ARC REVIEW: My Life In A Cat House – by Gwen Cooper

Title: My Life In A Cat House
Author: Gwen Cooper
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Animals
First published: October 30th 2018
Publisher: BenBella Books
Finished reading: December 9th 2018
Pages: 270

“And they remind us that, no matter how complicated our lives, or how complex our relationships, or how sophisticated our desires and goals may become with the passage of years, those simple pleasures are still the ones most worth having.”

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


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I am what some people call a proper ‘crazy catlady’ and I’ve been in love with these feline creatures ever since I was tiny. A bout of fur allergy prevented me from coming close to them between the age of three and twelve (more or less)… But as my allergies mysteriously disappeared after that, I was able to admire them more closely again. I’ve owned cats during most of my life since, except for a few years when I was traveling. So I definitely know what Gwen Cooper is talking about that every cat is unique and cat owners can create an unique bond with their feline friends. I knew I wanted to read My Life In A Cat House as soon as I saw the gorgeous cat on the cover. A memoir written by a fellow cat admirer? Yes please! I admit I hadn’t heard of Gwen Cooper before I started this memoir, but this hasn’t prevented me from highly enjoying her different ‘tails’ about her five cats. We get to know each of them through memories and anecdotes about why each cat is unique in its own way. Funny and heartwarming moments are mixed with a few heartbreaking ones… But the stories stay mostly on the humorous side. Cat owners will be able to relate to the different ‘problems’ Gwen Cooper has had to face while living with her pets as well as the happy moments and the benefits of being lucky enough to share your life with one or more cats. It also shows the importance of rescue centers and adoption (all of our pets were actually rescued from the streets); it is so much more fulfilling being able to give an animal a home after it having such a rough start in life… My Life In A Cat House will make a great gift for any cat owner or cat lover in general.


And what is this review without a few pictures of my own feline friends?! Jasmine and Delilah Bard say hello.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #64: An Officer And A Spy (DNF) & Educated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t manage to convince me. The first, An Officer And A Spy by Robbert Harris, sadly a DNF, something that rarely happens. And I had high hopes for Educated by Tara Westover after so many glowing reviews, but I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again.


Title: An Officer And A Spy
Author: Robert Harris

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 26th 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: November 12th 2018 
Pages: 429
DNF at 30% (129 pages)

“It seems to be a necessary part of the criminal mentality: to survive captivity, one must somehow convince oneself one is not guilty.”


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An Officer And A Spy is one of my TBR jar picks and a title I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I had been looking forward to it despite the mixed reviews, mostly because the setting sounded fascinating. I still think the setting on its own is very interesting and the general plot has a lot of potential. A possibly wrongly convicted officer, espionage, the threat of a war and other struggles definitely sound like a good recipe for a successful historical fiction read. Sadly, the execution of those elements in An Officer And A Spy just didn’t work for me. I have picked it up only to put it down again after only a few pages multiple times over the last few weeks. I’ve tried and tried to at least make it to the end to see if things improved later on, but in the end I decided to make the difficult decision to just DNF it. I hardly ever give up on a book, so it definitely makes me sad to do so… But between the superslow pace, writing style, too many descriptions and a lack of interest in both the plot and the characters, I think this was the right choice for me. An Officer And A Spy just never grabbed me and I was never able to stay interested in the story… It’s very possible this story simply wasn’t for me even though historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. A lot of readers did love it, so definitely don’t give up on it if you are thinking about reading it.


Title: Educated
Author: Tara Westover

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: November 14th 2018
Pages: 352

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occured to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”


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It’s unpopular opinion time again… You’ve been warned. 

I have been looking forward to finally read Educated for months now, especially after reading so many glowing reviews. This is probably one of the reasons my expectations might have been too high, that and the fact that this memoir has been compared to The Glass Castle. The fact is: I was quite underwhelmed by all of it. This was not what I was expecting, and I feel sad for feeling this way, but it is what it is… I’m going to try and explain the reasons why. First of all, I know that I’m a skeptical person, and I don’t tend to believe things easily just because they are written down on paper. I also had a hard time believing Tara Westover‘s story as it was written down. Please don’t tell me I’m implying she is a liar, which I’m not. I do believe that she wrote Educated based on her memories, memories that can have gotten distorted over time especially if her early life has been such a struggle. And I really had to take her story with a whole lot of grains of salt to be able to continue reading. Like I said, I’m not saying she hasn’t had a tough life, or that her family didn’t do what they did, just that I didn’t find her story as told credible. I mean, for a survivalist family living in the mountains they sure have a lot of luxuries including at some point even a phone, TV and internet (not talking about the enormous mansion they seem to be having in the end). Her family life definitely wasn’t standard, with them not even having a birth certificate for a long time, not going to school and working in the junkyard etc etc. But I would rather call it eccentric for the most part instead. Also, at one point she describes her father as bipolar, something that is never confirmed as the same disease prevents him getting a medical diagnose. Still, I would have liked to have seen this angle developed further rather than just throwing the ‘bipolar’ word out and leave it at that. Another thing that bothered me were the many many serious accidents, a few life threatening, and somehow they are all healed with essential oils and other herbal cures? I do believe in holistic treatments along with medical care, but this is just getting too hard to believe. (I’m not saying they weren’t injured, just that the injuries maybe weren’t as bad as they remembered?) Anyhow, this reckless behavior and indifference towards general safety of others and the ‘miracle’ recoveries were just too much for the skeptical person in me to handle. Another thing I found hard to believe? Where all the money came from. First we are told they are poor, then money starts popping up everywhere somehow. I can get why her childhood chapters are a bit vague about money, but how on earth did she get the money together to get into a prestigious college and university? I know there are grants, but they don’t cover it all and it is a LOT of money we are talking about and very prestigious and expensive education. I mean, she goes to the UK and studies abroad for a long time? And then travels back and forth between the US and the UK multiple times? The flights alone cost a fortune, and surely aren’t covered by grants. A real mystery to me. There is also the question how she got into college in the first place, especially since she was never really educated at home in the first place. Somehow being able to get a superhigh score just by teaching herself advanced math and everything else in the test just doesn’t come over as credible to the skeptical me. Maybe she had a higher level of education than stated in the memoir before she started preparing herself for the test? I don’t know, but as it is Educated wasn’t at all credible to me. I’m not saying her being able to get her degrees isn’t admirable, and I’m sure she’s had a hard life especially with her despicable brother Shawn (I’m not even going into the abuse and her brother here, or we could still be talking tomorrow), but sadly her memoir wasn’t able to convince me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #63 – Girl, Wash Your Face & All Your Perfects

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres and two completely opposite reactions… The part memoir, part self help book Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis only managed to frustrate me, while contemporary romance All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover hits most of the marks.


Title: Girl, Wash Your Face
Author: Rachel Hollis

Genre: Non Fiction, Self Help, Memoir
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: November 10th 2018
Pages: 241

“If you constantly make and break promises to yourself, you’re not making promises at all. You’re talking.”


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Fact: I hadn’t heard of the author before when I decided to add Girl, Wash Your Face to my TBR. Fact: I didn’t check out the existing reviews properly before getting a copy, or else I would probably have never considered reading it. This part memoir, part self help book seems to be having two extreme and opposite reactions depending on if you have a similar mindset and background to Rachel Hollis. If you loved it and her advice helped you in any way, that’s great. It shows that we are all different and work in different ways, which is the beauty of life. BUT. It also means I’m by no means entitled to ignore my feelings of pure frustration either. Oh yes, this is going to be rant, so don’t say I haven’t warned you. I was hoping to find something interesting and inspirational in Girl, Wash Your Face, especially after hearing others swear by it. I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Let’s see why, shall we? First of all, the preaching. Yes, religion plays quite a big role here and both the Scripture and God are used numerous times to supposedly get you back on track. This whole preaching is a big no no for me and a huge turn off. I respect religions, but forcing your religion on others is infuriating. That said, the tone she uses in Girl, Wash Your Face is belittling and doesn’t respect others who don’t fit her idea of ‘successful in their lives’. It’s easy to talk about problems from the privileged background she has, saying it’s up to you to improve your future and achieve your goals, when there is more than enough money in the bank and health as well. Trust me, not everyone has it that easy and it just feels as if she is discriminating everyone who doesn’t have it as easy as her. ‘Get your act together!’ feels more like a mother scolding a child without respecting individual struggles and differences, and seriously left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And then there’s the whole chapter about weight. No no no NO! As someone who has struggled with her weight her whole life, this is just seriously offensive. I should just drink water and stop use food as comfort? Excuse me, because there are a zillion reasons for a person to struggle with their weight, and just exercise and other simplistic tips aren’t going to cut the deal. Who is she to give advice in the first place?! Also, her whole idea of being happy means you have to be thin, successful and other warped ideas is offensive. And I can’t get over the fact just how full of herself she is, talking about how successful she is all the time, all she has achieved and how wonderful her life is. Yuck. Ah, and don’t even make me start about the whole chapter about the first year she dated her now husband, how he treated her like dirt and then glossed over it saying: ‘but he’s wonderful now!’. Basically saying it’s ok for someone to psychologically abuse you and who knows, they might change later? Not cool. I could keep on rambling for a long time, but I hate being this negative so I’ll leave it here. As you might have guessed already, Girl, Wash Your Face wasn’t exactly a positive experience for me.


Title: All Your Perfects
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 17th 2018
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: November 10th 2018
Pages: 320

“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”


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I always seem to be having a love-hate relationship with CoHo’s books and it’s always a surprise how I will react to her books. I was hoping All Your Perfects was going to keep up my recent positive streak, and I guess I got lucky. There is a lot to love in this newest novel, and part of me wanted to give it an even higher rating. BUT. I just couldn’t ignore the frustration I felt with everything related to the cheating (SPOILER: especially since he gets to be painted as some sort of hero and apparently it was her own fault he did it in the first place.) Justifying cheating is NOT ok, and I was seriously disappointed to see the story go that way. That said, there is no doubt Colleen Hoover is a star in creating flawed and realistic characters that will have to go through a lot before they reach the final page. The story is divided in Then and Now chapters, and I have to say I enjoyed the chapters in the past considerably better. This has a lot to do with Quinn. I get that she goes through a lot and is suffering from depression, but her constant complaining did get a bit too much for me. The ending was a bit too abrupt for me as well, as the change was a bit too drastic for me to be completely believable. I still think All Your Perfects was mostly a great read though and once again she has managed to make me enjoy a genre I normally tend to stay away from. And that is something not to take lightly.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #45 – The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo & Orange Is The New Black

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around not only two books belonging to a completely different genre, but also two completely different reactions to the story. Despite not being my typical genre, I absolutely loved The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. I should have never doubted all those raving reviews! Orange Is The New Black on the other hand was a huge disappointment.


Title: The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: September 2nd 2018
Pages: 388

“No one is all good or all bad. I know this, of course, I had to learn it at a young age. But sometimes it’s easy to forget just how true it is.”


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Fact: I’ve been a tiny bit afraid to pick up this one. Partly because of all those raving reviews and you all know how I react to hyped books most of the time, and partly because it’s not my typical genre… But I should have never doubted those reviews. The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo had me hook, line and sinker. Not only was I impressed by the writing style right from the very first page, it was the story itself that fascinated me as well. The idea of the biography, the aged actress finally revealing all about her past… Everything just clicked for me. Even though Evelyn Hugo herself is not exactly likeable and has done some horrendous things in her life, somehow between the way she was portrayed in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo and the way she tells Monique all her secrets without hiding the ugly details she really grows on you. I was actually surprised by just how much I was able to connect to her character! I also loved how big of a role diversity played in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. It was interesting to see how gay, lesbian and bisexual characters were treated in that particular era, and how the views on the lgbt community affected the Hollywood stars. The historical setting in general is very well done and I highly enjoyed fully diving into that era. I also enjoyed the way this story was told: partly set in the present as Evelyn finally tells her story to Monique, and mostly set in the past, where Evelyn gives us her life story through her seven husbands she has been with during her life. My favorite characters were without doubt Harry and Celia, and the character development in The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo is sublime. I never imagined enjoying this book so much, but this is one of those books that you just HAVE to try even if you aren’t sure the genre would be for you. Trust me, you will regret it if you don’t.


Title: Orange Is The New Black
Author: Piper Kerman

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: April 6th 2010
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Finished reading: September 3rd 2018
Pages: 298

“Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the world, a place where the U.S. government now puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient-people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled.”


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I actually saw the first episode of the TV series based on this memoir a while back, but I decided to not continue watching as I wasn’t impressed by what I had seen. I still wanted to give the memoir a go though, mostly because I normally never watch a series or movie before reading the book in the first place. So when Orange Is The New Black fitted one of the N.E.W.T. prompts, of course I saw it as a sign to pick it up. Sadly, it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for. It seems my feelings during my supershort experience watching the TV series pretty much summed up my feelings for this memoir as well. What went wrong for me? First of all, I never got used to the writing style or tone, which of course made it harder to connect to the story. Secondly, I had a huge problem with Piper Kerman herself. She comes over as someone mostly self-centered, who sees herself as someone above the rest and doesn’t seem to want to admit what she did back in 1993 was wrong. Reading about her views on the prison world made me cringe at points, and while it was interesting to learn more about some of the inmates, I felt it lacked coherence and the story just didn’t flow for me. More importantly, I felt she was trying to be too politically correct and by saying she wasn’t discriminating, it mostly came over as the other way around. The ending was also really abrupt, and didn’t give real closure after such a detailed description of her time in jail. The story dragged at points and it was hard to keep myself interested and make it to the end… The fact that I did was more due to the other characters involved than Piper Kerman herself. All in all unfortunately not exactly a winner for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #37: It’s Okay To Laugh (DNF) & Britt-Marie Was Here

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Another round of extremes… Not only two different genres here, but also two complete opposite reactions to them. The first, a memoir called It’s Okay To Laugh, turned out to be a DNF read, something that doesn’t happen all that often. The second was actually me playing safe and picking up another book of one of my favorite authors: Britt-Marie Was Here. And this title has only reconfirmed my love for his work.


Title: It’s Okay To Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)
Author: Nora McInerny Purmort

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: May 17th 2016
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Finished reading: August 2nd 2018
Pages: 288
DNF at 66% (190 pages)

“I am creating my own path through my own grief, toward my own version of happiness.”


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I like reading memoirs every once in a while and when I saw It’s Okay To Laugh being compared to the memoirs of Jenny Lawson, I just HAD to get a copy. Fierce and hysterically funny? Sign me up for that! Sadly, I’m feeling kind of cheated now I have picked it up… Because there is no way It’s Okay To Laugh bares any similarities with the work of that author. I know humor is kind of tricky in the first place, and a very personal taste, but to be honest I just didn’t saw any potentially funny moments at all. Could it just have been me not connecting to the book? Maybe. But I would never actually classify this memoir as ‘humor’. I get that the author had to go to through the worst possible time with both her father and husband passing away after a battle with cancer and with her losing her unborn child like that, but I can’t say I enjoyed the way she wrote about it. Both the writing style and tone were just off for me, and it felt rather repetitive and almost nagging to me. Like I said before, I understand her struggle and feel her pain (I just lost my mother in law to cancer as well), I just didn’t want to continue reading about it. If you enjoy reading memoirs and are able to connect to her writing style, your experience with It’s Okay To Laugh might fare better. Just don’t expect any Jenny Lawson humor to appear out of thin air… In a way I feel sad I had to take the decision to DNF this that far into the story, but I had been struggling for a long time and just couldn’t bring myself to keep reading. Here’s to others being able to enjoy the memoir better than me though.


Title: Britt-Marie Was Here
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 3rd 2014
Publisher: Sceptre
Finished reading: August 4th 2018
Pages: 312
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Britt-Marie var här’)

“Sometimes it’s easier to go on living, not even knowing who you are, when at least you know precisely where you are while you go on not knowing.”


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I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman‘s work ever since I finished reading A Man Called Ove, which is one of my absolute top favorites. Britt-Marie Was Here is already the fourth book I’ve picked up, and this story has only reconfirmed my love for his stories. Fredrik Backman is a true master in creating unique and flawed characters that you cannot help falling in love with. It was so great seeing more of Britt-Marie! For those who not know, the main character Britt-Marie first made her appearance in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry (another excellent read by the way!), and I strongly advice reading that one before starting with Britt-Marie Was Here to not miss out on anything. What is both funny and remarkable is that his characters all have their flaws, might be grumpy, unsociable and don’t seem all that likeable when you first meet them. But don’t underestimate the power of Fredrik Backman‘s character development! You will soon find yourself loving each quirky little detail of those characters, grumpy, awkward and unsociable treats and all. Britt-Marie is another excellent example, and I LOVED seeing her character evolve in Borg along with the other main characters. Brilliant brilliant character development and spot on writing! I also really liked how football played a big role in the story and how big of an impact it had on the community. Basically, I loved every single minute of this book, and while nothing can beat Ove, both My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry and Britt-Marie Was Here currently share a second place on my list of Backman favorites.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #34: Thin Wire & Attachments

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different stories… The first a non fiction memoir about a woman with a heroin addiction and her mother, Thin Wire by Christine Lewry. Without doubt not an easy read! The second title a book that has been on my TBR for way too long: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.


Title: Thin Wire
Author: Christine Lewry

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: 2012
Publisher: Matador
Finished reading: July 17th 2018
Pages: 345

“Addiction always begins with a desire to be better. Stronger. Smarter. Suaver. Richer. Braver. More. The promise is always of less pain and greater fulfilment, and the promise is always a lie.”


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This memoir was a TBR jar pick and I title I’ve had on my kindle for over two years now. Thin Wire is without doubt a difficult read with a difficult theme and in a way I’m struggling to review it. I feel I cannot judge such a personal struggle in any way, but what I can say is what I thought about the story itself. The first thing that stood out for me was that the pace is quite slow and the story dragged at points; it took me a lot longer than expected to reach the final page. This of course made it harder to get a proper feel for the story or get really invested. I did like the switches in POV, which made it a bit easier to see both sides of the addiction and its consequences. The heroin addiction was clearly a living hell for both daughter and mother to have to go through, and Thin Wire really opens your eyes on just how destructive the drug can be for anyone coming close to it. I did feel the memoir missed that little something to take it to the next level, which probably had to do with the writing and the slower pace. While not perfect, it’s not a bad read either and I admire both for being brave enough to get their story out there.


Title: Attachments
Author: Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 14th 2011
Publisher: Dutton
Finished reading: July 22nd 2018
Pages: 323

“Love. Purpose. Those are the things that you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen.”


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Rainbow Rowell is on my list of favorite authors and I have loved her YA books so far. But somehow, after a negative experience with her other adult title Landline, I never actually picked up Attachments until now. As I was browsing for light and fluffy titles the other day, I stumbled upon my copy of Attachments, and I thought: why not? And it looks like I was in dire need of some Rowell medicine to cheer me up. While this story has a lot of tropes that might make me potentially hate a story (insta-love, love triangle, geek cliche, musician cliche etc etc), I somehow ended up having a blast reading Attachments. Sure, there were a lot of cliches to deal with. Sure, things did get cheesy at points. Sure, there was a love triangle vibe going on. But somehow, if you are just looking for a light, fluffy and entertaining read, this story really works. Analyzing things further, Lincoln should come over as a real creep, reading emails, living with his mom and all, but somehow I didn’t mind. Trust me, I was surprised to feel this way myself. I’m not sure the whole geek vibe is credible or connects to his physical appearance (come on, we would never expect Lincoln to look as described), but like I said, if you are looking for the perfect beach read or simply want to forget about your own problems for a while, reading Attachments is the perfect option to do so.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #25: Summer Of Sloane & Scrappy Little Nobody

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties and the first round of Europe trip books! Summer Of Sloane was a TBR jar pick I thought would be a perfect way to start my vacation, but it didn’t turned out to be as good as I hoped. Scrappy Little Nobody I picked up in the hope of finding something entertaining and funny to read, and while it wasn’t a bad read, my lack of familiarity with Anna Kendrick might have had a negative effect on my overall opinion.


Title: Summer Of Sloane
Author: Erin L. Schneider

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: April 22nd
Pages: 304

“We all make mistakes, but hating someone for one they’ve made can ruin your life if you let it.”


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Summer Of Sloane was my latest TBR jar pick and after posponing it for a long time, I thought this YA contemporary would be the perfect way to start my Europe trip. I actually finished it in the last days before our flight, as it is a superfast read. As the cover already suggests, Summer Of Sloane is what you call the perfect beach read. The writing style is easy on the eye and reads superfast, and romance fans will probably have a great time with this one. Because there is no doubt this story has a very high dose of romance, including love triangles and a whole lot of drama. While it was an easy read and had all the signs of being entertaining, it sadly was just way too heavy on the drama for me to be still enjoyable. True, I’m not a real romance fan and I’m practically allergic to love triangle, but it wasn’t just that on its own that bothered me. The constant drama and Sloane herself just really got on my nerves. I mean, if she doesn’t want her boyfriend or friend ruining her vacation after what they did, why not simply block there phone numbers and emails? Why do we as readers have to suffer through her constant complaining after she received yet another message she didn’t want to see? The love triangles and romance scenes themselves were supercheesy as well, but I guess if you are looking for an easy read and love the genre, you will enjoy Summer Of Sloane a lot better than I did.


Title: Scrappy Little Nobody
Author: Anna Kendrick

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: May 8th 2018
Pages: 304

“That night, I resolved to keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.”


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I picked up this memoir on a whim on the plane, wanting for something light and hopefully funny. I actually didn’t read a lot and ended up finishing it a lot later during our trip (the first week was too hectic to read much), but I guess most will finish this one superfast. It’s quite easy to read and has both funny and very personal moments of her life included. I admit I’m not really familiar with her work and that might have had an negative influence in my opinion. That said, I do admit it’s not the first memoir of famous personalities I’m not familiar with I’ve read, and I was still able to enjoy some of those more than I did Scrappy Little Nobody. I don’t mean this memoir is a bad read though, and I guess there were some parts that were really entertaining while others were brutally honest. I really liked that of Anna Kendrick, letting us get a glimpse of what it was like growing up for her. And I’m sure fans of her work will love this one.


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