YVO’S SHORTIES #59 – The Giver & The Giving Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two ‘giving’ stories and two modern classics… The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I probably would have enjoyed these better if I would have read them a long time ago, because at this point they didn’t make the impact I thought they would.


Title: The Giver
(The Giver #1)
Author: Lois Lowry

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: April 26th 1993
Publisher: Ember
Finished reading: October 28th 2018 
Pages: 208

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead… First of all, I have to say that I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot better if I would have read it 15-20 year ago. I have been meaning to read this so-called modern classic for years, and I think the story itself has a bigger impact on younger readers than adults. That said, the worldbuilding and story of The Giver reminded me a bit of Brave New World with a new twist. It was quite an interesting take on a dystopian world, where everything is controlled in such a way everything seems the same. This contrast with Jonas and his experiences once he starts training as a Receiver on its own is fascinating. Especially as he starts discovering more about his world and his eyes are truly opened… But somehow, I wasn’t able to enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would. This is probably just me and not the story, especially since this modern classic is so loved. I’m glad I did finally read The Giver though, as I finally know exactly what the story is all about.


Title: The Giving Tree
Author: Shel Silverstein

Genre: Children, Picture Book, Fiction
First published: October 7th 1964
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 30th 2018
Pages: 64

“… and she loved a boy very, very much– even more than she loved herself.”


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I have been meaning to read this picture book classic for ages now… When I came across my copy the other day I picked it up on a whim. I can see the appeal of The Giving Tree, where the tree is like a mother to the little boy, and the writing style is spot on and really flows. BUT. I did have my doubts about the message behind this story. Why? Well, the tree isn’t exactly treated with respect and only gives and gives and gives without ever receiving much in return… Not exactly a healthy relationship I would want to show to my kids. Especially since this message is never questioned and even when the little boy grows up to be old the relationship still doesn’t feel equal. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it still made me feel slightly uncomfortable as children tend to soak up everything like a sponge.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #39: Ink And Bone & The Mysterious Affair At Styles

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around another two titles for the Magical Readathon: O.W.L. Edition. The first, Ink And Bone, I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, but wasn’t as good as I would have hoped after absolutely loving the Stillhouse Lake series. The second, The Mysterious Affair At Styles, is part of a promise to myself to finally start reading more of Agatha Christie‘s work… It was entertaining enough, but I still prefer her And Then There Were None.


Title: Ink And Bone
(The Great Library #1)
Author: Rachel Caine

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: July 7th 2015
Publisher: NAL
Finished reading: August 15th 2018 
Pages: 352

“You have ink in your blood, boy, and no help for it. Books will never be just a business to you.”


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I have had The Great Library series on my TBR for way too long… After my love for the Stillhouse Lake books, I just knew I had to give in and finally try more of her work. And let’s be honest: who can resist after that cover and blurb? I had really high expectations when I started reading Ink And Bone, and this just might have been the problem here. I was really surprised it took me a long long time to get into the story… I can’t exactly put my finger on the way, because the writing itself is excellent, but it might have been the slowish pace or my lack of connection to the plot itself. There is no doubt there is a lot to love in Ink And Bone, from the main bookish references, the idea of the Library to the main characters being trained to work for the Library and the steampunk elements… And of course the war and the Burners threatening the peace. But somehow, I just didn’t feel it. I felt some of the spark was missing, and only towards the final part did that spark finally ignite. The conspiracy plot and the promise of a whole lot more action and twists makes me curious about the second book, and the final part of Ink And Bone is definitely what saved the story for me.


Title: The Mysterious Affair At Styles
(Hercule Poirot #1)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Classics, Mystery, Thriller
First published: 1920
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: August 15th 2018
Pages: 304

“You gave too much rein to your imagination. Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.”


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I’m almost ashamed to admit I’ve only recently started discovering Agatha Christie‘s books, starting with And Then There Were None in 2016. I then read Murder On The Orient Express earlier this year, going against my self imposed rule to try and always read series in order. So this is me trying to make up for that and starting at the beginning, where it all once started. The Mysterious Affair At Styles is actually her very first book and it was interesting to discover how her long career had begun. This first introduction to the famous Hercule Poirot was an interesting one. The references to the war were interesting and gave the story a little something extra. True, the pace was a tad slow and this story is more about cleverly concealed twists and descriptions than real suspense. It was interesting to see how the case evolved over time and how Hastings tried to figure out what really happened, and his interactions with Poirot himself. I figured out the basics of the ending early on, but being able to see the techniques Agatha Christie used to reach that ending was still satisfying. All in all not my favorite, but I’m definitely looking forward to continue the series.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #33 – Slaughterhouse-Five & Crochet Animal Rugs

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different titles. The first a modern classic I finally came around reading: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I can’t say it was for me, but I’m glad I did finally read it. The second is a non fiction crafts and hobbies book I just had to request to learn more about those adorable crochet patterns: Crochet Animal Rugs by Ira Rott. If you are looking for a great gift or inspiration to decorate your kid’s bedroom, you will be in for a treat!


Title: Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut

Genre: Classics, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction
First published: 1969
Publisher: The Dial Press
Finished reading: July 11th 2018
Pages: 285

“It was true. So it goes.”


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I’ve had this modern classic on my TBR for years and years, but somehow I never actually picked it up. I had heard it had a WWII angle, so I thought it would be the right fit for me, but what I didn’t realize was that there was going to be a lot of science fiction and time travel involved. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind those elements when done right, but it can come as a bit of shock if you are not expecting it. I think Slaughterhouse-Five and me simply got off on the wrong foot. So it goes. It’s not the story, it’s most likely me that’s the problem here. So it goes. While I can completely understand why so many people have so much love for this story, and I can also understand why this is a modern classic, somehow this story just didn’t work for me. I highly enjoyed the historical aspect of the story and the parts set during WWII. I could have handled the time travel elements as well, since they do add dept to the story… But add aliens to the mix and sign me out. So it goes. This story was just too much for me to handle; without doubt another sign I should try to stay away from science fiction or at least investigate more thoroughly before actually picking up a title. Oh well, we can’t like them all, can we? So it goes… At least I’m glad I did give Slaughterhouse-Five a chance.


Title: Crochet Animal Rugs
Author: Ira Rott

Genre: Non Fiction, Crafts And Hobbies
First published: August 7th 2018
Publisher: Sewandso
Finished reading: July 15th 2018
Pages: 144

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


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Ever since I discovered crochet last year, I’ve been on the look out for new ideas and patterns to try out. As soon as I saw the adorable rug and pillow on the cover of Crochet Animal Rugs, I just knew I had to know more about these patterns. And I have to say they are absolutely adorable. If you are looking for interesting and cute patterns to brighten up your child’s bedroom or gift something adorable to someone else, you will be in for a treat. There are patterns for beginners as well as advanced crocheters, indicated accordingly. There is even advice for left-handed crocheters like myself, which is highly appreciated. This book uses US terminology, but there are useful conversion charts included if you need to convert to different terminology. In the back, stitches are explained clearly with pictures, helping you understand which is which. Also, the making of eyes and bows are explained separately as well as basic pillow shapes. That and other crochet techniques and other ideas of using the patterns. I love the idea of the wall decorations! My absolute favorite of the patterns is between the elephant rug and pillow, and I love the kitty cat placemat and rug as well. The crab security blanket is adorable and the dinosaur theme perfect for a little boy! There is definitely a lot to love in this crochet book.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #12: The Rules Of Magic (ARC) & The Invisible Man

Another day, and another round of Yvo’s Shorties… Bringing more backlog reviews of books I read back in 2017. The first is an ARC I read ages ago, The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman. The second an classic I ended up enjoying way better than I thought I would: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.


Title: The Rules Of Magic
(Practical Magic #2)
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: October 12th 2017
Pages: 369

“Why is anything a secret? People want to protect themselves from the past. Not that it works.”

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


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I was actually invited to read this title last year and was drawn to both the cover and the blurb. It’s not my typical genre, but something about The Rules Of Magic spoke to me and I decided to give it a go. Sadly it didn’t work out as planned. It might have been due to the fact I haven’t read Practical Magic and wasn’t familiar with the main characters, it might have been because the story simply wasn’t for me, but I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. The pace is quite slow and it took me a lot longer than expected to read this story. I wasn’t able to connect to the characters and this lack of connection resulted in a further estrangement. It’s a shame, because The Rules Of Magic did show a lot of potential and I can see why the right person would really enjoy reading it. The writing is without doubt excellent and if you manage a connection to the characters you will love seeing them grow up and their different ways of accepting magic into their lives. Just don’t expect a lot of magical elements and witchcraft in this story, because you will be disappointed; The Rules Of Magic has more of a coming of age feel with a hint of magical realism.


Title: The Invisible Man
Author: H.G. Wells

Genre: Classics, Science Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1897
Publisher: Signet
Finished reading: October 23rd 2017 
Pages: 208

“Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have less effect upon men and women than smaller, more tangible considerations.”


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The Invisible Man is one of those classics that has been on my TBR for ages, always getting posponed to read other titles instead. But after a mention that this classic was actually quite entertaining, I decided to finally pick it up. And they were right, because I actually found myself having a lot of fun while reading The Invisible Man. Not only is the prose quite easy to read, but the plot itself is both intriguing and entertaining as things start escalating. The character development has been really well done and shows the effects being invisible can have on a man… If you are looking for an accessible and entertaining classic to read, The Invisible Man is the choice for you.


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #1: Still Life With Tornado & We Have Always Lived In The Castle


Say hello to a new feature on It’s All About Books! As you all probably already know, I’ve been fighting with a rather stubborn reading and blogging slump during the last few months and it’s been a real struggle… I managed to get more or less back to reading, but as the pending book reviews started piling up the whole ‘getting back to blogging’ was getting more and more difficult to achieve. Currently the list of pending reviews is about twenty books long and while I know I don’t HAVE to review every book, I feel bad if I not at least mention a few things about each one. Hence, Yvo’s Shorties was born. Similar to my normal reviews, but with a 2×1 book bonus in each post that includes my rambles about both.

Let’s get started with the first edition! *drumroll*

Featuring Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King and We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson


Title: Still Life With Tornado
Author: A.S. King

Genre: YA, Magical Realism, Contemporary
First published: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: December 14th 2017
Pages: 295

“I put out my umbrella and open it. There is a tornado of bullshit in our house. When it’s over, we will be okay.”

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This book has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, but the blurb sounded fascinating and I just couldn’t resist giving it a go. Fact: magical realism and me don’t always get along all that well. It’s a peculiar genre that either works for you or doesn’t, and for me it really depends on the execution if I’m able to enjoy the magical realism elements. Unfortunately in the case of Still Life Of Tornado I wasn’t convinced. First of all and more importantly, I really didn’t like the writing style, tone or main character (or other characters for that matter) and this hugely impacted my reading experience. I’m not saying the writing style is bad, but it’s definitely one that isn’t for everyone. The lack of connection to the characters and my struggles with the writing style made it hard for me to keep myself focused on the story, but that wasn’t all. Honestly, I felt that nothing really made sense to me at all and my eyebrows worked overtime while I was reading Still Life With Tornado. Magical realism or not, this book is definitely not my cup of tea. Still, I also feel the right person could really enjoy this quirky story.


Title: We Have Always Lived In The Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Gothic
First published: 1962
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 22nd 2017
Pages: 146

“I remember that I stood on the library steps holding my books and looking for a minute at the soft hinted green in the branches against the sky and wishing, as I always did, that I could walk home across the sky instead of through the village.”

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I have been wanting to read this modern classic for ages now, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up my copy of We Have Always Lived In The Castle. I truly had the feeling this was going to be another new favorite classic, so I was really surprised when I ended up having a completely different reading experience instead. I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up We Have Always Lived In The Castle, but it definitely wasn’t what I found when I started reading. Because honestly, nothing much really happens during all those pages. The promise of suspense is there, and the mystery around what happened at the Blackwood estate, but those promises didn’t come true. Instead, I found it a rather dull story about two quirky sisters living isolated in a mansion, and I was almost bored while I was kept waiting with my fingers crossed and hoping to see something would actually happen. I’m not sure what to think of the ending either… The writing was interesting and I can see why it has turned into a modern classic, but personally I was quite disappointed with what I found. Fans of slowpaced, mostly character-driven stories will probably enjoy this story a lot more though.


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BOOK REVIEW: Flowers For Algernon – by Daniel Keyes

Title: Flowers For Algernon
Author: Daniel Keyes

Genre: Classics, YA, Science Fiction
First published: 1966
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: September 21st 2017
Pages: 311

“How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibilty, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes—how such people think nothing of abusing a man with low intelligence.”

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I’ve had this modern classic on my TBR for a long time, although I admit I was completely clueless about the plot and didn’t even have a general idea of what the story was going to be about. Then again, I do like my surprises… And Flowers For Algernon turned out to be a very pleasant surprise at that. Because WOW. This is one powerful story that managed to break my heart completely by the time I reached the last page… I can definitely understand why this novel by Daniel Keyes has become a modern classic. Brilliant prose, intriguing plot, well developed characters… This story has it all. Flowers For Algernon is a science fiction read with a very interesting theme: intelligence enhancement with the help of a brain operation. This theme is very well developed with the help of the main character Charlie, showing both the before and after of this experimental operation. First of all I just loved how the writing itself was a very clear demonstration of Charlie’s mental state and how things change over time. I agree I was a bit surprised when I first encountered myself with the seemingly horrid spelling, but once you understand its significance and the fact that this story is told with the help of Charlie’s progress reports during the experiment, you will realize the brilliancy of it all. Charlie is the perfect character to help show the light on the prejudices around (the lack of) intelligence and how people treat others differently accordingly. You will become really invested in this story and will find your heart broken before the story ends. Flowers For Algernon will go straight to my list of favorite classics and I can highly recommend this one.

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Charlie is a mentally disabled man, but he has always wanted to improve his intelligence and be ‘normal’ as his mother always wanted. He participates in an experiment and undergoes a brain operation that will possibly increase his IQ and change his life. The experimental procedure starts to work and slowly Charlie’s intelligence starts to expand… But at what cost?

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up my copy of Flowers For Algernon, but I’m more than happy with what I found. The writing is simply brilliant, as both the progress reports and the prose itself give the perfect insight of what happens to Charlie during the experiment. The way others react to Charlie during different stages of the experiment is both intriguing and unfortunately very accurate as well. Hopefully an eye opener! Flowers For Algernon is able to provoke strong emotions and is utterly heartbreaking in the end.


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