YVO’S SHORTIES #139 – The Shadow Cabinet & Next Year In Havana

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I read for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge… The first, The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, but the second, Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton, turned out to be absolutely fantastic.


Title: The Shadow Cabinet
(Shades Of London #3)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal 
First published: February 5th 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Finished reading: December 15th 2019
Pages: 385

“We’re both broken right now. Something’s happened to us. But we can do this. We have to.”


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Say hello to another unpopular opinion ramble! I really enjoyed the first book of the Shades Of London series when I read it back in 2016… And even though I wasn’t as impressed by the sequel when I finally read it a few months back, when I discovered I had to read an urban fantasy for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge my thoughts went to this series almost immediately. I decided to give Rory another shot, and see if the third book would make me fall in love with the series again… Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be and The Shadow Cabinet turned out to be the weakest link of this series yet. I honestly start to believe Shades Of London would have worked better as a stand-alone, going out with a bang after the Jack The Ripper inspired case and just leave it at that… The plot in The Shadow Cabinet seems even more jumbled and farfetched than the sequel, and with many eyebrow raising moments and the characters being possibly even more annoying (Rory, I’m looking at you!) I’m still not sure why I even kept reading. I definitely didn’t enjoy reading about the direction this story seems to be taking, and to be honest I don’t really mind that there still isn’t any news about a possible book four? It’s truly a shame I ended up having this reaction after such a positive first experience with this series, but it is what it is I guess.


Title: Next Year In Havana
Author: Chanel Cleeton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 18th 2019
Pages: 394

“You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures.”


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I have to say I’m still kicking myself for not picking up Next Year In Havana sooner… I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I first heard about it last year, and despite the glowing reviews it took me way longer than expected to actually do so. Say hello to another top read of 2019, just in time before the year is over! Oh yes, I loved every single minute of this story and it will without doubt stay with me for a long time… And I also can’t wait to read When We Left Cuba soon and learn more about Beatriz. First things first though, and let’s talk Next Year In Havana. I do love my historical fiction, and the 1958 Cuban setting was both absolutely fascinating, well researched and excellently described. Chanel Cleeton was able to truly make the setting come alive, using detailed descriptions to paint the perfect portrait of a complicated time in Cuban history. This is a story that will not only entertain, but also teaches you about both past and present. Facts are mixed with fiction in a seamless way, and the two complement each other flawlessly.

The story is told using a dual timeline and two different POVs: Elisa in 1958 and her granddaughter Marisol in 2017. Dual timelines can go both ways for me, as it is extremely hard to balance the two correctly and one normally tends to fall short for me. But not in this case. I absolutely loved both present and past chapters and both Elisa and Marisol are the perfect characters to help us understand more about Cuban life and its history. The characters are another big reason I can call this story a new favorite, and I was able to warm up to them almost instantly. Elisa and her sisters, Ana, Pablo, Marisol, Luis… There are so many characters I loved in this story, and they all play their role in teaching us more about Cuba as well. The plot itself is complex, multilayered and shows a thorough research into Cuban history as well as a wonderful romance story to counter the darker elements in Next Year In Havana. This story is an absolute must-read for historical fiction fans!


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BOOK REVIEW: Changeling – by Matt Wesolowski @Orendabooks

Title: Changeling
(Six Stories #3)

Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 15th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: November 8th 2019
Pages: 194

“It’s like an urban myth, a legend that has refused to die; this case has resurfaced again and again in my life. This case has an inexorable pull. Whether I like it or not.”


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I know I’m late when it comes to the Six Stories party, having only discovered the series this year, but I’ve become a fast and irrevocable fan. While my first experience with this series was already brilliant, the second book blew me away completely and I wasn’t sure how any sequel would manage to live up to it. I shouldn’t have doubted the writing powers of Matt Wesolowski though, because he has truly outdone himself with Changeling. It’s been weeks since I finished reading this absolutely brilliant read, and I’m still struggling to get a word on paper… My ability to review completely destroyed by this story. Oh yes, such is the power of Changeling!

I think that part of the reason that makes this series in general so unique is its format. Told in a podcast form with six different episodes and a number of guests interviewed by an impartial podcast host, each book enables us to dive into the different cold cases from the very beginning. In the case of Changeling, we are trying to find out more about the 1988 disappearance of a child as they were driving through the Wentshire Forest. The seven-year-old Alfie Marsden disappeared without a trace when his father stopped after hearing a strange sound coming from inside his car… And no trace of the boy nor his body is ever found. What happened to Alfie that night? To this date nobody seems to know for sure, but after receiving a letter our already famous Scott King decides to give in and try to discover the truth.

As with the previous two books, the suspense is build up slowly but surely. Changeling  once again toes the line with the horror genre after the introduction of the supernatural angle and hints of the myths around the Wentshire Forest. This story isn’t just another thriller and investigation into a cold case; the strange things happening in this forest definitely give this story an eerie and ominous feel. As the episodes continue, we slowly get to know more about both the case, Alfie and those close to him. Nothing is as it seems and this story definitely has some surprises for you in store… But nothing is as big as that final reveal. I almost dropped my copy of the Changeling on the floor along with my jaw when I reached that part of the story… Those who have had the chance to read book three already will know what I’m talking about. Oh yes, Changeling most definitely ended with a bang and left me both speechless and wanting to analyze everything I just read all over again to see if I should have seen the signs… And it is without doubt a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Along with the format, plot and writing, the characters themselves also play a key role in the success of Changeling. Scott King we of course already know, and it was interesting to see him interact with and react to yet another intriguing case. The other characters that play a role in this story are all realistically and meticulously developed, making both them and Alfie’s case truly come alive for me. I had a fantastic time slowly discovering the truth about Alfie and those around him, and while not every character is all that likeable and has its flaws, I found it didn’t matter at all as it only made Changeling feel more realistic. If you are looking for a well written and spine-chilling thriller with an unique podcast format and an explosive ending, Changeling (and the rest of this series for that matter) should go straight to the top of your wishlist!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Lion Tamer Who Lost – by Louise Beech #Orentober @Orendabooks

Title: The Lion Tamer Who Lost
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Fiction, Romance
First published: July 15th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 19th 2019
Pages: 350

“He had nothing again. Nothing he knew, understood well, was familiar with.

But nothing is so much harder after you’ve briefly had something.”


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After reading Call Me Star Girl earlier this year, I had no other option but to add Louise Beech to my list of favorite authors immediately. I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since, although I was also a tad worried as I wasn’t sure how anything could live up to expectations after such a brilliant first impression. I shouldn’t have doubted the power of the words of Louise Beech, because The Lion Tamer Who Lost once again blew me away. It’s been over a week since I finished this heartrending story, and I’m still struggling to put my thoughts together into a somewhat coherent review. I guess it seems to start becoming the standard when it comes to Orenda titles! That said, after many days of procrastinating, it’s time to finally force myself to sit down and get those words on paper.

So, The Lion Tamer Who Lost. I’ve thought long and hard about what my next Louise Beech read was going to be and even asked the opinion of fellow Orenda readers… This seemed to be the title that was mentioned most, and while contemporary romance isn’t exactly my favorite genre, I love stepping out of my comfort zone every once in a while and let a story surprise me. And surprise me it did! I can now add Louise Beech to the short list of authors who can actually make me enjoy the contemporary romance genre… Trust me, not a small feat. This is also a thing I love of her books: just how different and unique each story is! There are not many authors out there who can successfully tackle more than one genre; Louise Beech not only succeeds in that but takes your breath away in the process.

There are so many different elements to love in The Lion Tamer Who Lost, and I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start. But I guess that with such a title, an easy option is the fact that part of the story is set in a lion reserve in Zimbabwe. Talk about an original setting! The many detailed descriptions truly made the lion reserve come alive for me and I loved the fact that the lions play such a big role in the story. I have a special love for any member in the cat family, so seeing Lucy and the others being treated almost like extra characters was a wonderful bonus for me. Likewise, I really enjoyed reading about the lion reserve in general and the different volunteers being there at the same time as main character Ben. While the main focus of the story is of course on Ben and Andrew, I loved just how detailed the character development of the other characters involved was. It added even more dept to what was already a fantastic story!

I just mentioned Ben and Andrew, and they are definitely part of the reason this story works so well. I’m not a big romance fan in general, but I can make a wholehearted exception for my boys Ben and Andrew. I was drawn towards both characters from the very beginning, and I loved seeing both their characters and relationship evolve over time. They won over my heart, made me root for them and then pulled out that very same heart and made it shatter into a million little pieces… I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot to avoid spoilers, but while I didn’t actually cry (I almost never do, so that’s no surprise) I ended up with a huge lump in my throat and in need of an emergency baking session to soothe myself. Any story that is able to provoke such strong emotions is without doubt a little masterpiece to me! Especially one that is so beautifully written and simply both heartwarming and heartbreaking at that.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost also includes other intriguing and sometimes difficult elements such as the LGBT element and the struggle to come out and be accepted as you are, family issues and the battle against cancer. All elements are respectfully and realistically developed and successfully incorporated into what is a rich and intricate plot. Different point of views are used to let us learn more about both Andrew, Ben and even his father… Instead of confusing you, these switches only help enriching this story. I also loved that Andrew writes and hopes to become a successful writer, and that we get a glimpse of what this journey is like through his character. I also loved that little snippets of his story are shared at the beginning of the chapters. It really gave The Lion Tamer Who Lost another unique touch while also given the title an extra meaning. And I loved the idea behind Andrew’s wish box as well!

I can keep rambling about the things I loved in The Lion Tamer Who Lost, but I think it’s pretty obvious by now just how much I enjoyed this story. Whether contemporary romance and drama is your thing or not, you should simply give this story a chance as the words of Louise Beech are like magic and will fully mesmerize you before you finish the first chapter. Alluring, heartrending and simply irresistible… This story will give you all the feels as well as break your heart into a million pieces before you reach that final page!


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ARC REVIEW: Cold Fear – by Mads Peder Nordbo

Title: Cold Fear
(Greenland #2)

Author: Mads Peder Nordbo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 17th 2018
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: October 23rd 2019
Pages: 357
(Originally published in Danish: ‘Kold Angst’)

“Sorry is the most useless word ever invented.”

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

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I really enjoyed the first book The Girl Without Skin despite its brutalness last year, so as soon as I saw there was going to be a sequel I knew I had to add it to my wishlist. Main characters Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating to follow, and I’ve been looking forward to discover what would happen to them next… Before I discuss my thoughts on Cold Fear, I first have to stress that this is one of those series you have to read in order, because this sequel wouldn’t make much sense if you try to read it as a standalone. Trust me, you wouldn’t do yourself a favor if you pick up Cold Fear before reading the first book!

That said, let’s continue with my thoughts on Cold Fear. After enjoying the first book, I was totally expecting to have a good reading experience with the sequel as well… But it turns out I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. First of all I have to say that the Greenland setting really complements the plot in many ways. Instead of being just a random setting for the story to take place, the harsh, brutal and almost ominous Greenland setting is almost omnipresent and almost feels like yet another character taking part in this story. Between the many descriptions and the role of the Greenland setting in the plot, it really made the different places mentioned in Cold Fear come alive for me… And it turns this series into a fantastic example of the powers of the unforgivable Nordic setting that makes reading nordic noir so special.

One of the things that stands out in Cold Fear is the sheer brutality of the plot. Almost excessive violence, murder, canibalism, abuse, rape, child abuse, rape, drug abuse… All of this and more is included into a plot filled with graphic scenes and this story is definitely not for those with a weak stomach. I myself don’t mind things getting bloody and violent, but I did start to wonder if this story went a little too extreme and took it one step too far… Some scenes just seemed excessive, especially those set in the bunker and everything related to the (child)abuse and rape. Trigger warning are definitely in place! Related to this, I also felt the plot itself was a bit too over the top, farfetched and the story itself lacked cohesion for me. Even with the knowledge of the first book, I had a hard time following the story at times and I guess the 1990s flashbacks didn’t really help either. Things can get a little confusing and I personally wasn’t all that satisfied by certain explanations nor how the story ended. I would have liked to see less seemingly useless violent graphic scenes and more background and plot building… As it was, the story just jumped all over the place for me, without giving a satisfying direction or justifying said violence and deaths.

As for the characters… Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating characters, but I felt their development lacked more fleshing out in the sequel. Especially when it comes to Tupaarnaq, who didn’t seem to present and mostly reverted to cliches when she did appear in the plot. Likewise, Tom and the other more important characters also lacked fleshing out for me. I felt that the focus point of Cold Fear was basically on the extreme violence and making this story as brutal and shocking as possible, and as a consequence I don’t think the sequel reached its full potential nor lived up to expectations for me. Others did react better to Cold Fear though, so take my rambles with a grain of salt and don’t hesitate to try it if you think you can stomach the graphic scenes…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #127 – The Bride Test & The Twisted Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books that turned out to be great. I wasn’t sure whether to read The Bride Test after my reaction to the first book, but I ended up enjoying the second book better than The Kiss Quotient… I’m glad I took a chance and decided to read it. And The Twisted Tree turned out to be another perfect Halloween read!


Title: The Bride Test
(The Kiss Quotient #2)
Author: Helen Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: October 5th 2019
Pages: 320

“His heart wasn’t made of stone, after all. It just wasn’t like everyone else’s.”


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I admit I took a chance when I decided to get a copy and read The Bride Test. I’m very much allergic to sexy scenes in contemporary romance reads, and after a less than favorable reaction to The Kiss Quotient I thought it would be better to just stay away. But there is no denying that Helen Hoang can write and I love how she develops her characters, so I just couldn’t resist giving this story a try in the end. I’m so glad I did, because while I found the many many sexy scenes to be cringeworthy, I somehow enjoyed the actual story a lot better than the first book. A lot of this has to do with both Esme and Khai, who are both fascinating characters and the reason this story ended up working for me. The background of Esme, a mixed-race girl growing up in the slumps in Vietnam, adds a lot of dept to the story and it was interesting to see her life being turned upside down after she is offered an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Both her personality, endurance and the big contrast with Khai’s character made for some really interesting reading. The autism rep in Khai feels realistic and thorough, and really adds to the story as well. Sure, the many many steamy scenes definitely weren’t for me (I confess I only skimread them), but overall Esme and Khai’s story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. I loved the ending as well!


Title: The Twisted Tree
Author: Rachel Burge

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: October 6th 2019
Pages: 180

“Knowing someone’s secrets doesn’t make you feel closer to them – it pushes you away. There are some thing you don’t want to know, trust me.”


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I actually ment to read The Twisted Tree last October, but I wasn’t able to get to it in time and decided to save it for this year’s Halloween month. I had that feeling that it would be a perfect read for the time of the year, and both my instincts and the reviews I read in the past were absolutely right. If you are looking for a little something to get you in the right mood for Halloween, The Twisted Tree is a fantastic choice. Norse mythology, horror and paranormal elements are mixed together with a YA contemporary story in the most successful way… Both the Norse mythology elements and the actual setting on a small island in the middle of nowhere Norway really took this creepy story to the next level. The references to Odin, his ravens and other Norse mythology elements were thorough and formed an important part of the plot. Martha’s family turns out to have a very interesting history, one you only learn about as the main character starts discovering things herself… The spooky is mixed with a healthy dose of thriller elements as well as a few nailbiting moments that will manage to creep you out. I like how the little hint of romance balances out the creepy part of The Twisted Tree, and I myself had a fantastic time reading this story. More than recommended!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Little Siberia – by Antti Tuomainen #RandomThingsTours #blogtour #Orentober @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Little Siberia Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to pick up Antti Tuomainen‘s books for quite some time now, and after reading the blurb of Little Siberia I just couldn’t resist posponing Palm Beach Finland slightly and read this newest story first. I definitely understand the love for his books now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Little Siberia
Author: Antti Tuomainen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 17th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 9th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in Finnish: ‘Pikku Siperia’)

“It seems that the turning points in our lives are always associated with a strange combination of the banal and the extraordinary, like watching a spaceship land in a perfectly everyday landscape.”

*** 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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The first thing that people seem to mention when it comes to Antti Tuomainen‘s recent books is the way he is able to introduce dark comedy more than successfully into an already solid crime thriller. Nordic noir with a healthy dose of blacker-than-black humor? You can definitely count me in for that! I’ve been looking forward to finally discover his work for some time now, and while I thought it was going to be my pink and fabulous copy of Palm Beach Finland, I’m more than happy my first introduction has been Little Siberia in the end. I definitely understand all that buzz around this Finnish dark comedy magician now!

So, dark comedy. Humor is basically a tricky element to introduce in any story, as it is extremely hard to get the tone and type of humor just right. Not everyone likes the same kind of humor, and black humor can go wrong real fast and even become offensive to some readers in a blink of an eye… I’m personally all for dark comedy and sarcasm when done right, and there is one thing for sure: Antti Tuomainen knows how to handle his humor. Sharp, hilarious and blacker than those seemingly endless Finnish nights… Oh yes, Antti Tuomainen‘s humor is definitely right up my alley. He is not only able to make me chuckle with his wittily wicked comments, but somehow he is also able to combine it flawlessly with one of my favorite genres. Humor and crime are not exactly natural partners, no matter how dark that humor might be, but Little Siberia makes you realize just how well both work together when someone who knows what he’s doing takes the reins.

That’s not the only thing that stands out in Little Siberia though. The remote and small town Hurmevaara up in Northern Finland is without doubt the perfect setting for this story. The descriptions of the setting are thorough, plentiful and really make the story come alive for me. The remoteness, the cold, the closeness to the Russian border… It all plays a carefully crafted role in the plot and Hurmevaara isn’t just an ordinary setting that could be swapped with a different town. Instead, Hurmevaara almost feels like yet another character of this story and its existence is basically essential to the plot. That same plot is both highly original, addictive and basically an emotional rollercoaster ride. The basics of this story are actually quite simple, but you soon realize that the finale of Little Siberia is constantly being dangled in front of you like a carrot, while at the same time little plot twist bones are being thrown your way to keep you hungry for more. Less in more in this case, although it is true that we still have quite a cast of characters to juggle.

What I love of this story is that the main character Joel is actually a priest. Quite unexpected and without doubt the driving force behind the successful introduction of humor into the plot… Joel has a fascinating history and his development is undeniably key to the story. Through his character, we are introduced both to the crime element and the more poignant story of his home life. After recent events, Joel is forced to fight for what he thinks is right, and decides to play both security guard and amateur detective to do so. This leads to all kinds of witty, awkward and even dangerous situations, and Little Siberia consequently has a healthy dose of action, suspense and violence in store for you. Things WILL escalate and you will find yourself biting your nails long before the end is in sight… Always having that wicked humor thrown in to ease the tension just when you think you are about to explode. Little Siberia has a very eclectic and well developed mix of characters to enjoy as well, each adding a little something to the plot and the story is all the more interesting because of them. On top of that, Little Siberia most definitely ends with a bang!

Before I stop today’s rambles, a big thank you is in place to David Hackston for enabling us to enjoy this fantastic story through his flawless translation. We are so lucky to have fantastic translators out there who make it possible for us to enjoy our dose of Nordic Noir to the fullest! And there is no doubt that Little Siberia is a little gem. If you like your humor dark and your Nordic Noir lighting fast, bloodchilling and touching at the same time, Little Siberia is simply a must-read. It’s like a big black bowl of delicious and hilarious crime magic!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his
literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel,
The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’
and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish
press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart
was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the
first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark
and hilarious The Man Who Died (2017) became an international bestseller,
shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland (2018)
was an immense success, with The Times calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer
in Europe’.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #125 – Muse Of Nightmares & Hope And Other Punchlines

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition: two most anticipated books that both lived up to expectations for me. Muse Of Nightmares  by Laini Taylor is the duology conclusion and I once again fell in love with the wonderful wonderful prose. I have loved Julie Buxbaum‘s books in the past, and while Hope And Other Punchlines isn’t my favorite of the bunch, it’s still an excellent read and the 9/11 element is well handled.


Title: Muse Of Nightmares
(Strange The Dreamer #2)
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: September 15th 2019
Pages: 528

“Wishes don’t just come true. They’re only the target you paint around what you want. You still have to hit the bull’s-eye yourself.”

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I admit I’ve been afraid to pick up my copy of Muse Of Nightmares… After being blown away by the first book of this duology, I was afraid it was going to be almost impossible for the sequel to live up to expectations. But I shouldn’t have doubted the power of Laini Taylor‘s absolutely gorgeous prose! Like with Strange The Dreamer, I was absolutely mesmerized by the words she uses to describe both the high fantasy world, its characters and the plot itself. Things can be said about the fact that not all that much seems to be happening considering its 500+ pages, although I did feel there was more going on in the sequel. But personally I didn’t really care as long as I was going to be able to keep lapping up those gorgeous sentences. Muse Of Nightmares proves that the writing and characters truly can make up for a plot that is slightly bland in places and this story blew me away. I mentioned the characters, and they are definitely one of the reasons this duology is on my list of all time favorites. Lazlo, Sarai and the others won over my hard so fast and my heart really went out for them. I love that a lot of the characters are not either good or bad, walking that grey area instead of simply being described as monsters. The worldbuilding of this high fantasy world is again beautifully done and set the right tone for this sequel. I would definitely suggest reading these in order, as Muse Of Nightmares picks up right where the first book ended and you won’t be able to appreciate the sequel without the character and plot development in Strange The Dreamer. Then again, if you don’t mind a slower and more character driven YA fantasy, you will want to spend time devouring the stunning prose in both books anyway.


Title: Hope And Other Punchlines
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 7th 2019 
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: September 26th 2019
Pages: 311

“I’m so, so tired of always worrying about our world splitting into a before and an after again.”

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Julie Buxbaum is one of the select group of authors who can make me enjoy the contemporary romance genre. After loving her first two YA books, it’s easy to say that my expectations were sky high for Hope And Other Punchlines. It might have been the wrong time to pick up this title, or it might have been that my expectations were a tad unrealistic, because while there is no doubt that this story is an excellent read, it didn’t blow me away as I thought it would. There is a lot to love in Hope And Other Punchlines though. First up is the 9/11 element, an event that has made a huge impact on countless of lives and I could really appreciate how Julie Buxbaum incorporated this into the plot. While both the town and the Baby Hope photo are fictional, I do feel they represent the aftermath of 9/11 realistically and show us just how devastating the impact of this single event is even all those years later. Then we have the main characters Abbi, Noah and Jack. While I had certain issues with some actions in the beginning (blackmailing!!!), it is still quite easy for these three characters to win over your heart. The dynamics between geeky Noah, Jack and Abbi will grow into something absolutely adorable and they are definitely part of the reason this book works. Abbi (Baby Hope) is a very interesting character and she makes you think about the impact one little photo can have on both the life of those portrayed and on many others as it becomes a symbol of hope. I personally adored the camp scenes and I thought the story was well balanced in general. Lighter moments are contrasted with not only 9/11 details, but also other heavy themes as Alzheimer and cancer. I finished this story in no time at all and while I do admit it’s not my favorite Julie Buxbaum, I can definitely recommend it to any fan of the contemporary romance genre looking for a story that is both adorable and heartbreaking.


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