YVO’S SHORTIES #90 – Then She Was Gone & Verity

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two psychological thrillers that have received a lot of hype since they came out… While neither turned out to be a 5 star read for me, I still found both to be very entertaining. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell and Verity by Colleen Hoover.


Title: Then She Was Gone
Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 17th 2018
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: March 14th 2019
Pages: 369

“May was like the Friday night of summer: all the good times lying ahead of you, bright and shiny and waiting to be lived.”


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I have enjoyed Lisa Jewell‘s books in the past, so of course I have been looking forward to read Then She Was Gone as well. With all the hype around this title, I thought it was best to wait a little while before picking it up though… I’m glad I did, because while I did find it an entertaining read in general I can’t say the story managed to blow me away completely. It was fast-paced and the writing is engaging and really flows, but I found the plot to be quite predictable and I saw most plot twists coming from a mile away. This lack of surprise was a bit disappointing, but because I was warned before starting Then She Was Gone I already saw this coming. It’s quite easy to guess most things and figure out what is coming, but there were also certain details I didn’t predict. The story switches between past and present as we slowly find out more what happened to Ellie back in 2005 and why and how the police haven’t been able to find any clues so far. The link to the present and the whole Laura-Floyd situation was a bit too farfetched and convenient for me. The outcome of the whole mystery just didn’t seem realistic to me and this took away some of the strength of this story. I can’t deny it was still a very entertaining read though and I had a great time discovering if my guesses were right.


Title: Verity
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Romance
First published: December 7th 2018
Publisher: Hoover Ink, Inc.
Finished reading: March 14th 2019
Pages: 333

“If an attraction is present between two people, those two people an only be one of two things. Involved or not involved. There is no in- between.”


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I have always had a love-hate relationship with Colleen Hoover’s books, but lately the scale has been tipping towards the love side and was hoping to get lucky again. Especially since she has crossed to the dark side and branched out to the suspense genre with Verity… Now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can definitely say that it was a success for me. While not my all time favorite CoHo, I still had an excellent time reading this story. Some parts were a bit predictable and I did see some twists coming, but I think the shock of that ending made me completely forget about that. What a way to mess with our minds and leave us hanging like that! It’s an open ending that will most definitely leave you wanting for more and second-guess what you just read and thought was true. And aren’t those just the best feelings when reading this genre? The writing is of the same solid quality as always and together with the fast pace I just couldn’t stop reading and literally finished Verity in one sitting. The fact that Lowen’s POV is mixed up with chapters out of Verity’s autobiography is a brilliant touch and definitely adds a lot of suspense to the story. Those chapters are seriously disturbing and twisted! The main characters are well developed and I enjoyed seeing them develop over time and react to the circumstances. There was a bit too much adult content to my taste (you all know my allergy to those scenes!), but surprisingly they weren’t that big of a turn off as I would have expected. I was just too distracted by the mystery around Verity and her family to focus on the details that normally would have bothered me more. Verity is a true pageturner and a disturbing romantic suspense story with an ending that will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. Recommended if you enjoy the genre!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Courier – by Kjell Ola Dahl @Orendabooks #NordicNoir

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Courier blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I always love discovering international authors and I just couldn’t resist this chance to read more Nordic Noir. So please join me while I share my thoughts on The Courier!

Title: The Courier
Author: Kjell Ola Dahl
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: 2015
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: March 9th 2019
Pages: 276
(Originally written in Norwegian: ‘Kureren’)

“You can hide, you can move to an island, build a hut and wander on a beach for years, lonely. But when the past comes calling you are the same person.”

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

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Those who know me are probably already aware of the fact I have a special interest in WWII historical fiction and I always enjoy a good mystery. Add an international setting you don’t see every day and the fact that it’s Nordic Noir in the first place and you’ll find me jumping up and down out of sheer excitement. Oh yes, I couldn’t wait to dive into my copy of The Courier and it turned out to be just as good as the reviews I saw popping up kept promising me. Want to know why?

The first thing that stands out in The Courier is that this story is actually set in three different time periods which are connected by the main characters. The story mainly switches between 1942 and 1967, both having its own storyline and different angle to contribute to the plot. This mostly dual timeline was one of the strongest elements of this story for me and highly enhanced my reading experience. The fact that we are left in the dark about what happened in 1942 and what consequences it has on the characters in 1967 adds a healthy dose of suspense to the plot and the author is able to build this feeling of suspense and intrigue in both storylines. Both are equally strong for different reasons, a balance that is easy to achieve while using a dual timeline.

The writing and plot development also really stood out for me. This story managed to grab my attention right from the very first chapter and the engaging writing style made it easy to fully emerge myself in the story and travel back in time. The descriptions of time, place and characters are detailed and well developed, making it easy to imagine yourself as a spectator observing the story from a front row seat. The main characters felt real as they are realistically displayed with flaws and all; you will soon find yourself rooting for them and this makes connecting to the story all the easier.

Another thing I could really appreciate was the historical content and the many references to daily life in Norway and Sweden in 1942 and 1967. Especially since WWII historical fiction tends to focus on countries like Germany, Poland or France, I was excited to be offered a glimpse of the history of lesser known countries that were affected by that particular part of history. It was interesting to see the characters evolve over time as they react to the things that happen to and around them. The plot also has quite a few surprises in store and I can promise you that you will not see them coming. The Courier is a little Nordic Noir gem and a very satisfying read for fans of historical fiction and thrillers alike. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Olso.

 


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #88 – And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer & The Enchanted

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories I highly enjoyed for different reasons… The novella And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer by one of my favorite authors Fredrik Backman and a story I had to put on hold the first time around but highly enjoyed: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.


Title: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Novella
First published: August 24th 2015
Publisher: Atria books
Finished reading: March 4th 2019
Pages: 97
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Och varje morgon blir vägen hem längre och längre’)

“I’m constantly reading a book with a missing page, and it’s always the most important one.”


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I think most of you are already aware of the fact I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman‘s work… I decided to pick up this novella first before hopefully diving into the Beartown sequel next month. Novellas can go either way for me, as I normally prefer a more developed story, but there are exceptions where I’m able to connect to a short story in the same way. And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer is one of those exceptions. Not only is it good to see Alzheimer in the spotlight, we also see its effects on both the person itself and those close in a refreshing way. This novella has an almost surreal touch where memories and the real world overlap and exist at the same time. I love the way Fredrik Backman uses the prose and memories to help understand what it would be like having a fading memory. Past and present are liquid as we see the grandfather, his son and grandson in different stages of their life in such a way that erases all boundaries. The representation of the grandfather’s memories as a square where persons and objects alike are incorporated is fascinating… Especially how the square changes over time as Alzheimer starts taking over his brain. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking family focused story that is well worth your time.


Title: The Enchanted
Author: Rene Denfeld

Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Phoenix
Finished reading: March 7th 2019
Pages: 233

“After a time, it seemed that the world inside the books became my world. So when I thought of my childhood, it was dandelion wine and ice cream on a summer porch, like Ray Bradbury, and catching catfish with Huck Finn. My own memories receded and the book memories became the real memories, far more than the outside, far more even than in here.”


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I remember first trying to read this story a few years ago and being unable to connect to the magical realism elements of the story… It really shows that there is something as the right or wrong time to pick up a book, because this time I was fully mesmerized by this magical story. The Enchanted isn’t for everyone and if you are not a fan of magical realism I won’t suggest reading it. If you are open to the genre though, this story will prove to be a little gem. The story behind The Enchanted is actually quite dark, as the main setting is inside Death Row of a maximum security prison. We get to know some of the darkest and most dangerous criminals in a very special way, and it’s an interesting as well as very disturbing glimpse inside their heads. I love how we hop between different characters in such a flowing way that really helps keep everything connected. One of the voices only has his identity revealed at the very end, but this doesn’t mean the story doesn’t make sense or is harder to follow. No, you will get swept up in the whirlwind that is this magical story and savour each and every single magical realism element that will help soothen the sometimes difficult and disturbing subjects as (child) abuse, violence and mental health. Rene Denfeld did a fantastic job combining the different elements, waving them together in such a way that will leave you speechless by the time you reach the final page. The writing, the magical realism, the characters, the contrast of the fantastical and brutal reality… It’s true that The Enchanted is not for everyone, but the right person will be just as enchanted as I found myself to be.


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ARC REVIEW: The Bird King – by G. Willow Wilson @groveatlantic

Title: The Bird King
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Grove Press
Finished reading: February 28th 2019
Pages: 440

“Once a story leaves the hands of its author, it belongs to the reader. And the reader may see any number of things, conflicting things, contradictory things.”

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

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I confess: the cover put me under its spell immediately and I knew I wanted to read this story even before I read the blurb. The premise of the story only enhanced my feelings though, as I’ve always had a special connection with Spain and its history. The mention of Granada alone, a city I’ve been lucky enough to visit myself and admire with my own eyes, would have been enough to make me jump up and down out of joy. Add the promise of a historical fiction setting with a focus on the last sultan of Muslim Spain, a setting right in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition and a fantasy twist, and I knew The Bird King was going to be something special. My instincts turned out to be right: this was such a stunning and absolutely fantastic read! It becomes clear from the beginning that the power of The Bird King is in the prose, attention to historical details and the hint of magical realism in part of the elements. The lines between fiction and fantasy are blurred and balanced in such a way that will surely mesmerize you before you reach the final page. The attention to detail and many descriptions really make the story and its characters come alive. We get a glimpse inside the Alhambra and its daily life under the last sultan and all things culture related. We also get an idea what the Spanish Inquisition was prepared to do in that time, although that is not the main focus of this story. Like I said before, the fantasy elements almost have a magical realism feel about them, something that really worked for me in this story. Each character is unique, well developed and easy to like… You will find yourself rooting for Fatima and Hassan and crossing your fingers they will be able to escape and find the mythical island where the bird king lives. People have complained about the slow pace, and while I agree the pace is indeed rather slow, it also makes it easier to fully savour the prose and all those wonderful descriptions and details. It helped me absorb every single detail all the better and I personally enjoyed every single minute of my time with The Bird King.

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Fatima has been part of the royal court of the last sultan of Muslim Spain ever since she was born, now a concubine to the sultan himself. She has been provided with everything she could wish for except for one thing: her freedom. Her closest friend Hassan is the palace mapmaker with a fascinating secret… He can draw maps of places he has never seen before in his life and even bend the shape of reality. This extraordinary gift is what will endanger his life when the representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender. His gift is seen as sorcery and they demand Hassan to be handed over to the Spanish Inquisition… But Fatima cannot bear to part with her only true friend and will try anything for the two to escape their fate.

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Yes, the story of The Bird King is without doubt just as beautiful as that stunning cover. It’s a perfect mix of historical fiction elements, a magical realism feel and fantasy elements… With different cultures coming together through the journey of Fatima, Hassan and the people they meet along the way. The historical setting, details and descriptions are perfectly elaborated with a gorgeous and magical prose you will cannot help but fall in love with. The pace of this story is slow, but it will make it that much easier to fully savour every single chapter and detail of their journey. Fans of slower-paced historical fiction stories who don’t mind a little fantasy mixed in will most likely enjoy this fantastic story as much as I did.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #87 – Be Frank With Me & A Thousand Perfect Notes

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a story that unfortunately disappointed me and another that completely blew me away. The only thing that saved me from DNFing Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson was the main character… While I enjoyed every single perfect second of A Thousand Perfect Notes by our fellow book blogger C.G. Drews.


Title: Be Frank With Me
Author: Julia Claiborne Johnson

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: February 25th 2019
Pages: 309

“Sometimes just explaining your predicament–to a bartender, a priest, the old woman in a shift and flip-flops cleaning the lint traps in the Laundromat dryers–is all it takes to see a way out of it.”


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I have been meaning to pick up Be Frank With Me for quite some time now, mostly because I love my quirky characters and Frank sounded like someone I just HAD to meet. My TBR jar thought it was about time I finally read it, and although my experience wasn’t all that positive there is one thing for sure: I’m glad I finally did get to know him. The premise behind this story on its own is quite interesting, with the reclusive writer being forced to write a few book after falling for a ponzi scheme. But M.M. Banning, also Mimi, doesn’t steal the show nor is the main character here. Not even the narrator of this story, Alice, seems to be in the true spotlight. Oh no, that place is reserved for the young Frank. He is the sole reason I made it to the final page, because there were things I unfortunately struggled with considerably… There was just something about the writing style in Be Frank With Me that made it hard for me to stay focused and the slow pace didn’t help either. The plot is pretty basic and I really felt the story dragged in parts. I wasn’t at all interested in what was happening in the Bel Air house in general or if Mimi would ever finish her book… Not a good feeling to start with. The many Hollywood references and Frank being Frank were what made me keep reading though. His character is both quirky and unique and is definitely what makes me give this story the benefit of the doubt.


Title: A Thousand Perfect Notes
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 7th 2018
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: March 3rd 2019
Pages: 288

“Music is nothing unless it fills your soul with colour and passion and dreams.”


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It’s always fantastic to see a fellow book blogger being published and I’m sure a lot of you now C.G. Drews for either her Paperfury book blog or gorgeous Instagram account (or both!). Her debut A Thousand Perfect Notes was published last year and I’m still kicking myself I didn’t pick it up sooner… Because the reviews are right: this is an absolutely fantastic and heartbreaking read! Well worth the 5 stars and without doubt one of my 2019 favorites. There is just something about the writing style that will draw you right in and I wasn’t able to let go until I reached the final page. I loved how big of a role music played throughout the story, the many musical references both relevant to the plot and enchanting at the same time. The power of A Thousand Perfect Notes is in its characters though. Both Beck, August and Joey are so easy to love; you will adopt them straight away and your heart will ache for them as the plot evolves. I love how the personality of Beck and August are completely contrary and balance each other that way. The Maestro is a horrible character and source of a few trigger warning worthy elements including abuse and violence. She is the perfect villian for this story though and I loved her background and the fact German words are incorporated in the text. A Thousand Perfect Notes will make you laugh and cry and the characters will stay with you for a long time. It’s a fantastic contemporary read which balances happy moments and a romantic interest with a thousand musical notes and a dark twist. If you like the genre and haven’t read this debut yet, you should definitely remedy that. I personally can’t wait until her new story comes out in April!


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution – by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Title: Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution
(Fat Angie #2)
Author: E.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Finished reading: March 1st 2019
Pages: 352
DNF at 32% (113 pages)

“Angie did not like sequels. By their very nature, they rarely met the expectations of the consumer.”

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

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There was just something about Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution that immediately caught my eye and made me want to read it. As someone who has always struggled with her weight and had a pretty miserable time during high school, I thought I was going to be able to relate to this story… But I guess it just wasn’t ment to be. I’m aware of the fact that I didn’t realize beforehand that this was a sequel and this might have played a role in my reaction to this story. I will keep this in mind and any missing background information is of course my own fault. My reaction to Fat Angie and my decision to DNF it are based on my experience with the sequel alone. I feel sad I had to take the decision to DNF as I rarely do that, but I’ll try to explain below why I didn’t see other way out. First of all I like to state that this is probably another case of this story simply not being a right fit for me. I thought I was able to connect to the main character as I had some of the same struggles during my time in high school. Sadly, I wasn’t all that impressed by Angie. She seems over the top, almost like a cartoon and not at all the realistic representation of a teenager struggling with her weight and the other things going on in her life. I was seriously frustrated by the way she behaved and expressed herself and I felt she was being turned into a cliche with almost too many different elements that were supposed to marginalize here being jammed inside her character (weight struggles, panic disorder, suicide attempt, dead sister, being queer, having almost no real friends, bullying, best friend ignoring her etc etc.). It felt like an overload of different elements being dumped on you instead of creating a realistic situation and this made the story less credible. I also really struggled with the writing style. The story didn’t really flow for me, it was packed with cliches and between short sentences and interruptions with definitions I struggled to find the motivation to keep reading. The plot moves quite slow, or at least up until the point where I stopped reading (about a third in, and the roadtrip hadn’t made its appearance yet apart from a brief mention in a letter). Between the writing style, almost cartoonish extreme reactions and violence, overload of different elements stuffed in the same character and that same character being unlikeable I saw no other choice than to DNF Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution.


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