YVO’S SHORTIES #74 – Artemis & Beneath The Sugar Sky

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two anticipated releases, one that turned out to be a disappointment and one that turned out to be a success. Artemis by Andy Weir sadly didn’t live up to expectations at all (although I was warned), something I had hoped wouldn’t happen since The Martian is one of my all time favorites. Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire turned out to be a very strong third book and definitely just as good as the first one.


Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir

Genre: Science Fiction
First published: November 14th 2017
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: January 7th 2019 
Pages: 322

“It’s a simple idiot-proofing scheme that’s very effective. But no idiot-proofing can overcome a determined idiot.”


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Part of me already knew this was going to happen, because people did warn me about Artemis before I started reading it… But even lowering my expectations didn’t prevent me from feeling very much disappointed by Artemis, especially since The Martian has a special place on my list of all time favorites. I know it’s not right to compare the two books and I won’t be don’t that here actively, but let’s see if I can put together just exactly why this story didn’t work for me. The first mayor problem has a lot to do with the main character Jazz. Let’s just start with saying I had no clue the main character was actually female until she was referred to in that way. And that was one heck of an unpleasant surprise… Because while Mark Watney’s personality really worked for him in The Martian, having a very much similar attitude and personality implanted in an Islamic young woman REALLY gives off the wrong vibe. I don’t mind sassy, I don’t mind attitude, but what is with the constant sexism, adult jokes and sex references? And why do other treat her that way, talk to her in that way, and think that it’s okay to do so? Not only did it feel unnatural, but I also found it offensive. In short, both Jazz and the way others reacted to her really ruined the story for me. It seems that this personality that was once successful just doesn’t work for a different gender or a situation where a lot more characters are involved. The writing on its own isn’t bad and I do like part of the dry humor (when it’s not sexist); the worldbuilding is also quite interesting and I liked the idea behind the plot. This story could have worked really well, but sadly went in the wrong direction for me… As for the credibility: well, it IS a story set on the moon and sci-fi at that, but I couldn’t help start wondering about how Jazz and only a few others were supposed to do all that without getting killed in the process. Or blowing up the moon. This was only minor compared to my problems with Jazz and what she represented though, and I’m really sad to be feeling this way about what I had hoped would be a new favorite. Oh well, at least now I know for sure…


Title: Beneath The Sugar Sky
(Wayward Children #3)
Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: January 9th 2018
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: January 8th 2019
Pages: 157

“There is kindness in the world, if we know how to look for it. If we never start denying it the door.”


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I fell in love with the worldbuilding and writing in Every Heart A Doorway last year, and have been looking forward to read more about the different worlds and doors ever since. Don’t let the shortness of these little gems fool you, because there is a lot to love in each story and the only downside is that it will leave you wanting for more. Beneath The Sugar Sky is already book number three and bumped straight to the top of this series favorites along with the first book. I think part of this has to do with the fact that we go back to the ‘real’ world temporarily and meet a lot of the characters mentioned in the first book again. This mixture of reality and a healthy dose of a glimpse of not one but multiple magical worlds made the story really stand out for me. Old and new characters are mixed naturally and I love just how diverse Seanan McGuire is able to make her characters without them becoming a cliche. I could really appreciate the focus on the whole body image issue through the eyes of Cora… There is so much truth in her experience and it’s sad the real world has to be this way. That said, I loved the whimsical, nonsense and basically impossible quest the main characters find themselves on in Beneath The Sugar Sky and I’m already curious about what the next story will bring us.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #72 – A Spark Of Light & Doll Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around the final two books I managed to read in 2018. A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult turned out to be a powerful and thought provoking read that will stay with me for a long time… While Doll Bones by Holly Black mostly only managed to disappoint me.


Title: A Spark Of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: December 30th 2018
Pages: 352

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”


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After my experiences with Jodi Picoult‘s recent novels, I couldn’t wait to read A Spark Of Light. There has been a lot of hype around this title, and I can understand why now. Abortion is actually quite a controversial and ‘hot’ topic right now in Argentina, so it definitely came at an interesting time for me… Disclaimer: I won’t be discussing pro-life or pro-choice politics here, just the story itself. I’ll start off with saying that abortion is a very tricky topic to write about, and I think Jodi Picoult did it splendidly. Her writing style is just as strong as ever and I also loved the reversed time chapter technique she used. I admit I was confused at first because I didn’t realize that straight away, but I think it adds a little something extra to the story. Why? It’s simply very intriguing to meet the characters at such a critical point in their lives and then slowly find out how they got there… I did see part of the final plot twist bombs coming, although not all. The ending was a bit abrupt for me, and I personally would have liked to see the main characters being followed up for a while longer. Still, I also understand why she decided to end it in that way, as the main event was over by then. A Spark Of Light brings a very controversial but important topic to light and while especially pro-life supporters might be offended by the story, I would still recommend reading it as it does show both sides (although not equally, which is a hard balance to obtain in the first place). For me it was one of the stronger books I read during 2018 and without doubt one that provoked strong emotions as well. A good way to finish the reading year!


Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black

Genre: MG, Fantasy, Horror
First published: May 7th 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderrly Books
Finished reading: December 31st 2018
Pages: 256

“He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.”


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I was looking for a little something different to read as my last read of 2018 and when I came across this title on my kindle I decided to pick it up on a whim. Sadly, I can’t say I actually enjoyed reading Doll Bones. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of it had to do that I didn’t like the characters and I had a hard time connecting to the story. The story wasn’t exactly credible and not as scary as I would have thought either. This is more a coming of age story with Zach in the spotlight as he struggles with the consequences of growing up… And then we have Poppy who is the person behind the quest and most of the action even though she is not the main character, which throws off the balance of the story considerably. I felt Doll Bones lacked cohesion and a proper plot, although I did like the idea behind the three creating their own magical world where their toys go on adventures. The paranormal aspect of the story could have been interesting, but it just didn’t manage to convince me… And I had a lot of doubts about the credibility of it all. All in all not the experience I was expecting, but twelve-year-olds might enjoy the story better.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #71 – Big Little Lies & Outlander

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books I have been meaning to read for a long time and finally decided to read in 2018. Both turned out to be more than pleasant surprises! Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.


Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: July 29th 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: December 23rd 2018
Pages: 460

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”


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I’ve been meaning to read another Liane Moriarty book for a long time, and I’m probably the last person on earth to finally pick up Big Little Lies. I kind of picked it up on a whim while browsing my kindle, and I definitely not regret making that decision. There is no doubt that Liane Moriarty knows how to write an intriguing mystery that goes out with a huge bang. I liked how she kept what happened that fatal night a secret in such a way that you don’t have a clue about the who or why until the final bombshell is dropped. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming! The plot is both intricate and well constructed and part of the reason this story is such a success. I liked the idea of following the three main characters is the weeks before the incident, especially since they are mixed with those police interview bits to keep you intrigued and curious about what happened. You will be on the edge of your seat until you find out all the details! I wasn’t sure about every character, but their development is without doubt very well done. Each character has its own background and problems, and while there were a few cliches involved, I could really appreciate the abuse angle and the necessary attention it brings to the fact it ‘can happen to anyone’. There is a lot of drama and some of it was a bit farfetched, but the ending definitely makes up for it. All in all Big Little Lies was a success for me and I’ll be looking forward to watching the TV adaptation.


Title: Outlander
(Outlander #1)
Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
First published: June 1st 1991
Publisher: Dell
Finished reading: December 28th 2018
Pages: 866

“Sometimes our best actions result in things that are most regrettable. And yet you could not have acted otherwise.”


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I have been meaning to read Outlander for years now, but both the sheer size of the books and the fact that I wasn’t sure the story would be for me made me hesitate for a long time. I don’t mind big books if they are good, but I feared there would be way too much romance involved for me to tolerate… But Outlander turned out to be the exception to that rule. Once I finally started reading and finished the first few chapters, I knew Outlander and me were going to get along just fine. All in all it took me about a week to finish it, which is not bad at all for such a beast of a book… And I had a surprisingly good time with it as well. Why surprisingly, would you say? Well, there are a lot of sexy scenes involved in Outlander, something that normally makes me drop a book like hot coals and discard it right away. They still made me cringe at points (adult content just isn’t for me ladies!), but the rest of the story was intriguing enough for me to tolerate them. The writing is excellent and the worldbuilding is sublime. I really felt like I were in Scotland myself along with the main characters; the descriptions of both the time period and surroundings extremely well done. The time travel aspect is also very interesting, especially since it comes back repeatedly in for example Claire’s profession as a nurse in the 20th century. I really liked Jamie as a character and while Claire can be exasperating at points, she does make for a good story. The story flowed well and managed to keep my attention all the way to the end. I’m definitely glad I finally give in and read Outlander, and I will be looking forward to read the sequel this year.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #70 – The Deal Of A Lifetime & Down Among The Sticks And Bones

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a Christmas themed novella by one of my favorite authors and a sequel I have been meaning to read for a while. The first, The Deal Of A Lifetime, surprisingly turned out to be kind of a disappointment, while the second, Down Among The Sticks And Bones, definitely did deliver.


Title: The Deal Of A Lifetime
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Novella, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 31st 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: December 17th 2018
Pages: 96

“A second is always a second; that’s the one definitive value we have on earth.”


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I’m a big fan of Fredrik Backman’s books and I really needed to start reading more Christmas themed stories, so I thought this would be a perfect fit… But I guess it just wasn’t ment to be. Why? I have to say I was very surprised to have a less than positive reaction to the novella, especially since I seem to love his stories in general. I admit the story is clever in a way, but somehow I wasn’t able to connect to the characters or writing and the plot was all over the place. The Deal Of A Lifetime has an interesting premise, but this time around the author failed to hit the mark for me. Such a shame, because I really thought I would be adding another favorite!


Title: Down Among The Sticks And Bones
(Wayward Children #2)
Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: December 21st 2018
Pages: 190

“Children have preferences. The danger comes when they, as with any human, are denied those preferences for too long.”


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I fell in love with Every Heart A Doorway earlier this year and I have been meaning to read the sequels ever since. I have been looking forward to learn more about the background of some of the characters, and Jack and Jill were definitely among those I was most curious about. And there is no doubt that Down Among The Sticks And Bones without doubt delivers that. I gives you both their background story and a very detailed description of both their world and what happened during their stay. The whole idea of them being twins and roles being forced on them is disturbing, but fascinating. And it’s probably one of the few times vampires are involved in a story and I don’t really mind. This is quite a dark read, fit with the image we received in the first book of the characters. I really enjoyed reading it, although I did prefer book number one… But that doesn’t take away I’m looking forward to continue the series soon.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #69 – A Boy Called Christmas & The Girl Who Saved Christmas

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And with Christmas Eve being tonight, what better stories to review than not one, but TWO Christmas themed stories! The first two books of the Christmas MG series by Matt Haig… Both absolutely adorable books that will get you in the right mood in record time.


Title: A Boy Called Christmas
(Christmas #1)
Author: Matt Haig

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: September 12th 2015
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: December 20th 2018
Pages: 272

“An impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand yet.”


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I have been wanting to read the first Christmas book ever since I received and read the third book as an ARC a while back, and I thought December would be the perfect month to do so. And it turned out to be another magical experience. A Boy Called Christmas is the perfect Holiday season read for children and adults alike, and also perfect for reading out loud to the younger ones. Matt Haig’s writing style is spot on. Funny, entertaining, engaging and easy to read; you will find yourself turning pages admiring both the story the author has been able to create and looking at those adorable illustrations which connect really well with the plot. There is sadness, there is even some violence, but overall it is mostly a happy story full of joy and goodwill… And a healthy dose of humor as well. Perfect for the season as well as a perfect gift!


Title: The Girl Who Saved Christmas
(Christmas #2)
Author: Matt Haig

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: November 3rd 2016
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: December 22nd 2018
Pages: 337

“Life is like a chimney – you sometimes have to get through the dark before you see the light.”


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I couldn’t NOT read the second book after finishing the first, especially since it’s exactly that time of the year when these little stories are to be appreciated most. The Girl Who Saved Christmas is without doubt a worthy sequel. I admit it took me a little while to get into the story, but that was probably mostly me and not the book itself. The writing is just as spot on as in the first and third book, and I’m adding Matt Haig to my list of authors I need to read more of ASAP. His middle grade writing is absolutely adorable with just the right amount of humor and spark to give it that special feel. This story is another one that is perfect to read out loud to children; I’m positive it will be a big hit with all those funny moments and characters to follow! The illustrations fit the story perfectly, and add a nice little touch to what is already a wonderful story. I can completely recommend all three books of the series both as a Holiday read and the perfect gift for young and old!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #68 – The Couple Next Door & Vengeful

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two titles I ended up really enjoying. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and Vengeful by V.E. Schwab


Title: The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 14th 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 11th 2018
Pages: 352

“Everyone is faking it, all of them pretending to be something they’re not. The whole world is built on lies and deceit.”


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I have been meaning to read this domestic thriller debut for quite some time now. I know there have been a lot of mixed reviews about this one, and I definitely think I have benefitted from waiting until the hype died down. I ended up enjoying The Couple Next Door way better than I thought I would. There are some things to be said about the writing style, which I wasn’t always are sure about, but overall I managed to keep turning those pages fast enough. This has a lot to do with the pace and both the mystery around Anne’s past and other secrets in play… I do have to say that I’m not sure about the credibility of it all and some aspects and plot twists seemed a bit too absurd to be believable. But there is also no doubt that The Couple Next Door was still a very entertaining ride and I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. The ending was definitely unexpected! It kind of made me wish there were more pages to see how things would develop after that bombshell. I’ll be looking forward to read more of her work in the future…


Title: Vengeful
(Villains #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: Titan Books
Finished reading: December 14th 2018
Pages: 592

“Some people were matches, a bit of light and no heat. And some were furnaces, all heat but little light. And then, once in a blue moon, there was a bonfire, something so hot and bright you couldn’t stand too near without burning.”


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I enjoyed reading Vicious, so of course I was excited about Vengeful ever since I first found out there was going to be a sequel. I was going to do a reread of the first book first, but with so many other titles pending I decided to dive straight in and see if I could pick up the thread. And as soon as I started, I just couldn’t make myself stop… V.E. Schwab is one of my absolute favorite authors, and Vengeful is without doubt a brilliant sequel. It’s been too long to properly compare it with the first book, but what I do know is that I loved every single minute of my time with book two. While the plot is actually quite simple, it is both the writing style and character development that blow you away. There is a reason she is one of my favorite authors, because her writing is of such a high quality that you just cannot help but fall in love with it. The same goes for the characters… We have a lot of old favorites, and a few new introductions as well that will leave a very strong mark. Marcella and June, I’m looking at you! The whole superpower/villain angle works fascinatingly well and while maybe not that original, the incorporation of those elements is done in such a way that you will have no choice but enjoy the ride. Vengeful will take a well-deserved place on my shelf of favorites, and I will already be looking forward to reread both Villains books together in the future.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #67 – Blue Blood & Girl With A Pearl Earring

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two older releases and two completely different genres. The first a detective thriller sequel of a Danish author: Blue Blood by Sara Blaedel. The second a historical fiction modern classic set in 1660s Delft: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Both were solid reads though.


Title: Blue Blood
(Louise Rick #2)
Author: Sara Blaedel

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2005
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: November 29th 2018
Pages: 448
(Originally written in Danish: ‘Kald Mig Prinsesse’)


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I always have a weak spot for detective thrillers, and I just couldn’t resist buying a copy of Blue Blood when I first saw it. I didn’t realize it was actually the second book of a series at the time, but thankfully the story can be read as a stand-alone as well. This translation from a Danish crime writer (also called Call Me Princess in some translations) was without doubt an entertaining ride. The writing style was easy to like, and I just loved the setting in Denmark. I was drawn to the story and plot straight away, and found myself literally flying through the pages… Trigger warnings are in place for rape and violence, but the subject is really well handled and reading more about the dangers of online dating is definitely intriguing. The main characters Louise Rick was quite easy to connect to, and I didn’t feel I was missing too much background information by not reading the first book (I’m not saying I don’t want to now though). I could have done without the cheating/romance subplot, but thankfully the main focus was on the case itself. I liked how things developed and even though I had some ideas about how things would end, Blue Blood also had some surprises in store. Fast, entertaining and just the right amount of suspense… I will definitely be reading more of Sara Blaedel‘s books.


Title: Girl With A Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2000
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2018
Pages: 233

“He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face.”


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I’ve been meaning to read this modern classic for ages, and the When Are You Reading? challenge turned out to be a perfect excuse to do so. I’ve seen the painting of the story with my own eyes quite some years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to read about the story behind it. Girl With A Pearl Earring turned out to be a very interesting story set in the 1660s in a Dutch city called Delft. The description of both the setting and era is very well done, and I like how the author stayed true to the Dutch names. The writing was solid and made it easy to follow Griet’s story as things develop. The fact that Griet’s father is a tile painter is interesting, as Delft is famous for its blue and white decorations… And Vermeer is a very famous painter of course as well. I liked reading about her experience as a maid in the house of a famous author. The dynamics of a girl without experience being thrown into a new job and a family not sure how to react to Griet were interesting. There were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way though. The first is the love triangle, which partly ruined the story for me. Is this seriously necessary?! I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more without the appearance of that trope. I also wasn’t sure about the interactions between Griet and some of the Vermeer family members… I still think it was a solid read and I enjoyed reading it for the most part though.


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