YVO’S SHORTIES #101 – The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall & Trouble Makes A Comeback

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition with a TBR jar pick and a title I picked up for a challenge. Both had some positive and negative elements, although I did enjoy Katie Alender’The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall better than Stephanie Tromly‘s sequel Trouble Makes A Comeback.


Title: The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Point
Finished reading: May 13th 2019 
Pages: 329

“Of all the things I would have guessed about being dead, I definitely didn’t expect that it would sometimes feel exactly like high school.”


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I’ve enjoyed Katie Alender‘s books in the past so I was excited when my TBR jar thought it was time to pick up this title. I admit I was expecting something a little more creepy than what I ended up with. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t save it for the Halloween month now… It’s true that there are elements of suspense and there are some creepy moments and secrets hidden in Hysteria Hall, but overall I found the majority of them to be cliche. And this took away most of the scary factor… There are a lot of cliches involved in general, related to both ghosts, family drama and even a love triangle. Oh yes, even when the main character is dead we don’t escape the dreaded love triangle! This wasn’t even my main concern with Delia though. I didn’t find her strong enough as a main character to carry the story; for example Maria came over as a considerably more interesting character to follow. There was a lot of potential to make this story more disturbing; I think most will agree a haunted and abandoned asylum is the perfect eery setting for a horror story. But The Dead Girls Of Hysteria Hall took a different turn and instead mellowed things down considerably. On the other hand this was still quite a fun and fast read! Just don’t expect to be scared away, as for a haunted asylum story it’s surprisingly light on the horror.


Title: Trouble Makes A Comeback
(Trouble #2)
Author: Stephanie Tromly

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Finished reading: May 14th 2019
Pages: 304

“Forgetting about the bad times… that isn’t happiness. That’s amnesia.”


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I picked up this title mostly on a whim as I needed a change of genre and this title fits one of the prompts for the BTB Bingo challenge. It’s been a while since I read the first book, so I had totally forgotten about my issues with the first book… It turns out I ended up having the exact same issues with the sequel and I should I have checked my previous review better before deciding to read Trouble Makes A Comeback. I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. It’s true that the story reads superfast and there are entertaining parts. BUT. I had huge doubts about the credibility of it all and the fact that you are constantly reminded of THE love triangle is beyond annoying. In fact, it’s more than a triangle; a square maybe? Anyhow, this story is packed with high school and romance cliches and between those and the lack of credibility of the plot I had a lot of eyebrow raising going on. As for the characters… While I can appreciate a bit of dry humor, I felt like the characters (and the story for that matter) were trying too hard to be funny and it kind of had the opposite effect on me. Between the cliches around the different characters and the love triangle overshadowing any hope of an interesting and edgy plot, I don’t think me and this series are ment to be. Contemporary romance fans who like their stories with a hint of mystery will probably have a better time with Trouble Makes A Comeback though.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Bright Burning Stars blog tour! A huge thanks to Brittani Hilles for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this story that caught my attention right away and I have been excited to read it. And while it turned out to be not entirely my cup of tea, I’m having a feeling the right reader will fall in love with it. Please join me while I share my thoughts on Bright Burning Stars!

Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 21st 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: May 10th 2019
Pages: 304

“Marine, notre monde, this world of ours – the stage and studios and barres – is intense and lonely. There is no space for friendship, love, or even an old and perhaps sacred bond between twins. Nothing shadows the art of dance. It’s a union of body, mind, and music. Classical dance is known for being ruthless.”

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

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Like I said before, there was just something about the blurb of Bright Burning Stars that caught my attention right away and I have been excited to finally read it. It’s true that it turned out to be not entirely my cup of tea, but I do believe the right reader will enjoy this story immensely. Fans of more gritty and slow-paced YA contemporary romance will be in a treat with this ballet-inspired story mainly set within the Paris Opera Ballet School.

Why wasn’t Bright Burning Stars a good fit for me personally? It’s hard to put my finger exactly on the why, but I think part of the reason has to do with the sheer amount of cliche drama relating to both competition, jealousy, romance and friendship. All this drama made it hard for me to stay focused and I confess it took me longer than expected to actually reach the final page. On top of this we have what you can call multiple love triangles and more jealousy and drama resulting from that… And you all know by now how I feel about those pesky love triangles in the first place. I’m sure romance fans who don’t mind a cliche or two will react different to this part of the story though. Another thing I didn’t like was the fact how they skimmed over abortion and basically make it seem like you can just go to the pharmacy, get a little something as if you were buying a cure for a headache and solve your problems that way. I’m not going into the whole abortion discussion, but I do feel this gives the wrong message to teenagers about safe sex and having to face the consequences of your actions and mistakes. Trigger warnings are also in place for other sensitive themes including eating disorders, suicide and drugs. I understand the ballet world is brutal and unrealistic (and basically unhealthy) demands are made of the bodies of the dancers, and I do think this is well portrayed in Bright Burning Stars, but it can potentially trigger more sensitive readers so you’ve been warned.

The story is told with the help of a dual POV, where we get to know Marine and Kate and learn more about how the constant competition has changed their relationship and how their final year once again puts a lot of pressure on both their bodies and their minds. I’m not sure I actually liked them, especially since their is a lot of teenage drama, boy stuff and jealousy involved, but they do help address various issues related to the ballet world. Bright Burning Stars is mostly a character-driven story where we follow the development of Marine and Kate. The pace is considerably slow at times, but shouldn’t be problem for those who enjoy this kind of story. I did wonder about the use of random French words in the text, as they didn’t seem to add anything substantial to the story… And with a Paris setting aren’t they speaking French all the time anyway in the first place? Instead of the French words, I think I would have liked to see more dancing and more descriptions of Paris and the school. But that could have been just me. Overall this was still a solid read, and while not my cup of tea, I can see how others could fall in love with Bright Burning Stars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A.K. Small was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

SOCIAL LINKS

aksmallwords.com
Twitter: @aksmallwords 
Instagram: @aksmallwords 


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YVO’S SHORTIES #99 – Sweetheart & Alice In Zombieland

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres and two completely different reading experiences… While I loved my second meeting with Archie and Gretchen in Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain, I couldn’t say the same for Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter. That one is without doubt a series I won’t be continuing any time soon (more likely never).


Title: Sweetheart
(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)
Author: Chelsea Cain

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 1st 2008
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: May 2nd 2019
Pages: 328

“It broke his heart. Not because she was worried that he was in danger, but because she thought she had a chance of saving him.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first book yet. 

I can’t believe it took me three years and a TBR jar to finally continue this series. I remember loving the first book way back: the serial killler up close and personal, the broken characters, the suspense, the sheer twistedness of it all. This series is exactly my cup of tea, but somehow it got lost between the other books on my TBR mountain. I’m definitely going to remedy that though, because Sweetheart has definitely reconfirmed my love for this series. What a delightfully disturbing and twisted read! I always love it when we get to see a serial killer up close and Gretchen Lowell is without doubt one to reckon with. I advice reading this series in order, because you will be missing out on details behind Archie’s state of mind and his unique relationship with Gretchen otherwise… Personally, details came back soon after I started reading Sweetheart and I found myself forgetting about prior engagements, hiding in a corner and just turning those pages instead. Both Gretchen and Archie play a key role in this series and having both a detective and serial killer that present definitely takes Sweetheart to a different level. It was fascinating to see how past events have affected Archie up to a point even his family and friends don’t seem to recognize him… This story has twists, turns and a healthy dose of action and suspense as well as an insight in the psychological aspects. You’ll be having a hard time putting this one down before you find out what happens, and the cliffhanger will most definitely leave you wanting for more. Guess who isn’t going to wait that long this time around to pick up book number three?


Title: Alice In Zombieland
(White Rabbit Chronicles #1)
Author: Gena Showalter

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 25th 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Finished reading: May 5th 2019
Pages: 408

“Truly living required risk.”


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I admit I was a bit wary to pick up this title, but I decided to pick it up anyway since I already had a copy on my kindle and needed it for a prompt of the BTB Bingo challenge. Unlike what you might guess from the pun in Alice In Zombieland, this first book of a series actually has very little to do with the original story. Wait, this isn’t a retelling? Nope, I would never consider calling it that. Why? Well, apart from the main character being called Alice and a white rabbit cloud appearing repeatedly, there are no references to or similarities between the classic and this concoction. I was surprised and a little disappointed after such a clear reference to it with the title and cover art. Instead, we have a story about zombies where we encounter a different kind of unread this time around; they are basically spirits and a lot more difficult to fight than your regular brain eaters. This could have been a premise for a very bloody and disturbing read, but sadly the fighting scenes and horror have been taken over almost completely by an overdose of cheesy and sappy romance scenes, a very frustrating love triangle and a whole lot of high school drama. The romance alone was so unbelievably cringeworthy I almost stopped reading there and then… Especially since some of those scenes were definitely too steamy to be appropriate for YA. The love triangle itself is so cliche it could have been an example in a dictionary… And all the high school drama, catfights and popularity contests in general were another huge turn off. Like I said, the idea behind the zombies is interesting and I would have loved to learn more about them and have more background on the slayers. The fighting scenes were pretty dark and did get bloody and almost horror worthy, but it’s almost like those scenes were put in as an afterthought. Alice In Zombieland and me definitely didn’t get along and it will be no surprise I won’t be picking up the next book any time soon (more likely never). If you don’t mind a huge amount of cheesy romance, cliches and high school drama and on top of that don’t object to a few dark and disturbing zombie fighting scenes either, you might have a better time with this story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #98 – Fun Home & Five Feet Apart

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a graphic novel memoir and a YA contemporary romance read; one I almost wish I had DNFed and another I enjoyed despite a few issues. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott.


Title: Fun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel
First published: June 8th 2006
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 232

“It could be argued that death is inherently absurd, and that grinning is not necessarily an inappropriate response. I mean absurd in the sense of ridiculous, unreasonable. One second a person is there, the next they’re not.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’m keeping these rambles short, because honestly I don’t feel I have a lot to say about this graphic novel. It’s true I wasn’t sure if Fun Home would be for me even before I started reading it, but I needed a graphic novel for my BTB Bingo challenge and my TBR choices were limited. I enjoy reading memoirs and the idea of reading a memoir in graphic novel form intrigued me. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the tone or writing style of the author. The many many references to classic literature for me were, instead of an unexpected bonus, rather a hint to feelings of self-importance and superiority. I wasn’t a fan of how the whole lgbt element was handled nor how characters were portrayed. I honestly wish I would have just taken the decision to DNF, because I had a really hard time reaching that final page. This definitely wasn’t a story for me, although I should note others have highly enjoyed it and it has a high overall rating on Goodreads, so it might have been just me. Still, the fact is I had a really hard time reaching that final page of Fun Home and I can’t say I had ‘fun’ while I was trying to get there. If you are looking for an original memoir, enjoy reading in graphic novel form and don’t mind classic literature references in abundance, you will probably be a better match for this story though.


Title: Five Feet Apart
Author: Rachael Lippincott

Genre: YA, Fiction, Romance
First published: November 20th 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster For Young Readers
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 288

“Everyone in this world is breathing borrowed air.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while… Especially since I’ve been hoping to watch the movie adaptation some time soon. The first thing that stood out for me was that this story has that The Fault In Our Stars and Everything, Everything vibe down to the terminal illness and cheesy romance. I’m still deciding whether that is a good or a bad thing, but there is one thing for sure: you will find yourself flying through this story. I literally finished it in less than a day, and a lot of this has to do with the writing style. I appreciated the focus and insight in CF and how the story shows the impact of this disease on someone’s life (once it is in an advanced stage). BUT. I’m not sure up to what point some aspects of the plot are exactly credible. I don’t want to end up including spoilers, but let’s just say part of it has to do with the unnecessary risk taking (something similar happened in Everything Everything). I don’t think it’s encourageable to have main characters who are that ill taking significant risks that basically endanger their lives. It gives a bad example and it is simply not credible. The same goes for the sudden change in attitude towards safety of Stella. The romance itself was cheesy, but somehow I found myself liking it anyway. Five Feet Apart is a story that will both make you smile and make your eyes water… Perfect if you enjoy the genre and don’t mind a considerable amount of cliches and some inconsistencies.


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ARC REVIEW: Romanov – by Nadine Brandes

Title: Romanov
Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: April 29th 2019
Pages: 352

“Something you should learn about us Romanovs is that we like to defy supposed tos.”

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


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I knew I had to read this book as soon as I first heard about it. A magical retelling of the story of Anastasia Romanov? How can I resist that?! I confess I had forgotten a lot of details around the Romanov family and their tragic ending… But that didn’t make me enjoy Romanov any less. This retelling mixes historical facts and magic in an expert way and gives us a whole new take on the events set in 1918 Russia. While Romanov can mostly be considered and in fact mainly reads like a historical fiction story, there are also magical elements incorporated that give the story a little something extra. I really liked the magic as described in Romanov and I almost wished we would have seen and learned more of it during the story. Instead, the main focus is on the Romanov family and what happens to them after Nastya’s father had to abdict and the whole family is exiled in Siberia. It’s a story of a family fighting to stay together while they try to hold on to a shred of dignity… The mayority of the story is focused on their time as prisoners in exile and not on the events after as I would have guessed. I enjoyed the writing style, although I do have to admit that the pace is considerably slow and this might be a turn off for those who don’t enjoy slower and more character driven historical fiction. Romanov focuses mostly on the characters and their development, and only gives you a healthy dose of action and magic more towards the ending. I personally didn’t really mind most of the time, although the middle part could get a tad too slow and tedious. The characters and magical take on this famous family mostly made up for it though, and I can definitely recommend it. Historical fiction fans: don’t be put off by the fantasy elements in this story, as it’s surprisingly light on the magic and focuses mainly on the historical elements.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #97 – Before She Knew Him & These Broken Stars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title; a winner and a story that wasn’t for me. I’ve been wanting to read more of Peter Swanson ever since I finished The Kind Worth Killing, and I’m glad I finally did. I absolutely loved Before She Knew Him! On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if These Broken Stars would be for me as I feared it would be too heavy on the romance, and I definitely should have listened to my instincts.


Title: Before She Knew Him
Author: Peter Swanson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: April 26th 2019
Pages: 320

“I’m on a small boat in the middle of a huge storm. I need to ride the waves and wait for it all to blow over.”


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I’ve been meaning to read more Peter Swanson ever since I read The Kind Worth Killing back in 2017. When I saw the @criminallygoodbookclub on Instagram had chosen his newest story Before She Knew Him as their April read, I knew I had to join them and finally follow up on my intentions. I’m glad I did, because the story definitely lived up to expectations… What a read! After a string of reads that failed to blow me away completely, I finally found myself fully absorbed in a story again and posponed all plans until I had reached the final page. Before She Knew Him is well written, suspenseful and has an enormous plot twist bomb towards the end that will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. With the help of different POVs we get an insight in the lives of Hen and her neighbor Matthew. Both are flawed and fascinating characters and the driving forces behind the story. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but between the mental health angle and the unsolved murders, you will have a lot of suspense and intrigue waiting for you. The fact that Hen knows things early on, but nobody believes her because of her past with mental health (bipolar) problems, is both a very interesting and almost hardbreaking situation as people tend to judge without getting the full picture first. Not every character is all that likeable, but they feel real and their flaws are what makes Before She Knew Him so fascinating. This story also packs a HUGE surprise you won’t see coming at all… And I love it when a story is able to mislead me so well I actually yelled ‘WHAT?!?!’ when I stumbled across the reveal. If you enjoy the genre, Before She Knew Him is definitely a story not to miss.


Title: These Broken Stars
(Starbound #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: December 10th 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: April 27th 2019
Pages: 384

“Funny how I was old enough by sixteen to drink, fight, and vote, but eve two years later, I’m too young to respect.”


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I’ve had this series on my TBR for a long time, never actually picking it up as I wasn’t sure the story would be for me. Let’s face it: the cover is a strong indicator that These Broken Stars would be very heavy on the romance… But after Across The Universe pleasantly surprised me earlier this month, I decided to risk it. Unfortunately, my instincts turned out to be right this time around. Because there is one thing that is certain, and that is that These Broken Stars is oozing with sappy romance scenes. What I hoped would be an interesting science fiction story set in space, soon turned into a survival story on a foreign planet after only a few chapters… The main characters more busy with ‘ignoring’ their feelings and the whole forbidden love vibe than actually exploring or having interesting things happening to them. The survival angle could have been interesting enough once you get over the fact you won’t be getting more space actions or a true explanation behind the crash, but to be honest I was rather bored instead most of the time. For such an interesting setting, nothing much was actually happening. The story instead focuses almost completely on Lilac and Tarver and their complicated relationship. The rich heiress and the poor soldier stranded on an unknown planet after a crash; a forbidden love bout to happen. Can it get any more cliche than that? The only reason I decided to stick it through until the end is that the writing itself is engaging and made it easier to keep turning those pages even though nothing interesting was happening most of the time. Overall These Broken Stars had some very interesting ideas and a promising setting, but sadly those elements weren’t developed or taken advantage of. Romance fans who enjoy a forbidden romance story with a space setting will probably appreciate this first book of the Starbound series a lot more though.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #95 – Across The Universe & The Wolf Border

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres… The first a YA scifi story that turned out to be a pleasant surprise and also surprisingly light on the romance: Across The Universe by Beth Revis. I can’t say I was a fan of The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall though.


Title: Across The Universe
(Across The Universe #1)
Author: Beth Revis

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: January 11th 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Finished reading: April 14th 2019
Pages: 399

“Everything is wrong here. Shattered. Broken. Like the light.”


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I’ve been wondering whether I should try this series for years, mostly because I was fearing a romance overdose and wasn’t sure if it would be for me. I’m glad I finally gave in and tried Across The Universe, because my instincts turned out to be wrong this time around. Despite the romantic cover, this first book of a YA science fiction series set in space is surprisingly light on the romance. There are hints of it now and then, but the main focus is the fact that the story is set on a space ship and the mysterious attacks that take place. And as you might guess, that is a huge bonus for me! The writing is engaging and this story is really easy to read. I liked the setting on the ship and how the story is able to show us the effect of having to live on a ship for generations has on its inhabitants. The story has a dual POV, where we alternated between Amy and Elder. Amy’s situation is without doubt interesting and is the driving force behind the plot. I wasn’t sure about the whole Elder/Eldest idea and I did guess some of the plot twists, but overall Across The Universe was a very entertaining story to read and I liked how a murder mystery was mixed in with the science fiction elements. I’m definitely curious to find out how this series will continue now.


Title: The Wolf Border
Author: Sarah Hall

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Finished reading: April 20th 2019
Pages: 435

“There seems no need for anything else now. There is no wound. The only wound is life, recklessly creating it, knowing that it will never be safe, it will never last; it will only ever be real.”


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I got a copy of The Wolf Border at a hostel book exchange during our Europe trip last year, intrigued by the cover and blurb and the promise of a story set in the wilderness. I’ve been looking forward to finally read it, and I thought the O.W.L.s Readathon was a great excuse to do so… I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had to this story though. Why? The fact is, The Wolf Border was very close to getting me in a slump, and not in a good way. I literally made every possible excuse to not pick up my copy and do something else instead, and it took me considerably longer to finally reach that last page. I even thought about just DNFing it multiple times… In short, I don’t think The Wolf Border and me were ment to be. The first thing that surprised (and disappointed me) was the fact that the wilderness and wolves don’t play as much of a significant role in the story as the blurb lets to believe, the plot instead mostly focusing on Rachel and her complicated life. This story is mainly something that can be classified as a family drama with an overdose of unnecessarily explicit adult scenes (another turn off for me), with the wolves playing a background role rather than being the main attraction. Sure, some things can be said about the comparison of animal instincts and behavior between human and animal. This can be considered an interesting aspect of this story; the underlying message that we are still basically animals in the end. BUT. It’s hard thinking about this comparison and its cleverness when you can’t stand the characters and don’t feel a connection to them at all… The same goes for the writing style. The sentences are halted and the prose doesn’t seem to flow at all; making it hard to stay invested and focus on the story. I know some have loved The Wolf Border and I’m glad, but I personally had a really hard time finishing it for various reasons. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’m hoping others will like its taste.


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