YVO’S SHORTIES #139 – The Shadow Cabinet & Next Year In Havana

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I read for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge… The first, The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, but the second, Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton, turned out to be absolutely fantastic.


Title: The Shadow Cabinet
(Shades Of London #3)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal 
First published: February 5th 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: December 15th 2019
Pages: 385

“We’re both broken right now. Something’s happened to us. But we can do this. We have to.”


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Say hello to another unpopular opinion ramble! I really enjoyed the first book of the Shades Of London series when I read it back in 2016… And even though I wasn’t as impressed by the sequel when I finally read it a few months back, when I discovered I had to read an urban fantasy for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge my thoughts went to this series almost immediately. I decided to give Rory another shot, and see if the third book would make me fall in love with the series again… Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be and The Shadow Cabinet turned out to be the weakest link of this series yet. I honestly start to believe Shades Of London would have worked better as a stand-alone, going out with a bang after the Jack The Ripper inspired case and just leave it at that… The plot in The Shadow Cabinet seems even more jumbled and farfetched than the sequel, and with many eyebrow raising moments and the characters being possibly even more annoying (Rory, I’m looking at you!) I’m still not sure why I even kept reading. I definitely didn’t enjoy reading about the direction this story seems to be taking, and to be honest I don’t really mind that there still isn’t any news about a possible book four? It’s truly a shame I ended up having this reaction after such a positive first experience with this series, but it is what it is I guess.


Title: Next Year In Havana
Author: Chanel Cleeton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 18th 2019
Pages: 394

“You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures.”


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I have to say I’m still kicking myself for not picking up Next Year In Havana sooner… I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I first heard about it last year, and despite the glowing reviews it took me way longer than expected to actually do so. Say hello to another top read of 2019, just in time before the year is over! Oh yes, I loved every single minute of this story and it will without doubt stay with me for a long time… And I also can’t wait to read When We Left Cuba soon and learn more about Beatriz. First things first though, and let’s talk Next Year In Havana. I do love my historical fiction, and the 1958 Cuban setting was both absolutely fascinating, well researched and excellently described. Chanel Cleeton was able to truly make the setting come alive, using detailed descriptions to paint the perfect portrait of a complicated time in Cuban history. This is a story that will not only entertain, but also teaches you about both past and present. Facts are mixed with fiction in a seamless way, and the two complement each other flawlessly.

The story is told using a dual timeline and two different POVs: Elisa in 1958 and her granddaughter Marisol in 2017. Dual timelines can go both ways for me, as it is extremely hard to balance the two correctly and one normally tends to fall short for me. But not in this case. I absolutely loved both present and past chapters and both Elisa and Marisol are the perfect characters to help us understand more about Cuban life and its history. The characters are another big reason I can call this story a new favorite, and I was able to warm up to them almost instantly. Elisa and her sisters, Ana, Pablo, Marisol, Luis… There are so many characters I loved in this story, and they all play their role in teaching us more about Cuba as well. The plot itself is complex, multilayered and shows a thorough research into Cuban history as well as a wonderful romance story to counter the darker elements in Next Year In Havana. This story is an absolute must-read for historical fiction fans!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #136: The Fountains Of Silence & Recursion

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two Goodreads Choice Awards finalists both written by authors I’ve loved books of in the past… And this time around they turned out to be winners as well. The Fountains Of Silence is hands down my new favorite Ruta Sepetys and one of my top reads this year as well. Recursion by Blake Crouch also turned out to be a fascinating read.


Title: The Fountains Of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Philomel Books
Finished reading: November 27th 2019
Pages: 512

“What is the cost of silence? If she remains quiet about her suspicions, is she granting acceptance of what is happening?”


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I’ve been a fan of Ruta Sepetys‘ work ever since my first experience with her books, so I knew I HAD to read The Fountains Of Silence even before I discovered it was actually set in Spain during General Franco’s dictatorship. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history, and the fact that this story is mostly set in a city I’ve had the pleasure to live in and love during my Erasmus student exchange made my expectations grow to a record hight. Even so, The Fountains Of Silence managed to completely blow me away and I was left without words to describe my feelings about this story as well as with a new all time favorite to add to my list. It shows that so much research has gone into this story and I bow to the author for her detailed descriptions and thorough information about what happened in that difficult time period in Spain. It’s true that there are quite a few different characters and POVs to deal with, but I personally didn’t mind as it only added to the richness to the plot. Each different character helps giving us some insight in different parts of life in Madrid under Franco’s dictatorship. These same characters will win over your heart almost instantly and your heart will go out for them as their story slowly evolves over time. Daniel and Ana are the stars of this story of course, but there are so many other characters I found myself rooting for and there were without doubt a quite a few heartbreaking moments. Make sure to keep your tissues closeby just to be safe! I loved The Fountains Of Silence from the very first page until the very last… If you are a historical fiction fan who appreciates a complex and rich plot with fantastic descriptions and brilliant character development, you are missing out if you haven’t tried this story yet.


Title: Recursion
Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
First published: June 11th 2019
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: November 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“We think we’re perceiving the world directly and immediately, but everything we experience is this carefully edited, tape-delayed reconstruction.”


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Dark Matter is on my list of all time favorites, so I’ve been curious about Recursion  ever since I first heard about it. The premise of this story sounds absolutely compelling, and now I’ve had the chance to read this story I can say that it definitely lived up to expectations. It’s true that I don’t read a lot of sci-fi as it’s not really my thing, but I can now officially say that I’m making an exception for Blake Crouch. The idea of time, memories, the memory chair and time travel in Recursion is absolutely fascinating. Using a dual POV, switching between main characters Barry and Helena, we slowly learn more about  Helena’s invention and how her work will change the world forever… I’m keeping this short as I want to avoid any spoilers, but I really liked how the plot was constructed and how the idea of memories and time being fluid plays such a key role in the story. Recursion introduces some fascinating concepts that will definitely make an impact on you. And even if you are not really a sci-fi fan, I can still recommend trying Recursion if you enjoy complex, thrilling and captivating stories.


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

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


Title: The Deep
Author: Rivers Solomon

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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ARC REVIEW: The Passion According To Carmela – by Marcos Aguinis

Title: The Passion According To Carmela
Author: Marcos Aguinis
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2008
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: October 7th 2018
Pages: 284
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘La pasión según Carmela’)

“At the root of any insanity you’re bound to find great truths.”

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

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I know I should probably have read this one in Spanish, but since it takes me twice as long to read it and I had the opportunity to read this newly published English translation, I decided to be lazy. I was fascinated by the premise of The Passion According To Carmela as soon as I first started reading it. While I learned a few things about the Cuban Revolution during Uni, most of the history was skimmed over and I was looking forward to learn more about that particular part of Cuban history. The promise of a love story mixed in with a proper look inside the Cuban Revolution just sounded too good to be true, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to read this book. The translation was excellently done and the writing style really flowed. The descriptions both of the Cuban setting and the background information around the Revolution and its consequences for the locals are exhaustive and very thorough. The Passion According To Carmela not only introduces us to the main character and their tragic and complicated love history, but also teaches you about how Fidel Castro came to power and how this effected the country. The prose is easy to on the eye, draws you in and makes it really easy to invest your time in this story. The pace was a bit slow at points, but overall The Passion According To Carmela was a really satisfying read.

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Cuba is on the border of a Revolution, and the country isn’t alone in facing some drastic changes. Carmela Vasconcelos has been living a privileged life so far, but her idealistic ideas and her brother Lucas end up convincing her to join Fidel Castro’s rebels. There she meets the Argentinian socialist Ignacio Deheza, and they are both aware of the instant connection between them. Their passion for both each other and the cause blind them, and they soon discover passion alone might just not be enough… Is the Revolution really everything they thought it would promised to be?

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The Passion According To Carmela is perfect for both historical fiction fans and those who enjoy a good complicated love story. You will come out both exhausted by everything that happens to the main character and having learned more about the Cuban Revolutions and its effects on the locals. Well written, well translation, well executed… It reads a bit slow at points, but the story is without doubt still 100% worth reading.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #42 – Leah On The Offbeat & The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two authors I’ve read books of before that belong to my all time favorites… Although this time around they didn’t manage to get the highest rating. Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli was definitely the fluffy and feel good read I was looking for. I still prefer Simon, but this one was very entertaining as well. And Jonas Jonasson‘s books seem to be hit and miss for me… I absolutely loved The Hundred Year Old Man, but both other reads (including The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden) didn’t hit the mark for me.


Title: Leah On The Offbeat
(Creekwood #2)
Author: Becky Albertalli

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 24th 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: August 27th 2018
Pages: 364

“I hate when assholes have talent. I want to live in a world where good people rule at everything and shitty people suck at everything.”


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Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is definitely one of my all time favorite reads, and as soon as I heard there was going to be a sequel I was jumping up and down out of excitement. Then I started thinking: but how could a sequel ever live up to the first book? Of course there was no way I could keep myself from spending more time with some of my favorite characters though, so I knew I had to pick up Leah On The Offbeat at some point. I’ve heard mixed things about this title ever since it was published, but this didn’t stop me from being curious and wanting to give it a go myself. And while I don’t think it is as good as the original, it does have a love triangle and the main character Leah can get annoying, I do love the diversity in this story. And basically it’s cute, it’s fluffy, it’s lgbt, it has interesting characters and I had a great time reading it. Becky Albertalli is an expert in creating quirky, interesting and well developed contemporary characters and it is exactly those characters that take this story to the next level. Plus, we get a whole lot of Simon and his gang as well! Would I have preferred not having the love triangles? Probably. Could I have done without some of the drama and cliches? Maybe. Did Leah started to get on my nerves at points? Likely. But that doesn’t take away that Leah On The Offbeat was just the cute contemporary read I needed where diversity, quirkiness and uniqueness are not only encouraged but also praised.


Title: The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden
Author: Jonas Jonasson

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: 2013
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Finished reading: August 29th 2018
Pages: 419
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Analfabeten som kunde räkna’)

“He was being all normal again. He was practically apologizing for existing. Which was, of course, rather contradictory if he didn’t exist”


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I read The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared back in 2015 and it ended up being on my list of all time favorites ever since. It’s true that Jonas Jonasson‘s dry and sometimes sarcastic humor and writing style in general isn’t for everyone, but if it’s your style you will be blown away by it. I’ve been looking for a repeat experience ever since, but sadly I haven’t been able to. Hitman Anders was a total miss for me, although I still had hope for The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden. I tried keeping my expectations low, but still I wasn’t charmed by this one either. Let’s begin with the positive. I do like his writing style and there are definitely some funny moments there. I like how the author incorporated many politically and socially important historical events in his book as a background for the main characters. Nombeko’s history is fascinating and shines a light on the complicated past of South Africa, although it’s not the main goal of the story. The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden has a dual POV structure, where we follow not only Nombeko in South Africa, but also the Swedish Ingmar and later his sons Holger and Holger. I personally wasn’t a fan of the Swedish POV especially in the first half of the book, although I did grow to like Holger Two. Things also improved in the second half as the different storylines merged and the story started to flow better. Still, it was hard to connect to some of the characters and the story did drag considerably at points. It was nice to see how everything did fit together and how small their worlds ended up being, although I don’t think it was exactly credible. I don’t think the story was ment that way in the first time, but it wasn’t the laugh-out-loud funny story I was expecting either. Oh well, maybe the new The Hundred-Year-Old Man sequel will manage to finally blow my socks off again?


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ARC REVIEW: The Tango War – by Mary Jo Conahay

Title: The Tango War
Author: Mary Jo McConahay
Genre: Non Fiction, History, War
First published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: August 10th 2018
Pages: 336

“Each side closely shadowed the steps of the other, like dancers in a tango.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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My interest in this non fiction read was piqued for three reasons: I’m hugely interested in anything related to WWII, nobody ever talks about the role of Latin America during WWII and last but not least I have a special interest in history related to Latin America especially since I have settled down in Argentina. The Tango War is an eye-catching title and the cover stands out as well, but it is important to not forget this is a non fiction read first, entertaining thriller second. I don’t agree with the blurb that The Tango War can be read as a thriller, because the chapters lack cohesion for that. The chapters jump between countries and point of views of the war, which sometimes is necessary, but turns this book into a collection of essays rather than a single story. I also would have prefered to see more focus on the actual Latin American countries, instead of the clearly US influenced point of view of the different topics discussed. I don’t think I could call this non fiction read 100% neutral as a consequence, but that doesn’t take away that The Tango War was a thoroughly interesting read. There has never been much talk about the role of Latin America during WWII, most people instead focusing on Europe, the United States and Japan as the main contenders. It was fascinating to read about how various countries in Latin America had a big influence in the things that happened during the war. The focus isn’t solely on the years during WWII though, as many events both before and after are put in the spotlight as well. If you are interested in the topic and enjoy non fiction reads, The Tango War is just the book for you.

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There has never been enough focus on the fact that Latin America played a big role during WWII. Both sides have been fighting for the allegiance of the countries of Latin America even long before the war, knowing that their support will play a vital role. Each side is willing to play dirty, doing what is needed to win over the countries and get the support needed…

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If you enjoy reading non fiction historical texts and have an interest in the Second World War, The Tango War will without doubt interest you. It’s not the fastest read of the world and the essay-like chapters might slow you down, but this book shines the light upon a wide variety of topics related to the role of Latin America during the war. Would I have liked to see a more neutral point of view instead of a clearly US influenced perspective? Maybe. Would I have liked to see more of Latin America itself? Probably. But there is no doubt The Tango War is still a little goldmine of information.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #7: Captain Alatriste & Utopia


Time for more Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I will be reviewing the last two books I read in 2017. Basically I picked up these two instead of other titles to try and finish at least two more challenges before the end of the year. I was supposed to read these long before, but with the slump and all things got a little last minute. Oops? The first is my first and only Spanish read last year called El Capitán Alatriste (Captain Alatriste) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, which is set in 17th century Spain.The second is a long pending classic called Utopia by Thomas More, first published back in 1516.


Title: Captain Alatriste
(Adventures Of Captain Alatriste #1)
Author: Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure
First published: January 2nd 1996
Publisher: Alfaguara
Finished reading: December 30th 2017
Pages: 242
(Read in original language, Spanish: ‘El Capitán Alatriste’)

“No era el hombre más honesto ni el más piadoso, pero era un hombre valiente.”


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I had made a promise to myself last year to start reading more in Spanish again, but apparently that promise was soon forgotten… I only just managed to squeeze in this story before 2017 ended, which definitely wasn’t what I had originally planned for the year. I have read Arturo Pérez-Reverte‘s work in the past, so I thought the first book of the Adventures Of Captain Alatriste would be a safe bet. This first book is simply named after the main character of this series set in 17th century Spain: El Capitán Alatriste. I have a weak spot for both historical fiction and books set in one of my favorite countries, Spain, so I thought I would really enjoy this one. Unfortunately, things turned out to be different. I know Spanish isn’t my native language, but I both have a degree in Spanish Philology and have been using Spanish daily for years, so I can confirm the language itself wasn’t a barrier. What did slow me down considerably is the general tone and pace of the story, and the fact that nothing much happened during the story. Not only was the historical setting quite weak and could have been elaborated a lot more, but I also found the way the story was told through someone close to Alatriste not entertaining at all. This probably has a lot to do with the writing as well as the lack of a proper plot and more action… I did appreciate the incorporation of old Spanish literature in the text. But still, I definitely won’t be continuing this series any time soon.


Title: Utopia
Author: Thomas More

Genre: Classics, Philosophy, Politics
First published: 1516
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 31st 2017
Pages: 135

“Pride thinks it’s own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.”


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I’ve had this classic on my TBR pile for ages now, and to be honest I was a bit intimidated by the fact that Utopia was published that long ago. This kind of classics are not always easy to read, but thankfully the English translation I read was not difficult to read at all. Thomas More wrote Utopia originally in Latin back in 1516, and in it he reveals some both very interesting and puzzling ideas on what the ideal society would look like. I can’t say I agree with everything he said, but every aspect of the Utopian society is well elaborated and shows exactly how things would work for the inhabitants of Utopia. The beginning of Utopia reads a bit slow, but as soon as the story starts elaborating the different aspects of Utopian life the pace picks up considerably. All in all quite an interesting read for those who are interested in philosophy and politics.


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