YVO’S SHORTIES #30 – When The Moon Was Ours & Bad Romance

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads I’ve been meaning to read for a while. While the prose in When The Moon Was Ours was absolutely gorgeous, I struggled with the magical realism elements. Bad Romance is such an emotionally difficult read! The love triangle was a let down and things can get frustrating, but there is no doubt Heather Demetrios described a toxic relationship perfectly.


Title: When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magical Realism
First published: October 4th 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Finished reading: June 26th 2018
Pages: 288

“He was a comet burning through the night sky, and Samira was the trail of dust and ice streaking after him.”


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Dear magical realism, it’s not you, it’s me. See, somehow we just can’t seem to get along… I’ve tried, really tried, but I think we should take a break from each other for now. Oh yes, it’s unpopular opinion time again. When I first started reading When The Moon Was Ours, I was blown away by the gorgeous prose and I was sure I was going to absolutely love the story. And there are definitely a lot of things to love in the story. Where did it go wrong for me then? Like I said, the problem is me, not When The Moon Was Ours. This simply is another case of the magical realism and me not being able to connect rather than a story not well written. The writing style is beautiful, lyrical and something to fall in love with on its own. The main characters are both so unique, mysterious and fascinating that you cannot help but feel for them. I LOVED the Spanish elements included (alfajores!!) as well as the queer references and Sam and his ‘bacha posh’ life. This book is an ode to unique and quirky characters and diversity in general. Sam and Miel are both wonderful characters and I loved the dynamics between them. But. Like I said before, I really struggled with the magical realism and it made it harder to fully appreciate the story. Otherwise When The Moon Was Ours is an absolutely stunning read, so if you don’t mind magical realism in your stories, this one is an absolute must-read.


Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt And Co.
Finished reading: June 30th 2018
Pages: 368

“When I feel trapped, afraid, lonely, I only have to look up at the sky and think: this is what people in Morocco look at when they see the sky. And India, Thailand, South Africa. Korea and Chile and Italy. The world, I remind myself, is mine, if only I have the courage to grasp it when the opportunity is given to me.”


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I’ve had lots of people warning me to brace myself before picking up Bad Romance, because it would be an emotionally draining read. I can definitely understand that warning now. Bad Romance will make you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, outraged and basically an emotional wreck. Oh yes, this is not an easy read and painfully accurate in describing how a toxic relationship can destroy a person. Coming from someone who had the back luck of being in a toxic relationship once, I can fully relate to the main character Grace. Did I want to scream at her to get the hell out? Yes. Was I frustrated by how blind she was to what Gavin was doing to her? Yes. Did I shake my head as she let him take away her freedom piece by piece? Yes. But this is exactly what a toxic relationship will do to the victim and while painfully frustrating at times, Heather Demetrios deserves a round of applause for getting these words on paper no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. I could have done without the love triangle, which put kind of a damper on things for me, but overall Bad Romance is a very strong read that will stay with me for a long time. Emotionally draining, but o so satisfying in the end.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #28: Strange The Dreamer & The Fourth Monkey

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two books from completely different genres I both ended up enjoying a LOT despite the hype around them. The first, Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor, is one of my new absolute favorites… And Lazlo one of my new favorite characters. The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker, was dark, twisted with one hell of a creeper of a serial killer; just how I like my thrillers.


Title: Strange The Dreamer
(Strange The Dreamer #1)
Author: Laini Taylor

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 28th 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: May 30th 2018
Pages: 528

“For what was a person but the sum of all the scraps of their memory and experience: a finite set of components with an infinite array of expressions.”


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I have been intrigued by Strange The Dreamer ever since I first heard about it, but there has been such a hype around it that I have been afraid to pick it up. Because let’s face it: hyped books and me generally don’t seem to get along and I normally end up having to write yet another unpopular opinion review. But somehow when I was browsing my kindle, this title spoke to me and I just had to pick it up. Did I remember as I was starting that people had recommended to me to wait until the sequel was out? Yes, but it was already too late, because as soon as I sampled the writing style, I was addicted. Boy, Laini Taylor can write herself some absolutely gorgeous prose! The writing had me mesmerized and even if there were tiny flaws in the story, or even a slower plot at some points, I didn’t care as long as I was able to keep devouring those beautiful words. And that was not the only thing I loved. Oh no, one of the main things Strange The Dreamer works so well is its main character Lazlo. He is hands down one of my new all time favorite characters and it was an absolute delight being able to follow his story. I liked the other characters in general as well (Sarai!) and being able to connect to them only made it easier to fully emerge myself in the story and worldbuilding. Although the worldbuilding and its descriptions alone already make you wish you could see it all with your own eyes. As you can already guess, I absolutely loved Strange The Dreamer and it turned out to be my second 5 star read of the year. I’m still kicking myself for not reading it sooner, although at least the wait for the sequel is considerably shorter now this way.


Title: The Fourth Monkey
(4MK Thriller #1)
Author: J.D. Barker

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 27th 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Finished reading: June 10th 2018
Pages: 416

“Darkness. It swirled around her like the current of the deepest sea. Cold and silent, crawling across her body with the touch of a stranger.”


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Basically, I have been meaning to pick up this thriller ever since it came out last year. I think it has become pretty obvious by now I can’t resist a good serial killer thriller, and this one has been on my radar especially after reading so many promising reviews. So when I saw the sequel on Netgalley, I decided to request a copy as a way to force myself to read both books. And guess what? My request was approved, and I’m so glad that happened… Because I have been missing out by not reading The Fourth Monkey sooner. Dark, gritty, twisted, disturbing, intense… Just keep similar adjectives going, and they will apply to this first encounter with the 4MK killer. What a read! I like my thrillers dark and twisted, and J.D. Barker has definitely created a very disturbing serial killer to follow in this story. We get a glimpse of his childhood through a diary, and hints at his previous ‘work’ as the plot develops. And you will encounter a few plot twist bombs along the way, surprises that will catch you unaware as you are too stunned by just how twisted things were back at the killer’s home or how the case develops in the present. Oh yes, The Fourth Monkey isn’t for those with a weak stomach and if you can’t handle graphic scenes and violence, I advice staying clear. Otherwise, if you have a twisted mind like me, you will have a great time meeting the 4MK Killer and his work.  And I’m looking forward to discover what happens next.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #21: Wink Poppy Midnight & My Sister’s Keeper

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t turn out to be positive reading experiences, and both had something to do with a character and the way they behaved. Winky Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult… Continue to find out more about the why of the lower ratings.


Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 22nd 2016
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: March 10th 2018
Pages: 352

“All the strangest things are true.”


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Wink Poppy Midnight was a tbr jar pick and a title I have been looking forward to read despite the mixed reviews. I mean, just look at that gorgeous cover! And the story itself sounded really promising as well. As soon as I started reading Wink Poppy Midnight, I was blown away by the writing style. So so beautiful, mysterious and intriguing! The writing style is by far what stood out most for me in this book and it’s the only reason I’m giving this story the benefit of the doubt. Because I absolutely loved how April Genevieve Tucholke tells her stories, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Why the low rating, would you ask? I’m keeping things simple and give one main reason: Poppy. I understand we are not supposed to like her in the first place, but I absolutely utterly despised her character. This extremely negative feeling for Poppy ruined the reading experience for me and made it really hard to just forget about her and enjoy the other chapters. Wink Poppy Midnight is told from the POV of the three main characters Wink, Poppy and Midnight, whimsical names that alone set the right tone for this story. This multiple POV layout didn’t distract me, since I liked discovering new things and see how the personality of each character shines through in the writing and dialogue. BUT. While I absolutely adored Wink and liked Midnight as well, my negative feelings for Poppy were so strong the rest was kind of blurred out. Gone were my feelings for the fabulous writing, gone was my love for the whimsical and magical realism feel of the plot and incorporation of fairy tale elements (my second favorite thing of Wink Poppy Midnight!). What was left were the ashes of a story that could have ended up being one of my all time favorites… If it wouldn’t have been for Poppy dancing on its tomb.


Title: My Sister’s Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 6th 2004
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Finished reading: March 14th 2018
Pages: 423

“It is the things you cannot see coming that are strong enough to kill you.”


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WARNING: Unpopular opinion review and rant ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Trust me, I’m still shocked about this rating and reaction I had to My Sister’s Keeper, especially since I’ve read and enjoyed several of Jodi Picoult‘s other novels in the past. I fully expected to add this title to that list, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I was hoping for. I’m not saying the writing is bad, which would be a lie since it is just as strong as ever and of a quality I’ve become to expect of her work. And without doubt the plot is complex and well developed with many different POVs and angles to try and get a full picture of what is going on. BUT. What ruined this story for me and basically turned me into a giant red angry monster spitting out flames and throwing things at the wall (no actual objects were harmed during this read), was the topic and more especifically the views on that topic. As soon as I got a glimpse of what really was going on, I started to get very angry very fast. Honestly, I don’t think I would have ever read it if I would have known My Sister’s Keeper was centered around these views. Complicated and uncomfortable moral topic and unorthodox views? Maybe, but I couldn’t care less if they were represented right because I was just too angry to pay attention. People might be offended by this, but I’m totally on Anna’s side here. She should NOT be treated as a walking human donor bank and just being pressured to give up everything and go through all those treatments just because her parents say so… It should be her choice and her choice alone. And honestly, the whole reason they had her in the first place made me sick. This book and especially Sara were so SO infuriating! Her with her saying she ‘cares’ for Anna, but only thinks of Kate and having Anna as a spare ready to give up whatever part of her body they need next. And I’m not even talking about their older brother, completely ignored as well. I get that having a child with leukemia is horrible and kind of makes you forget about anything else, but still… It’s no excuse to treat your other kids that way, and definitely not to do those things to Anna, treating her like she’s some object and ignoring her when she’s not needed. Ugh. I’m feeling the anger rise again just as I type up this review… Simply disgusting. These strong negative feelings made it impossible for me to try and enjoy the other aspects and side stories of My Sister’s Keeper, which had potential on it’s own but lost its charm since I was seeing everything through a red haze. Oh yes, this book was able to provoke strong feelings, just not the positive ones I was expecting. Most people do seem to enjoy it though, so if you think you would enjoy it, don’t give up on it yet. Just don’t make me discuss this story ever again…


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ARC REVIEW: All Things Bright And Strange – by James Markert @tnzfiction

Title: All Things Bright And Strange
Author: James Markert
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian, Magical Realism
First published: January 30th 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: February 28th 2018
Pages: 336

“The beauty of the Bellhaven woods was like a desert mirage – an optical phenomenon inviting trouble, an illusion of light rays that disguised the truth.”

*** I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. ***

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There is just something about the cover that immediately intrigued me, and this book has been on my radar ever since I first heard about it. After I finished another book by the same author, What Blooms From Dust, I just knew I had to read All Things Bright And Strange as soon as possible. Magical realism can kind of be a hit or miss for me depending on how the elements are developed, but I really like how James Markert incorporates them into his stories. All Things Bright And Strange is another example of how I can actually really enjoy magical realism when it’s done right. The story starts out as a typical historical fiction read mostly set in the years after WWI. The main character, Ellsworth, is a WWI veteran along with several other characters, while others have lost someone during the war. I think this is probably my favorite element and the after effects of the war are very well described in the different veterans. A very important topic as well since there isn’t enough awareness when it comes to what veterans are going through! Grumpy Ellsworth really grows on you and he even reminded me a bit of Fredrik Backman‘s Ove (HUGE compliment!). The characters in general are well developed and each plays its role in the events in Bellhaven. Some of their names even have special meanings… But that is something for you to discover as you are reading it  to avoid spoiling surprises. The magical elements mix quite nicely with the historical fiction parts, and the author did a great job creating the right atmosphere for the time period. And the descriptions of the chapel in the woods are wonderful. BUT. There was way too much religious talk to my taste, and All Things Bright And Strange should be classified as Christian fiction. True, a lot of different religions are making their appearance in the story, creating diversity, but I simply feel there was too much religious talking going on and some of it sounded almost like preaching. Which is why I ended up enjoying this one less than What Blooms From Dust, but if you don’t mind a healthy dose of religion in your story, you will enjoy it even better than I did. The descriptions of the strange things that are happening in Bellhaven are simply magical.

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The people of Bellhaven have always looked up to Ellsworth Newberry, asking for his guidance whenever problems arise in town. But after he lost his wife in the town fire and he came back from the war with his hopes for a future as a professional pitcher destroyed, he hasn’t been the same old self. Then he finally sees something strange is going on in Bellhaven… A small chapel is discovered deep in the Bellhaven woods, and it seems to have mysterious healing powers. People keep returning to find peace of mind, but is the chapel really a miracle or a potential problem in disguise?

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When I started reading All Things Bright And Strange, I actually thought I was going to enjoy it even better than What Blooms From Dust. Between the WWI veteran element and grumpy Ellsworth himself, it had all the signs of becoming a true winner… I mean, I even compared Ellsworth to one of my all time favorite characters Ove (A Man Called Ove). These feelings stayed for a long time, but slowly something started to irk me. I’m not a fan of a high dose of religious elements in a story, especially when it starts to sound like preaching. And there just was too much of it in All Things Bright And Strange… Especially in the second half. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I would have liked to see a label calling it Christian fiction. The writing is wonderful though with lots of magical descriptions and a well developed historical setting.


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ARC REVIEW: What Blooms From Dust – by James Markert @tnzfiction

Title: What Blooms From Dust
Author: James Markert
Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: June 26th 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: February 16th 2018
Pages: 352

“The land was just too strong and mean and too determined to break them. Just as they had broken it.”

*** I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. ***

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I admit I was sold the minute I saw that beautiful cover and read the blurb. What Blooms From Dust promised magic and mystery in a historical setting, and what more can I wish for? This story is set in the United States of the 1930s, a time I’ve always been interested in but haven’t read all that much about. Both the setting in Nowhere, Oklahoma and the timeframe are interesting, although the emphasis of this story isn’t on the year (1935) everything took place in Nowhere. You get that feel of the past, but the focus of What Blooms From Dust is more on the town Nowhere itself and the main character Jeremiah. I must confess that I was feeling mighty confused in the beginning, and I wasn’t sure what to make of this story. It was definitely a slowburner for me, but once the dust that had blown in had settled down a bit, I suddenly found myself hooked. This initial feeling of being lost probably has to do with the magical realism of the story, which I always need some time with before I’m used to it, but in the case of What Blooms From Dust these magical realism elements really worked. From the coin-flipping to Jeremiah himself and the aftermath of the Black Sunday… All less than credible elements on its own, but together they create that magical and mythical atmosphere that simply makes this story work. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but please don’t let the mention of magical realism dissuade you! The writing, like the magical elements, may take some time to get used to, but once you do it is fantastic. It sets just the right tone and atmosphere for this story, and definitely helped make this story into what it is. The plot is quite interesting, but what truly stands out is the deeper message of What Blooms From Dust, a message of finding hope in the darkness and the power of kindness. Without doubt a wonderful story!

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Jeremiah is about to meet his fate in the electric chair, but a tornado tears down the prison walls and he escapes. Using his famous flip of a coin, he returns to his home town of Nowhere, Oklahoma, where he has unfinished business with his twin brother Josiah. But a lot has changed since he went away three years ago. Nowhere has been overtaken by the Dust Bowl, and the gift he once relied on to guide him no longer seems to work properly. What will happen to Jeremiah and his home town?

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Like I said before, What Blooms From Dust was a slowburner for me, but once the dust had settled down I found myself completely and utterly hooked. This is an example of a story where magical realism simply works, and only enhances the reading experience instead of complicating it. Magical, mystical and a healthy dose of mystery around Nowhere and its inhabitants… You will want to keep reading until you reach the final page and find out all about Nowhere and its mysteries. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Hollo – by Devon Michael

Title: Hollo
(The Magic Of Thedes #1)
Author: Devon Michael
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: January 1st 2016
Publisher: Snowfair Books
Finished reading: February 10th 2018
Pages: 204

“There is never enough time to live, no matter how many years you have in the world.”

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

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This little magical story first appeared on my radar after a review and I was instantly charmed by the premise. It took me a lot longer than expected to finally get to it, but I’m glad I finally did so. Hollo and her world have completely won over my heart! Both the writing style and detailed descriptions of the magic of Thedes stand out right from the beginning. They are able to give the story a magical and whimsical feel and help you feel yourself right at home. I especially liked the descriptions of the magic itself and how it varies depending on the person and what element they use. Element, do you say? Yes, you’ll have your share of wooden, bronze and clockwork characters and a ‘wizard’ or two as well, although they are called differently in Hollo’s world. These characters all have their own story and help flesh out the world while also adding more dept to the plot. I really liked the relationship and dialogue between Hollo and her father! Both the development of Hollo in general and the plot itself are interesting and will definitely keep you interested until the very end. The story is a good balance of characters and actions and the magical battles are well described. Some parts of the story were simply adorable! Definitely recommended for the younger YA fantasy fans… Another bonus: there is no romance involved, since Hollo is only twelve!

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Hollo has always been different, but she doesn’t realize just how different from the rest of the world she really is… And now she’s twelve, she is about to find out. As a birthday gift, her father takes her outside for the very first time in her life, exploring the city like she has always wanted. But what she doesn’t realize is that the magic that comes so natural to her will actually endanger her outside. And soon she will see magic for what it really is.

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If you are looking for an endearing, whimsical and magical read, Hollo is a great choice. From the writing style to the worldbuilding, characters and descriptions; you will be enchanted by Hollo and her magical world of Thedes and enjoy her journey. Hollo is perfectly suited for the younger YA fantasy fans despite the magical battles and some details, and it has another bonus in the form of a romance-free story! I can definitely recommend this one.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lot Of A Nobody – by Dave Johnston

Title: The Lot Of A Nobody
Author: Dave Johnston
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Humor
First published: March 22nd 2017 
Finished reading: February 5th 2018
Pages: 256

“Lot often thought he’d make a great Where’s Wally, cos even in red stripes he was difficult to spot.”

*** 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 admit I’ve had this title on my list way longer than originally planned, and I’m kind of kicking myself now for not reading this sooner. The Lot Of A Nobody first appeared on my radar after a glowing review, so I was happy to give it a go myself. The other day I needed something fun to brighten up my day, and this was EXACTLY the read I needed in my life. I already knew I was probably going to like it after seeing a couple of positive reviews from bloggers with a similar taste in books, and I’m definitely a new member of the Lot Nobody fanclub. I was able to take to the main character straight away and the writing style is just spot on. Engaging, quirky, direct, funny, a little blunt… The right kind of tone for a story I didn’t even know I was looking for when I started reading The Lot Of A Nobody. Between the writing and main character this story had me enchanted straight away… Although the plot played a role as well. This story is a perfect balance of contemporary and fantasy elements and maybe even a big of magical realism, although only in the best possible way. What seems to be another typical high school story with a quirky outsider as a main character soon takes an interesting turn that makes the story very much original. And it’s definitely my kind of humor that is used in The Lot Of Nobody! Very funny indeed… Also, I just loved the Nobody quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Such an original touch! This story is without doubt a winner.

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Lot Nobody is average in every possible way, and so lonely that it seems like he has become invisible. He is almost like a ghost floating through his high school experience, but that changes after his sixteenth birthday. Not only is he able to make a friend, but he also suddenly starts disappearing for real. And not in his dreams either, but somehow he finds himself sent to a magical island and back to reality again repeatedly. The catch of these unexplained adventures? He always seems to arrive at his destination fully naked, making for some very embarrassing situations… And that is not the only thing that has been going on.

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If you are looking for a fun, quirky and well written mix of contemporary and magical elements, you will be in for a treat with The Lot Of A Nobody. The main character is very easy to like and it has been fun seeing his character develop over time. The story starts out as a contemporary, but the appearance of the magical island adds a little something extra to the story and I just loved the descriptions of the life there. The plot itself is quite interesting as well, and leaves room for quite a lot of funny moments. Recommended!


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