YVO’S SHORTIES #99 – Sweetheart & Alice In Zombieland

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres and two completely different reading experiences… While I loved my second meeting with Archie and Gretchen in Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain, I couldn’t say the same for Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter. That one is without doubt a series I won’t be continuing any time soon (more likely never).


Title: Sweetheart
(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)
Author: Chelsea Cain

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 1st 2008
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: May 2nd 2019
Pages: 328

“It broke his heart. Not because she was worried that he was in danger, but because she thought she had a chance of saving him.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first book yet. 

I can’t believe it took me three years and a TBR jar to finally continue this series. I remember loving the first book way back: the serial killler up close and personal, the broken characters, the suspense, the sheer twistedness of it all. This series is exactly my cup of tea, but somehow it got lost between the other books on my TBR mountain. I’m definitely going to remedy that though, because Sweetheart has definitely reconfirmed my love for this series. What a delightfully disturbing and twisted read! I always love it when we get to see a serial killer up close and Gretchen Lowell is without doubt one to reckon with. I advice reading this series in order, because you will be missing out on details behind Archie’s state of mind and his unique relationship with Gretchen otherwise… Personally, details came back soon after I started reading Sweetheart and I found myself forgetting about prior engagements, hiding in a corner and just turning those pages instead. Both Gretchen and Archie play a key role in this series and having both a detective and serial killer that present definitely takes Sweetheart to a different level. It was fascinating to see how past events have affected Archie up to a point even his family and friends don’t seem to recognize him… This story has twists, turns and a healthy dose of action and suspense as well as an insight in the psychological aspects. You’ll be having a hard time putting this one down before you find out what happens, and the cliffhanger will most definitely leave you wanting for more. Guess who isn’t going to wait that long this time around to pick up book number three?


Title: Alice In Zombieland
(White Rabbit Chronicles #1)
Author: Gena Showalter

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 25th 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Finished reading: May 5th 2019
Pages: 408

“Truly living required risk.”


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I admit I was a bit wary to pick up this title, but I decided to pick it up anyway since I already had a copy on my kindle and needed it for a prompt of the BTB Bingo challenge. Unlike what you might guess from the pun in Alice In Zombieland, this first book of a series actually has very little to do with the original story. Wait, this isn’t a retelling? Nope, I would never consider calling it that. Why? Well, apart from the main character being called Alice and a white rabbit cloud appearing repeatedly, there are no references to or similarities between the classic and this concoction. I was surprised and a little disappointed after such a clear reference to it with the title and cover art. Instead, we have a story about zombies where we encounter a different kind of unread this time around; they are basically spirits and a lot more difficult to fight than your regular brain eaters. This could have been a premise for a very bloody and disturbing read, but sadly the fighting scenes and horror have been taken over almost completely by an overdose of cheesy and sappy romance scenes, a very frustrating love triangle and a whole lot of high school drama. The romance alone was so unbelievably cringeworthy I almost stopped reading there and then… Especially since some of those scenes were definitely too steamy to be appropriate for YA. The love triangle itself is so cliche it could have been an example in a dictionary… And all the high school drama, catfights and popularity contests in general were another huge turn off. Like I said, the idea behind the zombies is interesting and I would have loved to learn more about them and have more background on the slayers. The fighting scenes were pretty dark and did get bloody and almost horror worthy, but it’s almost like those scenes were put in as an afterthought. Alice In Zombieland and me definitely didn’t get along and it will be no surprise I won’t be picking up the next book any time soon (more likely never). If you don’t mind a huge amount of cheesy romance, cliches and high school drama and on top of that don’t object to a few dark and disturbing zombie fighting scenes either, you might have a better time with this story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #96 – The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society & The Murder On The Links

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, and probably should have sooner, because I ended up really enjoying both. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows turned out to be a wonderful piece of historical fiction written in epistolary form… And my third meeting with Hercule Poirot in The Murder In The Links turned out to be another successful one.


Title: The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: July 10th 2008
Publisher: The Dial Press
Finished reading: April 22nd 2019
Pages: 322

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”


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I’ve been meaning to read The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society for years now, but somehow I always ended up posponing it. Lately I’ve been wanting to watch the adaptation on Netflix though, so I decided to finally read it so I could do so. The genre is right up my alley, as I love WWII historical fiction, and I really liked the setting on Guernsey as well since I don’t think I’ve read about the Channel Islands as a setting in stories before. Not only the historical and geographical setting made this story into a success for me, but also the format that is chosen to narrate this story. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel, where the story is told through a series of letters and occasionally telegrams written between a wide variety of different characters. While I admit it took me a little while to keep track of all those different characters, they all added their little touch to the story and I especially loved those letters set in Guernsey. It was interesting to see the different characters and relationships evolve over time, and while I could have done without the whole ‘Mark’ romance, the rest of the story mostly made up for it. Juliet grows a lot during the story, and will definitely win you over before you reach the final page. The star of the story for me is Elizabeth though; the glue that connects everything together. The letters are written in such a way that the personality of the characters shines through; something that takes this story to the next level. More devastating WWII facts are mixed with humor and ‘lighter’ scenes, creating a well-balanced story that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Both historical fiction and romantic drama fans will have a wonderful time with The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society.


Title: The Murder On The Links
(Hercule Poirot #2)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: May 1923
Publisher: Harper Collins
Finished reading: April 25th 2019
Pages: 272

“Mon ami, a clue of two feet long is every bit as valuable as one measuring two millimetres! But it is the romantic idea that all important clues must be infinitesimal.”


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Although I started this series out of order a year ago by reading book number ten first (Murder On The Orient Express), I made a promise to myself to try and read them in order in the future. I read the first book later last year, and although it took me longer than expected to get to The Murder On The Links, I’m definitely glad I finally did so. I really enjoyed spending more time with Hercule Poirot. He is such an interesting character! I love the way he investigates by using what he calls using his grey cells, and deducts and discovers the truth by noticing things others might overlook. The writing makes it very easy to fly through this classic, and I had an excellent time trying to discover the hidden clues along with Poirot. Mr. Hastings can get quite annoying, but I tried not to focus on that and enjoy the investigation instead. The Murder On The Links is mostly set in a small village in France, and the story without doubt has an interesting set of characters. Detective Giraud made an excellent contrast with Hercule Poirot, as his investigation methods and ideas are completely opposite to our main character. I personally really liked this rivalry and different takes on what was happening. I had a great time with this second book and I will definitely be looking forward to see more of Hercule Poirot in the future.


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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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DNF REVIEW: Careless In Red – by Elizabeth George

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Title: Careless In Red
(Inspector Lynley #15)
Author: Elizabeth George
Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Crime
First published: 2008
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Finished reading: August 30th 2016
Pages: 568
DNF at page 80
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WARNING: upopopular opinion ahead!! Honestly, I’ve tried. I think this is only the second or third book I have ever DNFed and I still feel a bit guilty for doing so… I must have started reading Careless In Red at least four or five times before over the last two years, but I just can’t bring myself to keep reading. There are too many storylines and the pace is slower than a sleeping snail. On top of that the descriptions are superlong, dull and the story itself just doesn’t grab my attention either. It’s honestly a shame because this book belongs to one of my favorite genres… And I’m aware Careless In Red is actually book nr. 15 in a series, but after this sample I don’t think I want to read the first book after all. I know a lot of people seem to enjoy this series, but it definitely isn’t for me.

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Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley retreated to Cornwall after his wife was murdered. There he spends six solitary weeks hiking the coastline, but he cannot seem to escape his memories. On the forty-third day of his walk, Lynley discovers the body of a young man who seems to have fallen to his death. He has no choice but to abandon his solitary life and has to ask for reinforcements. While the closest town seems to be an unlikely place for murder, it soon becomes clear that a killer is indeed at work. And this time, Lynley is not a detective but a witness, and even a possible suspect…

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I always enjoy reading a good mystery/detective story, but somehow I never managed to read but a few pages at the time of this fifteenth book in the Inspector Lynley series. The pace is so slow and the descriptions are so long that it’s really hard to stay focused, and I also found that it had way too many storylines going on. That said, I’ve only managed to read the first 80 pages, so things might improve later on. I guess I will never know…

BOOK REVIEW: Suicide Notes – by Michael Thomas Ford

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Title: Suicide Notes
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 14th 2008
Finished reading: April 13th 2016
Pages: 295
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“I’m still kind of a mess. But I think we all are. No one’s got it all together. I don’t think you ever do get it totally together. Probably if you did manage to do it you’d spontaneously combust. I think that’s a law of nature. If you ever manage to become perfect, you have to die instantly before you ruin things for everyone else.”

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Suicide Notes is not the first book I’ve read that uses an interesting mix of humor and a serious theme like mental ilness and (teenage) suicide and therefore its plot is not exactly original. In fact, both It’s Kind Of A Funny Story and The Shock Of The Fall use quite a similar setting with a main character inside a psychiatric ward and if I have to be honest I feel those two books mentioned above did a better job especially when it comes to character development and credibility in general. (I’m aware the second title was published years after Suicide Notes, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I think it was better). I want to make clear that I am by no means saying this novel by Michael Thomas Ford was a bad read and I mostly enjoyed reading it, but I did have a few minor problems with it that influenced the rating. First of all, I wasn’t completely convinced by the credibility of the characters and their (lack of) development of both the main character Jeff and the other patients. Also, I’m not sure I appreciate some of the mental ilness, suicide and glbt related humor used during this story. Not only can some of it be found offensive (especially the glbt related parts), I also thought the humor felt forced at points… I do agree the pace is fast and the story is easy to read even though it’s about such a serious theme. I would probably have given it a higher rating if it wouldn’t have been for the last part… I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers, but it has something to do with the glbt theme that I found slightly offensive and the (sort of) love triangle was somewhat annoying as well.

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When fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day, he finds himself inside the psychiatric ward. Even though he doesn’t really remember what happened the other day, someone clearly made a huge mistake when they brought him to the ward… Jeff is determined to leave as soon as possible, claiming he doesn’t belong there along with the ‘nutjobs’. But what about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart? Jeff doesn’t see what the big deal is about what happened, but other people do seem to be worried about him. It turns out Jeff is part of a forty-five-day program and won’t be able to leave early even though he thinks he is perfectly fine and ‘normal’. But as the days go by, the ‘crazies’ start to seem less crazy and Jeff slowly starts to accept what happened to him…

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Suicide Notes is without doubt an interesting read with a fast pace and a healthy dose of humor to lighten up the serious theme. Still, I do believe there are better books out there with a similar plot. And although I enjoyed reading this novel in general, the characters were not always completely credible and I wasn’t always completely convinced by the humor either. The glbt related parts were probably my least favorite and sometimes even slightly offensive and cliché… But otherwise it is still worth reading if you are interested in the theme.

BOOK REVIEW: Confessions – by Kanae Minato

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Title: Confessions
Author: Kanae Minato
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: August 5th 2008
Finished reading: January 28th 2016
Pages: 240
(Originally written in Japanese: “告白”)
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“The world you live in is much bigger than that. If the place in which you find yourself is too painful, I say you should be free to seek another, less painful place of refuge. There is no shame in seeking a safe place. I want you to believe that somewhere in this wide world there is a place for you, a safe haven.”

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I always like reading foreign literature, both books written in foreign languages and stories set in different countries. I have a thing for languages and love traveling, and when I saw the English translation of Confessions by Kanae Minato I thought it was the perfect way to introduce myself further to the Japanese literature. This read is without doubt both intriguing, disturbing and dark at the same time. It took me a while to get into the story, but as soon as I started the second chapter (and confession), I was hooked. The story is told in the form of a bunch of confessions of different characters that play a role in the circumstances around the death of Yuko’s daughter Manami. Like I said, the first confession (told by Yuko herself) wasn’t the best, but the other confessions made up for it. Kanae Minato found a perfect way to build tension in her story and I definitely really didn’t see the ending coming. The characters and their development are intriguing and once you get used to the writing style it’s hard to stop reading. Through the voices of Yuko (the teacher), Mizuki (one of the classmates), Naoki’s mother, Naoki and Shuya you slowly get an idea of what really happened and trust me, you will be surprised in the ending. Recommended if you like the genre!

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Yuko Moriguchi ended up raising her daughter alone after her engagement was broken off because her fiancee discovered he had a terminal disease. She is a middle school teacher and she seems to have adapted her life good enough, until the unfortunate day she brings her young daughter to the school she teaches again. Manami has an accident on the grounds of the middle school and drowns in the pool. It is declared an accident, but Yuko knows better… And she is determined to make those responsible pay. Yuko resigns as a teacher, but not before telling her class first the story of what she thinks really happened that day and afterwards that she gave the two classmates responsible for her daughter’s death milk mixed with the infected blood of Manami’s father… Telling them that they will be sick as well.  What will happen to the two classmates and will Yuko find her revenge?

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I’ve kept the summary short to avoid any spoilers, because Confessions has some crazy plot twists and an ending you most likely won’t see coming. It is a dark and disturbing read that will definitely leave you wanting for a light read afterwards… But if you don’t mind reading shocking but intriguing confessions, I would definitely recommend this novel by Kanae Minato. It may take some time to get a feel for the story, but it is worth the try!

BOOK REVIEW: Let It Snow – by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle

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Title: Let It Snow
Authors: Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2008
Finished reading: December 24th 2015
Pages: 352
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“Once you think a thought, it is extremely difficult to unthink it.”

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You know you’re terribly behind with your reviews if you have to review a Christmas themed read in January… Sigh. That said, it took me a long time to actually finish the three stories in Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle. The main problem with the first story was that I wasn’t exactly in the mood for this kind of read when I first picked up Let It Snow. The result: me being annoyed with Jubilee and a story so sweet it was giving me a tootache. The second time around I actually ended up enjoying The Jubilee Express, and it is my favorite of the three stories. (3.5 stars)  The second story, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, is a typical John Green story and unfortunately not one of my favorites. It almost felt like he was trying too hard to be funny and the whole cheerleader thing was really getting on my nerves… (3 stars) Things got worse though with the last story: The Patron Saint Of Pigs. That one is without doubt my least favorite of the stories and I REALLY disliked the main characters. (low 2.5 stars). I did appreciate the fact that all the stories are kind of connected with each other and I guess it is a pretty good Holiday themed read. But if I have to be honest, I would only recommend reading Maureen Johnson‘s (the first) story.

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In three different short stories written by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle we read about the adventures of three different groups of teenagers after a storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow. In the first, Jubilee has to travel to her grandparents after her parents were arrested in a very embarrassing incident. A storm takes her train by surprise and she ends up stranded in Gracetown with the rest of the train passengers… She braves the storm to a still open Waffle House and the rest soon follow. Soon various lives will be changed forever… Three friends also try to reach the Waffle House that night in a race. Whoever gets there first can stay and hang out with a group of cheerleaders that is also on the train. And more importantly, eat hash browns. Also the fate of a teacup pig will depend on a girl that can only seem to think about herself… And that is even more troublesome since she is currently very much lovesick after her (ex)boyfriend stood her up.

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Like I said above, I liked the fact that all stories were connected. Unlike with other short story bundles, this one almost felt like one big story. And I say almost, because you could see obvious quality difference between them. The first one is almost too sweet, but very well written and I actually liked the cliche ending. The John Green story was quite a disappointment and the constant repetition of the cheerleaders’ presence became seriously annoying. The last story was the worst; the main problem being the horrible main character. In short: what started off as a promising collection ended up getting worse as I continued reading… And I stick with my opinion that I only would recommend the first story.