YVO’S SHORTIES #13: The Ends Of The World & The Hating Game


Ready for another round of Yvo’s Shorties? This time around I will be reviewing two books I actually read this year. Shocking, I know haha. Both are Beat The Backlist books and titles I’ve been meaning to read for a while… The first to finish a series: The Ends Of The World by Maggie Hall. The second from a genre I normally tend to stay away from, but ended up being a more than pleasant surprise: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.


Title: The Ends Of The World
(The Conspiracy Of Us #3)
Author: Maggie Hall

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 18th 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 10th 2018
Pages: 320

“You’re a survivor. I’d never wish it on anyone, but you’re just like the rest of us now. Welcome to the world’s worst club.”


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I picked up this title as part of my goal to finish more series this year. I really enjoyed the first two books of this trilogy so I was looking forward to it, but unfortunately the third and final book The Ends Of The World ended up disappointing me. Why? First of all, I found there was way too much focus on the romance, significantly more than in the previous books and this took away a lot of the magic of this series. Sappy romance scenes, cliches, love triangle, you name it; this third book is coated with it and I wasn’t happy with that development. Especially since I enjoyed the first books a LOT. The spark that put this series on my radar in the first place was definitely missing in The Ends Of The World and I found there was too much focus on the political side rather than the mystery and conspiracy. The international settings saved this final book for me somewhat, but  all in all not the thrilling and explosive ending I was expecting.


Title: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 9th 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: January 12th 2018
Pages: 387

“Both love and hate are mirror versions of the same game – and you have to win. Why? Your heart and your ego. Trust me, I should know.”


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Spoiler alert: I usually don’t like the romance genre, especially if it involves sexy scenes and love triangles. Was I afraid to go against my instinct and pick up The Hating Game? Hell yeah, but sometimes you just have to think outside the box, jump right in and live a little. Right? And I guess my jump into the unknown has turned out to be a right bet this time. Oh yes, I definitely understand why so many people love this book now. Because even though I’m not into romance and hate both sexy scenes and love triangles, Sally Thorne made me completely forget about that and I had a blast reading this one. Even though there are a lot of cliches in this book and the whole ‘gorgeous, gorgeous, I’m drooling’ thing can get annoying, somehow the dynamics worked and resulted in a highly entertaining read. It’s a miracle, but I here’s the proof I can actually enjoy a sexy romance read. Shocking, I know.


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ARC REVIEW: Stage Four – by Sander Kollaard

Title: Stage Four
Author: Sander Kollaard

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: January 18th 2018
Pages: 148
(Originally written in Dutch: ‘Stadium IV’)

“Everything she was, was stored in her soft brain tissue. The tumor growing in that tissue – the meteorite on its way to destruction – threatened not so much her life as her identity.”

*** 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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I vowed to read more international authors/translations this year, and somehow this book spoke to me when I saw it mentioned. I know technically I could have tried reading Stage Four in Dutch, but my language skills are more than rusty so I decided to cheat and read the translation instead. This story was first published five years ago, but its translation is scheduled to be published next month. There is no doubt that Stage Four is a very interesting read. It tells the story of a Dutch couple who first met in Sweden back in 1968, and now want to enjoy their golden years by traveling around Europe in a camper van. Those dreams are crushed as Sarie is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer before the trip has even started… Stage Four both shows us the past, how the two main characters first met, and how they react to the terrible news all those years later, try to live with this new reality and make the most of the time they have left. The writing is interesting and includes a lot of descriptions of both the places they visit (which made me feel as if I were visiting Sweden myself) and facts related to Sarie’s illness. The decline in Sarie’s character is tragic and heartbreaking; their love and devotion beautiful. I have to say I was quite shocked by the ending though!

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Dutch couple Sarie and Barend Vervoort decide to celebrate their retirement by buying a camper van and travel around Europe. They also want to return to some of the places in Sweden where they traveled together when they first met back in 1968. But this dream is shattered before the journey has even started as Sarie falls ill in Belgium and is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. After one too many invasive treatments, Sarie decides to face the inevitable head on and wants them to go to Sweden anyway… Going back to where it all started all those years ago.

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Stage Four is both a beautiful, tragic and heartbreaking love story of a couple trying to accept and live with the diagnose of stage IV lung cancer. The flashbacks to 1968 help build their characters and it was interesting to see their relationship evolve as well as how they deal with the progress of the disease. There are lots of descriptions of the Swedish destinations included, making it feel as if you were there yourself… A very intriguing read although the ending was quite shocking.


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ARC REVIEW: Her Last Lie – by Amanda Brittany

Title: Her Last Lie
Author: Amanda Brittany

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
First published: January 9th 2018
Publisher: HQ Digital
Finished reading: January 5th 2018
Pages: 288

“When someone you love lets you down, loves someone else, the world turns on its axis. Nothing looks the same anymore, and a distorted image of life appears before you like a scene from a horror movie.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

It was the cover that first attracted me to Her Last Lie, but the promise of a story about a serial killer victim survivor just sounded too good to be true. I’ve been looking forward to pick up this psychological thriller debut ever since… But unfortunately I have to say I ended up having mixed thoughts instead. The writing style itself is engaging and flows, and I liked the incorporation of the little blog bits into the story. That said, I did have a problem with the plot and the focus on the main character and her relationships to men instead of the actual suspense around what happened in Australia and what is happening now. The whole love triangle/cheating was a mayor turn off if you ask me, and the mayority of Her Last Lie felt more like a contemporary romance read with a dash of suspense rather than the psychological thriller I was expecting. I couldn’t stand the main character Isla either, and not just because of her cheating… And I was also disappointed there wasn’t more focus on what happened in Australia. I did love the travel bits and descriptions, especially those set in Sweden. This was also the part where the story finally came alive for me, which is a shame since it’s basically the last 25% or so of Her Last Lie and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it to that point in a normal read. As soon as the scene with the Northern Lights (don’t want to reveal more to avoid spoilers) kicks in, the real suspense finally kicks in and the story manages to grab my attention completely. There are some interesting final reveals and plot twists, although I do admit I saw some of it coming… But still it was a remarkably strong finish to what was for me a quite disappointing, weak and too romance-focused psychological thriller. Like I said, the final part of Her Last Lie definitely shows a lot of potential! But I kind of wish the rest of the story would have followed the same tone.

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Six years ago, Isla was lucky enough to escape the claws of serial killer Carl Jeffery in Australia, and she has been trying to deal with these events ever since. On the outside, she seems to have moved on, working as a freelance travel photographer and writer and having a steady relationship with Jack. But then she receives the letter with the news of a pending appeal for Carl Jeffery… And the past comes straight back to haunt her. Isla needs to escape her life and decided to go through with her solo trip to Canada. Escape is not the only thing she will find there though…

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I had high hopes for Her Last Lie, but unfortunately I can say that only the last part of this story actually lived up to expectations. The writing is good, the premise is promising and the ending is surprisingly strong. There were a few plot twists I didn’t see coming either, and I loved the travel elements. That said, I found there was too much focus on the romantic relationships of the main character, I found the cheating/love triangle highly annoying and the main character itself very unlikeable. My feelings for this book are basically all over the place, because while I felt a strong dislike for the story during most of Her Last Lie, I absolutely loved the final part (starting with the Northern Lights scene). It’s hard to wrap my head around these feelings, but I do admit these positive feelings sure took their time making an appearance. Fans of slower paced psychological thrillers with a romantic focus might enjoy this one a lot better though. Just don’t expect a lot of suspense and excitement until the very end.


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ARC REVIEW: Among Friends – by Heather Murray

Title: Among Friends (Travels In Cuba)
Author: Heather Murray

Genre: Non Fiction, Travel, Memoir
First published: October 6th 2016
Finished reading: April 20th 2017
Pages: 298

“Ephemeral things are tragic because they are never repeated, but they are wonderful because they may be kept in memories in our brain, and they may be recollected as many times as we wish.”

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

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I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a lot during my early twenties and exploring different cultures/countries is still something I’m really passionate about. When I was contacted about Among Friends: Travels In Cuba I immediately knew I wanted to read this memoir, especially since one of my best friends actually went to Cuba for a month in January and I wanted to compare experiences. I admit my knowledge of Cuban history and culture is pretty basic, since my University courses mainly focused on South America… So I was looking forward to learn more about this country. One of the first things that stands out in this travel memoir written by Heather Murray is the lack of political talk, something I’m rather grateful for to be honest. Instead, the author focuses on her own experiences while visiting Cuba various times during the span of eight years; the last time being in 2015. I agree it’s really hard (maybe even impossible) to get a proper feel of a country as an outsider/foreigner, but I enjoyed reading her experiences while visiting Havana and various other destinations in Cuba. Her friendship with Julian and other Cubans definitely help to shed some light on how life really was lived by the Cubans during those years… And I liked how detailed the descriptions of the various places she visited were. The prose was easy to read and all in all it was an enjoyable travel memoir. Low on social-cultural and political details, but highly entertaining for those who enjoy the genre!

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Spread over a period of eight years, Heather Murray travels to Cuba various times to visit her friend Julian. What started out as two collegues writing letters grew into a friendship when she traveled to Cuba for the first time for a conference… The country and its people made a big impact and various visits followed afterwards. Both Havana and other provinced to the west and east are explored with the help of Julian and other Cubans; and the country definitely shows some changes over the years. This memoir is packed with personal experiences and many detailed descriptions of the various destinations in Cuba.

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If you are looking for a well written, entertaining and ‘light’ travel memoir that focuses on the travel and daily life of the locals rather than the more serious topics, Among Friends is without doubt an excellent choice. The descriptions of the various destinations and excursions are very well done and I could almost imagine being there myself as well. As stated in this memoir, it shows that Cuba has been through some changes in the last ten years and it shows… At least that is what my friend told as well. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The Yellow Envelope – by Kim Dinan

Title: The Yellow Envelope
Author: Kim Dinan

Genre: Non Fiction, Travel, Memoir
First published: April 1st 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Finished reading: March 28th 2017
Pages: 320

“At the end of the day, the money itself is just paper. What gives the whole experience meaning are the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that come with giving the money away in ways that make you smile and make your heart sing.”

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

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I might have mentioned my love for travel once or twice before, and as soon as I saw this travel memoir I had to request a copy. I enjoy reading non fiction and I’ve had the chance to visit both Peru and Ecuador twice, so I was looking forward to read about the author’s experience in those countries as well as those in Asia. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy The Yellow Envelope as much as I thought I would and the story fell kind of flat for me. Rather than a true travel memoir, this story has mostly been a (rather self-centered) description of the author’s failing relationship with her husband, feelings and journey of self-discovery; definitely not what I expected at all and not as enjoyable to read either. Another thing that bothered me were the (negative) cliches about the countries they visited; I’ve traveled both alone and with my partner in both Ecuador and Peru during roughly the same time period (2012-2013) and I don’t think the descriptions of those countries are just or accurate. I also felt that both countries and people in general were talked down to; each country/culture/person is unique in its own way and the negativity really bothered me. I also don’t think it is right to claim there is a correct/superior way to travel either; each person should be able to decide which way is best for them and the ‘superior’ tone was actually quite annoying. And that’s coming from someone who has traveled for a long time without a real home as well, so I kind of know what I’m talking about. I’ll stop this rant and say that if you are looking for a memoir about the story of the road to self-discovery with just a hint of travel, The Yellow Envelope will probably interest you.

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Kim Dinan decided she wanted a change in her life and three years later both Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs and travel around the world. They are given a yellow envelope by another couple: inside a check and instructions to give the money away during their travels. There are only three rules: don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away. Kim and Brian travel through Ecuado, Peru, India, Nepal and other countries, and will face many obstacles along the way.

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I normally enjoy reading non fiction and I love anything that has to do with travel, but this memoir didn’t manage to convince me. Not only was the actual talk about traveling and the different countries limited, but the main focus was actually on the author, her feelings and self-discovery. This could have been an interesting read anyway once I adjusted my expectations, but I was really bothered by the tone and the fact that the different countries/cultures/persons were talked down to and didn’t receive it’s proper respect. I understand that it’s hard to portray a foreign culture properly (I’ve had this experience lots of times myself), but this just wasn’t the way. I liked the idea of the yellow envelope and what it represents though; it was probably the strongest feature of this memoir.


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BOOK REVIEW: 13 Little Blue Envelopes – by Maureen Johnson

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Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
(Little Blue Envelopes #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 23rd 2005
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: December 1st 2016
Pages: 322
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“Sometimes, life leaves you without directions, without guideposts or signs. When this happens, you just have to pick a direction and run like hell.”

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I decided to switch genres a bit and pick up a contemporary romance read. I know these kind of stories normally are not really my thing, but I remember I enjoyed Maureen Johnson‘s short Christmas story in Let It Snow and The Name Of The Star last year and the travel theme sounded great. I have to admit I had my doubts about 13 Little Blue Envelopes, but I can see why contemporary romance fans would love this book. As I already feared, this book fell a little flat for me. Sure, the travel bits are quite interesting and it is without doubt a cute and easy-to-read story, but the whole plot just isn’t believable. I mean, why did her parents let Ginny travel to Europe like that in the first place? The things happening to the main character are not exactly credible either. I’ve had my share of travel experience myself and random things can happen during a trip, but 13 Little Blue Envelopes for me crossed the line. If you are looking for a sappy, fast-paced, easy and entertaining contemporary romance read, this is without doubt a good choice. It’s probably also a perfect summer/beach read if you can forget about the credibility details. That said, I’m not sure I’m going to read the sequel myself.

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After her eccentric aunt died half across the world, Ginny receives a package that will change her life. Inside she finds thirteen little blue envelopes with messages and instructions her aunt wrote before she passed away. In the first one, Ginny finds $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London. It also said she shouldn’t open the other ones until she completed each task, and that she couldn’t have contact with the people back home. Clearly her aunt wants to show Ginny the Europe as she knew it, and Ginny is about to do a whole lot of things she never dreamed to be doing that summer…

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I know, I know, I should have known 13 Little Blue Envelopes wouldn’t be for me. I thought the whole road trip/travel theme would distract from the cheesy romance, but in the end it was the low credibility of the plot that sort of ruined the story for me. Sure, a lot of random things can happen when you travel without a fixed destination, but this story just didn’t convince me. If you are looking for a quick and easy contemporary read and don’t mind the little details, this might still be a good choice though.

BOOK REVIEW: Wanderlost – by Jen Malone

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Title: Wanderlost
Author: Jen Malone
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 31st 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 13th 2016
Pages: 352
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“Lizzie, pushing your comfort zone is what traveling is all about.”

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Wanderlost is without doubt a great choice both if you want to escape the cold winter months (like me) and if you are looking for an entertaining summer read. This novel is by no means perfect, but definitely cute and fluffy enough if you can forget about details like the credibility of the plot. First of all, it shows that Jen Malone has traveled quite a lot herself and probably visited the places she mentioned in Wanderlost, because the descriptions are detailed and make you feel like you are traveling along with the main characters. I don’t think that all observations about local traditions are correct though (although I can only speak for the Dutch ones myself; seriously, salty pancakes are NOT breakfast food!), but I guess it’s really hard to understand the local ways in the first place without actually living in that country. I’ve learned that the hard way myself during my travels… Wanderlost is fast-paced though and both easy and entertaining to read. Sam is adorable and I liked the senior group, but I wasn’t too sure about Aubree in the beginning. I mean, I understand that leaving your home and country for the first time can be extremely intimidating, but the total lack of confidence did get a bit annoying after a while. It is however a realistic description, because I’ve had my share of ‘Aubree’s’ during my years working in a hostel. I liked how her character developed though, and overall Wanderlost kind of made me wish I could go on another Europe road trip myself…

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When her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble and cannot make it to Europe for her oh-so-important summer job, she asks Aubree to take over her place. Aubree is not exactly adventurous and has never been far away from home, but she feels guilty about what happened to her sister and reluctantly agrees. In two weeks, Aubree will now be leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe, and even the carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts and training of her sister can calm her nerves. Things seem to go wrong from the start and she doesn’t even make it to her first hotel in Amsterdam before their perfect plan starts to unravel… Without phone and binder, Aubree is now on her own while she tries to do the job she was never hired for in the first place.

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Even though the plot was not really that credible, I still quite enjoyed reading Wanderlost. In itself it’s without doubt a fast-paced, entertaining and adorable summer read that will most likely appeal to those who enjoy reading contemporary romance novels. It’s cute, it’s fluffy, it has a lot of romance and also a healthy dose of road trip and travel descriptions… Warning: it will most likely trigger your wanderlust!