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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YVO’S SHORTIES #98 – Fun Home & Five Feet Apart

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a graphic novel memoir and a YA contemporary romance read; one I almost wish I had DNFed and another I enjoyed despite a few issues. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott.


Title: Fun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel
First published: June 8th 2006
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 232

“It could be argued that death is inherently absurd, and that grinning is not necessarily an inappropriate response. I mean absurd in the sense of ridiculous, unreasonable. One second a person is there, the next they’re not.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’m keeping these rambles short, because honestly I don’t feel I have a lot to say about this graphic novel. It’s true I wasn’t sure if Fun Home would be for me even before I started reading it, but I needed a graphic novel for my BTB Bingo challenge and my TBR choices were limited. I enjoy reading memoirs and the idea of reading a memoir in graphic novel form intrigued me. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the tone or writing style of the author. The many many references to classic literature for me were, instead of an unexpected bonus, rather a hint to feelings of self-importance and superiority. I wasn’t a fan of how the whole lgbt element was handled nor how characters were portrayed. I honestly wish I would have just taken the decision to DNF, because I had a really hard time reaching that final page. This definitely wasn’t a story for me, although I should note others have highly enjoyed it and it has a high overall rating on Goodreads, so it might have been just me. Still, the fact is I had a really hard time reaching that final page of Fun Home and I can’t say I had ‘fun’ while I was trying to get there. If you are looking for an original memoir, enjoy reading in graphic novel form and don’t mind classic literature references in abundance, you will probably be a better match for this story though.


Title: Five Feet Apart
Author: Rachael Lippincott

Genre: YA, Fiction, Romance
First published: November 20th 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster For Young Readers
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 288

“Everyone in this world is breathing borrowed air.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while… Especially since I’ve been hoping to watch the movie adaptation some time soon. The first thing that stood out for me was that this story has that The Fault In Our Stars and Everything, Everything vibe down to the terminal illness and cheesy romance. I’m still deciding whether that is a good or a bad thing, but there is one thing for sure: you will find yourself flying through this story. I literally finished it in less than a day, and a lot of this has to do with the writing style. I appreciated the focus and insight in CF and how the story shows the impact of this disease on someone’s life (once it is in an advanced stage). BUT. I’m not sure up to what point some aspects of the plot are exactly credible. I don’t want to end up including spoilers, but let’s just say part of it has to do with the unnecessary risk taking (something similar happened in Everything Everything). I don’t think it’s encourageable to have main characters who are that ill taking significant risks that basically endanger their lives. It gives a bad example and it is simply not credible. The same goes for the sudden change in attitude towards safety of Stella. The romance itself was cheesy, but somehow I found myself liking it anyway. Five Feet Apart is a story that will both make you smile and make your eyes water… Perfect if you enjoy the genre and don’t mind a considerable amount of cliches and some inconsistencies.


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #89 – Here We Are Now & The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a story that failed to convince me completely and another that completely won over my heart. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga wasn’t as good as I hoped, especially after loving her debut… The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa was a fantastic read though.


Title: Here We Are Now
Author: Jasmine Warga

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: November 7th 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: March 7th 2019
Pages: 304

“It’s funny how some places just feel familiar in your bones, even if you’ve never been there before.”


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I have been looking forward to read more of Jasmine Warga‘s work ever since I loved her debut back in 2015… It took me longer than expected to get to Here We Are Now, but I guess better late than never right? It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, but unfortunately I can’t say I was all that impressed by this story as a whole. It’s not a bad read and fans of character driven YA contemporaries will probably have a great time with this one. It’s not the writing either, which felt natural and I just loved the many musical references. But there was just something about the plot and characters that didn’t manage to convince me. The plot is rather simple and nothing much is going on; it shows that this story is mostly focused on the main characters. This means we see a lot of the sixteen-year-old Taliah as well as her parents Julian and Lena and their past. On its own nothing negative, but there was just something about the characters that started to irritate me. Taliah came over as rather childish and whines a lot… Julian can be a bit intense and Lena is rather annoying even though she also has an interesting aspect with her being an immigrant in the US and her having to adapt to a new country (something I can relate to). I didn’t agree with some of the actions and reactions of the characters and I’m not sure parts felt all that natural. Like I said before, the musical elements were a nice touch though and I liked how the story was partly set in the past as Julian tells Taliah how he first met her mother and what happened. Sadly I failed to connect with this story, but I’m sure the right person will absolutely adore Here We Are Now.


Title: The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author: Hiro Arikawa

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: November 1st 2012
Publisher: Viking
Finished reading: March 11th 2019
Pages: 288
(Originally written in Japanese: ‘旅猫リポート’)

“We cats get all limp and squishy when we have catnip; for humans, wine seems to do the trick.”


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As some of you might already know, I am what you call a true catlover or crazy catlady. I have loved these feline creatures ever since I was tiny, and even a bout of childhood allergy couldn’t cure me of that love… Thankfully I grew over my allergy, and I have been lucky enough to share my life with a bunch of different feline friends during the last eighteen years or so. The Travelling Cat Chronicles is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys being around cats. It’s so easy to relate to this wonderful story! The first thing that stands out and makes this book special for me is the fact that the story is narrated by a cat. Yes, you read that right, the main character of this story is a very special cat named Nana who tells all about his adventures together with his companion and owner Satoru. Very original and it definitely made the story that much more powerful. We get to know both Nana and Saturo better through their adventures as they visit various childhood friends of Saturo. It’s not only a journey within Japan, but also a journey to the past as we learn more about the different characters both then and now. I loved how not only Nana, but other animals get to play a role in the story as well. The descriptions are wonderful as is the writing style in general… The characters will win over your heart in record time and will stay with you for a long time. Warning: make sure you have your tissues ready! Because the end will most definitely make you cry (I know I did, and I almost never cry). The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a fantastic read I could see myself reading over and over again.


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ARC REVIEW: Smoke And Key – by Kelsey Sutton

Title: Smoke And Key
Author: Kelsey Sutton
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: April 2nd 2019
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Finished reading: March 8th 2019
Pages: 304

“I suppose some things don’t have a proper explanation. They just are.”

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

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I admit it was coverlove at first sight when I saw this title for the first time, but it was the blurb that convinced me that I had to read Smoke And Key no matter what. The promise of what basically can be called a Corpse Bride inspired fantasy story with both a paranormal and a thriller twist just sounded too good to pass up on… And I still believe the premise of and idea behind Smoke And Key is one of its strongest elements as a whole. Under is such a fantastic, magical and daunting world and I would love to have seen in even more developed, although I do understand that the lack of information only adds to the overall mystery and intrigue around the place. I loved the fact that the characters in Under are named after something they had with them when they arrived. Simple, but fascinating as you try to find out the stories behind those objects and names… The beginning of Smoke And Key made a huge impact on me, and a lot of this impact had to do with the worldbuilding and writing style. It was able to put me under a spell straight away, and for a little while I was sure I had found myself a new favorite. Where did it go wrong for me then? I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of it has to do with the fact this story has a very slow pace. I didn’t mind in the beginning, but I started to notice it more and more as things continued. The plot itself could have been stronger, as for a story with such a fantastic premise the actual story didn’t live up to expectations for me. The idea behind Key reliving those memories in such a real way is really interesting, and it is used to add a little suspense to the story as you try to guess who is behind the attacks and how the characters fit together. I did see the final reveals coming from a mile away, which was a bit of a disappointment for me. My main problem was with the appearance of the romance scenes and of course the dreaded love triangle though. Why does this story have to have one?! I absolutely loved the beginning of Smoke And Key and as I’ve stated before, I still love the premise of this story. Sadly, the executed was a bit underwhelming for me. Fans of romantic paranormal suspense will probably have a more positive experience though.

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When she wakes up she has no idea where or who she is… The only clue hanging around her neck: a single rusted key. That’s how she gets her name, as everyone is named from whatever belongings they had with them when they fell out of their graves. Because Key no longer breathes nor has a beating heart, and Under is a place she is struggling to come to terms with. Key is determined to remember her past and find a way out, but who can she trust? What is really going on in Under?

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There were a lot of things I loved about Smoke And Key and this is by no means a bad read. There were just certain elements that really irked me and failed to live up to the fascinating blurb and fantastic beginning for me. The slow pace, the romantic elements, the love triangle, the predictability of the plot… All things that made me enjoy the story less than I thought I would. I still love the premise of this story as well as the historical setting, Under and its Corpse Bride feel characters and the magic among other things. It’s a very interesting story and I have no doubt this world will stay with me for a while.


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