YVO’S SHORTIES #74 – Artemis & Beneath The Sugar Sky

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two anticipated releases, one that turned out to be a disappointment and one that turned out to be a success. Artemis by Andy Weir sadly didn’t live up to expectations at all (although I was warned), something I had hoped wouldn’t happen since The Martian is one of my all time favorites. Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire turned out to be a very strong third book and definitely just as good as the first one.


Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir

Genre: Science Fiction
First published: November 14th 2017
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: January 7th 2019 
Pages: 322

“It’s a simple idiot-proofing scheme that’s very effective. But no idiot-proofing can overcome a determined idiot.”


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Part of me already knew this was going to happen, because people did warn me about Artemis before I started reading it… But even lowering my expectations didn’t prevent me from feeling very much disappointed by Artemis, especially since The Martian has a special place on my list of all time favorites. I know it’s not right to compare the two books and I won’t be don’t that here actively, but let’s see if I can put together just exactly why this story didn’t work for me. The first mayor problem has a lot to do with the main character Jazz. Let’s just start with saying I had no clue the main character was actually female until she was referred to in that way. And that was one heck of an unpleasant surprise… Because while Mark Watney’s personality really worked for him in The Martian, having a very much similar attitude and personality implanted in an Islamic young woman REALLY gives off the wrong vibe. I don’t mind sassy, I don’t mind attitude, but what is with the constant sexism, adult jokes and sex references? And why do other treat her that way, talk to her in that way, and think that it’s okay to do so? Not only did it feel unnatural, but I also found it offensive. In short, both Jazz and the way others reacted to her really ruined the story for me. It seems that this personality that was once successful just doesn’t work for a different gender or a situation where a lot more characters are involved. The writing on its own isn’t bad and I do like part of the dry humor (when it’s not sexist); the worldbuilding is also quite interesting and I liked the idea behind the plot. This story could have worked really well, but sadly went in the wrong direction for me… As for the credibility: well, it IS a story set on the moon and sci-fi at that, but I couldn’t help start wondering about how Jazz and only a few others were supposed to do all that without getting killed in the process. Or blowing up the moon. This was only minor compared to my problems with Jazz and what she represented though, and I’m really sad to be feeling this way about what I had hoped would be a new favorite. Oh well, at least now I know for sure…


Title: Beneath The Sugar Sky
(Wayward Children #3)
Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: January 9th 2018
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: January 8th 2019
Pages: 157

“There is kindness in the world, if we know how to look for it. If we never start denying it the door.”


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I fell in love with the worldbuilding and writing in Every Heart A Doorway last year, and have been looking forward to read more about the different worlds and doors ever since. Don’t let the shortness of these little gems fool you, because there is a lot to love in each story and the only downside is that it will leave you wanting for more. Beneath The Sugar Sky is already book number three and bumped straight to the top of this series favorites along with the first book. I think part of this has to do with the fact that we go back to the ‘real’ world temporarily and meet a lot of the characters mentioned in the first book again. This mixture of reality and a healthy dose of a glimpse of not one but multiple magical worlds made the story really stand out for me. Old and new characters are mixed naturally and I love just how diverse Seanan McGuire is able to make her characters without them becoming a cliche. I could really appreciate the focus on the whole body image issue through the eyes of Cora… There is so much truth in her experience and it’s sad the real world has to be this way. That said, I loved the whimsical, nonsense and basically impossible quest the main characters find themselves on in Beneath The Sugar Sky and I’m already curious about what the next story will bring us.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #72 – A Spark Of Light & Doll Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around the final two books I managed to read in 2018. A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult turned out to be a powerful and thought provoking read that will stay with me for a long time… While Doll Bones by Holly Black mostly only managed to disappoint me.


Title: A Spark Of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: December 30th 2018
Pages: 352

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”


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After my experiences with Jodi Picoult‘s recent novels, I couldn’t wait to read A Spark Of Light. There has been a lot of hype around this title, and I can understand why now. Abortion is actually quite a controversial and ‘hot’ topic right now in Argentina, so it definitely came at an interesting time for me… Disclaimer: I won’t be discussing pro-life or pro-choice politics here, just the story itself. I’ll start off with saying that abortion is a very tricky topic to write about, and I think Jodi Picoult did it splendidly. Her writing style is just as strong as ever and I also loved the reversed time chapter technique she used. I admit I was confused at first because I didn’t realize that straight away, but I think it adds a little something extra to the story. Why? It’s simply very intriguing to meet the characters at such a critical point in their lives and then slowly find out how they got there… I did see part of the final plot twist bombs coming, although not all. The ending was a bit abrupt for me, and I personally would have liked to see the main characters being followed up for a while longer. Still, I also understand why she decided to end it in that way, as the main event was over by then. A Spark Of Light brings a very controversial but important topic to light and while especially pro-life supporters might be offended by the story, I would still recommend reading it as it does show both sides (although not equally, which is a hard balance to obtain in the first place). For me it was one of the stronger books I read during 2018 and without doubt one that provoked strong emotions as well. A good way to finish the reading year!


Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black

Genre: MG, Fantasy, Horror
First published: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderrly Books
Finished reading: December 31st 2018
Pages: 256

“He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.”


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I was looking for a little something different to read as my last read of 2018 and when I came across this title on my kindle I decided to pick it up on a whim. Sadly, I can’t say I actually enjoyed reading Doll Bones. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of it had to do that I didn’t like the characters and I had a hard time connecting to the story. The story wasn’t exactly credible and not as scary as I would have thought either. This is more a coming of age story with Zach in the spotlight as he struggles with the consequences of growing up… And then we have Poppy who is the person behind the quest and most of the action even though she is not the main character, which throws off the balance of the story considerably. I felt Doll Bones lacked cohesion and a proper plot, although I did like the idea behind the three creating their own magical world where their toys go on adventures. The paranormal aspect of the story could have been interesting, but it just didn’t manage to convince me… And I had a lot of doubts about the credibility of it all. All in all not the experience I was expecting, but twelve-year-olds might enjoy the story better.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #38: The Masked City & Every Heart A Doorway

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two Tor books and two books belonging to a series. The first a sequel, The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman, which I enjoyed slightly better than the first book, but still didn’t manage to convince me. The second, Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire, was absolutely wonderful and I’m glad I finally did pick it up.


Title: The Masked City
(The Invisible Library #2)
Author: Genevieve Cogman

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
First published: December 3rd 2015
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: August 7th 2018 
Pages: 340

“People want stories. You should know that, more than anybody.”


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I  admit I wasn’t completely convinced by the first book when I read it last year, mostly because the whole just felt a bit too chaotic and too many different elements trying to be squeezed into one story. I picked up the sequel anyway, both because I was curious to see how things would continue and because it fitted the Magical Readathon challenge… While things did improve and the story seemed to be more coherent, I still wish more focus would have been on the Library. This element is one of the most unique features of this story, and I think any booklover out there would love to see more of it. In The Masked City, there is a lot going on: we have werewolves, dragons, fae and magic, the story is partly set in Venice… But somehow I feel the spark is missing? The whole thing actually felt a bit dull and rather slow-paced for a story about magical creatures and a plot to start a war that might destroy an alternate world or two. I did love the fact that part of the story was set in Venice, the idea of different chaos/order infested words and both the worldbuilding and plot have potential. I’ll probably end up reading the next book at some point since I already own a copy… But the first two books didn’t convince me enough to do so straight away.


Title: Every Heart A Doorway
(Wayward Children #1)
Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mystery
First published: April 5th 2016
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: August 11th 2018
Pages: 176

“The duality of the phrase was like the duality of the doors: they changed lives, and they destroyed them, all with the same, simple invitation.”


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After Ali mentioned this book in one of her posts, I had no other choice but to stop procrastinating and start reading Every Heart A Doorway. I’ve been wanting to read this story ever since I first heard about it, and it looks like first impressions sometimes really hit the right spot. What a wonderful wonderful read! My only complaint would be that I wish the story would have been longer, because there is so much to love and only a limited amount of pages to do so. The idea of different realities, belonging to different directions like Nonsense, Logic and Wicked is simply fascinating and I love how each world is reflected in the different characters as well. For such a short read, the character development is sublime and part of the reason this story works so well. Nancy, Sumi, Kade, Jack and Jill… I just loved the diversity of the characters, and I can really appreciate the inclusion of lgbt elements. The mystery around the deaths gives the story a purpose and direction, giving you something to hold onto while you try to absord everything about the different worlds. A shame we only get a glimpse of the worlds the characters once lived in, but as far as I can see the sequels will give us more. I’m already looking forward to see more of these characters!


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ARC REVIEW: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade – by Miriam McNamara

Title: The Unbinding Of Mary Reade
Author: Miriam McNamara
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: June 19th 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Finished reading: June 11th 2018
Pages: 336

“All that water, bits of land – so many places she could be in this new world. But for all of Anne’s geography lessons, Mary was still hopeless at figuring out where exactly she might fit in it.”

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

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I love a good pirate story and the blurb of The Unbinding Of Mary Reade sounds just as fantastic as the gorgeous cover, so I’ve been really excited to finally read this one. And with its f/f romance, I thought it would be a perfect story to read during pride month as well. Alas it seems like it wasn’t ment to be. I didn’t check the reviews before starting this one, or at least I would have been warned… Because The Unbinding Of Mary Reade unfortunately turned out to be quite a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the idea behind this book, the possibilities of the setting, the f/f romance, the characters… But the execution was just completely off for me. I will try to explain why this book didn’t work for me below. First of all, I struggled with the writing style, which felt halted with dialogues that didn’t seem natural. The use of ‘bad grammar’ in the dialogues only distracted (aka annoyed) me instead of adding the right historical atmosphere. Also, the constant switching back and forth in time was really distracting and made it hard to stay focused on the main plot. Especially since the chapters set in London basically didn’t add anything substantial to the story and were extremely dull. In fact, I found the story in general quite boring, and how is that possible for a story with gay pirates in it?? For a book about pirates, there were almost no action scenes or even scenes on a boat included in the plot. And that was quite a disappointment, since there was basically nothing of note to fill this huge hole of lack of action. Ok, characters. The characters in general lacked development and were rather bland. Anne almost felt like a caricature and while Mary had all the potential of being a fascinating character, she mostly fell flat for me and I wasn’t able to believe either of their feelings or actions. This lack of credibility extends to the other characters as well. Also, trigger warnings are in place for homophobia, transphobia, (sexual) abuse and sexism in general. I get that we are talking about an 18th century setting, but this was just too much. In short, while I still love the idea behind this story, the execution was rather poorly and The Unbinding Of Mary Reade turned out to be a rather chaoticly written, dull and not credible love story. Did I expect this reaction? No, but unfortunately I can’t change the way I feel about this one.

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When Mary was really young, her mother saw no other way to keep their mouths fed than to disguise her little girl as a boy and pass her off as her dead child Mark. Mark has a wealthy granny that will take care of her only grandchild and heir… So there is no place for a girl in Mary’s world, and she has to be Mark at all time to not see her life fall apart. This gets harder as the years go on and she falls in love with her childhood friend Nat. And when she is discovered, she flees London with Nat and boards a Caribbean merchant ship as a sailor. But what will the future bring?

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I keep repeating: I still love the idea behind this story and I truly wish I could have enjoyed The Unbinding Of Mary Reade better. Unfortunately, I found the execution lacking in various ways, and I had a hard time finishing this one. Between the chaotic writing style that didn’t flow, a rather dull plot, bland characters, lack of action and a not so credible display of emotions, I can’t say I was impressed. Where were the pirates, were was the action? Why did we have to read so much about Mary’s past in London, if her life on the Caribbean Sea is what really counts for this story? Why wasn’t there more focus on Mary and Anne? Why the excessive amount of sexism, homophobia, transphobia and sexual assault? The tone for this supposedly YA rated story was completely off, especially since Mary felt younger than the age group during most of the story. All in all not the story I was hoping for.


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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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ARC REVIEW: Bentwhistle The Dragon: A Threat From The Past – by Paul Cude

Title: Bentwhistle The Dragon: A Threat From The Past
Author: Paul Cude

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
First published: October 19th 2011
Finished reading: September 29th 2017
Pages: 486
DNF at 49% (238 pages)

“The valuable lesson you should have learned, was that evil comes in many guises, not always visible to everyone.”

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

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It’s easy to say I have a weak spot for any story involving dragons as they are my favorite of mythical creatures. This story had me at the title, because how could I resist a new fantasy series where dragons play such a big role? I was really looking forward to start reading Bentwhistle The Dragon, and even though it took me longer than planned to actually pick it up my initial excitement was still there. That’s why it’s such a shock I had to make the hard decision to DNF this story. Because let’s face it: that almost never happens… But honestly, I’ve tried. Really tried. I’m not saying the writing is bad and it truly shows just how much time is put into the detailed and extensive descriptions and worldbuilding in general. This attention to detail is what stands out in this story and I can always appreciate when this much time is dedicated to creating a believable and well developed fantasy world. BUT. The thing is, the pace is supersuperSUPER slow and I just couldn’t get myself to keep interest. I don’t mind a slower pace if I get detailed descriptions in return, but I think in the case of Bentwhistle The Dragon it was kind of a description overdose. One superlong and extensive description after the other kind of had the reverse effect on me and instead of finding myself intrigued by a story about my favorite mythical creature, I was actually rather bored by it all. Because I have to be honest and say that nothing much really happens during the first half of the story especially considering it has over 200 pages. I definitely would have expected a lot more action or at least some suspense… I don’t think the age group would be happy with so many descriptions or the lack of action either, and I felt the tone was off for a YA story (too ‘formal’?). All in all Bentwhistle The Dragon definitely wasn’t for me, and unfortunately I just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading all those extensive descriptions hoping something exciting would happen in the second half. Especially since I found the mystery and ‘dangerous’ situation not suspenseful at all and to be honest rather lacking for what is labeled as a fantasy adventure story… I’m sad to see this dragon story on my very short list of DNF reads.

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Dragons have walked among humans for a long time, and nobody seems to be aware of them… Because the dragons are disguised as humans and live among them, infiltrating the human world in key positions to guide and protect them. They can change forms at will, although dragons are always careful to not reveal their secrets. But something is off, and it might be up to three young dragons to put a stop to it before it’s too late… Will they be able to?

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I had really high hopes for Bentwhistle The Dragon, and that’s why it makes me extra sad I had to make the though decision to DNF it. This almost never happens, but I struggled so much with the endless descriptions and superslow pace that I just couldn’t get myself to read the second part as well. I was really surprised by the lack of action as well, especially since it’s labeled as a fantasy adventure story… The worldbuilding is excellent and extensive, but in this case it might have been too much detail and the balance between plot/action and description was lost. Such a shame! I really wanted to enjoy this one.


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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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