YVO’S SHORTIES #128 – Infinity + One & Thin Air

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles I’ve been looking forward to read, and both ended up being excellent reads. Amy Harmon is one of my favorite authors and Infinity + One was without doubt another great read. And I’ve been looking forward to pick up my beautiful copy of Thin Air ever since I bought it, and it was just the right story for the time of the year.


Title: Infinity + One
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Music
First published: June 8th 2014
Finished reading: October 14th 2019
Pages: 350

“We weren’t so different, Finn and I. Cages come in lots of colors and shapes. Some are gilded, while others have a slamming door. But golden handcuffs are still handcuffs.”


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I think most will be aware of the fact that I adore Amy Harmon‘s books by now… I’ve decided to make the wait for her next story Where The Lost Wander a little less painful by tackling some of her backlist titles I still had pending. I was going to finally pick up The Bird And The Sword, but my heart screamed for a dose of contemporary romance and Infinity + One sounded perfect for the job. As soon as I realized this story was going to have references to the infamous Bonnie and Clyde couple, I was sold. I’m a huge sucker for historical crime references, and who hasn’t heard about the story of Bonnie and Clyde?! This element was definitely a huge bonus for me, and I loved how it played a role through the whole story in multiple ways. Bonnie and Finn are in many way opposites, but I loved how well their characters worked together in this story. The thorough development of both characters, giving them flaws and having them making mistakes, really makes them come alive for me and I was soon addicted to their story despite the fact it kind of has that insta-love vibe going on. But between the road trip feel of the plot, the dangerous angle, the Bonnie and Clyde references, the music and the spark between Bonnie and Finn among other things, there were many elements to make you forget about those few cliches. The writing is just as wonderful as I’ve come to expect of her work, and while Infinity + One isn’t my absolute favorite of her work, it’s undeniably an excellent read fans of the genre will love.


Title: Thin Air
Author: Michelle Paver

Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
First published: October 6th 2016
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: October 16th 2019
Pages: 240

“Up and up my eye climbs, past sweeping, dark-red precipices and glaring white ice, to those immaculate peaks, the highest trailing a banner of wind-blown snow across a sky so intensely blue that it’s almost black.

Kangchenjunga.”


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I admit this was initially a cover love buy for me, although as soon as I read the blurb I was convinced I made the right choice. Partly a historical adventure story set in the 1935 Himalayas, partly a ghost story, Thin Air turned out to have a very interesting mix of different elements and it’s a story perfect for this Halloween month. First up we have the historical fiction aspect, as this story is set in 1935… I think the author did a great job describing the historical elements and it gives us a good idea what it would have been like joining such a expedition back then. That brings us to the next element: the international setting in the Himalayas (India, Nepal), with the mountain Kangchenjunga being almost like another character. The descriptions of the setting really made the mountains come alive for me, and it’s part of the reason I enjoyed the story. Another thing that stands out is the paranormal aspect of this story. We learn about a past failed expedition and its tragic end… And with strange things happening to the main character Stephen, you definitely get that spooky vibe. But this story also almost reads like an adventure journal where you learn more about mountain climbing, what happens during this expedition as well as the other characters as Stephen sees them. Some are definitely not that likeable, but it was very interesting what the extreme experience and weather conditions do to a person. I had a great time reading this story and definitely didn’t see that ending coming! Thin Air is without doubt a great Halloween as well as a proper Winter read. It definitely makes you want to bundle up in a pile of blankets with a steaming mug of your favorite beverage closeby!


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#WesolowskiWednesdays – Hydra edition #Orentober #bookreview @Orendabooks

Today is Wednesday, which means it’s time for another dose of #WesolowskiWednesdays !! This time around it’s time for the second book of the Six Stories series, written by the talented Matt Wesolowski, to take the spotlight. All in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month! I admit I have been struggling a LOT to write reviews for this series. YES, the books are just THAT good! You can find my attempt at writing a somewhat coherent review about Hydra below…

Title: Hydra
(Six Stories #2)
Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: December 24th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 12th 2019
Pages: 320

“It’s like a hydra, Scott; every head you cut off, two more grow in their places. And we’re everywhere – hiding, waiting. You’ll never ever stop us.”


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Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Orenda Books titles, but they make me feel so SO incompetent as a blogger… Why? Let’s just say that each time I finish an Orenda title, I’m left a blubbering mess and completely lost for words. These feelings were no different when I finished Hydra, a story that blew my mind and left me lacking the skills to find those words to properly describe my thoughts. How on earth am I supposed to be able to review such a cracker of a book?! Should I just throw in the ‘just read the damn book‘ one liner and leave it at that? Or link to the glowing reviews of more competent fellow bloggers and let them convince you this series in general is an absolute must-read? Trust me, I’ve been seriously tempted to do both, but in the end I’ve decided to just throw in my two cents about what I already know will be a 2019 favorite.

So, Hydra. It’s been over a week since I finished this title and my mind is still blown and unable to string those sentences together. I already had a brilliant experience reading Six Stories earlier this year, but somehow Hydra did the unthinkable and managed to outshine that first experience. Lost for words and utterly flabbergasted… Oh yes, this book made a big impact. The podcast format, the premise, the characters, the paranormal and horror elements, the writing, the suspense and plot twists… I don’t even know where to start my review as everything was just pure magic. So please bear with me as I try to explain why you should read this series ASAP.

First of all, can we just admire that gorgeous cover for a moment? So dark, ominous and simply glorious and it definitely sets the right mood for the story. Because Hydra isn’t just a crime story where Scott King investigates an infamous murder case. Instead, it also flirts with the horror genre with the introduction of paranormal elements that will definitely give you goosebumps and chill you to the bone. The so-called black-eyed children are oh so creepy and definitely give Hydra an unique touch! The lines between facts and fiction are blurred and give this story almost a surreal sensation… If you are easily frightened, you should brace yourself before you start reading this story!

Another key element that makes this masterpiece unique is without doubt the format, which really makes the series stand out. Scott King is a very interesting character, because as the investigative journalist hosting the podcast he is both omnipresent while also mostly detached from the actual story. Like he says himself: the podcasts are not about him, but about the case he investigates. This provides for a very unique point of view! Hydra is once again told in six different podcast episodes with each episode featuring a different key character who might shed some light on what really happened during that brutal night known as the ‘Macleod Massacre’. We also get snippets of multiple audio files from Arla Macleod, recorded while she is a patient of Elmtree Manor Hosiptal, which give a little more insight as to what is going on in her head. I bet Hydra would make a fantastic audiobook as well, as both the podcast format and the audio files would really come alive that way.

The writing is flawless and I completely lost track of time while reading Hydra. The Macleod Massacre is an absolutely brutal case and I was hooked as soon as Scott King started dropping the first facts about that night in 2014. Arla’s motive might seem simple at first glance, but as the hints of the paranormal start popping up things are starting to get dark and tantalizing. Are the black-eyed children just the imagination of a mentally disturbed young woman? Or is something more sinister at play? This ominous feel will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and gives Hydra that spine-chilling vibe. The suspense is again build up slowly, but I do feel that this sequel is a lot more sinister than the first book. The paranormal elements definitely play a big role in this, which are expertly incorporated into what is already an excellent plot. Hydra will also have some excellent plot twists for you in store, and once again the final episode will punch you right in the gut and leave you dumbfounded. The cast of characters definitely made for a interesting bunch as well, and especially Arla was a fascinating character to learn more about. If you like your thrillers dark, unique and glorious, Hydra will be a perfect match!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #126 – Coraline & Tunnel Of Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! October is Halloween month and this round of shorties features two Halloween inspired MG reads that are both excellent for getting you in the mood for Halloween. I’ve been meaning to read Coraline by Neil Gaiman for years now, and I’m happy to report it didn’t disappoint. And of course I couldn’t resist reading Victoria Schwab‘s newest title Tunnel Of Bones as it’s perfect for this month… This sequel is another brilliant read, but I didn’t expect any different.


Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Horror
First published: August 4th 2002
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: October 1st 2019
Pages: 162

“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then?”


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I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman‘s work for a while now, but somehow I never actually read Coraline despite having seen the movie… Until now. I thought this little book would be the perfect title to mark the start of the Halloween month with, and is without doubt a story that gives off the exact right creepy vibe. I like how the story makes you go in blind, and only starts revealing details about the alternative fantasy world as you get further into the story. This way, you discover the facts only when the main character Coraline does, and I’m sure middle graders will be able to relate to her easier this way. The writing is of the same high quality I’ve become used to of Neil Gaiman, and while it’s not my favorite story of his, I definitely had a great time discovering the story of Coraline. And with its spooky and eery vibe, it’s a perfect choice if you are looking for a quick and fun Halloween read!


Title: Tunnel Of Bones
(City Of Ghosts #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 3rd 2019
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: October 3rd 2019
Pages: 304

“Calling the Tuileries a garden is like calling Hogwarts a school. It’s technically correct, but the word really doesn’t do either one justice.”


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I think everyone probably knows by now I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab’s books, and I’ve loved every single book I tried so far. This middle grade series is no exception, and even with high expectations Tunnel Of Bones was just as good as I was hoping for. If you are looking like a fun, quick and fabulous Halloween story, you have just found your next read! Both City Of Ghosts and Tunnel Of Bones are perfect reads for this time of the year. In this sequel main character Cass and her parents travel to Paris to find more ghost stories and film another episode of their TV show. I really enjoyed the premise in the first book, and this same recipe is used more than successfully in the sequel. The main descriptions of the French setting are executed perfectly and make it feel as if you are right in the middle of Paris along with the main characters. I like how reality is mixed with fantasy and the paranormal, and how the lines are blurred between the two. The TV show, her parents hunting ghost stories and Cass knowing ghosts actually exists is a very strong base to build a story on! The idea of her near-death-experience and her being able to enter the so-called Veil and interact with ghosts is fascinating, and I loved the new twist in Tunnel Of Bones. Cass has to battle something new in this sequel, and I really enjoyed seeing the plot evolve. You will find paranormal elements, humor, friendship, a dose of forboding and a hint of danger, all sprinkled with that French je ne sais quoi that makes you love every single page of this story. Is it too soon to ask about the next book yet? I’m seriously addicted to this series.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #124 – The Passengers & The Unbound

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title, both my favorite authors. The Passengers by John Marrs turned out to be an absolutely brilliant read and one of my 2019 favorites… And while I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy The Unbound as much as the first book, it was without doubt still a solid read.


Title: The Passengers
Author: John Marrs

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 1st 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: August 31st 2019
Pages: 416

“Nothing disappears any more,’ shrugged Cadman. ‘Everything is somewhere. All that’s private becomes public in the end.”


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I’ve been excited to read The Passengers ever since I first read that first raving review a while back… I couldn’t wait for my pre-order to arrive, but somehow I didn’t pick it up straight away when it did… I’m kicking myself now, because the reviews were absolutely right: this is an absolutely brilliant read. I’ve read his work in the past and I already knew I was going to like it, but The Passengers simply blew me away. What a read! The writing, the plot, the near-future setting, the twists, the characters… I loved it all, found myself to be glued to my seat and couldn’t stop reading until I discovered how it would all end. Some scenes are pretty brutal, but only show just how dire the situation the characters find themselves in is. The development of the near future is excellently done and I feel they give us a (terrifying) glimpse of what the future could be. I’m personally not sure if I would want driverless cars or having my whole life available online; and especially not after finishing The Passengers… Both plot and character development are well executed and there are so many secrets and twists involved that you will never guess what is going on or who is behind it all… I liked how this story was divided into three different parts, and the ending was satisfying. The Passengers is an absolutely brilliant book and hands down one of my favorites of 2019… If you haven’t read this one, you definitely should give it a go!


Title: The Unbound
(The Archived #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: September 1st 2019
Pages: 368

“Doubt is not a crime, Agatha. It is only a tool to test our faith. It can break us, but it can also make us stronger.”


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I decided to pick up the sequel of this series while memories of the first book were still fresh for a change… I loved The Archived and have been looking forward to dive into the world again. And while I have to say I didn’t enjoy The Unbound as much as the first book, I can’t deny it was still a solid book. The worldbuilding is still strong, the urban fantasy feeling with a paranormal touch right there and center, and I really like the idea of the Narrows, the Archived and the Keepers and Crew using doors to move around and do their job. The writing is of the same high quality I’ve become used to with Schwab‘s books, and it was really easy to keep turning those pages. My main issue is with the new direction of this story and the focus shifting towards the ‘real’ world, including a lot of private school scenes, cliches and even a love triangle. I get that Mac is a mess after what happened to her in the first book, but I wasn’t a fan of how her character behaved in the sequel. I also guessed the big plot twist really early on, which kind of put a damper on things… This is by no means a happy read and I did have some minor issues with this sequel, but overall it is still a very solid read. I’m definitely looking forward to see if she will write a third The Archived book!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #123 – The Madness Underneath & The Hiding Place

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two reads that both turned out to be entertaining, but still not as good as I hoped they would be. The sequel The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson and The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor


Title: The Madness Underneath
(Shades Of London #2)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: February 1st 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: August 28th 2019
Pages: 304

“They knew I would do a better job of berating myself for being an idiot than they ever could and that waiting for the punishment was much worse than the actual punishment.

 

The tick tick tick is much worse than the boom.”


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Fun fact: the first book of this series was a TBR jar pick as well, and while I really enjoyed it, it still took me three years and another nudge from my TBR jar to finally pick up the sequel. This ment I didn’t remember all the details about the events in the first book, but it was quite easy to get the gist after the first couple of chapters. I really like the idea behind the Shades Of London series. It’s YA paranormal fantasy and horror with a twist, the snarky humor giving you a break from the darker scenes. I do believe this sequel is not as strong as the first book though… This feeling has to do both with the plot itself, the characters and the romance involved. The plot, while interesting enough, did miss that spark of the first book. It might have been the simple fact that it’s hard to live up to the previous Jack The Ripper inspired plot, but I found certain parts of the plot quite slow and sometimes not all that credible. I also had issues with certain actions and the behavior of certain characters… Part of this feeling has to do with the fact that we have to deal with a considerable amount of romance and teen angst in this sequel; something I didn’t expect at all and definitely wasn’t my cup of tea. I still liked the writing though and the humor used was mostly spot on for me. The paranormal elements were likewise interesting and I liked the development of Rory’s special skills. And that mayor cliffhanger ending definitely makes me want to pick up the third book soon despite my reservations.


Title: The Hiding Place
Author: C.J. Tudor

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: August 30th 2019
Pages: 288

“People say time is a great healer. They’re wrong. Time is simply a great eraser. It rolls on and on regardless, eroding our memories, chipping away at those great big boulders of misery until there’s nothing left but sharp little fragments, still painful but small enough to bear.”


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I really enjoyed The Chalk Man last year, and I’ve been looking forward to try C.J. Tudor‘s second book The Hiding Place ever since. It might have been that I set my expectations too high, but I ended up having mixed thoughts about this book. The first thing that stands out is that I underestimated just how dark this story was going to be… I personally didn’t mind, but I do believe The Hiding Place would be classified more accurately with a (paranormal) horror label rather than just a ‘regular’ thriller. Especially the paranormal aspect took me by surprise, as I have to be in the mood for those kind of stories and don’t always react to them positively. It really shows the author uses the work of Stephen King as her inspiration though; The Hiding Place definitely has that King feel with the horror elements, the bugs and the paranormal. Completely original or not, there is one thing for sure: C.J. Tudor sure knows how to write. I found myself flying through the pages, both shocked and entertained by what was happening. I liked the humor used, and while the characters are not exactly likeable, it somehow works for this story. And while I can’t deny I preferred The Chalk ManThe Hiding Place is without doubt still a very entertaining albeit darker than expected read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #121 – Smoke In The Sun & The Cellar

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around to YA reads that I fully expected to enjoy thoroughly, but failed to blow me away in the end. The first is the duology conclusion Smoke In The Sun by Renee Ahdieh, which I was expecting to be another 5 star read after loving the first book last year, but it wasn’t ment to be. And while the premise of The Cellar by Natasha Preston is absolutely fascinating, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would.


Title: Smoke In The Sun
(Flame In The Mist #2)
Author: Renee Ahdieh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 1st 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: August 20th 2019
Pages: 416

“Honor was a thing to hate. It drove people to act foolishly, as though they were heroes. As though they were invincible.”


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I’m still surprised I reacted this way to this duology conclusion, because I absolutely loved Flame In The Mist last year and it was one of my 2018 favorites. It might have been that my expectations were set too high, it might have been that I should have reread the first book before starting Smoke In The Sun because I had forgotten about a lot of details… But the fact is, I never felt that same love for the sequel. Even with the help of the glossary in the back, I kind of struggled to keep all the different characters, POVs and plotlines apart, and that made me enjoy the story a lot less. The writing is solid, and I liked the Japanese elements incorporated into the story, as it gives the story the right atmosphere. I would have liked to see the magic more developed though, as it would have given the story that little something extra. Instead, Smoke In The Sun focuses a lot on the relationships between the different characters. To make things worse, we have a love triangle to deal with… And I wasn’t sure if I liked the character development of certain characters. I still think Mariko is a very strong and resourceful main character, and I still liked Okami, but for me Smoke In The Sun lacked some of that special ‘magic’ that turned the first book into a favorite for me. It’s not a bad read, but sadly it wasn’t what I hoped it would be either.


Title: The Cellar
(The Cellar #1)
Author: Natasha Preston

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 1st 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Finished reading: August 22nd 2019
Pages: 368

“This was a morning from a nightmare – one that I couldn’t wake up from.”


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I’ve had The Cellar on my TBR for quite some time now… When my TBR jar decided it was time to read it and I reread the blurb, I was instantly excited to finally pick it up. The premise of this story is absolutely fascinating and I’ve been looking forward to read it ever since. But somehow, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would. The elements are there: a twisted serial killer, a kidnapping, a prolonged hostage situation… But somehow it was all overshadowed by just how whiny and annoying the main character Summer was. I get that she is in an impossible situation and to say that she is having a hard time is an understatement, but I really couldn’t stand her character and the chapter set before the kidnapping only reconfirmed those feelings. There was too much romance and teen angst involved for me to take the plot seriously, and the final twists were not at all credible either. Another thing about the plot: the whole ‘trapped inside a room by a twisted individual’ scenario has clearly been done before, and sadly executed better in other stories I’ve had the chance to read so far (including Room, The Butterfly Garden, The Bunker Diary). It’s by no means a bad read and the serial killer we are introduced to is without doubt seriously twisted, but somehow The Cellar didn’t manage to convince me completely despite the promising premise. I don’t think I will be reading the sequel any time soon…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #119 – The Dream Thieves & Darius The Great Is Not Okay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The first a sequel that surprisingly enough ended up disappointing me: The Dream Thieves by  Maggie Stiefvater. Be warned for an upcoming unpopular opinion review! Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram turned out to be just as good as people kept promising though.


Title: The Dream Thieves
(The Raven Cycle #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: August 7th 2019
Pages: 453

“All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or keptfrom, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches – that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”


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WARNING: it’s unpopular opinion time again!!

I should have known that the unpopular opinion curse wouldn’t stay away… Because even though I did enjoy the first book The Raven Boys back when I read it in December 2015, I can’t say I felt the same about The Dream Thieves. It’s true that I’ve heard people having mixed reactions to this sequel in general, and I fully understand why now. Unlike the first book, The Dream Thieves almost fully focuses on Ronan, and reactions to the sequel will most likely depend on your reaction to Ronan’s character in general. My reaction on Ronan’s character is actually surprisingly neutral; there are some things I like (including heritage and ‘powers’) and other aspects I found rather annoying (including his attitude), but overall I don’t mind him as a character. Having the focus mainly on Ronan in this story means that the magic of the first book is almost completely lost though… Because it’s the dynamics between the four raven boys and Blue that made that story into a success for me. Apart from the shifted focus, I also found The Dream Thieves to be rather overlong and quite boring in points… I actually caught myself skimreading certain parts, and that is never a good sign. I do have hopes for the final two books, as more than one fellow blogger has called this sequel the weakest link of the series, but I think I’m going to take a little break before I actually continue with The Raven Cycle. Maybe the unpopular opinion curse will get bored and will go away that way!


Title: Darius The Great Is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: August 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.”


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This one has been recommended to me multiple times and I love foreign settings featuring places I’ve never been before, so it’s easy to see why I was really excited to finally pick up Darius The Great Is Not Okay. I have to say it didn’t disappoint at all. While it’s true that it took me a couple of pages before I fully connected to the characters and writing, once I did I was hooked. The power of this story is both in its characters and the descriptions of the setting in Iran and the local culture. Especially the second was thorough, detailed and well developed, making Iran and daily life in Yazd come fully alive for me and it really enhanced my reading experience. Adib Khorram is able to make you feel as if you are right beside Darius in Yazd, discovering more about his family and his roots. Darius made for a very interesting flawed character, his depression and issues with not feeling that he belongs making you think about what it is like to stand in his place and how difficult it can be to overcome a clash of cultures within your own family or even within yourself. Darius doesn’t feel American enough, but doesn’t think he belongs in Iran either, with him not speaking farsi and not knowing a lot about their culture… I really liked how the author developed this theme in what I think is a realistic way; as a Dutch person living in a quite different culture and country (Argentina), I found it really easy to relate to Darius and his struggles. I loved learning more about Iran and seeing the characters grow and develop over time in general…The ending made me kind of sad though. If you enjoy YA fiction with a foreign setting and both interesting and flawed characters, you should definitely read Darius The Great Is Not Okay.


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