YVO’S SHORTIES #153 – I’ll Be Gone In The Dark & If I Stay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles with a completely different target group and genre, but both I’ve been meaning to read for a while and both were stories I ended up enjoying. The true crime title I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara and If I Stay by Gayle Forman.


Title: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara

Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
First published: February 27th 2018
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: February 25th 2020
Pages: 340

“If you commit murder and then vanish, what you leave behind isn’t just pain but absence, a supreme blankness that triumphs over everything else.”


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True crime has always intrigued me, so I’m not sure why I don’t pick it up more often… I’ve been meaning to read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara ever since it was first published two years ago, but somehow I just never got to it. I’m happy I finally did pick it up though. I confess I hadn’t heard of the Golden State Killer before, so this book was a true goldmine filled to the brim with information about his crimes and the investigation as it evolved both back in the 1970s and 1980s when they were first investigated as well as the cold case investigation in the 21st century with the help of DNA tests. True crime journalist Michelle McNamara played a big role in the investigation around the identity behind the Golden State Killer and it is sad that her untimely death ment she wasn’t able to see the guy finally get caught in 2018… Still, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark shows just how talented and determined the author was in her investigation and I can imagine just how big of a help she was in uncovering the truth after all that time. The details of the Golden State Killer crimes, both the rapes, home invasions and the murders, are pretty brutal and it’s hard to believe that with so many victims and attacks he was still able to escape justice for this long… I’ll Be Gone In The Dark doesn’t sugarcoat the graphic and gruesome facts, and definitely makes you glad you weren’t living in the areas mentioned back then… Or at least rethink about how terrifying the knowledge that someone dangerous is prowling close to where you live is, and how difficult it would be to defend yourself if he suddenly shows up in your bedroom that way. Definitely not a read for those with a weak stomach, but more than recommended if you are a true crime fan!


Title: If I Stay
(If I Stay #1)
Author: Gayle Forman

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 2nd 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: March 3rd 2020
Pages: 196

“He got it before I did. If I stay. If I live. It’s up to me.”


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I’m probably the last person on the planet to read this one! I’ve been meaning to try If I Stay for years now, but to be honest I wasn’t so sure if this story would be for me… I was afraid it was going to be too sappy and cliche for me, and that the hype around it simply wasn’t worth it. I confess I kept my expectations low, and the unexpected happened: I ended up being so much more invested in this story about Mia and Adam than I thought I would be! While I do feel part of the plot is a bit cliche, and especially the flashbacks can be a bit slow, there were also other elements I really loved. The most important of them being just how important music is throughout the story. Both the classical cello and the rock guitar come together beautifully and also represent the different characters in play in If I Stay… Somehow I ended up rooting for Mia and Adam despite the cliches, and I loved the fact that we saw the present story progress from the point of view of Mia’s unconscious self. Definitely an unique angle! The story introduces questions about life and death and it was intriguing to see Mia struggle to decide whether to stay or let go after this tragedy… Cliches and sometimes slow pace aside, I had a great time reading If I Stay and I might even have almost shed a tear or two at some point.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #148 – Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet & What We Saw

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two backlist titles I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and both turned out to be excellent reads. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford was both hardbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, and while What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler is without doubt a darker read, the heavy elements including rape and victim shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed.


Title: Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: January 27th 2009
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Finished reading: February 3rd 2020
Pages: 396

“The hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.”


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I confess I have been meaning to read Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet for years now, and last year I thought getting a physical copy would help making me finally read it. It still took me way longer than expected, but I finally did! I think it’s probably known by now that I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction and this story is able to give us an original angle. Set in Seattle during the war, the focus is on the Chinese and Japanese community and the threats the Japanese community receives as a direct consequence of Japan’s role in WWII. Main characters Henry and Keiko are able to describe this inner conflict, the racism and the consequences for the Japanese community perfectly. Switching between 1942-1945 and 1986 and between young and old Henry, we slowly learn more about the events that started and blossomed the friendship between Henry and Keiko as well as the more serious events involving the Japanese community as a whole. On top of that we have a wonderful extra element in the form of jazz music and Sheldon, who was such a lovely character and he definitely added a little something extra to the story as well as both him and his music providing a red thread to weave the past and present together. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet is a beautifully written, poignant and sometimes heartbreaking read, but not without a note of hope… And it is able to describe the race problematics and injustice for all those innocent Japanese families perfectly. I’m positive any historical fiction fan will have an excellent time reading this wonderful story about Henry and Keiko!


Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Finished reading: February 4th 2020
Pages: 336

“I wonder which is worse: the fear of the unknown? Or knowing for sure that something terrible is true?”


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I’ve been wanting to read What We Saw for a while now, and I’m definitely glad my TBR jar thought it was time to finally pick it up. I already knew this wasn’t going to be an easy read with the rape and victim blaming topic, and it is without doubt trigger warning worthy… That said, I thought the author did an excellent job portraying the whole situation as well as shining an all important light on the topic. Sadly the events as described What We Saw are all too real and sadly rape victims like Stacey become victims all over again when nobody believes their story and people simply say ‘she had it coming’ or ‘she asked for it with the way she dressed and by being wasted’ without knowing the facts… It was interesting to see the whole story from Kate’s POV as she wasn’t directly involved or too close to the victim. Instead, we see the whole situation as an ‘outsider’ wanting to uncover the truth and not accept what everybody wants or finds it easy to believe as the truth… And showing in the process how hard it can be to go against the popular kids and just how far victim blaming can go. What We Saw is definitely a darker read, but the heavy elements including rape and victime blaming/shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed. If you can stomach it, it makes for a very interesting read!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #85 – Shatter Me (DNF) & Wintergirls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that have been published over five years ago and titles I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The first, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, sadly turned out to be my first DNF of the year. The second, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, is without doubt an emotionally tough read to read with lots of trigger warnings and a prose that is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow started to irk me.


Title: Shatter Me
(Shatter Me #1)
Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 15th 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: February 13th 2019
Pages: 357
DNF at 51% (182 pages)

“The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”


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WARNING: It’s unpopular opinion time again! Please don’t feel offended if you love this series. We are all entitled to our own reactions and feelings after all…

Ever had your sixth sense screaming at you to back off and stay away? Well, that is what happened to me whenever I started thinking about trying the Shatter Me series. I’m not sure why or how, but there was just something about it that made me think it wouldn’t be for me… But curiosity won in the end and made me ignore my instincts. I should have known better… Because sadly this turned out to be my very first DNF of the year. Why? There were various reasons, but the main one is this: I absolutely could not stand the writing style. The endless metaphors, the short sentences, the wacky grammar, the 1 2 3 4 numbers… It seemed like every single word and page was destined to annoy me to the limit and I simply reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel sad for reacting this way to a story I know so many seem to love, but that doesn’t take away that Shatter Me and me definitely didn’t get a long. Nothing much was happening in the pages I read either; lots of words, metaphors and feelings, but no real actions or proper worldbuilding descriptions. The fact that I could already see a love triangle coming from a mile away didn’t really help either. Things might have improved in the second half, but since I had such an extreme reaction to the writing style and had already started skimreading just to reach the end faster, I decided to throw in the towel and leave this series alone to be enjoyed and treasured by those who can connect to it. Oh well, at least I know for sure now… Intuition, you were right. Sorry I didn’t listen to you.


Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 19th 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: February 20th 2019
Pages: 300

“The sentences build a fence around her, a Times Roman 10-point barricade, to keep the thorny voices in her head from getting too close.”


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I have been meaning to try one of Laurie Halse Anderson‘s books for years, but somehow other books always ended up getting in the way. The BTB Epic Bingo challenge was the perfect excuse to finally pick up Wintergirls. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this story, and if you go in blind you will definitely be up for a surprise. Trigger warnings are in place for eating disorders, self harm, cutting, suicide and mental health problems… Wintergirls is a story that will bring those cold and chilling winter feels and is an emotionally draining read that shows us the struggle of the main character with her eating disorder and the way she sees herself and her surrounding world. It’s not an easy or happy read, but I thought the topic was well handled and represented in Lia. The prose is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow irked me at points. I named magical realism because the writing sometimes almost has that otherwordly and magical feel, especially the descriptions of how Lia sees herself and the world. The story also has a hint of paranormal with a symbolic feel; those two aspects making it hard to properly place the story in just one genre. I suppose you can say this is mostly a realistic fiction story with a mental health angle, where we can see how the eating disorder takes over Lia’s life through her very own eyes. I had a hate/love relationship with the writing style, but there is no doubt that the writing has that original and almost otherworldly feel and I can understand why so many people seem to love this story.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Ask And The Answer – by Patrick Ness

Title: The Ask And The Answer
(Chaos Walking #2)
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 4th 2009
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd.
Finished reading: August 7th 2017
Pages: 536

“If you ever see a war,” she says, not looking up from her clipboard, “you’ll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors.”

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Ask me why on earth it took me this long to pick up the sequel, and I don’t have an answer. Ask me why I always ended up reading other series instead of continuing with one I had already started and loved, and I don’t have an answer either. The fact is that it took me just about TWO years before I finally opened my copy of The Ask And The Answer (I checked). Like I said before, I really don’t know why because I loved the first book… And have had Patrick Ness on my list of favorite authors ever since. There is one thing I do know though: I won’t wait this long to read the final book. Because The Ask And The Answer has reminded me just how much I enjoyed reading about this dystopian world. True, the slang the men use still bothered me considerably (it’s probably the philologist in me who’s to blame), but that’s my only real complaint. The whole slang use (cuz, yer, thru, addishun, instruckshuns etc. etc) in Todd’s chapters was highly annoying, but I did appreciate the fact that this way it was very easy to distiguish Viola’s chapters, which do have ‘normal’ language. This sequel is quite easy to follow even if you don’t remember all the details of book one. How I can know this? It had been two years since I read The Knife Of Never Letting Go and I didn’t do a reread before starting with The Ask And The Answer; I was able to pick up the storyline quite easily anyhow. I quite enjoyed the sequel and learn about how things continue and see the main characters develop. The writing style is quite unique and apart from the slang I absolutely loved it. I had a great time reading this story and literally flew through the pages… You don’t feel it at all this book has actually 500+ pages. I can’t wait to read book number three now!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book of this trilogy yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

They thought they would be safe in Haven, but what they found was something completelydifferent. Because instead of fleeing successfully the army that was trying to catch them, Todd has carried Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy. They are separated and imprisoned, forced to see the new way if they want the other to be safe… But can they be sure the other is still alive? Will they be able to escape and be together again?

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It’s been too long since I read the first book, so I can’t properly compare the two… But what I do know is that I enjoyed The Ask And The Answer just as much as the first book. I had once again the same reaction to the slang the men use in Todd’s chapters, which I found mostly highly annoying. That would be my only real complaint though and I still thoroughly enjoyed this sequel. I’m definitely going to read the third and final book soon now!


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BOOK REVIEW: Bad Girls Don’t Die – by Katie Alender

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Title: Bad Girls Don’t Die
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #1)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: April 21st 2009
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: October 28th 2016
Pages: 346
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“Just say something real. Everyone just always tries so hard, and it all comes out the same. I just want someone to say something real.”

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I’ve had this book on my TBR pile for a long time… In fact, it was on last year’s Halloween list as well, but somehow I managed to neglect this book until now. I’m glad I finally decided to pick Bad Girls Don’t Die up though, because it is without doubt both a fast-paced and entertaining read. It’s not the first Katie Alender book I’ve read, and I have to say I really enjoy reading her prose. Both character development and plot are well done and it had just the right dose of creepy. The paranormal horror is mixed with contemporary romance and has its share of high school drama, but it didn’t distract too much from the main plot. I liked the horror element and Alexis is a great character as well. In short, Bad Girls Don’t Die is without doubt the perfect and entertainingly creepy read for both the October month and the rest of the year as well. I will definitely be continuing this series soon!

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Alexis thought she led a typically dysfunctional high school existence, but dysfunction is threatening to turn into danger. Her parents’ marriage is not really working, her twelve-year-old sister Kasey is doll-crazy and Alexis is not really social herself… But after a family fight and a night out taking photos, things are starting to get weird. Kasey is acting stranger than ever: her blue eyes go green sometimes and she doesn’t always talk likes she normally does… And on top of that, she doesn’t seem to remember everything about her day. Their old house is changing too, and Alexis soon realizes it’s too dangerous to keep thinking it’s all in her head. Will she find a way to fix things before it’s too late? And what is happening to Kasey?

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If you are looking for a fast-paced, well written, slightly creepy and entertaining story, Bad Girls Don’t Die is without doubt an excellent choice. Paranormal horror is mixed with contemporary romance and even though there is quite a lot of high school drama, the creepy scenes make up for it. The writing is excellent as well as the character development, and I liked the history behind the old house. Recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: Dark Places – by Gillian Flynn

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Title: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
First published: May 5th 2009
Finished reading: January 11th 2016
Pages: 349
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“I was not a lovable child, and I’d grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.”

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There has been a lot of hype around Gillian Flynn‘s other novel Gone Girl, but I honestly didn’t think it was actually worth it. I still decided to try her other novels though, and I picked up Dark Places first for no particular reason. I know a lot of people seem to love this read as well, but I can’t say I was impressed. There is no doubt Gillian Flynn was able to create a disturbing, dark and twisted story with many crazy plot twists and a somewhat surprising ending. That said, I had a hard time getting into the story and it took me a long time to actually finish it. I didn’t like the characters at all and the whole mystery around the death of the Day’s family actually reads a bit slow. How can such a disturbing story read slow? Imagine an event and have it repeated over and over with small details being changed… It’s like hitting the snooze button in the morning. I know the whole unreliable narrator thing has been used a lot lately, but I just couldn’t enjoy it in Dark Places. It didn’t help that I couldn’t feel no sympathy whatsover for the main character Libby Day. That is kind of the point in this story and she does feel ‘real’, but it didn’t help me like this story any better. All in all not my favorite read.

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When Libby Day was only seven-years-old, her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in the small town of Kinnakee Kansas. The murder scene was a bloody mess, and Libby only survived because she managed to hide outside in the freezing cold… The killer? Her own fifteen-year-old brother Ben; she knows because had heard him herself that night. Twenty-five years later, Ben is still in prison and Libby has grown up being a mess. She never overcame what happened that one night from hell, and lives off the money other people sent her. But the money is running out and she has to find a way to take care of herself… And just at that moment a secret society called the Kill Club offers her money to help discover proof that her brother Ben is actually innocent. Libby doesn’t want to, but cannot bring to find herself a real job and has no other choice than accept the offer. Libby soon has to face the ghosts of her past… Will she find out the truth about what happened that night long ago?

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The blurb sounded quite interesting and the general story itself is both dark, twisted and intriguing at the same time. Still, I can’t say I loved Dark Places. Maybe the book was just too disturbing for me, but what I can say is that it took me ages to finish it and the characters were a mayor turn off. If you ask me, I would stick with Gone Girl for now instead of Dark Places… But I’ve heard her first novel Sharp Objects is actually a lot better, so I’m going to try and read that one soon.

BOOK REVIEW: The Happiness Project – by Gretchen Rubin

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Title: The Happiness Project
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Genre: Non Fiction, Self Help, Memoir
First published: December 29th 2009
Finished reading: December 16th 2015
Pages: 315
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“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

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I normally quite enjoy reading memoirs, but honestly I’m really not that into self help books. I decided to pick up The Happiness Project anyway since I got a free paperback copy at a book exchange earlier this month. I actually quite enjoyed the first part… The idea of investing time and start a project to bring more happiness to your life sounds interesting, but unfortunately reading about Gretchen Rubin‘s own experience started to turn into something annoying after a while. I mean, she pretty much already had a great life before the project: an according to her handsome and succesful husband, two healthy little girls, a job she loves and a great home in NY. I don’t mind her wanting to be happier, but she did come over as a bit hypocrite in some chapters. I know some people see her as a great example, but I personally would have preferred reading about someone with a bigger and more genuine challenge. As far as the prose: it shows that Gretchen Rubin did a lot of research for her project and I liked that she incorporated blog comments in her chapters. Do I agree with everything she said? No. But I do believe the right person might benefit from at least part of her message.

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Gretchen Rubin was taking the same city bus as she always did when she had the realization that “the days are long, but the years are short”. She also realized she wasn’t as happy as she could be and wasn’t focusing enough on the things that really matter. Hence the happiness project was born, where she wanted to try and focus on improving a different aspect of her life each month. Every chapter tells the story of her adventures during a specific month, giving advice and contemplating both the good and bad parts. Novelty and challenge turn out to be powerful sources of happiness, money can help buy happiness when spent wisely and small changes can truly make the biggest difference… All those conclusions and more can be found in the happiness project.

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Gretchen Rubin had some very interesting ideas in her book, but I can’t say I agree with all of them nor do I think her already almost perfect ‘before’ situation is the best example of a ‘proper’ happiness project. Everybody has the right to be happier and I’m not saying she was wrong doing the project OR writing about it, but I didn’t like her tone in some chapters. Would I recommend this read? Only if you like self help books and are interested in the theme.