YVO’S SHORTIES #45 – The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo & Orange Is The New Black

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around not only two books belonging to a completely different genre, but also two completely different reactions to the story. Despite not being my typical genre, I absolutely loved The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. I should have never doubted all those raving reviews! Orange Is The New Black on the other hand was a huge disappointment.


Title: The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: September 2nd 2018
Pages: 388

“No one is all good or all bad. I know this, of course, I had to learn it at a young age. But sometimes it’s easy to forget just how true it is.”


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Fact: I’ve been a tiny bit afraid to pick up this one. Partly because of all those raving reviews and you all know how I react to hyped books most of the time, and partly because it’s not my typical genre… But I should have never doubted those reviews. The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo had me hook, line and sinker. Not only was I impressed by the writing style right from the very first page, it was the story itself that fascinated me as well. The idea of the biography, the aged actress finally revealing all about her past… Everything just clicked for me. Even though Evelyn Hugo herself is not exactly likeable and has done some horrendous things in her life, somehow between the way she was portrayed in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo and the way she tells Monique all her secrets without hiding the ugly details she really grows on you. I was actually surprised by just how much I was able to connect to her character! I also loved how big of a role diversity played in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. It was interesting to see how gay, lesbian and bisexual characters were treated in that particular era, and how the views on the lgbt community affected the Hollywood stars. The historical setting in general is very well done and I highly enjoyed fully diving into that era. I also enjoyed the way this story was told: partly set in the present as Evelyn finally tells her story to Monique, and mostly set in the past, where Evelyn gives us her life story through her seven husbands she has been with during her life. My favorite characters were without doubt Harry and Celia, and the character development in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is sublime. I never imagined enjoying this book so much, but this is one of those books that you just HAVE to try even if you aren’t sure the genre would be for you. Trust me, you will regret it if you don’t.


Title: Orange Is The New Black
Author: Piper Kerman

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: April 6th 2010
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Finished reading: September 3rd 2018
Pages: 298

“Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the world, a place where the U.S. government now puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient-people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled.”


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I actually saw the first episode of the TV series based on this memoir a while back, but I decided to not continue watching as I wasn’t impressed by what I had seen. I still wanted to give the memoir a go though, mostly because I normally never watch a series or movie before reading the book in the first place. So when Orange Is The New Black fitted one of the N.E.W.T. prompts, of course I saw it as a sign to pick it up. Sadly, it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for. It seems my feelings during my supershort experience watching the TV series pretty much summed up my feelings for this memoir as well. What went wrong for me? First of all, I never got used to the writing style or tone, which of course made it harder to connect to the story. Secondly, I had a huge problem with Piper Kerman herself. She comes over as someone mostly self-centered, who sees herself as someone above the rest and doesn’t seem to want to admit what she did back in 1993 was wrong. Reading about her views on the prison world made me cringe at points, and while it was interesting to learn more about some of the inmates, I felt it lacked coherence and the story just didn’t flow for me. More importantly, I felt she was trying to be too politically correct and by saying she wasn’t discriminating, it mostly came over as the other way around. The ending was also really abrupt, and didn’t give real closure after such a detailed description of her time in jail. The story dragged at points and it was hard to keep myself interested and make it to the end… The fact that I did was more due to the other characters involved than Piper Kerman herself. All in all unfortunately not exactly a winner for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #44 – I Let You Go & Hex Hall

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books with a similar color combination in the cover, but two completely different genres. The first, I Let You Go, is one of those psychological thrillers I’ve been meaning to pick up for years, but only just did so. Hex Hall on the other hand is not my typical genre, but I ended up enjoying it way more than expected.


Title: I Let You Go
Author: Clare Mackintosh

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 6th 2014
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: August 30th 2018
Pages: 371

“I was stupid to think I could escape the past. However fast I run, however far: I will never outrun it.”


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The fact is that I have been meaning to read this psychological thriller for years, especially since I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. I’m not sure if it was the original hype around I Let You Go making me set my expectations too high or this being unpopular opinion time again, but sadly I didn’t end up having the reading experience I was expecting. Why? There is no doubt that this psychological thriller is well written and there are some clever twists included that will mislead you. That said, I did encounter a few problems along the way that made me enjoy the story less. The biggest obstacle was the fact that I guessed the big reveal really early on… It was just too easy to figure out the key information after the initial surprise was revealed, and this was quite a let down for me. I also had problems with the two leading detectives of the case; I couldn’t warm up to them and I always hate cheating main characters. The pace was quite slow in points as well, although it did pick up in the second half of I Let You Go. I did like the setting in Penfach and the beach atmosphere… And while at times disturbing to read, I appreciated I Let You Go shining a light on what domestic abuse can do to a person. But sadly overall I can’t say I was all that impressed by this story.


Title: Hex Hall
(Hex Hall #1)
Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 2nd 2010
Publisher: Hyperion
Finished reading: August 31st 2018
Pages: 323

“Humans are always going to be scared of us. They’re always going to be envious of our powers, and suspicious of our motives.”


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I have to admit I was a bit nervous to pick up Hex Hall, both because it’s not my typical genre and I was afraid there would be too much romance involved. Thankfully I had nothing to worry about, and this first book of a magical series was a pleasant surprise. I still can’t believe how much I enjoyed this story despite a love triangle and the presence of a vampire! There is just something about the writing style that draws you right in and makes you fly through the pages. I literally finished this story in one sitting. Highly entertaining, addictive and just enough magic and supernatural atmosphere to keep that delicate balance with the romance elements. I loved Jenna’s character and while Sophie does come over as a bit annoying at times and there were cliches involved, somehow it just didn’t matter to me. The mystery around the attacks, the magic, Hecate Hall itself, the different supernatural characters… It just all clicked in a way that turned Hex Hall into a very successful and very entertaining ride. I’m definitely looking forward to book two!


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BOOK REVIEW: Monsters Of Men – by Patrick Ness

Title: Monsters Of Men
(Chaos Walking #3)
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 3rd 2010
Publisher: Candlewick
Finished reading: August 28th 2017
Pages: 602

“Choices may be unbelievably hard but they’re never impossible. To say you have no choice is to release yourself from responsibility and that’s not how a person with integrity acts.”

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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead. Dun. Dun. Dun. The unpopular opinion curse has punished me once again… Because behold: I didn’t love the final book of the Chaos Walking trilogy as much as I expected and hoped I would. And trust me, I am still shocked myself I feel this way as well. Despite some minor issues with the slang used in the first two books, I was actually really enjoying this series so far. Like most people who have read at least part of this trilogy, I have really grown attached to both Todd and Viola and I was really looking forward to find out how things would end for both of them. I was expecting to devour Monsters Of Men despite its whopping 600 pages… But that wish didn’t came completely true in the end. Why? First of all, I want to make clear I didn’t hate this story despite the things Patrick Ness does to make my poor heart suffer. I just don’t think it was as good as the first two books. I have been wondering if this has to do with the fact I read A Monster Calls in between and nothing will ever be able to live up to that story… But here’s me trying to explain why I gave Monsters Of Men a lowish rating compared to most. I will not take into account the use of the slang, which I have repeatedly said I didn’t like and since the use is consistent throughout the series won’t affect my relative opinion of Monsters Of Men. It wasn’t the how Patrick Ness decided to end it all or how he made us readers suffer along with the characters either. No, my mean problem with Monsters Of Men is the new POV that is suddenly introduced into the story. A new POV, would you ask? Isn’t this series just about Todd and Viola? Well, the third book is now also about ‘The Return’. This new POV and its chapters left me mostly feeling confused and instead of adding an interesting new angle to the story, I mostly struggled trying to understand what they were talking about or who/what they were referring to. Honestly, I was never able to warm up to those chapters and even confess I started skimreading them at one point. I can’t deny they are beautifully written and Patrick Ness is a pro at creating creative and unique prose, but this POV just wasn’t for me and put a real damper on the rest of the story. I just wish he would have sticked with the Todd/Viola POVs instead… But I guess we can’t have it all. I feel really sad I wasn’t able to like this final book better though.

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

Todd and Viola will have to face some very difficult decisions as the situation starts to escalate further. Not only are the indigenous Spackle a threat, but the different human leaders will also do whatever it takes to make sure they reach their goals… Even if this means others will have to suffer for it. They all will defend their own ideas at all costs; endangering the others in the process. Who will win this demostration of power? And what about the convoy of new settlers?

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I was so sure I was going to enjoy Monsters Of Men just as much as the previous two books, but I guess my instincts were wrong. It wasn’t the prose. Besides the slang I still find annoying, the writing was just as strong as ever. I still love Todd and Viola just as much as in the first books. And it wasn’t the fact that Patrick Ness is basically an expert at breaking my heart and crushing my feelings either. I had one big problem with Monsters Of Men: ‘The Return’ and his newly introduced POV. This POV is more lyrical and in a way very beautiful, but unfortunately it left me mostly confused and I had a hard time figuring out the who and what of the things mentioned in those chapters. I actually found myself starting to skimread them at some point… Definitely not a good sign. It’s the main reason I had to lower the rating considerably despite my overal positive opinion about the rest of this final book.


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BOOK REVIEW: Sister – by Rosamund Lupton

Title: Sister
Author: Rosamund Lupton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 2nd 2010
Publisher: Boekerij
Finished reading: August 6th 2017
Pages: 352
(Read in Dutch: ‘Zusje’)

“Usually time alters and affects everything, but when someone you love dies time cannot change that, no amount of time will ever change that, so time stops having any meaning.”


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It may sound weird since I’m originally Dutch, but I haven’t used the language actively in years (I use Spanish all day and English for reading and blogging) and I can promise you it has become preeeetty rusty. How do I know? Let’s just say that when I visited Holland last year nobody believed I was actually Dutch when I tried to speak haha. I made a promise to myself when I came back from my trip to start reading at least one or two Dutch books a year to refresh my memories… And last month I finally decided to keep that promise and pick up my copy of the Dutch version of Sister by Rosamund Lupton. I was kind of hoping that picking up a story belonging to one of my favorite genres would make it easier to enjoy reading it, but unfortunately this didn’t end up being the case. It took me a whole month to actually finish this story, which was way longer than I had planned. Part of the problem was probably the language barrier (reading in Dutch just doesn’t feel ‘natural’ tp me anymore), but I don’t think that was the only reason why I didn’t enjoy reading Sister. The first thing that stands out is the superslow pace, which made it so much harder to keep going. I wasn’t really a fan of the writing style either, although it’s always tricky to talk about this element with a translation. Still, I wasn’t charmed by the tone or the way the sentences flowed and this made it considerably harder to stay focused on the story. And the characters… Boy, did I have a hard time with them! I wasn’t able to warm up to them at all and was mostly frustrated by Beatrice. The way the story is told is quite original though and I can’t deny the ending came as a surprise. The final part of Sister definitely made me rate this story higher than I would have thought initially, but I don’t think it actually makes up for the slow pace, writing style or characters. Most people seem to have enjoyed this story though, so it makes me wonder whether I should get an English copy some time in the future (when I don’t remember the plot twists or how it ends) and give this story another go.

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Beatrice has been living in New York for quite some time now, but when she receives a phone call that her younger sister Tess is missing she takes the first plane back to London. Nobody seems to know where her sister could have gone, and as Beatrice learns more about her disappearance she is starting to realize just how little she knows about Tess’ life. Everybody seems to accept they have lost her, but Beatrice doesn’t want to let go until she finds out the full truth. But will Beatrice be able to convince the rest?

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Part of the problem I had with this book has probably been caused by reading it in Dutch, but I don’t think the language barrier was solely to blame for my negative reading experience with Sister. Between the superslow pace, writing style I couldn’t connect to and characters I never warmed up to, it was quite hard to actually enjoy reading this story. It was a very slow ride and it took me a whole month to reach the final page. The last part did improve considerably and the final twist was a huge surprise that will make you reconsider everything you read before. I don’t think that made up for the rest of the story though.


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BOOK REVIEW: Room – by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: September 13th 2010
Publisher: Picador
Finished reading: May 9th 2017
Pages: 321

“Just because you’ve never met them doesn’t mean they’re not real. There’s more things on earth than you ever dreamed about.”

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I know for a fact it’s not true, but I feel like I’m about the last person on earth to read this book. I have been hearing so many great things about it over the years, and I still don’t know why I haven’t picked it up before… I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so now though, because Room is without doubt one of the most powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking stories I’ve read this year. The first thing that stands out is the fact that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old boy, which makes the story that much more powerful and unique. Jack’s voice made a huge impact on me and it’s a story that will stay with me for a long time. It actually made me think of The Boy With The Striped Pajamas (another of my all time favorites), which uses a similar technique to narrate a rather shocking story and is just as powerful. Another thing that stood out for me in Room is the excellent execution of Jack’s reactions, emotions and feelings in general to Room and the Outside. In fact, the writing style in general is wonderful; I literally flew through the pages and finished it in less than a day. The character development is also excellent and it’s very intriguing to see how everything that happens to both Jack and his mother affects them. If you haven’t read this little masterpiece yet, I suggest you do! If you like the genre, you won’t be disappointed.

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Jack has been living with his Ma in Room for as long as he can remember, and he is excited about his fifth birthday. Room has a locked door and a skylight, and measures exactly eleven feet by eleven feet. It’s also the whole world for Jack; the rest of it being Outside and nothing what he sees on the TV is truly real. In fact, only him, Ma and the things in Room are… Until the day Ma admits that there is actually a world outside.

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I still can’t believe it took me years to finally pick up my copy of Room, but it is without doubt one of my new all time favorites. The story itself is already both dark, shocking and powerful, but what makes Room even more special is that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old boy. Jack is a truly fascinating and unique character and having the opportunity to follow both him and Ma is a true blessing. This story will definitely stay with me for a long time! As you might have guessed, I can highly recommend this story.


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BOOK REVIEW: Dead To You – by Lisa McMann

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Title: Dead To You
Author: Lisa McMann
Genre: YA, Mystery, Contemporary
First published: February 7th 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: August 21st 2016
Pages: 243
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“Because if you don’t have at least one person believing in you, then there’s not much reason to give a shit about anything.”

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Dead To You was another of the selected Riveted reads in August, and as I was browsing the page the description kind of caught my eye. When I saw I had actually added this novel by Lisa McMann to my wishlist already last year, I decided to take this opportunity to read it for free. Thanks again Riveted! The story itself turned out to be both fast-paced and intriguing, although the ending kind of came out of nowhere. I really would have liked to see a different ending to Dead To You, or at least one that would have felt less like a mayor cliffhanger. The fact that I wasn’t a fan of the insta-like between Cami and Ethan OR the way Blake behaves didn’t really help me connecting to the story either. That said, Dead To You is still a quite entertaining and interesting read, and Gracie’s character is adorable. Not as good as I would have hoped, but still recommended for those who enjoy the genre.

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When Ethan was just seven years old, he was abducted right from his own front yard. Now, at the age of sixteen, a small miracle happened and he has returned to his family. But things aren’t easy. Ethan doesn’t seem to remember his past life with his real family, and his reintroduction to his old life isn’t going well. Tensions are starting to build and the family is starting to tear apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something about his life before, he might be able to put the pieces back together, but there is something that is keeping his memory blocked. And some memories are just better left untouched…

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The story itself is without doubt intriguing and the prose reads easily, but the cliffhanger ending spoiled things slightly for me. I wasn’t able to connect to all the characters and some of their actions started to annoy me. That said, Gracie is simply adorable! In short Dead To You is without doubt an entertaining YA realistic fiction/mystery read with some minor flaws. If you like the genre, you might want to give it a go.

BOOK REVIEW: Rot & Ruin – by Jonathan Maberry

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Title: Rot & Ruin
(Rot & Ruin #1)
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Genre: YA, Horror, Dystopia
First published: September 14th 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: July 25th 2016
Pages: 468
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“Often it was the most unlikely people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.”

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Zombie stories are normally not really for me, but I’ve become less prejudiced after I finished and loved The Girl With All The Gifts earlier this month. So when I was browsing Riveted and saw I could read Rot & Ruin for free (until August 1st), I decided to jump right in. Especially since I have had this series by Jonathan Maberry on my wishlist for a long time in the first place. I’m glad I decided to give Rot & Ruin a go, because I ended up really enjoying this story despite my reservations for zombie stories. The dystopian worldbuilding is interesting and I liked the idea of the separation between the relatively safe town and the ‘wild’. The descriptions of both the zombies and the world itself are well done; the zombies are slightly humanised (especially by the older brother Tom) and that was certainly refreshing. There is a lot of action (and shouting!) involved in the story, making it into a fast-paced read and without doubt entertaining. Another bonus: there is almost no romance in Rot & Ruin, which is rare in a YA fantasy/dystopian series. Although I’m having the suspicion there might be more in the sequel… Because there sure were some pretty obvious hints at possible romantic developments and even a love triangle. I’m glad there wasn’t any in the first book though and the ending was quite satisfying (even though the final fighting scenes were not that credible). All in all Rot & Ruin is an interesting, entertaining and fast-paced zombie read that will appeal to fans of the genre.

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Benny Imura grew up in this zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America and doesn’t know any better; his biggest worry being his need to find a job before his time is up and his rations are cut in half. His older brother and zombie hunter Tom does remember the time before the First Night though… As he saw their father turn into a zombie in front of them and had to run with little Benny. Benny still feels Tom is a coward and when Tom offers him to be his apprentice, Benny refuses. But he cannot seem to get another job that interests him, so it seems like he will have no choice but to accept his boring brother’s offer. But when he goes outside for the first time to see how his brother does his job, he encounters a whole different reality. Benny realizes he has been wrong about a whole lot of things in life, including his brother…

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It kind of came as a surprise, but Rot & Ruin turned out to be another exception to the rule and I really enjoyed this zombie and action-packed story. It’s well written and the worldbuilding is interesting, and I liked the fact that the zombies are slightly humanised and the bounty hunters are the actual bad guys. The fact that there is almost no romance involved is a huge bonus as well… At one point I thought this was going to be a repeat experience of The 5th Wave (cheesy romance scenes ruining an excellent story), but I guess I was wrong. If you enjoy reading the genre, I can definitely recommend Rot & Ruin! The sequel is already on my wishlist.