ARC REVIEW: Small Spaces – by Katherine Arden

Title: Small Spaces
(Small Spaces #1)

Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: MG, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Even bad things can lead to good.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been meaning to try Katherine Arden‘s work for a long time now… It’s true that I was planning to read the Winternight trilogy first, but I simply couldn’t resist the sound of this middle grade paranormal horror story when I saw it on Twitter. The grey and cold weather we are facing down here was the perfect backdrop for Small Spaces, a story that it set close to Halloween and gives off that creepy and dark October vibe. Although it shows that Small Spaces written for younger middle graders, it’s probably still a fun read for the older half of the target group as well. The key is in the story giving off the right horror vibe with the help of the descriptions… Although I wish there would have more dept and development in both the worldbuilding and characters, I really liked the idea behind Small Spaces. Ollie is without doubt an interesting character, and it’s understandable why she has the leading role in this first book of the series. It’s true I would have loved to see her character more developed, but she did grow over time and I enjoyed learning more about her relationship with her parents. The writing is engaging and makes you fly through the pages… I did find some of the dialogue to be too childish and not all that natural, but overall Small Spaces was still an interesting read. The story in the book Ollie snatched from the mysterous lady, the mist, the disappearances, the situation Ollie, Coco and Brian find themselves in afterwards… They all give off that paranormal horror and ghost vibe that is both properly creepy while still being appropriate for the target group. Small Spaces is without doubt a story that would be perfect addition for your Halloween month TBR.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #103 – In An Absent Dream & Navigating Early

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different reading experiences. One turned out to be a delightful read: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire is another excellent addition to the Wayward Children series and I’m already looking forward to the next one. Unfortunately Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool turned out to be a struggle for me. Warning: unpopular opinion review ahead!


Title: In An Absent Dream
(Wayward Children #4)
Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction
First published: January 8th 2019
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: May 25th 2019 
Pages: 203

“She was ordinary, She was remarkable. Of such commonplace contradictions are weapons made.”


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I loved the first three Wayward Children books, and I’ve been looking forward to another story ever since I finished Beneath The Sugar Sky a few months back. I was in dire need of a magical story, and I thought In An Absent Dream would be a good fit. I turned out being right, because book four is without doubt another excellent addition to the series. The writing style sweeps you away, makes you forget about daily chores and feel yourself part of the story. I LOVED both Lundy as a character and the fantasy world that fits her personality. Goblin Market is different from the other worlds in a way that Lundy is able to travel back and forth between the real world and Goblin Market almost unlimitedly, with only her age being a deciding factor. Goblin Market is a wondrous world of fair value, debts and birds; the description of both world and the characters that inhibit it are excellent and truly make it come alive. The message behind this story, that of fair value and treating each other fairly in general, is an important one and plays a key role in this story. And the time Lundy spends in the ‘real’ world only reinforces that message. In An Absent Dream is one of my favorites of the series and I’m already looking forward to the next installment which is scheduled to be published early 2020.


Title: Navigating Early
Author: Clare Vanderpool

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Adventure
First published: January 8th 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: May 29th 2019
Pages: 320

“Navigating Early was as challenging as navigating mysterious and uncharted waters.”


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I’ve been meaning to read Navigating Early for a while now. The mix between historical fiction and adventure sounded absolutely fascinating and right up my alley, and with so many high ratings I was confident I was going to enjoy the story as well. Somehow, I turned out to be wrong in the end. Warning: unpopular opinion rambles ahead! So… Why wasn’t Navigating Early for me? I can’t pinpoint the exact reason, but there is one thing for sure and that is that I couldn’t connect with this story at all. I know I’m in the minority here since most people seem to love it, but despite the historical setting, WWII references, maths references and the promise of an adventure, basically I couldn’t care less what was happening to the main characters. Both Jack and Early were unable to win me over at all, which is strange especially in the case of Early as I normally love my quirky and complicated characters. I’ve tried really hard connecting to both these characters and this story in general, but I feel I should have just given in and DNFed it instead. In fact, I confess I ended up skimreading the last 40% or so of the story as I just wasn’t interested in what was happening to Jack and Early. It might have been the characters, it might have been the writing style, but there was just something about Navigating Early that simply wasn’t for me. The whole Pi chapters might have done something with that feeling as well, as they felt more magical realism than anything else and I tend to have mixed reactions to that. Instead of adding a little something original to the story, the only slowed down the main story for me and made it drag… Although I do appreciate what the author was trying to do. I don’t think Navigating Early is a bad story and the many high ratings agree with that, but it’s definitely true that this story simply wasn’t my cup of tea.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #82 – A Wrinkle In Time & What If It’s Us

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a modern classic I somehow never read when I was younger and a new release I have been really excited about. Both turned out to be really good reads! A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine D’Engle and What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera.


Title: A Wrinkle In Time
(Time Quintet #1)
Author: Madeleine D’Engle

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Classics
First published: 1962
Publisher: Yearling Books
Finished reading: February 1st 2019
Pages: 211

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.”


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Somehow, I’ve managed to grow up without ever reading this modern classic. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but I sure wish I would have been able to read it twenty years ago… Still, A Wrinkle In Time made a more than solid impression on me as an adult. I definitely understand the love for this story now! The writing style draws you right in and is very engaging and timeless. Even though the story was first published over 50 years ago, it will still be easy for children and adults alike to connect to this story. The plot itself is simple, but the setting in space and the time warps give the story a little something extra. The main characters are easy to like and all have their own personality. I also really liked how Mrs. Whatsit and her friends were represented not only with descriptions but also in the way they talked. The ending was a bit too abrupt, easy and ‘clean’ for me, but overall I had a great time discovering A Wrinkle In Time. I’m not sure if I will continue the series any time soon, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind for the future.


Title: What If It’s Us
Author: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 9th 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: February 4th 2019
Pages: 448

“I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it. But not how you’re thinking. I don’t mean it in the our souls were split and you’re my other half forever and ever sort of way. I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.”


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I’m a fan of both Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s books, so I have been eagerly awaiting this collaboration ever since I first heard about it. I already had that feeling I was probably going to enjoy What If It’s Us, and it turns out my instincts were absolutely right. This was such an adorable read! The writing, the main characters, the geeky elements (go The Sims and Harry Potter references among others!)… It was just all so cute and fluffy and I had a wonderful time reading it. The story is told in alternate chapters going between Ben and Arthur. Each has his own personality shining through in everything and also has his own set of companion characters that will slowly merge together as one big group. I really loved the idea of the missed connection, the search of the so-called needle in the hackstack and what happens afterwards. The characters are all well developed, feel realistic and I love that they not only represent the lgbt community but also minority groups in such a natural way. The plot itself does have its moments where credibility is in doubt and there were also cliches as well as a love triangle involved, but overall this minor flaws fade away compared to the rest of the story. My heart melted for these characters, and as a Harry Potter and The Sims fan I’m stoked to see references to both incorporated into the story. There are other fandoms included as well and I just LOVE that Ben writes his own story. There is a lot to love in this cute, adorkable and fluffy read and fans of the genre will adore What If It’s Us. Without doubt a winner!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #77 – A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful & Ghost Boys

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a title I picked up on a whim and another I needed for the #ownvoices prompt of the Beat The Backlist EPIC Bingo challenge. A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom turned out to be a slowburner, but the rest of the story made up for the slow start. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes blew me away. Definitely a must-read.


Title: A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful
Author: Eric Lindstrom

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 29th 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Finished reading: January 15th 2019
Pages: 353

“I can’t bear the thought of how they’d look at me, and treat me, if they knew how many pills I take every morning just to act more or less like everybody else.”


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This is one of those titles I picked up on a whim without a proper reason of doing so. I do remember enjoying his debut in the past, so that might have had to do with my decision to pick up A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful… Although it might have been the cover itself as well. I have to say that this story was a slowburner for me. It took me a while to get into the story and get a proper feel for the plot and characters. The warming up was slow, but once I did my feelings soared. There is just something about Eric Lindstrom‘s writing and character development that will manage to win you over even if you think it won’t happen. I can really appreciate how bipolar disorder is put in the spotlight with the help of this story, and it was interesting to see how it was portrayed in both Mel’s character and those around her. The chapter introductions were a nice touch, and I just loved how romance only played a tiny part in the story (and mostly innocent at that), leaving room for the important things to be properly developed and discussed. I could really appreciate that! It was interesting to see how things ended and while there are a few high school cliches involved, somehow they didn’t bother me that much. Slow, but sweet and definitely worth the read! Mel will be able to turn around your feelings, David is adorable and the bipolar disorder seems to have been very well handled!


Title: Ghost Boys
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes

Genre: MG, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 17th 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Only the living can make change.”


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I first heard about this book when it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards last year, and to be honest I’m surprised this little gem hasn’t received more attention and love. Ghost Boys is such a powerful read! With race problematics and discrimination sadly being all too real even today, this is such an important book for middle graders and adults alike to read… The topic itself is brilliantly handled, well developed without things becoming too political or dull. The power behind Ghost Boys is the twelve-year-old Jerome, who gives the fatal consequence of racism a face and will make your heart break. The division between the dead and alive chapters was very cleverly done and gives the story an original twist as well as a paranormal touch. I really liked the idea of the other ghost boys, the inclusion of different ideas about life after dead and the incorporation of historical information was very well done. The writing will draw you in right away, your heart will ache for Jerome and those close to him and you will feel the powerful message behind the story long before you reach the final page. This is a story of what sadly is still happening around the world and something ‘only the living can change‘. A true eye-opener and a very important read anyone should read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #72 – A Spark Of Light & Doll Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around the final two books I managed to read in 2018. A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult turned out to be a powerful and thought provoking read that will stay with me for a long time… While Doll Bones by Holly Black mostly only managed to disappoint me.


Title: A Spark Of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: December 30th 2018
Pages: 352

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”


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After my experiences with Jodi Picoult‘s recent novels, I couldn’t wait to read A Spark Of Light. There has been a lot of hype around this title, and I can understand why now. Abortion is actually quite a controversial and ‘hot’ topic right now in Argentina, so it definitely came at an interesting time for me… Disclaimer: I won’t be discussing pro-life or pro-choice politics here, just the story itself. I’ll start off with saying that abortion is a very tricky topic to write about, and I think Jodi Picoult did it splendidly. Her writing style is just as strong as ever and I also loved the reversed time chapter technique she used. I admit I was confused at first because I didn’t realize that straight away, but I think it adds a little something extra to the story. Why? It’s simply very intriguing to meet the characters at such a critical point in their lives and then slowly find out how they got there… I did see part of the final plot twist bombs coming, although not all. The ending was a bit abrupt for me, and I personally would have liked to see the main characters being followed up for a while longer. Still, I also understand why she decided to end it in that way, as the main event was over by then. A Spark Of Light brings a very controversial but important topic to light and while especially pro-life supporters might be offended by the story, I would still recommend reading it as it does show both sides (although not equally, which is a hard balance to obtain in the first place). For me it was one of the stronger books I read during 2018 and without doubt one that provoked strong emotions as well. A good way to finish the reading year!


Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black

Genre: MG, Fantasy, Horror
First published: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderrly Books
Finished reading: December 31st 2018
Pages: 256

“He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.”


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I was looking for a little something different to read as my last read of 2018 and when I came across this title on my kindle I decided to pick it up on a whim. Sadly, I can’t say I actually enjoyed reading Doll Bones. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of it had to do that I didn’t like the characters and I had a hard time connecting to the story. The story wasn’t exactly credible and not as scary as I would have thought either. This is more a coming of age story with Zach in the spotlight as he struggles with the consequences of growing up… And then we have Poppy who is the person behind the quest and most of the action even though she is not the main character, which throws off the balance of the story considerably. I felt Doll Bones lacked cohesion and a proper plot, although I did like the idea behind the three creating their own magical world where their toys go on adventures. The paranormal aspect of the story could have been interesting, but it just didn’t manage to convince me… And I had a lot of doubts about the credibility of it all. All in all not the experience I was expecting, but twelve-year-olds might enjoy the story better.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #69 – A Boy Called Christmas & The Girl Who Saved Christmas

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And with Christmas Eve being tonight, what better stories to review than not one, but TWO Christmas themed stories! The first two books of the Christmas MG series by Matt Haig… Both absolutely adorable books that will get you in the right mood in record time.


Title: A Boy Called Christmas
(Christmas #1)
Author: Matt Haig

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: September 12th 2015
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: December 20th 2018
Pages: 272

“An impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand yet.”


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I have been wanting to read the first Christmas book ever since I received and read the third book as an ARC a while back, and I thought December would be the perfect month to do so. And it turned out to be another magical experience. A Boy Called Christmas is the perfect Holiday season read for children and adults alike, and also perfect for reading out loud to the younger ones. Matt Haig’s writing style is spot on. Funny, entertaining, engaging and easy to read; you will find yourself turning pages admiring both the story the author has been able to create and looking at those adorable illustrations which connect really well with the plot. There is sadness, there is even some violence, but overall it is mostly a happy story full of joy and goodwill… And a healthy dose of humor as well. Perfect for the season as well as a perfect gift!


Title: The Girl Who Saved Christmas
(Christmas #2)
Author: Matt Haig

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: November 3rd 2016
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: December 22nd 2018
Pages: 337

“Life is like a chimney – you sometimes have to get through the dark before you see the light.”


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I couldn’t NOT read the second book after finishing the first, especially since it’s exactly that time of the year when these little stories are to be appreciated most. The Girl Who Saved Christmas is without doubt a worthy sequel. I admit it took me a little while to get into the story, but that was probably mostly me and not the book itself. The writing is just as spot on as in the first and third book, and I’m adding Matt Haig to my list of authors I need to read more of ASAP. His middle grade writing is absolutely adorable with just the right amount of humor and spark to give it that special feel. This story is another one that is perfect to read out loud to children; I’m positive it will be a big hit with all those funny moments and characters to follow! The illustrations fit the story perfectly, and add a nice little touch to what is already a wonderful story. I can completely recommend all three books of the series both as a Holiday read and the perfect gift for young and old!


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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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