YVO’S SHORTIES #108 – Dear Evan Hansen & The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two contemporary reads… Sadly Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich failed to blow me away, but The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen completely won over my heart. It’s a must-read for fans of A Man Called Ove!!


Title: Dear Evan Hansen
Author: Val Emmich

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 9th 2018
Publisher: Poppy
Finished reading: June 17th 2019 
Pages: 352

“Fantasies always sound good, but they’re no help when reality comes and shoves you to the ground.”


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I’ve had Dear Evan Hansen on my radar for a while and decided to pick it up on a whim while browsing my kindle for contemporary titles. I initially thought it was going to be a great title for Pride month, but I guess I remembered the facts wrong as the LGBT element hardly plays a role in Dear Evan Hansen. Instead, the focus is on the main character and his mental health issues and anxiety. I’m always interested in stories with that angle, so I didn’t mind that much at first, but I’m not sure I actually like the execution here. Why? Well, I felt there was just too much focus on Evan’s mental problems as a personality trait and I didn’t feel his character was all that developed otherwise; making him essentionally one dimensional and not at all easy to connect to. I understand social awkwardness and anxiety on a personal level, and I don’t feel that Evan was necesarity a realistic and thorough representation of this. He almost felt like a cartoon of himself; his mental issues used as a way to ‘spice up’ the plot and create new plot angles. And to be honest I’m not sure what to think about that. I wasn’t a fan of the plot itself either; I found it rather tasteless to be honest and quite unrealistic as well. The writing wasn’t bad and the story reads fast generally, although I wasn’t happy with the tone sometimes. I do have to confess I have never seen the Broadway show, and this might have had an influence on my reading experience? I’m not sure, but what I do know that this story definitely wasn’t for me. I seem to be in the minority though, so definitely give it a shot if you think you would enjoy it!


Title: The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen
(Hendrik Groen #1)
Author: Hendrik Groen

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: June 1st 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: June 18th 2019
Pages: 400
(Originally written in Dutch: ‘Pogingen Iets Van Het Leven Te Maken’)

“Loneliness can sometimes feel even worse when you’re with other people.”


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As soon as I read the blurb of The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen for the first time two years ago, I knew I HAD to read it. There was just something about the story that made me think of grumpy Ove in A Man Called Ove, one of my all time favorite characters and stories, so there was just no way I was going to pass up on this read. The book is actually a translation of an originally Dutch publication, and the funny part is that for a long time it wasn’t sure who exactly was behind this little masterpiece. Yes, The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen was written under a pseudonym and the author didn’t want his identity to be revealed… Which means that we sadly won’t be able to meet the infamous Hendrik Groen in person. And how would I have loved to do that! I have a feeling Ove and Hendrik would have been great friends and I fell in love with his character right away. The slight grumpiness, the sarcastic humor, his attitude towards the world, the Old But Not Dead club in general… Everything just clicked perfectly and I had a blast reading about their adventures. The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen is exactly that: a diary. The story is told through (almost) daily entries in Hendrik Groen’s diary, and through his diary we get to learn more about both himself, the care home and its inhabitants, the care system and Dutch politics/key events in 2013 and last but not least the members of the Old But Not Dead club. I loved the idea behind this club and how Hendrik and his friends decided to keep enjoying life while they still can. The outings were fun to read about and I really loved seeing both their characters and their bond develop over time. The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen isn’t all fun and there are a few sad moments included that will most likely make your eyes water. And the ending most definitely left me wanting more more… Hendrik Groen is without doubt a character that will stay with me for a long time! Funny, entertaining and heartfelt: fans of strong main characters, sarcastic humor and A Man Called Ove should consider The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen a must-read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #101 – The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall & Trouble Makes A Comeback

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition with a TBR jar pick and a title I picked up for a challenge. Both had some positive and negative elements, although I did enjoy Katie Alender’The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall better than Stephanie Tromly‘s sequel Trouble Makes A Comeback.


Title: The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Point
Finished reading: May 13th 2019 
Pages: 329

“Of all the things I would have guessed about being dead, I definitely didn’t expect that it would sometimes feel exactly like high school.”


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I’ve enjoyed Katie Alender‘s books in the past so I was excited when my TBR jar thought it was time to pick up this title. I admit I was expecting something a little more creepy than what I ended up with. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t save it for the Halloween month now… It’s true that there are elements of suspense and there are some creepy moments and secrets hidden in Hysteria Hall, but overall I found the majority of them to be cliche. And this took away most of the scary factor… There are a lot of cliches involved in general, related to both ghosts, family drama and even a love triangle. Oh yes, even when the main character is dead we don’t escape the dreaded love triangle! This wasn’t even my main concern with Delia though. I didn’t find her strong enough as a main character to carry the story; for example Maria came over as a considerably more interesting character to follow. There was a lot of potential to make this story more disturbing; I think most will agree a haunted and abandoned asylum is the perfect eery setting for a horror story. But The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall took a different turn and instead mellowed things down considerably. On the other hand this was still quite a fun and fast read! Just don’t expect to be scared away, as for a haunted asylum story it’s surprisingly light on the horror.


Title: Trouble Makes A Comeback
(Trouble #2)
Author: Stephanie Tromly

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: May 14th 2019
Pages: 304

“Forgetting about the bad times… that isn’t happiness. That’s amnesia.”


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I picked up this title mostly on a whim as I needed a change of genre and this title fits one of the prompts for the BTB Bingo challenge. It’s been a while since I read the first book, so I had totally forgotten about my issues with the first book… It turns out I ended up having the exact same issues with the sequel and I should I have checked my previous review better before deciding to read Trouble Makes A Comeback. I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. It’s true that the story reads superfast and there are entertaining parts. BUT. I had huge doubts about the credibility of it all and the fact that you are constantly reminded of THE love triangle is beyond annoying. In fact, it’s more than a triangle; a square maybe? Anyhow, this story is packed with high school and romance cliches and between those and the lack of credibility of the plot I had a lot of eyebrow raising going on. As for the characters… While I can appreciate a bit of dry humor, I felt like the characters (and the story for that matter) were trying too hard to be funny and it kind of had the opposite effect on me. Between the cliches around the different characters and the love triangle overshadowing any hope of an interesting and edgy plot, I don’t think me and this series are ment to be. Contemporary romance fans who like their stories with a hint of mystery will probably have a better time with Trouble Makes A Comeback though.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #81 – Two Can Keep A Secret & The Big Sleep

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a most-anticipated 2019 release and a classic I had never heard about before ‘finding’ a copy out in the wild. Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus turned out to be a success, while The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler failed to blow me away… Although I’m guessing I’m the wrong target group here despite my love for the genre.


Title: Two Can Keep A Secret
Author: Karen M. McManus

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 8th 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: January 30th 2019
Pages: 336

“There is something deeply, fundamentally satisfying about confronting a monster and escaping unscathed.”


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I have been looking forward to read more of Karen M. McManus ever since loving her debut in 2017. It’s easy to say that Two Can Keep A Secret was one of my most anticipated 2019 releases and this story definitely didn’t disappoint. While I think I found her debut to be slightly stronger, this doesn’t mean that I enjoyed this new story any less. I literally finished it in less than 24 hours and there is one thing for sure: she was able to surprise me completely with the ending. I had my suspicions, I had my doubts, but I’m so happy to admit I turned out to be wrong! I always love this feeling when it comes to murder mysteries, because it doesn’t happen all that often anymore. Two Can Keep A Secret is told from the POV of Ellery and Malcolm. Both play a key role in this story, the plot and the many twists, lies and secrets that surround Echo Ridge, and it has been interesting seeing their characters develop and react to the circumstances. Both characters are also easy to warm up to, along with Mia and Ezra as they try to figure out what is going on. The plot is well crafted and while a bit simple at times, I think the twists are well handled and work perfectly to put you on the wrong track. I had a blast reading this story and I can definitely recommend it to fans of the genre. Another bonus: the romance only plays a minimal role in Two Can Keep A Secret!


Title: The Big Sleep
(Philip Marlowe #1)
Author: Raymond Chandler

Genre: Classics, Mystery, Thriller
First published: February 6th 1939
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: January 31st 2019
Pages: 251

“Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.”


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Confession: I hadn’t heard of this author before and had no idea this was actually considered a noir classic when I first found my ‘abandoned book’ copy in Brussels during our Europe trip last year. But at least now I know right? I’ve been meaning to read more physical books and I decided to pick up The Big Sleep on a whim. Even though I’m a big crime and detective thriller fan, I do feel like I’m the wrong target group here. Why? I think Raymond Chandler‘s writing style and tone are mostly ment for the male audience and I wasn’t as charmed with it myself. The same goes for the sarcastic ‘humor’ used; I like my sarcasm, but in this case sadly it all fell flat for me. The slang and expressions are from the 1930s era and while it fits with the setting and the time The Big Sleep was written, it can get a bit tricky understanding every one of them for a non US English speaker. I can’t say I liked any of the characters and they lacked any real development for me. This story has a maffia/crime feel and there is a lot going on at once without anything happening at the same time. I know this sounds contradictive, but somehow it still applies here. I know I’m probably the wrong target group here and I know others have really enjoyed this classic, but I personally don’t think I will be meeting Philip Marlowe again any time soon.


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ARC REVIEW: How To Experience Death For Beginners – by Jessica Branton

Title: How To Experience Death For Beginners
Author: Jessica Branton
Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: February 14th 2019
Publisher: Charlie’s Port-FRINGE
Finished reading: January 26th 2019
Pages: 330

“I experienced death when I was seven years old. Ten years later, I found myself wondering if I would ever stop.”

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

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When I first heard about How To Experience Death For Beginners, I was immediately intrigued. A YA mystery with a paranormal angle? Yes please! I had really high hopes for this one, but sadly I cannot say those expectations were met. While the writing in general reads easily enough and the pace reads quite fast, I found myself struggle with the plot. Or should I say plot holes. The premise itself is fascinating, but I don’t think the execution is all that great… The plot is kind of all over the place and between plot holes and lack of credibility not the easiest foundation to build the story on. This brings me to the many many high school cliches, cliche gay best friend and the way cutting is handled in one of the principal characters. This all left me with a bad taste in my mouth and was a turn off for this story. The main characters themselves were also quite cliche, bland and lacked fleshing out. I also felt they read a bit young for high school seniors. The idea behind the paranormal aspect and so-called powers is fascinating, but lacked developing more since this is basically the book’s strongest feature and would have made it stand out from other stories. Instead, I didn’t find it credible how the paranormal was handled nor how others react to it… A shame, because the premise had all the signs of turning into an extraordinary story. Instead, we get a cliche high school drama with a bunch of cliches as main characters and a serial killer and paranormal powers both pushed into the background. One of those stories where the priorities were set wrong? Maybe. But the fact is that sadly How To Experience Death For Beginners didn’t hit the mark for me.

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When Casey and her twin sister lose their father in a car accident when they are seven, their lives change forever… And not only in the most conventional way. Ever since seeing those final moments of her father, Casey somehow can enter the minds of people just before they die. She has isolated herself for years trying to protect herself and keep her from harm, but she might not have a choice when a serial killer makes her small town his hunting ground. And this situation might escalate faster than she would think…

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I can’t deny that the idea behind this story is fascinating and shows a lot of promise, but I don’t think the execution lived up to expectations. The paranormal element of How To Experience Death For Beginners, by far the most interesting aspect of this story, lacked development for me as instead we get an uncomfortable mix of different and sometimes cliche elements that fail to combine into a coherent plot. The lack of credibility, the main characters, the way difficult topics were handled… Sadly this story just didn’t work for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #61 – Every Note Played & The Cheerleaders

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different stories I both ended up enjoying. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova and The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas, both Goodreads Choice Awards nominees.


Title: Every Note Played
Author: Lisa Genova

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: March 20th 2018
Publisher: Scout Press
Finished reading: November 3rd 2018
Pages: 321

“Life is not a static organism. Every day, he’s a little more shut down, shut in, turned off. A little less in motion. A little less alive. “


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This is already my third Lisa Genova story… I’m always in awe how she is able to put a devastating neurological disease in the spotlight, mixing medical facts and symptoms with a fictional story in such way that you end up both being educated and entertained at the same time. This balance between facts and fiction is what makes Every Note Played such an interesting read for me. It’s not just a simple description of ALS and its symptoms. Through the main character Richard we get to see exactly how this disease evolves and what effects it has on both his life and those close to him. This impact is shown really well through both Karina and Bill, and in a lesser role Grace and other characters  as well. As always, I enjoyed the writing style and the way the story was told, although I do have to say I wish there would have been a bit more focus on the character development itself. I understand and appreciate a very present role of ALS in the story, but it did make me feel the main characters as persons were pushed a bit in the background. I would have liked to learn more about Richard and Karina and their background. I guess this would have made it easier to connect to them straight away… I loved the musical element though, and how music played a role throughout a story. In short, despite a few minor details Every Note Played was without doubt another excellent and fascinating read.


Title: The Cheerleaders
Author: Kara Thomas

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: November 5th 2018
Pages: 384

“Everyone goes through shit, and there’s always someone somewhere who has it worse. It doesn’t make what you’re feeling any less real or any less shitty.”


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After really enjoying Little Monsters last year, I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work. It took me longer than expected, and it isn’t the book I originally planned to read first, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t excited to be starting The Cheerleaders. There was just something about the blurb that caught my attention, although the blood spatters on the cover alone weirdly made me want to read this story already. A possible high school murder mystery with cheerleaders involved? Talk about an interesting twist! I already knew I was probably going to enjoy the writing style after Little Monsters, and my instincts were absolutely right. There is just something about the writing that draws you right in, makes you forget about your surroundings and just read. I was intrigued from the start, and even though not all characters are likeable and there are a few high school cliches involved, somehow the mystery around the death of the five cheerleaders was enough to forget about those objections and keep on reading. Entertaining and twisty enough to finish it in record time. The Cheerleaders is without doubt one of the strongest YA contemporary/mystery reads I’ve had the chance to read this year, minor flaws and all.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #51 – Norse Mythology & Pretty Little Liars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a hit and a miss… Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman turned out to be just as wonderful as the cover and I had a great time exploring the different Norse myths. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard on the other hand turned out to be a huge disappointment I wish I would have DNFed… Unpopular opinion review ahead!


Title: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Short Stories, Fantasy, Mythology
First published: February 7th 2017
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 304

“The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place, with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.”


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I’m a huge fan of both anything that Neil Gaiman writes and the Vikings TV show, and I’m always interested in mythology stories as well. So basically Norse Mythology is a triple hit, and I knew there was a good chance I was going to enjoy this one. And that is exactly what happened! I didn’t know that many details about the Norse myths apart from the known Odin, Thor, Loki and a few other elements mentioned in the TV show, so it was a fascinating and wonderful ride to learn more about all those characters and stories. Norse Mythology is a collection of short stories, but told in a way that really flows and makes it easy to connect the different characters, myths and happenings. The writing is of course rock solid and of a high quality I’ve come to expect of Neil Gaiman. If you are interested in Norse mythology in particular or simply are looking for a well written and interesting collection of short stories, I can highly recommend this one. Let’s face it, the cover art alone makes you want to own a copy in the first place!


Title: Pretty Little Liars
(Pretty Little Liars #1)
Author: Sara Shepard

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2006
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: September 21st 2018
Pages: 304

“I’m still here, bitches. And I know everything.” -A”


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I have been doubting whether I should read this series for years now… I know it is a popular series and there is even a TV show, but I just got that vibe that this one won’t be for me. I guess I wish I would have listened to those instincts now, because hello unpopular opinion review once again! Oh yes, there is one thing that is for sure: Pretty Little Liars 200% isn’t for me. The only reason I didn’t DNF is that I needed it for a challenge, and didn’t have time to go looking for a different title that fitted the prompt… That bad? Oh yes. Highly annoying and frustratingly obnoxious characters… Check. One high school cliche stacked on top of another high school cliche… Check. Writing I couldn’t connect to and atrocious behavior of the main characters… Check. Plot that didn’t do anything for me at all… Check. Lack of connection to the characters and plot and overall lack of interest in how things would evolve… Check. I did warn you it was going to be another unpopular opinion review! Let’s think what I did like… Probably the fact that Aria lived a while in Iceland and the European references. Although it’s mostly about the booze and how liberal everything is supposed to be, so still a let down. Yeah, Pretty Little Liars and me definitely didn’t get along, but at least it’s one more series to cross off the to-read list.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #48 – City Of Ghosts & All These Things I’ve Done

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two new series I’ve started; one that has become an instant favorite and one that I won’t be continuing. I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab‘s work, so of course I loved her new MG story City Of Ghosts as well. I can’t wait for the next book! And I was hoping All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin would be interesting with the dystopian and mafia angle, but not such luck…


Title: City Of Ghosts
(Cassidy Blake #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Scholastic
Finished reading: September 13th 2018
Pages: 272

“If we were a comic book, this would be our origin story. Some people get a spider bite, or a vat of acid. We got a river.”


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It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of anything that Victoria Schwab writes, so after a few mediocre reads I turned to her books for something good. Just reading about how excited the author herself is about City Of Ghosts made me pospone my scheduled read of The Archived and pick up this new story instead. City Of Ghosts delivers right from the cover until the very last page. I knew I could trust my instincts when I picked up this title, but this first book of a new MG paranormal series has proven once again you cannot go wrong with anything Schwab writes. It was hook, line and sinker when I started reading City Of Ghosts and I had to put all other tasks on hold until I finished reading it. The writing, the characters and their development, the Scottish setting, the ghosts, the plot… There is a lot to love in this story, and Cassidy and Jacob have already found a place in my heart. I loved the story of her parents, the motive behind their travels and how well it works with Cassidy’s own story and development. Reading about the Scottish setting was almost like being there myself seeing all the sights… It was a truly delightful read and I can’t wait what the next episode has in store.


Title: All These Things I’ve Done
(Birthright #1)
Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: September 6th 2011
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Finished reading: September 15th 2018
Pages: 368

“Tragedy is when someone ends up dead. Everything else is just a bump in the road.”


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I’ve had this one on my TBR for a long time, and I have always been intrigued by the dystopian and mafia angle in All These Things I’ve Done. So of course, when I needed a book set in the future, my first thought went out to this story. I really do think this story has a lot of potential, but instead of focusing on the more interesting aspects of the plot, All These Things I’ve Done is mostly just another teenage romantic drama with a few twists. Instead of focusing on the dystopian setting, when chocolate! and coffee! are illegal and resources seem to be limited, or the whole mafia background of Anya’s family, we mostly see the typical high school scenes with star-crossed lovers, food fights and other cliche elements. Definitely not what I thought I had signed up for. To make things worse, the main character Anya is absolutely despicable. Not only is she arrogant and thinks she is better than the rest, there is a lot of slut shaming going on. She constantly looks down on other girls, insults them and then sees herself as a ‘good Catholic girl’ while she is not that innocent herself. I think these views can badly influence or even shame the teenage target group this story was ment for, making sexuality seem as illegal as the chocolate in this story. And I’m definitely not okay with that. The pace was also quite slow at points, and like I said, the few mafia references only left me wanting for more. All in all I can’t say I can recommend All These Things I’ve Done.


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