YVO’S SHORTIES #16: Born A Crime & Halfway (ARC)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time about two completely different books… The first a memoir I’ve been meaning to read for some time now: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. And just as everyone kept saying as they recommended this title to me, it was GOOD. The second was an ARC I’ve been meaning to read for ages now… Halfway by Lokesh Sharma. Unfortunately that one didn’t work for me.


Title: Born A Crime
Author: Trevor Noah

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Finished reading: January 25th 2018
Pages: 304

“Regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”


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One of my goals this year is to read more memoirs and international authors, and Born A Crime has been on my list ever since it was first published. The apartheid has always intrigued me and Trevor Noah‘s memoir sounded like a fascinating account during that time. Of course the many many recommendations have helped put this story on my radar as well… And I’m glad I finally got the chance to read it. Because there is one thing for sure: Born A Crime is a very powerful and thought provoking read. I already knew the apartheid was going to be an intriguing topic, and Trevor Noah does an excellent job narrating his personal experience during the end of the apartheid as well as his mother’s experience. He balances these personal accounts with a lot of background information and facts about apartheid that are relevant to that particular account he was talking about. These little chapters were both extremely helpful to those who want to learn more about apartheid and fascinating as well. His writing style, honest tone and willingness to put it all on paper, even if it might shed a negative light on his life is something I could highly appreciate. Honest, heartbreaking, funny, engaging and gripping… Born A Crime is a memoir you will not soon forget. Haven’t read it yet? If memoirs are your kind of book, you definitely should remedy that!


Title: Halfway
(Aspiration For Deliverance #1)
Author: Lokesh Sharma

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
First published: January 29th 2017
Finished reading: Januart 27th 2018
Pages: 220

“We want others to care about us. But without feelings, nobody would care about anybody.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


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True, I don’t read a whole lot of science fiction stories, but I have enjoyed the genre in the past and I had high hopes for Halfway. It took me way longer than expected to finally pick it up, mostly due to the slump, but I was looking forward to it… Sadly I didn’t have the reading experience I was expecting to have. Unpopular opinion ahead! I went in looking forward to emerge myself fully in a new futuristic world, but I was actually mostly confused during a long time. While Halfway has a substantial amount of descriptions, I still feel the worldbuilding of Enigma isn’t really fleshed out and this made me never fully adapt to this world. The many descriptions only slowed down the pace for me… Another thing that bothered me was the lack of a proper plot. Between the descriptions and character background detail that doesn’t have a clear connection to Enigma for a really long time, I didn’t feel the story was really going anywhere. There are some hints at a war and a threat, but it almost feels as if all important details are pushed into the background as Halfway focuses more on the history of some of the main characters. The Enigma chapters and character memoires were so dissociated that I had a hard time connecting everything (again, lack of plot), and this confusion influenced my reading experience considerably. All in all a story that definitely isn’t for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #15: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo & From Bad To Cursed


Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! No more backlog reviews, so from now on it’s only books I’ve actually read this year. The first is one of the (hopefully) various memoirs I will be reading this year: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. I had high hopes for this one besides the fact I’m not familiar with her at all, but I just couldn’t connect to her writing style and her humor definitely wasn’t for me. The other title on her is the Bad Girls Don’t Die sequel From Bad To Cursed by Katie Alender, which turned out to be a disappointment as well. A shame, because I loved the first book!


Title: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo
Author: Amy Schumer

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: August 16th 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books
Finished reading: January 23rd 2018
Pages: 323

“If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them—like the sun.”


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I have a weird fascination with reading memoirs even from persons I’m not really familiar with. So even though I don’t really know Amy Schumer or her work, I was still intrigued enough to want to pick up The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. The fact that this memoir has been praised a LOT did also help of course. I was fully expecting to be loving this read, but I ended up feeling the complete opposite. Oh yes, it’s time for another unpopular review… Did you really think I could go that long without one? I don’t think my opinion has all that much to do with the fact I don’t really know her… It’s more that her writing style, crudy humor and sexual talk simply aren’t a right fit for me. The humor felt kind of forced-funny, but then again my sense of humor has always been a bit ‘special’ and I don’t like what most people like. What was a surprise is that The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo was actually a lot darker and self-confessional than I thought it would be, especially since it’s labeled humor. Kuddos to her for having the guts to share all this personal stuff… Although if I got it right she kind of does the same thing in her shows. I guess her humor and writing style either works for you, or it doesn’t. Unfortunately I belong to the second group, and honestly I kind of struggled making it to the last page. Oh well, we can’t like them all, can we?


Title: From Bad To Cursed
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #2)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: June 14th 2011
Publisher: Hyperion
Finished reading: January 20th 2018
Pages: 442

“Stay sunny, we said to each other.
Because if you don’t the whole world will know you’re a monster.”


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I read the first book back in 2016 for Halloween, and while I really enjoyed that one, I somehow ever picked up the sequels. No longer, because I’ve vowed to finish this trilogy before the end of February. Book number two starts off quite a few months after the first book finished its story… And in From Bad To Cursed the sisters will have another dose of the supernatural. Sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy this sequel as much as I thought I would. I still love the writing style, which is engaging, flowing and makes you fly through the story. But I wasn’t so sure about the plot. The idea behind From Bad To Cursed is an interesting one and definitely involves a healthy dose of creepy, BUT I wasn’t so happy with all those high school cliches included as well as a lot of ‘perfect pretty girl’ cliches. A bunch of teenage girls playing perfect and bitching to others if they don’t dress perfectly, eat the right food and say the right things? No thank you. The way both Alexis and Kasey behaved really started to bother me as well. I’m still hoping it was just this particular ‘problem’ they had to deal with that made them unlikeable and I’m having hopes for the final book. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to like that one better!


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BOOK REVIEW: Quirky Essays For Quirky People – Barbara Venkataraman

Title: Quirky Essays For Quirky People
Author: Barbara Venkataraman

Genre: Non Fiction, Humor, Essays
First published: May 13th 2014
Finished reading: June 28th 2017
Pages: 71


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Last year the author pointed out her collection of essays was available for free on Amazon I decided to add it to my collection, especially since I enjoyed her writing style in her cozy mystery series. The title and cover spoke to me and it sounded like a fun read, and Quirky Essays For Quirky People was just that. This bundle is packed with short humorous essays about quirky situations that will make you smile. They are very easy to read and perfect for whenever you feel like a light read. As always with short stories (even though I don’t read/review a lot of them), my review is different than usual. Below you can find a list of the 24 stories included in Quirky Essays For Quirky People in chronological order with a quote and short description:

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ARC REVIEW: This Is Really Happening – by Erin Chack

Title: This Is Really Happening
Author: Erin Chack

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir,  Humor
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group / Razorbill
Finished reading: April 24th 2017
Pages: 240

“I realized then that luck is a slippery thing, hard to hold and keep with you. No amount of worrying will prepare you for when it starts thrashing around in your hands. Luck happens whenever it feels like it, wherever it feels like it, however it feels like it.”

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

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Two years ago I made a promise to myself to read more non fiction stories, and since I’ve discovered I really enjoy reading memoirs even if I’m not familiar with the author. I came across This Is Really Happening in one of the Buzz Books editions at Netgalley, and I was instantly convinced by the short excerpt provided there. To my surprise, my request came through last Saturday… And since I was in the mood for a memoir, I decided to try and read it before the publish date today. This Is Really Happening is without doubt a well written and fast read with just the right dose of humor. It contains various, mostly ‘coming of age’ essays about various stages in Erin Chack‘s life. To get an idea of the topics in the essays: among other things she talks about high school and how she met her partner, about her battle against cancer at the age of nineteen and how people react to the illness, about her job at BuzzFeed and her roadtrip from coast to coast. What stands out is the enjoyable writing style and the fact that Erin Chack tells things exactly how they are; not hiding the ugly (and maybe embarrassing) details and that makes this memoir feel a lot more authentic. Serious topics are mixed with hilarious moments and if you are looking for an entertaining, well written and interesting coming of age memoir, This Is Really Happening is a great choice.

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A collection of personal essays where Erin Chack writes about a variety of things that happened to her while growing up. From meeting her partner during high school to her battle with cancer, dealing with the symptoms of chemotherapy, what it’s like working as a writer at BuzzFeed, college and an extended roadtrip; she recounts everything with a healthy dose of humor and honesty, talking about various universal themes along the way.

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If you enjoy reading memoirs and are looking for a well written and fast-paced bundle of essays with just the right balance of serious topics and humor, This Is Really Happening would be right up your alley. I really enjoyed the writing style and the general tone of the story. It feels like Erin Chack is telling you her story while sharing a drink in a bar; personal, honest and with just the right dose of humor. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Among Friends – by Heather Murray

Title: Among Friends (Travels In Cuba)
Author: Heather Murray

Genre: Non Fiction, Travel, Memoir
First published: October 6th 2016
Finished reading: April 20th 2017
Pages: 298

“Ephemeral things are tragic because they are never repeated, but they are wonderful because they may be kept in memories in our brain, and they may be recollected as many times as we wish.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a lot during my early twenties and exploring different cultures/countries is still something I’m really passionate about. When I was contacted about Among Friends: Travels In Cuba I immediately knew I wanted to read this memoir, especially since one of my best friends actually went to Cuba for a month in January and I wanted to compare experiences. I admit my knowledge of Cuban history and culture is pretty basic, since my University courses mainly focused on South America… So I was looking forward to learn more about this country. One of the first things that stands out in this travel memoir written by Heather Murray is the lack of political talk, something I’m rather grateful for to be honest. Instead, the author focuses on her own experiences while visiting Cuba various times during the span of eight years; the last time being in 2015. I agree it’s really hard (maybe even impossible) to get a proper feel of a country as an outsider/foreigner, but I enjoyed reading her experiences while visiting Havana and various other destinations in Cuba. Her friendship with Julian and other Cubans definitely help to shed some light on how life really was lived by the Cubans during those years… And I liked how detailed the descriptions of the various places she visited were. The prose was easy to read and all in all it was an enjoyable travel memoir. Low on social-cultural and political details, but highly entertaining for those who enjoy the genre!

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Spread over a period of eight years, Heather Murray travels to Cuba various times to visit her friend Julian. What started out as two collegues writing letters grew into a friendship when she traveled to Cuba for the first time for a conference… The country and its people made a big impact and various visits followed afterwards. Both Havana and other provinced to the west and east are explored with the help of Julian and other Cubans; and the country definitely shows some changes over the years. This memoir is packed with personal experiences and many detailed descriptions of the various destinations in Cuba.

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If you are looking for a well written, entertaining and ‘light’ travel memoir that focuses on the travel and daily life of the locals rather than the more serious topics, Among Friends is without doubt an excellent choice. The descriptions of the various destinations and excursions are very well done and I could almost imagine being there myself as well. As stated in this memoir, it shows that Cuba has been through some changes in the last ten years and it shows… At least that is what my friend told as well. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The Yellow Envelope – by Kim Dinan

Title: The Yellow Envelope
Author: Kim Dinan

Genre: Non Fiction, Travel, Memoir
First published: April 1st 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Finished reading: March 28th 2017
Pages: 320

“At the end of the day, the money itself is just paper. What gives the whole experience meaning are the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that come with giving the money away in ways that make you smile and make your heart sing.”

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

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I might have mentioned my love for travel once or twice before, and as soon as I saw this travel memoir I had to request a copy. I enjoy reading non fiction and I’ve had the chance to visit both Peru and Ecuador twice, so I was looking forward to read about the author’s experience in those countries as well as those in Asia. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy The Yellow Envelope as much as I thought I would and the story fell kind of flat for me. Rather than a true travel memoir, this story has mostly been a (rather self-centered) description of the author’s failing relationship with her husband, feelings and journey of self-discovery; definitely not what I expected at all and not as enjoyable to read either. Another thing that bothered me were the (negative) cliches about the countries they visited; I’ve traveled both alone and with my partner in both Ecuador and Peru during roughly the same time period (2012-2013) and I don’t think the descriptions of those countries are just or accurate. I also felt that both countries and people in general were talked down to; each country/culture/person is unique in its own way and the negativity really bothered me. I also don’t think it is right to claim there is a correct/superior way to travel either; each person should be able to decide which way is best for them and the ‘superior’ tone was actually quite annoying. And that’s coming from someone who has traveled for a long time without a real home as well, so I kind of know what I’m talking about. I’ll stop this rant and say that if you are looking for a memoir about the story of the road to self-discovery with just a hint of travel, The Yellow Envelope will probably interest you.

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Kim Dinan decided she wanted a change in her life and three years later both Kim and her husband decide to quit their jobs and travel around the world. They are given a yellow envelope by another couple: inside a check and instructions to give the money away during their travels. There are only three rules: don’t overthink it; share your experiences; don’t feel pressured to give it all away. Kim and Brian travel through Ecuado, Peru, India, Nepal and other countries, and will face many obstacles along the way.

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I normally enjoy reading non fiction and I love anything that has to do with travel, but this memoir didn’t manage to convince me. Not only was the actual talk about traveling and the different countries limited, but the main focus was actually on the author, her feelings and self-discovery. This could have been an interesting read anyway once I adjusted my expectations, but I was really bothered by the tone and the fact that the different countries/cultures/persons were talked down to and didn’t receive it’s proper respect. I understand that it’s hard to portray a foreign culture properly (I’ve had this experience lots of times myself), but this just wasn’t the way. I liked the idea of the yellow envelope and what it represents though; it was probably the strongest feature of this memoir.


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ARC REVIEW: It’s All Absolutely Fine – by Ruby Elliot

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Title: It’s All Absolutely Fine
Author: Ruby Elliot

Genre: Graphic Novel, Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 15th 2017
Pages: 256
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“That’s what you need sometimes, whether it’s a dog or a cat or a jazzy lizard or something else entirely that provides you with some emotional respite when it’s all too messy – a tiny yet significant port in an almighty storm.”

*** 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 confess I don’t have a lot of experience reading graphic novels, but when I saw It’s All Absolutely Fine at Netgalley I was immediately intrigued by the promise of a combination of simple drawings and a down-to-earth description of the daily struggles of life with mental illness. It is a topic that has always interested me for various reasons… And It’s All Absolutely Fine is without doubt another title to add to my list of favorites talking about mental illness. Why? First of all, I found it really easy to connect to the little stories. Ruby Elliot shows life as it is without trying to hide the ugly parts, and I can really appreciate the sincerity of it all. This bundle switches between short essays and illustrations that show the reader Ruby’s experiences living with social anxiety and the daily struggles of life with mental illness. Simple drawings of sometimes ‘simple’ situations, but with a huge dose of sharp humor for maximum effect.

I think this illustration above gives just the right idea of what I’m talking about… Ruby Elliot‘s drawings are sometimes brutally honest, but they always feel 100% real. It’s both an entertaining and eye-opening read that will appeal both to anyone interested in the topic and fans of memoirs such as Furiously Happy.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is both an honest and unapologetic account of Ruby’s daily struggle living with mental illness. She uses simple drawings and a few short essays to talk about themes like mood disorders, anxiety and issues with body image; all sprinkled with the right dose of humor. Each chapter talks about a different set of struggles, and every aspect is talked about openly without hiding the ugly parts.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is a graphic novel and memoir that tries to both show what it is to live with mental illness and tell other people that it is okay to not feel okay. The drawings might be simple, but are brutally honest and have a dose of sharp humor for maximum effect. I really enjoyed reading this story and I think anyone interested in the topic would enjoy reading It’s All Absolutely Fine as well. Recommended!


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