YVO’S SHORTIES #32 – Champion & The Year Of The Rat

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Another YA edition… The first a final book of a trilogy, Champion by Marie Lu, which I didn’t find to be as strong as the first two books. The other title is my first Dutch read of the year. A Dutch translation of The Year Of The Rat by Clare Furniss, which was quite good overall.


Title: Champion
(Legend #3)
Author: Marie Lu

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 5th 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: July 8th 2018
Pages: 384

“Sometimes, the sun sets earlier. Days don’t last forever, you know. But I’ll fight as hard as I can. I can promise you that.”


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I decided to pick up Legend book number three shortly after finishing the second one as part of the promise to myself to start finishing more series. After enjoying the first two books, I was actually quite surprised I didn’t enjoy the final book of the trilogy as much as the previous two. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I think it has to do with the fact that I just didn’t think the plot was as interesting as I would have hoped for a final book. Also, the love triangle really started to get on my nerves… But then again I’m never a fan of those in the first place. Champion wasn’t a bad read, but it lacked the little something extra from the previous books for me. Sure, the writing has the same quality and I guess fans of the genre and series will have a good time with it, but I hoped for something more. This also goes for the ending, which I didn’t like at all. It’s kind of an ending that can go either way for you though, because there are some twists that will definitely mess with your emotions and it depends on how you react to that. All in all not a bad read, but I had hoped for a stronger ending of the Legend trilogy.


Title: The Year Of The Rat
Author: Clare Furniss

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: April 24th 2014
Publisher: Querido
Finished reading: July 10th 2018
Pages: 272
(Read in Dutch: ‘Het Jaar Dat De Wereld Op Zijn Kop Stond’)

“You shouldn’t be wasting your time worrying about what’s going to happen after you die. It’s pointless. Think about what’s happening now. In your life. That’s what’s important. ”


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I still can’t believe I was able to finish my Dutch read of the year this quickly! The Dutch translation of The Year Of The Rat was quite a fast read and that definitely helped me reach the final page easily. I’m not a fan of reading in Dutch, but I liked this story well enough and it was interesting to see what loss and grief can do to a person. Although not perfect, the story itself was well developed and I definitely appreciated that there almost wasn’t any romance included in the plot. The Year Of The Rat is a mostly family focused and character driven story where we follow the main character Pearl as she tries to deal with the fact that her mother died giving birth to her little sister. While I can’t say I was able to connect to the main character, there is no doubt some very powerful emotions are described; it’s a story that will make you think. If you are looking for something easy and fluffy, you are definitely looking at the wrong story, because you will find some very difficult moments in this read.


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ARC REVIEW: Saigon Dark – by Elka Ray @crimewavepress

Title: Saigon Dark
Author: Elka Ray
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 5th 2016
Publisher: Crime Wave Press
Finished reading: June 28th 2018
Pages: 231

“Closure? When I hear people use this word, I dismiss them as idiots, or worse. Just the idea is a travesty, like you could close a door on your love, lock it up tight, and paint over it. Real love is a part of you, like your heart or your liver. You might survive massive trauma but you won’t ever be the same.”

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

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I always enjoy reading books with a foreign setting, especially when I haven’t been there myself as it feels like a mini-vacation just being able to read about it. Between the promise of a setting in Vietnam and an intriguing premise, I knew I had to give this story a go. Saigon Dark is a mix of a domestic drama and a psychological thriller set in a timespan of roughly ten years. The story jumps forward a lot between chapters, but if you keep track of the dates mentioned the story isn’t that difficult to follow. I liked the writing style, which flowed naturally and easy on the eye. The plot is an interesting one with just the right amount of secrets and twists. Did I understand the reasoning behind the things the main characters? Not always. Do I think she should have said something when it happened all those years ago instead of doing what she did? Yes. But I guess there wouldn’t have been a story otherwise. I did feel there were some holes in the plot, or at least bits I would have liked to see more developed. And I kind of struggled with the ending, which felt rather abrupt. I was left wanting to know more and learn how things continued since a lot was left unsaid. Saigon Dark has a few pretty decent twists, although I did guess part of the final reveals early on. But in general I can’t deny Saign Dark was a very interesting read with a foreign setting I was able to explore thanks to the story. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse and violence though.

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Lily is a successful plastic surgeon and the single mom of two small kids. Then one day her life changes forever as she finds her little daughter has drowned in the backyard. She is unconsolable and stricken by grief, and that might explain the split-second decision to take in her neighbor’s neglected and abused daughter and whisk her away from her home. Lily spends the next decade living a lie, telling everyone the girl she practically kidnapped is her own dead daughter. Just as she remarries and starts to feel safe, she receives a threatening note… Will she able to keep her past a secret?

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Saigon Dark is without doubt an interesting read. The main character Lily’s situation is a very complicated one and while I don’t agree with her actions, I can see how grief can make people do things they normally wouldn’t. There is no doubt she saved the girl from more abuse and neglect in the years that followed, but denying her the truth about her past isn’t exactly ethical either. It was interesting to see how things slowly started to unfold though, although I still would have wished a less abrupt ending. I’m having a feeling especially fans of domestic thrillers will enjoy this one.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #22: Cocktails And Dreams & Wing Jones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two contemporary romance reads I ended up actually enjoying despite the fact that the genre isn’t really for me. Cocktails And Dreams by A.L. Michael was such a fun read and I loved the writing style! And I loved the running element, mixed race main characters and the dragon/lioness symbolism in Wing Jones by Katherine Webber.


Title: Cocktails And Dreams
(Martini Club #1)
Author: A.L. Michael

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 24th 2017
Publisher: Canelo
Finished reading: March 15th 2018
Pages: 209

“Actually, what I really needed was my best friend, and a glass of wine the size of my face.”


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Fact: the contemporary romance genre and me don’t always get along. Also a fact: I can still really enjoy a contemporary romance story under the right circumstances. And this has a lot to do with both my mood and if the author is able to manage to convince me. It doesn’t happen all that often, but Cocktails And Dreams turned out to be one of those exceptions. Because I absolutely adored this story! I was in desperate need of something fun and entertaining to read and this book worked like magic. I had so much fun reading Cocktails And Dreams, and this is coming from someone who is normally allergic to romance… So if you like the genre, you will have a blast while reading this one. The writing style is engaging, easy to read and has just the right pace to allow for well developed characters and an interesting plot. The characters are really easy to like and this made me connect to the story right away… And I just loved the food and drink elements in the story, which added a little something to the plot as well. The descriptions of the different foods and drinks are simply mouth watering and will make you want to try everything out yourself! I also loved the Martini Club setting and the way the different relationships developed. I’m not too sure what to think about Savvy’s mother, but I guess it does give the story an edge. Cocktails And Dreams is such an easy story to love though! And I will definitely be looking out to get a copy of the sequel, because the writing style is fabulous.


Title: Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 5th 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: March 24th 2018
Pages: 378

“But when I’m running, I don’t feel like an idiot. I feel free, like anything is possible. Like I’m not running from something, but for something.”


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I kind of picked up this title on a whim after seeing it mentioned recently, and I thought it would be a nice change of genre. Wing Jones is a YA contemporary romance story with a twist. You will find a healthy dose of drama, with the main character Wing’s brother being in a coma after a car accident he was to blame for. There will be romance scenes as well, which can be distracting, but gladly at least did not include a love triangle. But the main element of Wing Jones, besides showing how they have to live with the aftermath of the accident, is running. I just love how important running is in this story and how Wing uses this newly found talent to try to move on and make a life for herself. I really liked the characters in general as well as the fact that the Jones family is mixed race and how this is represented in the story. Very well done! I also loved the lioness and the dragon and how they were being used as symbols for Wing’s heritance. A little magical touch in an otherwise ‘realistic’ story and it added a little something extra to it. I did feel the middle part dragged a little and the ending was a bit rushed, but overall I had a great time reading Wing Jones. The romance and insecurity of Wing were a tad annoying as well, but the running and dragon/lioness elements made me mostly forget about that. If you enjoy reading YA contempories with a healthy dose of drama, this one will be a very good fit for you.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #21: Wink Poppy Midnight & My Sister’s Keeper

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t turn out to be positive reading experiences, and both had something to do with a character and the way they behaved. Winky Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult… Continue to find out more about the why of the lower ratings.


Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 22nd 2016
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: March 10th 2018
Pages: 352

“All the strangest things are true.”


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Wink Poppy Midnight was a tbr jar pick and a title I have been looking forward to read despite the mixed reviews. I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover! And the story itself sounded really promising as well. As soon as I started reading Wink Poppy Midnight, I was blown away by the writing style. So so beautiful, mysterious and intriguing! The writing style is by far what stood out most for me in this book and it’s the only reason I’m giving this story the benefit of the doubt. Because I absolutely loved how April Genevieve Tucholke tells her stories, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Why the low rating, would you ask? I’m keeping things simple and give one main reason: Poppy. I understand we are not supposed to like her in the first place, but I absolutely utterly despised her character. This extremely negative feeling for Poppy ruined the reading experience for me and made it really hard to just forget about her and enjoy the other chapters. Wink Poppy Midnight is told from the POV of the three main characters Wink, Poppy and Midnight, whimsical names that alone set the right tone for this story. This multiple POV layout didn’t distract me, since I liked discovering new things and see how the personality of each character shines through in the writing and dialogue. BUT. While I absolutely adored Wink and liked Midnight as well, my negative feelings for Poppy were so strong the rest was kind of blurred out. Gone were my feelings for the fabulous writing, gone was my love for the whimsical and magical realism feel of the plot and incorporation of fairy tale elements (my second favorite thing of Wink Poppy Midnight!). What was left were the ashes of a story that could have ended up being one of my all time favorites… If it wouldn’t have been for Poppy dancing on its tomb.


Title: My Sister’s Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 6th 2004
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Finished reading: March 14th 2018
Pages: 423

“It is the things you cannot see coming that are strong enough to kill you.”


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WARNING: Unpopular opinion review and rant ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Trust me, I’m still shocked about this rating and reaction I had to My Sister’s Keeper, especially since I’ve read and enjoyed several of Jodi Picoult‘s other novels in the past. I fully expected to add this title to that list, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I was hoping for. I’m not saying the writing is bad, which would be a lie since it is just as strong as ever and of a quality I’ve become to expect of her work. And without doubt the plot is complex and well developed with many different POVs and angles to try and get a full picture of what is going on. BUT. What ruined this story for me and basically turned me into a giant red angry monster spitting out flames and throwing things at the wall (no actual objects were harmed during this read), was the topic and more especifically the views on that topic. As soon as I got a glimpse of what really was going on, I started to get very angry very fast. Honestly, I don’t think I would have ever read it if I would have known My Sister’s Keeper was centered around these views. Complicated and uncomfortable moral topic and unorthodox views? Maybe, but I couldn’t care less if they were represented right because I was just too angry to pay attention. People might be offended by this, but I’m totally on Anna’s side here. She should NOT be treated as a walking human donor bank and just being pressured to give up everything and go through all those treatments just because her parents say so… It should be her choice and her choice alone. And honestly, the whole reason they had her in the first place made me sick. This book and especially Sara were so SO infuriating! Her with her saying she ‘cares’ for Anna, but only thinks of Kate and having Anna as a spare ready to give up whatever part of her body they need next. And I’m not even talking about their older brother, completely ignored as well. I get that having a child with leukemia is horrible and kind of makes you forget about anything else, but still… It’s no excuse to treat your other kids that way, and definitely not to do those things to Anna, treating her like she’s some object and ignoring her when she’s not needed. Ugh. I’m feeling the anger rise again just as I type up this review… Simply disgusting. These strong negative feelings made it impossible for me to try and enjoy the other aspects and side stories of My Sister’s Keeper, which had potential on it’s own but lost its charm since I was seeing everything through a red haze. Oh yes, this book was able to provoke strong feelings, just not the positive ones I was expecting. Most people do seem to enjoy it though, so if you think you would enjoy it, don’t give up on it yet. Just don’t make me discuss this story ever again…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #2: The Marble Collector & Our Numbered Days


Today it’s time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Featuring today are two books I’ve read recently: The Marble Collector by Cecelia Ahern and Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn.


Title: The Marble Collector
Author: Cecelia Ahern

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Chick Lit
First published: October 29th 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Finished reading: December 25th 2017
Pages: 304

“Hurtful things are roots, they spread, branch out, creep under the surface touching other parts of the lives of those they hurt. It’s never one mistake, it’s never one moment, it becomes a series of moments, each moment growing roots and spurting in different directions.”


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I know I’m normally not a fan of the contemporary romance/chick lit genre and I tend to stay away from it, but I wanted something different and a lighter read for the Holiday season and The Marble Collector caught my eye. This is my first time reading one of Cecelia Ahern‘s books and I can definitely see why she is such a popular author. Not my thing maybe, but without doubt well developed and well written stories based on what I found in The Marble Collector. It took a little while figuring out the different POVs in the story, but in the end I could really appreciate the complexity and the timeline of the plot. The Irish setting and the whole marble theme were a nice touch and while I wasn’t a big fan of the characters, it was quite easy to become invested in the story anyway. The mystery around the marble collection and the amnesia added some suspense to the plot, and overall this was quite an enjoyable read. Quite low on the romance and mostly focused on family drama and the secrets of a man who can no longer remember… I can see why people would love The Marble Collector and Cecelia Ahern‘s books in general.


Title: Our Numbere Days
Author: Neil Hilborn

Genre: Poetry, Mental Health
First published: May 14th 2015
Publisher: Button Poetry
Finished reading: December 25th 2015
Pages: 72

“Depression wasn’t an endless grey sky, it was no sky at all. I’ve got to go somewhere. I’ve got to go.”


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I don’t read or review a lot of poetry on my blog, but I have a weak spot for strong, emotional poetry, especially related to depression or mental health. I’ve written my share of (bad) poetry in the past when I was in a bad place, and it has helped me feel better… And I’m always interested to see how others express their emotions and pain. Our Numbered Days has been on my radar for a long time, so when I was in the mood for some poetry it was the perfect excuse to finally pick up my copy. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the poems in Our Numbered Days other than that they were mental health related and there has been a lot of praise for one of the poems included in the bundle called OCD. What I have discovered is that Neil Hilborn’s style of poetry simply isn’t for me, and I wasn’t able to connect the way I thought I would be able to because of the topic. This reaction is highly personal and mostly related to the style of the poems, so definitely don’t let this stop you from picking the bundle up yourself if you want to. I do see why OCD is so popular and it was one of my favorites of the bunch, along with probably Still Life With Pills and Skyline With Cranes And Stormcloud. I did have a hard time making sense of some of the poems though… Some seemed almost surreal, while others were direct and to the point. All in all not my favorite poetry bundle, but if you like slam poetry you will probably have a different experience with it.


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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BOOK REVIEW: A Different Blue – by Amy Harmon

Title: A Different Blue
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 29th 2013
Finished reading: September 17th 2017
Pages: 322

“I keep wishing you had had a better life…a different life. But a different life would have made you a different Blue.” He looked at me then. “And that would be the biggest tragedy of all.”

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I became an instant fan of Amy Harmon‘s work after my first experience with one of her stories. And it’s definitely one of the main reasons I still decided to give A Different Blue a go despite my doubts about the fact it’s classified as a contemporary romance and wasn’t sure if it would be for me. I guess those who follow my blog are already aware of the fact I’m not a big fan of the romance genre in general and to be honest I was quite worried this story wouldn’t be a right fit. But Amy Harmon managed to do the impossible and made me enjoy another contemporary romance read. It did help that A Different Blue didn’t have as much romance as I expected initially in the first place. And even though this wasn’t my favorite story of the bunch I’ve read so far, I still very much enjoyed it. And this has a lot to do with the writing, which was excellent as always and had me hooked right from the beginning. There is no doubt that A Different Blue is a beautiful, raw, strong and emotional story! The plot is interesting and will have quite a few surprises in store… Both the plot and character development were done very realistically and this made it really easy to fully emerge myself into the story. Blue was a great character and even though she isn’t exactly easy to like, there is just something about her that makes you want to keep on reading. And I just love her art and what it symbolizes! I wasn’t a big fan of Darcy though and I could have done without the love triangle… His actions started to frustate me at times and he didn’t manage to charm me. There is no doubt this is still a very good read though and one of the few contemporary romance stories I have actually enjoyed over the years. And A Different Blue has both the wonderful writing and its main character Blue to thank for that.

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Blue Echohawk was abandoned when she was little and raised by a man without a real home. She doesn’t know her real name or when she was born; she simply feels she doesn’t know who she is. The fact that she didn’t attend school until she was ten years old slowed her down, with the consequence she is still just a high school senior at nineteen. Blue is what you call a troublemaker and uses her appearance and tough attitude as an armor. But the cracks are starting to show when a young British teacher decides he is up for the challenge and is determined to get through to her.

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Even though I didn’t LOVE love A Different Blue like the other Amy Harmon books I have picked up so far, there is no denying this is still a very good read. It might have just been the fact contemporary romance normally isn’t my thing in the first place, but the main reasons I couldn’t add the final star were my aversion to Darcy and some of the romance. The writing is flawless and the plot both intriguing, emotional, powerful and realistic. Blue is such a great character and even though she is hard to like, you grow attached to her anyway. Fans of the genre will enjoy this story!  Make sure to have some tissues ready, because you will find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster with this one.


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