YVO’S SHORTIES #158 – VOX & One Summer In Paris

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres I ended up having a similar reaction to… But not in a good way. Both VOX by Christina Dalcher and One Summer In Paris by Sarah Morgan had elements that made me really angry, and sadly enough influenced my reading experiences negatively.


Title: VOX
Author: Christina Dalcher
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: August 21st 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: April 13th 2020
Pages: 336

“Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better.”

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I’ve been meaning to read VOX for a long time now, and I was honestly really curious to see how I would react to this story after seeing so many mixed reviews. I went in blind and as I started reading I thought I was going to love this story… The writing seemed spot on for and I actually studied Wernicke’s aphasia as part of my Spanish philology degree, which made the topic all the more intriguing for me. The dystopian alternate present is both utterly terrifying and fascinating; it’s the perfect foundation stone to build the rest of the story on. While VOX definitely has that feminism feel, it wasn’t too much for me and I liked how this aspect was incorporated into the story. BUT. Sadly there were also quite a few things that ended up infuriating me. I will keep things short to avoid a full rant, but let’s just say that I wasn’t happy at all with certain characters and how they behaved, the appearance of a love triangle, animal tests, the ending… The character behavior part can partly be explained as something belonging to this dystopian world, but that doesn’t mean my averse reaction was less real because of it. And the ending was kind of an anti-climax for me and didn’t really do the rest of the story justice. It wasn’t a bad read and I agree it would make for a very interesting blog club read and discussion, but I sadly didn’t enjoy VOX as much as I thought I would.


Title: One Summer In Paris
Author: Sarah Morgan
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: April 15th 2020
Pages: 464

“Being yourself is the one thing every person should excel at.”

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I know this is not my typical genre, but I’ve been craving a lot of contemporaries lately and I love a travel/foreign setting theme, so I thought this story set (mostly) in Paris would be a good fit. Things started out great (and also a lot darker than expected) and there were a lot of things I did love in One Summer In Paris, including the Paris setting and the dynamics and growing relationship between Grace and Audrey as well as the bookshop, French language learning, explaining of dyslexia and alcoholic parents past and even Audrey romance with Etienne. BUT. I absolutely hate it when the cheating/affair element plays a big role in a story. Especially the reaction of Grace and more importantly Mr. Bastard aka David himself were simply infuriating. Oh yes, this part of the story made me so SO angry!! And not only behavior of David and decisions of Grace, but also how lightly the topic is treated and how Grace and Sophie’s months of suffering and their lives being ripped apart were brushed away like that. Ugh. The ending definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for either and not even Audrey’s POV and bookshop related reveal (which was too predictable as I guessed it straight away) could save the story for me. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again?


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ARC REVIEW: The Electric Heir – by Victoria Lee

Title: The Electric Heir
(Feverwake #2)

Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: March 17th 2020
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: January 10th 2020
Pages: 479

“Just because something is a stereotype doesn’t make it true.”

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

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After enjoying the first book of this duology last year, I was excited to meet up with the main characters again in The Electric Heir. But before we continue with my rambles, can we just take a second to admire this absolutely gorgeous cover? Both Feverwake covers are simply stunning and most definitely fit this story as well, as it can be seen as a direct reference to the magical powers so fundamental to this story. Cover love aside, there are quite a few other elements that made this duology work for me.

The first thing that stands out in the Feverwake books is the dystopian setting and worldbuilding in general. While not entirely original, the dystopian world where a magical virus ravages the world, killing most and leaving the survivors with supernatural powers, is without doubt intriguing. While roughly based on actual US states and cities by name, the story has an obvious dystopian feel both because the country and government as we know it is long gone and the story is actually set in the future (2123 to be exact). The worldbuilding itself isn’t all that extensive, but solid enough to give the story the right backdrop.

One of the things I liked most about both books was the magic and the fact that there was a wide range of different supernatural powers as well as level of strength after surviving the virus. It was interesting to see the different characters develop their power over time as well as seeing the power change them… And as the blurb already states, the sudden absence of that power too. Magic is without doubt essential to the plot and definitely spiced up this story! As for the plot itself… It was interesting to see the new direction this story took. Lehrer is clearly the supervillian of this story and the main goal is to defeat him before things really spin out of control. I do admit that some parts of the plot were quite cliche and the pace can be considerably slow in points. Especially the second made the story drag in certain parts, but overall curiosity won out as I wanted to know how it would all end.

There are a lot of trigger warnings involved when it comes to The Electric Heir, including genocide, abuse, rape, mental health, suicide and addiction (full list available on the author’s website). There are a lot of deeper meanings to be uncovered while reading this duology and some parts even give off a political vibe, but I personally thought this only gave the story a little something extra. There are quite a lot of heavy elements included in The Electric Heir and if you are looking for a balanced and happy story this would definitely be the wrong place to look for it. But life isn’t all about happy endings and it made this story feel a lot more realistic because of it. I personally found the ending itself of The Electric Heir a bit abrupt, but I guess it does give you closure and all in all it’s a well rounded duology that wrapped things up nicely. If you are looking for an entertaining YA dystopia that isn’t afraid to go dark, love a good LGBT romance and don’t mind a dose of teen angst and a slower pace, this Feverwake duology is definitely for you.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #136: The Fountains Of Silence & Recursion

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two Goodreads Choice Awards finalists both written by authors I’ve loved books of in the past… And this time around they turned out to be winners as well. The Fountains Of Silence is hands down my new favorite Ruta Sepetys and one of my top reads this year as well. Recursion by Blake Crouch also turned out to be a fascinating read.


Title: The Fountains Of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Philomel Books
Finished reading: November 27th 2019
Pages: 512

“What is the cost of silence? If she remains quiet about her suspicions, is she granting acceptance of what is happening?”


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I’ve been a fan of Ruta Sepetys‘ work ever since my first experience with her books, so I knew I HAD to read The Fountains Of Silence even before I discovered it was actually set in Spain during General Franco’s dictatorship. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history, and the fact that this story is mostly set in a city I’ve had the pleasure to live in and love during my Erasmus student exchange made my expectations grow to a record hight. Even so, The Fountains Of Silence managed to completely blow me away and I was left without words to describe my feelings about this story as well as with a new all time favorite to add to my list. It shows that so much research has gone into this story and I bow to the author for her detailed descriptions and thorough information about what happened in that difficult time period in Spain. It’s true that there are quite a few different characters and POVs to deal with, but I personally didn’t mind as it only added to the richness to the plot. Each different character helps giving us some insight in different parts of life in Madrid under Franco’s dictatorship. These same characters will win over your heart almost instantly and your heart will go out for them as their story slowly evolves over time. Daniel and Ana are the stars of this story of course, but there are so many other characters I found myself rooting for and there were without doubt a quite a few heartbreaking moments. Make sure to keep your tissues closeby just to be safe! I loved The Fountains Of Silence from the very first page until the very last… If you are a historical fiction fan who appreciates a complex and rich plot with fantastic descriptions and brilliant character development, you are missing out if you haven’t tried this story yet.


Title: Recursion
Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
First published: June 11th 2019
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: November 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“We think we’re perceiving the world directly and immediately, but everything we experience is this carefully edited, tape-delayed reconstruction.”


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Dark Matter is on my list of all time favorites, so I’ve been curious about Recursion  ever since I first heard about it. The premise of this story sounds absolutely compelling, and now I’ve had the chance to read this story I can say that it definitely lived up to expectations. It’s true that I don’t read a lot of sci-fi as it’s not really my thing, but I can now officially say that I’m making an exception for Blake Crouch. The idea of time, memories, the memory chair and time travel in Recursion is absolutely fascinating. Using a dual POV, switching between main characters Barry and Helena, we slowly learn more about  Helena’s invention and how her work will change the world forever… I’m keeping this short as I want to avoid any spoilers, but I really liked how the plot was constructed and how the idea of memories and time being fluid plays such a key role in the story. Recursion introduces some fascinating concepts that will definitely make an impact on you. And even if you are not really a sci-fi fan, I can still recommend trying Recursion if you enjoy complex, thrilling and captivating stories.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #134 – The Deep & Red, White And Royal Blue

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around once again two Goodreads Choice Awards nominees… The Deep sadly wasn’t for me, but I definitely understand the love for Red, White & Royal Blue now and I really enjoyed it despite the overdose of steamy scenes.


Title: The Deep
Author: Rivers Solomon

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
First published: November 5th 2019
Publisher: Gallery
Finished reading: November 15th 2019
Pages: 176

“When not properly fortified, a legacy is no more enduring than a wisp of plankton.”


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I know I don’t read a lot of science fiction to begin with, but I was really intrigued by the blurb of The Deep and the promise of a mermaid story with a twist. I confess I haven’t heard the song (then again I never listen to rap), but I like that this novella was inspired by a song. I also still like the premise of this story as well as the worldbuilding itself and the ‘memories’ of Yetu’s people. That said, I really struggled with the execution. I’m not sure if it was the writing style, the structure of the plot or the pace, but something definitely wasn’t working for me and it took me a lot longer than anticipated to finally reach the final page. There are a lot of different characters in play, both in past in present, and at times it was hard to figure out the who, what and when as memories are being dropped on you without a warning. Some chapters are suddenly entirely set in the past without apparent connection to the present storyline, leaving you untethered and wondering what on earth is going on. Between the slow pace and the confusing plot, the original charm of the premise was lost to me and I came really close to just DNFing this story… Even though I did really appreciate the symbolism in The Deep. I seem to be in the minority though, so my experience might just be due to the fact that this story simply isn’t for me.


Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 14th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Finished reading: November 17th 2019
Pages: 425

“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that. History, huh? Bet we could make some.”


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When I recently asked which 2019 romance title I should read first, a lot of people voted for Red, White & Royal Blue. There has been so much hype around this book in general this year and to be honest I’ve been afraid to pick it up myself… But now I’ve read it, I can definitely understand the love for this title. While I do have to confess that the steamy sexy scenes most definitely weren’t for me, I did have a lot of fun reading this story despite them. I think a lot of this has to do with a sublime character development and a snarky humor that sets exactly the right tone. The writing itself is easy on the eye and really made me fly through those pages… And while I’m normally not a fan of politics in my books, somehow that didn’t bother me at all in Red, White & Royal Blue. Like I said before, the real power of this excellent debut is in its main characters. Not only Alex and Henry, but their siblings, friends and those close to them really help taking this story to the next level. Quirky, well developed, easy to like and to root for: it’s hard picking just one favorite as they all have that je ne sais quoi that makes you want to wrap them up and store them in your heart. I loved how things started to develop between Alex and Henry and those emails and messages incorporated into the text were a nice touch. If you are a romance fan and haven’t read Red, White & Royal Blue yet, you are most definitely missing out!


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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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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Disappeared – by Amy Lord #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Disappeared Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I think 1984 is one of my favorite dystopian classics along with Fahrenheit 451, so the promise of another dystopian bookish story instantly made me curious. I was definitely happy with what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Disappeared.

Title: The Disappeared
Author: Amy Lord
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2019
Publisher: Unbound
Finished reading: May 27th 2019
Pages: 368

“Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world. They give us a voice. They are fundamental to our being. We shouldn’t have to live without them.”

*** 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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Both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are among my favorite dystopian classics and I love books about books in general, so it’s easy to understand that when I read the blurb of The Disappeared I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story. I definitely don’t complain about what I found instead either… It might be true that certain aspects of the plot might not be all that original, but there is also no doubt I highly enjoyed my time with The Disappeared. If you enjoy dystopian fiction with a bookish focus, you will be in for a treat with this story.

The Disappeared is set in a near future alternative UK where a new government is in power and controls absolutely everything. Think 1984, think censorship and being forbidden to read certain books or having thoughts that are against the government. The story is set in a terrifying alternative world where there are almost no books, no phones or modern gadgets and people are forced to live in tiny apartments and are no longer allowed luxury… Unless they form part of the new government of course. This contrast between this ‘elite’ life and the rest of the population is a big one, and is described very well with the help of the main character’s mother. The stark contrast between the different lifestyles is showed in Clara’s mom, particularly in how she had to make a choice after Clara’s dad was taken away all those years ago. It’s true that she lives in luxury now, but it came at a price… And would that price be worth it? Clara herself never accepted the new situation and was soon shipped off to boarding school in Scotland. This is yet another example of this contrast as ‘normal’ difficult people tend to disappear into thin air rather than relocated to a remote but safe location.

The story is told in different times and with different perspectives, and that way we learn more about past and present and how things came to be. As always, the younger generation doesn’t really remember the situation before the drastic changes. And with the censorship oppressing free thought, the new generation is not able to learn about it either if they don’t want to be in danger of being taken away. This danger is always present and one wrong thought or word can be your end… As is shown in examples throughout the story. Clara is of course aware of this danger as well, but even though she knows the consequences she is determined to rebel and go against the government anyway.

It’s true that some dystopian cliches are involved and not all aspects of the plot are all that original, but overall it didn’t distract too much. The Disappeared has some pretty brutal moments, especially those related to the interrogation and torture scenes. Action scenes are mixed with slower and more psychological ones, but well enough balanced to keep you going. I’m not sure if the ending was all that credible as things were wrapped up a little too conveniently. Still, there is no doubt that The Disappeared is a very interesting debut that pictures a terrifying alternative world we will hopefully never encounter ourselves. Imagine not being able to read your own books anymore!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from nort-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

 


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Middlegame – by Seanan McGuire

Title: Middlegame
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Tor.com 
Finished reading: May 4th 2019
Pages: 528
DNF at 41% (217 pages)

“Numbers are simple, obedient things, as long as you understand the rules they live by. Words are trickier. They twist and bite and require too much attention.”

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

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WARNING: it’s unpopular opinion time again!

I never in the world expected to end up writing a DNF review for Middlegame. I absolutely adore the Wayward Children series and while I’ve yet to try her other work, I had full confidence this new story was going to be another winner. All those raving reviews and 5 star ratings only reconfirmed that belief… But I guess it wasn’t ment to be. First of all I have to stress that I feel really bad about the decision to DNF, especially since I almost never have to resort to such a drastic decision and Middlegame is such a highly anticipated title. Trust me, I haven’t taken this decision lightly,and I have really tried to overcome my initial feelings and warm up to the story. But after a second, third and fourth chance, I’m throwing in the towel at 41%. I’m very happy most people seem to be having a complete opposite experience from mine though. It’s easy to deduct Middlegame is able to provoke very strong reactions; either you get the story and you absolutely adore every single page, or you feel like a mighty confused heap of mess and are left clueless and lost in the woods. Spoiler: I’m part of the second group. Again, I’m feeling really bad for having to take this decision, but it is what it is I guess.

I’m having a hard time properly expressing why I struggled so much with this story, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that (especially in the beginning) I had no idea what I was reading. I was extremely confused and frustrated by the fact I didn’t understand what all those different characters and events had to do with each other, and with the fantastical elements left without a proper explanation it was mostly guesswork and question marks instead of me starting to understand the world. Middlegame can mostly be classified as urban fantasy with sci-fi elements, although some POVs are definitely hardcore fantasy. Those are without doubt the most confusing ones as no proper explanation was offered (or at least up to that point). I admit things got slightly better with some POVs, especially when we follow Roger and Dodger, as they offer an almost ‘normal’ world where things are easier to understand. I loved that Roger is all about words, that Dodger is a math genius and how they are connected. I wasn’t a real fan of the writing style, although their chapters are probably the most readable. I really disliked those chapters with Reed, but again part of the problem was that I felt information was missing and I couldn’t properly understand it. Ever read a sequel without reading the first book, finding yourself confused all the time because you are missing crucial information? That was how I felt most of the time while I was trying to read Middlegame. Again, I seem to be the exception here as most people seem to love this story, so don’t give up on Middlegame on my account. Just remember that if you do find yourself being a confused pile of mess when you are reading it, you are not the only one.


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