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 #133 – SHOUT & With The Fire On High

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! …


Title: SHOUT
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Poetry
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 7th 2019
Pages: 304

“untreated pain

is a cancer of the soul

that can kill you”


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While it’s true that I’m not exactly a big fan of poetry, I do like to try it every once in a while if the subject matter speaks to me. SHOUT has been recommended to me a couple of times, and when I saw it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards I decided to give in and finally read it. First of all I have to say that I truly admire Laurie Halse Anderson for not only speaking up about what happened to her, but also inspiring others to open up and talk about their own experiences. I confess I’ve yet to read Speak, but it’s on my TBR and I’m definitely hoping to get to it some time soon. SHOUT is 100% free verse, so don’t expect clear poetry structure and elements, but I guess the structure works as it helps the author talking about a wide variety of subjects including her childhood experiences, her time in Denmark and more recent events including author related experiences. Trigger warnings are definitely in place for difficult elements as (child) abuse, rape, violence, mental illness, alcoholism and drugs. They are the main reason behind this poetic memoir though: SHOUT is all about the author wanting to give victims the right to shout what happened to them from the rooftops as well as telling about her own experiences. I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t always able to connect to the writing style all that easily, and some ‘chapters’ worked better for me than others. This is purely talking about the form, not the content, which is both powerful, heartbreaking and harrowing. This memoir might not be for everyone, but there is no denying its power.

Title: With The Fire On High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: November 10th 2019
Pages: 400

“And I know the past isn’t a mirror image of the future, but it’s a reflection of what can be; and when your first love breaks your heart, the shards of that can still draw blood for a long, long time.”


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Elizabeth Acevedo’s books have been on my radar for quite some time now, and as I’m a huge foodie I just couldn’t resist picking up her newest book With The Fire On High first. My expectations were high after reading various glowing reviews, and I have to say that expectations were more than met. Because from that gorgeous cover to the very last page this story simply delivers. The driving force behind With The Fire On High is the main character Emoni. Strong, driven, talented and determined to do whatever is best for her family despite difficulties life keeps throwing at her… The fact that she is a teenage mom, but not afraid to fight the prejudices, show the world what she is worth and fight for the ones she loves is truly inspiring. The development of both Emoni and the other characters is thorough, spot on and really made them come alive for me. As a girl with Puerto Rican/black heritage, Emoni’s character is able to teach us more about prejudices, race related struggles as well as community and culture. I loved the introduction of not only Spanish words and sentences, but also Latin flavors, spices and food in With The Fire On High. I also loved just how big of a role food plays in the story in general, and all those mouthwatering descriptions and recipes definitely made me crave food. And as someone who has lived in Spain and visited Sevilla herself, those chapters brought back great memories. The writing itself is beautiful and something to savour on its own, but With The Fire On High turned out to be the perfect YA realistic fiction recipe with a dash of slowburn romance to sweeten it all. Recommended!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Blood Song – by Johana Gustawsson #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @JoGustawsson @givemeawave @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Blood Song Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. The first two books of this series already blew me away recently, but Blood Song took it one step further and left me both shell shocked and with my mouth hanging wide open. Or in one word: FLABBERGASTED. Boy, this book hit me hard! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: Blood Song
(Emily Roy & Alexis Castells #3)
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 19th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 10th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in French)

“We all see the world through our own lens, which is shaped by our past and our upbringing, our desires and our fears.”

*** 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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I have lost count of the times the Emily Roy & Alexis Castells series has been recommended to me in the past, and with the first two books waiting impatiently on my shelves I thought joining the blog tour would be the perfect excuse to finally binge read all three books. And guess what? I have definitely joined #TeamRoyandCastells and #TeamJohana! I already reviewed Block 46 and Keeper recently, and now it is time to gush about book number three: Blood Song. I admit it doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I come across a story that is able to blow me away to such extent that I find myself unable to put a coherent sentence on paper, let alone write a review that would do it justice. This is exactly what happened when I finished reading Blood Song. Not only did I find myself staring at that last page and unable to process what I just read, but the story also gave me one of the biggest book hangovers I’ve had in a long time. After being unable to read or blog for three days straight, I’ve now decided to sit down, get my thoughts on paper and hopefully start the road to recovery. Oh yes, such is the power of this book!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the reasons this series has quickly turned into one of my all time favorites is the fact that it represents a perfectly balanced combination two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and crime thriller. Both genres are combined in an expert and intricate way, making time fluid as you find yourself floating between the past and present. Johana Gustawsson is able to incorporate not only historical facts as well as the present situation, but also a variety of different settings that truly gives this series its international and timeless essence I’ve come to treasure. Not a small feat, as it is extremly hard to juggle so many different storylines without us readers getting lost along the way… But Johana Gustawsson not only makes it work, she turns this multilayered, complex and well crafted plot into a true masterpiece.

Block 46 and Keeper were already excellent reads, but the impossibe happened and Blood Song really took the essence of this series to the next level. The writing is simply sublime and the plot development of both past and present chapters is both thorough, intricate and well researched. On the one hand, we have the historical chapters set during a very difficult period in Spanish history: the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history and I have actually studied the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath during Uni… And Johana Gustawsson does a fantastic job describing the atrocities committed against those against general Franco’s ideas and regime. Heartbreaking, appalling and horrifying: the historical chapters will both thoroughly unsettle you and chill you to the bone. Brutality, child abuse, families torn apart… All used to give a (sadly) extremely realistic view on a very dark chapter of Spanish history.

The present doesn’t give you much respite though, as we both have to deal with a shocking murder case involving the parents of a new favorite character of mine, Aliénor Lindbergh, and the heart-rending and moving topic involving parents struggling to conceive and IVF treatment. I applaude the author for being brave enough to tackle such a personal topic and using her personal experiences in general in her books. It truly makes the stories come alive and really took Blood Song to the next level for me. The murder case really hit me hard as I have grown really fond of Aliénor and it was heartbreaking to have that happening to her. That said, her development in this third books was on point and I loved meeting up with Emily, Alexis and the others again as well. Having a profiler and a true-crime writer as our main character duo gives this series a unique touch and it’s easy to say they are one of my favorite crime duos out there. Especially Alexis, but Emily as well will also experience development on a personal level, and some new details will definitely leave you astounded.

There are so many different elements in Blood Song, each already fascinating on its own, but all combined together they turn this story into one hell of a read. The detailed historical chapters filled with appalling and realistic facts about a dark period in Spanish history, the present day murders, the elements related to the fertility clinic, the personal development of the main characters, the current chapters set in Spain and Sweden… All woven together masterfully into an absolutely brilliant and harrowing story with an ending that will leave you flabbergasted. A big round of applause is also due for the translator David Warriner, who has given us the chance to meet Emily Roy and Alexis Castells and bring this fantastic series into our lives. Blood Song will always have a special place in my heart, and not just for bringing back memories of my time living in Madrid… It’s a book that was able to give me the biggest book hangover in a long time and without doubt a worthy addition to my list of 2019 favorites. Of course I cannot recommend both Blood Song and the rest of the series highly enough! This series is simply an absolute must-read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson
has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her
critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la
découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published
in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish
and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and
their three sons. She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to
write Blood Song and is happy to speak and write pieces about this.


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ARC REVIEW: The Bird King – by G. Willow Wilson @groveatlantic

Title: The Bird King
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Grove Press
Finished reading: February 28th 2019
Pages: 440

“Once a story leaves the hands of its author, it belongs to the reader. And the reader may see any number of things, conflicting things, contradictory things.”

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

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I confess: the cover put me under its spell immediately and I knew I wanted to read this story even before I read the blurb. The premise of the story only enhanced my feelings though, as I’ve always had a special connection with Spain and its history. The mention of Granada alone, a city I’ve been lucky enough to visit myself and admire with my own eyes, would have been enough to make me jump up and down out of joy. Add the promise of a historical fiction setting with a focus on the last sultan of Muslim Spain, a setting right in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition and a fantasy twist, and I knew The Bird King was going to be something special. My instincts turned out to be right: this was such a stunning and absolutely fantastic read! It becomes clear from the beginning that the power of The Bird King is in the prose, attention to historical details and the hint of magical realism in part of the elements. The lines between fiction and fantasy are blurred and balanced in such a way that will surely mesmerize you before you reach the final page. The attention to detail and many descriptions really make the story and its characters come alive. We get a glimpse inside the Alhambra and its daily life under the last sultan and all things culture related. We also get an idea what the Spanish Inquisition was prepared to do in that time, although that is not the main focus of this story. Like I said before, the fantasy elements almost have a magical realism feel about them, something that really worked for me in this story. Each character is unique, well developed and easy to like… You will find yourself rooting for Fatima and Hassan and crossing your fingers they will be able to escape and find the mythical island where the bird king lives. People have complained about the slow pace, and while I agree the pace is indeed rather slow, it also makes it easier to fully savour the prose and all those wonderful descriptions and details. It helped me absorb every single detail all the better and I personally enjoyed every single minute of my time with The Bird King.

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Fatima has been part of the royal court of the last sultan of Muslim Spain ever since she was born, now a concubine to the sultan himself. She has been provided with everything she could wish for except for one thing: her freedom. Her closest friend Hassan is the palace mapmaker with a fascinating secret… He can draw maps of places he has never seen before in his life and even bend the shape of reality. This extraordinary gift is what will endanger his life when the representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender. His gift is seen as sorcery and they demand Hassan to be handed over to the Spanish Inquisition… But Fatima cannot bear to part with her only true friend and will try anything for the two to escape their fate.

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Yes, the story of The Bird King is without doubt just as beautiful as that stunning cover. It’s a perfect mix of historical fiction elements, a magical realism feel and fantasy elements… With different cultures coming together through the journey of Fatima, Hassan and the people they meet along the way. The historical setting, details and descriptions are perfectly elaborated with a gorgeous and magical prose you will cannot help but fall in love with. The pace of this story is slow, but it will make it that much easier to fully savour every single chapter and detail of their journey. Fans of slower-paced historical fiction stories who don’t mind a little fantasy mixed in will most likely enjoy this fantastic story as much as I did.


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ARC REVIEW: Mala Vida – by Marc Fernandez

Title: Mala Vida
Author: Marc Fernandez
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2015
Publisher: Arcade
Finished reading: January 5th 2019
Pages: 240
(Originally written in French: ‘Mala Vida’)

“Franco is dead, but not the evil he brought into the world.”

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

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I’ve had an interest in Spanish history and especially the Franco period even before I picked it as my thesis subject. It’s easy to say that when I came across Mala Vida and read the blurb I was sold immediately. A story partially set in one of my favorite European cities and one I know closely: check. An intriguing historical background and mystery: check. A healthy dose of crime fiction, suspense and plot twists: check. Oh yes, while Mala Vida is mostly a contemporary crime thriller, it also included a historical element and a very intriguing and devastating one at that. This story was originally written in French back in 2015, and will be available in English next week. The translation works splendidly and I had a great time reading this story. The writing style made it easy to keep myself invested in the story; there are flashbacks, different point of views and plot twists that will keep you on edge until you have everything figured out. The setting was a huge bonus for me and I liked the inclusion of cultural elements to make the setting feel more authentic. The historical case discussed in Mala Vida is fascinating and I liked how we get multiple views on the topic through the different characters. Diego’s character is very interesting and I liked that he is a journalist. The same goes for the other main characters: each has their own personality, background and adds a little something unique to the story. All in all a very successful read for me!

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The radical right has just won the election after twelve years of Socialist rule in Spain, and things are about to change drastically. As the country is preparing itself to retrace its steps to the past, there are other things happening as well. A series of murders is committed in various cities in Spain, and there are no clues found as to who is behind them or why they were killed. There seems to be no obvious connection between them, but isn’t there? And that is not all either, because a national scandal is about to be revealed as well…

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If you like stories with an international setting that can offer a little something different and outside the box, you should definitely consider Mala Vida. Part legal thriller, part historical, part mystery and part crime fiction, this story is a mix of a lot of different elements and very well executed at that. I personally loved the Spanish setting, the diversity of the main characters and the story as a whole. The historical element is both well executed and shocking and will definitely leave a mark… A very interesting read and one I’m very glad I came across.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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YVO’S SHORTIES #7: Captain Alatriste & Utopia


Time for more Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I will be reviewing the last two books I read in 2017. Basically I picked up these two instead of other titles to try and finish at least two more challenges before the end of the year. I was supposed to read these long before, but with the slump and all things got a little last minute. Oops? The first is my first and only Spanish read last year called El Capitán Alatriste (Captain Alatriste) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, which is set in 17th century Spain.The second is a long pending classic called Utopia by Thomas More, first published back in 1516.


Title: Captain Alatriste
(Adventures Of Captain Alatriste #1)
Author: Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure
First published: January 2nd 1996
Publisher: Alfaguara
Finished reading: December 30th 2017
Pages: 242
(Read in original language, Spanish: ‘El Capitán Alatriste’)

“No era el hombre más honesto ni el más piadoso, pero era un hombre valiente.”


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I had made a promise to myself last year to start reading more in Spanish again, but apparently that promise was soon forgotten… I only just managed to squeeze in this story before 2017 ended, which definitely wasn’t what I had originally planned for the year. I have read Arturo Pérez-Reverte‘s work in the past, so I thought the first book of the Adventures Of Captain Alatriste would be a safe bet. This first book is simply named after the main character of this series set in 17th century Spain: El Capitán Alatriste. I have a weak spot for both historical fiction and books set in one of my favorite countries, Spain, so I thought I would really enjoy this one. Unfortunately, things turned out to be different. I know Spanish isn’t my native language, but I both have a degree in Spanish Philology and have been using Spanish daily for years, so I can confirm the language itself wasn’t a barrier. What did slow me down considerably is the general tone and pace of the story, and the fact that nothing much happened during the story. Not only was the historical setting quite weak and could have been elaborated a lot more, but I also found the way the story was told through someone close to Alatriste not entertaining at all. This probably has a lot to do with the writing as well as the lack of a proper plot and more action… I did appreciate the incorporation of old Spanish literature in the text. But still, I definitely won’t be continuing this series any time soon.


Title: Utopia
Author: Thomas More

Genre: Classics, Philosophy, Politics
First published: 1516
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 31st 2017
Pages: 135

“Pride thinks it’s own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.”


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I’ve had this classic on my TBR pile for ages now, and to be honest I was a bit intimidated by the fact that Utopia was published that long ago. This kind of classics are not always easy to read, but thankfully the English translation I read was not difficult to read at all. Thomas More wrote Utopia originally in Latin back in 1516, and in it he reveals some both very interesting and puzzling ideas on what the ideal society would look like. I can’t say I agree with everything he said, but every aspect of the Utopian society is well elaborated and shows exactly how things would work for the inhabitants of Utopia. The beginning of Utopia reads a bit slow, but as soon as the story starts elaborating the different aspects of Utopian life the pace picks up considerably. All in all quite an interesting read for those who are interested in philosophy and politics.


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