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

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


Title: A Spark Of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult

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

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


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


Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black

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

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


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


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YVO’S SHORTIES #71 – Big Little Lies & Outlander

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I have been meaning to read for a long time and finally decided to read in 2018. Both turned out to be more than pleasant surprises! Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.


Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: July 29th 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 23rd 2018
Pages: 460

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”


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I’ve been meaning to read another Liane Moriarty book for a long time, and I’m probably the last person on earth to finally pick up Big Little Lies. I kind of picked it up on a whim while browsing my kindle, and I definitely not regret making that decision. There is no doubt that Liane Moriarty knows how to write an intriguing mystery that goes out with a huge bang. I liked how she kept what happened that fatal night a secret in such a way that you don’t have a clue about the who or why until the final bombshell is dropped. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming! The plot is both intricate and well constructed and part of the reason this story is such a success. I liked the idea of following the three main characters is the weeks before the incident, especially since they are mixed with those police interview bits to keep you intrigued and curious about what happened. You will be on the edge of your seat until you find out all the details! I wasn’t sure about every character, but their development is without doubt very well done. Each character has its own background and problems, and while there were a few cliches involved, I could really appreciate the abuse angle and the necessary attention it brings to the fact it ‘can happen to anyone’. There is a lot of drama and some of it was a bit farfetched, but the ending definitely makes up for it. All in all Big Little Lies was a success for me and I’ll be looking forward to watching the TV adaptation.


Title: Outlander
(Outlander #1)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
First published: June 1st 1991
Publisher: Dell
Finished reading: December 28th 2018
Pages: 866

“Sometimes our best actions result in things that are most regrettable. And yet you could not have acted otherwise.”


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I have been meaning to read Outlander for years now, but both the sheer size of the books and the fact that I wasn’t sure the story would be for me made me hesitate for a long time. I don’t mind big books if they are good, but I feared there would be way too much romance involved for me to tolerate… But Outlander turned out to be the exception to that rule. Once I finally started reading and finished the first few chapters, I knew Outlander and me were going to get along just fine. All in all it took me about a week to finish it, which is not bad at all for such a beast of a book… And I had a surprisingly good time with it as well. Why surprisingly, would you say? Well, there are a lot of sexy scenes involved in Outlander, something that normally makes me drop a book like hot coals and discard it right away. They still made me cringe at points (adult content just isn’t for me ladies!), but the rest of the story was intriguing enough for me to tolerate them. The writing is excellent and the worldbuilding is sublime. I really felt like I were in Scotland myself along with the main characters; the descriptions of both the time period and surroundings extremely well done. The time travel aspect is also very interesting, especially since it comes back repeatedly in for example Claire’s profession as a nurse in the 20th century. I really liked Jamie as a character and while Claire can be exasperating at points, she does make for a good story. The story flowed well and managed to keep my attention all the way to the end. I’m definitely glad I finally give in and read Outlander, and I will be looking forward to read the sequel this year.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #66 – The Great Alone & Children Of Blood And Bone

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two highly popular books I’ve been a bit afraid to pick up, since hyped books and me don’t really get along… The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah turned out to be a huge success, while Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi failed to blow me away completely.


Title: The Great Alone
Author: Kristin Hannah

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: November 20th 2018
Pages: 435

“All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home.”


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After enjoying her other story The Nightingale in the past, I had high hopes for this one as well. I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about The Great Alone over time, and I’m glad to say I’m another one to join the fan club. The Great Alone is without doubt one of the best historical fiction stories I’ve read so far this year. I already knew the writing was going to be good, but that doesn’t take away I was overwhelmed by just how emotional, challenging and harrowing this story was going to be. The Alaskan setting is brilliantly developed and well described, making it feel as if you were discovering the island along with the characters. This setting was definitely a huge bonus! I also loved how the development of the setting reflected a development in the characters as well. The story is set in three different years (1974,1978, 1986), where we follow the same characters as Alaska changes them and things happen. Warning: The Great Alone is not a happy story. It is a story of survivors, emotional and hard to read. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse and violence… The development of the characters is excellent and makes them both feel realistic and easy to connect to. Especially Leni won over my heart easily (and Matthew of course!). Domestic abuse is a very difficult topic to write and read about, but I think Kristin Hannah did an excellent job of portraying it realistically. Did I feel frustrated sometimes by some of their actions? Definitely. But that doesn’t take away that I feel their situation was very realistically developed. There are a lot of difficult, sad and harrowing moments involved in The Great Alone, and I definitely suggest keeping a box of tissues close. But it is also a very rewarding read and I’m sure fans of both historical fiction and family dramas will love reading about Leni’s journey.


Title: Children Of Blood And Bone
(Legacy Of Orïsha #1)
Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: March 6th 2018
Publisher: Henry Holt And Co.
Finished reading: November 23rd 2018
Pages: 537

“You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. it was thinking we’d never fight back.”


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I wasn’t planning on reading this one at first. Hyped books and me don’t tend to get along, especially YA fantasy ones, and let’s face it: there has been a lot of hype around Children Of Blood And Bone. But there was just something about the cover and blurb that made me want to give it a go anyway. And while I do have to say that this first book of a new high fantasy series failed to blow me away completely, I can also understand the love for this story. In fact, I was going to give it an even higher rating before the appearance of the romance scenes… Which I felt were completely unnecessary and made me feel a little disappointed. The writing is good though, and I really like the idea behind Children Of Blood And Bone. While I did feel the many foreign sounding names and terms were a bit confusing in the beginning, they did add to the magical atmosphere. I admit I would have liked to see the worldbuilding a bit mor developed, with more details and sooner in the story to fully enjoy the setting. But the idea of the diviners and maji is fascinating as well as the different kinds of magic. The quest was a bit too simple to my taste, and the plot twists a bit too abrupt, but overall it was without doubt a very entertaining YA fantasy read with pleasant enough characters. They just didn’t really stand out for me.


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ARC REVIEW: A Woman Of War – by Mandy Robotham

Title: A Woman Of War
Author: Mandy Robotham
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: December 7th 2018
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: November 30th 2018 
Pages: 352

“When you saw so much horror, destruction and inhumanity in one place, it was the simplest things that broke your resolve and reminded you of kindness in the world.”

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

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I always have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction… As soon as I recognized the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp entrance I was able to see with my own eyes a few months back on the cover, I just new I had to read A Woman Of War. Although I admit I was a bit disappointed to not see that particular camp featured, there is no doubt that the author has a very interesting premise here. The plot of A Woman Of War is a proper fictional one and more a what if? story than one based on true events. It also shows some pro-Nazi characters in a very positive light; something you don’t see often in historical fiction, but also something I’m not sure how I feel about. The writing style flows and makes it quite easy to read this story rapidly despite the sometimes heavy topics and more graphic scenes. It shows that the author is a midwife herself, as there are detailed descriptions about women in labor and birth itself. The main character Anke is a midwife and her role is key in A Woman Of War. It brings forth a very interesting ethical and moral question: either Anke helping one of Hitler’s inner circle’s women during her pregnancy and betraying her own beliefs, or her refusing and being responsible for the death of her family. Seeing pro-Nazi characters in a positive light makes me feel uncomfortable and I could have done without the romance, but overall it was quite an interesting read. Anke’s flashbacks of her life before working as a midwife and during her time as a prisoner in Ravensbrück were a good balance to the more ‘fictional’ present narrative. Fans of the genre will no doubtly find A Woman Of War an interesting read.

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Anke Hoff used to work as a midwife in Berlin, but she was caught helping a Jewish woman deliver her baby and sent to camp Ravensbrück as a political prisoner and enemy of the Reich. Then one day she is called with the request to serve as the midwife of one of Hitler’s inner circle, with a clear threat that if she refuses or doesn’t do her job, her family will die. Soon after her arrival at the Berghof she learns nothing is as it seems, and she finds herself torn between her duty as a midwife and her hatred for the regime.

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There is no doubt that A Woman Of War offers quite an original take on a what if? situation that could have changed everything. I’m not sure what to make of the way the pro-Nazi characters are portrayed, but it is definitely quite unique no matter how you feel about it. The writing was solid and I especially enjoyed Anke’s flashbacks even though the parts set in Ravensbrück were quite brutal. All in all an interesting although a bit unorthodox WWII historical fiction read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #65 – The Cruel Prince & The Wife Between Us

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two very hyped books that (I should have known) didn’t live up to the hype for me even though they weren’t bad reads. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black and The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks &Sarah Pekkanen


Title: The Cruel Prince
(The Folk Of The Air #1)
Author: Holly Black

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: January 2nd 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 17th 2018
Pages: 384

“Before, I never knew how far I would go. Now I believe I have the answer. I will go as far as there is to go. I will go way to far.”


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I have been hesitant, almost afraid to pick up The Cruel Prince for a long time. There has been such a hype around this book, and you all know how hyped books and me get along… But I figured I had waited enough to give it a try myself and see how I will react to the story. I was surprised when I saw just how well I reacted to the story initially. Of course I already knew I liked Holly Black‘s writing style, and this is part of the reason this story worked for me. And what a start! I like it when a YA fantasy story isn’t afraid to go dark and throw some blood and action at us. Things were going really well even though I’m not sure the plot itself is all that original. I would have liked to see the worldbuilding a little more developed and I think not enough attention was given to the description of the different characters. I mean, they are magical creatures and we only get so and so has a tail, that one has horns, that one has hooves etc? Without a more detailed description or more attention paid to the fact they are in fact not humans, I tended to forget about their special features completely after a few pages. The lack of sappy romance scenes in the beginning was a true relief though, although of course I should have had my hopes up. Of course the cliche romance scenes would come, and of course there would be another love triangle to deal with. Not talking about Locke, who I initially liked and came to despise. Jude is an interesting enough character though. While she in a way is just another typical strong female lead, I did enjoy reading about her development and how she would get themselves out of that mess. Did she lose points for the romance related actions in the second half? Most definitely yes. But I’m still intrigued enough to be looking forward to the second book. In short, while The Cruel Prince failed to blow me away completely, overall it was still a very entertaining read.


Title: The Wife Between Us
Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 9th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: November 19th 2018
Pages: 346

“We all layer them over our remembrances; the filters through which we want to see our lives.”


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In a way I’ve been hesitant to pick up The Wife Between Us due to the enormous hype around it earlier this year. I almost never react well to hyped books, but I was also curious about this title so I decided to give it a go. Now I’ve read it, I’m not sure what to make of it. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again! I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason The Wife Between Us didn’t manage to convince me probably has to do with the fact I felt this book was simply trying to hard. Sure, there are a LOT of twists involved and a lot of things I couldn’t guess beforehand, but I’m not sure if I actually LIKE how these plot twists are presented or developed. Instead of being shocked and saying ‘wow, I definitely didn’t see that coming!’, I was mostly left confused and not in a good way. Let’s just say my eyebrows worked overtime with this one… I’m not denying some of the twists were very clever, but they just didn’t do it for me (mostly related to the feeling this story was trying too hard). The writing style itself was pleasant to read and the unreliable narrator technique well used. It’s by no means a bad read and I can understand the love for it, but sadly The Wife Between Us just didn’t hit the mark for me.


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ARC REVIEW: All This I Will Give To You – by Dolores Redondo

Title: All This I Will Give To You
Author: Dolores Redondo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 3rd 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: September 30th 2018
Pages: 494
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘Todo Esto Te Daré’)

“He’d lied to the only being in this world entitled to know the truth: himself.”

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

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This might just be one of those cases where the problem is me, and not the book… So take this review with a grain of salt. I was actually looking forward to read All This I Will Give To You, since I love stories set in Spain and the blurb sounded fantastic. It might have been the translation, since I prefer reading Spanish books in the original language as the exuberant prose doesn’t always translate well… But the fact is that it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I was hoping for. Overlong, with difficult to read prose and a writing style that makes it really hard to stay focused as you have to read some lines over and over again… Oh yes, it’s easy to say I really struggled with this story. The pace was superslow and the story felt halted; ever had car engine problems and tried to move the car with your whole body? That’s how I felt while I was trying to make it to the end of this story. Don’t get me wrong, I love detailed descriptions and the area described in All This I Will Give To You is a perfect excuse to do just so. I just think this story took it one step too far. I truly think this story would have benefited from a brutal editor cut and at least 150 pages less. Because there is no doubt that the idea behind this story and plot is fascinating as well as the many secrets of Alvaro’s family and history. It is just buried under so many unnecessary descriptions and overly baroque prose that the intrigue ends up being completely lost. Which is such a shame, because the complexity of the plot itself, with many twists and secrets to discover about the family, is excellent.

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The life of novelist Manuel Ortigosa changes forever when he learns one morning that his husband Alvaro has been killed in a car crash. Because that is not the only shock for Manuel, as it turns out Alvaro has been keeping secrets from him. He wasn’t in Barcelona as he told he was, instead Manuel had to travel to Galicia to the place where Alvaro died. It turns out that the man he married fifteen years ago wasn’t the man Manuel thought he was… And Manuel soon finds himself to be deeper and deeper involved in the secrets around both Alvaro’s life and death.

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There were things I did enjoy in All This I Will Give To You. The fact that the main character is a novelist. The detailed descriptions of the setting in Galicia. The general plot, suspense, plot twists and secrets. The complexity of the story. But. Sadly overall I mostly ended up struggling with All This I Will Give To You. Between the very slow and halted pace, the overdose of descriptions and an overly barque prose I had a hard time to keep myself going. I felt like a potentially excellent story was buried under a pile unnecessary words and pages that prevented it from reaching its full potential.


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ARC REVIEW: The Girl Made Of Clay – by Nicole Meier

Title: The Girl Made Of Clay
Author: Nicole Meier
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: September 12th 2018
Pages: 304

“For the majority of their lives, they were two lost souls twisting in the wind.”

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

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There were two things that instantly made me want to read The Girl Made Of Clay: the beautiful cover and the promise of an intriguing family drama with an artsy twist. There is no doubt that this story has a lot of potential, and I believe in this case the problem is me and not the story itself. I confess that family dramas are a bit out of my reading comfort zone and they can go either way for me. In this case, unfortunately my reading experience went down a negative road. It wasn’t because of the writing, which was solid and flowed. The Girl Made Of Clay is a mostly character-driven story where the focus is on Sarah and her father TR, but also on the failing relationship between Sarah and her husband. As always with a character-driven story, the connection to the main characters is extremely important and has a big influence in how you perceive a story. Sadly, in The Girl Made Of Clay, I was unable to make such connection. In fact, TR is horrible, Sarah frustratingly annoying and her husband is no good either… Little Sam is the only one that was able to bring a smile to my face. I’m not saying the character development is bad and having flawed characters makes the story that much more realistic. TR isn’t ment to be likeable, and the whole point of this book is that the relationship between Sarah and her father is broken. Still, my aversion towards the characters made it really hard to enjoy the story or to properly care about what would happen to them. I’m not sure about the credibility of some parts of the plot either… But like I said, the main problem for me was the lack of connection to the characters, which made it a struggle to stay focused and keep myself motivated to keep reading. I do think this was mostly me, and I think people who enjoy reading character-driven family dramas and don’t mind flawed and potentially frustrating characters will have a good time with The Girl Made Of Clay.

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Sarah hasn’t spoken with her father for decades, not since he left them all those years ago to live the celebrity lifeas a famous artist. But after Thomas ‘TR’ Harlow is badly injured in a house fire, it seems like he has no one else left to care for him… And suddenly Sarah is forced to care for a man who is basically a stranger to her. Being close to her father again not only brings back old painful memories, but also puts a strain on her already troubled marriage. Sarah is not so sure what to do with the situation, or if she will ever be able to forgive him…

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If you enjoy reading character-driven stories with flawed characters that are described in a realistic way, The Girl Made Of Clay is without doubt an interesting read. The pace is not the fastest, but the story captures quite well how the characters evolve over time. Did I think every aspect of the plot and behavior was credible? Not exactly. Did most of the characters annoy me and made me enjoy the story a lot less? Most definitely. But as one of the cliches goes: ‘it’s not you, it’s me…‘. And I really think that is what happened here.


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