YVO’S SHORTIES #129 – Fever 1793 & The Museum Of Extraordinary Things (DNF)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two historical fiction reads that I fully expected to love, but somehow failed to connect to. The historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, but the characters fell a bit flat for me… And with a superslow pace and flat characters, I saw no other option but to DNF The Museum Of Extraordinary Things. Oh yes, sadly it’s time for a double dose of unpopular opinion reviews!


Title: Fever 1793
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
First published: September 1st 2000
Publisher: Aladdin
Finished reading: October 17th 2019
Pages: 252

“Life was a battle, and Mother a tired and bitter captain. The captain I had to obey.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I was browsing for possible titles that are set in the 18th century to read for the final era for the When Are You Reading? challenge when I saw this title pop up. I enjoyed her other title Wintergirls when I read it earlier this year and the historical setting and plot sounded fascinating, so I immediately knew I wanted to read this title. I’m not sure if this was the wrong book at the wrong time for me, or if it’s just that I’m not that used to middle grade books in the first place… But the fact is that I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by this story. First things first, and I have to say that the historical setting is well developed and detailed when it comes to the facts of 18th century Philadelphia and the yellow fever outbreak. It shows that the author has investigated historical facts thoroughly and the descriptions feel realistic and help teach the readers more about yellow fever and the impact of the outbreak back then. I could also appreciate the explanation of what was based on historical facts and what might have been changed in the story. That said, I struggled to connect to the story. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has somewhat to do with the fact that I never felt a real connection with the main characters, making me feel mostly detached from  everything that happened to the main characters. In short, while the historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, the characters somehow ended up falling a bit flat for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you haven’t tried this story yet and are intrigued by the blurb, you shouldn’t hesitate to try your luck.


Title: The Museum Of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: February 18th 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Finished reading: October 21st 2019
Pages: 385
DNF at 38% (146 pages)

“Coney Island was, above all else, a place of dreams, with amusements like no others, rides that defied the rules of gravity, concerts and games of chance, ballrooms with so many electric lights they glowed as if on fire.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’ve been meaning to read this title for a long time, so I was excited when my TBR jar decided it was time to finally read it. The premise of The Museum Of Extraordinary Things sounds fantastic, so I fully expected to enjoy the story… Sadly, surprisingly enough it wasn’t ment to be. I’m not sure if it was just the wrong time for this story or if my book hangerover after finishing The Lion Tamer Who Lost the other day would have made me struggle with any book in the first place… But the fact is, I REALLY struggled with The Museum Of Extraordinary Things and I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading any longer. The pace is so so slow in general and the parts written in cursive are even slower… I had a hard time staying focused on the story and even started skimreading certain parts; definitely not a good sign. On top of that, I found the main characters to be quite flat and cliche… They lacked development for me to make them more rounded (at least in the part I read), and as The Museum Of Extraordinary Things seems to be a more character driven story, this became a real issue for me. I do have to say that the historical setting in early 20th century New York/Coney Island is absolutely fascinating and the historical references are probably the main reason I even made it this far. But as a whole, this story and me definitely didn’t get along.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #67 – Blue Blood & Girl With A Pearl Earring

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two older releases and two completely different genres. The first a detective thriller sequel of a Danish author: Blue Blood by Sara Blaedel. The second a historical fiction modern classic set in 1660s Delft: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Both were solid reads though.


Title: Blue Blood
(Louise Rick #2)
Author: Sara Blaedel

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2005
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: November 29th 2018
Pages: 448
(Originally written in Danish: ‘Kald Mig Prinsesse’)


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I always have a weak spot for detective thrillers, and I just couldn’t resist buying a copy of Blue Blood when I first saw it. I didn’t realize it was actually the second book of a series at the time, but thankfully the story can be read as a stand-alone as well. This translation from a Danish crime writer (also called Call Me Princess in some translations) was without doubt an entertaining ride. The writing style was easy to like, and I just loved the setting in Denmark. I was drawn to the story and plot straight away, and found myself literally flying through the pages… Trigger warnings are in place for rape and violence, but the subject is really well handled and reading more about the dangers of online dating is definitely intriguing. The main characters Louise Rick was quite easy to connect to, and I didn’t feel I was missing too much background information by not reading the first book (I’m not saying I don’t want to now though). I could have done without the cheating/romance subplot, but thankfully the main focus was on the case itself. I liked how things developed and even though I had some ideas about how things would end, Blue Blood also had some surprises in store. Fast, entertaining and just the right amount of suspense… I will definitely be reading more of Sara Blaedel‘s books.


Title: Girl With A Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2000
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2018
Pages: 233

“He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face.”


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I’ve been meaning to read this modern classic for ages, and the When Are You Reading? challenge turned out to be a perfect excuse to do so. I’ve seen the painting of the story with my own eyes quite some years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to read about the story behind it. Girl With A Pearl Earring turned out to be a very interesting story set in the 1660s in a Dutch city called Delft. The description of both the setting and era is very well done, and I like how the author stayed true to the Dutch names. The writing was solid and made it easy to follow Griet’s story as things develop. The fact that Griet’s father is a tile painter is interesting, as Delft is famous for its blue and white decorations… And Vermeer is a very famous painter of course as well. I liked reading about her experience as a maid in the house of a famous author. The dynamics of a girl without experience being thrown into a new job and a family not sure how to react to Griet were interesting. There were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way though. The first is the love triangle, which partly ruined the story for me. Is this seriously necessary?! I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more without the appearance of that trope. I also wasn’t sure about the interactions between Griet and some of the Vermeer family members… I still think it was a solid read and I enjoyed reading it for the most part though.


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ARC REVIEW: A Castle In Romagna – by Igor Stiks

Title: A Castle In Romagna
Author: Igor Stiks
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2000
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2018
Pages: 128
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Dvorac u Romagni’)

“He was overcome by the immobility one feels upon meeting something long sought after, that silent tension of the body that, before we take the object into our hands, forces us to pause for a moment, as if every passing second increases its value.”

*** 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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One of my goals this year is to read more international authors and translation, and I’ve been meaning to read more historical fiction that is not set during WWII as well. A Castle In Romagna manages to tick both boxes, and the blurb itself had me more than intrigued. Sadly, my reading experience wasn’t what I hoped it would be… Here’s why. First of all, I REALLY struggled with the writing style. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact it is a translation and some of the magic is lost, but I do know it was really hard to stay focused and keep reading. The prose doesn’t flow and more often than not ‘formal’ or less natural phrases are thrown in. This slows down the pace considerably and kept distracting me from trying to follow the plot. Another thing that didn’t work for me was the dual storyline. I felt neither story had enough dept because of it, especially since this novel is not that long to start with. Both plot, background and characters in both storylines lacked fleshing out and honestly I think I would have rather seen two completely separate stories. Also, I think the connection of the two storylines through the 1995 setting and friar telling both stories was actually quite weak, as apart from the fact that both storylines are about doomed love they do not have all that much in common. I do have to say both the 16th century setting and the one in 1948 have a lot of potential, and I truly wish each would have been more developed. As it is, I failed to connect to any of the characters and I’m afraid to say I wasn’t able to enjoy my time with A Castle In Romagna.

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A young refugee of the Bosnian conflict decides to visit the old Mardi castle in the north of Italy in 1995. But instead of wandering around exploring the fortress, he will meet a guide who will tell him all about the past: both his own and how he ended up as a refugee himself in Italy in 1948 and the tragic fate of the poet Enzo Strecci back in the 16th century.

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I had such high hopes for this story, especially since the blurb sounded really promising, but unfortunately the story fell completely flat for me. Between the writing style, lack of dept and development in both the plot and characters and the failed dual storyline, I had a hard time reading A Castle In Romagna. Although I keep wondering if some of its charm has been lost in translation.


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BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire – by J.K. Rowling

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Title: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
(Harry Potter Series #4)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 10th 2000
Finished reading: November 21st 2014
Pages: 636
Rating 4,5

“I don’t know who Maxime thinks she’s kidding. If Hagrid’s half-giant, she definitely is. Big bones… the only thing that’s got bigger bones than her is a dinosaur.”

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I finally came around rereading the fourth book of the Harry Potter series! I had originally planned to reread all of them along with The Not A Book Club Club at Goodreads, but once I started with the Bookish Bingo challenge I couldn’t keep up with the pace. I’m glad I finally did reread The Goblet Of Fire though, because it has been one of my favorite books of the series. While Hermione and her S.P.E.W. promotion tends to be a bit on the annoying side, the tournament makes it a highly entertaining and addictive read. The fact that Harry’s godfather Sirius is playing a role in it is a huge bonus; I’ve always loved the Marauder characters and I wish J.K. Rowling would have incorporated them more into the books… The Goblet Of Fire is probably the first really dark book of the series, where Lord Voldemort rises again and the world is getting more dangerous. But it also shows Harry and his friends are growing up and behaving like any normal teenager… Definitely a must read in case you haven’t read it, like the rest of the series!

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WARNING: Spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the previous books yet...

Harry is about to start his fourth year at Hogwarts, but he has another event to look forward to before: the Quidditch World Cup. The Weasleys have invited him to come watch the final, and he is truly excited. Things take a turn for the worse after the match though, and Voldemort’s supporters, the Death Eaters, manage to mark the sky with a mark that hasn’t been seen since the Dark Lord attacked Harry Potter and lost all his power… And soon panick is all around.

Harry has other things to worry about though, as the first Triwizard tournament in centuries is being held at Hogwarts his year. And although Harry wasn’t supposed to enter the competition, somehow his name ended up in the goblet of fire anyway and he was chosen as one of the champions. He now has to face the three tasks along with the other three champions, and they definitely are not easy at all… And what about the person who put his name in the goblet? And the threat that Voldemort is getting stronger? It’s going to be another difficult and dangerous year at Hogwarts for Harry…

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I have loved this series ever since the first book came out, and I can easily say these books have shaped my childhood. In The Goblet Of Fire we see Harry that slowly growing up and the events are getting darker and more serious. While I don’t care much about the romance Rowling is trying to introduce in the story, I still very much loved this book. The tournament, the different tasks, marauders… The Goblet Of Fire is filled with mystery, magic and awesomeness. A must read!

A Storm Of Swords – by George R.R. Martin

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Title: A Storm Of Swords
(A Song Of Ice And Fire Series #3)
Author: George R.R. Martin
First published: 2000
Finished reading: December 17th 2013
Pages: 1128

The Seven Kingdoms are still in war, and the five pretending to be kings are dropping dead one by one. Meanwhile, a different war is about to start beyond the Wall… Joffrey still sits on the Iron Throne for most of the book, but he gets what he deserves in the end. His most dangerous rival is Lord Stannis, with Melisandre at his side. Using black magic in name of the Lord of Light, they try to win the Iron Throne for the brother of the previous king Robert.  The young King Of The North Robb still holds the North, untill a Red Wedding makes an end to that. Balon Greyjoy is king of his Iron Islands, but not much more. And don’t forget about Daenerys, the Mother Of Dragons, making her way back to the Seven Kingdoms with her three dragons to claim back the Iron Throne…

A lot of fighting, a lot of death… It’s best not to become fond of a certain character, because nobody is safe. Valar Morghulis… All men must die. Splendid third book of the A Song Of Ice And Fire series, would recommend it within a blink of an eye. Read it and find out for yourself who lives and who dies, and what becomes of the war beyond the Wall. Watch out, because winter is coming… And so do the Others.

BOOK REVIEW: Moth Smoke – by Mohsin Hamid

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Title: Moth Smoke
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: 2000
Finished reading: August 5th 2013
Pages: 245
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“Many boys, probably most boys, have a first love before they fall in love with a woman. It begins the moment two boys realize they’d die for one another, that each cares more for the other than he does for himself, and it lasts usually until a second love comes on the scene, because most hearts aren’t big enough to love more than one person like that.”

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I always like books with a foreign setting, so Moth Smoke was an easy choice. The story of a lost soul in the middle of Lahore, one of the mayor cities in Pakistan, sounded really intriguing and it’s always a bonus when that author actually knows what he is talking about when he describes contemporary Pakistan. The Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid is able to show glimpses of the current situation in his country and its extreme differences between rich and poor through his characters. It’s hard to have sympathy for Daru, but that doesn’t take away that the story shows the weakness of human nature perfectly. Drugs, corruption and lack of will power can truly change lives… And the fall and downhill spiral towards destruction even bigger when you start out with such a comfortable life as Daru’s.  In short, Moth Smoke is a good choice if you want to know more about life in Pakistan especially since it’s written by a local. Fast-paced and very intriguing!

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Daru Shezad is part of the middle class Pakistani, but managed to make a quite comfortable life for himself and is used to moving around in the higher classes of Lahora thanks to friends in the right places. When his drug use and arrogant attitude make him lose his banking job, he soon falls into a downward spiral towards destruction. Before long, he can’t even pay his bills and loses his connections with the Lahore elite…His drug use becomes more frequent, and to make things worse he falls in love with the wife of his childhood friend and rival. Daru is desperate to find a way out and starts his career in crime, but with the drugs clouding his mind he ends up doing something truly unforgivable…

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Moth Smoke is a very interesting read where a colorful description of contemporary Pakistan is mixed with a fast-paced, disturbing and raw story. The main character Daru is not exactly likeable, but he fits right into the story and through him Moshin Hamid is able to show the darker side of life in Lahore. If you like reading a good book set in a culture you might not know that much about, Moth Smoke is a great choice.