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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ARC REVIEW: Until The Day I Die – by Emily Carpenter

Title: Until The Day I Die
Author: Emily Carpenter
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: February 11th 2019
Pages: 325

“When energy flows from one place to another, it may change forms, but it’s never destroyed. It’s the same with sadness, I’ve discovered. You can’t get rid of it.”

*** 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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I have been meaning to try more of Emily Carpenter‘s work ever since I read The Weight Of Lies. It took me longer than expected, but between the gorgeous cover and the intriguing blurb I found the perfect excuse to read her newest upcoming title Until The Day I Die. I bet Caribbean paradise and death are not exactly the first association you will make, but the cover and title fit this story perfectly. Until The Day I Die is a very unconventional read and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I actually think of this story. The plot is very original and it is one of those stories that is really hard to place in just one genre. College experience? Grief and moving on? Family focused? Mental health? Geeky elements? Conspiracy? Crime? Dystopian feel? Survival? International setting? Somehow all of these elements and more are squeezed into one story, and somehow they all seem to fit together. I do have to say that this was a slowburner for me and the first half tended to drag a bit in parts. The second half was a lot faster, mostly because we get more island scenes and the college location is mostly put in the background. I liked Erin’s POV better than Shorie’s, mostly because I wasn’t expecting a YA/college feel POV in this story and the college cliches distracted from the more interesting parts of the plot. The lack of connection to the characters didn’t help either… But I can’t deny the part set in the Caribbean and the whole conspiracy plot is fascinating. I can definitely understand the Lord Of The Flies inspiration! This has been a difficult review to write, especially since even after a few days I have still been unable to pinpoint exactly why I wasn’t as blown away with this story as I thought I would. If you are looking for something different to read, a story that mixes women’s fiction with a good and honest crime thriller with a tropical setting, Until The Day I Die would be a perfect fit.

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Erin and her daughter Shorie have been grieving their husband and father, who suddenly died in a car accident. It has been a difficult few months and both seem to be growing apart… Erin slipping away as she is being overwhelmed by her work running their app company Jax the couple build with their best friends. She hasn’t been caring for herself and the people close to her have noticed… Meanwhile, Shorie doesn’t want to go to college, preferring to keep close to her father’s memory by working at Jax. She is sent off to college anyway, even though Shorie is worried about her mother’s mental state as well as the company. Especially as her family decide to send her mother to a resort on a remote Caribbean island to recover…

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If you are looking for something different and original to read and don’t mind a good conspiracy plot and an almost dystopian survival feel, Until The Day I Die would definitely be for you. It’s hard to place this story inside a box, and I think that is just the beauty of it in the first place. While this was a slowburner for me and I’m still not sure how I actually feel about this story, I do know the second half had me hooked and the island scenes are both terrifying and brilliant. Excellently written and bonus points for originality! Perri’s diary entries are a nice touch and will start making sense as you keep reading.


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #80 – When Dimple Met Rishi & The Shattering

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA read of two different genres… One that turned out to be a pleasant surprise and one that failed to blow me away. I’m so happy I ended up enjoying When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon! It was just the feel-good story I was craving. My TBR jar pick The Shattering by Karen Healey wasn’t as good as I hoped though despite the interesting premise.


Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Finished reading: January 25th 2019
Pages: 384

“It was crazy how words – just black squiggles on a page – could bring memories rushing back.”


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I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t sure this book would be for me. Contemporary romance isn’t really my thing and you all know by now how I react to hyped books… But I’m really glad to say that When Dimple Met Rishi turned out to be an exception to that rule. It might have to do with the fact I was in the mood for a feel-good story, but I enjoyed my time with this story so much better than I thought I would. This story is cute, fluffy, quirky, geeky and has unique characters and that #ownvoices element that seems to be so popular right now. Yay for etnic diversity and interesting characters that represent a different culture in a realistic way! The characters are what made this story into a success for me and I loved reading about Dimple and Rishi’s story. The coding, the comic art, the geeky elements in general… This was just quirky heaven for me. The writing is engaging, flows easily and made me finish this story in one sitting on a rainy day. The plot itself might not be all that complex, but it’s the perfect feel-good contemporary romance story that will manage to warm your heart. I’m definitely looking forward to read more of her work now!


Title: The Shattering
Author: Karen Healey

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: July 1st 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“The world shouldn’t work like this; that was why I made plans, to be ready for every eventuality. Adding the impossible to the things I had t obe prepared for was really unfair.”


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This one had been on my TBR for quite some time and it probably would have been even longer if it wouldn’t have been for my TBR jar. It’s not that I didn’t like the sound of the story, especially with a New Zealand setting and the promise of a paranormal mystery, but older titles tend to get pushed into the background as other titles demand attention… Even though The Shattering didn’t turn out to be a big hit for me, I’m still glad I finally picked it up. This probably has a lot to do with the setting, since I hardly ever seem to read books set in New Zealand. It also doubles as a negative though, because I would have loved to see more local culture and descriptions included. As it is, The Shattering feels more like a melting pot filled to the brim with different story elements and bits and pieces, making each feel superficial and underdeveloped. The story itself has a lot of potential, with the paranormal aspect, the secrets of Summerton and three different POVs to follow. But with so many different elements distracting you, the story didn’t come out as strong as I thought it would be. The characters, while interesting and in general not that difficult to like, felt a bit underdeveloped and cliche at points. The plot, while entertaining and engaging, didn’t feel all that original to me and I think this has a lot to do with those cliches popping up everywhere. It’s an interesting mystery with a paranormal touch, the three different POVs bringing some dept to the story, but I wish the story would have focused on only a select few important topics instead of trying to squeeze in as many as possible… This way, for example the focus on teenage suicide is kind of lost and that is really a shame. All in all The Shattering isn’t a bad read and quite entertaining, but sadly it failed to blow me away.


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #78 – The Last Time I Lied & The Painted Veil

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a 2018 release I wasn’t able to get to last year and a classic I’ve been meaning to read for a while. The first, The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager, went better than I hoped and I ended up really enjoying it. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham sadly wasn’t really my cup of tea though.


Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 3rd 2018
Publisher: Dutton
Finished reading: January 19th 2019
Pages: 384

“Above all, I’m scared that if I keep digging, I might not like what I’ll find.”


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There has been a lot of hype around The Last Time I Lied, but after my experience with Final Girls I decided to stay away for a while before finally picking it up. I’m not sure if this tactic helped or if I found his second book to be simply better than his debut, but the fact is: no unpopular opinion review this time around. Oh yes, you can say I really enjoyed my time with The Last Time I Lied. (What’s with all those books with ‘lie’ in the title though?) The writing is strong and draws you right in; the descriptions of the art and surroundings are done in such a way that really makes them come alive. This story has a dual timeline, where we slowly learn more about what happened fifteen years ago, what is happenening at the camp right now and how the two relate… Using the unreliable narrator technique and a whole bunch of twists, secrets and lies, Riley Sager will be able to keep you guessing about what really happened all those years ago. And not only that, because things are happening in the present as well that make you wondering what is really going on and who is behind it all. The final twists were definitely a surprise! I’m not sure if Emma and the other characters are exactly likeable, but they feel well developed and the Lake Midnight setting is both eerie and fits the story. This feeling that something is off sets the right atmosphere for a story that will keep you engaged until you find out every last detail about that night the girls disappeared and how everything affects Emma and the others in the present. I can understand the love for The Last Time I Lied now!


Title: The Painted Veil
Author: W. Somerset Maugham

Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: April 1925
Publisher: Vintage
Finished reading: January 20th 2019
Pages: 280

“You know, my dear child, that one cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one’s soul.”


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While I was browsing for something a little different to read, I stumbled upon my copy of The Painted Veil. I was looking forward to a historical fiction read and the promise of a foreign setting in the 1920s sounded great. Add the fact that reading it would mean crossing off my first classic of the year early, and I was fully convinced. What I didn’t expect is just how focused this story is on the romance, adultery and love triangle. This never goes well for me and I guess it’s part of the reason I’m guessing The Painted Veil simply wasn’t for me despite my love for historical fiction. I do have to say the setting was well developed and the many descriptions of especially the Meitan-Fu area were really detailed and made it come alive. The foreign culture is probably the most interesting aspect of this story, and it’s a shame there is not more focus on it. The Painted Veil is a character driven story with especially Kitty in the spotlight. You can guess that being unable to connect to her presented a big problem for me… Likewise, I can’t say I was charmed by the other characters either. I am very curious about the movie though, which I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about. But sadly the book didn’t manage to blow me away.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #76 – The BFG & The Insect Farm

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a reread of a childhood favorite and a TBR jar pick. Roald Dahl is one of the very first authors I was able to read by myself back when I was tiny, and I’ve read his books over and over again since. It’s been a long time since I last read The BFG though, so I thought it was about time I did. Such a wonderful experience… The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble was a TBR jar pick, and not as good as I hoped.


Title: The BFG
Author: Roald Dahl

Genre: Children, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1982
Publisher: Puffin Books
Finished reading: January 11th 2019
Pages: 195

“The matter with human beans,” the BFG went on, “is that they is absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles.”


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Roald Dahl is one of the very first authors I was able to read on my own back when I was tiny, and I’ve read his books over and over again since. It’s been a long time since I last read The BFG though, so I thought it was about time I did. And boy, did I forget about a lot of the details of this story! I had a wonderful time revisiting this story and its illustrations. I had forgotten most things about the Big Friendly Giant and just how funny his speech is (especially when read out loud to children). The story itself is simple, easy to follow and is actually quite scary if you think about it… But the BFG and his dreams give the story a whimsical twist. It’s a great story for young and old and I will be looking forward to finally watch the movie adaptation so I can compare the two. Another successful Roald Dahl reread and a jump back in time!


Title: The Insect Farm
Author: Stuart Prebble

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Romance
First published: March 10th 2015
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Finished reading: January 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“In my mind, and what keeps coming back to me is that the insect farm has been a hidden player in so much that has happened – the continuing thread running behind so many of the milestones along the way.”


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The Insect Farm has been my TBR jar pick during the last two months, and it took me way longer to finally pick it up despite the fact I was looking forward to it. The blurb was quite interesting and I was looking forward to discover more about the mystery and what the insect farm had to do with it all. What I didn’t expect to find was that The Insect Farm is basically a mix of a family drama and a romance story including a love triangle. The story has a character driven plot and a considerably slow pace, something I didn’t expect and it took me longer that expected to finally finish the story. As always with character driven stories, it’s important being able to connect to the main characters to ensure properly enjoying the story. Sadly, this was not the case here. While Roger is quite an interesting character and I would have loved to learn more about both him and his learning capacities, I felt he wasn’t developed as thoroughly and his character fell flat for me. As for Jonathan and Harriet: they did have a more thorough development as the main focus seems to be on them, but I can’t say I felt really invested in their story or what happened to them. The story wasn’t told in a linear way, and the actual ‘mystery’ is pushed into the background only to be revealed and rushed to finish at the end of The Insect Farm. Instead, it’s more of a romance story of how Jonathan and Harriet first met and how their lives progressed afterwards. It even has a love triangle! *shudders* All in all it wasn’t my cup of tea, but fans of slower character driven family dramas with a romantic focus and a hint of crime will probably have a better experience.


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