YVO’S SHORTIES #50 – The King’s Guard & Radiance Of Tomorrow

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today two completely different reads, but both worthwhile. The King’s Guard is the third and final Fire And Thorns novella and without doubt my favorite of the bunch. And I have been wanting to read Radiance Of Tomorrow forever, especially since Ishmael Beah‘s memoir made such an impact. This fictional story also set in his country Sierra Leone is another powerful and heartbreaking read.


Title: The King’s Guard
(Fire And Thorns #0.7)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 30th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 19th 2018
Pages: 111

“The less you say, the more your words will matter.”


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I have been reading the Fire And Thorns novellas before tackling the sequel, and I have to say this third and final one is probably my favorite of the bunch. The King’s Guard is partly set in the royal palace and is partly an adventure and rescue mission. Hector makes a great main character of this novella and his character is very easy to like. The writing is solid as always and I managed to read it in no time at all… The plot and setting are well fleshed out for a novella and I had a great time reading this one. These novellas are a great addition to the original series and especially the last two novellas are without doubt worth the read if you enjoy the series.


Title: Radiance Of Tomorrow
Author: Ishmael Beah

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
First published: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 256

“We must live in the radiance of tomorrow, as our ancestors have suggested in their tales. For what is yet to come tomorrow has possibilities, and we must think of it, the simplest glimpse of that possibility of goodness. That will be our strength. That has always been our strength.”


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A Long Way Gone is one of the most devastating and heartbreaking memoirs I’ve read to this date, and well written at that. I’ve been meaning to read Radiance Of Tomorrow for years now, and I’m glad I’ve finally had the opportunity to do so. While Radiance Of Tomorrow is a fictional story this time around, it has the same setting in Sierra Leone and the same emotional rollercoaster ride. Make sure to brace yourself before you start this one, because it won’t be a happy journey. Radiance Of Tomorrow tells the story of what happens in the ruined village Imperi after the war in Sierra Leone ended. The beginning sets the tone of what will become a heartbreaking, devastating and very emotional read, with little lights shining upon the hope the characters have things will become better in the future. Descriptions of both characters and setting are excellently done and I loved the ‘fusion’ of different languages as the author translated expressions from other languages literally to describe things. This book shows us what it was like for the locals after the war, the struggles still there as they try to survive with all odds against them. You will take the characters under your wing and suffer with them as setbacks occur… Radiance Of Tomorrow has a wonderful bigger message and is without doubt a very powerful and emotional read. I’m glad I decided to finally pick up!


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ARC REVIEW: The Tango War – by Mary Jo Conahay

Title: The Tango War
Author: Mary Jo McConahay
Genre: Non Fiction, History, War
First published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: August 10th 2018
Pages: 336

“Each side closely shadowed the steps of the other, like dancers in a tango.”

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

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My interest in this non fiction read was piqued for three reasons: I’m hugely interested in anything related to WWII, nobody ever talks about the role of Latin America during WWII and last but not least I have a special interest in history related to Latin America especially since I have settled down in Argentina. The Tango War is an eye-catching title and the cover stands out as well, but it is important to not forget this is a non fiction read first, entertaining thriller second. I don’t agree with the blurb that The Tango War can be read as a thriller, because the chapters lack cohesion for that. The chapters jump between countries and point of views of the war, which sometimes is necessary, but turns this book into a collection of essays rather than a single story. I also would have prefered to see more focus on the actual Latin American countries, instead of the clearly US influenced point of view of the different topics discussed. I don’t think I could call this non fiction read 100% neutral as a consequence, but that doesn’t take away that The Tango War was a thoroughly interesting read. There has never been much talk about the role of Latin America during WWII, most people instead focusing on Europe, the United States and Japan as the main contenders. It was fascinating to read about how various countries in Latin America had a big influence in the things that happened during the war. The focus isn’t solely on the years during WWII though, as many events both before and after are put in the spotlight as well. If you are interested in the topic and enjoy non fiction reads, The Tango War is just the book for you.

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There has never been enough focus on the fact that Latin America played a big role during WWII. Both sides have been fighting for the allegiance of the countries of Latin America even long before the war, knowing that their support will play a vital role. Each side is willing to play dirty, doing what is needed to win over the countries and get the support needed…

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If you enjoy reading non fiction historical texts and have an interest in the Second World War, The Tango War will without doubt interest you. It’s not the fastest read of the world and the essay-like chapters might slow you down, but this book shines the light upon a wide variety of topics related to the role of Latin America during the war. Would I have liked to see a more neutral point of view instead of a clearly US influenced perspective? Maybe. Would I have liked to see more of Latin America itself? Probably. But there is no doubt The Tango War is still a little goldmine of information.


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ARC REVIEW: My Real Name Is Hanna – by Tara Lynn Masih

Title: My Real Name Is Hanna
Author: Tara Lynn Masih
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: September 11th 2018
Publisher: Mandel Vilar Press
Finished reading: July 23rd 2018
Pages: 208

“Life is not good, however you are living it, if you become like those who don’t value you.”

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

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Give me a WWII historical fiction story and I’m sold. Add a lesser known setting (Ukraine), and I’m just about jumping up and down from sheer excitement. Oh yes, I had high expectations for My Real Name Is Hanna and not just because of the beautiful cover and comparison to Between Shades Of Gray. While I do have to note that the ARC version I read had a lot of editing issues (both related to the font, repeated words over and over again and sentences being cut and never finished), I am confident those issues will be fixed in the final sentence and therefore I won’t hold it against the story itself. And there is no doubt that this story set in WWII Ukraine is absolutely wonderful. Though not based on a specific true story, the events are all too real and will shine a light on how Jewish families tried to hide and survive in Ukraine. Both descriptions of the setting and the different characters make the story really come alive and it feels as if you are living the horrific experiences along with them. I really liked the writing style and the way the story was told; the inclusion of local customs a huge bonus. The character development is thorough as well and it was interesting to see them evolve over time, reacting to the increasingly dire situation. If you are like me a fan of WWII survivor stories, My Real Name Is Hanna is a must-read.

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Hanna Slivka is still young when Hitler’s army crosses the border to Ukraine, and soon the Germans are closing in. Her shtetele used to be run by Russians, and she used to spend her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings as well as helping her neighbor with her decorative pysanky eggs. But all that ends when the Germans take over, and both Hanna, her family and other Jewish families are forced to flee the shtetele in order to try and stay alive.

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I was drawn to My Real Name Is Hanna from the very first time I saw it mentioned. I have a weak spot for WWII stories and this one sounded particularly interesting. And there is no doubt that this YA historical fiction story delivered. Well written, well developed, emotional, harrowing, heartbreaking and with a healthy dose of local customs and excellent descriptions of the setting… Oh yes, there is a lot to love in My Real Name Is Hanna. This book shouldn’t be missing from the wishlist of any WWII historcial fiction fan.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #27: The Orphan’s Tale & Murder On The Orient Express

Another day and another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Bringing you more shortie reviews of books I read during my hiatus. The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff has been on my list for a long time, and turned out to be just as good as I thought it would be. And I have been meaning to read more of Agatha Christie‘s work for a long time, so accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express movie turned out to be the perfect excuse to do so.


Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff

Genre: Historical Fiction, War
First published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: Mira Books
Finished reading: May 18th 2018
Pages: 353

“Sometimes our forever life does not last as long as we think.”


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After a very difficult but extraordinary visit to the Auschwitz camps, I wanted to read another historical fiction story set during WWII to commemorate. I was browsing my kindle and my eyes fell on The Orphan’s Tale, a title I have been meaning to pick up for a long time, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do so. While not exactly the story set in one of the camps I was looking for, this story shows the struggle and fear of the Jews trying to hide their true identity. The Orphan’s Tale has a wide variety of different characters and this diversity was one of the reasons this story worked. The circus setting with all its descriptions and opportunities for plot twists and new angles definitely was another key element. The writing is solid and makes it really easy to fully emerge yourself and keep reading to find out what will happen to the main characters. There comes the only minor flaw I experienced myself though: I didn’t agree with every decision of the characters and somehow it wasn’t as easy to get a proper feeling of some of them. This feeling of slight uneasiness and frustration made me lower the rating slightly, but overall The Orphan’s Tale is without doubt among the better WWII historical fiction stories I’ve read to this date.


Title: Murder On The Orient Express
(Hercule Poirot #10)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Classics
First published: 1926
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: May 21st 2018
Pages: 256

“I know human nature, my friend, and I tell you that, suddenly confronted with the possibility of being tried for murder, the most innocent person will lose their head and do the most absurd things.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up another Agatha Christie book ever since I finished And Then There Were None back in 2015, but somehow I never did. So I guess accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express was a blessing in disguise, because since I normally never watch the movie before reading the book, of course I had to immediately remedy that. I had high hopes for the book, and even though I haven’t read the previous Hercule Poirot books yet, I was able to enjoy book number ten anyway. Because Agatha Christie writes in a way that will draw your attention from the start, and she gives just enough background of the main characters to be able to form an idea of their past without the previous books. I still want to read the other nine titles before this one as well of course, and the copies are on my list. But the fact is that Murder On The Orient Express can easily be read as a stand-alone as well and what a good story at that. From the main character to the development of the other characters, the mystery, the way Hercule Poirot conducts his investigation… There is just something about it that will fascinate you completely and any mystery/thriller fan will find themselves flying through it. I personally liked both movie and book equally, although I still wish I would have read the book first, because I had the actors stuck in my head and the descriptions of the characters in the book don’t really match. Thankfully the script itself follows the original plot closely; one of the reasons the adaptation was so successful to me. Murder On The Orient Express has shown me I really need to get copies of more of Agatha Christie‘s books soon, because I have truly been missing out by not reading them.


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ARC REVIEW: Sky In The Deep – by Adrienne Young @StMartinsPress

Title: Sky In The Deep
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: April 24th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: April 19th 2018
Pages: 352

“You’ll find your own end before the snow melts because your pride and your anger are more importan to you than your own survival.”

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

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I admit I was sold as soon as I saw the cover and the mention of vikings. And maybe the fact that Sky In The Deep is called one of the most anticipated YA fantasy releases this year, although that also made me a bit afraid it won’t live up to the hype. But thankfully Sky In The Deep is actually worth all the praise it has been receiving. What a wonderful and well written debut! Although this story has no exact time setting and appears to be more fantasy than historical fiction, with the viking culture playing such a central role it is easy to deduct this story was set long ago (probably 800s?). Would I have liked a more detailed worldbuilding with more descriptions and facts? Yes, but I can also understand why the exact details have been kept vague, focusing instead on the characters and clan feud plot. I would have liked to have a glossary for the foreign words and phrases used, although most are easy to interpret from the context. These little things aside, I absolutely loved this story. The main character is the typical strong female lead, but Eelyn really came alive in the descriptions and dialogue and was easy to connect to. The different clans and the old feud between the two had me completely hooked, as well as for the plot twists that changed their future forever. Definitely the best viking-inspired story I’ve read to this date! I admit I could have done without the romance, but at least we were spared the dreaded love triangle. And I’m sure romance fans will love that little twist (although I saw it coming quite early on). In short, while not perfect, this debut still managed to completely blow me away and Eelyn’s story will stay with me for a long time. Vikings to the win!

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Seventeen-year-old Eelyn was raised to be a warrior and fights alongside her Aska clansmen against the Riki clan. The two have been enemies for a long time, fighting each other every five years in a ruthless battle. This year is no different and Eelyn is fighting on the battlefield when something strange happens: she sees her brother Iri, the same brother who she watched die five years ago. Following his ghost, she ends up in a very dangerous situation herself…One that will be both hard to accept and find a way out of.

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Despite a few minor details that made me lower the rating slightly, there is no doubt I absolutely loved this book. I have a weak spot for viking stories and Sky In The Deep has to be the best viking-inspired fantasy story I’ve read to this date. The writing is very engaging and made it really easy to like this story. The plot and clan feud turning into something else was an interesting one and while there were slow parts, you will get plently of viking fighting action as well. A little advice: don’t read the full blurb before you start reading it! This one is more fun going in completely blind. YA fantasy fans who like their stories having a dose of romance, well developed characters and a couple of pretty intense fighting scenes will love Sky In The Deep. A very powerful debut!


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ARC REVIEW: The Air Raid Killer – by Frank Goldammer

Title: The Air Raid Killer
(Max Heller, Dresden Detective #1)
Author: Frank Goldammer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 23rd 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: April 12th 2018
Pages: 292
(Originally written in German: ‘Der Angstmann’)

“How does anyone really know what someone’s capable of?”

*** 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 stumbled upon this title during my hunt for more international authors/translations and I was immediately intrigued both by the cover and the blurb. I admit I had forgotten about the exact content of the story when I started reading it and went in blind thinking it was going to be a historical fiction read. And while there is no doubt that The Air Raid Killer is a proper historical fiction read set in Dresden, Germany during the final part of WWII, I was pleasantly surprised to find out especially the first part reads more like a historical detective thriller. Two of my favorite genres combined? Definitely a bonus! The Air Raid Killer starts out strong and will be able to draw you in straight away. Historical descriptions are mixed with a most brutal murder scene that will definitely chill you to the bone. The main character of this German detective series Max Heller has the almost impossible task to try and find out what happened when nobody seems to care about one more body in a war with so many casualties. But detective Max Heller is determined to find out even when he meets resistance everywhere. Both the actual murders and the general situation in Dresden are not suited for the weak-hearted; combined they form a very explosive and sometimes shocking plot. The serial killer on the loose is without doubt brutal, and combined with the air raid attacks and the chaos during the end of the war you have a recipe for a very disturbing read. While the first part focuses on the thriller aspect of the plot, the second half of the story is more historical fiction focused. I think I would have preferred to have it just one way or the other and not both, although I do understand why the author made the choice to swap and include more historical details in the second half. The final reveals of the murder case do feel a bit rushed though, and I’m also wondering up to what point the methods of investigation used were actually available in that time period. Still, The Air Raid Killer was without doubt a very good historical thriller set during the end of WWII, and both detective thriller and historical fiction fans will be able to enjoy this one.

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In the final months of WWII, the inhabitants of the city of Dresden not only have to fear the air raid bombs that might destroy the city at any time. There are also rumors about the Fright Man, a twisted killer who uses the nighttime air raid siren to hunt the streets unseen and kill… Only to disappear into thin air afterwards. Detective Max Heller begins to investigate, but is is harder to ever to start a proper investigation. And soon after the Fright Man kills again… Will Max Heller be able to find any clues with his resources non-existent and a new boss who doesn’t want him to investigate further?

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Historical fiction is mixed with a classic detective thriller, as a serial killer and air raid bombs fight for the title of ‘most feared’ by the inhabitants of the city of Dresden. The writing style and initial plot make it really easy to get a proper feel for the story, and the first half of the story is without doubt the strongest part of the book. I would have preferred a continued focus on the detective thriller side of the story, which felt a bit rushed in the second half. But I also understand the switch and need for a focus on what happened in Dresden during those final days and after. While not perfect, The Air Raid Killer is without doubt a great read for anyone who wants to read a WWII story with a slightly different focus and angle.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #23: Salt To The Sea & Ready Player One

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been meaning to read for ages and that both turned out to be excellent reads. Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline… Popular hyped books that actually lived up to the hype and without doubt worth reading!


Title: Salt To The Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books
Finished reading: March 27th 2018
Pages: 393

“War had bled color from everything, leaving nothing but a storm of gray.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this novel for a long time now, probably ever since I first heard about it. I’ve become a fan of Ruta Sepetys‘ writing after reading Between Shades Of Gray and Out Of The Easy; both because of the fantastic writing and well researched and detailed historical settings and descriptions. Salt To The Sea without doubt fits all these points above. I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction in general and I hadn’t heard about the Wilhelm Gustloff incident before, so that was a double bonus for me. It truly shows in the little details just how well researched this novel is and the descriptions made it feel as if you were there yourself along with the characters. The plot is an interesting one and shows just how difficult it was to find your way to safety close to the end of the war. I admit it took me a while to get used to the multiple POVs and remembering who is who, which slowed down the pace inicially, but each different character and POV does show a different view on the situation and add something to the story. I was a bit annoyed by Alfred, who I didn’t like at all and I wasn’t sure about the particular style of his chapters. But the rest of the characters were interesting and I liked how the different styles used in each POV showed their different personalities. There is even some sort of interaction between the POVs and sometimes different characters tell their personal experience of the same event… Adding power to what was happening to them. Salt To The Sea is without doubt a very strong historical fiction read that shines the light on an event that is not all that well known. It’s not my favorite Ruta Sepetys novel, but without doubt worth reading.


Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: August 16th 2011
Publisher: Broadway Books
Finished reading: March 31st 2018
Pages: 386

“I felt like a kid standing in the world’s greatest video arcade without any quarters, unable to do anything but walk around and watch the other kids play.”


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I have been meaning to read this one for years (and that is without exaggerating). Somehow, the enormous hype around Ready Player One made me a bit afraid to actually pick it up, especially considering my complicated relationship with hyped books in the first place. I finally read Armada first last year, and I can’t say I was that impressed by it… But since people kept telling me that Ready Player One was so much better, I was determined to give it a go one day. And I’m glad I finally did do so, because I loved it so much better than I thought I would! Science fiction can go both ways for me, but as a (former) gamer myself I just loved the general worldbuilding and many many game references… The 80s references didn’t hit home, but that is mostly because I was too young to actually remember that time in the first place. And from what I could see, everything was well researched. Ready Player One is set in the future, and a dystopian future at that. A very interesting backdrop for this story and very well developed! The worldbuilding wasn’t the only thing that worked well for me. I also really enjoyed the writing style itself and of course the plot, which both made me want to keep on reading to find out what would happen next. The characters are well developed and easy to like, and I could also appreciate the fact we get to see both the online side and the ‘real’ side of the main characters involved. All in all a superentertaining and well written sci-fi and gaming adventure I can recommend to fans of the genre.


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