YVO’S SHORTIES #60 – Baby Teeth & The Chalk Man

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two creepy 2018 reads that were right up my alley: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage and The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor.


Title: Baby Teeth
Author: Zoje Stage

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 17th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: October 30th 2018
Pages: 304

“It was hard to pour endless love into someone who wouldn’t love you back. No one could do it forever.”


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There has been a lot of talk about Baby Teeth ever since it was published, and I have been looking forward to read it myself. Even though I remember comments about Hanna, I didn’t realize fully just how creepy this read was going to be. I understand all those comments now, because she truly is something that comes right out of your worst nightmare! She most definitely gave me the creeps and more; the next time they ask when we are finally having kids, I’ll refer them to Baby Teeth instead. I like the writing style and was soon fully absorbed in the story. I literally finished it in less than a day! Because as soon as Hanna had me in her claws (or do I have to say teeth), I wasn’t able to let go until I found out just how far things would go. The suspense and plot building is very well done, and I really liked how the story also shined a light on the autoimmune disease Crohn. I also loved the fact that we have a Swedish main character and both culture and language are referenced to in the story. There was a lot to love in Baby Teeth, and the only thing I questioned was the ending. Not only was it sort of an anti-climax, but the ending was also quite open and made me wonder if there will be a sequel one day? Otherwise, the ending is actually quite disappointing.


Title: The Chalk Man
Author: C.J. Tudor

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 9th 2018
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: November 2nd 2018
Pages: 288

“What shapes us is not always our achievements but our omissions. Not lies; simply the truths we don’t tell.”

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I’m sure I’m about the last person on the planet to read The Chalk Man, but you know how things go with other titles getting in the way… The good thing about it is that with a good couple of months going by before picking it up is that I have since forgotten exactly what the story was about. I like going into stories blind, and this definitely enhanced the reading experience for me here. The Chalk Man has been said to having that Stranger Things feel and isn’t just another crime thriller. There is something more going on that is hard to put your finger on, something that will both keep you on edge and brings a whole lot of suspense on board. This is one of those stories where the dual timeline actually worked for me. Even though I liked the chapters set in 1986 slightly better, I had a great time reading the story as a whole. The plot and character development, plot twists and suspense building are all excellently done. Your mind is thrown back and forward as you try to figure out what happened all those years ago and what is happening right now. This dual tension in both past and present makes The Chalk Man even more intense, and you will have a hard time letting this one go before you have all the answers. An excellent debut and I’ll be looking forward to what the author will come up with next!


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ARC REVIEW: River Bodies – by Karen Katchur

Title: River Bodies
(Northampton County #1)
Author: Karen Katchur
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 1st 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: November 4th 2018
Pages: 302

“Sometimes it wasn’t what the person said but rather what they didn’t that told you more than their words ever could.”

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

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There was just something about that cover, title and blurb that immediately caught my attention and made me want to find out more about the story. River Bodies has that appeal to inner crime thriller fan in me, and I have been looking forward to it. What I didn’t expect was to have such mixed feelings about River Bodies in the end… I’ll try to explain why, although partly I still can’t exactly put my finger on the why. First of all I have to point out my feelings had nothing to do with the writing style, which was engaging and easy to read. It was rather the pace of the story that was a tad slow for me, and made it harder to stay invested in the story. That and the fact I wasn’t expecting to have so much focus on the characters and their relationships instead of a more developed investigation of past and present crimes. And I definitely didn’t sign up for the love triangle, or the having to deal with multiple cheating main characters, something I absolutely loathe. I guess this was part of the reason the story went south for me. There were also some plot holes and inconsistencies I couldn’t help wondering about. How come that if Becca is literally living on the other side of the river and only fifteen minutes away, nobody recognizes her in the place she grew up? Nobody ever crossed the bridge and saw her on the other side she lived now, especially since she’s a vet and all? Not really credible. Also, her not having seen her best friend Parker during all that time, him being a cop and surely moving around while on duty, is not credible at all either. The murder mysteries themselves are interesting and I didn’t mind the flashbacks, but I would have liked to see those elements related to the murders more developed instead of having to deal with relationship troubles. River Bodies is more of a mix between contemporary romance and a character-driven mystery than the proper crime thriller I was expecting, and unfortunately that mix didn’t hit the mark for me. I’m sure the right person would enjoy River Bodies a lot better than I did though.

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When a body turns up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania, newly detective Parker Reed cannot help but see the similarities to a twenty-year-old cold case. That crime was hushed up and never solved, but Parker is determined to connect the two murders and find the killer. Then former best friend Becca Kingsley suddenly returns to Portland to be with her dying father and former police chief. Coming home has brought back memories that were deeply buried, memories Becca isn’t sure whether it would be better and safer to keep buried. Especially since they might be related to the murders…

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I was looking forward to River Bodies, but sadly it didn’t completely hit the mark for me. Part of the problem was probably that I was expecting a crime thriller, where River Bodies has more focus on the characters and their relationships rather than the actual crimes committed and the consequent investigation. Having to deal with multiple cheating characters and a love triangle came as a very unpleasant surprise for me, and definitely influenced my reading experience negatively. The crimes themselves and the investigation weren’t as important in River Bodies, something that surprised me. Fans of slower paced and character-driven mysteries with a dose of romance will undoubtly enjoy River Bodies a lot better. Just be warned there might be some graphic scenes involved.


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ARC REVIEW: Snowy Nights At The Lonely Hearts Hotel – by Karen King

Title: Snowy Nights At The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Author: Karen King
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: November 9th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: October 16th 2018
Pages: 284

“Sometimes I think that people who have tough lives turn out better than those that are given everything on a plate.”

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

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I know this title might come as a surprise as it’s not my typical genre, but every once and I while I like stepping out of my comfort zone. There was just something about Snowy Nights At The Lonely Hearts Hotel that caught my eye, and I’m definitely glad I decided to read this title. If you are looking for the perfect story to get you in the Christmas mood, Snowy Nights At The Lonely Hearts Hotel without doubt fits the bill. The setting in Cornwall sounds magical, and I really liked the idea behind the Christmas party for single parents. While the characters were quite easy to like, I also felt their personalities were a bit over the top for me and their emotions a bit extreme. Not every interaction or reaction to the situations felt all that natural to me and there were a lot of cliches involved as well. This feeling probably has to do with the fact that sappy and too cliche romance isn’t for me, and I think contemporary romance fans won’t be bothered all that much by it. I loved the lgbt angle and Robbie and Duncan were a great addition to the story. Entertaining, easy to read, Christmassy and I’m sure it will appeal to those who enjoy reading the genre.

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When her sister ends up being stuck abroad with two sick children unable to fly, it is up to Saffy to rescue the Christmas party her sister hosts every year for the single parents of her village. Saffy has to give up her own plans to do so, but reluctantly agrees as she knows a lot of people will be let down otherwise. Her sister has left detailed instructions, and she won’t be alone as neighbor Logan will help with some of the details. When she meets Logan and his daughter Chloe, it shows that Logan doesn’t seem to think Saffy could manage organizing a successful party… And Saffy is determined to prove him wrong.

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If you enjoy reading Christmas themed stories and contemporary romance in general, Snowy Nights At The Lonely Hearts Hotel will be a great addition to your wishlist. Sure, there are a lot of cliches involved and not every interaction and reaction to certain situations seemed natural. But the writing draws you right in, the characters are easy to like and overall it was absolutely an entertaining and feel good story. And the Cornwall setting sounds just magical!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #53 – The Walls Around Us & Love And Gelato

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around another YA edition, although the books belong to different genres. The first was an absolute cover love case and a story that managed to surprise me. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma has to be one of the few stories were magical realism as an element didn’t actually bother me. The other is a typical contemporary romance story set abroad, Love And Gelato by Jenna Evan Welch, and was too cliche for me to properly enjoy.


Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: October 6th 2018
Pages: 319

“Our private taste in books showed a hint of our secret selves, and sometimes I was the only one who got to see those secrets.”


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This is one of those books I just knew I had to read without even knowing what it was about… The power of a beautiful cover. It’s also one of those books where it’s better to go in blind, because the full effect of it will be that much more powerful. The Walls Around Us isn’t your ordinary YA story. Strange, captivating. brutal, mesmerizing… You will be in for a ride with this one. You think this is just another thrilling crime story when you start reading, with a hint of a teenage Orange Is The New Black and a bit of Black Swan. But The Walls Around Us offers us more than that. It’s one of the first times magical realism is used in a story that didn’t actually bother me. Instead, the strangeness and beautiful descriptions took me on a journey along with the main characters, enjoying my time discovering what exactly was going on. The prison scenes were fascinating, and the many dance related scenes were a nice touch as well. I can’t say I was a fan of most of the main characters, but they did work perfectly in The Walls Around Us I guess. I enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would, and all in all it was more than a pleasant surprise. I don’t think The Walls Around Us is for everyone, but the right person will be just as mesmerized by this strange and magical story as I found myself to be.


Title: Love & Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch 

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: October 9th 2018
Pages: 400

“You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it’s for the same two things.”
“What?”
“Love and gelato.”


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I know contemporary romance isn’t really my thing, but I have fond memories of my various stays in Italy and I really felt like travelling back there again through this story. I mean, who can resist that setting and the possible talk about a lot of delicious Italian ice cream? Because there is one thing true: Love & Gelato makes you crave all kinds of Italian food. And the author did an excellent job at describing the city of Florence and the setting in general. It almost felt I was there along with the main characters! The setting was probably my favorite part of this story, and I liked the idea of the journal and Lina learning more about her mom that way. The writing makes it easy to fly through this story as well… But there were also a few things that really bothered me as well. The first elephant in the room is of course the dreaded love triangle. Why o why do most YA books have to be ruined by this trope? I would have loved this story so much better without it… Because the love triangle (or in fact multiple ones) also ment the introduction of a whole lot of cliches. And cringeworthy moments. And more cliches. It ended up being just too much for me, although I have the suspicion fans of contemporary romance stories will enjoy Love & Gelato a lot better than I did. It’s also the perfect summer/beach read despite some sad and deeper moments.


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #50 – The King’s Guard & Radiance Of Tomorrow

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today two completely different reads, but both worthwhile. The King’s Guard is the third and final Fire And Thorns novella and without doubt my favorite of the bunch. And I have been wanting to read Radiance Of Tomorrow forever, especially since Ishmael Beah‘s memoir made such an impact. This fictional story also set in his country Sierra Leone is another powerful and heartbreaking read.


Title: The King’s Guard
(Fire And Thorns #0.7)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 30th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 19th 2018
Pages: 111

“The less you say, the more your words will matter.”


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I have been reading the Fire And Thorns novellas before tackling the sequel, and I have to say this third and final one is probably my favorite of the bunch. The King’s Guard is partly set in the royal palace and is partly an adventure and rescue mission. Hector makes a great main character of this novella and his character is very easy to like. The writing is solid as always and I managed to read it in no time at all… The plot and setting are well fleshed out for a novella and I had a great time reading this one. These novellas are a great addition to the original series and especially the last two novellas are without doubt worth the read if you enjoy the series.


Title: Radiance Of Tomorrow
Author: Ishmael Beah

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
First published: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 256

“We must live in the radiance of tomorrow, as our ancestors have suggested in their tales. For what is yet to come tomorrow has possibilities, and we must think of it, the simplest glimpse of that possibility of goodness. That will be our strength. That has always been our strength.”


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A Long Way Gone is one of the most devastating and heartbreaking memoirs I’ve read to this date, and well written at that. I’ve been meaning to read Radiance Of Tomorrow for years now, and I’m glad I’ve finally had the opportunity to do so. While Radiance Of Tomorrow is a fictional story this time around, it has the same setting in Sierra Leone and the same emotional rollercoaster ride. Make sure to brace yourself before you start this one, because it won’t be a happy journey. Radiance Of Tomorrow tells the story of what happens in the ruined village Imperi after the war in Sierra Leone ended. The beginning sets the tone of what will become a heartbreaking, devastating and very emotional read, with little lights shining upon the hope the characters have things will become better in the future. Descriptions of both characters and setting are excellently done and I loved the ‘fusion’ of different languages as the author translated expressions from other languages literally to describe things. This book shows us what it was like for the locals after the war, the struggles still there as they try to survive with all odds against them. You will take the characters under your wing and suffer with them as setbacks occur… Radiance Of Tomorrow has a wonderful bigger message and is without doubt a very powerful and emotional read. I’m glad I decided to finally pick up!


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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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