YVO’S SHORTIES #101 – The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall & Trouble Makes A Comeback

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition with a TBR jar pick and a title I picked up for a challenge. Both had some positive and negative elements, although I did enjoy Katie Alender’The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall better than Stephanie Tromly‘s sequel Trouble Makes A Comeback.


Title: The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Point
Finished reading: May 13th 2019 
Pages: 329

“Of all the things I would have guessed about being dead, I definitely didn’t expect that it would sometimes feel exactly like high school.”


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I’ve enjoyed Katie Alender‘s books in the past so I was excited when my TBR jar thought it was time to pick up this title. I admit I was expecting something a little more creepy than what I ended up with. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t save it for the Halloween month now… It’s true that there are elements of suspense and there are some creepy moments and secrets hidden in Hysteria Hall, but overall I found the majority of them to be cliche. And this took away most of the scary factor… There are a lot of cliches involved in general, related to both ghosts, family drama and even a love triangle. Oh yes, even when the main character is dead we don’t escape the dreaded love triangle! This wasn’t even my main concern with Delia though. I didn’t find her strong enough as a main character to carry the story; for example Maria came over as a considerably more interesting character to follow. There was a lot of potential to make this story more disturbing; I think most will agree a haunted and abandoned asylum is the perfect eery setting for a horror story. But The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall took a different turn and instead mellowed things down considerably. On the other hand this was still quite a fun and fast read! Just don’t expect to be scared away, as for a haunted asylum story it’s surprisingly light on the horror.


Title: Trouble Makes A Comeback
(Trouble #2)
Author: Stephanie Tromly

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: May 14th 2019
Pages: 304

“Forgetting about the bad times… that isn’t happiness. That’s amnesia.”


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I picked up this title mostly on a whim as I needed a change of genre and this title fits one of the prompts for the BTB Bingo challenge. It’s been a while since I read the first book, so I had totally forgotten about my issues with the first book… It turns out I ended up having the exact same issues with the sequel and I should I have checked my previous review better before deciding to read Trouble Makes A Comeback. I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. It’s true that the story reads superfast and there are entertaining parts. BUT. I had huge doubts about the credibility of it all and the fact that you are constantly reminded of THE love triangle is beyond annoying. In fact, it’s more than a triangle; a square maybe? Anyhow, this story is packed with high school and romance cliches and between those and the lack of credibility of the plot I had a lot of eyebrow raising going on. As for the characters… While I can appreciate a bit of dry humor, I felt like the characters (and the story for that matter) were trying too hard to be funny and it kind of had the opposite effect on me. Between the cliches around the different characters and the love triangle overshadowing any hope of an interesting and edgy plot, I don’t think me and this series are ment to be. Contemporary romance fans who like their stories with a hint of mystery will probably have a better time with Trouble Makes A Comeback though.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #95 – Across The Universe & The Wolf Border

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres… The first a YA scifi story that turned out to be a pleasant surprise and also surprisingly light on the romance: Across The Universe by Beth Revis. I can’t say I was a fan of The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall though.


Title: Across The Universe
(Across The Universe #1)
Author: Beth Revis

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: January 11th 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Finished reading: April 14th 2019
Pages: 399

“Everything is wrong here. Shattered. Broken. Like the light.”


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I’ve been wondering whether I should try this series for years, mostly because I was fearing a romance overdose and wasn’t sure if it would be for me. I’m glad I finally gave in and tried Across The Universe, because my instincts turned out to be wrong this time around. Despite the romantic cover, this first book of a YA science fiction series set in space is surprisingly light on the romance. There are hints of it now and then, but the main focus is the fact that the story is set on a space ship and the mysterious attacks that take place. And as you might guess, that is a huge bonus for me! The writing is engaging and this story is really easy to read. I liked the setting on the ship and how the story is able to show us the effect of having to live on a ship for generations has on its inhabitants. The story has a dual POV, where we alternated between Amy and Elder. Amy’s situation is without doubt interesting and is the driving force behind the plot. I wasn’t sure about the whole Elder/Eldest idea and I did guess some of the plot twists, but overall Across The Universe was a very entertaining story to read and I liked how a murder mystery was mixed in with the science fiction elements. I’m definitely curious to find out how this series will continue now.


Title: The Wolf Border
Author: Sarah Hall

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Finished reading: April 20th 2019
Pages: 435

“There seems no need for anything else now. There is no wound. The only wound is life, recklessly creating it, knowing that it will never be safe, it will never last; it will only ever be real.”


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I got a copy of The Wolf Border at a hostel book exchange during our Europe trip last year, intrigued by the cover and blurb and the promise of a story set in the wilderness. I’ve been looking forward to finally read it, and I thought the O.W.L.s Readathon was a great excuse to do so… I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had to this story though. Why? The fact is, The Wolf Border was very close to getting me in a slump, and not in a good way. I literally made every possible excuse to not pick up my copy and do something else instead, and it took me considerably longer to finally reach that last page. I even thought about just DNFing it multiple times… In short, I don’t think The Wolf Border and me were ment to be. The first thing that surprised (and disappointed me) was the fact that the wilderness and wolves don’t play as much of a significant role in the story as the blurb lets to believe, the plot instead mostly focusing on Rachel and her complicated life. This story is mainly something that can be classified as a family drama with an overdose of unnecessarily explicit adult scenes (another turn off for me), with the wolves playing a background role rather than being the main attraction. Sure, some things can be said about the comparison of animal instincts and behavior between human and animal. This can be considered an interesting aspect of this story; the underlying message that we are still basically animals in the end. BUT. It’s hard thinking about this comparison and its cleverness when you can’t stand the characters and don’t feel a connection to them at all… The same goes for the writing style. The sentences are halted and the prose doesn’t seem to flow at all; making it hard to stay invested and focus on the story. I know some have loved The Wolf Border and I’m glad, but I personally had a really hard time finishing it for various reasons. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m hoping others will like its taste.


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ARC REVIEW: The Murmur Of Bees – by Sofia Segovia @amazonpub

Title: The Murmur Of Bees
Author: Sofia Segovia 
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: March 1st 2015
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: April 7th 2019
Pages: 471
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘El Murmullo De Las Abejas’)

“Simonopio was for the outdoors, for the wild. He was for reading life, not books.”

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

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I was attracted to this story as a bee to honey right from the very first time I saw it mentioned. I love stories with an international setting and I’m always trying to read more international authors… In The Murmur Of Bees I got both. This story was originally written in Spanish in 2015, and its translation is scheduled to be published later this month. It’s a historical fiction tale set in early 20th century Mexico, where historical facts are mixed with the surreal in such a way that will keep you invested until the very end. With an air of the writing style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Murmur Of Bees tells us the story of a wealthy land owner family and how the appearance of the mysterious Simonopio both saved and changed their lives forever. The writing is lush and wonderful and will truly transport you to a different time and country… It’s a story of love, joy, sadness and desperation; a story of different generations, family and a country damaged by war and the 1918 influenza outbreak. Rather than magical realism, I would call The Murmur Of Bees an extraordinary work of historical fiction with a hint of the surreal. Both Simonopio and his bees and the folklore tales incorporated into stories are incorporated in such a way that they create a perfect balance with the rest of the plot and they give The Murmur Of Bees an unique touch. The historical setting is well developed and it really shows the author has well researched the era and has also included details of historical events partly or completely. The result is a complex and enchanting story and a journey any fan of the genre will enjoy undertaking.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #93 – Daisy Jones And The Six & The Blue

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title that both turned out to be excellent reads. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid has only reconfirmed my love for this author and The Blue by Lucy Clarke introduced me to a new author I will be wanting to read more of in the future.


Title: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Historical Fiction, Music
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: March 30th 2019
Pages: 336

“I think you have to have faith in people before they earn it. Otherwise it’s not faith, right?”


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I became an instant fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid‘s writing after reading The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo last year, and I’ve been waiting eagerly for the publication of her newest creation ever since. With this new story she has once again proven to me she belongs on my list of favorite authors. What a read! The first thing that stands out for me is the uniqueness of the format of Daisy Jones & The Six. The story is told through a series of interviews with the different members of the band and a few others close to them. This is done in a way that you start wondering if your memory failed you and there really was a band called Daisy Jones & The Six in the seventies… The different characters really came alive for me and it felt like a real biography of a rock band with a very colorful history. The format is one of the things that made this story into a success for me; the different characters remembering things in a different way and showing us that historical events are never objective. With this format, I’m sure an audiobook version would be absolutely fantastic! As for the characters… They are not exactly all that likeable and there are quite a few rock band cliches involved, but somehow this didn’t bother me at all as I was fascinated by how things would evolve. The dynamics between the different members are interesting and I liked how it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. More the other way around actually and darker themes such as alcoholism, drug addiction and sex are just as present as the music itself. Daisy and Billy are clearly the true stars of both the band and this book. The story mostly focuses on them and both their personal and professional development, although we see a little of especially Camila, Karen and Graham as well. The format does mean the character development isn’t as thorough as it could have been and some of the other band members are not all that fleshed out. Personally I found it easy to forgive that in exchange for a truly unique rock ‘n roll story that is ready to rock your socks off. The lyrics at the end of the story are a wonderful addition!


Title: The Blue
Author: Lucy Clarke

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 7th 2015
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: April 1st 2019
Pages: 391

“It was like staring into the sea for hours on end, searching: some moments you see things that aren’t there – and other times you miss the very thing that is right in front of you.”


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This one was an impulse buy for me and I was definitely surprised when my copy arrived with a neon orange spine and details… It’s growing on me though. More importantly, The Blue turns out to have been an excellent choice. As someone who has been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in the past, I love reading travel related stories. Add a destination I haven’t been able to visit myself and that is another bonus… And if you combine it with one of my favorite genres (suspense), the book and me most likely are going to get along. This is exactly what happened with The Blue. Best friends Lana and Kitty travel to the Philippines, randomly meeting the crew of a yacht called The Blue. When they are invited on board we get a glimpse of what it would be like to be aboard and travel that way… (I was so close to doing something similar in Panama a few years back, but things weren’t ment to be). It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, as more than one of them seems to be hiding something. The point of view switches back between past and present, where we soon find out Lana is no longer on board of The Blue and something terrible has happened to the rest of the crew… And we slowly learn how everyone ended up in that situation. The writing is engaging and really flows; it shows the author is a travel fan herself and has investigated thoroughly; her descriptions of the setting make it as if you were right there with the characters on the yacht and discovering those wonderful places. The suspense and plot twists are well handled and will definitely keep you guessing. I could have done without the romance, but overall it wasn’t too much of a distraction… In overall, this was a very entertaining and suspenseful read where you will find yourself sailing through those pages.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Courier – by Kjell Ola Dahl @Orendabooks #NordicNoir

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Courier blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I always love discovering international authors and I just couldn’t resist this chance to read more Nordic Noir. So please join me while I share my thoughts on The Courier!

Title: The Courier
Author: Kjell Ola Dahl
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: 2015
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: March 9th 2019
Pages: 276
(Originally written in Norwegian: ‘Kureren’)

“You can hide, you can move to an island, build a hut and wander on a beach for years, lonely. But when the past comes calling you are the same person.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Those who know me are probably already aware of the fact I have a special interest in WWII historical fiction and I always enjoy a good mystery. Add an international setting you don’t see every day and the fact that it’s Nordic Noir in the first place and you’ll find me jumping up and down out of sheer excitement. Oh yes, I couldn’t wait to dive into my copy of The Courier and it turned out to be just as good as the reviews I saw popping up kept promising me. Want to know why?

The first thing that stands out in The Courier is that this story is actually set in three different time periods which are connected by the main characters. The story mainly switches between 1942 and 1967, both having its own storyline and different angle to contribute to the plot. This mostly dual timeline was one of the strongest elements of this story for me and highly enhanced my reading experience. The fact that we are left in the dark about what happened in 1942 and what consequences it has on the characters in 1967 adds a healthy dose of suspense to the plot and the author is able to build this feeling of suspense and intrigue in both storylines. Both are equally strong for different reasons, a balance that is easy to achieve while using a dual timeline.

The writing and plot development also really stood out for me. This story managed to grab my attention right from the very first chapter and the engaging writing style made it easy to fully emerge myself in the story and travel back in time. The descriptions of time, place and characters are detailed and well developed, making it easy to imagine yourself as a spectator observing the story from a front row seat. The main characters felt real as they are realistically displayed with flaws and all; you will soon find yourself rooting for them and this makes connecting to the story all the easier.

Another thing I could really appreciate was the historical content and the many references to daily life in Norway and Sweden in 1942 and 1967. Especially since WWII historical fiction tends to focus on countries like Germany, Poland or France, I was excited to be offered a glimpse of the history of lesser known countries that were affected by that particular part of history. It was interesting to see the characters evolve over time as they react to the things that happen to and around them. The plot also has quite a few surprises in store and I can promise you that you will not see them coming. The Courier is a little Nordic Noir gem and a very satisfying read for fans of historical fiction and thrillers alike. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Olso.

 


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YVO’S SHORTIES #88 – And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer & The Enchanted

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories I highly enjoyed for different reasons… The novella And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer by one of my favorite authors Fredrik Backman and a story I had to put on hold the first time around but highly enjoyed: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.


Title: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Novella
First published: August 24th 2015
Publisher: Atria books
Finished reading: March 4th 2019
Pages: 97
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Och varje morgon blir vägen hem längre och längre’)

“I’m constantly reading a book with a missing page, and it’s always the most important one.”


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I think most of you are already aware of the fact I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman‘s work… I decided to pick up this novella first before hopefully diving into the Beartown sequel next month. Novellas can go either way for me, as I normally prefer a more developed story, but there are exceptions where I’m able to connect to a short story in the same way. And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer is one of those exceptions. Not only is it good to see Alzheimer in the spotlight, we also see its effects on both the person itself and those close in a refreshing way. This novella has an almost surreal touch where memories and the real world overlap and exist at the same time. I love the way Fredrik Backman uses the prose and memories to help understand what it would be like having a fading memory. Past and present are liquid as we see the grandfather, his son and grandson in different stages of their life in such a way that erases all boundaries. The representation of the grandfather’s memories as a square where persons and objects alike are incorporated is fascinating… Especially how the square changes over time as Alzheimer starts taking over his brain. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking family focused story that is well worth your time.


Title: The Enchanted
Author: Rene Denfeld

Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Phoenix
Finished reading: March 7th 2019
Pages: 233

“After a time, it seemed that the world inside the books became my world. So when I thought of my childhood, it was dandelion wine and ice cream on a summer porch, like Ray Bradbury, and catching catfish with Huck Finn. My own memories receded and the book memories became the real memories, far more than the outside, far more even than in here.”


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I remember first trying to read this story a few years ago and being unable to connect to the magical realism elements of the story… It really shows that there is something as the right or wrong time to pick up a book, because this time I was fully mesmerized by this magical story. The Enchanted isn’t for everyone and if you are not a fan of magical realism I won’t suggest reading it. If you are open to the genre though, this story will prove to be a little gem. The story behind The Enchanted is actually quite dark, as the main setting is inside Death Row of a maximum security prison. We get to know some of the darkest and most dangerous criminals in a very special way, and it’s an interesting as well as very disturbing glimpse inside their heads. I love how we hop between different characters in such a flowing way that really helps keep everything connected. One of the voices only has his identity revealed at the very end, but this doesn’t mean the story doesn’t make sense or is harder to follow. No, you will get swept up in the whirlwind that is this magical story and savour each and every single magical realism element that will help soothen the sometimes difficult and disturbing subjects as (child) abuse, violence and mental health. Rene Denfeld did a fantastic job combining the different elements, waving them together in such a way that will leave you speechless by the time you reach the final page. The writing, the magical realism, the characters, the contrast of the fantastical and brutal reality… It’s true that The Enchanted is not for everyone, but the right person will be just as enchanted as I found myself to be.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #76 – The BFG & The Insect Farm

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a reread of a childhood favorite and a TBR jar pick. Roald Dahl is one of the very first authors I was able to read by myself back when I was tiny, and I’ve read his books over and over again since. It’s been a long time since I last read The BFG though, so I thought it was about time I did. Such a wonderful experience… The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble was a TBR jar pick, and not as good as I hoped.


Title: The BFG
Author: Roald Dahl

Genre: Children, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1982
Publisher: Puffin Books
Finished reading: January 11th 2019
Pages: 195

“The matter with human beans,” the BFG went on, “is that they is absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles.”


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Roald Dahl is one of the very first authors I was able to read on my own back when I was tiny, and I’ve read his books over and over again since. It’s been a long time since I last read The BFG though, so I thought it was about time I did. And boy, did I forget about a lot of the details of this story! I had a wonderful time revisiting this story and its illustrations. I had forgotten most things about the Big Friendly Giant and just how funny his speech is (especially when read out loud to children). The story itself is simple, easy to follow and is actually quite scary if you think about it… But the BFG and his dreams give the story a whimsical twist. It’s a great story for young and old and I will be looking forward to finally watch the movie adaptation so I can compare the two. Another successful Roald Dahl reread and a jump back in time!


Title: The Insect Farm
Author: Stuart Prebble

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Romance
First published: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Finished reading: January 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“In my mind, and what keeps coming back to me is that the insect farm has been a hidden player in so much that has happened – the continuing thread running behind so many of the milestones along the way.”


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The Insect Farm has been my TBR jar pick during the last two months, and it took me way longer to finally pick it up despite the fact I was looking forward to it. The blurb was quite interesting and I was looking forward to discover more about the mystery and what the insect farm had to do with it all. What I didn’t expect to find was that The Insect Farm is basically a mix of a family drama and a romance story including a love triangle. The story has a character driven plot and a considerably slow pace, something I didn’t expect and it took me longer that expected to finally finish the story. As always with character driven stories, it’s important being able to connect to the main characters to ensure properly enjoying the story. Sadly, this was not the case here. While Roger is quite an interesting character and I would have loved to learn more about both him and his learning capacities, I felt he wasn’t developed as thoroughly and his character fell flat for me. As for Jonathan and Harriet: they did have a more thorough development as the main focus seems to be on them, but I can’t say I felt really invested in their story or what happened to them. The story wasn’t told in a linear way, and the actual ‘mystery’ is pushed into the background only to be revealed and rushed to finish at the end of The Insect Farm. Instead, it’s more of a romance story of how Jonathan and Harriet first met and how their lives progressed afterwards. It even has a love triangle! *shudders* All in all it wasn’t my cup of tea, but fans of slower character driven family dramas with a romantic focus and a hint of crime will probably have a better experience.


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