YVO’S SHORTIES #31 – Prodigy & Turtles All The Way Down

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The first book is the sequel of a series I was supposed to continue ages ago: Prodigy by Marie Lu. It was just as entertaining as the first book! The other title is one I wasn’t sure I wanted to pick up, but after seeing Ashley @ Socially Awkward Bookworm mention it as her biggest surprise of 2018 so far I decided to give it a go. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green… And maybe it was just that I wasn’t in the mood for it, but I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.


Title: Prodigy
(Legend #2)
Author: Marie Lu

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: January 29th 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: July 3rd 2018
Pages: 372

“Maybe I’ve been trying to escape the wrong place and run away from the wrong things.”


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I read Legend back in 2015, and even though I quite enjoyed the first book and vowed to read the sequels soon, somehow that never happened. One of my goals this year is to finish those poor neglected started series, and when I came across my copy of Prodigy I decided to pick it up on a whim. It was surprisingly easy to pick up where the first book had left off without rereading Legend, and there is no doubt this sequel is a very entertaining read. I managed to finish it in no time at all! The dystopian world is quite interesting; not that original maybe but I liked the dynamics. Could I have done without the multiple love triangle trope? Hell yes. Did that made me lower the rating slightly? Positive. But otherwise I found Prodigy to be a fast-pace and engaging YA dystopian read with a lot of promise for book number three. A healthy dose of action and twists are in place, and while not the most original plot, it will manage to grab your attention anyway. I’m looking forward to find out what the final book will bring.


Title: Turtles All The Way Down
Author: John Green

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 6th 2018
Pages: 298

“True terror isn’t being scared, it’s not having a choice in the matter.”


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There is always such a hype around John Green‘s books and I’m sure you are already aware of just how well hyped books and me are getting along. I had made a promise to myself to leave his books be for now after a few ‘it’s not you, it’s probably me‘ experiences… But my curiosity was piqued by Ashley @ Socially Awkward Bookworm when she mentioned Turtles All The Way Down was her biggest surprise of 2018 so far. Do I regret reading the story? No, because I would have always wondered otherwise. Is it a bad read? Not exactly. But it was definitely one of those cases where the story just didn’t work for me. Which is actually kind of strange, because I’m always intrigued by a story with a mental illness theme and I do love my quirky and unique characters. But there was just something about Aza that just didn’t do it for me. There is nothing wrong with the character development and I think John Green did a great job giving us a peek inside her head and how it would be like being her. It just didn’t work for me in particular. The same goes for Daisy, although I do love the fact she writes fan fiction. The plot is a bit farfetched, but it adds a certain air of mystery to the story, transforming it from just another contemporary romance with mental illness angle to something a little more complicated. I do have to admit the pace was pretty slow though, and I could have done without annoying YA tropes like instalove. And was the story exactly credible as a whole? I’m still on the fence about that. But I guess fans of the genre who like their characters unique, flawed and intriguing will probably like Aza and her story as well. Hello, new hyped title on my unpopular opinion review list… Do make yourself comfortable.


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ARC REVIEW: The Getaway Girls – by Dee MacDonald @bookouture

Title: The Getaway Girls
Author: Dee MacDonald
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 30th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 7th 2018
Pages: 

“Was the world her oyster? Silly cliché, that! The world was more like the carrot, dangling seductively in front of her nose.”

*** 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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Wait, what? It’s All About Books featuring a contemporary romance read, and with such a high rating at that? Don’t be too surprised, because I can enjoy the genre every once in a while if I’m in the mood for it. And this is exactly what happened when I saw The Getaway Girls. Suffering from the so-called travel bug myself, I love road trip stories. It doesn’t really matter to me if I have visited those places myself, as reading about them makes it feel as if I were on a mini vacation in the first place and I love discovering new places to visit… But when I found out part of the story was set in Italy, I was sold. I have such great memories of this country and I couldn’t wait to discover what the main characters would encounter! I picked up The Getaway Girls on a day I really needed something light, entertaining, fun and engaging to distract myself, and this story delivered exactly that. I LOVED that the three main characters are seventy-year-olds and that they going on a road trip together. The character development is spot on and I really liked just how different their personalities and backgrounds were. It was great to see how they reacted to each other and they journey, and I had a wonderful time following them on their journey. It’s not all fun as they are trying to run away from Maggie’s dodgy partner Ringer, and I really liked that aspect of the plot as it added a little suspense to the whole story as well. But my favorite part of The Getaway Girls has without doubt to do with the descriptions of the places they visited. It almost felt I was on vacation in France and Italy as well! A welcome distraction from the cold winter months down here in Argentina… I had a blast reading this story and I liked how each of the three main characters got her own ending. It’s definitely made me curious about The Runaway Wife as well as I really liked Connie’s character! If you are a fan of the genre, this one is a must-read.

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Connie is free to make her own decisions for the first time in decades, and she has been dreaming of an adventure. She doesn’t seem to be the only one though, as Gill and Maggie from her flower arranging class love the sound of her plans. And soon the two want to tag along with her idea of traveling to southern Italy in a campervan to find her roots. A journey that will take them through France first and will take them to places and new experiences they never thought they would be having… Will the three be able to reach their destination safely?

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If you love a good road trip story with well developed and interesting characters, lots of sightseeing, funny moments, a dash of suspense and a dose of romance that is just right, you will love The Getaway Girls as well. I had so much fun following Connie, Gill and Maggie around and I loved the fact that they were seventy-year-olds, as I don’t see older main characters around that often. Entertaining, uplifting, a pinch of suspense and a healthy dose of summer romance… This story will make you forget about your own problems for a while as you join the main characters on their journey.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #32: Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator & Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties: Children edition! I realized I have barely read any MG or Children books in the first half (only the one), so I decided to remedy that by reading not one but two what you call classic children stories. I must have read Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl at least a dozen times as a kid… I was a huge fan of his work and it’s always been great to revisit the stories. This one is not my favorite, but still entertaining enough. And I’m almost ashamed to admit I haven’t had contact with Dr. Seuss‘ work as a child, but it’s good to finally discover it now. Better late than never right?


Title: Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator
(Charlie Bucket #2)
Author: Roald Dahl

Genre: Children, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1972
Publisher: Puffin Books
Finished reading: July 5th 2018
Pages: 190

“A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.”


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Roald Dahl was one of my childhood favorite authors, and I must have read his books hundreds of times over the years. I have read Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator multiple times as well, although not as many as some other titles. I didn’t remember why, but now I’ve had the chance to reread this story as an adult, I do understand. While without doubt still an entertaining story with the wonderful illustrations of Quentin Blake and the same writing that is able to enchant child and adult, I don’t think it’s as strong as his other books. Or in fact the first book and highly popular Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. After such a strong first book, the sequel falls kind of flat for me and doesn’t have the same magical feel despite the space adventure. It’s not a bad read and children will still enjoy it, but they probably won’t ask you to read it over and over again unless they are obsessed by anything space related.


Title: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Author: Dr. Seuss

Genre: Children, Fiction
First published: January 22nd 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Finished reading: July 6th 2018
Pages: 48

“Congratulations!

Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!”


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I’m almost ashamed to admit I haven’t had contact with Dr. Seuss‘ work as a child other than a movie/cartoon or two… It might be too late to remedy that, but better late than never right? I was lent a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go! and I’ve been looking forward to pick it up. As someone who has had the travel bug for a long time now, I thought it would be an appropriate read, but what I didn’t know is just how much I would be able to connect to this picture book. For a story that is ment for such a young audience, it is surprising just how much you will be able to relate to the underlying message as an adult. The illustrations and easy and well written prose are to help kids understand and enjoy, but I truly think this is a story for all ages. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! has a strong moral message and shows us that there is a whole world out there… Waiting for us to just step outside and discover it. Ups and downs are normal, but the thing is to just keep going. This one will go straight to my must-read list for any future kids we’ll be having one day.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #30 – When The Moon Was Ours & Bad Romance

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads I’ve been meaning to read for a while. While the prose in When The Moon Was Ours was absolutely gorgeous, I struggled with the magical realism elements. Bad Romance is such an emotionally difficult read! The love triangle was a let down and things can get frustrating, but there is no doubt Heather Demetrios described a toxic relationship perfectly.


Title: When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magical Realism
First published: October 4th 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Finished reading: June 26th 2018
Pages: 288

“He was a comet burning through the night sky, and Samira was the trail of dust and ice streaking after him.”


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Dear magical realism, it’s not you, it’s me. See, somehow we just can’t seem to get along… I’ve tried, really tried, but I think we should take a break from each other for now. Oh yes, it’s unpopular opinion time again. When I first started reading When The Moon Was Ours, I was blown away by the gorgeous prose and I was sure I was going to absolutely love the story. And there are definitely a lot of things to love in the story. Where did it go wrong for me then? Like I said, the problem is me, not When The Moon Was Ours. This simply is another case of the magical realism and me not being able to connect rather than a story not well written. The writing style is beautiful, lyrical and something to fall in love with on its own. The main characters are both so unique, mysterious and fascinating that you cannot help but feel for them. I LOVED the Spanish elements included (alfajores!!) as well as the queer references and Sam and his ‘bacha posh’ life. This book is an ode to unique and quirky characters and diversity in general. Sam and Miel are both wonderful characters and I loved the dynamics between them. But. Like I said before, I really struggled with the magical realism and it made it harder to fully appreciate the story. Otherwise When The Moon Was Ours is an absolutely stunning read, so if you don’t mind magical realism in your stories, this one is an absolute must-read.


Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt And Co.
Finished reading: June 30th 2018
Pages: 368

“When I feel trapped, afraid, lonely, I only have to look up at the sky and think: this is what people in Morocco look at when they see the sky. And India, Thailand, South Africa. Korea and Chile and Italy. The world, I remind myself, is mine, if only I have the courage to grasp it when the opportunity is given to me.”


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I’ve had lots of people warning me to brace myself before picking up Bad Romance, because it would be an emotionally draining read. I can definitely understand that warning now. Bad Romance will make you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, outraged and basically an emotional wreck. Oh yes, this is not an easy read and painfully accurate in describing how a toxic relationship can destroy a person. Coming from someone who had the back luck of being in a toxic relationship once, I can fully relate to the main character Grace. Did I want to scream at her to get the hell out? Yes. Was I frustrated by how blind she was to what Gavin was doing to her? Yes. Did I shake my head as she let him take away her freedom piece by piece? Yes. But this is exactly what a toxic relationship will do to the victim and while painfully frustrating at times, Heather Demetrios deserves a round of applause for getting these words on paper no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. I could have done without the love triangle, which put kind of a damper on things for me, but overall Bad Romance is a very strong read that will stay with me for a long time. Emotionally draining, but o so satisfying in the end.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #29: The Upside Of Unrequited & The Border

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads… The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli I was sure I was going to love, but somehow ended up being another unpopular opinion review. The Border by Steve Schafer on the other hand was absolutely brilliant.


Title: The Upside Of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 11th 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: June 21st 2018
Pages: 352

“We like who we like. Who cares if someone else doesn’t get it?”


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Oh hello unpopular opinion review! I guess we meet once again… I truly wish we wouldn’t have crossed paths this time around though. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda has to be one of my all time favorite YA books, so of course I was fully expecting to love this story as well. I’m still kind of shocked I ended up having this reaction, but I guess it is what it is. Fact: the problem isn’t the writing, which is without doubt excellent and made The Upside Of Unrequited into a really fast and entertaining read. I like the idea of having twins as main characters and the lgbt elements made this story into the perfect read for Pride Month. The twins moms are the cutest! The artsy/pinterest vibe was also a great touch. But. And here comes the main problem: I really struggled with Molly’s character. Not only did her choices annoy me and she helped introduce a love triangle to the plot that really bothered me… But I also found her whole attitude and negativity towards her own body quite frustrating. Having struggled with my weight just about my whole life, I know how it feels having to deal with rejection and negativity of others, but I don’t think Molly’s character gives the right message to those who struggle with the same problem. And we don’t have a lot of ‘bigger’ main characters to look up to in stories in the first place… So Molly was quite a let down for me. I also felt like The Upside Of Unrequited was almost trying to be too diverse and squeeze in too many diverse characters into one story. But yeah, that is mostly just me since everybody including my neighbor’s cat seems to love this story, so do take my rambles with a grain of salt.


Title: The Border
Author: Steve Schafer

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 5th 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Finished reading: June 24th 2018
Pages: 364

“We are right on the border. The border. Of story, of legend, of dreams. ut we might as well be on the moon. So famous, yet so desolate.”


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Weird fact: I have a strange fascination for any story related to the war on drugs, cartels and the consequences of both. After a course or two during Uni, a thesis and quite a few related books, TV shows and movies, my thirst for this theme still hasn’t lessened. So honestly I should have known this book would hit the right spot even before I started it. The Border is more about the cartels and the consequences of antagonizing them than the actual war on drugs, but the theme is without doubt fascinating. The narcos killing the families of the main characters is sadly enough not all that uncommon, and neither is the hunt that starts afterwards. I really liked how Steve Schafer isn’t afraid to state the hard, painful and shocking facts, describing to us in a realistic way how the teens have to run for their lives. The incorporation of Spanish into the writing was spot on and added more authenticity to the story; the descriptions of both characters and setting detailed and realistic. The writing style managed to put me under its spell and I couldn’t let this story go until the very end. Ever feel like putting everything on hold until you reach the final page? That is what happened while I was reading The Border. This is not a happy story and the characters truly struggle; some parts are truly heartbreaking and make sure you have some tissues at hand just in case. But this realistic rendering of the four Mexican teens trying to cross the desert to reach the safety of US territory is simply sublime. I can highly recommend reading this one if you are interested in the theme, or if you enjoy reading realistically described (YA) thrillers.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #28: Strange The Dreamer & The Fourth Monkey

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two books from completely different genres I both ended up enjoying a LOT despite the hype around them. The first, Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor, is one of my new absolute favorites… And Lazlo one of my new favorite characters. The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker, was dark, twisted with one hell of a creeper of a serial killer; just how I like my thrillers.


Title: Strange The Dreamer
(Strange The Dreamer #1)
Author: Laini Taylor

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 28th 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: May 30th 2018
Pages: 528

“For what was a person but the sum of all the scraps of their memory and experience: a finite set of components with an infinite array of expressions.”


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I have been intrigued by Strange The Dreamer ever since I first heard about it, but there has been such a hype around it that I have been afraid to pick it up. Because let’s face it: hyped books and me generally don’t seem to get along and I normally end up having to write yet another unpopular opinion review. But somehow when I was browsing my kindle, this title spoke to me and I just had to pick it up. Did I remember as I was starting that people had recommended to me to wait until the sequel was out? Yes, but it was already too late, because as soon as I sampled the writing style, I was addicted. Boy, Laini Taylor can write herself some absolutely gorgeous prose! The writing had me mesmerized and even if there were tiny flaws in the story, or even a slower plot at some points, I didn’t care as long as I was able to keep devouring those beautiful words. And that was not the only thing I loved. Oh no, one of the main things Strange The Dreamer works so well is its main character Lazlo. He is hands down one of my new all time favorite characters and it was an absolute delight being able to follow his story. I liked the other characters in general as well (Sarai!) and being able to connect to them only made it easier to fully emerge myself in the story and worldbuilding. Although the worldbuilding and its descriptions alone already make you wish you could see it all with your own eyes. As you can already guess, I absolutely loved Strange The Dreamer and it turned out to be my second 5 star read of the year. I’m still kicking myself for not reading it sooner, although at least the wait for the sequel is considerably shorter now this way.


Title: The Fourth Monkey
(4MK Thriller #1)
Author: J.D. Barker

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 27th 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Finished reading: June 10th 2018
Pages: 416

“Darkness. It swirled around her like the current of the deepest sea. Cold and silent, crawling across her body with the touch of a stranger.”


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Basically, I have been meaning to pick up this thriller ever since it came out last year. I think it has become pretty obvious by now I can’t resist a good serial killer thriller, and this one has been on my radar especially after reading so many promising reviews. So when I saw the sequel on Netgalley, I decided to request a copy as a way to force myself to read both books. And guess what? My request was approved, and I’m so glad that happened… Because I have been missing out by not reading The Fourth Monkey sooner. Dark, gritty, twisted, disturbing, intense… Just keep similar adjectives going, and they will apply to this first encounter with the 4MK killer. What a read! I like my thrillers dark and twisted, and J.D. Barker has definitely created a very disturbing serial killer to follow in this story. We get a glimpse of his childhood through a diary, and hints at his previous ‘work’ as the plot develops. And you will encounter a few plot twist bombs along the way, surprises that will catch you unaware as you are too stunned by just how twisted things were back at the killer’s home or how the case develops in the present. Oh yes, The Fourth Monkey isn’t for those with a weak stomach and if you can’t handle graphic scenes and violence, I advice staying clear. Otherwise, if you have a twisted mind like me, you will have a great time meeting the 4MK Killer and his work.  And I’m looking forward to discover what happens next.


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ARC REVIEW: The Map Of Us – by Jules Preston

Title: The Map Of Us
Author: Jules Preston
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 4th 2018
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Finished reading: June 13th 2018
Pages: 180

“Me being me isn’t always easy on those I love.”

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

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I stumbled across this title after reading Inge’s review earlier this month, and even though unfortunately she wasn’t able to enjoy it better, my curiosity was piqued and I knew I couldn’t let this story go. Quirky characters? A comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine? Where can I sign up for that?! The Map Of Us sounded like one of those stories you either hate or love, especially since the connection to the characters seems all important in this story. Quirky and unusual characters can go both ways, and while I love my characters that way, they often are not for everyone. One of the reasons I ended up enjoying The Map Of Us better than I thought I would was exactly that: my ability to appreciate and embrace the quirkiness of Tilly and Violet. And I think this story has a lot of potential, although I had my doubts about the execution in certain areas. The first thing I struggled with was the writing style, which I somehow didn’t manage to get used to. Short phrases can mess up the pace and make the story feel haltered… But more than that, I especially struggled with the chapters in Dad’s POV. I’m sad to say I had to skimread those since I couldn’t get used to them. And talking about POVs, I felt there were too many different POVs in the story, making it harder to connect with at least one of them. I think I would have enjoyed the story that much better if it would have been told from just Violet’s or Tilly’s POV, or just the two of them at least. I never got a proper feel for any characters due to the many switches and it made the story feel quite messy and for me it lacked cohesion. That is, until the final stage when everything is rushed to be connected together. I did like the quirkiness of The Map Of Us and both Violet and Tilly have so much potential! I just wish they would have gotten their chance in the spotlight rather than being squeezed in between the other POVs.

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Violet North has been abandoned by her family, but somehow manages to overcome her difficulties and survive in a big house all on her own. Then her life changes forever in the space of just 37 words with a stranger at her front door… And not only that, but a whole fictional world has opened up for her as well, with the help of a blue typewriter she borrowed from one of her neighbors. Decades later, her granddaughter Tilly sees her marriage fall apart. Tilly has always been good with numbers, and compiles a detailed statistical report to help find out exactly why and when it went wrong. The Compatibility Index has consequences she had never forseen when she first created it though…

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Like I said before, The Map Of Us has a lot of potential, both because of the general idea behind it and the two most important characters Tilly and Violet. I honestly feel that with more development and focus on those two characters, a more fluent writing style and less jumping between different characters would have made The Map Of Us into another fantastic read similar to the likes of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. As it is, I don’t think that comparison would do The Map Of Us a favor, since unfortunately they are not on the same level. But I do want to stress that especially Tilly has the same potential and quirkiness in her personality that made Eleanor Oliphant into such a success for me. So again, with more focus and development of that character (and Violet as well), I would probably have enjoyed The Map Of Us considerably better.


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