YVO’S SHORTIES #175 – Fruit Of The Drunken Tree & The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two books I’ve had really high expectations for… Sadly, Fruit Of The Drunken Tree didn’t live up to those expectations at all, but The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill turned out to be a delightful read.


Title: Fruit Of The Drunken Tree
Author: Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Doubleday
Finished reading: July 21st 2020
Pages: 304

“War always seemed distant from Bogotá, like niebla descending on the hills and forest of the countryside and jungles. The way it approached us was like fog as well, without us realizing, until it sat embroiling everything around us.”

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Okay… I’m still not sure what happened here, as I really expected to find a new favorite in this story instead. I’ve always had a special interest in stories set in Latin America, and even more so if they are related to the drugs world and/or war on drugs… I thought this story with its 1990s Colombian setting would be a perfect fit for me, and the blurb of Fruit Of The Drunken Tree sounded fantastic as well, but somehow in the end it wasn’t ment to be. Even though I still believe the premise is both powerful, shocking and heartbreaking, the story itself failed to blow me away. I think the main reason I had such a strong negative reaction to Fruit Of The Drunken Tree despite my fascination for the topic had probably to do with the fact that I felt a strong aversion towards the writing style. I didn’t feel it flowed properly and I never connected to the writing, making it very hard to convince myself to keep reading as a result. I have to confess that I skimread at least half of the story; wanting to DNF, but not being able to let the story go completely until I knew what happened. This mostly had to do with the plot and the historical details rather than the main characters themselves, who in turn I never managed to warm up to either. I think this might have been due to the way they were described as well as the way they acted, or maybe even due to the fact that the writing style itself rubbed me the wrong way to such extreme. Either way, sadly Fruit Of The Drunken Tree ended up mosty definitely not being my cup of tea.


Title: The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 9th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: July 23rd 2020
Pages: 351

“She enjoyed people – she really did – she just needed to take them in homeopathic doses; a little of the poison was the cure.”

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I have been craving a good contemporary, and I admit that I have been eyeing The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill for a while now. I love bookish elements in my stories, and this book sounded like a perfect fit… And I definitely ended up having a brilliant time with this story. As I already expected, Nina was easy to like and relate to, and I loved getting to know her better. The characters in general are easy to connect to and I enjoyed spending time with them. Of course I love just how big of a role both books and pop culture play in Nina’s life and the story itself; with references to multiple books, the Harry Potter fandom, Game Of Thrones, The Simpsons, Friends… And we have the bookstore itself in the spotlight too of course. The plot might be a bit cheesy and predictable in points, but personally I was having too much fun to be bothered by it. The romance is quite cheesy as well, but as I liked both characters I really didn’t mind all that much either. I loved seeing Nina connect to the newly found family, and the trivia element was brilliant. The writing itself is super engaging and I literally flew through this story. Fans of the genre will most likely enjoy The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill as much as I did!


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ARC REVIEW: Colombiano – by Rusty Young

Title: Colombiano
Author: Rusty Young
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime
First published: August 1st 2017
Publisher: Havelock & Baker
Finished reading: February 16th 2019
Pages: 813

“Like an autumn tree stripping itself to grow strong again, I had to let the leaves of kindness and compassion fall. “

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

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I have a special interest in the war on drugs and Latin America related stories, so when I saw Colombiano I immediately knew I had to read it. Colombia has a special place in my heart as it gave me three wonderful months of memories during my time living in Cartagena as well as it being the place where I first met my hubby. Colombia has a complicated history though and Rusty Young does a fantastic job portraying the struggles and give insight in what it was like for innocent inhabitants and autodefensas members alike. Colombiano is a mix of facts and fiction as the author spent years working secretly for  the US government in Colombia and was able to hear a lot of testimonies of child soldiers during that time. If you want to learn more about the struggles between the guerrilla, army and autodefensas and its consequences for both country and inhabitants, this book is an excellent way to do so in an entertaining way. I know it’s a huge book with over 800 pages, but it’s worth every single minute of your time. Like I said before, facts and fiction are mixed in Pedro’s quest for justice for the death of his father. Both sides have been incorporated into the story in such a way that feels natural and Colombiano is informative without it slowing down the pace of the story. The driving force behind Colombiano are Pedro, Palillo and the other main characters. Together they help understand what it is like living in a small village in the middle of the fight between the guerrilla and the army, and also show why someone would join the autodefensas and how that organization works. This story is about violence, drugs, power struggles and revenge, but also a coming of age story about young people growing up in such a difficult situation. Colombiano is hands down one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and definitely worth your time if the topic interests you. Between the writing style, characters, descriptions and plot you will have no idea this story is that long as you will find yourself turning those pages with gusto.

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Fifteen year old Pedro Gutierrez is living a comfortable life in a small Colombian town with his parents and girlfriend Camila. Then his life changes forever as guerrilla soldiers execute his father in front of Pedro after false accusations. And not only that, but both he and his mother as banished from their farm and left without a future. Pedro is determined to revenge his father and hunt down the five men responsible. He only sees one way to complish that: join an illegal paramilitary group called the autodefensas with his best friend Palillo. They are sent to a remote location to be trained to fight, kill and obey until any sign of weakness is smothered. But how far is Pedro willing to go to reach his goal?

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Even though Colombiano is a big beast of a read with 800+ pages, the story by no means slows down or drags at any point. This is due to a combination of an engaging writing style, fascinating details and descriptions, characters that will win over your heart and a well developed and intricate plot. The story itself is partly a coming of age story, partly a crime thriller with a drugs and violence focus and partly a story of family and what we are willing do sacrifice to keep those dear to us safe. Facts and fiction are mixed in a way that will give you both a goldmine of intriguing information about the conflicts between guerrilla, army and autodefensa as well as offering you a fascinating story and main character to follow. Anyone interested in the topic will love this story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #29: The Upside Of Unrequited & The Border

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads… The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli I was sure I was going to love, but somehow ended up being another unpopular opinion review. The Border by Steve Schafer on the other hand was absolutely brilliant.


Title: The Upside Of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 11th 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: June 21st 2018
Pages: 352

“We like who we like. Who cares if someone else doesn’t get it?”


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Oh hello unpopular opinion review! I guess we meet once again… I truly wish we wouldn’t have crossed paths this time around though. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda has to be one of my all time favorite YA books, so of course I was fully expecting to love this story as well. I’m still kind of shocked I ended up having this reaction, but I guess it is what it is. Fact: the problem isn’t the writing, which is without doubt excellent and made The Upside Of Unrequited into a really fast and entertaining read. I like the idea of having twins as main characters and the lgbt elements made this story into the perfect read for Pride Month. The twins moms are the cutest! The artsy/pinterest vibe was also a great touch. But. And here comes the main problem: I really struggled with Molly’s character. Not only did her choices annoy me and she helped introduce a love triangle to the plot that really bothered me… But I also found her whole attitude and negativity towards her own body quite frustrating. Having struggled with my weight just about my whole life, I know how it feels having to deal with rejection and negativity of others, but I don’t think Molly’s character gives the right message to those who struggle with the same problem. And we don’t have a lot of ‘bigger’ main characters to look up to in stories in the first place… So Molly was quite a let down for me. I also felt like The Upside Of Unrequited was almost trying to be too diverse and squeeze in too many diverse characters into one story. But yeah, that is mostly just me since everybody including my neighbor’s cat seems to love this story, so do take my rambles with a grain of salt.


Title: The Border
Author: Steve Schafer

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 5th 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Finished reading: June 24th 2018
Pages: 364

“We are right on the border. The border. Of story, of legend, of dreams. ut we might as well be on the moon. So famous, yet so desolate.”


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Weird fact: I have a strange fascination for any story related to the war on drugs, cartels and the consequences of both. After a course or two during Uni, a thesis and quite a few related books, TV shows and movies, my thirst for this theme still hasn’t lessened. So honestly I should have known this book would hit the right spot even before I started it. The Border is more about the cartels and the consequences of antagonizing them than the actual war on drugs, but the theme is without doubt fascinating. The narcos killing the families of the main characters is sadly enough not all that uncommon, and neither is the hunt that starts afterwards. I really liked how Steve Schafer isn’t afraid to state the hard, painful and shocking facts, describing to us in a realistic way how the teens have to run for their lives. The incorporation of Spanish into the writing was spot on and added more authenticity to the story; the descriptions of both characters and setting detailed and realistic. The writing style managed to put me under its spell and I couldn’t let this story go until the very end. Ever feel like putting everything on hold until you reach the final page? That is what happened while I was reading The Border. This is not a happy story and the characters truly struggle; some parts are truly heartbreaking and make sure you have some tissues at hand just in case. But this realistic rendering of the four Mexican teens trying to cross the desert to reach the safety of US territory is simply sublime. I can highly recommend reading this one if you are interested in the theme, or if you enjoy reading realistically described (YA) thrillers.


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ARC REVIEW: Ochoco Reach – by Jim Stewart

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Title: Ochoco Reach
Author: Jim Stewart
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime
First published: September 1st 2015
Finished reading: October 26th 2015
Pages: 296
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“We are all the composite of our stories. It is who we are. Our stories carry the tracks we leave during our lifetimes. The most important of those tracks are in the hearts of our friends and our enemies.”

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

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When I was approached earlier this month to read and review Ochoco Reach, the cover and blurb immediately appealed to me. The mystery/thriller genre is one of my favorites and both war on drugs and USA/Mexican border stories have always interested me. With its fast pace, interesting plot and well written prose, it is easy to say I really enjoyed this novel by Jim Stewart. The main characters are well developed and I especially liked the Native American elements and the dynamics between Mike, his brother Daniel, his dog Bucket and Willy. Mike can come over as a bit of a Rambo-clone at some points, but his character has a lot more depth than Sylvester Stallone. Ochoco Reach is what you call an action-packed pageturner where the main character has to rescue his client from a cartel boss: a guarantee for some very interesting action and shooting scenes. There are some unexpected plot twists as well, making this a very entertaining read and perfect for those who enjoy the genre.

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Mike Ironwood is a freelance investigator and has just agreed to investigate some suspicious movements at a beautiful stranger’s family cattle ranch. Both the case and the woman named Willy are intriguing, and Mike soon finds himself more than involved in the case. When things turn more and more ugly and federal investigators seem to be involved, Mike smells trouble… And his fears come true when Willy is kidnapped and taken to Mexico. Mike is determined to rescue Willy, a woman that is no longer just his client but also the woman he is falling in love with… And he asks his brother Daniel for help. Will they be able to find Willy on time and rescue her from the cartel jefe?

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Ochoco Reach is a well written and very entertaining read filled with action, (gun)fights and the right dose of emotions. The plot and Native American/spiritual elements made this story into something quite original and the many plot twists kept me interested until the very end. If you are looking for a good mystery/thriller read, I would definitely recommend this novel!