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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BOOK REVIEW: The Willow Woman – by Laurence Westwood #buddyread

Title: The Willow Woman
(Philip Ye #1)

Author: Laurence Westwood
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 7th 2019
Publisher: Shikra Press
Finished reading: August 8th 2019
Pages: 440

“He plays the game very well. But anyone who thinks Philip Ye is not his own master is blind. As a friend I would never turn my back on him, as an enemy I would never underestimate him.”

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*** First of all I have to say thank you to Kelly for introducing me to The Willow Woman and hosting a giveaway a while back and to the author Laurence Westwood for sending me a wonderful signed copy!! ❤ This hasn’t influenced my opinion about this book. ***

It doesn’t matter that there is a whole ocean and thousands of kilometres between us, thanks to the wonder of Twitter Nicki (Jersey in the Channel Islands) and myself (Argentina) are always able to make our buddy reads work. With only a few hours time difference, it was easy to catch up, discuss what was happening in the story, guess what would happen next and of course share the necessary photos of both book and the obligatory dose of sugar we found ourselves needing occasionally. 😉 It was without doubt another successful buddy read!! Make sure to read Nicki’s review as well if you want to find out exactly why and if we felt the same about this story.

I was curious about The Willow Woman as soon as I first saw Kelly mention it on her blog. I’m always in for a good detective thriller and the fact that the story has a (for me) foreign setting is a huge bonus. I haven’t had the chance to read many stories set in China before, and The Willow Woman was therefore a little goldmine filled with local culture. Oh yes, this story will transport you right to Chengdu with excellently elaborated descriptions of both the setting and Chinese culture in general. Both the local culture as well as the spirituality play a very important role in the development of the plot and the plot twists you will encounter along the way. Especially the spirituality was a very interesting touch, with many references to the spirit world and main character Philip Ye actually asking the spirits of the deceased to help him with the case. His beliefs are then contrasted in Xu Ya, who seems more pragmatic and doesn’t seem to believe in the paranormal. The inclusion of both Chinese culture and the paranormal aspect without doubt gave this detective story an unique twist and made this story stand out for me.

Another thing you notice almost straight away is just how complex this story is, and in a good way. While it’s true that the sheer amount of characters can be intimidating in the beginning, The Willow Woman has a very helpful index to check who is who and how they are related when in doubt. Trust me, you will find the index very helpful especially in the first couple of chapters! It will make juggling all those different characters so much easier and allows you to properly enjoy the story from the beginning. This story isn’t just complex due to the amount of characters though. The Willow Woman has an abundance of storylines and different point of views to revel in. These are used to build the plot and plot twists brick by brick and help you keep guessing about what is really going on. While it’s true that I made certain predictions about for example the professor and the boy that ended up being true quiet early on, there were also a lot of twists I could have never guessed. The story was getting more intriguing, complicated and intense by the minute and we both had to ease the tension with a dose of sugar more than once… Never underestimate the power of cake!

As for the characters… While there are a lot of them, the ones that stood out most for me (and won over my heart almost straight away) were probably Philip Ye, Xu Ya, Fatty Deng, Ma and Mouse. Each is well developed and plays an important role in this story, although the role of some might not seem as important straight away. I’m not sure I agreed with certain decisions of some characters, including Xu’s actions towards the ending, but that was more me biting my nails and shouting ‘why would you do that?!‘ rather than a reason to enjoy the story less. You will have to ready yourself for some intense moments, especially towards the explosive ending! But I really liked how everything was wrapped up. I also really appreciated how references to the so-called Willow Woman were incorporated into the plot and how this element was ultimately explained.

In short, The Willow Woman is both excellently written and well constructed; the intricate plot, foreign setting with insights in Chinese culture and spirituality, abundance of characters and what you can roughly call a conspiracy angle making for a most fascinating read. If you are a fan of detective thrillers and are looking for a story with an unique twist, you should definitely schedule yourself a meeting with Philip Ye.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #116 – Dead Scared & The Archived

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres that both turned out to be winners. The Lacey Flint sequel Dead Scared by Sharon Bolton was a twisted and very intriguing read, and I just loved The Archived! Then again I’m a bit biased when it comes to Victoria Schwab‘s work haha. I can’t believe I still hadn’t started this series! I’ll be reading the sequel VERY soon.


Title: Dead Scared
(Lacey Flint #2)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 5th 2012
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: August 1st 2019
Pages: 384

“There are times when just waking up can feel like the hardest thing anyone could ever ask you to do. The first morning after your child has died, perhaps. Or after the man you adore has walked out. You would give anything, certainly the rest of your life, to stay down in the darkness of not knowing.”


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I had my first encounter with Lacey Flint two years ago and while I didn’t manage to warm up to her character then, I’ve been meaning to read the sequel ever since as I thought the series had a lot of promise. I’m glad I finally picked up Dead Scared, because I ended up loving it! It’s been too long since I read the first book to make a proper comparison, but based on my general feelings I can say this book is without doubt stronger than the first book. What a plot! What a disturbing and twisted situation Lacey finds herself in! The writing is engaging and makes you turn the pages at hyperspeed, but it is the plot that is the true star of Dead Scared. The whole situation with the bad dreams, the creepy things happening to the characters and the suicides without doubt chilled me to the bone. The plot was very cleverly contructed, complex and filled with twists to keep you guessing about the full scope of the situation. There are a lot of twisted and disturbing scenes included in Dead Scared, and trigger warnings are in place for abuse, rape, violence, mental health and suicide among other elements. This story is definitely not fit for those with a weak stomach! But if you think you can manage, Dead Scared will attack you both with psychological terror and disturbing action scenes that will leave you feeling uneasy and looking over your shoulder. I really loved the undercover angle and the psychological aspect of this story as well! In short, Dead Scared is without doubt a very twisted and disturbing read, and literally stuff made out of nightmares. I’m curious to see if book three will be able to live up to this book!


Title: The Archived
(The Archived #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: January 22nd 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: August 1st 2019
Pages: 336

“Because the only way to truly record a person is not in words, not in still frames, but in bone and skin and memory.”


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I think most of you will know by now that Victoria Schwab is one of my absolute favorite authors and I still can’t explain it to myself why I haven’t started this series before. It’s true that The Archived is one of her earlier series and not as widely known as some of her other books, but it is without doubt one worth discovering. I’m still kicking myself for not reading The Archived sooner! This first book is a mix of contemporary with paranormal fantasy and I personally really liked the balance of the story. Elements as family, death, grief and moving on in the real or ‘Outer’ world are mixed with a fantasy setting we can find in the Narrows and The Archive. Main character Mackenzie Bishop is able to show us the different worlds and their meaning through her job as a Keeper. She was an interesting character and I enjoyed seeing her develop over time and handle the mystery and escalating situation as in the plot. I loved the idea behind the worldbuilding and its symbolism and the setting in the converted hotel added an eery atmosphere to the story… And the writing is just as brilliant as ever. I’m definitely going to read the sequel VERY soon!


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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 #112 – Ivory And Bone & House Of Furies

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA fantasy read, one that sadly ended up disappointing me and one that definitely hit the mark. The writing style, POV and dull plot turned Ivory And Bone by Julie Eshbaugh into a struggle for me… House Of Furies by Madeleine Roux on the other hand was creepy, intriguing and very easy to read.


Title: Ivory And Bone
(Ivory And Bone #1)
Author: Julie Eshbaugh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 5th 2019
Pages: 384

“It’s strange how living things seem to shrink when the life is drained from them.”


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I’ve had Ivory And Bone on my radar for a long time now… Despite the mixed reviews I decided to give this story a chance anyway, mostly because I don’t come across pre-historic settings that often and the premise sounded fascinating. I still think the pre-historic timeframe is the most interesting aspect of this story, and I don’t think I would have made it to the last page without it. Oh yes, sadly I belong to the group that didn’t react well to Ivory And Bone. I’ll try to explain briefly why. A lot of my reaction to the story has to do with the fact that part of it is told from a second person POV. I had forgotten how much I despised this technique and I only refrained from DNFing because thankfully it was only used when Kol was talking about or interacting with Mya. Still, I feel I would have enjoyed the story significantly better if it would have used a third or even first person POV instead. Apart from the POV, I found the plot of Ivory And Bone to be rather dull and uneventful during mosty of the story. Which was a huge surprise, considering the pre-historic setting and the situation between the clans. The focus of the story was mostly on daily life within the clans and the whole romance/having to find a mate ordeal. To make things even worse, we even have to deal with a love triangle as well… But at least the romance is mainly slowburn. We do have a bit more action in the second half of the story, but overall I found the plot too slow and too uneventful to keep my attention. I wish I would have loved Ivory And Bone, but sadly we weren’t ment to be…


Title: House Of Furies
(House Of Furies #1)
Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 7th 2019
Pages: 416

“They do not know why they come, but they do, and once they step through the doors, their fate is sealed.”


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My first meeting with the work of Madeleine Roux was with the Asylum series, and I loved my time with those books. I’ve been wanting to pick up House Of Furies ever since… And I thought a dark and cold winter day would be a perfect alternative for the Halloween month to finally pick this paranormal horror/fantasy read up. This new series is without doubt another excellent creation! In fact, I think I might like it even more than the Asylum books… Both the historical setting in general and the descriptions are detailed and give the story the right eery and haunted atmosphere. I think part of the success of this story is the 1810 setting in the Coldthistle House and the sheer creepiness of it all. The writing itself was engaging and made me fly through this story in no time at all. The mystery around the Coldthistle House and its inhabitants is well handled and the not knowing exactly what is going on only adds suspense to the story. We have regular criminals as well as the supernatural incorporated into the plot, and I personally loved the little folklore stories as found in Mr. Morningside’s book. There is no doubt that House Of Furies would make a perfect Halloween read and I’m already looking forward to read the sequel! Because there is one thing for sure: the first book leaves the ending wide open and you will be left craving answers.


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ARC REVIEW: Trance – by Adam Southward

Title: Trance
Author: Adam Southward
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: July 4th 2019
Pages: 332

“We understand so much, yet so little. Delving into people’s minds is an immature science, even for those of us who have studied it for years.”

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

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I admit it was hook, line and sinker when I saw the cover of Trance and read the blurb. The promise of a dangerous character with the ability to control minds sounded absolutely fantastic, and there was no way I was going to be able to resist reading it. It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, because unfortunately I can’t say I was convinced by the story itself and I ended up having mixed thoughts. I still think the premise of this story is absolutely engrossing and probably the strongest aspect of this book. The suspect of this story, Victor Lazar, is a fascinatingly disturbing character; his mental ability makes this story step on the border of science fiction and paranormal activity and without doubt gives Trance a unique touch. As a result, it is hard to place Trance into a single genre and box, and instead we have an interesting mix of elements and storylines. It was especially fascinating to read more about Victor’s past and everything that happened in Romania. It might not be all that credible, but if you keep your mind open and don’t mind a sci-fi feel, you will find it to be an intriguing angle.

Now we arrive at one of the problems I had with Trance: the main character Alex Madison. On its own, I could really appreciate the psychology angle of this story. Instead of focusing on the crime and detective elements, Trance is more about trying to understand Victor Lazam and using psychology to analyze what goes on in his mind. The thing is… Alex basically is a spineless and despicable person; a pathetic whiner who is addicted to Xanax and an adulterer at that. I found the characters in general to be unlikeable, but my aversion to Alex made it very hard to keep invested in the story or care about what happened to them. Victor, disturbing as he was, at least made for an interesting character… Alex not so much. I also found part of the plot and character development to be rather unbelievable and this lack of credibility kind of put a damper on things. Things were too conveniently connected and the transition between different scenes and chapters wasn’t always all that fluid. I also struggled with the abrupt ending, and found the final scenes to be rather lacking. I still think the premise of Trance is simply captivating and the genre fluidity gave the story an unique touch, but sadly I ended up having mixed thoughts about the execution.


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