YVO’S SHORTIES #119 – The Dream Thieves & Darius The Great Is Not Okay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The first a sequel that surprisingly enough ended up disappointing me: The Dream Thieves by  Maggie Stiefvater. Be warned for an upcoming unpopular opinion review! Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram turned out to be just as good as people kept promising though.


Title: The Dream Thieves
(The Raven Cycle #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: August 7th 2019
Pages: 453

“All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or keptfrom, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches – that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”


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WARNING: it’s unpopular opinion time again!!

I should have known that the unpopular opinion curse wouldn’t stay away… Because even though I did enjoy the first book The Raven Boys back when I read it in December 2015, I can’t say I felt the same about The Dream Thieves. It’s true that I’ve heard people having mixed reactions to this sequel in general, and I fully understand why now. Unlike the first book, The Dream Thieves almost fully focuses on Ronan, and reactions to the sequel will most likely depend on your reaction to Ronan’s character in general. My reaction on Ronan’s character is actually surprisingly neutral; there are some things I like (including heritage and ‘powers’) and other aspects I found rather annoying (including his attitude), but overall I don’t mind him as a character. Having the focus mainly on Ronan in this story means that the magic of the first book is almost completely lost though… Because it’s the dynamics between the four raven boys and Blue that made that story into a success for me. Apart from the shifted focus, I also found The Dream Thieves to be rather overlong and quite boring in points… I actually caught myself skimreading certain parts, and that is never a good sign. I do have hopes for the final two books, as more than one fellow blogger has called this sequel the weakest link of the series, but I think I’m going to take a little break before I actually continue with The Raven Cycle. Maybe the unpopular opinion curse will get bored and will go away that way!


Title: Darius The Great Is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: August 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.”


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This one has been recommended to me multiple times and I love foreign settings featuring places I’ve never been before, so it’s easy to see why I was really excited to finally pick up Darius The Great Is Not Okay. I have to say it didn’t disappoint at all. While it’s true that it took me a couple of pages before I fully connected to the characters and writing, once I did I was hooked. The power of this story is both in its characters and the descriptions of the setting in Iran and the local culture. Especially the second was thorough, detailed and well developed, making Iran and daily life in Yazd come fully alive for me and it really enhanced my reading experience. Adib Khorram is able to make you feel as if you are right beside Darius in Yazd, discovering more about his family and his roots. Darius made for a very interesting flawed character, his depression and issues with not feeling that he belongs making you think about what it is like to stand in his place and how difficult it can be to overcome a clash of cultures within your own family or even within yourself. Darius doesn’t feel American enough, but doesn’t think he belongs in Iran either, with him not speaking farsi and not knowing a lot about their culture… I really liked how the author developed this theme in what I think is a realistic way; as a Dutch person living in a quite different culture and country (Argentina), I found it really easy to relate to Darius and his struggles. I loved learning more about Iran and seeing the characters grow and develop over time in general…The ending made me kind of sad though. If you enjoy YA fiction with a foreign setting and both interesting and flawed characters, you should definitely read Darius The Great Is Not Okay.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #118 – Apple Of My Eye & Outrun The Moon

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres that both turned out to be excellent reads: Apple Of My Eye by Claire Allan and Outrun The Moon by Stacey Lee.


Title: Apple Of My Eye
Author: Claire Allan

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 24th 2019
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: August 3rd 2019 
Pages: 400

“I nod. Thinking that yes, it is indeed easy to lie or just not tell the whole truth. Much too easy.”


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After so many raving reviews back in the beginning of 2019 when Apple Of My Eye was published, I knew I had no other option than to try Claire Allan‘s work. I’ve been looking forward to read this one, and I’m definitely glad I finally found the time to do so. Apple Of My Eye is without doubt a very solid psychological thriller. With the help of switching point of views, first between pregnant Eli and Louise and later Eli’s mother Angela as well, both suspense and plot are steadily build up in a way that will keep you interested throughout. Things escalate slowly but surely, and this story gives you that daunting feeling that something bad will happen any minute now. The plot twists and secrets are quite well handled, although I did see the big twist coming quite early on, but I enjoyed reading how Claire Allan revealed and developed the twist. The characters can get a bit frustrating, but especially Louise was a very interesting character to follow and it was intriguing to learn more about her background, motives and secrets. This story definitely ends with a bang! All in all I had a great time reading Apple Of My Eye despite a few minor issues, and I will definitely be looking forward to read more of her work. I even ended up ordering myself a physical copy of Her Name Was Rose to be able to do so soon!


Title: Outrun The Moon
Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: May 24th 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: August 9th 2019
Pages: 398

“People are like boats, always coming and going. Sometimes never returning. Now that his boat has sailed, the sea is empty for me.”


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I’ve had Outrun The Moon on my TBR for a long long time, and I’m glad the Magical Readathon came along and finally made me pick up this title. It was such a wonderful story! It’s my first time trying Stacey Lee‘s work, but I will definitely try to read more of her stories soon. She writes in a way that draws you right in, and the descriptions of both the historical setting in 1906 San Francisco and the different characters are very detailed and really make them come alive. The focus on Chinatown and its contrast to the world of St. Clare’s School for Girls is fascinating, both seeing the situation before and after natural disaster strikes. Despite the fact that not every aspect of Mercy’s character is likeable, she managed to grow on me anyway and I loved her strength and resilience. Apart from giving us a glimpse of the local culture and customs in Chinatown, combined with the discrimination and difficulties they encountered, this story gives us also an important life lesson. Outrun The Moon shows us that money, social status and race no longer count when disaster strikes… It’s only the strongest and more resilient who will be able to endure and find a way to help others as well. The character development in Outrun The Moon is very well done and I loved seeing them evolve over time and seeing them react to the devastation of the earthquake. If you enjoy a well written historical fiction story with interesting characters and a dose of desperation, you should definitely try Outrun The Moon.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #115 – The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein (DNF) & The Silent Patient

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been looking forward to read… Sadly, the reaction I had to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White was not what I was expecting at all and I really struggled with it, up to the point I saw no other option than to DNF it at 38%. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides on the other hand turned out to be a success and I found myself flying through the pages.


Title: The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 15th 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: July 28th 2019
Pages: 304
DNF at 38% (116 pages)

“Words and stories were tools to elicit the desired reactions in others, and I was an expert craftswoman.”


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I never in a million years would have guessed I would be having this reaction to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein. It might just have been the wrong book at the wrong time for me, but the fact is, that I really REALLY struggled with this book. Which is strange, because I loved the original Frankenstein story and I have been looking forward to read this retelling ever since I first heard about it last year. I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I think my feelings have a lot to do with the pace and writing style. I’m still surprised I reacted to the writing in the way I did, because I loved her The Conqueror’s Saga books and I was fully expecting to find another favorite in The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein. Alas, it wasn’t ment to be. Instead of adding a little something extra to the story, I found the parts written in cursive (Elizabeth’s thoughts and flashbacks mostly) to be highly annoying. These parts slowed down the pace considerably and, as I couldn’t enjoy them, made it a lot harder for me to connect to the story. I felt like I was on a little boat with a failing motor in the middle of Lake Geneva, unable to get anywhere quickly and only in haltered movements when moving at all. I found the story (or at least until I had to give up at 38%) to be rather flat and uneventful, which is strange because in fact quite a lot does happen during those pages. I think it is the way those events are described that did me in, combined with the fact I could never warm up to Elizabeth nor did I enjoy the writing style as a whole. I’m really sad I ended up reacting to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein in this way, especially as I fully expected to love this Frankenstein retelling. Was it simply the wrong book at the wrong time? Or did the unpopular opinion curse strike again? Who knows, but the fact is that this story and me really didn’t get along.


Title: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: July 29th 2019
Pages: 352

“Her silence was like a mirror – reflecting yourself back at you. And it was often an ugly sight.”


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Wait, you mean I hadn’t read The Silent Patient until now? Oh yes, you might say I’ve been living (or hiding) under a rock when it comes to this title… There has been so SO much hype around The Silent Patient ever since it came out earlier this year, and honestly I’ve been too afraid to pick it up myself. Hyped books and me don’t tend to get along, so I thought it was wise to stay away for the time being, but curiosity took over and I ended up giving in anyway. I’m happy to report that I definitely understand the love for this story now! True, I didn’t LOVE love The Silent Patient like most, but I still thought it was a more than solid psychological thriller that made me race through the pages like there was no tomorrow. This is definitely one of those stories that shows the definition of ‘pageturner’ and will make it really hard for you to stop reading before you reach that final page. I like how the story was told alternately through Alice’s diary entries and Theo’s POV. It’s a great way of building tension and giving you tidbits of information and clues without spoiling the fun while you are trying to figure out what really happened that night… Both Alice and her silence were simply fascinating and it was interesting to see how her character evolved. She might not be all that likeable as a whole, but she sure makes for some very interesting reading! Likewise, Theo isn’t exactly likeable either, but it can’t be denied he is well developed and I do love my flawed characters. The psychological and mental health aspect of The Silent Patient was also fascinating and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. I was also really surprised I didn’t see part of the final twist coming at all! I always love it when that happens… I definitely enjoyed my time with The Silent Patient and I will be looking forward to see what Alex Michaelides has in store for us next.


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ARC REVIEW: Along The Broken Bay – by Flora J. Solomon

Title: Along The Broken Bay
Author: Flora J. Solomon
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: July 19th 2019
Pages: 389

“Manila’s magic was gone, replaced by an undercurrent of fear potent enough to be sensed by an observer.”

*** 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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I have always had a weak spot for historical fiction, and especially if the story is set during WWI or WWII. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Along The Broken Bay, as you don’t often see a WWII fiction setting in the Philippines and Gina’s story of working in the resistance sounded absolutely fascinating. I was looking forward to fully emerge myself in what I thought would be a new favorite story, but sadly fate had a different reaction for me in store. Because while I still think that the premise of this story is fascinating, unfortunately I can’t say I enjoyed the execution all that much. I’ll try to explain below why.

First of all I have to state that the description of the Manila and Zambales mountains settings is thorough and gives us insight in the local flora and fauna. It made the Philippines come alive and gives this WWII fiction read an exotic vibe. I can’t say I was too happy with how the local population was described though, nor how the main characters interacted with them. The demeaning way the locals, their culture and how they interacted was described left me with a very bad taste in my mouth and for me it crossed the line of racial discrimination. I think that the fact that (rich) Americans and Europeans living in Manila might have seen the locals in that way back in the 1940s is no excuse to degrade certain characters in such way. Likewise, I found Gina to be too much of a typical ‘rich white woman with prejudices’ cliche; her constant whining and complaining about the precarious situations she suddenly finds herself in not only distracting but also highly highly annoying. I really couldn’t stand her character, and as the story was basically build around Gina, it was really hard to convince myself to stay invested in the story. In fact, I had such a strong averse reaction to her that I confess that I probably wouldn’t have made it to the final page if this wouldn’t have been an ARC.

The pace in Along The Broken Bay is quite slow as well, and combined with my repulsion for the main character and the way the story treated the local population I ended up struggling considerably to reach the final page. I still think the premise on its own is intriguing, and it was interesting to learn more about how the resistance operated and their network in general. The nightclub was also an interesting twist; the dangers of the operation adding a hint of suspense to the story. The little chapter introductions featuring the thoughts of Gina’s husband Ray while he is separated from his family were likewise a nice touch. And while Along The Broken Bay clearly wasn’t my cup of tea despite my love for the genre, I’ve also seen that most people seem to have a very positive reaction to this story, so definitely don’t give up yet if you are intrigued by the premise.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #113 – Where The Crawdads Sing & The Puppet Show

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles that have been highly recommended to me multiple times and both turned out to be worth the hype. I can definitely understand the love for Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens now, and while it wasn’t a 5 star read for me I still really enjoyed my time with the story. And I’ve found a new favorite series and character duo with The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven!


Title: Where The Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: August 14th 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Finished reading: July 12th 2019
Pages: 384

“Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”


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This is such a hyped book and I’ve lost count of the times it has been recommended to me since it was published last year. I definitely understand the love for the story now, and while it wasn’t a 5 star read for me, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with Where The Crawdads Sing. The pace might be slow in the beginning, but the story will grow on you soon enough and the pace will pick up later on as well. The main focus of this story is on the characters and with the way the marsh is described, it almost feels like it is another important character of the story. Both the character and setting descriptions are extremely detailed and wonderful done, and I think those descriptions are part of the power behind Where The Crawdads Sing. My favorite part of this story is probably related to the many descriptions and references to the marsh and its wildlife. It really made the story come alive for me and was also a perfect backdrop for the development of Kya’s character and those close to her. I also liked how past and present chapters were mixed and slowly helped you understand more about Kya, her past and the events leading to the present. Tate and Jumpin were great characters as well, and I loved to see their development over time. I admit I guessed the ending, but I still think the twist was very well handled. Where The Crawdads Sing gives us a character-driven story set in the marsh wilderness, a story filled with family drama, rejection, loneliness, hope and a dose of courtroom action and mystery to boot. And it’s one of those exceptions where the book is most definitely worth the hype.


Title: The Puppet Show
(Washington Poe #1)
Author: M.W. Craven

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 7th 2018
Publisher: Constable
Finished reading: July 14th 2019
Pages: 352

“They were polar opposites – her light and his darkness – but sometimes those friendships were the strongest.”


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I’ve been wanting to read The Puppet Show ever since it was published last year. I have a weak spot for serial killers, and between the blurb and many recommendations by fellow crime lovers I knew was going to be in for a treat. The @criminallygoodbookclub on Instagram picked this first book of the Washington Poe series as their July read and was the final push I needed to stop posponing my meeting with Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw… And boy, what a meeting it was! There is no doubt I have found a new favorite series and character duo in The Puppet Show. I can confirm that there are multiple elements helping me make my decision to hand out that elusive highest rating. First things first though, and there is no denying that the main reason The Puppet Show was such a success for me has everything to do with the new star duo Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw. As fast as lightning, both characters have managed to win over my heart, make me root for them and deliver a fascinating investigation and story in the process. They complement each other so well and they are absolutely brilliant together! The character description and development in general is very well done and in such a way that you won’t see a certain twist coming AT ALL. Oh yes, The Puppet Show has a plot twist bomb under its sleeve that will blow your socks off. Both the writing and plot development are brilliant and together with the well handled suspense and plot twists you won’t be able to put down this story easily before you reach that final page. The wonderful descriptions of the Cumbria setting help set the tone of this story, and on top of that we have a chilling serial killer, a dark dark secret and a scandal of the past… All ingredients that turn The Puppet Show into a new favorite and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the sequel.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #111 – The Broken Ones & The Boy Who Steals Houses

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two different genres and two different reactions to the stories. I picked up The Broken Ones on a whim and while it was a fast read, it failed to blow me away. The Boy Who Steals Houses on the other hand was one of my most anticipated releases this year and an absolutely brilliant read.


Title: The Broken Ones
Author: Sarah A. Denzil

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 24th 2016
Finished reading: June 30th 2019
Pages: 199

“Sometimes I wonder who is hunting whom. There are times when I feel like an animal stuck in a trap – and there are other times when I feel like a hunter stalking a dangerous wild animal, treading softly through the forest.”


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I was browsing my kindle the other day and picked up this title on a whim as I was looking for a quick dose of psychological thriller. This is my first experience with Sarah A. Denzil‘s work, although I do have other titles waiting on my TBR. I was looking forward to The Broken Ones, but while I finished it in record time, I have to say I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. One of the main focuses of the story is on Alzheimer, and while it can be hard for those who have seen the disease destroy memories of someone close to them (like myself), it was also interesting to see its effects on both Sophie’s mother and those close to her. I would have liked a little more development to give it a more realistic representation, but overall it’s not too bad considering the length of the story. Sophie’s mother has a horrible personality though and I despised her even thoughI thought I would feel bad for her for having early onset Alzheimer. The same goes for Sophie herself: she is a rather spineless woman who basically suffered emotional abuse by her mother her whole life, never got to live her own life because of it and still doesn’t stand up for herself even now. Utterly frustrating and it made it hard to connect to characters and story because of that. The plot itself is interesting, although the plot twists are a bit farfetched and I did guess the big surprise quite early on in the story. The Broken Ones isn’t a bad story and without doubt a quick read, but sadly it failed to blow me away.


Title: The Boy Who Steals Houses
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: July 3rd 2019
Pages: 347

“A family. A home. I really want a… h-home.”
“But you can’t steal it.”
“I know,” Sam whispers. I know I know I know.
“You have to build it.”


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I’m still kicking myself for not reading A Thousand Perfect Notes sooner, and I knew I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. I’ve been dying to read The Boy Who Steals Houses ever since my preorder arrived in April, and I’m so glad I finally had time to do so! This title was one of my most anticipated releases this year and I can say it has without doubt lived up to expectations. What an absolutely wonderful and heartbreaking read! You will want to clear your schedule for this little gem, because once you meet the main characters Sam, Moxie and Avery you will find yourself unable to say goodbye to them and stop reading. The writing style is engaging and wonderful; the characters and their descriptions are likewise excellently done. There is just something about Sam, Moxie and Avery that made them win over my heart almost immediately, and my heart ached for them as their story slowly revealed itself. Their development is realistic and the incorporation of the anxiety and autism elements are both authentic and brilliantly handled. Wonderful prose, characters that will win over your heart, anxiety and autism rep, tragedy and lots of food references… What more could you wish for? Trigger warnings are in place for elements such as violence, abuse and bullying, but each element is well incorporated into the plot. The Boy Who Steals Houses is a heartbreaking read and you will want to have a box of tissues at hand just to be safe, because I myself couldn’t keep it dry… And trust me, that doesn’t happen often. Sam, Moxie and Avery won over my heart, crushed it into a million pieces and left me a complete puddle of mess by the time I reach the final page. Go read this absolutely wonderful story if you haven’t already! You won’t regret it.


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ARC REVIEW: The Victim – by Max Manning

Title: The Victim
Author: Max Manning
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: June 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“Life is a game of lies, and death is the only truth. Time to play.”

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

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There was just something about the cover and its contrast that caught my eye when I first saw it, and as soon as I read the blurb I was sold. There is no doubt that the premise of The Victim is simply fascinating; a story where we follow two alternative storylines based on the decision of the main character Gem to fight or surrender during an attack in the first chapters. This is without doubt an unique concept and one that will also make you wonder what you would do yourself in a similar situation… And you will soon realize that there is a reason you won’t find solid advice on the matter, as there seems to be no clear correct answer as to what you should do as every perp and situation is unique. It was very interesting to see the consequences of both choices for Gem, not only the direct consequences but also how her life was changed afterwards.

Like I said, this concept of having two alternative storylines, one where Gem surrendered and one where Gem decided to fight, definitely makes for an unique read. I do have to say that things can get quite confusing as we not only have to keep apart two different versions of Gem’s story, but also what happens to other characters after her decision to fight or surrender. While at all times it is specified which storyline you are currently reading, it is kind of hard to keep track of which event belongs to what storyline and all that information might be a little too much to juggle at one time. I myself definitely wish I would have thought to take notes when I started reading, because it would have been easier to keep both versions apart that way. As you can imagine, this confusion and difficulty to separate and follow both alternative storylines did take away some of the reading pleasure for me. I can’t say I wasn’t a fan of the main characters either, and Gem started to frustrate me after a while… I did think that the suspect was an interesting character and I enjoyed finding out more about his past and motive. Did I think certain aspects of the plot and especially the ending were not all that credible? Yes. Did I end up having mixed thoughts about The Victim? Also yes. But I can’t deny it’s a very original concept and fans of the thriller genre will most likely find themselves intrigued.


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