YVO’S SHORTIES #120 – Twisted & I Am Malala

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new 5 star favorite and another good read as well. I loved Thirteen when I read it a while back, and I think I might just love Twisted a tiny bit more. Steve Cavanagh is definitely one of my favorite new discoveries this year! And it took me years, but I finally managed to read I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, and it was without doubt a very powerful memoir even though I failed to connect with it completely.


Title: Twisted
Author: Steve Cavanagh

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 24th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: August 16th 2019 
Pages: 320

“This was what Paul lived for.

He just liked writing twists good enough to make the reader drop the goddamn book.

And there was one of the way.”


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I’ve had a copy of Twisted on my shelves for a few months, and after being blown away by Thirteen a little while back I was even more excited to finally read it. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think I loved Twisted even a tiny bit more than my first meeting with Eddie Flynn. This book knocked me out with a hammer and left me staring at the last page, trying to process what I had just read… Oh yes, this will definitely be on my list of favorites of 2019. And I can also say that Steve Cavanagh is one of my favorite newly discovered authors this year.

I don’t know how I should even start discussing my feelings, because it’s hard to explain the plot and story in general without giving away spoilers that could potentially ruin the fun. But let’s just say that both writing, pace, plot, characters and twists are top notch and definitely take Twisted to the next level. What I love about this book is that nothing is as it seems. You are told something and believe it is true, only for the next chapter to bulldozer over your newly discovered ‘facts’ and feeding you yet another lie instead. Which you will proceed lapping up greedily, desperately trying to get the full picture of it all as you are on a quest to discover the elusive truth. Lie after lie and twist after twist will mislead you up until the point that you even start doubting your own name and your sanity… Oh yes, Twisted will mess with your mind and it’s definitely the right title for this story. Clever, original, complex, brilliantly executed and hands down one of my favorite reads of the year.


Title: I Am Malala
Author: Malala Yousafzai

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: November 1st 2012
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Finished reading: August 17th 2019
Pages: 352

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

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I’ve been meaning to pick up this memoir for a long long time now. I’m sure most have heard about Malala’s story in some way or the other, and this memoir makes for a very inspiring, powerful and heartbreaking story. I think I might have picked it up at the wrong time, because I somehow against expectations I failed to connect to the story… Especially the first half was a struggle for me; I think it has something to do with the sheer amount of different names, places and politics being involved. While it gives an excellent background and is a goldmine for information about Pakistan, I struggled to keep my attention to the story. But like I said, that might just have been that it wasn’t the right book at the right time for me. When you get to the second half and learn more about Malala’s personal story, both the events of her being shot for her beliefs and the aftermath, it was a lot easier to keep your attention with the story. Malala is without doubt both inspiring and extraordinary… And it is easy to understand why she is considered a symbol of peaceful protest in the world. I might end up rereading this one when I’m in the right mood to see if I react differently to it.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Closer I Get – by Paul Burston #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Closer I Get Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about this story that caught my eye immediately and Orenda titles have yet to fail me, so of course I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into this story. My instincts were right, because The Closer I Get completely blew me away. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Closer I Get
Author: Paul Burston
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 11th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: July 11th 2019
Pages: 276

“The whole online world is one big stalking exercise. If I’m guilty, then so are millions of others.”

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

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I admit it doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I come across a story that is able to blow me away in such a way that I find myself unable to put a coherent sentence on paper, let alone write a review that would do it justice. The Closer I Get is one of those stories. I normally write my reviews almost immediately, not wanting to forget about the details of the story as well as conveying my thoughts accurately. This time around, I found myself unable to conjure the words to describe my thoughts for more than a week, my brain still recovering from the impact of Tom and Evie’s story. In the end I simply had to put my foot down, make myself open my WordPress draft, start my rambles and see if it would make my creative juices start flowing. Let’s see if I can get my thoughts on paper somewhat coherently, shall we?

The first thing that stands out in The Closer I Get is the focus on social media and the dangers behind online presence and relationships. It’s a theme extremely relevant in today’s society, as a lot of people give more and more importance to their online presence and frequently ‘hide’ behind their online personality. Frankly, the online stalking as described in The Closer I Get chilled me to the bone and made me seriously wonder if I should just shut down all my social media accounts to be on the safe side. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my time on bookish Twitter and Instagram and I love sharing the bookish love, but we all know that trolls are out there and the possibility of online stalking is evidently real. This is only confirmed by Paul Burston‘s interview in the Guardian which I saw shared on social media a while back, where he tells us about his personal struggle with being stalked by someone… Adding even more authenticity and power to message of The Closer I Get. It’s true that one of the perks of social media is getting to meet new people with similar interests you probably won’t be able to meet otherwise, but who can garantuee your new follower/friend is who they claim to be? Or if they have an ulterior motive for befriending you? If you start standing still by these questions, social media quickly becomes a scary place to be…

The Closer I Get isn’t just a story about online stalking though. With the help of an intricate and well developed plot, the story focuses on two flawed and complex characters with their own secrets and past. It’s a tale of obsession and unrequited love, one that ends up in court and has serious consequences for both sides. Told with the help of a daunting, sharp and flawless writing style, The Closer I Get will grab you from the first chapter and will have you looking over your shoulder and biting your nails sooner than later. The story alternates between the POV of Evie and Tom, giving us the chance to get to know better both stalker and victim and giving you a (seemingly) less biased view of the situation. You will learn more about Evie’s story through the letters she writes to Tom after her conviction, letters she can never send due to her restraining order. She tries to explain her view on the situation in these messages, never faltering in her belief that her actions are justified and her feelings for Tom mutual. On the other side we have Tom, who is clearly affected by the whole online stalking situation as well as his struggle with writing another successful story after his second book flopped. Reading about his deteriorating mental state as well as his decision to leave London find inspiration to finish his book Hastings was without doubt intriguing. And while it’s true that I didn’t find Tom or Evie particularly likeable characters, it’s also true that I found their development on its own to be both fascinating and realisticly done.

What makes this story even more intriguing is that basically both Tom and Evie are unpredicable and unreliable characters. There are no clearly defined boundaries between the so-called good and bad guys. Instead, we have two characters that you will find basically cannot to be trusted. Who is lying? Could part of their story be true? What secrets are the characters hiding? Life as well as The Closer I Get is not black and white, instead giving us blurred boundaries between truth and lies and that haunting. feeling that somehow part of the puzzle is missing. The plot will slowly evolve and escalate up until the point you will find yourself unable to sit still and biting your nails to the quick. The tension might be slow building at first, but this story will have some spectacular surprises for you in store and an ending you won’t be able to see coming.

Evocative, daunting, well versed and simply shocking… The Closer I Get will leave you breathless and disquieted about your own online presence and the possible consequences and dangers it entails. As you might have guessed already, I can highly recommend this title to any fan of the genre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Burston is the author of five novels and the editor of two short story
collections. His most recent novel The Black Path, was a WHSmith bestseller.
His first novel, Shameless, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award.
His third novel, Lovers & Losers was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His
fourth, The Gay Divorcee, was optioned for television. He was a founding
editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including
Guardian, Independent, Time Out, The Times and Sunday Times. In March
2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global
List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom,
equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of
London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of
The Polari First Book Prize for new writing and the newly announced Polari
Prize.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Disappeared – by Amy Lord #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Disappeared Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I think 1984 is one of my favorite dystopian classics along with Fahrenheit 451, so the promise of another dystopian bookish story instantly made me curious. I was definitely happy with what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Disappeared.

Title: The Disappeared
Author: Amy Lord
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2019
Publisher: Unbound
Finished reading: May 27th 2019
Pages: 368

“Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world. They give us a voice. They are fundamental to our being. We shouldn’t have to live without them.”

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

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Both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are among my favorite dystopian classics and I love books about books in general, so it’s easy to understand that when I read the blurb of The Disappeared I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story. I definitely don’t complain about what I found instead either… It might be true that certain aspects of the plot might not be all that original, but there is also no doubt I highly enjoyed my time with The Disappeared. If you enjoy dystopian fiction with a bookish focus, you will be in for a treat with this story.

The Disappeared is set in a near future alternative UK where a new government is in power and controls absolutely everything. Think 1984, think censorship and being forbidden to read certain books or having thoughts that are against the government. The story is set in a terrifying alternative world where there are almost no books, no phones or modern gadgets and people are forced to live in tiny apartments and are no longer allowed luxury… Unless they form part of the new government of course. This contrast between this ‘elite’ life and the rest of the population is a big one, and is described very well with the help of the main character’s mother. The stark contrast between the different lifestyles is showed in Clara’s mom, particularly in how she had to make a choice after Clara’s dad was taken away all those years ago. It’s true that she lives in luxury now, but it came at a price… And would that price be worth it? Clara herself never accepted the new situation and was soon shipped off to boarding school in Scotland. This is yet another example of this contrast as ‘normal’ difficult people tend to disappear into thin air rather than relocated to a remote but safe location.

The story is told in different times and with different perspectives, and that way we learn more about past and present and how things came to be. As always, the younger generation doesn’t really remember the situation before the drastic changes. And with the censorship oppressing free thought, the new generation is not able to learn about it either if they don’t want to be in danger of being taken away. This danger is always present and one wrong thought or word can be your end… As is shown in examples throughout the story. Clara is of course aware of this danger as well, but even though she knows the consequences she is determined to rebel and go against the government anyway.

It’s true that some dystopian cliches are involved and not all aspects of the plot are all that original, but overall it didn’t distract too much. The Disappeared has some pretty brutal moments, especially those related to the interrogation and torture scenes. Action scenes are mixed with slower and more psychological ones, but well enough balanced to keep you going. I’m not sure if the ending was all that credible as things were wrapped up a little too conveniently. Still, there is no doubt that The Disappeared is a very interesting debut that pictures a terrifying alternative world we will hopefully never encounter ourselves. Imagine not being able to read your own books anymore!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from nort-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

 


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YVO’S SHORTIES #104 – And The Ocean Was Our Sky & The Thirteenth Tale

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories belonging to completely different genres, but both were excellent reads. And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness has the most beautiful illustrations and a very interesting retelling of the Moby Dick classic. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield might have a slow pace, but the story itself is one that will stay with me for quite some time.


Title: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: September 4th 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: May 30th 2019
Pages: 160

“Here is the truth behind the myth: all men are Toby Wick. For who needs devils when you have men?”


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I’ve been excited about this title ever since it was published last year, especially since I kept seeing photos of the illustrations and they looked absolutely gorgeous. Now I’ve had the chance to read And The Ocean Was Our Sky, I still believe the illustrations are the true power behind the story. They really take the writing to the next level and turn this story into something special; it wouldn’t have been the same without them. As for the story itself: I admit things can get a bit confusing and sometimes it felt more magical realism than a fantasy retelling, but overall I really liked how Patrick Ness turned the original Moby Dick story into something completely new and original. The idea of the whales and men both roaming the seas and hunting each other is fascinating. Even more intriguing is that the main focus is on the whales, and their world is basically upside down. Bathsheba is a very interesting character and basically the one to challenge the world as they know it and also the one trying to understand men instead of just trying to fight them. Not much is told about Toby Wick, adding to his mystery and myth while also adding intrigue to the story. And The Ocean Was Our Sky is without doubt a story you won’t come across every day and it might not be for everyone, but there is one thing for sure: the illustrations are absolutely wonderful.


Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 12th 2006
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 31st 2019
Pages: 416

“A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else’s story.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up The Thirteenth Tale for years now, but it was simply one of those titles that kept slipping between the cracks of my enormous TBR mountain… I’m glad I was finally able to dig it out and read it though. It was my first experience with Diane Setterfield‘s work and I already know it won’t be my last. What a wonderful and atmospheric way of describing the setting and characters! The Thirteenth Tale has that gothic feel and the fact that you don’t know exactly when the story is set makes it all the more intriguing. A lot of speculation about the time period can be found on the internet, but there seems to be no clear winner and I like how it leaves the answer wide open for each reader to decide on their own. It’s true that the pace can be considerably slow at points and there are parts where nothing much is happening, but the power of The Thirteenth Tale is in the different characters, their development and their role in the story of famous author Vida Winter. Both the Angelfield house and family give off that creepy and gothic vibe and there are some moments that will make your hair stand on end. I like how Margaret not just believes everything Vida Winter tells her (especially with her history of lying), but instead starts her own investigation as well. Past and present are mixed and fully intertwined in such a way that the separation becomes liquid and all characters fully come alive. The Thirteenth Tale has secrets, twists and turns to reveal and some you definitely won’t see coming. But like I said before, the power behind this story is in the characters and fantastic descriptions, and fans of slower, atmospheric and character-driven historical fiction will love The Thirteenth Tale. Bonus: there are a lot of bookish references to be found including classics like Jane Eyre!


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ARC REVIEW: The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek – by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: April 23rd 2019
Pages: 320

“Lots of cures are worse than what they aim to cure.”

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

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I love bookish books and I was intrigued by this story as soon as I first read the blurb. What makes this historical fiction story set in 1936 Kentucky so fascinating is that it’s based on true events. Both the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians and the blue-skinned people of Kentucky have existed and it’s fascinating to learn more about them. The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek is well researched and gives you a lot of details about the Pack Horse Librarians, created after the Roosevelt’s New Deal Acts. It also gives you insight in the condition of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky, and while some aspects have been altered (dates of the medical research for example), it gives you a general idea of the phenomenon. This story is also about race problematics and racism; the mountain folk discriminating all non-white inhabitants without exception. While it took me a considerably long time to warm up to the writing style, once I finally did I finished the story in one sitting. The driving force behind this story is Cussy Mary, a character that will win over your heart and one that will probably stay with me for a long time. She is what you call a flawed character, but the good parts of her personality really shine through and I loved reading about her, her job and her patrons. A little warning: some scenes are a bit graphic and there are definitely a few devastating and heartbreaking moments included especially in the second half. Make sure to have your tissues close just in case! I personally found The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek a fascinating story and while it had a slow start for me, I soon found myself I couldn’t stop reading. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction based on true events, loves unique characters and doesn’t mind a tear or two.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #92 – Every Exquisite Thing & Tell The Wolves I’m Home

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two YA reads I’ve been meaning to pick up for a while… Neither managed to blow me away, but I did enjoy Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt better than Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick.


Title: Every Exquisite Thing
Author: Matthew Quick

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 10th 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: March 24th 2019
Pages: 272

“Reading that poem was like putting on the proper prescription glasses after bumping into walls for my entire life.”

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I actually picked up this title on a whim when I was browsing for a contemporary read and I realized it would fit my Author ABC challenge perfectly. I’ve read his work in the past and I especially enjoyed meeting Leonard Peacock, so I was hoping to have a similar experience with Every Exquisite Thing. Unfortunately it just wasn’t ment to be… I love my quirky, flawed and unique characters, and I can appreciate an original writing style. There was just something about both characters and writing that failed to convince me in this story though. I know I’m in the minority here since most people seem to love this story, but it is what it is I guess. While I can say this was a superfast read, the tone and writing style of Every Exquisite Thing really started to get on my nerves and made the reading experience less enjoyable than expected. I also had problems with the main characters… While I like that they are flawed and unique and especially Nanette evolves over time as the story progresses, there was also something about them that really annoyed me and I wasn’t able to connect to them in general. I did love the fact that this story is build around a book called The Bubblegum Reaper, where we see both the influence of the writing on its reader and learn more about the author himself. I also loved the poetry references and the incorporation of Alex’ poetry into the story. Then again, I always love bookish references! This was definitely one of the strongest aspects of the story and you will see influences of The Bubblegum Reaper throughout Every Exquisite Thing. I wasn’t sure about the ending and the characters and writing style weren’t for me, but there is no doubt that this is quite an original coming of age story. If you are able to connect to writing and characters, you will have a great time reading it.


Title: Tell The Wolves I’m Home
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 19th 2012
Publisher: The Dial Press
Finished reading: March 27th 2019
Pages: 367

“And until then I don’t think I really understood the meaning of gone.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up Tell The Wolves I’m Home for ages now, but there was always something that made me pospone it just a little while longer… I’m glad my TBR jar pick thought it was about time I did something about that. I somehow had it in my head that this was a magical realism read, but it turns out I totally misremembered that. Instead, Tell The Wolves I’m Home is a (recent) historical fiction slash contemporary story with a focus on family, AIDS and death. Tough themes that are very tricky to get right and sometimes not that easy to talk about, but the 1987 setting made for a very interesting backdrop for this story. We learn more about prejudices, just how little information about AIDS was available back then and the consequences… While also focusing on family, relationships and dealing with the death of someone close to you. I can’t put my finger on the why, but while I did find the Tell The Wolves I’m Home a very interesting read, there was also something about it that didn’t work for me. Part of this might have to do with the main characters; especially Greta is very frustrating and felt quite cliche. I liked Finn and Toby though, and June was interesting enough as well. I liked the art element in this story and the meaning of the painting of the two sisters. I also liked how we saw the wolves being incorporated into the plot. I could have done without the teenage/high school drama, jealousy and there were other elements that irked me as well. But overall I’m still glad I finally read it.


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ARC REVIEW: Book Love – by Debbie Tung

Title: Book Love
Author: Debbie Tung
Genre: Graphic Novel, Non Fiction, Books About Books
First published: January 1st 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: October 17th 2018
Pages: 144

“I read to learn new things. I read for ideas and inspiration. I read for enjoyment and happiness. But above all, I read to escape from the real world.”

*** 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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As soon as I saw Book Love popping up, I knew I couldn’t resist. That title, that cover and that blurb? Oh yes, this graphic novel does a thorough job of convincing any booklover they should pick it up. And rightfully so, because Book Love would make the perfect gift for any booklover out there. Adorable illustrations and many many bookish situations you will be able to relate to instantly… This graphic novel is a little goldmine of bookish love and speaks for all of us booklovers out there. Funny, relatable, entertaining and well crafted… Book Love is one to add to your 2019 wishlist!


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