YVO’S SHORTIES #83 – The Bitter Kingdom & Friend Request

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two books I ended up enjoying. The series conclusion The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson and the psychological thriller Friend Request by Laura Marshall.


Title: The Bitter Kingdom
(Fire And Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: April 14th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: February 6th 2019
Pages: 490

“It’s the highest art form, deceiving without lying. A word is the only thing in the world made more powerful by absence than existence.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books yet. You’ve been warned…

I first started this series back in 2015, and it took me a long time before I finally continued it… Not because I didn’t enjoy the first book, but simply because other books got in the way. I finally read the novellas last year, and after reading the second book last month I was determined to read the third and final book ASAP so I could finish the series while memories were still fresh. I’m without doubt glad I picked up the final book, because The Bitter Kingdom definitely made this series end on a high note! I’m not sure if it is my new favorite, but I’m happy to say that all three Fire And Thorns books stay consistently strong and the final book doesn’t disappoint at all. Why was The Bitter Kingdom such a success for me? First of all, I could really appreciate the chapters from Hector’s POV. They were both refreshing and definitely a welcome addition to the story! I also liked how we finally get to learn more about Inverno and see more of that part of the world… The high fantasy worldbuilding is one of the best features of this series and it’s always great to see it expand. The writing is engaging and it makes it really easy to just keep turning the pages. The plot itself isn’t all that complicated, but offers enough action and a romance that will warm your heart instead of annoy you. The end did feel a bit too easy, but overall it does provide closure for this series and its character. I really enjoyed my time with this trilogy and can highly recommend it to fans of the genre.


Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 9th 2017
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 384

“I’m in a hall of mirrors, full of distorted reflections and false endings. I’ve lost track of which way I came in and I have no idea how to get out.”


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I recently bought a copy of Friend Request on a whim after remembering it being mentioned various times back when it was first published, and I couldn’t resist picking it up when I was in the mood for the genre. There is no doubt that Friend Request was a very entertaining psychological thriller with a few twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. The story starts slow and it takes a while for the pace to pick up. Basically, the first half has more of a character driven slower psychological thriller, while the second half is more of a suspenseful crime thriller with a fast pace and quite a lot of action. This made the story feel a bit unbalanced, but the second half made the story that much more thrilling. I mentioned twists I didn’t see coming, and this was definitely true, but I cannot help but wonder if some weren’t a bit too farfetched and dark compared to how the story first started? I do love my surprises though, so I’m a bit on the fence about how to feel about all this. I personally preferred the chapters set in 2016 over those in 1989, mostly because I’m not a real fan of high school drama and bullying. That said, both timelines seem well developed and help creating the suspense and intrigue around Maria and what is happening to Louise in the present. As for Louise: she can be quite annoying and I don’t understand some of her decisions, but her character with all its flaws does feel convincingly realistic. The mystery around what happened to Maria in 1989 and who is behind the messages in 2016 will definitely keep you intrigued until you find out the truth… And it will be hard to see that final twist coming. All in all Friend Request was still a very entertaining read despite the flaws I mentioned.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #82 – A Wrinkle In Time & What If It’s Us

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a modern classic I somehow never read when I was younger and a new release I have been really excited about. Both turned out to be really good reads! A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine D’Engle and What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera.


Title: A Wrinkle In Time
(Time Quintet #1)
Author: Madeleine D’Engle

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Classics
First published: 1962
Publisher: Yearling Books
Finished reading: February 1st 2019
Pages: 211

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.”


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Somehow, I’ve managed to grow up without ever reading this modern classic. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but I sure wish I would have been able to read it twenty years ago… Still, A Wrinkle In Time made a more than solid impression on me as an adult. I definitely understand the love for this story now! The writing style draws you right in and is very engaging and timeless. Even though the story was first published over 50 years ago, it will still be easy for children and adults alike to connect to this story. The plot itself is simple, but the setting in space and the time warps give the story a little something extra. The main characters are easy to like and all have their own personality. I also really liked how Mrs. Whatsit and her friends were represented not only with descriptions but also in the way they talked. The ending was a bit too abrupt, easy and ‘clean’ for me, but overall I had a great time discovering A Wrinkle In Time. I’m not sure if I will continue the series any time soon, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind for the future.


Title: What If It’s Us
Author: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 9th 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: February 4th 2019
Pages: 448

“I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it. But not how you’re thinking. I don’t mean it in the our souls were split and you’re my other half forever and ever sort of way. I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.”


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I’m a fan of both Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s books, so I have been eagerly awaiting this collaboration ever since I first heard about it. I already had that feeling I was probably going to enjoy What If It’s Us, and it turns out my instincts were absolutely right. This was such an adorable read! The writing, the main characters, the geeky elements (go The Sims and Harry Potter references among others!)… It was just all so cute and fluffy and I had a wonderful time reading it. The story is told in alternate chapters going between Ben and Arthur. Each has his own personality shining through in everything and also has his own set of companion characters that will slowly merge together as one big group. I really loved the idea of the missed connection, the search of the so-called needle in the hackstack and what happens afterwards. The characters are all well developed, feel realistic and I love that they not only represent the lgbt community but also minority groups in such a natural way. The plot itself does have its moments where credibility is in doubt and there were also cliches as well as a love triangle involved, but overall this minor flaws fade away compared to the rest of the story. My heart melted for these characters, and as a Harry Potter and The Sims fan I’m stoked to see references to both incorporated into the story. There are other fandoms included as well and I just LOVE that Ben writes his own story. There is a lot to love in this cute, adorkable and fluffy read and fans of the genre will adore What If It’s Us. Without doubt a winner!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #81 – Two Can Keep A Secret & The Big Sleep

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a most-anticipated 2019 release and a classic I had never heard about before ‘finding’ a copy out in the wild. Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus turned out to be a success, while The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler failed to blow me away… Although I’m guessing I’m the wrong target group here despite my love for the genre.


Title: Two Can Keep A Secret
Author: Karen M. McManus

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 8th 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: January 30th 2019
Pages: 336

“There is something deeply, fundamentally satisfying about confronting a monster and escaping unscathed.”


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I have been looking forward to read more of Karen M. McManus ever since loving her debut in 2017. It’s easy to say that Two Can Keep A Secret was one of my most anticipated 2019 releases and this story definitely didn’t disappoint. While I think I found her debut to be slightly stronger, this doesn’t mean that I enjoyed this new story any less. I literally finished it in less than 24 hours and there is one thing for sure: she was able to surprise me completely with the ending. I had my suspicions, I had my doubts, but I’m so happy to admit I turned out to be wrong! I always love this feeling when it comes to murder mysteries, because it doesn’t happen all that often anymore. Two Can Keep A Secret is told from the POV of Ellery and Malcolm. Both play a key role in this story, the plot and the many twists, lies and secrets that surround Echo Ridge, and it has been interesting seeing their characters develop and react to the circumstances. Both characters are also easy to warm up to, along with Mia and Ezra as they try to figure out what is going on. The plot is well crafted and while a bit simple at times, I think the twists are well handled and work perfectly to put you on the wrong track. I had a blast reading this story and I can definitely recommend it to fans of the genre. Another bonus: the romance only plays a minimal role in Two Can Keep A Secret!


Title: The Big Sleep
(Philip Marlowe #1)
Author: Raymond Chandler

Genre: Classics, Mystery, Thriller
First published: February 6th 1939
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: January 31st 2019
Pages: 251

“Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.”


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Confession: I hadn’t heard of this author before and had no idea this was actually considered a noir classic when I first found my ‘abandoned book’ copy in Brussels during our Europe trip last year. But at least now I know right? I’ve been meaning to read more physical books and I decided to pick up The Big Sleep on a whim. Even though I’m a big crime and detective thriller fan, I do feel like I’m the wrong target group here. Why? I think Raymond Chandler‘s writing style and tone are mostly ment for the male audience and I wasn’t as charmed with it myself. The same goes for the sarcastic ‘humor’ used; I like my sarcasm, but in this case sadly it all fell flat for me. The slang and expressions are from the 1930s era and while it fits with the setting and the time The Big Sleep was written, it can get a bit tricky understanding every one of them for a non US English speaker. I can’t say I liked any of the characters and they lacked any real development for me. This story has a maffia/crime feel and there is a lot going on at once without anything happening at the same time. I know this sounds contradictive, but somehow it still applies here. I know I’m probably the wrong target group here and I know others have really enjoyed this classic, but I personally don’t think I will be meeting Philip Marlowe again any time soon.


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ARC REVIEW: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One – by Amanda Lovelace

Title: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One
(Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #3)
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry, Feminism
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2019
Pages: 208

“only now

 

am i

realizing

 

that is was

all make-believe”

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

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I enjoyed reading the first two poetry bundles last year, so it was an easy decision whether to read the third and final bundle of the Women Are Some Kind Of Magic series. Where Amanda Lovelace‘s poetry might lack in style, complexity and elaboration, it outshines other poetry with its overwhelming and powerful emotions and strong messages. It’s actually combination of the simplicity of the words and the overpowering message they are able to communicate that turns her work into something special for me. I admire her for being able to speak this openly about the past and what happened to her. The bundles talk about the three stages she had to go through (the princess, the witch and finally the mermaid) to be able to start healing herself and keep working on the future. As someone who has been in an abusive relationship herself, it’s really easy to relate to her words and those who have had or are having a more recent experience will find comfort. What made The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One stand out from the others is that Amanda Lovelace mixes fantasy with reality this time, using not only poems but also short paragraphs with odes to famous stories by other authors. And that is not all: in the final part of this bundle you can find thirteen guest poems by other poetry writers with a similar topic mixed in between her work. An original touch and something I could really appreciate. I think the second bundle is still my favorite, but The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One is without doubt a wonderful addition.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #79 – Bright We Burn & Exquisite

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres but two books that were winners for me. The trilogy conclusion Bright We Burn by Kiersten White and the psychological thriller Exquisite by Sarah Stovell.


Title: Bright We Burn
(The Conqueror’s Saga #3)
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: July 10th 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: January 22nd 2019
Pages: 416

“His conflicted past, confusing present, and unknown future were all harsher and more difficult to breathe through than the blistering air inside.”


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WARNING: don’t read if you haven’t read the first two books yet… There might be spoilers.

After reading and loving the first two books of this trilogy back in 2017, I’ve been waiting impatiently for the final book to come out. But somehow, even though it was one of my most anticipated releases, I never actually managed to pick it up last year… I’m definitely glad I finally did pick it up, because I think Bright We Burn is my new favorite of the series. The historical setting, the references to Vlad The Impaler, the worldbuilding, the descriptions, the writing, the characters… There is so much to love here and I have enjoyed every single minute I spent emerged in this world. True, Kiersten White knows how to play with your emotions and stamp on your heart, but only in the best possible way… Because the fact that the twists have an effect on you means you care for the main characters and what happens to them. I personally loved all three main characters not despite, but because of their differences and personal struggles. The character development is very well done in general!  It was interesting to see how things were going to end (because I honestly wasn’t sure which road the author was going to take), and it was without doubt an interesting journey. The ending seemed fitting for this trilogy… It’s hard to compare books since it’s been too long since I read the first two, but what I can definitely say is that The Conqueror’s Saga ends stronger than ever.


Title: Exquisite
Author: Sarah Stovell

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: May 15th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 24th 2019
Pages: 300

“The future isn’t written in stone because of your past. You can change it.”


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I’ve had this story on my TBR for almost two years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally read it. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited about Exquisite; I mean, who wouldn’t be after reading so many wonderful reviews? I guess it’s just one of those titles that slipped between the cracks of my enormous TBR mountain, but I managed to rescue it in the end. I’m kicking myself for waiting this long now, because this book was most definitely brilliant. Or like the title already suggests: exquisite. It’s the story about two vulnerable women with a terrible past, one a successful writer and one a budding talent. In a way their lives are so so different, but they are also more alike than they realize… It was fascinating to see how their lives collide and sets both on a path that will change their lives forever. I loved that in the beginning you are completely unaware of the type of story you are about to read, only learning about the full extension of it all when things are already spinning out of control. The plot development and execution of plot twists and suspense are both sublime. Even though neither Bo nor Alice are exactly likeable, I found myself on the edge of my seat as I kept turning pages to find out what would happen to them. Exquisite is an excellent psychological thriller that will give you all the feels and will most definitely manage to shock you before you reach the final page. Simply exquisite and absolutely worth the read if you enjoy the genre!


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ARC REVIEW: End Of The Lie – by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Title: End Of The Lie
(Anastasia Phoenix #3)
Author: Diana Rodriguez Wallach
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 4th 2019
Publisher: Entangled Publishing LLC
Finished reading: January 18th 2019
Pages: ?

“This time, they were all going to burn, without any beasts rising from any ashes.”

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

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I read the first two books of this YA spy thriller series last year and enjoyed the international feel and pace of the story, so when I saw the third and final book mentioned I just couldn’t resist. I was looking forward to another bout of country hopping and finding out how Anastasia’s story would end… And End Of The Lie manages to deliver both. While I do have to say I enjoyed this last installment a tiny bit less than the previous two books, overall it was still a solid read. The pace took a little while to pick up and I have always had my struggles with the main characters, but the story is easy to follow and we still get our dose of international travel despite the slow start. And I just LOVE that not one, but two places we were able to visit during our Europe trip last year were mentioned! Seeing Krakow and Prague described brought back great memories and made me feel as if I were transported back to those places again. It shows that the author used personal travel experiences to describe the settings! This international feel of End Of The Lie is without doubt one of the strongest features of this spy thriller. Once the pace picks up, the plot goes fast as they are trying to end the whole situation before things spin even more out of control. There were cliches involved and I’m not sure about the credibility of some aspects, but I can’t deny it was still an entertaining read. I could have done without the romance and the bitchiness, but overall the Anastasia Phoenix trilogy as a whole is an entertaining interntational spy thriller for fans of the genre.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Anastasia Phoenix and her friends thought everything would be better now everything was out in the open, but those thoughts turned out to be too good to be true… Lives are still in danger, and the only way to stop it all is to destroy Department D completely. This is easier said than done, because they have no idea where their parents are and how to end things completely. Will they be able to stop all this madness before it’s too late?

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I love a good international setting where it seems like reading a story comes with free travel. Add the fact that this story visits two places I’ve recently been able to explore and love myself, and it’s easy to say that the international feel of End Of The Lie was a huge bonus for me. I still struggled with the main characters, the bitchiness and the romance (although I liked some of the romantic developments), but the writing reads like a train and once the pace picks up things get interesting. Fans of international YA spy thrillers will have a great time with this trilogy.


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ARC REVIEW: The Couple On Cedar Close – by Anna-Lou Weatherley

Title: The Couple On Cedar Close
(Detective Dan Riley #2)

Author: Anna-Lou Weatherley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 18th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: January 6th 2019
Pages: 378

“And I wonder then, if there’s no one to witness your life, do you even exist at all?”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

After enjoying the first book of this detective series Black Heart last year, it was an easy decision whether to continue meeting up with detective Dan Riley. And now that I have gotten the chance to read The Couple On Cedar Close, I definitely don’t regret making that decision. There is one thing for sure: this is a very entertaining detective thriller sequel to be starting the year with. Not only is the writing style solid and easy to read, but the plot is filled with plot twists, suspense and a lot of mystery around what really happened that night. The Couple On Cedar Close also has one of the most interesting and well developed unreliable characters I’ve encountered with in a while. I know this technique might get a bit old, especially combined with an amnesia angle, but trust me: you will forget about your doubts as the story will put you under its spell. There are a lot of twists and turns as well as flashbacks that are ment to help you solve the puzzle as well as keep you guessing. Sadly I was able to guess most of the final reveals quite early on myself, but that might just be me having read so many detective thrillers that I can see through most tricks by now… Anyhow, it didn’t mean that I enjoyed the ride because of that tiny speed bump. I did have my doubts about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot and not all characters were exactly likeable. I never like cheating in a story either… But I do think The Couple On Cedar Close shines an important light on the fact that psychological abuse is still abuse and should be treated in the same way. All in all not perfect, but worth your time if you enjoy the genre.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Cedar Close used to be a nice and quiet suburban street to live in. Up until Laurie and Robert Mills moved in… First the scandal at the annual summer barbecue, and now something a whole lot more sinister happened inside number thirteen. Late one evening, Robert is found dead in his bedroom by his own wife. She doesn’t remember what happened during the last few hours, but she does know she didn’t kill him… Or did she?

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If you enjoy detective thrillers and unreliable characters, you will definitely have a blast with this detective Dan Riley sequel The Couple On Cedar Close. There is a lot of mystery around both Robert and Laurie and their past, adding suspense to the plot and it will keep you entertained as you guess about the details. The flashbacks are interesting as well as you try to fit them into the rest of the story… I did have some issues regarding the credibility of some parts of the plot and wasn’t sure about some of the characters, but overall it was still an entertaining ride.


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