YVO’S SHORTIES #129 – Fever 1793 & The Museum Of Extraordinary Things (DNF)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two historical fiction reads that I fully expected to love, but somehow failed to connect to. The historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, but the characters fell a bit flat for me… And with a superslow pace and flat characters, I saw no other option but to DNF The Museum Of Extraordinary Things. Oh yes, sadly it’s time for a double dose of unpopular opinion reviews!


Title: Fever 1793
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
First published: September 1st 2000
Publisher: Aladdin
Finished reading: October 17th 2019
Pages: 252

“Life was a battle, and Mother a tired and bitter captain. The captain I had to obey.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I was browsing for possible titles that are set in the 18th century to read for the final era for the When Are You Reading? challenge when I saw this title pop up. I enjoyed her other title Wintergirls when I read it earlier this year and the historical setting and plot sounded fascinating, so I immediately knew I wanted to read this title. I’m not sure if this was the wrong book at the wrong time for me, or if it’s just that I’m not that used to middle grade books in the first place… But the fact is that I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by this story. First things first, and I have to say that the historical setting is well developed and detailed when it comes to the facts of 18th century Philadelphia and the yellow fever outbreak. It shows that the author has investigated historical facts thoroughly and the descriptions feel realistic and help teach the readers more about yellow fever and the impact of the outbreak back then. I could also appreciate the explanation of what was based on historical facts and what might have been changed in the story. That said, I struggled to connect to the story. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has somewhat to do with the fact that I never felt a real connection with the main characters, making me feel mostly detached from  everything that happened to the main characters. In short, while the historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, the characters somehow ended up falling a bit flat for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you haven’t tried this story yet and are intrigued by the blurb, you shouldn’t hesitate to try your luck.


Title: The Museum Of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: February 18th 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Finished reading: October 21st 2019
Pages: 385
DNF at 38% (146 pages)

“Coney Island was, above all else, a place of dreams, with amusements like no others, rides that defied the rules of gravity, concerts and games of chance, ballrooms with so many electric lights they glowed as if on fire.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’ve been meaning to read this title for a long time, so I was excited when my TBR jar decided it was time to finally read it. The premise of The Museum Of Extraordinary Things sounds fantastic, so I fully expected to enjoy the story… Sadly, surprisingly enough it wasn’t ment to be. I’m not sure if it was just the wrong time for this story or if my book hangerover after finishing The Lion Tamer Who Lost the other day would have made me struggle with any book in the first place… But the fact is, I REALLY struggled with The Museum Of Extraordinary Things and I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading any longer. The pace is so so slow in general and the parts written in cursive are even slower… I had a hard time staying focused on the story and even started skimreading certain parts; definitely not a good sign. On top of that, I found the main characters to be quite flat and cliche… They lacked development for me to make them more rounded (at least in the part I read), and as The Museum Of Extraordinary Things seems to be a more character driven story, this became a real issue for me. I do have to say that the historical setting in early 20th century New York/Coney Island is absolutely fascinating and the historical references are probably the main reason I even made it this far. But as a whole, this story and me definitely didn’t get along.


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ARC REVIEW: Like Follow Kill – by Carissa Ann Lynch

Title: Like Follow Kill
Author: Carissa Ann Lynch
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 25th 2019
Publisher: One More Chapter
Finished reading: October 13th 2019
Pages: 280

“I’m like a ship that is full of holes, sinking faster by the minute. And it’s not like I don’t know how to swim, how to get my head above water… it’s just that I don’t want to.”

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

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There is no denying that the cover is eyecatching, and there was just something about the blurb as well that made me want to read Like Follow Kill instantly. Between the whole social media angle and that stalker vibe, it really sounded like we would be in for a treat… I appreciate the fact that the blurb only gives you minimum facts about the story, leaving lots of surprises and plot twists for you in store to discover along the way. I will keep my review short for the same reasons, as I don’t want to spoil the fun, but what I can say is that it would probably be wise not to trust any of the characters and prepare yourself for some very shocking twists. This story takes unreliable narrator to the next level!

This story basically revolves about two characters: Camilla and Valerie. They were once in school together, but were never actually friends and went their own ways afterwards… Camilla is a fascinating character. It shows she has been having issues long before the accident that killed her husband and left her scarred for life… She is the perfect unreliable narrator, her grief, alcoholism and mental health problems in general blurring facts and fiction as you follow her in this story. Her development is thorough and her character is thoroughly flawed as well, and even though she is not exactly likeable she somehow manages to grow on you anyway. Stalker vibe and questionable actions or not, you can’t help but feel at least a tiny bit sorry for her as well as admire her for following through with her search. As for Valerie… She is less present, as we mostly see her through Camilla’s eyes, but she is without doubt essential to the plot. I never really liked her, but then again we mainly see the polished online version of her… Her character works really well to show the consequences and possible dangers of such a public and online life though, something all too topical nowadays where a lot of people seem to be living through their social media accounts.

The writing is solid and makes it really easy to fly through those pages. The plot is also well constructed and handled perfectly to keep building up that suspense as well as managing to mislead you successfully. Things can be said about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot, but there is no denying that Like Follow Kill was a very entertaining ride with an ending that I never saw coming and left me flabbergasted. Those final chapters are on fire!! If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers with an unreliable narrator and an explosive twist, Like Follow Kill should definitely be on your wishlist.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lies We Tell – by Debra Webb @HarlequinBooks

Title: The Lies We Tell
(The Undertaker’s Daughter #2)

Author: Debra Webb
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 17th 2019
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: September 8th 2019 
Pages: 384

“Rowan had learned from experience that the one thing you could count on was that life never failed to toss out the occasional surprise.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I was invited to read this title a little while back.. Even though my reading schedule was packed and I hadn’t read the first book of the series, there was just something about The Lies We Tell that caught my eye. Ok, I’ll confess, it was the mention of a serial killer coming for the main character Rowan Dupont and her being ready to face him. How on earth could I resist that?! I’m glad I didn’t, because I had an excellent time reading this story.

First of all I have to stress that while I hadn’t read the first book of this series, it was quite easy to get the gist of what was going on and enjoy the sequel and its new events. I’m definitely curious about the first book now though! As the name of the series already suggests, the main character Rowan Dupont is the daughter of the local undertaker, and she has grown up helping her father with his job. Definitely not a normal childhood! And this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Rowan’s past, because her family has a LOT of skeletons in the closet. Secrets revealed in the first book are hinted at, but there will be a lot more shocking reveals before you reach the final page of The Lies We Tell. Things can be said about the credibility as it might be just a tad too twisted and suspenseful to be fully believable, but it definitely makes for an entertaining ride. Prepare yourself for a cliffhanger ending and having a lot of questions left unanswered though! Because this sequel will give you no closure and will definitely leave you wanting for the next book to see how things will continue.

I think part of the reason this story worked so well for me were the characters. Not only is Rowan a fascinating and strong character on her own, but I loved just how big of a role her dog Freud played throughout the story. Billy is likewise a great character and I loved both their dynamics and the character developement in general. The plot is well developed, quite twisty and has a healthy dose of suspense and action included. I had The Lies We Tell wrongly identified as romantic suspense (I’m not sure why), but there is nothing mild or tranquil about this story. Oh no, this is a full blown serial killer thriller where things will get dark, disturbing and violent and some scenes are definitely not for those with a weak stomach. The fact that the main character is an undertaker and her connection to everything that is happening gives the story an unique touch. Fans of darker and fast-paced crime thrillers will have a great time with this series!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Debra Webb is the award winning, USA Today bestselling author of more than 130 novels, including reader favorites the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency, and the Shades of Death series. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood on a farm in Alabama. 

SOCIAL LINKS

Author Website // Twitter: @DebraWebbAuthor // Instagram: @DebraEWebb // Facebook: @DebraWebbAuthor // Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Powell’s


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YVO’S SHORTIES #116 – Dead Scared & The Archived

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres that both turned out to be winners. The Lacey Flint sequel Dead Scared by Sharon Bolton was a twisted and very intriguing read, and I just loved The Archived! Then again I’m a bit biased when it comes to Victoria Schwab‘s work haha. I can’t believe I still hadn’t started this series! I’ll be reading the sequel VERY soon.


Title: Dead Scared
(Lacey Flint #2)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 5th 2012
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: August 1st 2019
Pages: 384

“There are times when just waking up can feel like the hardest thing anyone could ever ask you to do. The first morning after your child has died, perhaps. Or after the man you adore has walked out. You would give anything, certainly the rest of your life, to stay down in the darkness of not knowing.”


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I had my first encounter with Lacey Flint two years ago and while I didn’t manage to warm up to her character then, I’ve been meaning to read the sequel ever since as I thought the series had a lot of promise. I’m glad I finally picked up Dead Scared, because I ended up loving it! It’s been too long since I read the first book to make a proper comparison, but based on my general feelings I can say this book is without doubt stronger than the first book. What a plot! What a disturbing and twisted situation Lacey finds herself in! The writing is engaging and makes you turn the pages at hyperspeed, but it is the plot that is the true star of Dead Scared. The whole situation with the bad dreams, the creepy things happening to the characters and the suicides without doubt chilled me to the bone. The plot was very cleverly contructed, complex and filled with twists to keep you guessing about the full scope of the situation. There are a lot of twisted and disturbing scenes included in Dead Scared, and trigger warnings are in place for abuse, rape, violence, mental health and suicide among other elements. This story is definitely not fit for those with a weak stomach! But if you think you can manage, Dead Scared will attack you both with psychological terror and disturbing action scenes that will leave you feeling uneasy and looking over your shoulder. I really loved the undercover angle and the psychological aspect of this story as well! In short, Dead Scared is without doubt a very twisted and disturbing read, and literally stuff made out of nightmares. I’m curious to see if book three will be able to live up to this book!


Title: The Archived
(The Archived #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: January 22nd 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: August 1st 2019
Pages: 336

“Because the only way to truly record a person is not in words, not in still frames, but in bone and skin and memory.”


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I think most of you will know by now that Victoria Schwab is one of my absolute favorite authors and I still can’t explain it to myself why I haven’t started this series before. It’s true that The Archived is one of her earlier series and not as widely known as some of her other books, but it is without doubt one worth discovering. I’m still kicking myself for not reading The Archived sooner! This first book is a mix of contemporary with paranormal fantasy and I personally really liked the balance of the story. Elements as family, death, grief and moving on in the real or ‘Outer’ world are mixed with a fantasy setting we can find in the Narrows and The Archive. Main character Mackenzie Bishop is able to show us the different worlds and their meaning through her job as a Keeper. She was an interesting character and I enjoyed seeing her develop over time and handle the mystery and escalating situation as in the plot. I loved the idea behind the worldbuilding and its symbolism and the setting in the converted hotel added an eery atmosphere to the story… And the writing is just as brilliant as ever. I’m definitely going to read the sequel VERY soon!


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

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


Title: Dear Evan Hansen
Author: Val Emmich

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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YVO’S SHORTIES #103 – In An Absent Dream & Navigating Early

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different reading experiences. One turned out to be a delightful read: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire is another excellent addition to the Wayward Children series and I’m already looking forward to the next one. Unfortunately Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool turned out to be a struggle for me. Warning: unpopular opinion review ahead!


Title: In An Absent Dream
(Wayward Children #4)
Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction
First published: January 8th 2019
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: May 25th 2019 
Pages: 203

“She was ordinary, She was remarkable. Of such commonplace contradictions are weapons made.”


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I loved the first three Wayward Children books, and I’ve been looking forward to another story ever since I finished Beneath The Sugar Sky a few months back. I was in dire need of a magical story, and I thought In An Absent Dream would be a good fit. I turned out being right, because book four is without doubt another excellent addition to the series. The writing style sweeps you away, makes you forget about daily chores and feel yourself part of the story. I LOVED both Lundy as a character and the fantasy world that fits her personality. Goblin Market is different from the other worlds in a way that Lundy is able to travel back and forth between the real world and Goblin Market almost unlimitedly, with only her age being a deciding factor. Goblin Market is a wondrous world of fair value, debts and birds; the description of both world and the characters that inhibit it are excellent and truly make it come alive. The message behind this story, that of fair value and treating each other fairly in general, is an important one and plays a key role in this story. And the time Lundy spends in the ‘real’ world only reinforces that message. In An Absent Dream is one of my favorites of the series and I’m already looking forward to the next installment which is scheduled to be published early 2020.


Title: Navigating Early
Author: Clare Vanderpool

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Adventure
First published: January 8th 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: May 29th 2019
Pages: 320

“Navigating Early was as challenging as navigating mysterious and uncharted waters.”


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I’ve been meaning to read Navigating Early for a while now. The mix between historical fiction and adventure sounded absolutely fascinating and right up my alley, and with so many high ratings I was confident I was going to enjoy the story as well. Somehow, I turned out to be wrong in the end. Warning: unpopular opinion rambles ahead! So… Why wasn’t Navigating Early for me? I can’t pinpoint the exact reason, but there is one thing for sure and that is that I couldn’t connect with this story at all. I know I’m in the minority here since most people seem to love it, but despite the historical setting, WWII references, maths references and the promise of an adventure, basically I couldn’t care less what was happening to the main characters. Both Jack and Early were unable to win me over at all, which is strange especially in the case of Early as I normally love my quirky and complicated characters. I’ve tried really hard connecting to both these characters and this story in general, but I feel I should have just given in and DNFed it instead. In fact, I confess I ended up skimreading the last 40% or so of the story as I just wasn’t interested in what was happening to Jack and Early. It might have been the characters, it might have been the writing style, but there was just something about Navigating Early that simply wasn’t for me. The whole Pi chapters might have done something with that feeling as well, as they felt more magical realism than anything else and I tend to have mixed reactions to that. Instead of adding a little something original to the story, the only slowed down the main story for me and made it drag… Although I do appreciate what the author was trying to do. I don’t think Navigating Early is a bad story and the many high ratings agree with that, but it’s definitely true that this story simply wasn’t my cup of tea.


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

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

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

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

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


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