YVO’S SHORTIES #126 – Coraline & Tunnel Of Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! October is Halloween month and this round of shorties features two Halloween inspired MG reads that are both excellent for getting you in the mood for Halloween. I’ve been meaning to read Coraline by Neil Gaiman for years now, and I’m happy to report it didn’t disappoint. And of course I couldn’t resist reading Victoria Schwab‘s newest title Tunnel Of Bones as it’s perfect for this month… This sequel is another brilliant read, but I didn’t expect any different.


Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Horror
First published: August 4th 2002
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: October 1st 2019
Pages: 162

“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then?”


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I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman‘s work for a while now, but somehow I never actually read Coraline despite having seen the movie… Until now. I thought this little book would be the perfect title to mark the start of the Halloween month with, and is without doubt a story that gives off the exact right creepy vibe. I like how the story makes you go in blind, and only starts revealing details about the alternative fantasy world as you get further into the story. This way, you discover the facts only when the main character Coraline does, and I’m sure middle graders will be able to relate to her easier this way. The writing is of the same high quality I’ve become used to of Neil Gaiman, and while it’s not my favorite story of his, I definitely had a great time discovering the story of Coraline. And with its spooky and eery vibe, it’s a perfect choice if you are looking for a quick and fun Halloween read!


Title: Tunnel Of Bones
(City Of Ghosts #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 3rd 2019
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: October 3rd 2019
Pages: 304

“Calling the Tuileries a garden is like calling Hogwarts a school. It’s technically correct, but the word really doesn’t do either one justice.”


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I think everyone probably knows by now I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab’s books, and I’ve loved every single book I tried so far. This middle grade series is no exception, and even with high expectations Tunnel Of Bones was just as good as I was hoping for. If you are looking like a fun, quick and fabulous Halloween story, you have just found your next read! Both City Of Ghosts and Tunnel Of Bones are perfect reads for this time of the year. In this sequel main character Cass and her parents travel to Paris to find more ghost stories and film another episode of their TV show. I really enjoyed the premise in the first book, and this same recipe is used more than successfully in the sequel. The main descriptions of the French setting are executed perfectly and make it feel as if you are right in the middle of Paris along with the main characters. I like how reality is mixed with fantasy and the paranormal, and how the lines are blurred between the two. The TV show, her parents hunting ghost stories and Cass knowing ghosts actually exists is a very strong base to build a story on! The idea of her near-death-experience and her being able to enter the so-called Veil and interact with ghosts is fascinating, and I loved the new twist in Tunnel Of Bones. Cass has to battle something new in this sequel, and I really enjoyed seeing the plot evolve. You will find paranormal elements, humor, friendship, a dose of forboding and a hint of danger, all sprinkled with that French je ne sais quoi that makes you love every single page of this story. Is it too soon to ask about the next book yet? I’m seriously addicted to this series.


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ARC REVIEW: Cradle To Grave – by Rachel Amplett #KayHunter @RachelAmphlett

Title: Cradle To Grave
(Detective Kay Hunter #8)

Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 6th 2019
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: September 24th 2019
Pages: 370

“Muted sunlight shone through the curtains at the windows, creating a gloom that hung in the air, malevolent and foreboding.”

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


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I’m starting to feel lost for words when it comes to reviewing this series… Why? Detective Kay Hunter has quickly grown into one of my favorite detective series and characters, and it’s getting hard expressing that love without sounding repetitive. This is one of those series that just keeps delivering, and every single book so far has been well written with intriguing plots, interesting and easy to like characters and just the right amount of suspense and plot twists. Kay Hunter is hands down one of my favorite detective characters and spending time catching up with her feels like wearing your favorite sweater or meeting up with an old friend. Cradle To Grave is already book number eight and by no means an exception to this rule. If you are a detective thriller fan and haven’t tried this series yet, you are most definitely missing out!

Crade To Grave is one of those books you will want to clear your schedule for, because you will most likely end up wanting to read it in one sitting. I was hooked as soon as I started reading, cancelled all plans and just kept reading until I reached that final page… Loving every single minute of the ride. While this story might work as a stand-alone quite easily as well, I personally suggest reading them in order so you can properly meet and get to know Kay and the rest. I really enjoy seeing them develop over time… Also, the little animal visitors Adam brings home always manage to make me laugh and bring some lightness to balance the darker themes. In Cradle To Grave we have a new case that, while initially seemingly simple, soon turns out to be another challenge for Kay and her team. A murder, a missing child and a whole web of secrets and lies just waiting to be uncovered… On top of that, a possible connection in a whole different country, oh la la! The plot in book number eight will definitely keep you on your toes and it will be really hard to guess the final reveals before they happen.

Twists and turns are used to keep the level of suspense steady as well as slowly building that tension towards the grand final… Combine this with excellent writing and main characters you will find yourself once again rooting for, and you won’t realize hours have passed until you read those final words. Cradle To Grave is of that same high quality I’ve become used to when it comes to this series, and I loved spending more time with my favorite team. If you are looking for a detective thriller series that keeps delivering, a plot that will keep you guessing until the very end or simply a very engaging and absorbing read, you will find all those things are covered in every single Detective Kay Hunter book. So go meet her if you haven’t already! Trust me, you won’t regret it…


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ARC REVIEW: Here To Stay – by Mark Edwards @amazonpub

Title: Here To Stay
Author: Mark Edwards
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: September 17th 2019
Pages: 370

“Maybe I couldn’t trust anyone.”

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

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Basically it was Meggy’s review that made me realize I just HAD to read Here To Stay. I’m so glad she first pointed me towards this book, as I have been meaning to try Mark Edwards‘ books for a while now and there is no doubt that this book was everything I hoped for and more. I basically felt uncomfortable and threatened during the whole book, feeling what the main character feels while also just wanting to shake him and tell him to ‘man up’ and do something about his situation. It’s hands down one of the most frustrating stories I’ve had the chance to read this year, but strangly enough this feeling only made me appreciate this story even more.

I’ve had my thoughts marinating for a few days now, and I still can’t wrap my head around just how brilliant the premise and its execution are. The main topic of Here To Stay involves what you can call everybody’s worst fear: meeting/marrying someone you love, only to discover in-laws from hell come with the package. I lucked out with mine, but I can’t even imagine what it would be like opening your door and seeing the Robinsons on your doorstep and having them invade your safe haven… The main character Elliot is an easy character to connect to and the perfect good guy, which only serves as a bigger contrast with the Robinsons. Dear oh dear, what can I say about them without giving too much away? Let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to have them living in the same town, let alone have them in my own home… They will have you pulling your hair and shouting out of sheer frustration sooner than later, and that uncomfortable feeling will never be far away. This negative feeling should have put me off reading Here To Stay, but somehow in this story it had the opposite effect and I couldn’t resist picking up my kindle again and again to discover how far the Robinsons would go. I have to say that making you hate characters so profoundly, and despite generating those feelings of intense frustration still being able to deliver us a story that is essentially irresistible, is without doubt a truly remarkable achievement.

The plot itself is complex and well constructed, slowly building up that suspense and tension until things are spinning out of control. Plot twists, secrets and the escalating situation are all working together to keep you on your toes and will make it very hard to stop reading before you discover how it will all end. This is despite the fact that this story will make you feel very uncomfortable and frustated, because there is no doubt that Here To Stay has that je ne sais quoi that turns this story into something special. The development of the characters is well handled and feels quite realistic despite the fact that things can be said about some aspects being a bit cliche. I also loved the history of the Robinsons and those chapters set abroad and set in the past… And the crime aspect of Here To Stay was such a surprising angle as well! I don’t want to give to much away, but there are so many elements incorporated into this story and somehow it all combines to create the perfect thriller cocktail. There is no doubt that Mark Edwards has a new fan!


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ARC REVIEW: Mala Vida – by Marc Fernandez

Title: Mala Vida
Author: Marc Fernandez
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2015
Publisher: Arcade
Finished reading: January 5th 2019
Pages: 240
(Originally written in French: ‘Mala Vida’)

“Franco is dead, but not the evil he brought into the world.”

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

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I’ve had an interest in Spanish history and especially the Franco period even before I picked it as my thesis subject. It’s easy to say that when I came across Mala Vida and read the blurb I was sold immediately. A story partially set in one of my favorite European cities and one I know closely: check. An intriguing historical background and mystery: check. A healthy dose of crime fiction, suspense and plot twists: check. Oh yes, while Mala Vida is mostly a contemporary crime thriller, it also included a historical element and a very intriguing and devastating one at that. This story was originally written in French back in 2015, and will be available in English next week. The translation works splendidly and I had a great time reading this story. The writing style made it easy to keep myself invested in the story; there are flashbacks, different point of views and plot twists that will keep you on edge until you have everything figured out. The setting was a huge bonus for me and I liked the inclusion of cultural elements to make the setting feel more authentic. The historical case discussed in Mala Vida is fascinating and I liked how we get multiple views on the topic through the different characters. Diego’s character is very interesting and I liked that he is a journalist. The same goes for the other main characters: each has their own personality, background and adds a little something unique to the story. All in all a very successful read for me!

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The radical right has just won the election after twelve years of Socialist rule in Spain, and things are about to change drastically. As the country is preparing itself to retrace its steps to the past, there are other things happening as well. A series of murders is committed in various cities in Spain, and there are no clues found as to who is behind them or why they were killed. There seems to be no obvious connection between them, but isn’t there? And that is not all either, because a national scandal is about to be revealed as well…

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If you like stories with an international setting that can offer a little something different and outside the box, you should definitely consider Mala Vida. Part legal thriller, part historical, part mystery and part crime fiction, this story is a mix of a lot of different elements and very well executed at that. I personally loved the Spanish setting, the diversity of the main characters and the story as a whole. The historical element is both well executed and shocking and will definitely leave a mark… A very interesting read and one I’m very glad I came across.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #71 – Big Little Lies & Outlander

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I have been meaning to read for a long time and finally decided to read in 2018. Both turned out to be more than pleasant surprises! Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.


Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: July 29th 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 23rd 2018
Pages: 460

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”


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I’ve been meaning to read another Liane Moriarty book for a long time, and I’m probably the last person on earth to finally pick up Big Little Lies. I kind of picked it up on a whim while browsing my kindle, and I definitely not regret making that decision. There is no doubt that Liane Moriarty knows how to write an intriguing mystery that goes out with a huge bang. I liked how she kept what happened that fatal night a secret in such a way that you don’t have a clue about the who or why until the final bombshell is dropped. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming! The plot is both intricate and well constructed and part of the reason this story is such a success. I liked the idea of following the three main characters is the weeks before the incident, especially since they are mixed with those police interview bits to keep you intrigued and curious about what happened. You will be on the edge of your seat until you find out all the details! I wasn’t sure about every character, but their development is without doubt very well done. Each character has its own background and problems, and while there were a few cliches involved, I could really appreciate the abuse angle and the necessary attention it brings to the fact it ‘can happen to anyone’. There is a lot of drama and some of it was a bit farfetched, but the ending definitely makes up for it. All in all Big Little Lies was a success for me and I’ll be looking forward to watching the TV adaptation.


Title: Outlander
(Outlander #1)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
First published: June 1st 1991
Publisher: Dell
Finished reading: December 28th 2018
Pages: 866

“Sometimes our best actions result in things that are most regrettable. And yet you could not have acted otherwise.”


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I have been meaning to read Outlander for years now, but both the sheer size of the books and the fact that I wasn’t sure the story would be for me made me hesitate for a long time. I don’t mind big books if they are good, but I feared there would be way too much romance involved for me to tolerate… But Outlander turned out to be the exception to that rule. Once I finally started reading and finished the first few chapters, I knew Outlander and me were going to get along just fine. All in all it took me about a week to finish it, which is not bad at all for such a beast of a book… And I had a surprisingly good time with it as well. Why surprisingly, would you say? Well, there are a lot of sexy scenes involved in Outlander, something that normally makes me drop a book like hot coals and discard it right away. They still made me cringe at points (adult content just isn’t for me ladies!), but the rest of the story was intriguing enough for me to tolerate them. The writing is excellent and the worldbuilding is sublime. I really felt like I were in Scotland myself along with the main characters; the descriptions of both the time period and surroundings extremely well done. The time travel aspect is also very interesting, especially since it comes back repeatedly in for example Claire’s profession as a nurse in the 20th century. I really liked Jamie as a character and while Claire can be exasperating at points, she does make for a good story. The story flowed well and managed to keep my attention all the way to the end. I’m definitely glad I finally give in and read Outlander, and I will be looking forward to read the sequel this year.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #64: An Officer And A Spy (DNF) & Educated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t manage to convince me. The first, An Officer And A Spy by Robbert Harris, sadly a DNF, something that rarely happens. And I had high hopes for Educated by Tara Westover after so many glowing reviews, but I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again.


Title: An Officer And A Spy
Author: Robert Harris

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 26th 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: November 12th 2018 
Pages: 429
DNF at 30% (129 pages)

“It seems to be a necessary part of the criminal mentality: to survive captivity, one must somehow convince oneself one is not guilty.”


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An Officer And A Spy is one of my TBR jar picks and a title I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I had been looking forward to it despite the mixed reviews, mostly because the setting sounded fascinating. I still think the setting on its own is very interesting and the general plot has a lot of potential. A possibly wrongly convicted officer, espionage, the threat of a war and other struggles definitely sound like a good recipe for a successful historical fiction read. Sadly, the execution of those elements in An Officer And A Spy just didn’t work for me. I have picked it up only to put it down again after only a few pages multiple times over the last few weeks. I’ve tried and tried to at least make it to the end to see if things improved later on, but in the end I decided to make the difficult decision to just DNF it. I hardly ever give up on a book, so it definitely makes me sad to do so… But between the superslow pace, writing style, too many descriptions and a lack of interest in both the plot and the characters, I think this was the right choice for me. An Officer And A Spy just never grabbed me and I was never able to stay interested in the story… It’s very possible this story simply wasn’t for me even though historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. A lot of readers did love it, so definitely don’t give up on it if you are thinking about reading it.


Title: Educated
Author: Tara Westover

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: November 14th 2018
Pages: 352

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occured to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”


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It’s unpopular opinion time again… You’ve been warned. 

I have been looking forward to finally read Educated for months now, especially after reading so many glowing reviews. This is probably one of the reasons my expectations might have been too high, that and the fact that this memoir has been compared to The Glass Castle. The fact is: I was quite underwhelmed by all of it. This was not what I was expecting, and I feel sad for feeling this way, but it is what it is… I’m going to try and explain the reasons why. First of all, I know that I’m a skeptical person, and I don’t tend to believe things easily just because they are written down on paper. I also had a hard time believing Tara Westover‘s story as it was written down. Please don’t tell me I’m implying she is a liar, which I’m not. I do believe that she wrote Educated based on her memories, memories that can have gotten distorted over time especially if her early life has been such a struggle. And I really had to take her story with a whole lot of grains of salt to be able to continue reading. Like I said, I’m not saying she hasn’t had a tough life, or that her family didn’t do what they did, just that I didn’t find her story as told credible. I mean, for a survivalist family living in the mountains they sure have a lot of luxuries including at some point even a phone, TV and internet (not talking about the enormous mansion they seem to be having in the end). Her family life definitely wasn’t standard, with them not even having a birth certificate for a long time, not going to school and working in the junkyard etc etc. But I would rather call it eccentric for the most part instead. Also, at one point she describes her father as bipolar, something that is never confirmed as the same disease prevents him getting a medical diagnose. Still, I would have liked to have seen this angle developed further rather than just throwing the ‘bipolar’ word out and leave it at that. Another thing that bothered me were the many many serious accidents, a few life threatening, and somehow they are all healed with essential oils and other herbal cures? I do believe in holistic treatments along with medical care, but this is just getting too hard to believe. (I’m not saying they weren’t injured, just that the injuries maybe weren’t as bad as they remembered?) Anyhow, this reckless behavior and indifference towards general safety of others and the ‘miracle’ recoveries were just too much for the skeptical person in me to handle. Another thing I found hard to believe? Where all the money came from. First we are told they are poor, then money starts popping up everywhere somehow. I can get why her childhood chapters are a bit vague about money, but how on earth did she get the money together to get into a prestigious college and university? I know there are grants, but they don’t cover it all and it is a LOT of money we are talking about and very prestigious and expensive education. I mean, she goes to the UK and studies abroad for a long time? And then travels back and forth between the US and the UK multiple times? The flights alone cost a fortune, and surely aren’t covered by grants. A real mystery to me. There is also the question how she got into college in the first place, especially since she was never really educated at home in the first place. Somehow being able to get a superhigh score just by teaching herself advanced math and everything else in the test just doesn’t come over as credible to the skeptical me. Maybe she had a higher level of education than stated in the memoir before she started preparing herself for the test? I don’t know, but as it is Educated wasn’t at all credible to me. I’m not saying her being able to get her degrees isn’t admirable, and I’m sure she’s had a hard life especially with her despicable brother Shawn (I’m not even going into the abuse and her brother here, or we could still be talking tomorrow), but sadly her memoir wasn’t able to convince me.


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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
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“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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