YVO’S SHORTIES #149 – Things In Jars & The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I have been really excited about and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick them up… I won a gorgeous hardback copy of Things In Jars last year and I have been eyeing it ever since; I’m still kicking myself for not reading it sooner as I absolutely loved it. And I had high hopes for The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry as Harold sounded like my kind of character, and he is definitely the reason this story worked so well for me.


Title: Things In Jars
Author: Jess Kidd

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: February 8th 2020
Pages: 416

“Here is time held in suspension.

Yesterday pickled.

Eternity in a jar.”


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I actually won a gorgeous hardback copy of Things In Jars in a giveaway last year, but somehow it took me way longer than expected to actually read it… I’m kicking myself now, because it was an absolutely brilliant read. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb, with that Victorian London vibe as well as the supernatural feel and the detective angle. And the execution definitely lived up to expectations and more! The wonderful prose only enhances that Victorian London feel of the plot, I loved the hint of the surreal and the Irish folklore and this is definitely magical realism and Gothic mystery at its best. The characters are definitely part of this story works so well, and both Bridie and the other important character form a fascinating cast and take the story to the next level. Their descriptions and development really made them come alive for me and they are without doubt quirky and colorful! The supernatural aspect of the plot with the Irish folklore elements is simply spot on, and gave the story a vibe that is probably best described as a mix between Gothic and magical realism with a hint of (Victorian) urban fantasy. Quite an impressive cocktail, but one that works splendidly! The suspense and plot twists are also well handled, and I liked how the whole detective angle was incorporated into the plot. The different elements in Things In Jars are well balanced in general and together form an absolutely intriguing story that will stay with me for a long time.The unique and diverse cast of characters, the folklore, the plot, the writing, the suspense… There is just so much to love!


Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
(Harold Fry #1)
Author: Rachel Joyce

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 15th 2012
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Finished reading: February 13th 2020
Pages: 297

“But maybe it’s what the world needs. A little less sense, and a little more faith.”


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The truth is that I have been wanting to read The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry for years now. There was just something about the blurb and main character Harold Fry that made me think it would be my kind of book, and I thought his character was giving off seriously A Man Called Ove vibes too… My instincts turned out to be right on both counts, and Harold Fry is without doubt the reason this story worked so well for me. While the pace might be a tad slow, this can be explained by the fact that despite the pilgrimage and constant moving on the main characer this book is mostly a character-driven story. Harold Fry takes the spotlight of course, but the diverse, unique and quirky collection of people he meets along the way really made the story come alive for me. Harold Fry decided to walk across the UK in order to save an old colleague, Queenie, who sent him a goodbye letter stating she has terminal cancer. Harold decided on the spur that a response letter wasn’t enough, and started walking all unprepared without proper shoes or equipment. It was fascinating to follow his journey, learn more about the people he meets along the way and seeing how his pilgrimage changes Harold as well… I did guess the truth about his son really early on, which was a shame, but I liked how the story ended overall. And I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel to read more about Queenie’s story now! The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry is both a heartwarming and heartbreaking journey and a character-driven story with a wide cast of quirky characters… Recommended if you enjoy slower fiction reads!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #134 – The Deep & Red, White And Royal Blue

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around once again two Goodreads Choice Awards nominees… The Deep sadly wasn’t for me, but I definitely understand the love for Red, White & Royal Blue now and I really enjoyed it despite the overdose of steamy scenes.


Title: The Deep
Author: Rivers Solomon

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
First published: November 5th 2019
Publisher: Gallery
Finished reading: November 15th 2019
Pages: 176

“When not properly fortified, a legacy is no more enduring than a wisp of plankton.”


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I know I don’t read a lot of science fiction to begin with, but I was really intrigued by the blurb of The Deep and the promise of a mermaid story with a twist. I confess I haven’t heard the song (then again I never listen to rap), but I like that this novella was inspired by a song. I also still like the premise of this story as well as the worldbuilding itself and the ‘memories’ of Yetu’s people. That said, I really struggled with the execution. I’m not sure if it was the writing style, the structure of the plot or the pace, but something definitely wasn’t working for me and it took me a lot longer than anticipated to finally reach the final page. There are a lot of different characters in play, both in past in present, and at times it was hard to figure out the who, what and when as memories are being dropped on you without a warning. Some chapters are suddenly entirely set in the past without apparent connection to the present storyline, leaving you untethered and wondering what on earth is going on. Between the slow pace and the confusing plot, the original charm of the premise was lost to me and I came really close to just DNFing this story… Even though I did really appreciate the symbolism in The Deep. I seem to be in the minority though, so my experience might just be due to the fact that this story simply isn’t for me.


Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 14th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Finished reading: November 17th 2019
Pages: 425

“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that. History, huh? Bet we could make some.”


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When I recently asked which 2019 romance title I should read first, a lot of people voted for Red, White & Royal Blue. There has been so much hype around this book in general this year and to be honest I’ve been afraid to pick it up myself… But now I’ve read it, I can definitely understand the love for this title. While I do have to confess that the steamy sexy scenes most definitely weren’t for me, I did have a lot of fun reading this story despite them. I think a lot of this has to do with a sublime character development and a snarky humor that sets exactly the right tone. The writing itself is easy on the eye and really made me fly through those pages… And while I’m normally not a fan of politics in my books, somehow that didn’t bother me at all in Red, White & Royal Blue. Like I said before, the real power of this excellent debut is in its main characters. Not only Alex and Henry, but their siblings, friends and those close to them really help taking this story to the next level. Quirky, well developed, easy to like and to root for: it’s hard picking just one favorite as they all have that je ne sais quoi that makes you want to wrap them up and store them in your heart. I loved how things started to develop between Alex and Henry and those emails and messages incorporated into the text were a nice touch. If you are a romance fan and haven’t read Red, White & Royal Blue yet, you are most definitely missing out!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #114 – Tiger Lily & Pretty Girls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books that failed to convince me completely… I love retellings and I’ve been meaning to read the Peter Pan retelling Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson for quite some time now, but I felt the romance was forced and the so-called spark was missing in general. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter turned out to be a very dark and disturbing read, but I had problems with the credibility of it all.


Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: July 3rd 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 15th 2019
Pages: 309

“Sometimes I think that maybe we are just stories. Like we may as well just be words on a page, because we’re only what we’ve done and what we are going to do.”

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I always love a good retelling and I’ve been meaning to read this Peter Pan retelling for years now. I picked up my copy of Tiger Lily on a whim, looking for something for a little something different to read… And while it served that purpose just fine, I ended up havign mixed thoughts about the story itself. First of all, Tiger Lily is without doubt a fast read and I liked how the story was told from Tink’s POV. We get to know the different characters through her eyes and she plays a small role in the story itself as well. Tiger Lily was also an interesting character as a whole, but unfortunately I felt that the so-called “spark” was missing in the story and certain characters really started to get on my nerves. I wasn’t a fan of the romance either; it felt forced and the love triangle (should I say rectangle?) was quite frustrating as well. The romance just didn’t seem natural at all and wasn’t able to convince me… I would have preferred more focus on Neverland and have other aspects of the characters more developed. I can’t say I was happy with how both the abuse and Tik Tok not being like the rest of the men of the tribe were being handled either. I liked the references to the original Peter Pan story, but as a whole this story failed to convince me completely.


Title: Pretty Girls
Author: Karin Slaughter
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: July 17th 2019
Pages: 548

“Every time she thought she’d hit bottom, he found a way to open a trapdoor and let her sink farther down.”

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I’m so behind when it comes to Karin Slaughter‘s books… I decided to pick up one of her books on a whim, and while I was planning to finally meet Will Trent, I ended up picking up one of her stand-alones instead. Pretty Girls has been on my TBR for quite some time, and it is also a title that has been recommended to me in the past. I’ve been looking forward to read it, and I definitely didn’t realize just how twisted things were going to get during this story. Oh yes, Pretty Girls is without doubt a breathtakingly disturbing read that will chill you to be bone… Just when you think it can’t get more disturbing and twisted, Karin Slaughter let’s you know another nugget of the full truth and disturbing is taken to a whole another level. And again. And again. The quote above describes my own feelings perfectly! Trust me when I tell you that this story isn’t for those with a weak stomach or those who are sensitive to violent scenes… Not only do we have to deal with a remarkably vile serial killer, but there are also a lot of graphic scenes involved that include torture, rape and murder. And things will get darker than a pitchblack night as both Claire and us readers start seeing the full scope of what is going on. Family drama, grief and addiction elements are mixed with a whole lot of violence, a particularly twisted serial killer, a dark and vile secret network and what can be called a conspiracy feel twist.

My main issue with Pretty Girls is simply the credibility of it all. As things were revealed and escalated more and more and more, I caught myself muttering ‘really?’ multiple times. I can’t go into details without spoiling the plot, but here’s an example: I simply don’t think the killer could have gotten away with things that long and the plot development was just way over the top for me. I also didn’t think Claire’s reaction (or Lydia’s) was all that believable as a whole. The writing itself was of course excellent and twistedness of the story without doubt made my blood curl. I just think that less would have been more in this case; less over the top plot twists and increasingly graphic and disturbing scenes, leaving room to breathe and focus on the serial killer and his actions in all his twisted glory. I’m not saying that Pretty Girls was a bad read (on the contrary), but it wasn’t my favorite Slaughter either. If you haven’t tried Pretty Girls yet, definitely make sure to brace yourself for a violent, dark and disturbing ride.


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ARC REVIEW: Aurabel – by Laura Dockrill

Title: Aurabel
Author: Laura Dockrill

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: June 1st 2017
Publisher: Hotkey Books
Finished reading: May 13th 2017
Pages: 304

“Even when two paths spindle off, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to meet up, once again, somewhere along the way towards the end.”

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

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I admit Aurabel was a coverlove-request, but I was also looking forward to read another mermaid story. Mermaids are without doubt underrated creatures and there just aren’t all that many stories about them out there. Aurabel sounded like an fun fantasy read with the mermaids as a bonus, but unfortunately this book turned out to be a quite unpleasant experience. First of all I want to make clear that this book should have been classified as a sequel, because after some investigation I found out most of the worldbuilding is taken from a previous publication (Lorali) and it’s almost impossible to fully understand Aurabel with out it. A lot of background AND essential information is missing if you don’t read Lorali, and I felt a bit cheated on I didn’t know that beforehand. This lack of information might have been part of the reason I basically felt like I was reading a story written in a foreign language I could only barely understand. Things just didn’t make sense as all and I had a hard time even getting past the first few pages and chapters. Things only got better towards the ending, but I have to be honest and say I probably wouldn’t have reached that point if this wouldn’t have been an ARC. It sounds harsh, but somehow not telling the truth doesn’t feel right either… Another thing that bothered me is the horrible spelling in the forum interactions bit. I get that this is supposed to portray ‘superficial’ teenage fans talking, but 1. it was really hard to decipher the meaning of their comments and 2. I literally shuddered the whole time every time the dreaded comments made their appearance. As for the characters: I like how their different personalities are refleccted in their respective dialogues and prose, but I do have to see they felt a bit forced and unnatural. Some characters were also starting to get on my nerves… Furthermore, I had a hard time connecting the different chapters and characters; especially in the beginning they seemed random and didn’t make a lot of sense. Things did improve slightly towards the ending and the general plot is interesting enough, but all in all I had a really hard time reading Aurabel. Such a shame, because I was really looking forward to it!

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It’s been two years since Rory drowned and Lorali has been living the live of a normal (human) teenage girl ever since. Her safe life on land won’t last much longer though, as things in The Whirl seem to be getting out of hand. Someone is trying to take the throne from the current king and doesn’t hesitate to use unorthodox methods to succeed. Even if that means hurting fellow Mer… And it seems that even Lorali won’t be safe.

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I really wanted to enjoy Aurabel and I still love the cover, but unfortunately I turned out having a completely different reading experience. I’ve debated various times whether to just DNF it, because I had a really hard time understanding and making sense of the story; something that doesn’t happen often. I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt like I was reading in a different language, but I guess part of this confusion can be explained by the fact that it’s necessary to read Lorali first to be able to fully understand the story (which I didn’t and won’t). All in all a promising premise, but unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the execution.


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BOOK REVIEW: Everblue – by Brenda Pandos

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Title: Everblue
(Mer Tales #1)
Author: Brenda Pandos
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: July 29th 2011
Finished reading: July 30th 2015
Pages: 304
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“Stars pebbled the heavens and I vowed to never take the beauty for granted once we were back home, guarding the gate like it should be.”

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I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really sure this novel would be for me back when I downloaded it at Amazon. But since I could get it for free and the cover intrigued me, I decided to give Everblue a go anyway. Unfortunately, my instinct was more than right. I came really close to actually DNF this read, and that doesn’t happen often. The main characters were seriously frustrating; especially Ash; she goes from wanting Fin to Callahan to even Collin… Up to the point that I wish I could have slapped her and say: ‘make up your mind already‘! A lot of YA authors seem to feel their novels need a love triangle and Brenda Pandos is not an exception. The worst part: there are actually various love triangles in Everblue! I wasn’t a big fan of the prose either and I felt the story dragged at some points. I guess this story might have worked better as a novella… But even then I wouldn’t recommend reading it.

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Ashlyn and Tatiana are best friends, but Tatiana has a secret. Ash thinks she just has very strict parents, but there is actually a whole different reason why Tatchi and her brother Fin can’t go outside at night. It turns out they aren’t exactly human; they have to hide their secret and tails so humans don’t find out. When Tatchi and Fin suddenly disappear, Ash is more than worried. She just lost her best friend and she actually has a huge crush on Fin… But she doesn’t know what to do to find them. Will she be able to find them again? And what about the secret?

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Everblue is about mermaids, which is quite interesting since these creatures are mostly ignored in YA literature. I liked the descriptions of Natatoria, but that was about it. The prose was actually quite annoying at points and the characters bland and irritating. Still, I think the worst part of this novel is the fact that it has various (unnecessary) love triangles. The romance scenes are cheesy and it seems that Ash changes who she wants to be with with every single heartbeart. Irritating and not exactly believable. In other words, I would definitely not recommend reading this one.