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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ARC REVIEW: Finding Henry Applebee – by Celia Reynolds

Title: Finding Henry Applebee
Author: Celia Reynolds
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
First published: October 4th 2019
Publisher: One More Chapter
Finished reading: September 19th 2019
Pages: 427

“Because he’d learned by now that some moments in life are pivotal. And when they happen, you know things are never going to be the same again.”

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


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I always like mixing up genres and read a good contemporary every once in a while… As soon as I read the blurb of Finding Henry Applebee, I knew I was most likely going to enjoy this story. My instincts turned out to be right, because I had a great time getting to know the main characters and learning about their journey. It is without doubt a heartwarming and poignant read!

The power of Finding Henry Applebee is above all in its main characters. The story is told with the help of three different POVs: Henry, Ariel and Travis. What would one eighty-five-year-old man and two young characters have in common, would you say? That’s for you to discover as the plot and its twists are revealed in due course (I don’t want to spoil the surprises), but it all starts with a train ride from London to Edinburgh. Each character is thoroughly and realistically developed, and are very easy to connect to. First up we have the eighty-five-year-old Henry, the star of this story and one with a heartbreaking past and quest. We get a glimpse of his past through flashbacks set mostly in 1948 Blackpool, and the present chapters are wonderfully developed as well. Next is Ariel, a troubled teenager weighted down by grief and currently on a very important mission. I liked how her character was developed as well, and how we slowly learn a little more about her past as well as why she is currently on the train to Edinburgh. The last POV belongs to Travis, an American musician on his way to see his uncle. His character is very easy to like and brings a little light to balance the more heavy themes.

I really liked the idea of the train journey and the three characters meeting this way. I love travel themed stories and this was without doubt a nice touch! The train advancing can also been seen in the corresponding progress in the development of both the characters and the plot itself… The three different POVs and flashbacks are woven together into a coherent and moving story and the connection between the different storylines makes it really easy to just keep turning those pages. The main mystery is of course around Henry’s past and what happened to Francine, but we also have the question of the package Ariel was sent to deliver by her deceased mother. More heavy themes as the post-war era, regret, cancer and grief are contrasted with moments of lightness and even humor, turning Finding Henry Applebee into a well balanced read. There is some romance involved as well, but not distractingly so and I personally didn’t like a little dose of happiness added to the plot. This story will both make you laugh and make you cry before you reach the final page and is without doubt a beautifully written and poignant read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #124 – The Passengers & The Unbound

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title, both my favorite authors. The Passengers by John Marrs turned out to be an absolutely brilliant read and one of my 2019 favorites… And while I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy The Unbound as much as the first book, it was without doubt still a solid read.


Title: The Passengers
Author: John Marrs

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 1st 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: August 31st 2019
Pages: 416

“Nothing disappears any more,’ shrugged Cadman. ‘Everything is somewhere. All that’s private becomes public in the end.”


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I’ve been excited to read The Passengers ever since I first read that first raving review a while back… I couldn’t wait for my pre-order to arrive, but somehow I didn’t pick it up straight away when it did… I’m kicking myself now, because the reviews were absolutely right: this is an absolutely brilliant read. I’ve read his work in the past and I already knew I was going to like it, but The Passengers simply blew me away. What a read! The writing, the plot, the near-future setting, the twists, the characters… I loved it all, found myself to be glued to my seat and couldn’t stop reading until I discovered how it would all end. Some scenes are pretty brutal, but only show just how dire the situation the characters find themselves in is. The development of the near future is excellently done and I feel they give us a (terrifying) glimpse of what the future could be. I’m personally not sure if I would want driverless cars or having my whole life available online; and especially not after finishing The Passengers… Both plot and character development are well executed and there are so many secrets and twists involved that you will never guess what is going on or who is behind it all… I liked how this story was divided into three different parts, and the ending was satisfying. The Passengers is an absolutely brilliant book and hands down one of my favorites of 2019… If you haven’t read this one, you definitely should give it a go!


Title: The Unbound
(The Archived #2)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: September 1st 2019
Pages: 368

“Doubt is not a crime, Agatha. It is only a tool to test our faith. It can break us, but it can also make us stronger.”


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I decided to pick up the sequel of this series while memories of the first book were still fresh for a change… I loved The Archived and have been looking forward to dive into the world again. And while I have to say I didn’t enjoy The Unbound as much as the first book, I can’t deny it was still a solid book. The worldbuilding is still strong, the urban fantasy feeling with a paranormal touch right there and center, and I really like the idea of the Narrows, the Archived and the Keepers and Crew using doors to move around and do their job. The writing is of the same high quality I’ve become used to with Schwab‘s books, and it was really easy to keep turning those pages. My main issue is with the new direction of this story and the focus shifting towards the ‘real’ world, including a lot of private school scenes, cliches and even a love triangle. I get that Mac is a mess after what happened to her in the first book, but I wasn’t a fan of how her character behaved in the sequel. I also guessed the big plot twist really early on, which kind of put a damper on things… This is by no means a happy read and I did have some minor issues with this sequel, but overall it is still a very solid read. I’m definitely looking forward to see if she will write a third The Archived book!


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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 #122 – The Old Man And The Sea & Stalking Jack The Ripper

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a classic I’ve been meaning to read for ages and a YA story that has been recommended to me multiple times. Both ended up surprising me… I wasn’t expecting to, but I actually really enjoyed my time with The Old Man And The Sea. And while I was fully expecting to love Stalking Jack The Ripper, the romance put a damper on things.


Title: The Old Man And The Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway

Genre: Classics, Fiction
First published: September 1952
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: August 23rd 2019
Pages: 132

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”


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Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever read Ernest Hemingway‘s books before. *hides in a corner* I’ve been meaning to pick up The Old Man And The Sea for quite some time now, and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m glad I thought of this title when I was browsing for short reads to fit one of the prompts for #NEWTsReadathon2019, because I ended up enjoying it so much more than I thought I would. The plot of this classic is very simple: basically it’s a very old man struggling to catch and bring home a huge fish. Not very interesting unless you love fishing, you might say, but I think the power of this story might just be in its simplicity. There are no distractions, just the man, the boat, the sea and the huge fish. The description of the struggle of the old man is thorough and detailed, and it was interesting to see his character evolve over time. You might wonder why on earth he would keep up the struggle for that long. You might wonder why he doesn’t just give up when the sharks come visiting, as he is basically risking his life to bring in some fish meat. Still, there was just something about this short classic that made me enjoyed the ride. And while I’ve heard that The Old Man And The Sea is by far the most entertaining of his books, I’ll be looking forward to try more of Ernest Hemingway‘s books in the future.


Title: Stalking Jack The Ripper
(Stalking Jack The Ripper #1)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Thriller
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Finished reading: August 24th 2019
Pages: 336

“Corpses kept him company most nights, like intriguing textbooks; he cherished dissecting them and discovering the secrets held between the pages of their skin and bones.”


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Warning: it’s unpopular opinion time again!

As soon as I first heard about this book I was completely intrigued. I mean, a Jack The Ripper inspired story set in the same time period and place? There was just no way on earth I was going to be resisting that. A lot of people have been recommending Stalking Jack The Ripper to me over the years, and I was really excited to finally get to it. The story started out strong for me and I had high hopes it would be a winner for me as well… But I guess it wasn’t ment to be in the end. First things first, and I have to say I loved the historical setting and how many historical references to the Jack The Ripper case are incorporated into the plot. Descriptions are thorough and I really felt like I was right there in 1888 along with the main characters. I can also appreciate the twist on the original Jack The Ripper case and his new identity. While I did guess the identity quite early on, it did bring an interesting twist to the story. The forensic medicine element is likewise an interesting touch. BUT. I didn’t see coming that there would be so much romance involved AT ALL. The whole enemy to lovers trope and the constant bantering really took away the attention from what was happening and as things continued I started to struggle to keep focused on the story. The fact that main character Audrey Rose REALLY wants you to know she is an empowering and intelligent young woman and deserves to be working with her Uncle really got on my nerves as well. Her superiority complex and arrogance made me enjoy the story considerably less than I thought I would, and I’m still not sure what to think of Thomas and his behavior either. In short, the characters and romance made me enjoy this story a lot less than I thought I would… That said, with the sequel having Vlad The Impaler references, I will most likely still give the sequel a go some time in the future.


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ARC REVIEW: Secrets Of The Mist – by Kate Ryder

Title: Secrets Of The Mist
Author: Kate Ryder
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: September 19th 2019
Publisher: Aria
Finished reading: September 5th 2019
Pages: 277

“These old buildings have been witness to a lot of life and if momentous things have taken place in them, well… Memories linger, and sometimes we who follow are privileged to learn of them.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I know romance is not my typical genre, but I do love my historical fiction and there was just something about this timeslip romance story that caught my attention. Not only has Secrets Of The Mist a stunning cover, but the blurb instantly intrigued me. And I’m definitely glad I made the decision to read this story, because it was without doubt a beautifully written and poignant read.

Secrets Of The Mist is set in a little Dorset village, Walditch, and the author does a fantastic job describing the setting of both the village and its surroundings. The story really came alive for me that way and the Dorset setting is one of the reasons I enjoyed this story that much. Another reason is the historical and timeslip aspect of Secrets Of The Mist. The historical elements are cleverly woven into a contemporary romance story and this adds that air of mystery and a hint of the paranormal to the story. Like Maddie, we have no idea what exactly she is experiencing in the cottage or how it could relate to the present… Through Maddie’s experiences with the ‘happenings’, we slowly get to build a picture of the past and what happened in the 17th century. The historical element was one of my favorite aspects of this story.

Then we have the characters… Things can be said about certain actions and behavior, but I actually liked both Maddie and Nick. Quite a few less important characters are likewise charming, but those two really stood out for me. Their development is without doubt interesting albeit a bit predictable. That said, I could have done without the love triangle and I did find Dan to be highly annoying and unlikeable… But the Dorset charm and mystery around the past made up for this feeling. The writing is solid and made it really easy to full immerse myself into this story. And despite the predictability of certain aspects of the plot, a love triangle and a few disagreable characters, I can’t deny this is a wonderful read fans of both contemporary romance and historical romance will appreciate.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #121 – Smoke In The Sun & The Cellar

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around to YA reads that I fully expected to enjoy thoroughly, but failed to blow me away in the end. The first is the duology conclusion Smoke In The Sun by Renee Ahdieh, which I was expecting to be another 5 star read after loving the first book last year, but it wasn’t ment to be. And while the premise of The Cellar by Natasha Preston is absolutely fascinating, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would.


Title: Smoke In The Sun
(Flame In The Mist #2)
Author: Renee Ahdieh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 1st 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: August 20th 2019
Pages: 416

“Honor was a thing to hate. It drove people to act foolishly, as though they were heroes. As though they were invincible.”


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I’m still surprised I reacted this way to this duology conclusion, because I absolutely loved Flame In The Mist last year and it was one of my 2018 favorites. It might have been that my expectations were set too high, it might have been that I should have reread the first book before starting Smoke In The Sun because I had forgotten about a lot of details… But the fact is, I never felt that same love for the sequel. Even with the help of the glossary in the back, I kind of struggled to keep all the different characters, POVs and plotlines apart, and that made me enjoy the story a lot less. The writing is solid, and I liked the Japanese elements incorporated into the story, as it gives the story the right atmosphere. I would have liked to see the magic more developed though, as it would have given the story that little something extra. Instead, Smoke In The Sun focuses a lot on the relationships between the different characters. To make things worse, we have a love triangle to deal with… And I wasn’t sure if I liked the character development of certain characters. I still think Mariko is a very strong and resourceful main character, and I still liked Okami, but for me Smoke In The Sun lacked some of that special ‘magic’ that turned the first book into a favorite for me. It’s not a bad read, but sadly it wasn’t what I hoped it would be either.


Title: The Cellar
(The Cellar #1)
Author: Natasha Preston

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 1st 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Finished reading: August 22nd 2019
Pages: 368

“This was a morning from a nightmare – one that I couldn’t wake up from.”


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I’ve had The Cellar on my TBR for quite some time now… When my TBR jar decided it was time to read it and I reread the blurb, I was instantly excited to finally pick it up. The premise of this story is absolutely fascinating and I’ve been looking forward to read it ever since. But somehow, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would. The elements are there: a twisted serial killer, a kidnapping, a prolonged hostage situation… But somehow it was all overshadowed by just how whiny and annoying the main character Summer was. I get that she is in an impossible situation and to say that she is having a hard time is an understatement, but I really couldn’t stand her character and the chapter set before the kidnapping only reconfirmed those feelings. There was too much romance and teen angst involved for me to take the plot seriously, and the final twists were not at all credible either. Another thing about the plot: the whole ‘trapped inside a room by a twisted individual’ scenario has clearly been done before, and sadly executed better in other stories I’ve had the chance to read so far (including Room, The Butterfly Garden, The Bunker Diary). It’s by no means a bad read and the serial killer we are introduced to is without doubt seriously twisted, but somehow The Cellar didn’t manage to convince me completely despite the promising premise. I don’t think I will be reading the sequel any time soon…


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