YVO’S SHORTIES #127 – The Bride Test & The Twisted Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books that turned out to be great. I wasn’t sure whether to read The Bride Test after my reaction to the first book, but I ended up enjoying the second book better than The Kiss Quotient… I’m glad I took a chance and decided to read it. And The Twisted Tree turned out to be another perfect Halloween read!


Title: The Bride Test
(The Kiss Quotient #2)
Author: Helen Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: October 5th 2019
Pages: 320

“His heart wasn’t made of stone, after all. It just wasn’t like everyone else’s.”


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I admit I took a chance when I decided to get a copy and read The Bride Test. I’m very much allergic to sexy scenes in contemporary romance reads, and after a less than favorable reaction to The Kiss Quotient I thought it would be better to just stay away. But there is no denying that Helen Hoang can write and I love how she develops her characters, so I just couldn’t resist giving this story a try in the end. I’m so glad I did, because while I found the many many sexy scenes to be cringeworthy, I somehow enjoyed the actual story a lot better than the first book. A lot of this has to do with both Esme and Khai, who are both fascinating characters and the reason this story ended up working for me. The background of Esme, a mixed-race girl growing up in the slumps in Vietnam, adds a lot of dept to the story and it was interesting to see her life being turned upside down after she is offered an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Both her personality, endurance and the big contrast with Khai’s character made for some really interesting reading. The autism rep in Khai feels realistic and thorough, and really adds to the story as well. Sure, the many many steamy scenes definitely weren’t for me (I confess I only skimread them), but overall Esme and Khai’s story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I loved the ending as well!


Title: The Twisted Tree
Author: Rachel Burge

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: October 6th 2019
Pages: 180

“Knowing someone’s secrets doesn’t make you feel closer to them – it pushes you away. There are some thing you don’t want to know, trust me.”


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I actually ment to read The Twisted Tree last October, but I wasn’t able to get to it in time and decided to save it for this year’s Halloween month. I had that feeling that it would be a perfect read for the time of the year, and both my instincts and the reviews I read in the past were absolutely right. If you are looking for a little something to get you in the right mood for Halloween, The Twisted Tree is a fantastic choice. Norse mythology, horror and paranormal elements are mixed together with a YA contemporary story in the most successful way… Both the Norse mythology elements and the actual setting on a small island in the middle of nowhere Norway really took this creepy story to the next level. The references to Odin, his ravens and other Norse mythology elements were thorough and formed an important part of the plot. Martha’s family turns out to have a very interesting history, one you only learn about as the main character starts discovering things herself… The spooky is mixed with a healthy dose of thriller elements as well as a few nailbiting moments that will manage to creep you out. I like how the little hint of romance balances out the creepy part of The Twisted Tree, and I myself had a fantastic time reading this story. More than recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The First Girl Child – by Amy Harmon @amazonpub @aharmon_author

Title: The First Girl Child
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
First published: August 20th 2019
Publisher: 47North
Finished reading: July 22nd 2019
Pages: 400

“I’ve come to believe that home is not a place. Home is inside of us. Home is the people we love. Home is what we strive for.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and 47North in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I consider Amy Harmon to be one of my absolute  favorite authors and her stories never fail to blow me away. What makes her books stand out is that with each new title we get offered a completely unique story belonging to a wide variety of genres. There are not many authors who can pull off more than one genre, and Amy Harmon is able to do so with utter and total success. The First Girl Child has once again proven to me that she truly is a brilliant writer. I already fell in love with her 2019 historical fiction release, What The Wind Knows, earlier this year, and this new fantasy title is the second book to receive the full five star rating this year. Want to know why you should add The First Girl Child to your wishlist straight away?

This is already my sixth Amy Harmon book and my first time reading one of her fantasy stories (I’ve been meaning to read The Bird And The Sword for ages though), and I was completely blown away by it. I know already that The First Girl Child will stay with me for a long time… Its high fantasy world being one of the favorite places I’ve been lucky enough to visit so far this year. Oh yes, the worldbuilding in this story is absolutely brilliant. Using Norse mythology influences, Amy Harmon has created a new God and son of Odin named Saylok, and has shaped the fantasy world around his story. I loved the idea behind the star-shaped island of Saylok, with its different clans named after the different animals representing the children of Saylok. And the animals are not just for decoration, as the inhabitants of each clan bear a resemblance to their respective animal in both a physical way and through their customs. You will find many many references to the Nordic culture and myths as you are reading Bayr’s story, and this was personally a huge bonus for me as I have a weak spot for Norse mythology and Nordic culture in general.

While the different clans and the inner workings of life in Saylok might have that historical feel, The First Girl Child also gives us a proper dose of fantasy with the help of the magic of the Keepers and the Runes. The fact that we don’t know a lot about the history behind the Runes and its power, other than that it’s basically blood magic, only adds to the mystery around the Keepers and the role they play in protecting Saylok. The Keepers play a big role throughout the story, with the main character Bayr growing up with them, and Temple Hill was a fascinating backdrop for Bayr’s story in general. The plot is well constructed and is build around the curse his dying mother put on Saylok and all its inhabitants. No girls will be born from the day she voiced her curse and died, and Bayr will be Saylok’s only hope… With no further explanation about how he is supposed to save Saylok available straight away, I kept eagerly reading and I loved seeing the future slowly unravel. Years pass in a fluent way, and the pace is kept at a speed that will make you turn those pages like there is no tomorrow. The brilliant writing only adds to this feeling and gives The First Girl Child the high quality I’ve come to expect when it comes to Amy Harmon‘s books.

But this story is nothing without its characters. Bayr, Alba, Ghost, Dagmar… Those are only a few of the characters that will win over your heart and make you fall in love with this story. The main stars of The First Girl Child are Bayr and Alba, and I adored both their characters and their relationship together. The character development in general is brilliantly done and shows them evolving realistically over time. The fact that nobody but Dagmar knows about the curse gives the story an interesting twist, and that is not the only secret that is being kept from the other characters. Things slowly escalate as years pass without another girl child being born, and I had a fantastic time learning all about Bayr and Alba’s story. The First Girl Child ended with a bang and without doubt left me wanting for more… And I’ll keep my fingers crossed we’ll get to visit Saylok and its characters again some time in the future.

The worldbuilding, the Norse mythology influences, the characters and their development, the plot, the writing… Oh yes, there were plenty of reasons that made me give The First Girl Child the full five stars it deserves. I can highly recommend this story to anyone who loves a good fantasy story with characters you cannot help but fall in love with and a healthy dose of Nordic references. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #100 – The Death Of Mrs. Westaway & Circe

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Already shorties post number one hundred! and what better way to celebrate than with two fantastic backlist titles I both loved. The Death Of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is probably my new favorite by the author and I absolutely loved my time with Circe by Madeline Miller. I love mythology stories in general and this one was brilliant.


Title: The Death Of Mrs Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 29th 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: May 7th 2019
Pages: 384

“You can’t influence fate, or change what’s out of your control. But you can choose what you yourself do with the cards you’re dealt.”


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I’ve been meaning to read another Ruth Ware book for a while now… While I was tempted to finally pick up The Woman In Cabin 10, I decided to stick to my 2019 priority title list and read The Death Of Mrs. Westaway instead. I can’t say I’m complaining, because after a few disappointing reads I finally found something that managed to blow me away again. This might just be my new favorite Ruth Ware title… What a creepy and suspenseful read! The house in Cornwall is such an excellent setting for this story filled with secrets and lies, and gives The Death Of Mrs. Westaway that gothic atmosphere. It definitely sets the right tone for this story! The story starts out in Brighton where we get to know the main character of this story and her desperate situation. I was intrigued by Hal’s situation from the start and while she is without doubt a flawed character and sometimes difficult to like, you will find yourself rooting for her soon enough. The writing is engaging and beautifully crafted and the descriptions gave off that creepy and eerie vibe. There are a lot of secrets and lies involved in the Westaway family and its past, and while I admit I saw part of them coming, I never guessed the full truth. In short, The Death Of Mrs. Westaway was a delightfully twisty and eerie psychological thriller packed with secrets and a dangerous side. If you are a fan of the genre, you will most likely have a great time with this one.


Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology
First published: April 10th 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Finished reading: May 9th 2019
Pages: 336

“I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”


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I admit it was a pretty safe bet I was going to enjoy reading Circe, considering my love for Greek mythology stories in general and the fact that I loved her previous book The Song Of Achilles. My instincts turned out to be right, because I loved this story just as much as the gorgeous and shiny cover! If you enjoy (Greek) mythology retellings, Circe definitely is a must-read. Madeline Miller uses Circe’s immortal character to weave in a variety of different myths and stories about Gods and famous mortals alike. This is done exceptionally well and in a way that makes the story flow naturally. It’s true that time passes slower or more quickly at times and sometimes decades or centuries pass in a blink of the eye. But for me it only demonstrated the immortality of Circe and the way passes differently for her. The pace is slower at times, but I personally didn’t mind as it gave me more time to truly savour this little gem. I loved reading about Circe’s time living in the house of her father Helios and all the events that followed. You will find references to for example Daedalus, the Minotaur and the famous labyrinth, Icarus and his wings, Achilles and the Troyan war… The main secondary role is left for Odysseus though, as both him and his sons play a role during a big part of the story. We learn more about his adventures, his past and the influence he has had on Circe’s life. Witchcraft also plays a big role throughout the story, and I really enjoyed learning more about Circe’s gift. I can see why Circe wouldn’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy Greek mythology retellings and don’t mind a slower pace at times, you will most likely enjoy it as much as I did.


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ARC REVIEW: Little Darlings – by Melanie Golding

Title: Little Darlings
Author: Melanie Golding
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 30th 2019
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: April 16th 2019
Pages: 304

“Look at someone every day for long enough and you stop seeing what everyone else sees. You start to see what no one else sees, what is kept hidden from most people.”

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

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There has been a lot of buzz around Little Darlings lately, and not without cause. This soon-to-be-published debut of Melanie Golding is without doubt something special! Little Darlings is not your ordinary psychological thriller and instead offers a fascinating mix with folklore and fairy tale elements. A hint of the surreal is mixed with suspense and a mental health angle in such a fluid way that really makes the folklore stories come alive… It’s without doubt an intriguing mix of genres and different elements that will keep you wondering until the very end. Little Darlings is basically three different storylines in one: one one side we have detective Harper, her history and the investigation, on another side we have Lauren Tranter, her newborn twins and her home situations and as a third element we have the supernatural mixed with a mental health angle. This might sound like a bit much, but the plot is constructed and developed in such a a way that makes everything connect seamlessly. My favorite part of Little Darlings are the folklore elements, which give the story an unique touch as well as adding a healthy amount of suspense to the story. Is it all real? Or is it part of the postpartum depression Lauren seems to be suffering from? These questions will keep going round and round in your head and will keep you wondering ever after you reached the final page. Oh yes, Little Darlings has an ambiguous ending you can interpret both ways… And this time around, this technique really worked for me and added an extra mysterious vibe to the overall story.  As for the characters… I’m not sure I actually liked most of them (although I did like Harper and her stubborn insistence to investigate the case), but they do fit the story in general. I confess I had a strong dislike of Patrick though, and the final reveals involving his character and actions were not really satisfying. But that was only a minor blip compared to my general feelings for this wonderful mix of folklore and reality.


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ARC REVIEW: Song Of Sacrifice – by Janell Rhiannon

Title: Song Of Sacrifice
(Homeric Chronicles #1)
Author: Janell Rhiannon
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Fantasy
First published: December 26th 2018
Finished reading: April 9th 2019
Pages: 426

“The more time passes, the more keenly we feel our losses carved into our very soul, even as the memories fade around the edges.”

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

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I always love discovering (Greek) mythology inspired stories and as soon as I read the blurb of Song Of Sacrifice I knew I had no other choice but to read it. This first installment of the Homeric Chronicles is set in the years leading up to the famous Troyan War (1295-1251 BCE) and includes a wide variety of myths, stories and different characters. If you enjoy reading about the Troyan war and happened to cause it, I can without doubt recommend Song Of Sacrifice! It truly shows that the author has investigated the topic thoroughly and then succeeded to combine an impressive amount of different stories and characters in such a way that it flowed in a coherent and chronological way. Some minor changes have been made, but I love how true to the original versions Song Of Sacrifice stays. Any Greek mythology fan will be able to appreciate that! The writing is more than solid and is very easy to read. And while there are many different characters and settings, it never distracted or confused me as I was reading the story (although I guess it does help having a general idea of who the main characters involved are). In fact, I loved the fact that the story doesn’t focus on just one character, but instead offers us multiple views and stories to treasure. This gives Song Of Sacrifice a multidimensional and rich feel and definitely added to my positive experience with this story. Gods and humans alike play a role in this story, and I think descriptions and historical setting are spot on. A fair warning for adult content and trigger warning worthy topics as abuse, rape and violence, but it kind of goes with Greek mythology stories as they can get pretty brutal. Song Of Sacrifice is part of a series, and book one doesn’t actually get to the point of the Troyan war yet, but reading about the (lesser known) years leading up to the war is just as fascinating. Fans of historical fiction and Greek mythology retellings will love spending time with this story.


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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 #46 – The Chaos Of Stars & Bang

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads belonging to different genres. The first is The Chaos Of Stars by Kiersten White, which has an absolutely gorgeous cover but had an absolutely horrible main character who ruined the story for me. The second is Bang by Barry Lyga, a book I’ve been looking forward to since Jasper Dent is one of my absolute favorites, but sadly the story didn’t convince me.


Title: The Chaos Of Stars
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 10th 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: September 5th 2018
Pages: 277

“It’s all a matter of perspective. And maybe we thought we were living one story, when if we look at it a little different, we can reframe everything – all out memories and attributes and experiences – and see that we’re actually living a different story.”


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Let’s face it: The Chaos Of Stars has a drop dead gorgeous cover that makes you want to get a copy instantly. Add the promise of Egyptian mythology included in the plot, and I was instantly sold. I didn’t understand why this book was getting such low ratings on Goodreads, especially since I loved her first two The Conqueror’s Saga books… But let’s just say I found out exactly why not long after I started reading The Chaos Of Stars. It doesn’t happen often that I have such an instant dislike of a character, but Isadora pretty much does the trick. What a whiny, annoying, self-centered, arrogant and disrespectful brat! Basically, she managed to enrage me on every single page, and I had to work hard on my breathing techniques to prevent myself from throwing my kindle against the wall. And no, sadly I’m not exaggerating here. An example? She whines constantly about the fact that she is not immortal, that nobody loves her, that she should be in the center of attention, that other people are less than her… Should I go on, or do you get the idea? Multiply this a couple of times, add a case of insta-love and a couple of other YA cliches and you have the gist of what happens in The Chaos Of Stars. I was hoping to have a lot of Egyptian mythology here, but it was mostly pushed into the background to favor Isadora and her ‘problems’. At least the chapters started with a reference to the mythology, and I liked that some of the characters actually were old Gods. But overall this book sadly was a huge disappointment.


Title: Bang
Author: Barry Lyga

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 18th 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: September 8th 2018
Pages: 304

“Some things are private. And they should stay that way and they get to stay that way.”


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I have been meaning to pick up another of Barry Lyga‘s books for ages. The Jasper Dent series is one of my absolute favorites and I had high hopes for Bang, but sadly it wasn’t as good as I hoped. This by no means had to do with the topic itself, which is really important and I appreciate the author shining a light on what is still considered a taboo. The question of having guns laying around with (small) children involved should never be ignored, as it can have devastating consequences. Likewise, depression and suicide should not be taking lightly either. That said, I felt that there was not enough focus on these two elements in Bang, the story instead concentrating on the whole pizza baking idea and contemporary romance scenes in general. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, since I’m a huge foodie myself, but the story fell rather flat for me. While there are some interesting elements, there was nothing that really stood out for me in Bang, with the topics that are most interesting and heartbreaking being pushed into the background. The writing is solid and some of the pizza recipes were mouthwatering good, but overall Bang wasn’t what I hoped it would be.


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