ARC REVIEW: Big Mushy Happy Lump – by Sarah Andersen

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Title: Big Mushy Happy Lump
(Sarah’s Scribles #2)
Author: Sarah Andersen

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor, Non Fiction
First published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 1st 2017
Pages: 128
Rating 4qqq

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

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I admit I don’t have a lot of experience reading graphic novels, but I fell in love with these illustrations as soon as I saw the cover. And what better way to start the year with a light read full of ‘down to earth’ and endearing illustrations and situations that are extremely easy to relate to? Big Mushy Happy Lump is actually the second comic by the author and is coming out on March 7th; the first, Adulthood Is A Myth, I will be looking forward to read soon. I had a lot of fun reading this graphic novel and it was really easy to connect to the illustrated personal essays of Sarah Andersen. I could see myself in so many of the real-life situations! I mean, I think any booklover can relate to the illustration below…

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The essays are not just about books though. They also talk about the author’s real-life experiences with for example anxiety, career and relationships. These little stories are both fun to read, orginal, easy to relate to and feel authentic; the illustrations a real treat. This bundle would make a perfect gift!

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This second bundle of Sarah’s Scribbles is full of both the most recent fan favorites and dozen’s of all-new comics. The illustrated personal essays are based on the author’s personal real-life experiences with topics as anxiety, career, relationship and other challenges adults have to face.

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I had a lot of fun reading Big Mushy Happy Lump. Not only are the illustrations easy on the eye, it is also really easy to relate to the highly personal little essays. The stories feel authentic and the humor used was right up my alley. I’ve seen the tone being compared to Furiously Happy, and I completely stand behind that comparison. If you are looking for an entertaining graphic novel that talks about real life, this one is an excellent choice!

BOOK REVIEW: A Man Called Ove – by Fredrik Backman

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Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Humor, Contemporary
First published: August 27th 2012
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: November 22nd 2016
Pages: 337
(Originally written in Swedish: “En man som heter Ove”)
Rating 5qqq

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”

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There has been a lot of hype around Fredrik Backman‘s work this year, and I thought it was about time to find out just exactly what everybody was raving about. And boy do I regret not having picked up my copy of A Man Called Ove earlier! This originally Swedish book was in one word BRILLIANT. I fell in love with both the prose and main character from the very first page and it’s been a while since a book has been able to make me laugh and cry at the same time. Ove has managed to win over my heart, grumpiness and all, and he is hands down one of my new favorite characters. He really reminded me of Carl, the grumpy old man from the movie Up! And Ove’s character is just as endearing in his own grumpy way. Apart from the prose itself and the fabulous character, Fredrik Backman is also able to combine heartbreaking and sensitive topics with a humor that is right up my alley. The humor might not be for everyone, but even so I would suggest trying A Man Called Ove if you haven’t already. It’s without doubt one of my favorite reads this year!

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Ove is a grumpy man who finds his solitary world turned upside down when a young family moves in next door. He is the kind of man with strict routines and a short fuse. People around him call him ‘the bitter neighbor from hell’, but is he really bitter just because he doesn’t seem friendly all the time? Behind his cranky exterior is a story and a sadness that will slowly be revealed as random things start happening when the family next door moves in.

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This is not the first time I have been blown away by a Swedish book, and A Man Called Ove has definitely been added to my list of all time favorites. I’m having a hard time writing a coherent review, but what I can say is that I strongly suggest reading this story. It’s just that good! I’m aware the humor I myself loved might be a turn off for some, but even so I would say it is worth the try. I will be looking forward to read his other books soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine – by Stephanie Tromly

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Title: Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine
(Trouble #1)
Author: Stephanie Tromly
Genre: YA, Mystery, Contemporary
First published: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Finished reading: September 21st 2016
Pages: 352
Rating 3qqq

“Preparing to survive a typical day of being Digby’s friend wasn’t that different from preparing to survive the apocalypse.”

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While I was browsing books, I remembered someone had recommended this title to me some time last year. I thought it sounded like a fun read, so I decided to give Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine a go. And now I’ve finished it, I’m not sure what to make of it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it, but there is no doubt that the whole plot and story just is a bit too absurd and over the top for me. I feel like this book is trying too hard… Either way the plot just isn’t credible and doesn’t make any sense. I’m also having mixed thoughts about the main characters and I’m not sure I actually like them… That said, somehow I still managed to enjoy reading the story. It might be the prose, it might be the fast pace, it might be the weirdness of it all, but Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine is without doubt entertaining. If you like unpredictable contemporaries with a dash of humor, this would be an excellent choice.

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After her parents get divorced, Zoe moves with her mother from Brooklyn to upstate New York. She is determined to get back to the city and transfer to the elite private school her father wants her to go to. But then she meets Philip Digby, and he is by no means an ordinary guy. Zoe soon finds herself in a series of both hilarious and dangerous situations just by being a friend of Digby’s. Digby wants to find the kidnapper of a local teenage girl, because the kidnapper might know something about the disappearance of his little sister eight years ago. But helping Digby comes at a cost, and Zoe will have to step out of her comfort zone if she wants to keep up.

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I thought I was going to enjoy Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine better than I actually did, but the plot just was a little too absurd to my taste. It felt almost like the story and their characters were trying too hard to be funny and original. That said, it’s still a superfast read and I actually ended up enjoying it despite the crazy ride. If you like weird books with a lot of unpredictable situations, this book is definitely for you.

ARC REVIEW: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn – by Dana Simpson

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Title: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe And Her Unicorn Adventure
(Heavenly Nostrils #4)
Author: Dana Simpson

Genre: Graphic Novel, Children, Humor
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Andrew McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: August 10th 2016
Pages: 184
Rating 4qqq

“”My dad speaks ‘nerd’.”

“It’s good to be bilingual.”

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

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I have been wanting to explore the graphic novel/comic genre for a while now, but with so many options out there it’s really hard to decide where to start. Netgalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing offered the great opportunity to try my hand at my very first graphic novel this year with Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe And Her Unicorn Adventure. I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the cover. It’s just so colorful, fun and I simple love the artwork! This graphic novel is perfect for young girls from the age of 8 to 12 years, both because of the graphics and the simple, but funny and relatable stories. Dana Simpson has found the perfect formula in the friendship between little Phoebe and her best friend Marigold the unicorn. The interaction between both characters is great even at those pages where there isn’t happening much plotwise, and I love that it shows young readers that it isn’t necessarily bad to be different. Razzle Dazzle Unicorn shows a range of typical childhood events like the holidays, school assignments, summer camp, frenemies and chores. Phoebe’s childhood is quite typical except for the fact that her best friend happens to be an extravagant unicorn and she frequently runs into other magical creatures. Contemporary with a dash of fantasy,  and so much fun to read! I can definitely recommend this graphic novel for younger (female) readers.

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Phoebe and her unicorn are back with more adventures and more sparkly than ever! In this fourth volume, Phoebe and Marigold talk about the holidays and NY resolutions, confront trouble at school, frenemies and messy rooms. Marigold also has a nasty case of ‘sparkle fever’, and they both go to music summer camp to meet up with Phoebe’s friend Sue and her friend Ringo the lake monster… And they are reminded that being weird is WAY more fun than being normal.

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I fell in love with this graphic novel as soon as I saw the cover art. The graphics in Razzle Dazzle Unicorn are just too cute, colorful and adorable in general! They will lure in even those children that might need a little push to start reading, and Phoebe and Marigold the unicorn will put them under their spell from the first page. The stories themselves are simple, but quite entertaining and funny. It will be easy for the younger readers to relate to Phoebe and it has an interesting underlying message that will encourage kids to use their imagination and not be afraid of being different. The glossary in the back and the final section are a nice touch as well!

BOOK REVIEW: Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All – by Jonas Jonasson

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Title: Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All
Author: Jonas Jonasson
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Contemporary
First published: September 16th 2015
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Finished reading: June 25th 2016
Pages: 400
(Originally written in Swedish: “Mördar-Anders och hans vänner (samt en och annan ovän)”)
Rating 1,5qqq

“If only children could be free of all that crap previous generations had gathered up for them, he said, perhaps it would bring some clarity to their lives.”

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I should have been warned sufficiently by the low Goodreads rating, but I thought this would be one of those unpopular opinion books. Why? Because unlike most book bloggers out there, I absolutely loved Jonas Jonasson‘s other novel The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared and I was hoping of having a similar experience with this new book. I guess I was wrong. While The Hundred-Year-Old Man was interesting, fast-paced and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All was simply painful to read. In fact, I have been considering a DNF at various points in the story and decided to skim-read the last part because I just couldn’t take it any longer. Such a shame, because I really wanted to enjoy this book! Why is Hitman Anders nothing like his other novel? First of all: the story simply isn’t funny. Instead of laughing out loud, my eyebrows worked overtime as I became more and more annoyed by the plot and characters. Or should I say: lack of plot and character development. Seriously, the plot just doesn’t make any sense and the religious elements really started to get on my nerves. I mean, a former hitman finding Jesus and wanting to start his own church?! Sorry, that just isn’t doing it for me. I felt no connection whatsoever for the characters and the only reason I was able to finish this book is because I skim-read the last 40% of the book. As you might have guessed, I wouldn’t recommend this book. Make sure to try his other book The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared though!

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Hitman Anders has been having a problem with drugs and alcohol most of his life, making him quite violent and earning him a few prison sentences. Now he is fresh out of prison yet again, he decides to stay away from the hard stuff so he won’t end up right back inside… And then he meets a receptionist at a 1-star hotel and a female Protestant vicar who happens to be an atheist. The three get together and put together a very unusual business plan that is supposed to make them all very rich. It seems to work for a while, until their most important asset of all of a sudden finds Jesus. With Anders no longer wanting to do his job and focussing his day on his new religion and drinking ‘the body of Jesus’, the receptionist and vicar will have to find a new way to get their money… And the new plan is even more ludicrous than the last one. Will they be able to succeed against all odds?

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I really wanted to enjoy Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All despite the negative feedback, but unfortunately I will have to agree with the mayority on this one. Unlike Jonas Jonasson‘s other novel, this one didn’t manage to impress me and I even thought about DNFing it at some points. Both the lack of character development, the uncredible/poor plot and the fact that this story isn’t funny at all unfortunately just made me feel really disappointed by this book in general.

BOOK REVIEW: Binge – by Tyler Oakley

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Title: Binge
Author: Tyler Oakley
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: October 20th 2015
Finished reading: May 18th 2016
Pages: 307
Rating 4qqq

“No person, no matter how important society deems their relationship to you, has the right to denounce you for who you are.”

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Is it weird that somehow I end up reading memoirs of people I haven’ t really heard of most of the time? Because that’s what happened yet again when I decided to pick up my copy of Binge on a whim. The colorcul cover was enough to intrigue me, and even though I didn’t know much about Tyler Oakley beforehand, I still really enjoyed reading his story. These essays are quirky, feel brutally honest, sometimes uncomfortable but mostly hilarious. And the photos and Tweets are a nice touch as well! I’m not really into watching Youtube channels myself, but this memoir without doubt made me curious about his channel. I’m not sure Binge is for everyone and you have to like reading these kind of quirky memoirs and/or at least know a little about Tyler Oakley to properly enjoy it, but it is without doubt recommendable for the right person. The essays in general have a fast pace (except one or two around the middle) and basically are a mix of personal, witty, serious and funny stories about Tyler Oakley‘s life. The prose is quite easy to read as well!

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Tyler Oakley tells us all about his past and how he eventually became a pop-culture phenomenon and the most prominent GLBT voice on Youtube. Binge is a collection of essays about both Tyler as an awkward child growing up, Tyler coming out, Tyler during high school, Tyler during his Uni years and afterwards; each essay revealing a mix of personal mishaps and other hilarious or personal moments in his life no matter how awkward or potentially uncomfortable.

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I like reading memoirs and it doesn’t really matter to me if I actually know something about the person in question, which might sound a bit weird. I guess I care more about if the memoir itself is entertaining/interesting, and Binge is without doubt a very entertaining and quirky read. I don’t know a lot about Tyler Oakley and I have never seen his Youtube channel, but he comes over as a very interesting person I could definitely see myself hang out with. The essays are personal, brutally honest and for some people maybe even a little uncomfortable, but the stories are without doubt entertaining to read. Binge might not be for everyone, but definitely recommended for the right person.

BOOK REVIEW: The Improbable Theory Of Ana And Zak – by Brian Katcher

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Title: The Improbable Theory Of Ana And Zak
Author: Brian Katcher
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 19th 2015
Finished reading: May 5th 2016
Pages: 336
Rating 3,5qqq

“Everyone thinks they’re the only one who’s ever been hurt.”

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I was looking for a light read to cheer me up a little and while browsing my TBR shelves this novel by Brian Katcher caught my eye. The description of this book said that it was supposed to be a funny story and the fact that it combines quiz bowl semifinals with a sci-fi convention sounded deliciously nerdy and just what I needed. And while I can’t say it was the perfect story, it did manage to bring a smile to my face. The chapters in The Improbable Theory Of Ana And Zak alternate between the two main characters. Zak Duquette is basically the perfect awkward, geeky and funny sci-fi convention fan and probably the main reason this story just works. Ana Watson on the other hand I didn’t really care for; she was actually quite annoying at points and the fact that her parents are so strict is not a valid excuse to be behaving the way she did. Also, she is making what happened to her sister sound a lot worse than it actually is (spoiler: I actually thought she died first). In short, she is main reason I lowered the rating. Her little brother Clayton is a genius though, and I think both he and Zak are my favorite characters of the bunch. And even though some of the story might feel a bit cliche, the crazy things that happen during their night at the Washingcon sci-fi convention are without doubt very entertaining to read about. Recommended to fans of the genre and those who like a ‘nerdy’ main character and/or a whole lot of sci-fi references.

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Ever since her sister was kicked out of her house, Ana Watson has been trying to be the perfect daughter so her parents don’t have a reason to complain. They control every move she makes, but the quiz bowl semifinals give her a little room to breathe as long as she looks after her little brother Clayton. But things don’t go as planned… And she believes it’s all Zak’s fault. Zak Duquette was given an ultimatum: participating the quiz bowl semifinals or failing health class and not graduating this year. The worst part: the semifinals are the same weekend as the Washingcon sci-fi convention, the one event that Zak is looking forward to every year. On their way to the semifinals, Zak tells all about his adventures during previous conventions… And without knowing he convinced Clayton to ditch the quiz bowl semifinals and go to the Washingcon by himself. Ana has no choice but to break the rules as well and find her brother before her teacher and parents find out he is missing… And Zak promises her he will help, especially since he knows a lot about the convention in the first place. He is risking his chance to graduate this year, but tries to chase down Clayton anyway in the sea of sci-fi convention visitors. Will they find Clayton on time?

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I’m not a big sci-fi fan and I’ve probably missed/misunderstood a few references here and there, but that doesn’t take away that the Washingcon sci-fi convention definitely is what makes this story into something original. The Improbable Theory Of Ana And Zak is fast-paced with a prose that is easy to read and will probably bring a smile to your face. I personally wasn’t a fan of Ana’s character, but Zak and Clayton mostly made up for it and saved the story. In short, this novel is a quick and entertaining read and definitely worth trying.