YVO’S SHORTIES #97 – Before She Knew Him & These Broken Stars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title; a winner and a story that wasn’t for me. I’ve been wanting to read more of Peter Swanson ever since I finished The Kind Worth Killing, and I’m glad I finally did. I absolutely loved Before She Knew Him! On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if These Broken Stars would be for me as I feared it would be too heavy on the romance, and I definitely should have listened to my instincts.


Title: Before She Knew Him
Author: Peter Swanson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: April 26th 2019
Pages: 320

“I’m on a small boat in the middle of a huge storm. I need to ride the waves and wait for it all to blow over.”


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I’ve been meaning to read more Peter Swanson ever since I read The Kind Worth Killing back in 2017. When I saw the @criminallygoodbookclub on Instagram had chosen his newest story Before She Knew Him as their April read, I knew I had to join them and finally follow up on my intentions. I’m glad I did, because the story definitely lived up to expectations… What a read! After a string of reads that failed to blow me away completely, I finally found myself fully absorbed in a story again and posponed all plans until I had reached the final page. Before She Knew Him is well written, suspenseful and has an enormous plot twist bomb towards the end that will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. With the help of different POVs we get an insight in the lives of Hen and her neighbor Matthew. Both are flawed and fascinating characters and the driving forces behind the story. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but between the mental health angle and the unsolved murders, you will have a lot of suspense and intrigue waiting for you. The fact that Hen knows things early on, but nobody believes her because of her past with mental health (bipolar) problems, is both a very interesting and almost hardbreaking situation as people tend to judge without getting the full picture first. Not every character is all that likeable, but they feel real and their flaws are what makes Before She Knew Him so fascinating. This story also packs a HUGE surprise you won’t see coming at all… And I love it when a story is able to mislead me so well I actually yelled ‘WHAT?!?!’ when I stumbled across the reveal. If you enjoy the genre, Before She Knew Him is definitely a story not to miss.


Title: These Broken Stars
(Starbound #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: December 10th 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: April 27th 2019
Pages: 384

“Funny how I was old enough by sixteen to drink, fight, and vote, but eve two years later, I’m too young to respect.”


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I’ve had this series on my TBR for a long time, never actually picking it up as I wasn’t sure the story would be for me. Let’s face it: the cover is a strong indicator that These Broken Stars would be very heavy on the romance… But after Across The Universe pleasantly surprised me earlier this month, I decided to risk it. Unfortunately, my instincts turned out to be right this time around. Because there is one thing that is certain, and that is that These Broken Stars is oozing with sappy romance scenes. What I hoped would be an interesting science fiction story set in space, soon turned into a survival story on a foreign planet after only a few chapters… The main characters more busy with ‘ignoring’ their feelings and the whole forbidden love vibe than actually exploring or having interesting things happening to them. The survival angle could have been interesting enough once you get over the fact you won’t be getting more space actions or a true explanation behind the crash, but to be honest I was rather bored instead most of the time. For such an interesting setting, nothing much was actually happening. The story instead focuses almost completely on Lilac and Tarver and their complicated relationship. The rich heiress and the poor soldier stranded on an unknown planet after a crash; a forbidden love bout to happen. Can it get any more cliche than that? The only reason I decided to stick it through until the end is that the writing itself is engaging and made it easier to keep turning those pages even though nothing interesting was happening most of the time. Overall These Broken Stars had some very interesting ideas and a promising setting, but sadly those elements weren’t developed or taken advantage of. Romance fans who enjoy a forbidden romance story with a space setting will probably appreciate this first book of the Starbound series a lot more though.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #83 – The Bitter Kingdom & Friend Request

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two books I ended up enjoying. The series conclusion The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson and the psychological thriller Friend Request by Laura Marshall.


Title: The Bitter Kingdom
(Fire And Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: April 14th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: February 6th 2019
Pages: 490

“It’s the highest art form, deceiving without lying. A word is the only thing in the world made more powerful by absence than existence.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books yet. You’ve been warned…

I first started this series back in 2015, and it took me a long time before I finally continued it… Not because I didn’t enjoy the first book, but simply because other books got in the way. I finally read the novellas last year, and after reading the second book last month I was determined to read the third and final book ASAP so I could finish the series while memories were still fresh. I’m without doubt glad I picked up the final book, because The Bitter Kingdom definitely made this series end on a high note! I’m not sure if it is my new favorite, but I’m happy to say that all three Fire And Thorns books stay consistently strong and the final book doesn’t disappoint at all. Why was The Bitter Kingdom such a success for me? First of all, I could really appreciate the chapters from Hector’s POV. They were both refreshing and definitely a welcome addition to the story! I also liked how we finally get to learn more about Inverno and see more of that part of the world… The high fantasy worldbuilding is one of the best features of this series and it’s always great to see it expand. The writing is engaging and it makes it really easy to just keep turning the pages. The plot itself isn’t all that complicated, but offers enough action and a romance that will warm your heart instead of annoy you. The end did feel a bit too easy, but overall it does provide closure for this series and its character. I really enjoyed my time with this trilogy and can highly recommend it to fans of the genre.


Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 9th 2017
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 384

“I’m in a hall of mirrors, full of distorted reflections and false endings. I’ve lost track of which way I came in and I have no idea how to get out.”


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I recently bought a copy of Friend Request on a whim after remembering it being mentioned various times back when it was first published, and I couldn’t resist picking it up when I was in the mood for the genre. There is no doubt that Friend Request was a very entertaining psychological thriller with a few twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. The story starts slow and it takes a while for the pace to pick up. Basically, the first half has more of a character driven slower psychological thriller, while the second half is more of a suspenseful crime thriller with a fast pace and quite a lot of action. This made the story feel a bit unbalanced, but the second half made the story that much more thrilling. I mentioned twists I didn’t see coming, and this was definitely true, but I cannot help but wonder if some weren’t a bit too farfetched and dark compared to how the story first started? I do love my surprises though, so I’m a bit on the fence about how to feel about all this. I personally preferred the chapters set in 2016 over those in 1989, mostly because I’m not a real fan of high school drama and bullying. That said, both timelines seem well developed and help creating the suspense and intrigue around Maria and what is happening to Louise in the present. As for Louise: she can be quite annoying and I don’t understand some of her decisions, but her character with all its flaws does feel convincingly realistic. The mystery around what happened to Maria in 1989 and who is behind the messages in 2016 will definitely keep you intrigued until you find out the truth… And it will be hard to see that final twist coming. All in all Friend Request was still a very entertaining read despite the flaws I mentioned.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #72 – A Spark Of Light & Doll Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around the final two books I managed to read in 2018. A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult turned out to be a powerful and thought provoking read that will stay with me for a long time… While Doll Bones by Holly Black mostly only managed to disappoint me.


Title: A Spark Of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: December 30th 2018
Pages: 352

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”


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After my experiences with Jodi Picoult‘s recent novels, I couldn’t wait to read A Spark Of Light. There has been a lot of hype around this title, and I can understand why now. Abortion is actually quite a controversial and ‘hot’ topic right now in Argentina, so it definitely came at an interesting time for me… Disclaimer: I won’t be discussing pro-life or pro-choice politics here, just the story itself. I’ll start off with saying that abortion is a very tricky topic to write about, and I think Jodi Picoult did it splendidly. Her writing style is just as strong as ever and I also loved the reversed time chapter technique she used. I admit I was confused at first because I didn’t realize that straight away, but I think it adds a little something extra to the story. Why? It’s simply very intriguing to meet the characters at such a critical point in their lives and then slowly find out how they got there… I did see part of the final plot twist bombs coming, although not all. The ending was a bit abrupt for me, and I personally would have liked to see the main characters being followed up for a while longer. Still, I also understand why she decided to end it in that way, as the main event was over by then. A Spark Of Light brings a very controversial but important topic to light and while especially pro-life supporters might be offended by the story, I would still recommend reading it as it does show both sides (although not equally, which is a hard balance to obtain in the first place). For me it was one of the stronger books I read during 2018 and without doubt one that provoked strong emotions as well. A good way to finish the reading year!


Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black

Genre: MG, Fantasy, Horror
First published: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderrly Books
Finished reading: December 31st 2018
Pages: 256

“He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.”


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I was looking for a little something different to read as my last read of 2018 and when I came across this title on my kindle I decided to pick it up on a whim. Sadly, I can’t say I actually enjoyed reading Doll Bones. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of it had to do that I didn’t like the characters and I had a hard time connecting to the story. The story wasn’t exactly credible and not as scary as I would have thought either. This is more a coming of age story with Zach in the spotlight as he struggles with the consequences of growing up… And then we have Poppy who is the person behind the quest and most of the action even though she is not the main character, which throws off the balance of the story considerably. I felt Doll Bones lacked cohesion and a proper plot, although I did like the idea behind the three creating their own magical world where their toys go on adventures. The paranormal aspect of the story could have been interesting, but it just didn’t manage to convince me… And I had a lot of doubts about the credibility of it all. All in all not the experience I was expecting, but twelve-year-olds might enjoy the story better.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #64: An Officer And A Spy (DNF) & Educated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t manage to convince me. The first, An Officer And A Spy by Robbert Harris, sadly a DNF, something that rarely happens. And I had high hopes for Educated by Tara Westover after so many glowing reviews, but I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again.


Title: An Officer And A Spy
Author: Robert Harris

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 26th 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: November 12th 2018 
Pages: 429
DNF at 30% (129 pages)

“It seems to be a necessary part of the criminal mentality: to survive captivity, one must somehow convince oneself one is not guilty.”


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An Officer And A Spy is one of my TBR jar picks and a title I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I had been looking forward to it despite the mixed reviews, mostly because the setting sounded fascinating. I still think the setting on its own is very interesting and the general plot has a lot of potential. A possibly wrongly convicted officer, espionage, the threat of a war and other struggles definitely sound like a good recipe for a successful historical fiction read. Sadly, the execution of those elements in An Officer And A Spy just didn’t work for me. I have picked it up only to put it down again after only a few pages multiple times over the last few weeks. I’ve tried and tried to at least make it to the end to see if things improved later on, but in the end I decided to make the difficult decision to just DNF it. I hardly ever give up on a book, so it definitely makes me sad to do so… But between the superslow pace, writing style, too many descriptions and a lack of interest in both the plot and the characters, I think this was the right choice for me. An Officer And A Spy just never grabbed me and I was never able to stay interested in the story… It’s very possible this story simply wasn’t for me even though historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. A lot of readers did love it, so definitely don’t give up on it if you are thinking about reading it.


Title: Educated
Author: Tara Westover

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: November 14th 2018
Pages: 352

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occured to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”


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It’s unpopular opinion time again… You’ve been warned. 

I have been looking forward to finally read Educated for months now, especially after reading so many glowing reviews. This is probably one of the reasons my expectations might have been too high, that and the fact that this memoir has been compared to The Glass Castle. The fact is: I was quite underwhelmed by all of it. This was not what I was expecting, and I feel sad for feeling this way, but it is what it is… I’m going to try and explain the reasons why. First of all, I know that I’m a skeptical person, and I don’t tend to believe things easily just because they are written down on paper. I also had a hard time believing Tara Westover‘s story as it was written down. Please don’t tell me I’m implying she is a liar, which I’m not. I do believe that she wrote Educated based on her memories, memories that can have gotten distorted over time especially if her early life has been such a struggle. And I really had to take her story with a whole lot of grains of salt to be able to continue reading. Like I said, I’m not saying she hasn’t had a tough life, or that her family didn’t do what they did, just that I didn’t find her story as told credible. I mean, for a survivalist family living in the mountains they sure have a lot of luxuries including at some point even a phone, TV and internet (not talking about the enormous mansion they seem to be having in the end). Her family life definitely wasn’t standard, with them not even having a birth certificate for a long time, not going to school and working in the junkyard etc etc. But I would rather call it eccentric for the most part instead. Also, at one point she describes her father as bipolar, something that is never confirmed as the same disease prevents him getting a medical diagnose. Still, I would have liked to have seen this angle developed further rather than just throwing the ‘bipolar’ word out and leave it at that. Another thing that bothered me were the many many serious accidents, a few life threatening, and somehow they are all healed with essential oils and other herbal cures? I do believe in holistic treatments along with medical care, but this is just getting too hard to believe. (I’m not saying they weren’t injured, just that the injuries maybe weren’t as bad as they remembered?) Anyhow, this reckless behavior and indifference towards general safety of others and the ‘miracle’ recoveries were just too much for the skeptical person in me to handle. Another thing I found hard to believe? Where all the money came from. First we are told they are poor, then money starts popping up everywhere somehow. I can get why her childhood chapters are a bit vague about money, but how on earth did she get the money together to get into a prestigious college and university? I know there are grants, but they don’t cover it all and it is a LOT of money we are talking about and very prestigious and expensive education. I mean, she goes to the UK and studies abroad for a long time? And then travels back and forth between the US and the UK multiple times? The flights alone cost a fortune, and surely aren’t covered by grants. A real mystery to me. There is also the question how she got into college in the first place, especially since she was never really educated at home in the first place. Somehow being able to get a superhigh score just by teaching herself advanced math and everything else in the test just doesn’t come over as credible to the skeptical me. Maybe she had a higher level of education than stated in the memoir before she started preparing herself for the test? I don’t know, but as it is Educated wasn’t at all credible to me. I’m not saying her being able to get her degrees isn’t admirable, and I’m sure she’s had a hard life especially with her despicable brother Shawn (I’m not even going into the abuse and her brother here, or we could still be talking tomorrow), but sadly her memoir wasn’t able to convince me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #54 – Reboot & They Both Die At The End

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA read that both turned out to be great reads. The first Reboot by Amy Tintera, a series I will be continuing very soon. The second They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera, a book I’m very happy about to have finally picked up.


Title: Reboot
(Reboot #1)
Author: Amy Tintera

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 7th 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: October 12th 2018
Pages: 365

“We might have been monsters, but we were still stronger and faster and far more useful than any human army.”


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I’ve been meaning to start this duology for years now, and I’m definitely glad I finally did so. YA dystopians can go both ways for me, depending on the cliches and the dreaded love triangle, but I’m happy to say Reboot was a success for me. First of all, a big round of applause for not having a love triangle! There are romance scenes of course, but somehow they didn’t bother me as much as I liked them together. The writing style is spot on for me and I’m definitely looking forward to read more of Amy Tintera‘s books after this. The writing draws you right in, and the dystopian world Reboot is set in is quite interesting. Not all that original perhaps with the virus and all, but entertaining enough anyway. I liked the idea behind the reboots and how they are all different depending on how long they were dead before they rebooted… What makes this story so enjoyable is the fact that some of the characters are easy to like and you will find yourself rooting for them soon enough. I had a great time reading Reboot and I will be starting the sequel very soon. Fans of the YA dystopian genre will have a great time with this one.


Title: They Both Die At The End
Author: Adam Silvera

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: September 5th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: October 15th 2018
Pages: 376

“I’ve spent years living safely to secure a longer life and look where that’s gotten me. I’m at the finish line, but I never ran the race.”


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They Both Die At The End is one of those titles I’ve been meaning to read for ages, but somehow managed to pospone anyway. I’m glad I finally did pick it up! There is just something about Adam Silvera’s writing style that draws you right in and keeps you invested until the very end. I was expecting another contemporary romance read, so I was more than pleasantly surprised by the science fiction like twist of this story. Of course I knew there were going to be sad moments because as the title suggests, both main characters will die before the story is over. But I really liked the idea behind the Dead Cast, Last Friend App and how they spend their last day together. Sci-fi with a romantic lgbt twist, and a whole lot of carpe diem before they kick the bucket. The author is a pro at creating characters that both feel real and are easy to connect to. I took to both characters instantly and this is probably why this story worked so well for me. I enjoyed learning more about them as well as the people close to them… And I actually liked the random different POV chapters mixed in between as well, since they will all somehow connect in the end and it just felt like putting together a big puzzle. I wasn’t sure what to think of the ending, but overall there is no doubt They Both Die At The End is worth the read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #50 – The King’s Guard & Radiance Of Tomorrow

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today two completely different reads, but both worthwhile. The King’s Guard is the third and final Fire And Thorns novella and without doubt my favorite of the bunch. And I have been wanting to read Radiance Of Tomorrow forever, especially since Ishmael Beah‘s memoir made such an impact. This fictional story also set in his country Sierra Leone is another powerful and heartbreaking read.


Title: The King’s Guard
(Fire And Thorns #0.7)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 30th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 19th 2018
Pages: 111

“The less you say, the more your words will matter.”


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I have been reading the Fire And Thorns novellas before tackling the sequel, and I have to say this third and final one is probably my favorite of the bunch. The King’s Guard is partly set in the royal palace and is partly an adventure and rescue mission. Hector makes a great main character of this novella and his character is very easy to like. The writing is solid as always and I managed to read it in no time at all… The plot and setting are well fleshed out for a novella and I had a great time reading this one. These novellas are a great addition to the original series and especially the last two novellas are without doubt worth the read if you enjoy the series.


Title: Radiance Of Tomorrow
Author: Ishmael Beah

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
First published: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 256

“We must live in the radiance of tomorrow, as our ancestors have suggested in their tales. For what is yet to come tomorrow has possibilities, and we must think of it, the simplest glimpse of that possibility of goodness. That will be our strength. That has always been our strength.”


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A Long Way Gone is one of the most devastating and heartbreaking memoirs I’ve read to this date, and well written at that. I’ve been meaning to read Radiance Of Tomorrow for years now, and I’m glad I’ve finally had the opportunity to do so. While Radiance Of Tomorrow is a fictional story this time around, it has the same setting in Sierra Leone and the same emotional rollercoaster ride. Make sure to brace yourself before you start this one, because it won’t be a happy journey. Radiance Of Tomorrow tells the story of what happens in the ruined village Imperi after the war in Sierra Leone ended. The beginning sets the tone of what will become a heartbreaking, devastating and very emotional read, with little lights shining upon the hope the characters have things will become better in the future. Descriptions of both characters and setting are excellently done and I loved the ‘fusion’ of different languages as the author translated expressions from other languages literally to describe things. This book shows us what it was like for the locals after the war, the struggles still there as they try to survive with all odds against them. You will take the characters under your wing and suffer with them as setbacks occur… Radiance Of Tomorrow has a wonderful bigger message and is without doubt a very powerful and emotional read. I’m glad I decided to finally pick up!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #49 – The Shattered Mountain & The Ballroom

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a novella and a historical fiction read. The Shattered Mountain was a short and interesting addition to the Fire And Thorns series. And I had great hopes for The Ballroom, especially since the setting is fascinating, but the story fell flat for me.


Title: The Shattered Mountain
(Fire And Thorns #0.6)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 26th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 15th 2018
Pages: 106

“Maybe a large, single dose of pain now is better than the slow, burning pain of withering hope.”


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I read the first Fire And Thorns novella earlier this month, and then decided to try and read the other two as well before continuing with the sequel. There is no doubt that this second novella is a lot stronger than the first one. I think this has a lot to do with the main character of this short story, which is quite easy to like and root for. Mara is a very interesting and strong character and she does some amazing things along with the other characters. The romance in The Shattered Mountain didn’t bother me one bit even though some cliches were involved. I think this mostly has to do with the fact there is a lot of focus on the dire situation the group is in instead as well as the worldbuilding of this high fantasy story. The writing is solid and makes it easy to fly through the pages… This novella is definitely worth your time if you enjoy the series.


Title: The Ballroom
Author: Anna Hope

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: February 11th 2016
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Finished reading: September 17th 2018
Pages: 320

“Free. This small hard word that felt so cold. Could you live inside a word like that?”


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I first added The Ballroom to my TBR because of the cover as well as the promise of a fascinating historical setting and a mental health angle. It took me longer than planned to get to it, but the readathon was an excellent excuse to finally do so. There is no doubt that this historical fiction read set in a 1911 asylum has a very interesting premise and a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the story sort of fell flat for me… Part of this feeling has to do with the fact that the pace was considerably slow and it took me a lot longer than expected to read this story. The focus was on the characters and their development, but sadly there was nothing much for me to keep me focused to them or create a proper connection; instead I was mostly left both just wanting to get it over it and wanting the story to deliver something more. The fact that Charles is a very unlikeable character doesn’t really help either. Because as always with character-driven stories, being able to connect to the main characters is key. Surprisingly though, the romance in this story didn’t bother me that much. Fans of slower paced and character-driven historical fiction reads with an interesting setting and a Shakespearean love story will have a great time reading The Ballroom.


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