YVO’S SHORTIES #84 – Half Lies & To Make Monsters Out Of Girls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two short reads I picked up to fit two BTB Epic Bingo prompts: the prequel novella Half Lies by Sally Green and the poetry bundle To Make Monsters Out Of Girls by Amanda Lovelace.


Title: Half Lies
(The Half Bad Trilogy #0.5)
Author: Sally Green

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: November 13th 2014
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 72

“Who would think that a drunken misery-guts like him could be so poetic? But then again maybe that’s what poets and artists are like. “


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I should have known after my less than satisfying experience with Half Bad last year, but since I already owned a copy of the prequel novella AND both sequels I’m giving the trilogy another chance. I’m having a feeling Half Lies wasn’t the best place to start… Novellas are always short and not having a well developed plot and characters is not that much of a surprise. Still, I found myself craving to know more about their past in France and I would have liked to see more focus on magic as well. Instead, Half Lies was basically a sappy forbidden love story where two quite cliche characters fall in love a la Romeo and Juliet. I liked the Giving details and the discovering of power bits, but like I said before those elements are mostly pushed into the background (except for Gabriel’s problems with his power). My biggest struggle was with the writing style. There is just something about the way this story is written that is a huge turn off for me… This might have had to do with the abuse of brackets or short sentences, although it might just have been the writing style as a whole as I remember having similar problems in Half Bad. All in all this prequel novella wasn’t really a success for me and the ending felt a bit abrupt… I’m hoping my experience with the sequel will be a better one.


Title: To Make Monsters Out Of Girls
(Things That H(a)unt #1)
Author: Amanda Lovelace

Genre: Poetry, Feminism
First published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: February 10th 2019
Pages: 168

“there was
no comfort

 

to be
found in

 

the
pages

 

that once
pulled me

 

through
it all.

 

– you took things i didn’t know you could take.”


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After reading and enjoying the Women Are Some Kind Of Magic poetry bundles, I decided to try Amanda Lovelace‘s other bundle To Make Monsters Out Of Girls as well. Her poems are easy to recognize and this was another excellent collection. It is true that the structure of the poems is simplistic and basically seems like hitting the space bar ever few words, but I personally think this simple style gives the words and message behind the poems even more power. Amanda Lovelace writes without fear and is fully open about her experience with abusive and toxic relationships in the past. She uses words to not only express feelings, but fight those monsters and free herself (and hopefully others) in the end. I’ve said it before, but these stories are very easy to relate to for anyone who has experienced a toxic relationship (or is still experiencing it) and will provide both comfort and and empowering message to let you know you are worthy and can beat that monster. It’s not the style, but the words and the emotions behind those words that make To Make Monsters Out Of Girls into such a success for me. Her poetry isn’t for everyone, but those who can connect to her words will be able to treasure it.


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ARC REVIEW: The Familiars – by Stacey Halls

Title: The Familiars
Author: Stacey Halls
Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
First published: February 19th 2019
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: January 26th 2019 
Pages: 352

“Rumour could spread faster than disease, and could be just as destructive.”

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

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I’m a sucker for a good historical fiction story and combine that with a gorgeous cover and I’m sold easily. There was just something about The Familiars that caught my eye immediately and I have been looking forward to finally reading it. While this story started out promising enough with a 1612 setting close to the famous witch trials, somehow my initial excitement for this story soon petered out and sadly I have to admit it failed to blow me away. The Familiars is a slow paced and character driven story where the main focus is on Fleetwood Shuttleworth and her household. Neither the witch trails, witches nor the familiars the story is named after play a big role in this story and are mostly pushed into the background as we have to read all about shallow and quite annoying Fleetwood and the things that happen to her. I was quite disappointed by this lack of focus on the supernatural; not what I was expecting with this title. As for Fleetwood: I know women in the 17th century are treated in a different way and have to be meek, humble and obey their husbands or men in general, but having such a bland main character in a very much character driven story makes it hard to stay invested. I’m not sure all actions were all that credible and the whole love triangle situation deeply annoyed me. The Familiars focuses mostly on both the relationship between Fleetwood and her husband, her widwife Alice and the fact that her unborn child might just be the death of her. The paranormal aspect could have been used to spice up this story, but instead was not developed to its potential and fell flat for me. It’s not a bad read though and fans of romantic historical fiction will probably have a better time than me.

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Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth is pregnant again after suffering three miscarriages. Her husband Richard is desperate for an heir, but so desperate he hides a terrible secret from her? Fleetwood discovers a doctor’s letter with the prediction she will not survive another birth. Not sure how to handle this situation, she finds herself relieved to meet Alice, who promises her she will help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby. Then Alice is accused of witchcraft and sent to prision, and all hope crumbles… Fleetwood will have to find a way to save Alice in order to save herself.

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What seems to be a historical paranormal fiction story about witches, turns out to be a mostly historical and romantic family drama with only a hint of the supernatural. This lack of a role of the witches, familiars and the witch trials was rather a disappointment for me and not something I expected when I picked up my copy of The Familiars. The fact that Fleetwood was rather dull and lacked a proper personality didn’t really help either, as the story evolved around her and it was hard to keep myself invested in a story when I couldn’t care about the main characters. Having cheating and a love triangle involved didn’t really help either… But if you enjoy character driven and more romantic and family focused historical fiction stories, you will probably end up enjoying it better than I did.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #57 – Sadie & Spell Bound

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA books that sadly didn’t hit the mark for me… The first an unpopular opinion review on Sadie by Courtney Summers, the second being me suffering from a romance and love triangle allergy and those ruining the series for me: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins.


Title: Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 4th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: October 23rd 2018
Pages: 378

“People don’t change. They just get better at hiding who they really are.”


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WARNING: Unpopular opinion review ahead.

Oh yes, the unpopular opinion curse has struck again… Sadie has been all over the place for a while now. I decided to pick up my copy on a whim, and I was fully expecting to love it: this story gives off all the right vibes, and I still think that the story itself was fascinating. But somehow, I didn’t actually enjoy reading Sadie all that much. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I’ll try to explain anyway. First of all I have to say that the idea of the podcast is very cleverly done, mixing those chapters with Sadie’s POV. There were a lot of different minor characters and locations to keep track of though, which can be confusing… But overall I think the format was a success. The plot development, twists and level of suspense were quite well done as well. There is a lot of mystery around Sadie and her sister, and it’s interesting to slowly figure out more and more about the past. I wasn’t sure what to think of the ending though… I was left wanting for more. I also wasn’t able to connect properly to the characters, and I think that is part of the reason Sadie didn’t work for me in the end. The writing style didn’t click with me either (the same happened with All The Rage, so it might just be that her writing is not for me). Trigger warnings are in place for child abuse, addiction and violence. All in all sadly Sadie just didn’t do it for me, although I know I’m the exception and most people seem to love it. So definitely give it a chance if you haven’t read it yet!


Title: Spell Bound
(Hex Hall #3)
Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 13th 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: October 25th 2018
Pages: 337

“People are so rarely villains in their own minds.”


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I wasn’t so sure whether to read this one after my disaster experience with the sequel, but since I already had a copy and don’t like leaving series unfinished I decided to give it a go. Initially, Spell Bound went slightly better than the second book, and I started to enjoy the sarcastic kind of humor and writing style in general again. Then… BOOM! The annoying romance and frustrating love triangle was back to ruin the day again, and things went downhill from there. I hate that the romance has ruined a potentially excellent trilogy for me, especially since I really enjoyed the first book and thought it had so much potential. Sadly, the main focus is on the romantic scenes, pushing everything else into the background and making other aspects of the story suffer from lack of development. Potential not exploited for me… Although I’m having a feeling romance fans will react differently to both sequels. Oh well, at least I now know for sure what my reaction was to Spell Bound, and I won’t be left wondering. I guess we can’t like them all, can we? And I guess I’m kind of at least part of the problem here.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #55 – Demonglass & Before Her Eyes

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a YA fantasy sequel that was an unpleasant surprise for me and a very satisfying psychological thriller by an author I always seem to enjoy.


Title: Demonglass
(Hex Hall #2)
Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: March 1st 2011
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: October 17th 2018
Pages: 365

“It sucks that we miss people like that. You think you’ve accepted that someone is out of your life, that you’ve grieved and it’s over, and then bam. One little thing, and you feel like you’ve lost that person all over again.”


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I really enjoyed the first book of the series, so when I was browsing proper Halloween themed books I thought about Demonglass almost immediately. I was fully expecting a repeat experience of Hex Hall, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards. While I had a blast reading the first book, sadly Demonglass suffers from the so-called ‘weak-sequel-syndrome’. Instead of being entertained, I found myself to be mostly frustrated and just wanting to get it over with, not caring about the outcome whatsoever. It’s not the writing, because I still liked it. It’s not the sarcasm, because that kind of humor almost always hits the mark for me. My main problem is with the tremendous overdose of romance and lack of a proper plot. Not only do we have to deal with a very very VERY annoying love triangle, but most of the time we have to suffer through Sophie pining over Archer and other romance-related nonsense. Most of the plot seems to be build around Sophie and her pining… That and love triangle related cringeworthiness. Basically, she’s mostly hiding out in the countryside and nothing much is happening until the end; the plot felt weak compared to the first book. Definitely not the reading experience I was hoping for, and I’m not sure if I want to read the final book after this (although I probably will just so I can cross off another series on my list).


Title: Before Her Eyes
Author: Jack Jordan

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 16th 2018
Publisher: Corvus
Finished reading: October 18th 2018
Pages: 448

“She often thought how much better off society would be if everyone were blind and incapable of making judgements on a person’s appearance.”


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Jack Jordan has done it again! Before Her Eyes is without doubt yet another powerful and dark story. Although not my favorite, the change to a detective thriller was a nice surprise and the writing was just as strong as I’ve become used to. If you are looking for something dark and twisty enough you will get all tangled up in the plot, Before Her Eyes is definitely an excellent choice. I liked how one of the main characters is blind, adding a whole different dimension to the story as our main witness can hear and feel, but not actually see the killer. This kind of ‘twisted’ relationship between the two without doubt added an original touch to the story. Before Her Eyes treats difficult themes as racism, abuse, rape, suicide, animal cruelty and violence, so trigger warnings are in place if you can’t stomach those. Things can get dark and disturbing at points, so make sure to brace yourself for some graphic scenes! Nothing is as it seems and I like how the story was able to mislead me. I always love when that happens! The only reason I didn’t end up giving it the highest rating is because of some of the more prominent characters I just really couldn’t stand. This negative feeling did influence my reading experience slightly. But overall there is no doubt that Before Her Eyes is a disturbing, twisted and misleading detective thriller that I can recommend to anyone who loves reading darker thrillers.


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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YVO’S SHORTIES #44 – I Let You Go & Hex Hall

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books with a similar color combination in the cover, but two completely different genres. The first, I Let You Go, is one of those psychological thrillers I’ve been meaning to pick up for years, but only just did so. Hex Hall on the other hand is not my typical genre, but I ended up enjoying it way more than expected.


Title: I Let You Go
Author: Clare Mackintosh

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 6th 2014
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: August 30th 2018
Pages: 371

“I was stupid to think I could escape the past. However fast I run, however far: I will never outrun it.”


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The fact is that I have been meaning to read this psychological thriller for years, especially since I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. I’m not sure if it was the original hype around I Let You Go making me set my expectations too high or this being unpopular opinion time again, but sadly I didn’t end up having the reading experience I was expecting. Why? There is no doubt that this psychological thriller is well written and there are some clever twists included that will mislead you. That said, I did encounter a few problems along the way that made me enjoy the story less. The biggest obstacle was the fact that I guessed the big reveal really early on… It was just too easy to figure out the key information after the initial surprise was revealed, and this was quite a let down for me. I also had problems with the two leading detectives of the case; I couldn’t warm up to them and I always hate cheating main characters. The pace was quite slow in points as well, although it did pick up in the second half of I Let You Go. I did like the setting in Penfach and the beach atmosphere… And while at times disturbing to read, I appreciated I Let You Go shining a light on what domestic abuse can do to a person. But sadly overall I can’t say I was all that impressed by this story.


Title: Hex Hall
(Hex Hall #1)
Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: March 2nd 2010
Publisher: Hyperion
Finished reading: August 31st 2018
Pages: 323

“Humans are always going to be scared of us. They’re always going to be envious of our powers, and suspicious of our motives.”


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I have to admit I was a bit nervous to pick up Hex Hall, both because it’s not my typical genre and I was afraid there would be too much romance involved. Thankfully I had nothing to worry about, and this first book of a magical series was a pleasant surprise. I still can’t believe how much I enjoyed this story despite a love triangle and the presence of a vampire! There is just something about the writing style that draws you right in and makes you fly through the pages. I literally finished this story in one sitting. Highly entertaining, addictive and just enough magic and supernatural atmosphere to keep that delicate balance with the romance elements. I loved Jenna’s character and while Sophie does come over as a bit annoying at times and there were cliches involved, somehow it just didn’t matter to me. The mystery around the attacks, the magic, Hecate Hall itself, the different supernatural characters… It just all clicked in a way that turned Hex Hall into a very successful and very entertaining ride. I’m definitely looking forward to book two!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #12: The Rules Of Magic (ARC) & The Invisible Man

Another day, and another round of Yvo’s Shorties… Bringing more backlog reviews of books I read back in 2017. The first is an ARC I read ages ago, The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman. The second an classic I ended up enjoying way better than I thought I would: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.


Title: The Rules Of Magic
(Practical Magic #2)
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: October 12th 2017
Pages: 369

“Why is anything a secret? People want to protect themselves from the past. Not that it works.”

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


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I was actually invited to read this title last year and was drawn to both the cover and the blurb. It’s not my typical genre, but something about The Rules Of Magic spoke to me and I decided to give it a go. Sadly it didn’t work out as planned. It might have been due to the fact I haven’t read Practical Magic and wasn’t familiar with the main characters, it might have been because the story simply wasn’t for me, but I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. The pace is quite slow and it took me a lot longer than expected to read this story. I wasn’t able to connect to the characters and this lack of connection resulted in a further estrangement. It’s a shame, because The Rules Of Magic did show a lot of potential and I can see why the right person would really enjoy reading it. The writing is without doubt excellent and if you manage a connection to the characters you will love seeing them grow up and their different ways of accepting magic into their lives. Just don’t expect a lot of magical elements and witchcraft in this story, because you will be disappointed; The Rules Of Magic has more of a coming of age feel with a hint of magical realism.


Title: The Invisible Man
Author: H.G. Wells

Genre: Classics, Science Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1897
Publisher: Signet
Finished reading: October 23rd 2017 
Pages: 208

“Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have less effect upon men and women than smaller, more tangible considerations.”


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The Invisible Man is one of those classics that has been on my TBR for ages, always getting posponed to read other titles instead. But after a mention that this classic was actually quite entertaining, I decided to finally pick it up. And they were right, because I actually found myself having a lot of fun while reading The Invisible Man. Not only is the prose quite easy to read, but the plot itself is both intriguing and entertaining as things start escalating. The character development has been really well done and shows the effects being invisible can have on a man… If you are looking for an accessible and entertaining classic to read, The Invisible Man is the choice for you.


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