YVO’S SHORTIES #83 – The Bitter Kingdom & Friend Request

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two books I ended up enjoying. The series conclusion The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson and the psychological thriller Friend Request by Laura Marshall.


Title: The Bitter Kingdom
(Fire And Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: April 14th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: February 6th 2019
Pages: 490

“It’s the highest art form, deceiving without lying. A word is the only thing in the world made more powerful by absence than existence.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books yet. You’ve been warned…

I first started this series back in 2015, and it took me a long time before I finally continued it… Not because I didn’t enjoy the first book, but simply because other books got in the way. I finally read the novellas last year, and after reading the second book last month I was determined to read the third and final book ASAP so I could finish the series while memories were still fresh. I’m without doubt glad I picked up the final book, because The Bitter Kingdom definitely made this series end on a high note! I’m not sure if it is my new favorite, but I’m happy to say that all three Fire And Thorns books stay consistently strong and the final book doesn’t disappoint at all. Why was The Bitter Kingdom such a success for me? First of all, I could really appreciate the chapters from Hector’s POV. They were both refreshing and definitely a welcome addition to the story! I also liked how we finally get to learn more about Inverno and see more of that part of the world… The high fantasy worldbuilding is one of the best features of this series and it’s always great to see it expand. The writing is engaging and it makes it really easy to just keep turning the pages. The plot itself isn’t all that complicated, but offers enough action and a romance that will warm your heart instead of annoy you. The end did feel a bit too easy, but overall it does provide closure for this series and its character. I really enjoyed my time with this trilogy and can highly recommend it to fans of the genre.


Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 9th 2017
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 384

“I’m in a hall of mirrors, full of distorted reflections and false endings. I’ve lost track of which way I came in and I have no idea how to get out.”


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I recently bought a copy of Friend Request on a whim after remembering it being mentioned various times back when it was first published, and I couldn’t resist picking it up when I was in the mood for the genre. There is no doubt that Friend Request was a very entertaining psychological thriller with a few twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. The story starts slow and it takes a while for the pace to pick up. Basically, the first half has more of a character driven slower psychological thriller, while the second half is more of a suspenseful crime thriller with a fast pace and quite a lot of action. This made the story feel a bit unbalanced, but the second half made the story that much more thrilling. I mentioned twists I didn’t see coming, and this was definitely true, but I cannot help but wonder if some weren’t a bit too farfetched and dark compared to how the story first started? I do love my surprises though, so I’m a bit on the fence about how to feel about all this. I personally preferred the chapters set in 2016 over those in 1989, mostly because I’m not a real fan of high school drama and bullying. That said, both timelines seem well developed and help creating the suspense and intrigue around Maria and what is happening to Louise in the present. As for Louise: she can be quite annoying and I don’t understand some of her decisions, but her character with all its flaws does feel convincingly realistic. The mystery around what happened to Maria in 1989 and who is behind the messages in 2016 will definitely keep you intrigued until you find out the truth… And it will be hard to see that final twist coming. All in all Friend Request was still a very entertaining read despite the flaws I mentioned.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #73 – The Kiss Quotient & The Crown Of Embers

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Time for my first 2019 reads and first two Beat The Backlist titles! The Kiss Quotient has been recommended to me various times and I should have investigated better before starting it, because there was an overload of sexy scenes involved and that made this story into something that is definitely not for me. The Crown Of Embers turned out to be an interesting sequel even though I wish there would have been less romance…


Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 30th 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: January 2nd 2019
Pages: 336

“At her core, she would always be autistic. People called it a disorder, but it didn’t feel like one. To her, it was simply the way she was.”


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Dear The Kiss Quotient, it’s not you, it’s me. I should have known better than to pick you up even though contemporary romance isn’t really my thing. I should have investigated better and discovered you were filled to the brim with sexy scenes, because it would have avoided both of us a lot of pain. Oh yes, for someone allergic to adult content and sexy scenes, The Kiss Quotient is 200% the wrong book to go for. Kind of late for that now, isn’t it? Oh well… I guess I have only myself to blame for this. Even though this story was definitely not for me, I can definitely understand why there is so much love for it. Contemporary romance fans are probably in heaven with this book, because there is one thing I can’t deny: Helen Hoang knows how to write. And not only the writing style is very engaging, but the character development is simply spot on. As much as I hated all those steamy scenes, it was due to main characters Stella and Michael I made it to the very end of this story. Stella is unique, quirky and simply brilliant as a main character. I love how realistic her Asperger’s is described and incorporated in the story (it shows that the author used personal experiences) and how it shines a light on autism as a whole. Michael has his own personality, history and problems and I really liked those family dynamics combined with Stella and their story. Were there a lot of cliches and typical romance tropes involved? Yes. Will your glasses (if you use them) get all steamed up while you read The Kiss Quotient? You bet. But if you love the genre, you will fall in love with this story as well.


Title: The Crown Of Embers
(Fire And Thorns #2)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 18th 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: January 4th 2019
Pages: 416

“I lie awake for a long time, wondering which would be more foolish, to prepare for something that may never happen, or not to prepare for something that might.”


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I read the first Fire And Thorns book back in 2015 and even though I enjoyed it, I somehow never picked up the sequel. I read the novellas last year, and thought it was about time to finally finish the last two books this year as well. First up is book number two The Crown Of Embers. I admit I had forgotten about a lot of details of the first book and it took a little time to adjust, but I was able to pick up the thread easily enough after a few chapters. The first thing that stands out in this series is the detailed and wonderful worldbuilding. I loved the inclusion of many references to Spanish names and words and the way the world is constructed. It’s a very interesting high fantasy world and we get to see a lot of it in the sequel. This series has a religious angle, but handled in just the right way that it doesn’t become too present for those who are like me agnostic. The writing style is engaging and makes it easy to keep reading those pages until you reach the last page. I wasn’t sure about every character; some can get annoying, and I could have done without the romance cliches and love triangle, but overall the story does deliver. The quest the main characters go on in The Crown Of Embers is an intriguing one, and it definitely ends with a mayor cliffhanger. I’m looking forward how things will continue in the final book!


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

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


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

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

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


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


Title: Radiance Of Tomorrow
Author: Ishmael Beah

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

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


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


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YVO’S SHORTIES #49 – The Shattered Mountain & The Ballroom

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a novella and a historical fiction read. The Shattered Mountain was a short and interesting addition to the Fire And Thorns series. And I had great hopes for The Ballroom, especially since the setting is fascinating, but the story fell flat for me.


Title: The Shattered Mountain
(Fire And Thorns #0.6)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 26th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 15th 2018
Pages: 106

“Maybe a large, single dose of pain now is better than the slow, burning pain of withering hope.”


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I read the first Fire And Thorns novella earlier this month, and then decided to try and read the other two as well before continuing with the sequel. There is no doubt that this second novella is a lot stronger than the first one. I think this has a lot to do with the main character of this short story, which is quite easy to like and root for. Mara is a very interesting and strong character and she does some amazing things along with the other characters. The romance in The Shattered Mountain didn’t bother me one bit even though some cliches were involved. I think this mostly has to do with the fact there is a lot of focus on the dire situation the group is in instead as well as the worldbuilding of this high fantasy story. The writing is solid and makes it easy to fly through the pages… This novella is definitely worth your time if you enjoy the series.


Title: The Ballroom
Author: Anna Hope

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: February 11th 2016
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Finished reading: September 17th 2018
Pages: 320

“Free. This small hard word that felt so cold. Could you live inside a word like that?”


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I first added The Ballroom to my TBR because of the cover as well as the promise of a fascinating historical setting and a mental health angle. It took me longer than planned to get to it, but the readathon was an excellent excuse to finally do so. There is no doubt that this historical fiction read set in a 1911 asylum has a very interesting premise and a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the story sort of fell flat for me… Part of this feeling has to do with the fact that the pace was considerably slow and it took me a lot longer than expected to read this story. The focus was on the characters and their development, but sadly there was nothing much for me to keep me focused to them or create a proper connection; instead I was mostly left both just wanting to get it over it and wanting the story to deliver something more. The fact that Charles is a very unlikeable character doesn’t really help either. Because as always with character-driven stories, being able to connect to the main characters is key. Surprisingly though, the romance in this story didn’t bother me that much. Fans of slower paced and character-driven historical fiction reads with an interesting setting and a Shakespearean love story will have a great time reading The Ballroom.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #40 – Uprooted & The Shadow Cats

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two YA Fantasy reads that didn’t really convince me in the end… The first Uprooted, started out excellent but more and more things started to disappoint me. The second, The Shadow Cats, was short and the writing was solid, but the characters mostly let me down.


Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Del Rey
Finished reading: August 19th 2018
Pages: 465

“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”


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I’ve been wanting to read Uprooted for years, but it was one of those titles that somehow escaped the top of my TBR pile every time and I kept posponing it. But no longer… I finally picked up my copy of Uprooted thinking it was going to be a dragon story, but I definitely didn’t remember the facts right. This isn’t a story about the mythical dragon, although there are other creatures involved. Was this a disappointment? Maybe, because I do love my dragon stories, but between the writing style, interesting worldbuilding and magic it was easy to forget all about that. Initially, I really enjoyed this story and I was positive it would receive a really high rating. The writing style is just wonderful, the worldbuilding is intriguing, I loved the many references to the Polish culture and Agnieszka’s character has an interesting background. I liked seeing the magic evolve and even tolerated the Dragon. But why o why does this story have to be destroyed by unnecessary and disturbing romance?!?! Seriously, I don’t understand the why of the introduction of this element, especially since it’s abrupt and doesn’t really make sense. Also, there was one x-rated scene that I found really unfit for a YA book. The romance alone made me lower the rating considerably, but that wasn’t the only thing that bothered me. The pace was quite slow at points, making the story drag. Especially when Agnieszka is in the capital… And her character in general, with the repeated descriptions of her clumsiness and ragged appearance, really started to get on my nerves. Still, with the wonderful writing and the interesting worldbuilding, I’m glad I had the chance to get to know this story.


Title: The Shadow Cats
(Fire And Thorns #0.5)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 17th 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: August 20th 2018
Pages: 54

“It’s a beautiful weed,” Elisa answers. “And the perfect flower for you to carry, for it is like the people of Khelia, strong and unstoppable, capable of blooming and thriving where nothing else can grow.”


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I really enjoyed the first book despite a few little problems I encountered back in 2015, but somehow I never picked up the sequels. I was going to read book two originally, but then remembered I had a copy of the novellas as well, so I decided to read those first. The Shadow Cats is actually a prequel to the first book and focuses more on Elisa’s older sister Alodia. I never really liked her, but if possible she comes over as even worse in this novella. Arrogant, aloof and speaking horribly about her sister… Yes, there isn’t a lot to love about her. And what about her running off alone?? Elisa was quite annoying as well, with her answer to everything being she needs to pray more. I did really like Lupita’s character though. The writing is solid as well and I loved the use of many Spanish words, both in names and other descriptions. Very creative!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Of Fire And Thorns – by Rae Carson

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Title: The Girl Of Fire And Thorns
(Fire And Thorns #1)
Author: Rae Carson
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Religion
First published: September 20th 2011
Finished reading: October 15th 2015
Pages: 423
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God’s will. How many times have I heard someone declare their understanding of this thing I find so indefinable?”

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I’ve had a copy of The Girl Of Fire And Thorns collecting dust on my shelves for quite some time already and someone recommended it to me not that long ago, so I decided to pick it up. It was without doubt a very enjoyable read! Rae Carson writes in a way that sucks you immediately into the story and combined with a fast pace I was able to finish this read almost in one sitting. I was actually thinking of giving it an even higher rating, but decided not to because I there were a few things I wasn’t completely happy with. I do not consider myself to be a very religious person and although I normally don’t mind religion in stories (as long as it is not preaching), the many religious references in The Girl Of Fire And Thorns did start to bother me a little. Although they do make sense in the story, with the main character Elisa being chosen by God to be the bearer of the godstone and all… But sometimes I had the feeling Elisa was relying on her prayers a bit too much. Still, I more than enjoyed this story. The worldbuilding is very well done, the plot is interesting and the prose easy to read. I would have liked to see some of the characters developed more, but hopefully that will happen in the sequel…

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When a godstone appears in princess Elisa’s navel, everybody knows she has been chosen for greatness. Only once a century, God picks his chosen one and marks them with a godstone, giving them powers to fight magic. But Elisa doesn’t feel so special herself, having done nothing remarkable during the first fifteen years of her life and her perfect older sister to compare herself to. On her sixteenth birthday, she is married off to a king of another country. He seems to be in need of the chosen one to save his country, but what he doesn’t know is that Elisa doesn’t even feel comfortable in her own skin… And Elisa doesn’t realize she is is danger herself. King Alejandro wasn’t the only one looking for the bearer of the godstone, and soon Elisa will have to find a way to use her inner strenght to save both herself and the ones she cares for. Will the prophecy be fulfilled?

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The Girl Of Fire And Thorns is a fast and entertaining read full of action with an interesting worldbuilding. There are quite a few religious references, so if those bother you it is best not to pick up this novel by Rae Carson. Other than that, this novel is more than recommended if you are looking for a solid YA fantasy read. This is definitely a series I will have to continue soon!