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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ARC REVIEW: The Living – by Isaac Marion

Title: The Living
(Warm Bodies #3)
Author: Isaac Marion
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: November 13th 2018
Publisher: Zola Books
Finished reading: November 13th 2018
Pages: 384

“It’s easier to fall than to climb, and yet against all logic, life keeps rising.”

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

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Before I start I have to make a confession and say that I probably would never have decided to read The Living if I would have read The Burning World before requesting a copy of this final book. Why? I was considerably underwhelmed by the sequel, and I had serious problems with the writing style. Still, part of me hoped that this final book of the Warm Bodies series would be an improvement and a satisfying conclusion to R and Julie’s story. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. The Living follows the same structure as the sequel and even intensifies the confusing writing style and structure as the end is coming near. Once again, I felt that the story in general lacks a proper plot and that both plot and characters were mostly all over the place and running into random trouble instead of following a coherent line. As for the writing style: especially the WE chapters were frustratingly confusing and there were too many jumps and switches between past, present and the different characters to make for a coherent story. I can forgive a zombie story not being scary and the humans being the bad guys for once. This is actually quite a refreshing angle. I can forgive the romance, especially since we are spared a love triangle. But between the writing, lack of proper plot and general feeling of confusement I can’t say I had a great time reading The Living, and to be honest I was relieved when I finally reached the final page. I didn’t find the ending particularly satisfying either… All in all not exactly a positive experience unfortunately.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

R used to be a flesh-eating zombie, but now he is breathing again. But what if he was something worse before he turned that first time? He finally remembers his former life, and what he has learned terrifies him. Especially if he things how it will change how Julie sees him… R feels the only way to redemption is to destroy what he once helped create, but how to start such an impossible task? And who will help him achieve that goal?

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I was really hoping The Living would be a more positive reading experience for me, but sadly it was a repeat experience of The Burning World. The whole different stages of zombies and returning to life angle is without doubt refreshing, and the story has some interesting aspects. But between the writing style, lack of plot, confusing POV switches and WE chapters I just couldn’t enjoy this final installment. I was in fact relieved it was finally over, and that is never a good sign. If you are able to connect to the writing style though, you will probably have a significantly better experience.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #62 – The Burning World & Elevation

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories that ended up disappointing me unfortunately. The Warm Bodies sequel The Burning World by Isaac Marion and the ‘impossible to understand why this is horror’ Elevation by Stephen King.


Title: The Burning World
(Warm Bodies #2)
Author: Isaac Marion

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: February 2nd 2017
Publisher: Atria
Finished reading: November 6th 2018 
Pages: 512

“There’s no bigger threat to the world than people who think they can improve it. “


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I confess I actually read the first book so long ago (three years) that I confused my feelings for the first book with another zombie read. Oops? It turns out I wasn’t convinced by the first book Warm Bodies, and sadly this sequel didn’t wow me either. The first thing you have to know before you start the series is that the zombies are not actually scary and they are in fact not the real enemy. That on its own isn’t a real problem, as the idea of having different kind of zombie states is actually quite interesting and original. What I didn’t expect is just how NOT scary either book is. And of course, the romance plays a big role in the story. While I appreciate the idea of a zombie and human being together and all (you can’t deny it’s a slightly disturbing but original idea), it doesn’t lend itself for the most exciting plot. And talking about plots, I found that The Burning World in general lacks a proper plot and that both plot and characters were mostly all over the place and running into random trouble instead of following a coherent line (although things might become clearer in the final book I guess). This wasn’t the only thing I struggled with though, as more importantly I wasn’t a fan of the writing style itself. Especially the WE chapters were frustratingly confusing and there were too many jumps and switches to make for a coherent story. The story was overlong for me with its 500+ pages and I sincerely hope my experience with the final book will be better.


Title: Elevation
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Science Fiction
First published: October 30th 2018
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: November 8th 2018
Pages: 160

“This was the same. Not a wind, not even a high, exactly, but an elevation. A sense that you had gone beyond yourself and could go farther still.”


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I was curious when I saw a new Stephen King was coming out, and I’m sure we can all admit that cover is gorgeous. Even though Elevation is a novella and I don’t read a lot of those, I was really looking forward to reading it. The first thing that stands out for me is that I have no clue whatsoever why this novella is marked as ‘horror’. Contemporary romance with a hint of sci-fi and even a far-fetched urban fantasy… Maybe. But horror? I don’t think anyone would find Elevation scary unless you are afraid of hights or stepping on the scale. That was the first thing that went wrong for me. The second thing had to do with the characters. I know it’s only a novella, but the characters just felt like one big cliche for me and didn’t add anything interesting to the story for me. A big problem, as the story is mostly focused on them. I did like the huge focus on the running, but overall there wasn’t really that much of a plot to talk about. Just a guy losing his pounds until he is closer and closer to zero… Not horror, not thrilling at all, and mostly a cliche contemporary story on how one person’s doom can bring other people together. And mostly just a meh story for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #14: Hide And Seek (ARC) & The New Hunger


Oh yes, it’s time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And I’m happy to say that with today’s edition I will be finishing my last pending 2017 review; Hide And Seek by M.J. Arlidge is the (un)lucky book to win that title. No more backlog, woohoo!! It was an interesting enough thriller that can be read as a stand-alone as well. The New Hunger by Isaac Marion I finished earlier this month, a zombie novella that will hopefully make me get a copy of book number two some time this year (although I saw there is going to be a third book, so I might wait until there is more news about that one).


Title: Hide And Seek
(Helen Grace #6)
Author: M.J. Arlidge

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 8th 2016
Publisher: Berkley Books
Finished reading: October 14th 2017
Pages: 416

“In prison it is the hope that kills you, not despair.”

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


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I kind of messed up when I requested a copy of this one, because I totally didn’t realise Hide And Seek was actually book number six of a series. Oops? Thankfully (at least for me), Hide And Seek can also be read as a stand-alone without missing too much of the background information. What I liked in this thriller is the fact that the main character is actually a cop trapped inside a prison… Call that original! Helen Grace is framed for a murder she didn’t commit and now has to survive in a prison full of enemies; more than one inside thanks to her and they are not happy. This setting and plot makes for some very interesting reading and the writing only makes it easier to emerge yourself fully in the problems Helen Grace has to face while trying to survive. And it’s not just the daily life that is challenging, because on top of that there is a killer on the loose on the inside. Hide And Seek definitely ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to a thrilling read.


Title: The New Hunger
(Warm Bodies #1.5)
Author: Isaac Marion

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Horror
First published: January 28th 2013
Publisher: Atria
Finished reading: January 17th 2018 
Pages: 170

“Nothing is permanent. Not even the end of the world.”


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I read the first book Warm Bodies ages ago (read: 2015) and wasn’t aware a sequel came out last year until recently… So I thought it was about time I picked up the novella while I wait until there is more news on book three so I can read both sequels together. The New Hunger is a prequel novella and I think I actually enjoyed it better than the first book. It might have been because of the lack of romance in this one, but The New Hunger turned out to be quite an interesting read despite the fact I’m not really into zombie stories. The writing and pace make it into a superfast read and I enjoyed reading about the background of the Warm Bodies characters and how it is to survive in this dystopian world in the first place. Get ready for a bunch of zombie attacks, dystopian scenes and characters in survival-mode when you pick up this one! Short, but sweet with a healthy dose of fresh brains.


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BOOK REVIEW: Rot & Ruin – by Jonathan Maberry

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Title: Rot & Ruin
(Rot & Ruin #1)
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Genre: YA, Horror, Dystopia
First published: September 14th 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: July 25th 2016
Pages: 468
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“Often it was the most unlikely people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.”

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Zombie stories are normally not really for me, but I’ve become less prejudiced after I finished and loved The Girl With All The Gifts earlier this month. So when I was browsing Riveted and saw I could read Rot & Ruin for free (until August 1st), I decided to jump right in. Especially since I have had this series by Jonathan Maberry on my wishlist for a long time in the first place. I’m glad I decided to give Rot & Ruin a go, because I ended up really enjoying this story despite my reservations for zombie stories. The dystopian worldbuilding is interesting and I liked the idea of the separation between the relatively safe town and the ‘wild’. The descriptions of both the zombies and the world itself are well done; the zombies are slightly humanised (especially by the older brother Tom) and that was certainly refreshing. There is a lot of action (and shouting!) involved in the story, making it into a fast-paced read and without doubt entertaining. Another bonus: there is almost no romance in Rot & Ruin, which is rare in a YA fantasy/dystopian series. Although I’m having the suspicion there might be more in the sequel… Because there sure were some pretty obvious hints at possible romantic developments and even a love triangle. I’m glad there wasn’t any in the first book though and the ending was quite satisfying (even though the final fighting scenes were not that credible). All in all Rot & Ruin is an interesting, entertaining and fast-paced zombie read that will appeal to fans of the genre.

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Benny Imura grew up in this zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America and doesn’t know any better; his biggest worry being his need to find a job before his time is up and his rations are cut in half. His older brother and zombie hunter Tom does remember the time before the First Night though… As he saw their father turn into a zombie in front of them and had to run with little Benny. Benny still feels Tom is a coward and when Tom offers him to be his apprentice, Benny refuses. But he cannot seem to get another job that interests him, so it seems like he will have no choice but to accept his boring brother’s offer. But when he goes outside for the first time to see how his brother does his job, he encounters a whole different reality. Benny realizes he has been wrong about a whole lot of things in life, including his brother…

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It kind of came as a surprise, but Rot & Ruin turned out to be another exception to the rule and I really enjoyed this zombie and action-packed story. It’s well written and the worldbuilding is interesting, and I liked the fact that the zombies are slightly humanised and the bounty hunters are the actual bad guys. The fact that there is almost no romance involved is a huge bonus as well… At one point I thought this was going to be a repeat experience of The 5th Wave (cheesy romance scenes ruining an excellent story), but I guess I was wrong. If you enjoy reading the genre, I can definitely recommend Rot & Ruin! The sequel is already on my wishlist.

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl With All The Gifts – by M.R. Carey

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Title: The Girl With All The Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Genre: Horror, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: January 14th 2014
Publisher: Orbit
Finished reading: July 15th 2016
Pages: 460
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“It’s not just Pandora who had that inescapable flaw. It seems like everyone has been built in a way that sometimes makes them do wrong and stupid things.”

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I know, I know… I should have known. This book has been recommended to me too many times to count and it’s been on my wishlist for a long time, but I was a bit wary since I’m normally not into stories with zombies. Now I’ve finally read The Girl With All The Gifts, I kind of want to kick myself for waiting this long, because I absolutely loved it! This book written M.R. Carey has shown me I can actually love a zombie story and I love his version of the ‘hungries’ and the special ‘children’. The story is well written and fast-paced, and I loved the many detailed descriptions of the dystopian world the characters have to survive in. Speaking of the characters: I LOVE Melanie! She is such a well developed and intriguing character and she is without doubt one of the reasons this story simply worked. Then again, the character development of all important characters is really well done. The plot was interesting and I personally liked how M.R. Carey decided to end the story. I would love to read a sequel though! So many possibilities… This book is highly recommended and worth the try even if you normally don’t like zombie stories. Trust me, you might be surprised by how much you will enjoy it anyway!

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Melanie is a highly intelligent girl and without doubt very special; there is nothing ordinary about herself or her daily routine. Melanie lives in her cell and waits every morning to be collected for class. Two people then strap her into a wheelchair while Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her the whole time. Why exactly this is necessary Melanie doesn’t know, but most people seem to be wary of her and her classmates. She loves school though, and learning about the world outside. Her favorite teacher would be Miss Justineau, and the days she is in class are Melanie’s favorites. Though whenever Melanie talks about her dreams and future, Justineau becomes sad… Because unlike Melanie, her teacher knows what the world really looks like.

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I’m so glad I finally decided to read The Girl With All The Gifts, because it’s without doubt an excellent read. The plot and plot twists are really interesting and I liked how the story ended. The detailed descriptions and character development made it really easy to enjoy reading this book and Melanie is without doubt one of my new favorite characters. The Girl With All The Gifts is a horror story and it has zombies, but that is not all that there is to it. I can’t go into details because that might spoil the story, but I can say that I would definitely recommend this book!

BOOK REVIEW: Warm Bodies – by Isaac Marion

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Title: Warm Bodies
(Warm Bodies #1)
Author: Isaac Marion
Genre: YA, Horror, Romance
First published: October 28th 2010
Finished reading: May 9th 2015
Pages: 239
Rating 3

“My friend “M” says the irony of being a zombie is that everything is funny, but you can’t smile, because your lips have rotted off.”

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I’m normally not really into stories zombies mostly because the way authors describe them doesn’t feel ‘real’. It made me a bit hesitant to pick up Warm Bodies, but I decided to read it anyway since it was recommended to me and I needed a horror read for one of my reading challenges. I like the fact that Isaac Marion uses different kind of zombies in his story, where the ‘bonies’ are different from the ‘fresh’ zombies. Still, the story in general had too much romance and too little action in it for my taste. At some points I felt I was actually reading a cheesy romance novel where the potential boyfriend just happened to be a flesh eating zombie… And that was exactly what I didn’t expect OR want to read. I was in the mood for a horror read, but I guess Warm Bodies turned out to be more like a YA romance read with a touch of dystopia… Those who enjoy the romance genre and don’t like scary books will probably love this one, but I found myself a bit disappointed.

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R is a zombie, but he doesn’t feel like the other zombies at their airport community. Sure, he attacks humans and loves eating their brains, but he craves for something more… He is not like the mindless Dead and even though he can’t remember his past, he has dreams about the future. When he attacks a bunch of kids in the city and eats one of the teenage boy’s brains, R sees all his memories. R doesn’t know why, but he decides to rescue the boy’s girlfriend Julie and take her back to the airport. R wants to protect Julie, and soon an awkward friendship is starting to develop between the zombie and the human girl. R is starting to change under her influence, but can this zombie infection really be reversed? And what do the other Dead think about having an easy snack just outside their reach?

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I really wanted Warm Bodies to be a proper horror read, but it turned out to be nowhere close to scary. I guess that and the many romance scenes are the main reasons I was disappointed by this read. Sure, the characters are interesting and R is indeed a very special zombie. Sure, the prose is easy to read and overall it’s a quick read. But it just wasn’t what I was expecting and it could have done with more action. Still, if you like romantic dystopian novels, you will most likely enjoy reading Warm Bodies.