YVO’S SHORTIES #68 – The Couple Next Door & Vengeful

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two titles I ended up really enjoying. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and Vengeful by V.E. Schwab


Title: The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 14th 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 11th 2018
Pages: 352

“Everyone is faking it, all of them pretending to be something they’re not. The whole world is built on lies and deceit.”


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I have been meaning to read this domestic thriller debut for quite some time now. I know there have been a lot of mixed reviews about this one, and I definitely think I have benefitted from waiting until the hype died down. I ended up enjoying The Couple Next Door way better than I thought I would. There are some things to be said about the writing style, which I wasn’t always are sure about, but overall I managed to keep turning those pages fast enough. This has a lot to do with the pace and both the mystery around Anne’s past and other secrets in play… I do have to say that I’m not sure about the credibility of it all and some aspects and plot twists seemed a bit too absurd to be believable. But there is also no doubt that The Couple Next Door was still a very entertaining ride and I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. The ending was definitely unexpected! It kind of made me wish there were more pages to see how things would develop after that bombshell. I’ll be looking forward to read more of her work in the future…


Title: Vengeful
(Villains #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: Titan Books
Finished reading: December 14th 2018
Pages: 592

“Some people were matches, a bit of light and no heat. And some were furnaces, all heat but little light. And then, once in a blue moon, there was a bonfire, something so hot and bright you couldn’t stand too near without burning.”


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I enjoyed reading Vicious, so of course I was excited about Vengeful ever since I first found out there was going to be a sequel. I was going to do a reread of the first book first, but with so many other titles pending I decided to dive straight in and see if I could pick up the thread. And as soon as I started, I just couldn’t make myself stop… V.E. Schwab is one of my absolute favorite authors, and Vengeful is without doubt a brilliant sequel. It’s been too long to properly compare it with the first book, but what I do know is that I loved every single minute of my time with book two. While the plot is actually quite simple, it is both the writing style and character development that blow you away. There is a reason she is one of my favorite authors, because her writing is of such a high quality that you just cannot help but fall in love with it. The same goes for the characters… We have a lot of old favorites, and a few new introductions as well that will leave a very strong mark. Marcella and June, I’m looking at you! The whole superpower/villain angle works fascinatingly well and while maybe not that original, the incorporation of those elements is done in such a way that you will have no choice but enjoy the ride. Vengeful will take a well-deserved place on my shelf of favorites, and I will already be looking forward to reread both Villains books together in the future.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #65 – The Cruel Prince & The Wife Between Us

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two very hyped books that (I should have known) didn’t live up to the hype for me even though they weren’t bad reads. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black and The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks &Sarah Pekkanen


Title: The Cruel Prince
(The Folk Of The Air #1)
Author: Holly Black

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: January 2nd 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 17th 2018
Pages: 384

“Before, I never knew how far I would go. Now I believe I have the answer. I will go as far as there is to go. I will go way to far.”


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I have been hesitant, almost afraid to pick up The Cruel Prince for a long time. There has been such a hype around this book, and you all know how hyped books and me get along… But I figured I had waited enough to give it a try myself and see how I will react to the story. I was surprised when I saw just how well I reacted to the story initially. Of course I already knew I liked Holly Black‘s writing style, and this is part of the reason this story worked for me. And what a start! I like it when a YA fantasy story isn’t afraid to go dark and throw some blood and action at us. Things were going really well even though I’m not sure the plot itself is all that original. I would have liked to see the worldbuilding a little more developed and I think not enough attention was given to the description of the different characters. I mean, they are magical creatures and we only get so and so has a tail, that one has horns, that one has hooves etc? Without a more detailed description or more attention paid to the fact they are in fact not humans, I tended to forget about their special features completely after a few pages. The lack of sappy romance scenes in the beginning was a true relief though, although of course I should have had my hopes up. Of course the cliche romance scenes would come, and of course there would be another love triangle to deal with. Not talking about Locke, who I initially liked and came to despise. Jude is an interesting enough character though. While she in a way is just another typical strong female lead, I did enjoy reading about her development and how she would get themselves out of that mess. Did she lose points for the romance related actions in the second half? Most definitely yes. But I’m still intrigued enough to be looking forward to the second book. In short, while The Cruel Prince failed to blow me away completely, overall it was still a very entertaining read.


Title: The Wife Between Us
Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 9th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: November 19th 2018
Pages: 346

“We all layer them over our remembrances; the filters through which we want to see our lives.”


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In a way I’ve been hesitant to pick up The Wife Between Us due to the enormous hype around it earlier this year. I almost never react well to hyped books, but I was also curious about this title so I decided to give it a go. Now I’ve read it, I’m not sure what to make of it. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again! I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason The Wife Between Us didn’t manage to convince me probably has to do with the fact I felt this book was simply trying to hard. Sure, there are a LOT of twists involved and a lot of things I couldn’t guess beforehand, but I’m not sure if I actually LIKE how these plot twists are presented or developed. Instead of being shocked and saying ‘wow, I definitely didn’t see that coming!’, I was mostly left confused and not in a good way. Let’s just say my eyebrows worked overtime with this one… I’m not denying some of the twists were very clever, but they just didn’t do it for me (mostly related to the feeling this story was trying too hard). The writing style itself was pleasant to read and the unreliable narrator technique well used. It’s by no means a bad read and I can understand the love for it, but sadly The Wife Between Us just didn’t hit the mark for me.


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ARC REVIEW: Daughters Of The Lake – by Wendy Webb

Title: Daughters Of The Lake
Author: Wendy Webb
Genre: Mystery, Gothic, Paranormal
First published: November 1st 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: November 9th 2018
Pages: 317

“But some stories, especially peculiar, hidden ones involving murder and mystery, have a way of bubbling to the surface, especially when wrongs need to be righted.”

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

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Between the cover and blurb I was fully intrigued when I first saw Daughters Of The Lake, the promise of a century old mystery connected with the present a big selling point. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Daughers Of The Lake isn’t just another mystery story with a dual timeline. No, this story has a lot more to offer. A hint of paranormal with a haunted house and ghost and a touch of supernatural with the lake and its folk tale stories; both adding a very original touch to the story and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. Daughters Of The Lake mostly reads like a paranormal gothic romance story, with the romance scenes being very well balanced out with the mystery and intrigue of the past. We have a love triangle, and we have cheating, but somehow I wasn’t as bothered by those tropes as they weren’t the main focus of the story. This perfect balance between the different elements makes it really easy to emerge yourself fully in the story and enjoy the ride. The characters are well developed and even though a few cliches are involved, they were easy to like. Especially Simon and Addie will win over your heart in record time. The writing is also beautiful and really flowed; I really liked the descriptions of both characters and setting. While the setting in Daughters Of The Lake is fictional, it shows that it’s based on real memories as it almost feels as if you were visiting those places yourself. I loved the idea of the lake folk tale and all it entails… The paranormal element and Kate’s dreams are  intriguing without it going over the top and becoming too much. It was fascinating finding out more about the past and it was great to see how things developed in the present as well. Daughters Of The Lake was without doubt a wonderful read that is worth your time.

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After a painful discovery that made Kate Granger realize her marriage is now over, she moved back in with her parents on Lake Superior to think about her future. But fate has different plans for her in store, as a body of a murdered woman is found near her parents’ home. Nobody can identify the woman, except for Kate… She has seen her before in her dreams. And somehow she knew the woman whould have a baby with her. Her reaction turns her into an instant suspect, especially since she can’t exactly tell the police she recognized the woman from her dreams. Kate is determined to find out who she is and what happened to her, especially since her dreams seem to become more intense.

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Daughters Of The Lake is a wonderfully written paranormal romance and mystery story with a gothic feel. What at first glance seems to be a simply mystery and historical crime with a dual timeline turns out to be so much more, giving you a rich and original plot to savour. I especially loved the folk tale elements, and the paranormal touch is well constructed as well. The balance between all those different elements is spot on, and with easy to like characters you will have an excellent time discovering more about the past and how it affects the present. Recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #47 – Hero At The Fall & Half Bad

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Sadly this time around books which had beautiful covers, but the content didn’t match the outside. A first and last in a series as well… Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton was one of my most anticipated releases, but it was nowhere near as good as the first two books. Half Bad by Sally Green I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, but unfortunately mostly turned out to be a disappointment.


Title: Hero At The Fall
(Rebel Of The Sands #3)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: November 15th 2017
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Finished reading: September 11th 2018
Pages: 482

“I’d forgotten how powerful a story could be.”


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This was one of my most anticipated releases, as I loved the first two books and was dying to find out how things would end. It might have been that it has been eighteen months since I read the first two books and didn’t remember all the details, but the fact is that I can’t say I actually enjoyed Hero At The Fall. Trust me, I’m still shocked by this reaction myself. While I admire the author for not being afraid to kill off characters George R.R. Martin style, I do feel that some of the deaths were unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the plot other than yet another character to mourn. The plot and pace itself were rather slow, making it harder to keep myself invested into the story and it took longer than expected to reach that final page. Instead of being fully absorbed in the story like in the first two books, I had a hard time connecting to both the characters and the events in Hero At The Fall. Part of this feeling has to do with the negative attitude both seen in Amani and the story as a whole. The ‘hopeless’ situation, failing all the time and then that ending… It just didn’t do it for me. The fact that Amani really annoyed me with her whole ‘I’m not worthy’, ‘why should anyone listen to me’ and ‘I can’t do this’ attitude didn’t really help either. All in all not the firework ending of a series that started out as a favorite for me. Such a shame the series has to end this way…


Title: Half Bad
(The Half Bad Trilogy #1)
Author: Sally Green

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: September 14th 2018
Pages: 380

“The trick is not to mind.
Not to mind about it hurting.
Not to mind about anything.”


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I’ve had this series on my TBR for a long time, but somehow I never actually picked up my copy. Things changed when I was able to get beautiful physical copies of the first two books in Dutch during our Europe trip, and when I needed a foiled book for the readathon I grabbed my chance to finally start this series. I’ve heard mixed things about it over the years, and I can understand why now. I initially started reading Half Bad in Dutch, wanting to savour seeing that cover waiting for me near my reading chair. I have to say, I struggled a lot. First I thought it was the language, but I decided to switch to my English kindle version halfway through and I can confirm it wasn’t. There is just something about the writing style in Half Bad that really got on my nerves. There are a lot of short and halted sentences I just couldn’t grow used to, although I admit the writing style as a whole sadly just didn’t work for me. I struggled to keep reading as some parts of the story dragged, and I have to say that for a story this promising the plot kind of lacked action and more filling out in general. And then I’m not even talking about the main character, who is very very hard to like. I like the idea behind this book, the fact that there are two kinds of witches and the main character being mixed turns him into an outcast. The worldbuilding itself has potential as well, but lacked fleshing out for me. The whole star-crossed lovers angle bothered me as well… And unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy my experience with Half Bad. Which is a bummer, because I have a physical copy of the sequel as well… Oh well, at least they look pretty on my shelves.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #40 – Uprooted & The Shadow Cats

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two YA Fantasy reads that didn’t really convince me in the end… The first Uprooted, started out excellent but more and more things started to disappoint me. The second, The Shadow Cats, was short and the writing was solid, but the characters mostly let me down.


Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: May 19th 2015
Publisher: Del Rey
Finished reading: August 19th 2018
Pages: 465

“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”


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I’ve been wanting to read Uprooted for years, but it was one of those titles that somehow escaped the top of my TBR pile every time and I kept posponing it. But no longer… I finally picked up my copy of Uprooted thinking it was going to be a dragon story, but I definitely didn’t remember the facts right. This isn’t a story about the mythical dragon, although there are other creatures involved. Was this a disappointment? Maybe, because I do love my dragon stories, but between the writing style, interesting worldbuilding and magic it was easy to forget all about that. Initially, I really enjoyed this story and I was positive it would receive a really high rating. The writing style is just wonderful, the worldbuilding is intriguing, I loved the many references to the Polish culture and Agnieszka’s character has an interesting background. I liked seeing the magic evolve and even tolerated the Dragon. But why o why does this story have to be destroyed by unnecessary and disturbing romance?!?! Seriously, I don’t understand the why of the introduction of this element, especially since it’s abrupt and doesn’t really make sense. Also, there was one x-rated scene that I found really unfit for a YA book. The romance alone made me lower the rating considerably, but that wasn’t the only thing that bothered me. The pace was quite slow at points, making the story drag. Especially when Agnieszka is in the capital… And her character in general, with the repeated descriptions of her clumsiness and ragged appearance, really started to get on my nerves. Still, with the wonderful writing and the interesting worldbuilding, I’m glad I had the chance to get to know this story.


Title: The Shadow Cats
(Fire And Thorns #0.5)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 17th 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: August 20th 2018
Pages: 54

“It’s a beautiful weed,” Elisa answers. “And the perfect flower for you to carry, for it is like the people of Khelia, strong and unstoppable, capable of blooming and thriving where nothing else can grow.”


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I really enjoyed the first book despite a few little problems I encountered back in 2015, but somehow I never picked up the sequels. I was going to read book two originally, but then remembered I had a copy of the novellas as well, so I decided to read those first. The Shadow Cats is actually a prequel to the first book and focuses more on Elisa’s older sister Alodia. I never really liked her, but if possible she comes over as even worse in this novella. Arrogant, aloof and speaking horribly about her sister… Yes, there isn’t a lot to love about her. And what about her running off alone?? Elisa was quite annoying as well, with her answer to everything being she needs to pray more. I did really like Lupita’s character though. The writing is solid as well and I loved the use of many Spanish words, both in names and other descriptions. Very creative!


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ARC REVIEW: All Things Bright And Strange – by James Markert @tnzfiction

Title: All Things Bright And Strange
Author: James Markert
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian, Magical Realism
First published: January 30th 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: February 28th 2018
Pages: 336

“The beauty of the Bellhaven woods was like a desert mirage – an optical phenomenon inviting trouble, an illusion of light rays that disguised the truth.”

*** I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. ***

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There is just something about the cover that immediately intrigued me, and this book has been on my radar ever since I first heard about it. After I finished another book by the same author, What Blooms From Dust, I just knew I had to read All Things Bright And Strange as soon as possible. Magical realism can kind of be a hit or miss for me depending on how the elements are developed, but I really like how James Markert incorporates them into his stories. All Things Bright And Strange is another example of how I can actually really enjoy magical realism when it’s done right. The story starts out as a typical historical fiction read mostly set in the years after WWI. The main character, Ellsworth, is a WWI veteran along with several other characters, while others have lost someone during the war. I think this is probably my favorite element and the after effects of the war are very well described in the different veterans. A very important topic as well since there isn’t enough awareness when it comes to what veterans are going through! Grumpy Ellsworth really grows on you and he even reminded me a bit of Fredrik Backman‘s Ove (HUGE compliment!). The characters in general are well developed and each plays its role in the events in Bellhaven. Some of their names even have special meanings… But that is something for you to discover as you are reading it  to avoid spoiling surprises. The magical elements mix quite nicely with the historical fiction parts, and the author did a great job creating the right atmosphere for the time period. And the descriptions of the chapel in the woods are wonderful. BUT. There was way too much religious talk to my taste, and All Things Bright And Strange should be classified as Christian fiction. True, a lot of different religions are making their appearance in the story, creating diversity, but I simply feel there was too much religious talking going on and some of it sounded almost like preaching. Which is why I ended up enjoying this one less than What Blooms From Dust, but if you don’t mind a healthy dose of religion in your story, you will enjoy it even better than I did. The descriptions of the strange things that are happening in Bellhaven are simply magical.

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The people of Bellhaven have always looked up to Ellsworth Newberry, asking for his guidance whenever problems arise in town. But after he lost his wife in the town fire and he came back from the war with his hopes for a future as a professional pitcher destroyed, he hasn’t been the same old self. Then he finally sees something strange is going on in Bellhaven… A small chapel is discovered deep in the Bellhaven woods, and it seems to have mysterious healing powers. People keep returning to find peace of mind, but is the chapel really a miracle or a potential problem in disguise?

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When I started reading All Things Bright And Strange, I actually thought I was going to enjoy it even better than What Blooms From Dust. Between the WWI veteran element and grumpy Ellsworth himself, it had all the signs of becoming a true winner… I mean, I even compared Ellsworth to one of my all time favorite characters Ove (A Man Called Ove). These feelings stayed for a long time, but slowly something started to irk me. I’m not a fan of a high dose of religious elements in a story, especially when it starts to sound like preaching. And there just was too much of it in All Things Bright And Strange… Especially in the second half. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I would have liked to see a label calling it Christian fiction. The writing is wonderful though with lots of magical descriptions and a well developed historical setting.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #3: IT & Armada


A new year and more Yvo’s Shorties! This time a true book monster and a popular science fiction read… I’ve been meaning to read both for ages and finally did so last year. I’m talking about IT by Stephen King and Armada by Ernest Cline


Title: IT
Author: Stephen King 

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Fantasy
First published: 1986
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: December 4th 2017
Pages: 1.478

“She wanted to scream and couldn’t. The screams were too big to come out.”


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IT is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for ages and never actually picked up, mostly due to the extremely intimidating size of this monster. I don’t mind reading big (read: 800+ pages) books, but IT is on a whole different level… But with the movie coming out last year, I thought it would be the perfect excuse to finally read it. I originally started reading IT in October for Halloween, but the slump got me and I wasn’t able to finish it until December. It wasn’t just the slump though that made me take ages to finish this monster. Because I truly feel it is waaaaaaaaay overlong and has way too many details, descriptions and subplots, making the story drag at points. I honestly think that cutting out at least half of the subplots and pages would have made this story that much more creepy and suspenseful… And without doubt also a real pageturner. As it is, I had a hard time making sense of all the different subplots and characters in the beginning, making it hard to actually enjoy reading it. Things did get better as I started to connect the different parts and things got more creepy, but that dragging feel took a lot of the suspense away for me. The writing was excellent and the idea behind the plot brilliant, but unfortunately the overdose of subplots and characters and dragging feel ended up decreasing the rating considerably and in the end IT was only a 3 star story for me.


Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: YA, Science Fiction
First published: July 14th 2015
Publisher: Cornerstone
Finished reading: November 16th 2017
Pages: 384

“I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, comforted by my half-assed self-diagnosis. Nothing but a mild flare-up of inherited nuttiness, brought on by my lifelong dead-dad fixation and somewhat related self-instituted overexposure to science fiction.”


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Armada is another of those books that has been on my radar for a long time… I’ve actually been wanting to read both this one and Ready Player One ever since they first came out, but somehow I never did. Too many books, too little time sounds just about familiar right? Various fellow book lovers recommended reading Armada first, so when I was in the mood for science fiction I finally did so last November. When I first read the blurb I was 100% convinced I would absolutely love this book. I have a weak spot for geeky books and I’m a former gamer myself, so I thought Armada would be spot on for me. That’s why I was so surprised I ended up having a different reaction instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love LOVE the writing style and I can see why the right target group would absolutely love this story, but the whole war-alien gaming thing just wasn’t for me. Especially in the beginning I had a hard time getting a proper feel for the story, which I found strange since I should have been able to relate at least to the gamer part of it all. Things did get better after the big plot twist bomb about halfway through, and I liked the second half considerably better. But still… I definitely feel this book has a specific target group and unfortunately I don’t belong to that group. Definitely give Armada a go though if you think this story sounds like your cup of tea! The writing will blow your socks off.


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