YVO’S SHORTIES #104 – And The Ocean Was Our Sky & The Thirteenth Tale

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories belonging to completely different genres, but both were excellent reads. And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness has the most beautiful illustrations and a very interesting retelling of the Moby Dick classic. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield might have a slow pace, but the story itself is one that will stay with me for quite some time.


Title: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: September 4th 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: May 30th 2019
Pages: 160

“Here is the truth behind the myth: all men are Toby Wick. For who needs devils when you have men?”


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I’ve been excited about this title ever since it was published last year, especially since I kept seeing photos of the illustrations and they looked absolutely gorgeous. Now I’ve had the chance to read And The Ocean Was Our Sky, I still believe the illustrations are the true power behind the story. They really take the writing to the next level and turn this story into something special; it wouldn’t have been the same without them. As for the story itself: I admit things can get a bit confusing and sometimes it felt more magical realism than a fantasy retelling, but overall I really liked how Patrick Ness turned the original Moby Dick story into something completely new and original. The idea of the whales and men both roaming the seas and hunting each other is fascinating. Even more intriguing is that the main focus is on the whales, and their world is basically upside down. Bathsheba is a very interesting character and basically the one to challenge the world as they know it and also the one trying to understand men instead of just trying to fight them. Not much is told about Toby Wick, adding to his mystery and myth while also adding intrigue to the story. And The Ocean Was Our Sky is without doubt a story you won’t come across every day and it might not be for everyone, but there is one thing for sure: the illustrations are absolutely wonderful.


Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 12th 2006
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 31st 2019
Pages: 416

“A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else’s story.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up The Thirteenth Tale for years now, but it was simply one of those titles that kept slipping between the cracks of my enormous TBR mountain… I’m glad I was finally able to dig it out and read it though. It was my first experience with Diane Setterfield‘s work and I already know it won’t be my last. What a wonderful and atmospheric way of describing the setting and characters! The Thirteenth Tale has that gothic feel and the fact that you don’t know exactly when the story is set makes it all the more intriguing. A lot of speculation about the time period can be found on the internet, but there seems to be no clear winner and I like how it leaves the answer wide open for each reader to decide on their own. It’s true that the pace can be considerably slow at points and there are parts where nothing much is happening, but the power of The Thirteenth Tale is in the different characters, their development and their role in the story of famous author Vida Winter. Both the Angelfield house and family give off that creepy and gothic vibe and there are some moments that will make your hair stand on end. I like how Margaret not just believes everything Vida Winter tells her (especially with her history of lying), but instead starts her own investigation as well. Past and present are mixed and fully intertwined in such a way that the separation becomes liquid and all characters fully come alive. The Thirteenth Tale has secrets, twists and turns to reveal and some you definitely won’t see coming. But like I said before, the power behind this story is in the characters and fantastic descriptions, and fans of slower, atmospheric and character-driven historical fiction will love The Thirteenth Tale. Bonus: there are a lot of bookish references to be found including classics like Jane Eyre!


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ARC REVIEW: Daughters Of The Lake – by Wendy Webb

Title: Daughters Of The Lake
Author: Wendy Webb
Genre: Mystery, Gothic, Paranormal
First published: November 1st 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: November 9th 2018
Pages: 317

“But some stories, especially peculiar, hidden ones involving murder and mystery, have a way of bubbling to the surface, especially when wrongs need to be righted.”

*** 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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Between the cover and blurb I was fully intrigued when I first saw Daughters Of The Lake, the promise of a century old mystery connected with the present a big selling point. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Daughers Of The Lake isn’t just another mystery story with a dual timeline. No, this story has a lot more to offer. A hint of paranormal with a haunted house and ghost and a touch of supernatural with the lake and its folk tale stories; both adding a very original touch to the story and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. Daughters Of The Lake mostly reads like a paranormal gothic romance story, with the romance scenes being very well balanced out with the mystery and intrigue of the past. We have a love triangle, and we have cheating, but somehow I wasn’t as bothered by those tropes as they weren’t the main focus of the story. This perfect balance between the different elements makes it really easy to emerge yourself fully in the story and enjoy the ride. The characters are well developed and even though a few cliches are involved, they were easy to like. Especially Simon and Addie will win over your heart in record time. The writing is also beautiful and really flowed; I really liked the descriptions of both characters and setting. While the setting in Daughters Of The Lake is fictional, it shows that it’s based on real memories as it almost feels as if you were visiting those places yourself. I loved the idea of the lake folk tale and all it entails… The paranormal element and Kate’s dreams are  intriguing without it going over the top and becoming too much. It was fascinating finding out more about the past and it was great to see how things developed in the present as well. Daughters Of The Lake was without doubt a wonderful read that is worth your time.

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After a painful discovery that made Kate Granger realize her marriage is now over, she moved back in with her parents on Lake Superior to think about her future. But fate has different plans for her in store, as a body of a murdered woman is found near her parents’ home. Nobody can identify the woman, except for Kate… She has seen her before in her dreams. And somehow she knew the woman whould have a baby with her. Her reaction turns her into an instant suspect, especially since she can’t exactly tell the police she recognized the woman from her dreams. Kate is determined to find out who she is and what happened to her, especially since her dreams seem to become more intense.

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Daughters Of The Lake is a wonderfully written paranormal romance and mystery story with a gothic feel. What at first glance seems to be a simply mystery and historical crime with a dual timeline turns out to be so much more, giving you a rich and original plot to savour. I especially loved the folk tale elements, and the paranormal touch is well constructed as well. The balance between all those different elements is spot on, and with easy to like characters you will have an excellent time discovering more about the past and how it affects the present. Recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #1: Still Life With Tornado & We Have Always Lived In The Castle


Say hello to a new feature on It’s All About Books! As you all probably already know, I’ve been fighting with a rather stubborn reading and blogging slump during the last few months and it’s been a real struggle… I managed to get more or less back to reading, but as the pending book reviews started piling up the whole ‘getting back to blogging’ was getting more and more difficult to achieve. Currently the list of pending reviews is about twenty books long and while I know I don’t HAVE to review every book, I feel bad if I not at least mention a few things about each one. Hence, Yvo’s Shorties was born. Similar to my normal reviews, but with a 2×1 book bonus in each post that includes my rambles about both.

Let’s get started with the first edition! *drumroll*

Featuring Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King and We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson


Title: Still Life With Tornado
Author: A.S. King

Genre: YA, Magical Realism, Contemporary
First published: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: December 14th 2017
Pages: 295

“I put out my umbrella and open it. There is a tornado of bullshit in our house. When it’s over, we will be okay.”

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This book has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, but the blurb sounded fascinating and I just couldn’t resist giving it a go. Fact: magical realism and me don’t always get along all that well. It’s a peculiar genre that either works for you or doesn’t, and for me it really depends on the execution if I’m able to enjoy the magical realism elements. Unfortunately in the case of Still Life Of Tornado I wasn’t convinced. First of all and more importantly, I really didn’t like the writing style, tone or main character (or other characters for that matter) and this hugely impacted my reading experience. I’m not saying the writing style is bad, but it’s definitely one that isn’t for everyone. The lack of connection to the characters and my struggles with the writing style made it hard for me to keep myself focused on the story, but that wasn’t all. Honestly, I felt that nothing really made sense to me at all and my eyebrows worked overtime while I was reading Still Life With Tornado. Magical realism or not, this book is definitely not my cup of tea. Still, I also feel the right person could really enjoy this quirky story.


Title: We Have Always Lived In The Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Gothic
First published: 1962
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 22nd 2017
Pages: 146

“I remember that I stood on the library steps holding my books and looking for a minute at the soft hinted green in the branches against the sky and wishing, as I always did, that I could walk home across the sky instead of through the village.”

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I have been wanting to read this modern classic for ages now, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up my copy of We Have Always Lived In The Castle. I truly had the feeling this was going to be another new favorite classic, so I was really surprised when I ended up having a completely different reading experience instead. I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up We Have Always Lived In The Castle, but it definitely wasn’t what I found when I started reading. Because honestly, nothing much really happens during all those pages. The promise of suspense is there, and the mystery around what happened at the Blackwood estate, but those promises didn’t come true. Instead, I found it a rather dull story about two quirky sisters living isolated in a mansion, and I was almost bored while I was kept waiting with my fingers crossed and hoping to see something would actually happen. I’m not sure what to think of the ending either… The writing was interesting and I can see why it has turned into a modern classic, but personally I was quite disappointed with what I found. Fans of slowpaced, mostly character-driven stories will probably enjoy this story a lot more though.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow – by Washington Irving

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Title: The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow
Author: Washington Irving
Genre: Horror, Classics, Fantasy, Gothic
First published: 1820
Finished reading: October 3rd 2014
Pages: 96
Rating 3

“I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration.”

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The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow has been on my TBR pile for quite some time now. After seeing the trailer of the TV series with the same name the other day, I thought it was about time to read this classic novel written by Washington Irving. I’m not sure why I’ve never read this or why they didn’t make it into an obligatory read during high school… Irving seems to have been inspired by the Dutch culture after all. I must say I didn’t really like the story. I guess I was expecting something way more creepy when I decided to read this short story. I definitely didn’t expect it to be an almost boring story full of dense prose and long descriptions. I understand The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow was written back in 1820 and while this explains the language he used, I just couldn’t enjoy this story as much as I would have expected. But then again I was really in the mood for a serious dose of horror, and that exactly what this story doesn’t deliver…

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The Sleepy Hollow is a village set in the beautiful countryside and is said to be hounted by ghosts. One of the most famous ghosts is the Headless Horseman, who is said to be patrolling the country on his horse. Ichabod works as a teacher and lives of the kindness of his students’ parents. He soon falls in love with the daughter of the Van Tassels, but he isn’t the only one… The very imposing Brom Bones is trying to win her heart as well. At a party where both men are invited, they all start telling ghost stories. Brom tries to convince everyone he has actually seen the Headless Horseman, challenged him and won the race. Ichabod finally leaves the party understanding he cannot win the battle, but as he tries to go back to the village he comes to realize the ghost stories turned out to be true…

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I probably decided to read this story at the wrong moment. The descriptions are actually quite beautifully done and make you feel as though you were visiting the countryside and its people yourself. I liked the many references to the Dutch culture and food and I totally agree with Irving that the desserts are the best part of the Dutch kitchen (and I guess that’s what I miss most after spending various years abroad; hmm stroopwafels). What I don’t understand is that this is supposed to be a horror story. I couldn’t find any truly spooky moments and the Headless Horseman didn’t seem scary at all from the descriptions Irving used. I guess that is mostly what made me feel disappointed with this story, although I still recommend it to those who enjoy beautiful prose of historical value.

BOOK REVIEW: Dracula – by Bram Stoker

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Title: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Genre: Classics, Horror, Gothic
First published: August 17th 1879
Finished reading: July 21st 2014
Pages: 512
Rating 3,5

“But there are things old and new which must not be contemplated by men’s eye, because they know, or think they know, some things which other men have told them. Ah. it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all, and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”

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When I first started reading Dracula, I was like yes, yes, YES! The first part where we read the diary of Jonathan Harker and he meets Count Dracula in Transilvania is brilliant. But; and there comes the big but: when the scenes moved to Whitby the story slowed down drastically. The diaries of Mina and Lucy I found dreadfully close to boring… Luckily after a hundred pages or so the storytelling improved and the last part of the book sure is interesting. Nothing better than a good old-fashioned vampire hunt to spice up the story! Although the novel was published 135 years ago, the story wasn’t that difficult to follow and I have to say I definitely prefer Stoker‘s version of Count Dracula over the ‘fake’ vampires books are based on nowadays. Go Count Dracula!

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Jonathan Harker has to travel to Transylvania for business; he is asked to help Count Dracula buying a house in London. He doesn’t know Dracula is hiding a terrible secret, but slowly he makes some horrifying discoveries about what is really going on in the Count’s castle. Dracula doesn’t seem to eat, he is never around during the day and the castle seems deserted… And Jonathan soon realizes he is trapped within the castle. After an encounter with three very terrifying ladies, he is certain to know his days are numbered. But in the end somehow Jonathan makes it back to England anyway.

We meet the ladies Mina and Lucy, who are close friends, through their letters and diaries. Mina is the girlfriend and soon-to-be wife of Jonathan, and Lucy is being courted by three different men. Soon strange things start to happen in the small town they live and that goes under the name Whitby. First a ship crashed but was found to be unmanned… Then Lucy becomes ill and strange puncture marks are found on her neck. Lucy had already chosen her husband-to-be, but all three men are determined to help her fight her disease. They even ask for the help of the Dutch doctor Van Helsing, who turns out to be an expert in the curious and the unexplained. He soon has his theory but as it seems all help comes too late…

Poor Lucy became a victim of Count Dracula, and he is now trying to make himself comfortable living in a new country.  But the men are determined to fight this monster and soon start a true vampire chase weaponed with garlic, stakes and what more. They realize they have to put haste behind this search, because poor Mina is starting to have symptoms as well. But the Count is fleeing England, and finding him isn’t as easy as it seems. Their hunt brings the group back to Transylvania, the home country of Dracula and the place the final battle will take place…

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In general I really enjoyed reading this classic by Bram Stoker and I would definitely recommend it to those who love reading gothic classics and want to know how vampires originally were like. Like I said before: Go Count Dracula!