderful reviews? I guess it’s just one of those titles that slipped between the cracks of my enormous TBR mountain, but I managed to rescue it in the end. I’m kicking myself for waiting this long now, because this book was most definitely brilliant. Or like the title already suggests: exquisite. It’s the story about two vulnerable women with a terrible past, one a successful writer and one a budding talent. In a way their lives are so so different, but they are also more alike than they realize… It was fascinating to see how their lives collide and sets both on a path that will change their lives forever. I loved that in the beginning you are completely unaware of the type of story you are about to read, only learning about the full extension of it all when things are already spinning out of control. The plot development and execution of plot twists and suspense are both sublime. Even though neither Bo nor Alice are exactly likeable, I found myself on the edge of my seat as I kept turning pages to find out what would happen to them. Exquisite is an excellent psychological thriller that will give you all the feels and will most definitely manage to shock you before you reach the final page. Simply exquisite and absolutely worth the read if you enjoy the genre!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #75 – The Treatment & Heart Berries

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a title I picked up on a whim and I title that has been recommended to me. The first turned out to be a solid decision and another author I will be looking forward to read more of in the future: The Treatment by C.L. Taylor. The second an emotional and lyrical memoir that I’m very sad I failed to connect with: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot.


Title: The Treatment
Author: C.L. Taylor

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: October 19th 2017
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: January 9th 2019 
Pages: 299

“He taught me about body language, micro expressions and verbal tics. He showed me how much people give away about themselves without realizing it.”


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I’ve been meaning to read one of C.L. Taylor‘s books for quite some time now… I decided to finally start reading The Treatment on a whim after browsing my kindle for something thrilling to read. It turned out to be a great decision! I normally tend to stick to adult fiction when it comes to the mystery/thriller genre, but this YA story was a nice change of scenery. The first thing that stood out for me was the writing, which was both engaging, well constructed and together with a fast pace made me finish it in one sitting. The plot itself is intriguing and has elements that are almost on the border of science fiction, but with a strong focus on mental health and family as well. There is a lot of mystery and suspense around the Residential Reform Academy and what happens behind their doors, and it was definitely interesting to see how things developed. The Treatment started with a bang and sets the right mood of what the author calls is a story that is ‘Prison Break meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but for teens‘. I can definitely understand that reference, especially during those chapters set inside the RRA. It was very interesting to see the characters develop and to see Drew adapt as she tries to figure out what to do… I’m not sure all aspects of the plot were completely credible, but it sure made for a very entertaining story! If you are looking for a fast-paced, intriguing and well written YA mystery with a mental health angle, The Treatment is an excellent choice.


Title: Heart Berries
Author: Terese Marie Mailhot

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Feminism
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Counterpoint
Finished reading: January 10th 2019
Pages: 178

“Sometimes trying to be the absence of something makes you that very thing.”


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I remember this memoir being recommended in the past and after it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards I decided to finally get a copy and give it a go. I’m always intrigued by #ownvoices memoirs as it gives us a way to learn more about a culture and/or person we might not know much about. Heart Berries is a fascinating and emotional memoir written by woman born in the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in Canada. Let me say before I continue that the problem here is most definitely me, and not this story. Heart Berries is powerful, raw and simply devastating and the writing is lyrical and almost poetic at times. Oh yes, the prose is gorgeous and this is definitely one of the things that stood out most for me apart from the way the author isn’t afraid to bleed and give us the ugly truth about her childhood and past. There is a lot to love and I truly admire Terese Marie Mailhot for not only surviving her childhood and other life obstacles including mental illness, but also for not being afraid to get her memories out there. Why didn’t I enjoy this memoir better then? Well, this is mostly a case of me, while truly appreciating the wonderful prose, somehow being unable to connect to the words, story or the things that happened to her. This failed connection made it hard for me to keep myself invested and I didn’t enjoy my reading experience as much as I thought I would. This is 100% my own experience with Heart Berries and has nothing to do with the excellence of this memoir.


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ARC REVIEW: The Couple On Cedar Close – by Anna-Lou Weatherley

Title: The Couple On Cedar Close
(Detective Dan Riley #2)

Author: Anna-Lou Weatherley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 18th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: January 6th 2019
Pages: 378

“And I wonder then, if there’s no one to witness your life, do you even exist at all?”

*** 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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!! Happy publication day !!

After enjoying the first book of this detective series Black Heart last year, it was an easy decision whether to continue meeting up with detective Dan Riley. And now that I have gotten the chance to read The Couple On Cedar Close, I definitely don’t regret making that decision. There is one thing for sure: this is a very entertaining detective thriller sequel to be starting the year with. Not only is the writing style solid and easy to read, but the plot is filled with plot twists, suspense and a lot of mystery around what really happened that night. The Couple On Cedar Close also has one of the most interesting and well developed unreliable characters I’ve encountered with in a while. I know this technique might get a bit old, especially combined with an amnesia angle, but trust me: you will forget about your doubts as the story will put you under its spell. There are a lot of twists and turns as well as flashbacks that are ment to help you solve the puzzle as well as keep you guessing. Sadly I was able to guess most of the final reveals quite early on myself, but that might just be me having read so many detective thrillers that I can see through most tricks by now… Anyhow, it didn’t mean that I enjoyed the ride because of that tiny speed bump. I did have my doubts about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot and not all characters were exactly likeable. I never like cheating in a story either… But I do think The Couple On Cedar Close shines an important light on the fact that psychological abuse is still abuse and should be treated in the same way. All in all not perfect, but worth your time if you enjoy the genre.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Cedar Close used to be a nice and quiet suburban street to live in. Up until Laurie and Robert Mills moved in… First the scandal at the annual summer barbecue, and now something a whole lot more sinister happened inside number thirteen. Late one evening, Robert is found dead in his bedroom by his own wife. She doesn’t remember what happened during the last few hours, but she does know she didn’t kill him… Or did she?

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If you enjoy detective thrillers and unreliable characters, you will definitely have a blast with this detective Dan Riley sequel The Couple On Cedar Close. There is a lot of mystery around both Robert and Laurie and their past, adding suspense to the plot and it will keep you entertained as you guess about the details. The flashbacks are interesting as well as you try to fit them into the rest of the story… I did have some issues regarding the credibility of some parts of the plot and wasn’t sure about some of the characters, but overall it was still an entertaining ride.


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ARC REVIEW: Finding Grace – by K.L. Slater @bookouture

Title: Finding Grace
Author: K.L. Slater
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 14th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: January 10th 2019
Pages: 253

“I keep constantly wishing – willing – for the chance to make different decisions and of course it doesn’t work. I should’ve learned by now.”

*** 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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I’m sure most of you will know by now that K.L. Slater is one of my favorite psychological thriller authors and I always squeal a little whenever a new title comes out. And guess what? It’s that time again! Oh yes, a new psychological thriller is coming to the stores very soon and what an absolute scorcher at that! K.L. Slater has truly outdone herself with her newest story Finding Grace, and I’m already having a feeling it will appear on my list of 2019 favorites… Such suspense! Such twists! If you like nailbitingly good psychological thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat, look no further because you have found something new to read. I literally cancelled all plans, sat down and devoured Finding Grace in one sitting. Yes, it was just THAT good. You can never go wrong with her books, but this one might just be my new favorite… So, what’s to like? First of all, it’s the writing style which is just as solid, engaging and fabulous as always. You get not one, but TWO chilling storylines and secrets and mysteries to unravel… Flashbacks to sixteen years ago are mixed with the current dreadful situation, done in such a way that greatly enhances the suspense without things becoming confused or slowing down the pace. My heart went out for all of them and I just had to keep turning those pages to find out both what happened to Grace and what happened with Lucie all those years ago… And trust me, I definitely didn’t see the reveals coming. Plot twist bomb after plot twist bomb will be dropped on you as you get more tangled up in the web of secrets and lies. They just keep coming! And trust me, some of them are seriously shocking. Finding Grace ticked all the boxes for me and more, and I can 200% recommend it to any fan of the genre. It’s simply a must-read!

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Lucie and Blake agree to let their daughter Grace walk home alone from a friend’s house just down the street for the first time just after her ninth birthday. She’s been asking for a long time, and they decide to finally give in thinking they can watch her walk between both houses the whole time. But they were wrong… Somehow, Grace never makes it back home. And despite the police and local community stepping in immediately, Grace doesn’t reappear… She seems to have vanished into thin air. What happened to her?

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Finding Grace is definitely a great way to start the year with a bang. Well written, intriguing, suspenseful, complex and nailbitingly good: oh yes, say hello to my very first 5 star read of the year! I’m a big fan of her work in general and this one might just be my new favorite. What seems to be another kidnapping case at first glance turns out to be so much more… With a lot of extra layers, flashbacks and twists to form a properly complex and well executed plot. You will want to clear your schedule for this one, because it will be VERY hard to stop reading before reaching that final page.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #71 – Big Little Lies & Outlander

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I have been meaning to read for a long time and finally decided to read in 2018. Both turned out to be more than pleasant surprises! Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.


Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: July 29th 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 23rd 2018
Pages: 460

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”


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I’ve been meaning to read another Liane Moriarty book for a long time, and I’m probably the last person on earth to finally pick up Big Little Lies. I kind of picked it up on a whim while browsing my kindle, and I definitely not regret making that decision. There is no doubt that Liane Moriarty knows how to write an intriguing mystery that goes out with a huge bang. I liked how she kept what happened that fatal night a secret in such a way that you don’t have a clue about the who or why until the final bombshell is dropped. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming! The plot is both intricate and well constructed and part of the reason this story is such a success. I liked the idea of following the three main characters is the weeks before the incident, especially since they are mixed with those police interview bits to keep you intrigued and curious about what happened. You will be on the edge of your seat until you find out all the details! I wasn’t sure about every character, but their development is without doubt very well done. Each character has its own background and problems, and while there were a few cliches involved, I could really appreciate the abuse angle and the necessary attention it brings to the fact it ‘can happen to anyone’. There is a lot of drama and some of it was a bit farfetched, but the ending definitely makes up for it. All in all Big Little Lies was a success for me and I’ll be looking forward to watching the TV adaptation.


Title: Outlander
(Outlander #1)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
First published: June 1st 1991
Publisher: Dell
Finished reading: December 28th 2018
Pages: 866

“Sometimes our best actions result in things that are most regrettable. And yet you could not have acted otherwise.”


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I have been meaning to read Outlander for years now, but both the sheer size of the books and the fact that I wasn’t sure the story would be for me made me hesitate for a long time. I don’t mind big books if they are good, but I feared there would be way too much romance involved for me to tolerate… But Outlander turned out to be the exception to that rule. Once I finally started reading and finished the first few chapters, I knew Outlander and me were going to get along just fine. All in all it took me about a week to finish it, which is not bad at all for such a beast of a book… And I had a surprisingly good time with it as well. Why surprisingly, would you say? Well, there are a lot of sexy scenes involved in Outlander, something that normally makes me drop a book like hot coals and discard it right away. They still made me cringe at points (adult content just isn’t for me ladies!), but the rest of the story was intriguing enough for me to tolerate them. The writing is excellent and the worldbuilding is sublime. I really felt like I were in Scotland myself along with the main characters; the descriptions of both the time period and surroundings extremely well done. The time travel aspect is also very interesting, especially since it comes back repeatedly in for example Claire’s profession as a nurse in the 20th century. I really liked Jamie as a character and while Claire can be exasperating at points, she does make for a good story. The story flowed well and managed to keep my attention all the way to the end. I’m definitely glad I finally give in and read Outlander, and I will be looking forward to read the sequel this year.


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