YVO’S SHORTIES #162 – Pet Sematary & Reconstructing Amelia

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles I’ve been meaning to read; one a dark thriller and one a YA mystery TBR jar pick. Pet Sematary by Stephen King turned out to be a great read, but I somehow ended up having mixed feelings about Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight instead…


Title: Pet Sematary
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: November 14th 1983
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: May 2nd 2020
Pages: 561

“It’s like many other things in life, Ellie. You keep on the path and all’s well. You get off it and the next thing you know you’re lost if you’re not lucky.”


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I’m planning on slowly making my way through Stephen King‘s backlist and as I’ve been wanting to watch the new movie adaption I decided to pick up Pet Sematary first… And I ended up having an excellent time reading this story. While I expected the story to be more creepy and full-scale horror than it turned out to be, as a paranormal thriller with psychological horror elements Pet Sematary still aimed to please. The story has got that ominous feel from the start, and while nothing all that much is happening in the beginning, you know things will escalate sooner or later. That ominous feel of danger and the supernatural grows stronger and stronger, and especially once Jud introduces Louis to Ludlow’s secret in the woods… The horror is mostly psychological and slow-building, but well constructed and I liked how the development of this element correlated with the development of the main characters (especially Louis and Jud). There is a lot of focus on the character development in general, and it was fascinating to learn more about the past of Jud as well as the town itself. Likewise, Louis is a fascinating character to follow; especially how he changes and reacts to the different events. If you are looking for a character-driven thriller with paranormal and psychological horror elements, Pet Sematary is a great choice.


Title: Reconstructing Amelia
Author: Kimberly McCreight

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: April 2nd 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: May 5th 2020
Pages: 405

“All they want to do is to put a label on you. Call you this or that. Then that’s all you are, forever.”


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So… I’m not sure if the unpopular opinion curse has struck again, but the fact is that somehow Reconstructing Amelia and me didn’t get along as well as I thought we would. My reading mood has been all over the place lately, so this might just not have been the best time for me to read this story… But the fact is that I ended up having mixed thoughts about Reconstructing Amelia. It took me a long time to get into the story, especially with all the POV changes and timehops… Keeping track of what happened to whom and when felt mostly like a chore as I wasn’t really connecting to the story in the first place. The idea behind this debut is interesting, but even though I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, I wasn’t all that blown away by the execution. It might have been the ending, which was an anti-climax and too convenient to be honest and I expected more. It might have been the high school cliches and all the bitching and bullying element. It might have been the fact that I don’t think the whole investigation is all that credible, especially with Kate being present as the detective investigates and questions people. It might also have been the fact that I never really connected to any of the characters. But the fact is that Reconstructing Amelia didn’t impress me as I thought I would… I seem to be in the minority though?


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YVO’S SHORTIES #143 – Like This For Ever & Things You Save In A Fire

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I really enjoyed. The third Lacey Flint book Like This For Ever was slightly different than the previous books as Lacey is not that present, but it is without doubt one that ends with a bang. And I loved my time with Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center! She’s definitely on my short list of authors that can make me actually enjoy romance.


Title: Like This For Ever
(Lacey Flint #3)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 11th 2013
Publisher: Bantam Press
Finished reading: January 7th 2020
Pages: 400

“The mask that was Lacey Flint, the mask that her true self hid behind, the mask that could never be allowed to slip again. “


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It took me longer than expected, but I finally came around reading my latest TBR jar pick… It has been interesting to meet up with Lacey Flint again and to see how past events affected her. The story is told through multiple POVs, including Lacey, Dana and Barney. Lacey isn’t as active in this book as she is not currently on duty after everything that happened previously, but somehow she ends up being involved anyway… And Barney’s POV is particularly interesting as we not often have a kid as one of the leading characters. Dana represents the detective team that includes well known Mark Joesbury, currently working on the case where young boys go missing only to turn up dead days later with their throats slashed. Who is behind these killings and why are the murders so atypical? I fully thought I had the whole plot figured out, and I was even starting to feel disappointed, only for the plot twist granades to be thrown at me from an angle I definitely didn’t see coming… Those final developments left me mostly flabbergasted and with a fully reinstated positive opinion about this book. I love it when a story manages to mislead me! This is also one of those books you will finish in record time, and I literally finished it in less than a day. Lacey comes over as more than a bit unhinged in this sequel, but it has definitely made me curious about what will happen with her in the final book. I’m hoping to read it soon! Trigger warnings are in place for self harm and suicide among other things.


Title: Things You Save In A Fire
Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 13th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 8th 2020
Pages: 320

“That’s how life is. Things happen. Lives get broken. Some people never can put themselves back together.”


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I really enjoyed How To Walk Away last year and I have been meaning to read this one ever since…I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so sooner, because I loved Things You Save In A Fire even more. I know I’m not really one of the biggest romance fans around, but I do love a change of genre every once in a while and there are a select few romance authors that can make me actually enjoy the genre. I have now confirmed Katherine Center is one of them. Heartwarming, poignant, honest, brutal and sometimes even shocking: Things You Save In A Fire will take you on a rollercoaster ride filled with emotions. Heavy topics including rape, cancer, death, gender discrimination and addiction are balanced with lighter moments and just the right dose of banter and romance. You will find yourself rooting for both Cassie and Owen (aka Rookie) before you know it, and I loved that this story gave us more insight of what is really going on inside a fire station. Firefighters are the heart and soul of this story and I really appreciated how the author not only described the inner workings of everything involving firefighters but also made it fundamental to the plot. The deeper meaning of the need for forgiveness ran throughout the whole story and will apply on multiple levels… It was fascinating to see the different characters evolve and grow over time, and I can see why this book has received so much love. I’m definitely part of this group now! Fans of the genre should consider Things You Save In A Fire a powerful and heartwarming as well as heartbreaking must-read.


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Dark Mother Earth – by Kristian Novak

Title: Dark Mother Earth
Author: Kristian Novak
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 2013
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Finished reading: January 6th 2020
Pages: 304
DNF at 31% (95 pages)
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Črna mati zemla’)

“At a time when no one but Matija Dolenčec cared about this, he was prepared to do almost anything to write one more good story.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Amazon Crossing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!!

I always love discovering new international authors and translations enable us to discover books that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to us. I don’t think I’ve read a book by a Croatian author before, and after reading the blurb of Dark Mother Earth and seeing the extremely high rating on Goodreads, I was convinced I had found the perfect title to remedy that. I really thought that I was going to enjoy this one, especially with such a fantastic blurb, but I guess it just wasn’t ment to be… I really hate having a DNF this early in the year already, but I just couldn’t get myself to keep reading in the end. I’ll try to explain below why.

I’ll keep this short, but there were quite a few factors that played a role in my decision to DNF. Not only did I find that the story is too chaotic, superslow and nothing really makes sense, but I also felt that nothing much seems to be happening even almost a third into the book. I wasn’t a fan of the writing style at all… It feels like random words and thoughts have been put on paper without a proper meaning or order, and it sounded more like random ramblings rather than a cohesive story. The characters are absolutely despicable and their ramblings and character development hardly make any sense. Or at least the minimum development I could see in the first third of the book… Also, there is way too much sex talk involved, and in a disrespectful way too. Confusing, tedious, dull, frustrating and quite frankly simply exasperating; trust me, I really tried and gave this book multiple second chances, but in the end I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading to see if things would improve. I guess this book most definitely wasn’t for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you think this could be your cup of tea you might want to try it anyway. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #123 – The Madness Underneath & The Hiding Place

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two reads that both turned out to be entertaining, but still not as good as I hoped they would be. The sequel The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson and The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor


Title: The Madness Underneath
(Shades Of London #2)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: February 1st 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: August 28th 2019
Pages: 304

“They knew I would do a better job of berating myself for being an idiot than they ever could and that waiting for the punishment was much worse than the actual punishment.

 

The tick tick tick is much worse than the boom.”


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Fun fact: the first book of this series was a TBR jar pick as well, and while I really enjoyed it, it still took me three years and another nudge from my TBR jar to finally pick up the sequel. This ment I didn’t remember all the details about the events in the first book, but it was quite easy to get the gist after the first couple of chapters. I really like the idea behind the Shades Of London series. It’s YA paranormal fantasy and horror with a twist, the snarky humor giving you a break from the darker scenes. I do believe this sequel is not as strong as the first book though… This feeling has to do both with the plot itself, the characters and the romance involved. The plot, while interesting enough, did miss that spark of the first book. It might have been the simple fact that it’s hard to live up to the previous Jack The Ripper inspired plot, but I found certain parts of the plot quite slow and sometimes not all that credible. I also had issues with certain actions and the behavior of certain characters… Part of this feeling has to do with the fact that we have to deal with a considerable amount of romance and teen angst in this sequel; something I didn’t expect at all and definitely wasn’t my cup of tea. I still liked the writing though and the humor used was mostly spot on for me. The paranormal elements were likewise interesting and I liked the development of Rory’s special skills. And that mayor cliffhanger ending definitely makes me want to pick up the third book soon despite my reservations.


Title: The Hiding Place
Author: C.J. Tudor

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: August 30th 2019
Pages: 288

“People say time is a great healer. They’re wrong. Time is simply a great eraser. It rolls on and on regardless, eroding our memories, chipping away at those great big boulders of misery until there’s nothing left but sharp little fragments, still painful but small enough to bear.”


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I really enjoyed The Chalk Man last year, and I’ve been looking forward to try C.J. Tudor‘s second book The Hiding Place ever since. It might have been that I set my expectations too high, but I ended up having mixed thoughts about this book. The first thing that stands out is that I underestimated just how dark this story was going to be… I personally didn’t mind, but I do believe The Hiding Place would be classified more accurately with a (paranormal) horror label rather than just a ‘regular’ thriller. Especially the paranormal aspect took me by surprise, as I have to be in the mood for those kind of stories and don’t always react to them positively. It really shows the author uses the work of Stephen King as her inspiration though; The Hiding Place definitely has that King feel with the horror elements, the bugs and the paranormal. Completely original or not, there is one thing for sure: C.J. Tudor sure knows how to write. I found myself flying through the pages, both shocked and entertained by what was happening. I liked the humor used, and while the characters are not exactly likeable, it somehow works for this story. And while I can’t deny I preferred The Chalk ManThe Hiding Place is without doubt still a very entertaining albeit darker than expected read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #119 – The Dream Thieves & Darius The Great Is Not Okay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The first a sequel that surprisingly enough ended up disappointing me: The Dream Thieves by  Maggie Stiefvater. Be warned for an upcoming unpopular opinion review! Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram turned out to be just as good as people kept promising though.


Title: The Dream Thieves
(The Raven Cycle #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Finished reading: August 7th 2019
Pages: 453

“All of us have secrets in our lives. We’re keepers or keptfrom, players or played. Secrets and cockroaches – that’s what will be left at the end of it all.”


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WARNING: it’s unpopular opinion time again!!

I should have known that the unpopular opinion curse wouldn’t stay away… Because even though I did enjoy the first book The Raven Boys back when I read it in December 2015, I can’t say I felt the same about The Dream Thieves. It’s true that I’ve heard people having mixed reactions to this sequel in general, and I fully understand why now. Unlike the first book, The Dream Thieves almost fully focuses on Ronan, and reactions to the sequel will most likely depend on your reaction to Ronan’s character in general. My reaction on Ronan’s character is actually surprisingly neutral; there are some things I like (including heritage and ‘powers’) and other aspects I found rather annoying (including his attitude), but overall I don’t mind him as a character. Having the focus mainly on Ronan in this story means that the magic of the first book is almost completely lost though… Because it’s the dynamics between the four raven boys and Blue that made that story into a success for me. Apart from the shifted focus, I also found The Dream Thieves to be rather overlong and quite boring in points… I actually caught myself skimreading certain parts, and that is never a good sign. I do have hopes for the final two books, as more than one fellow blogger has called this sequel the weakest link of the series, but I think I’m going to take a little break before I actually continue with The Raven Cycle. Maybe the unpopular opinion curse will get bored and will go away that way!


Title: Darius The Great Is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Dial Books
Finished reading: August 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“The thing is, I never had a friend like Sohrab before. One who understood me without even trying. Who knew what it was like to be stuck on the outside because of one little thing that set you apart.”


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This one has been recommended to me multiple times and I love foreign settings featuring places I’ve never been before, so it’s easy to see why I was really excited to finally pick up Darius The Great Is Not Okay. I have to say it didn’t disappoint at all. While it’s true that it took me a couple of pages before I fully connected to the characters and writing, once I did I was hooked. The power of this story is both in its characters and the descriptions of the setting in Iran and the local culture. Especially the second was thorough, detailed and well developed, making Iran and daily life in Yazd come fully alive for me and it really enhanced my reading experience. Adib Khorram is able to make you feel as if you are right beside Darius in Yazd, discovering more about his family and his roots. Darius made for a very interesting flawed character, his depression and issues with not feeling that he belongs making you think about what it is like to stand in his place and how difficult it can be to overcome a clash of cultures within your own family or even within yourself. Darius doesn’t feel American enough, but doesn’t think he belongs in Iran either, with him not speaking farsi and not knowing a lot about their culture… I really liked how the author developed this theme in what I think is a realistic way; as a Dutch person living in a quite different culture and country (Argentina), I found it really easy to relate to Darius and his struggles. I loved learning more about Iran and seeing the characters grow and develop over time in general…The ending made me kind of sad though. If you enjoy YA fiction with a foreign setting and both interesting and flawed characters, you should definitely read Darius The Great Is Not Okay.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #116 – Dead Scared & The Archived

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres that both turned out to be winners. The Lacey Flint sequel Dead Scared by Sharon Bolton was a twisted and very intriguing read, and I just loved The Archived! Then again I’m a bit biased when it comes to Victoria Schwab‘s work haha. I can’t believe I still hadn’t started this series! I’ll be reading the sequel VERY soon.


Title: Dead Scared
(Lacey Flint #2)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 5th 2012
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: August 1st 2019
Pages: 384

“There are times when just waking up can feel like the hardest thing anyone could ever ask you to do. The first morning after your child has died, perhaps. Or after the man you adore has walked out. You would give anything, certainly the rest of your life, to stay down in the darkness of not knowing.”


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I had my first encounter with Lacey Flint two years ago and while I didn’t manage to warm up to her character then, I’ve been meaning to read the sequel ever since as I thought the series had a lot of promise. I’m glad I finally picked up Dead Scared, because I ended up loving it! It’s been too long since I read the first book to make a proper comparison, but based on my general feelings I can say this book is without doubt stronger than the first book. What a plot! What a disturbing and twisted situation Lacey finds herself in! The writing is engaging and makes you turn the pages at hyperspeed, but it is the plot that is the true star of Dead Scared. The whole situation with the bad dreams, the creepy things happening to the characters and the suicides without doubt chilled me to the bone. The plot was very cleverly contructed, complex and filled with twists to keep you guessing about the full scope of the situation. There are a lot of twisted and disturbing scenes included in Dead Scared, and trigger warnings are in place for abuse, rape, violence, mental health and suicide among other elements. This story is definitely not fit for those with a weak stomach! But if you think you can manage, Dead Scared will attack you both with psychological terror and disturbing action scenes that will leave you feeling uneasy and looking over your shoulder. I really loved the undercover angle and the psychological aspect of this story as well! In short, Dead Scared is without doubt a very twisted and disturbing read, and literally stuff made out of nightmares. I’m curious to see if book three will be able to live up to this book!


Title: The Archived
(The Archived #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: January 22nd 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: August 1st 2019
Pages: 336

“Because the only way to truly record a person is not in words, not in still frames, but in bone and skin and memory.”


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I think most of you will know by now that Victoria Schwab is one of my absolute favorite authors and I still can’t explain it to myself why I haven’t started this series before. It’s true that The Archived is one of her earlier series and not as widely known as some of her other books, but it is without doubt one worth discovering. I’m still kicking myself for not reading The Archived sooner! This first book is a mix of contemporary with paranormal fantasy and I personally really liked the balance of the story. Elements as family, death, grief and moving on in the real or ‘Outer’ world are mixed with a fantasy setting we can find in the Narrows and The Archive. Main character Mackenzie Bishop is able to show us the different worlds and their meaning through her job as a Keeper. She was an interesting character and I enjoyed seeing her develop over time and handle the mystery and escalating situation as in the plot. I loved the idea behind the worldbuilding and its symbolism and the setting in the converted hotel added an eery atmosphere to the story… And the writing is just as brilliant as ever. I’m definitely going to read the sequel VERY soon!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #107 – Two Boys Kissing & My Lovely Wife

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two different genres, a backlist title and a new release… The first is Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, which I picked up both for Pride month and for the banned books prompt. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the writing style at all though. New release My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing turned out to be a delightfully shocking read though.


Title: Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 27th 2013
Publisher: Egmont UK
Finished reading: June 15th 2019
Pages: 239

“He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.”


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I was browsing banned books for a challenge, came across Two Boys Kissing and thought it would be a perfect choice for Pride month as well. I was curious to see why this story ended up on the banned books list, although I already feared (correctly) that it would have to do with the LGBT element. Sadly, I ended up having mixed thoughts about Two Boys Kissing… It had nothing to do with the actual content, and I’m sad this story was put on the banned books list, but there was something else I really struggled with. What? While I loved the idea behind this story and the symbolism in general, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style at all. The whole second/third person POV was both alienating and extremely annoying and made me enjoy the story a lot less than I thought I would. It might be an original way of telling the story (I don’t deny that), but sadly I really didn’t get along with the writing style at all. I’m positive I would have rated this story a lot higher if we would have read about the main characters from their POV; dual or multiple would have been the same. Instead, we have the strange voice of ‘past unidentified LGBT persons’ and a whole bunch of random characters the story keeps switching between… It takes a long time to keep them apart, seeing how everyone fits and realize which is actually the main story; the fact that there were so many character/POV switches made it really hard to keep track of the story and stay invested. I can’t deny Two Boys Kissing has a strong LGBT message though, and I loved the idea of the record breaking and the background of each character. Two Boys Kissing wasn’t for me due to the writing style, but I can see why so many love it.


Title: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 26th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: June 16th 2019
Pages: 384

“Now I see my mistake. Focusing only on my family has left me isolated and alone, except for one old friend who can never know the truth.”


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My Lovely Wife has been everywhere these past couple of months and I finally found time to see what all the buzz is about. I admit I went in blind, thinking I was going to find a nice and docil domestic thriller despite the knife on the cover… I couldn’t have been more wrong. What a delightfully twisted and properly disturbing read! If you are, like me, strangely into serial killer stories, imagine finding not one, but TWO in one story… And a couple at that! As soon as I was hit with that mindblowing information, I was hooked. And not just ‘normal’ hooked; I literally read the whole thing in one sitting by candle light (not by choice though as we had a country wide power failure that day), not caring if I was basically ruining my eyes or if had other things to do. I just HAD to know how things would develop and how twisted things were going to get. Trust me, you will never guess just how crazy and disturbing My Lovely Wife is prepared to go for our reading entertainment. I’ve seen people questioning the credibility of it all, and they do have a point, but I was too busy devouring every single world of this twisted masterpiece to really care. A double dose of secret identities, two serial killers, a conspiracy plot, lots of twists and one heck of a shocking surprise as the story takes a turn you won’t see coming… If you haven’t read My Lovely Wife yet, make sure to clear your schedule before you start, because trust me, you will find yourself unable to stop reading.


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