YVO’S SHORTIES #87 – Be Frank With Me & A Thousand Perfect Notes

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a story that unfortunately disappointed me and another that completely blew me away. The only thing that saved me from DNFing Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson was the main character… While I enjoyed every single perfect second of A Thousand Perfect Notes by our fellow book blogger C.G. Drews.


Title: Be Frank With Me
Author: Julia Claiborne Johnson

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: February 25th 2019
Pages: 309

“Sometimes just explaining your predicament–to a bartender, a priest, the old woman in a shift and flip-flops cleaning the lint traps in the Laundromat dryers–is all it takes to see a way out of it.”


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I have been meaning to pick up Be Frank With Me for quite some time now, mostly because I love my quirky characters and Frank sounded like someone I just HAD to meet. My TBR jar thought it was about time I finally read it, and although my experience wasn’t all that positive there is one thing for sure: I’m glad I finally did get to know him. The premise behind this story on its own is quite interesting, with the reclusive writer being forced to write a few book after falling for a ponzi scheme. But M.M. Banning, also Mimi, doesn’t steal the show nor is the main character here. Not even the narrator of this story, Alice, seems to be in the true spotlight. Oh no, that place is reserved for the young Frank. He is the sole reason I made it to the final page, because there were things I unfortunately struggled with considerably… There was just something about the writing style in Be Frank With Me that made it hard for me to stay focused and the slow pace didn’t help either. The plot is pretty basic and I really felt the story dragged in parts. I wasn’t at all interested in what was happening in the Bel Air house in general or if Mimi would ever finish her book… Not a good feeling to start with. The many Hollywood references and Frank being Frank were what made me keep reading though. His character is both quirky and unique and is definitely what makes me give this story the benefit of the doubt.


Title: A Thousand Perfect Notes
Author: C.G. Drews

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 7th 2018
Publisher: Orchard Books
Finished reading: March 3rd 2019
Pages: 288

“Music is nothing unless it fills your soul with colour and passion and dreams.”


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It’s always fantastic to see a fellow book blogger being published and I’m sure a lot of you now C.G. Drews for either her Paperfury book blog or gorgeous Instagram account (or both!). Her debut A Thousand Perfect Notes was published last year and I’m still kicking myself I didn’t pick it up sooner… Because the reviews are right: this is an absolutely fantastic and heartbreaking read! Well worth the 5 stars and without doubt one of my 2019 favorites. There is just something about the writing style that will draw you right in and I wasn’t able to let go until I reached the final page. I loved how big of a role music played throughout the story, the many musical references both relevant to the plot and enchanting at the same time. The power of A Thousand Perfect Notes is in its characters though. Both Beck, August and Joey are so easy to love; you will adopt them straight away and your heart will ache for them as the plot evolves. I love how the personality of Beck and August are completely contrary and balance each other that way. The Maestro is a horrible character and source of a few trigger warning worthy elements including abuse and violence. She is the perfect villian for this story though and I loved her background and the fact German words are incorporated in the text. A Thousand Perfect Notes will make you laugh and cry and the characters will stay with you for a long time. It’s a fantastic contemporary read which balances happy moments and a romantic interest with a thousand musical notes and a dark twist. If you like the genre and haven’t read this debut yet, you should definitely remedy that. I personally can’t wait until her new story comes out in April!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #77 – A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful & Ghost Boys

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a title I picked up on a whim and another I needed for the #ownvoices prompt of the Beat The Backlist EPIC Bingo challenge. A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom turned out to be a slowburner, but the rest of the story made up for the slow start. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes blew me away. Definitely a must-read.


Title: A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful
Author: Eric Lindstrom

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 29th 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Finished reading: January 15th 2019
Pages: 353

“I can’t bear the thought of how they’d look at me, and treat me, if they knew how many pills I take every morning just to act more or less like everybody else.”


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This is one of those titles I picked up on a whim without a proper reason of doing so. I do remember enjoying his debut in the past, so that might have had to do with my decision to pick up A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful… Although it might have been the cover itself as well. I have to say that this story was a slowburner for me. It took me a while to get into the story and get a proper feel for the plot and characters. The warming up was slow, but once I did my feelings soared. There is just something about Eric Lindstrom‘s writing and character development that will manage to win you over even if you think it won’t happen. I can really appreciate how bipolar disorder is put in the spotlight with the help of this story, and it was interesting to see how it was portrayed in both Mel’s character and those around her. The chapter introductions were a nice touch, and I just loved how romance only played a tiny part in the story (and mostly innocent at that), leaving room for the important things to be properly developed and discussed. I could really appreciate that! It was interesting to see how things ended and while there are a few high school cliches involved, somehow they didn’t bother me that much. Slow, but sweet and definitely worth the read! Mel will be able to turn around your feelings, David is adorable and the bipolar disorder seems to have been very well handled!


Title: Ghost Boys
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes

Genre: MG, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 17th 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Only the living can make change.”


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I first heard about this book when it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards last year, and to be honest I’m surprised this little gem hasn’t received more attention and love. Ghost Boys is such a powerful read! With race problematics and discrimination sadly being all too real even today, this is such an important book for middle graders and adults alike to read… The topic itself is brilliantly handled, well developed without things becoming too political or dull. The power behind Ghost Boys is the twelve-year-old Jerome, who gives the fatal consequence of racism a face and will make your heart break. The division between the dead and alive chapters was very cleverly done and gives the story an original twist as well as a paranormal touch. I really liked the idea of the other ghost boys, the inclusion of different ideas about life after dead and the incorporation of historical information was very well done. The writing will draw you in right away, your heart will ache for Jerome and those close to him and you will feel the powerful message behind the story long before you reach the final page. This is a story of what sadly is still happening around the world and something ‘only the living can change‘. A true eye-opener and a very important read anyone should read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #69 – A Boy Called Christmas & The Girl Who Saved Christmas

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And with Christmas Eve being tonight, what better stories to review than not one, but TWO Christmas themed stories! The first two books of the Christmas MG series by Matt Haig… Both absolutely adorable books that will get you in the right mood in record time.


Title: A Boy Called Christmas
(Christmas #1)
Author: Matt Haig

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: September 12th 2015
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: December 20th 2018
Pages: 272

“An impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand yet.”


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I have been wanting to read the first Christmas book ever since I received and read the third book as an ARC a while back, and I thought December would be the perfect month to do so. And it turned out to be another magical experience. A Boy Called Christmas is the perfect Holiday season read for children and adults alike, and also perfect for reading out loud to the younger ones. Matt Haig’s writing style is spot on. Funny, entertaining, engaging and easy to read; you will find yourself turning pages admiring both the story the author has been able to create and looking at those adorable illustrations which connect really well with the plot. There is sadness, there is even some violence, but overall it is mostly a happy story full of joy and goodwill… And a healthy dose of humor as well. Perfect for the season as well as a perfect gift!


Title: The Girl Who Saved Christmas
(Christmas #2)
Author: Matt Haig

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: November 3rd 2016
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: December 22nd 2018
Pages: 337

“Life is like a chimney – you sometimes have to get through the dark before you see the light.”


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I couldn’t NOT read the second book after finishing the first, especially since it’s exactly that time of the year when these little stories are to be appreciated most. The Girl Who Saved Christmas is without doubt a worthy sequel. I admit it took me a little while to get into the story, but that was probably mostly me and not the book itself. The writing is just as spot on as in the first and third book, and I’m adding Matt Haig to my list of authors I need to read more of ASAP. His middle grade writing is absolutely adorable with just the right amount of humor and spark to give it that special feel. This story is another one that is perfect to read out loud to children; I’m positive it will be a big hit with all those funny moments and characters to follow! The illustrations fit the story perfectly, and add a nice little touch to what is already a wonderful story. I can completely recommend all three books of the series both as a Holiday read and the perfect gift for young and old!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #68 – The Couple Next Door & Vengeful

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two titles I ended up really enjoying. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and Vengeful by V.E. Schwab


Title: The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 14th 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 11th 2018
Pages: 352

“Everyone is faking it, all of them pretending to be something they’re not. The whole world is built on lies and deceit.”


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I have been meaning to read this domestic thriller debut for quite some time now. I know there have been a lot of mixed reviews about this one, and I definitely think I have benefitted from waiting until the hype died down. I ended up enjoying The Couple Next Door way better than I thought I would. There are some things to be said about the writing style, which I wasn’t always are sure about, but overall I managed to keep turning those pages fast enough. This has a lot to do with the pace and both the mystery around Anne’s past and other secrets in play… I do have to say that I’m not sure about the credibility of it all and some aspects and plot twists seemed a bit too absurd to be believable. But there is also no doubt that The Couple Next Door was still a very entertaining ride and I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. The ending was definitely unexpected! It kind of made me wish there were more pages to see how things would develop after that bombshell. I’ll be looking forward to read more of her work in the future…


Title: Vengeful
(Villains #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: Titan Books
Finished reading: December 14th 2018
Pages: 592

“Some people were matches, a bit of light and no heat. And some were furnaces, all heat but little light. And then, once in a blue moon, there was a bonfire, something so hot and bright you couldn’t stand too near without burning.”


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I enjoyed reading Vicious, so of course I was excited about Vengeful ever since I first found out there was going to be a sequel. I was going to do a reread of the first book first, but with so many other titles pending I decided to dive straight in and see if I could pick up the thread. And as soon as I started, I just couldn’t make myself stop… V.E. Schwab is one of my absolute favorite authors, and Vengeful is without doubt a brilliant sequel. It’s been too long to properly compare it with the first book, but what I do know is that I loved every single minute of my time with book two. While the plot is actually quite simple, it is both the writing style and character development that blow you away. There is a reason she is one of my favorite authors, because her writing is of such a high quality that you just cannot help but fall in love with it. The same goes for the characters… We have a lot of old favorites, and a few new introductions as well that will leave a very strong mark. Marcella and June, I’m looking at you! The whole superpower/villain angle works fascinatingly well and while maybe not that original, the incorporation of those elements is done in such a way that you will have no choice but enjoy the ride. Vengeful will take a well-deserved place on my shelf of favorites, and I will already be looking forward to reread both Villains books together in the future.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #58 – The Princess Saves Herself In This One & The Smallest Part

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two genres I don’t read all too often, but two titles that turned out to be winners. The Princess Saves Herself In This One has a very powerful message and The Smallest Part was simply brilliant.


Title: The Princess Saves Herself In This One
(Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #1)
Author: Amanda Lovelace

Genre: Non Fiction, Poetry, Feminism
First published: April 23rd 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: October 25th 2018
Pages: 156

“When I had
no friends
I reached inside
my beloved
books
& sculpted some
out of
12 pt
Times new roman.

— & it was almost good enough.”


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I actually read the second poetry bundle of this series earlier this year, and I’ve been meaning to pick up The Princess Saves Herself In This One ever since. While there is no complicated poetry style to admire and the main technique seems to be the use of the space bar, somehow I wasn’t as bothered by that. Because there is one thing for sure: where The Princess Saves Herself In This One might lack in proper technique, it’s the words themself and the powerful message behind them that will blow your socks off. WOW! It doesn’t happen often that I’m able to connect this much with poetry… Relatable, emotional, clever wordplay; these words will no doubt move you. I still prefer the second bundle, but I can understand why so many seemed to have enjoyed this one. It shows Amanda Lovelace has gone through a lot in life, and I admire her for being so open about it and her not afraid to show the hurt and beat the monsters by throwing words and poems at them. I will definitely be looking forward to the third bundle coming out next year.


Title: The Smallest Part
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Paranormal
First published: February 13th 2018
Finished reading: October 27th 2018
Pages: 325

“We’re more than just a collection of bones, cobbled together by God or eons of evolution. We have souls, We have purpose. We’re more.”


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I have enjoyed every single Amy Harmon book I’ve tried so far and I love how different and unique each story is. I have been looking forward to read The Smallest Part ever since it came out earlier this year, and decided to finally read it as a treat to myself. This story has once again reconfirmed my love for her work. What an absolutely brilliant and moving story! I think this is one of the first times I wasn’t bothered at all by the appearance of a love triangle, and somehow I actually enjoyed the romance. Between the wonderful writing style, the excellent character development, an interesting plot and the paranormal angle The Smallest Part has everything and more needed to turn this into one of my top reads this year. The flashbacks added history and more background to the characters, which I was able to connect to immediately and they will stay with me for a long time. Well developed, original and an emotional rollercoaster… The Smallest Part will take you on a wonderful journey with highs and lows and characters you will cherish. This is without doubt one of the must-reads I will be recommending to everyone.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #53 – The Walls Around Us & Love And Gelato

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around another YA edition, although the books belong to different genres. The first was an absolute cover love case and a story that managed to surprise me. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma has to be one of the few stories were magical realism as an element didn’t actually bother me. The other is a typical contemporary romance story set abroad, Love And Gelato by Jenna Evan Welch, and was too cliche for me to properly enjoy.


Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: October 6th 2018
Pages: 319

“Our private taste in books showed a hint of our secret selves, and sometimes I was the only one who got to see those secrets.”


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This is one of those books I just knew I had to read without even knowing what it was about… The power of a beautiful cover. It’s also one of those books where it’s better to go in blind, because the full effect of it will be that much more powerful. The Walls Around Us isn’t your ordinary YA story. Strange, captivating. brutal, mesmerizing… You will be in for a ride with this one. You think this is just another thrilling crime story when you start reading, with a hint of a teenage Orange Is The New Black and a bit of Black Swan. But The Walls Around Us offers us more than that. It’s one of the first times magical realism is used in a story that didn’t actually bother me. Instead, the strangeness and beautiful descriptions took me on a journey along with the main characters, enjoying my time discovering what exactly was going on. The prison scenes were fascinating, and the many dance related scenes were a nice touch as well. I can’t say I was a fan of most of the main characters, but they did work perfectly in The Walls Around Us I guess. I enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would, and all in all it was more than a pleasant surprise. I don’t think The Walls Around Us is for everyone, but the right person will be just as mesmerized by this strange and magical story as I found myself to be.


Title: Love & Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch 

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: October 9th 2018
Pages: 400

“You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it’s for the same two things.”
“What?”
“Love and gelato.”


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I know contemporary romance isn’t really my thing, but I have fond memories of my various stays in Italy and I really felt like travelling back there again through this story. I mean, who can resist that setting and the possible talk about a lot of delicious Italian ice cream? Because there is one thing true: Love & Gelato makes you crave all kinds of Italian food. And the author did an excellent job at describing the city of Florence and the setting in general. It almost felt I was there along with the main characters! The setting was probably my favorite part of this story, and I liked the idea of the journal and Lina learning more about her mom that way. The writing makes it easy to fly through this story as well… But there were also a few things that really bothered me as well. The first elephant in the room is of course the dreaded love triangle. Why o why do most YA books have to be ruined by this trope? I would have loved this story so much better without it… Because the love triangle (or in fact multiple ones) also ment the introduction of a whole lot of cliches. And cringeworthy moments. And more cliches. It ended up being just too much for me, although I have the suspicion fans of contemporary romance stories will enjoy Love & Gelato a lot better than I did. It’s also the perfect summer/beach read despite some sad and deeper moments.


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ARC REVIEW: All This I Will Give To You – by Dolores Redondo

Title: All This I Will Give To You
Author: Dolores Redondo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 3rd 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: September 30th 2018
Pages: 494
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘Todo Esto Te Daré’)

“He’d lied to the only being in this world entitled to know the truth: himself.”

*** 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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This might just be one of those cases where the problem is me, and not the book… So take this review with a grain of salt. I was actually looking forward to read All This I Will Give To You, since I love stories set in Spain and the blurb sounded fantastic. It might have been the translation, since I prefer reading Spanish books in the original language as the exuberant prose doesn’t always translate well… But the fact is that it didn’t turn out to be the reading experience I was hoping for. Overlong, with difficult to read prose and a writing style that makes it really hard to stay focused as you have to read some lines over and over again… Oh yes, it’s easy to say I really struggled with this story. The pace was superslow and the story felt halted; ever had car engine problems and tried to move the car with your whole body? That’s how I felt while I was trying to make it to the end of this story. Don’t get me wrong, I love detailed descriptions and the area described in All This I Will Give To You is a perfect excuse to do just so. I just think this story took it one step too far. I truly think this story would have benefited from a brutal editor cut and at least 150 pages less. Because there is no doubt that the idea behind this story and plot is fascinating as well as the many secrets of Alvaro’s family and history. It is just buried under so many unnecessary descriptions and overly baroque prose that the intrigue ends up being completely lost. Which is such a shame, because the complexity of the plot itself, with many twists and secrets to discover about the family, is excellent.

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The life of novelist Manuel Ortigosa changes forever when he learns one morning that his husband Alvaro has been killed in a car crash. Because that is not the only shock for Manuel, as it turns out Alvaro has been keeping secrets from him. He wasn’t in Barcelona as he told he was, instead Manuel had to travel to Galicia to the place where Alvaro died. It turns out that the man he married fifteen years ago wasn’t the man Manuel thought he was… And Manuel soon finds himself to be deeper and deeper involved in the secrets around both Alvaro’s life and death.

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There were things I did enjoy in All This I Will Give To You. The fact that the main character is a novelist. The detailed descriptions of the setting in Galicia. The general plot, suspense, plot twists and secrets. The complexity of the story. But. Sadly overall I mostly ended up struggling with All This I Will Give To You. Between the very slow and halted pace, the overdose of descriptions and an overly barque prose I had a hard time to keep myself going. I felt like a potentially excellent story was buried under a pile unnecessary words and pages that prevented it from reaching its full potential.


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