ARC REVIEW: To Drink Coffee With A Ghost – by Amanda Lovelace

Title: To Drink Coffee With A Ghost
(Things That H(a)unt #2)
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry, Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: September 17th 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: August 13th 2019
Pages: 160

i walk

the thin line

 between

nostalgia

& trauma,

never fully

knowing

the difference.

 

– maybe there is none.”

*** 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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After reading and enjoying the Woman Are Some Kind Of Magic poetry bundles in the past, I tried the first book of this duology earlier this year and found myself really enjoying that collection as well. Reading the second collection of this duology was an easy choice, and it is without doubt an excellent addition. Amanda Lovelace‘s poems are easy to recognize, and while it’s true that the structure of the poems is quite simplistic and basically seems like hitting the space bar every few words, I personally don’t mind. Why? I feel this simple style gives the words and message behind the poems even more power and focuses on what is said instead of just how. Once again, Amanda Lovelace writes without fear and is fully open about her experience with abusive and toxic relationships in the past; To Drink Coffee With A Ghost having a special focus on the relationship with her now deceased mother. And once again, I have to stress that these poems are really easy to relate to for anyone who has experienced a toxic relationship in general (or is still experiencing it) and will provide both comfort and an empowering message to let you know that you are worthy and can beat that monster. She uses words to not only express feelings, but also heal herself and try to free herself from her past and demons… It’s not the style, but the words and the emotions behind those words that turn To Drink Coffee With A Ghost into such a success for me. And while it’s true that her poetry might not be for everyone, those who can connect to her words will be able to treasure it. Another successful bundle and a worthy conclusion to this duology!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #120 – Twisted & I Am Malala

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new 5 star favorite and another good read as well. I loved Thirteen when I read it a while back, and I think I might just love Twisted a tiny bit more. Steve Cavanagh is definitely one of my favorite new discoveries this year! And it took me years, but I finally managed to read I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, and it was without doubt a very powerful memoir even though I failed to connect with it completely.


Title: Twisted
Author: Steve Cavanagh

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 24th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: August 16th 2019 
Pages: 320

“This was what Paul lived for.

He just liked writing twists good enough to make the reader drop the goddamn book.

And there was one of the way.”


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I’ve had a copy of Twisted on my shelves for a few months, and after being blown away by Thirteen a little while back I was even more excited to finally read it. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think I loved Twisted even a tiny bit more than my first meeting with Eddie Flynn. This book knocked me out with a hammer and left me staring at the last page, trying to process what I had just read… Oh yes, this will definitely be on my list of favorites of 2019. And I can also say that Steve Cavanagh is one of my favorite newly discovered authors this year.

I don’t know how I should even start discussing my feelings, because it’s hard to explain the plot and story in general without giving away spoilers that could potentially ruin the fun. But let’s just say that both writing, pace, plot, characters and twists are top notch and definitely take Twisted to the next level. What I love about this book is that nothing is as it seems. You are told something and believe it is true, only for the next chapter to bulldozer over your newly discovered ‘facts’ and feeding you yet another lie instead. Which you will proceed lapping up greedily, desperately trying to get the full picture of it all as you are on a quest to discover the elusive truth. Lie after lie and twist after twist will mislead you up until the point that you even start doubting your own name and your sanity… Oh yes, Twisted will mess with your mind and it’s definitely the right title for this story. Clever, original, complex, brilliantly executed and hands down one of my favorite reads of the year.


Title: I Am Malala
Author: Malala Yousafzai

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: November 1st 2012
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Finished reading: August 17th 2019
Pages: 352

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

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I’ve been meaning to pick up this memoir for a long long time now. I’m sure most have heard about Malala’s story in some way or the other, and this memoir makes for a very inspiring, powerful and heartbreaking story. I think I might have picked it up at the wrong time, because I somehow against expectations I failed to connect to the story… Especially the first half was a struggle for me; I think it has something to do with the sheer amount of different names, places and politics being involved. While it gives an excellent background and is a goldmine for information about Pakistan, I struggled to keep my attention to the story. But like I said, that might just have been that it wasn’t the right book at the right time for me. When you get to the second half and learn more about Malala’s personal story, both the events of her being shot for her beliefs and the aftermath, it was a lot easier to keep your attention with the story. Malala is without doubt both inspiring and extraordinary… And it is easy to understand why she is considered a symbol of peaceful protest in the world. I might end up rereading this one when I’m in the right mood to see if I react differently to it.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #105 – We Are Never Meeting In Real Life (DNF) & The Confectioner’s Guild

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I was less lucky with my reading choices… The first, We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby, ended up being a DNF for me as we definitely didn’t get along. The second, The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana, started out good enough, but things soon fizzled out and the story failed to impress me in the end.


Title: We Are Never Meeting In Real Life
Author: Samantha Irby

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Vintage
Finished reading: June 4th 2019
Pages: 272
DNF at 42% (114 pages)

“And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just tell some more stupid jokes. Good thing I’m hilarious.”


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Give me a cat on a cover and I’m immediately intrigued, and give me a promise of a potentially funny memoir and consider me signed up for the challenge. I’ve been looking forward to pick up We Are Never Meeting In Real Life despite the mixed reviews and despite the fact I hadn’t heard of the author before. Maybe I should have checked out her blog to see if her writing style would be for me, because there is one thing for sure: her writing and me definitely didn’t get along. I love my snarky humor, but we are most definitely NOT going to be meeting in real life or getting along for that matter… I’m going to be honest here and say I just felt the author was too full of herself (see quote above) and trying way too hard to be funny and it had the complete opposite effect on me. Add an overdose of sex references to the whole self-centeredness and I had no other option than to simply throw in the towel at 42%. I never like making the decision to DNF a story, but sadly the writing style and content was such a struggle for me that I just couldn’t force myself to read the other 58% of the essays. Hereby I declare We Are Never Meeting In Real Life officially my fourth DNF of the year and it’s easy to say it wasn’t the reading experience I was hoping for. Note to self: next time, don’t get distracted by a cute cat on the cover and investigate first before deciding to read another ‘funny’ memoir. If you are able to connect to her humor and don’t mind a lot of sex-centered comments, you will probably have a better time reading We Are Never Meeting In Real Life though.


Title: The Confectioner’s Guild
(The Confectioner’s Chronicles #1)
Author: Claire Luana

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: October 23rd 2018
Publisher: Live Edge Publishing
Finished reading: June 5th 2019
Pages: 327

“Small things change the course of history.”

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I stumbled upon this series while browsing for books with a food element for a challenge, and both cover and blurb sounded positively delicious. I’ve been looking forward to bite into The Confectioner’s Guild ever since (did I mention before I love baking?), and when I started reading I really liked what I was tasting. The fantasy world, the many many baking references, the mystery around Kasper’s death and Wren’s past, the existence of the Gifted… Oh yes, there were a lot of interesting ingredients in play. The Confectioner’s Guild reads quite fast at first and part of this has to do with the writing, which starts out engaging and interactive. It’s true though that things start slowing down a bit after a while and the initial flame peeters out mostly… I think a lot of it has to do with the introduction of sappy romance in the plot, which distracts from the murder conspiracy and delicious baking elements. It also had to do with Wren, who started to get on my nerves with the whole ‘I can’t trust anyone’ and then ‘I’m trusting them anyway’ repeating over and over again. The romance itself mostly felt forced and unnatural for me, but at least we don’t have a love triangle (or at least for now). I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Confectioner’s Guild, because while I loved certain elements, there were others that failed to convince me including the ending. But there is one thing for sure: you will crave lots of baked goods before you reach the final page! I’m really tempted to make another batch of these rose buttercream cupcakes I prepared two weeks ago for a birthday party just because they match the cupcake that changed Wren’s fate so well. 😉


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YVO’S SHORTIES #98 – Fun Home & Five Feet Apart

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a graphic novel memoir and a YA contemporary romance read; one I almost wish I had DNFed and another I enjoyed despite a few issues. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott.


Title: Fun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel
First published: June 8th 2006
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 232

“It could be argued that death is inherently absurd, and that grinning is not necessarily an inappropriate response. I mean absurd in the sense of ridiculous, unreasonable. One second a person is there, the next they’re not.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’m keeping these rambles short, because honestly I don’t feel I have a lot to say about this graphic novel. It’s true I wasn’t sure if Fun Home would be for me even before I started reading it, but I needed a graphic novel for my BTB Bingo challenge and my TBR choices were limited. I enjoy reading memoirs and the idea of reading a memoir in graphic novel form intrigued me. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the tone or writing style of the author. The many many references to classic literature for me were, instead of an unexpected bonus, rather a hint to feelings of self-importance and superiority. I wasn’t a fan of how the whole lgbt element was handled nor how characters were portrayed. I honestly wish I would have just taken the decision to DNF, because I had a really hard time reaching that final page. This definitely wasn’t a story for me, although I should note others have highly enjoyed it and it has a high overall rating on Goodreads, so it might have been just me. Still, the fact is I had a really hard time reaching that final page of Fun Home and I can’t say I had ‘fun’ while I was trying to get there. If you are looking for an original memoir, enjoy reading in graphic novel form and don’t mind classic literature references in abundance, you will probably be a better match for this story though.


Title: Five Feet Apart
Author: Rachael Lippincott

Genre: YA, Fiction, Romance
First published: November 20th 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster For Young Readers
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 288

“Everyone in this world is breathing borrowed air.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while… Especially since I’ve been hoping to watch the movie adaptation some time soon. The first thing that stood out for me was that this story has that The Fault In Our Stars and Everything, Everything vibe down to the terminal illness and cheesy romance. I’m still deciding whether that is a good or a bad thing, but there is one thing for sure: you will find yourself flying through this story. I literally finished it in less than a day, and a lot of this has to do with the writing style. I appreciated the focus and insight in CF and how the story shows the impact of this disease on someone’s life (once it is in an advanced stage). BUT. I’m not sure up to what point some aspects of the plot are exactly credible. I don’t want to end up including spoilers, but let’s just say part of it has to do with the unnecessary risk taking (something similar happened in Everything Everything). I don’t think it’s encourageable to have main characters who are that ill taking significant risks that basically endanger their lives. It gives a bad example and it is simply not credible. The same goes for the sudden change in attitude towards safety of Stella. The romance itself was cheesy, but somehow I found myself liking it anyway. Five Feet Apart is a story that will both make you smile and make your eyes water… Perfect if you enjoy the genre and don’t mind a considerable amount of cliches and some inconsistencies.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #75 – The Treatment & Heart Berries

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a title I picked up on a whim and I title that has been recommended to me. The first turned out to be a solid decision and another author I will be looking forward to read more of in the future: The Treatment by C.L. Taylor. The second an emotional and lyrical memoir that I’m very sad I failed to connect with: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot.


Title: The Treatment
Author: C.L. Taylor

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: October 19th 2017
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: January 9th 2019 
Pages: 299

“He taught me about body language, micro expressions and verbal tics. He showed me how much people give away about themselves without realizing it.”


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I’ve been meaning to read one of C.L. Taylor‘s books for quite some time now… I decided to finally start reading The Treatment on a whim after browsing my kindle for something thrilling to read. It turned out to be a great decision! I normally tend to stick to adult fiction when it comes to the mystery/thriller genre, but this YA story was a nice change of scenery. The first thing that stood out for me was the writing, which was both engaging, well constructed and together with a fast pace made me finish it in one sitting. The plot itself is intriguing and has elements that are almost on the border of science fiction, but with a strong focus on mental health and family as well. There is a lot of mystery and suspense around the Residential Reform Academy and what happens behind their doors, and it was definitely interesting to see how things developed. The Treatment started with a bang and sets the right mood of what the author calls is a story that is ‘Prison Break meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but for teens‘. I can definitely understand that reference, especially during those chapters set inside the RRA. It was very interesting to see the characters develop and to see Drew adapt as she tries to figure out what to do… I’m not sure all aspects of the plot were completely credible, but it sure made for a very entertaining story! If you are looking for a fast-paced, intriguing and well written YA mystery with a mental health angle, The Treatment is an excellent choice.


Title: Heart Berries
Author: Terese Marie Mailhot

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Feminism
First published: February 6th 2018
Publisher: Counterpoint
Finished reading: January 10th 2019
Pages: 178

“Sometimes trying to be the absence of something makes you that very thing.”


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I remember this memoir being recommended in the past and after it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards I decided to finally get a copy and give it a go. I’m always intrigued by #ownvoices memoirs as it gives us a way to learn more about a culture and/or person we might not know much about. Heart Berries is a fascinating and emotional memoir written by woman born in the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in Canada. Let me say before I continue that the problem here is most definitely me, and not this story. Heart Berries is powerful, raw and simply devastating and the writing is lyrical and almost poetic at times. Oh yes, the prose is gorgeous and this is definitely one of the things that stood out most for me apart from the way the author isn’t afraid to bleed and give us the ugly truth about her childhood and past. There is a lot to love and I truly admire Terese Marie Mailhot for not only surviving her childhood and other life obstacles including mental illness, but also for not being afraid to get her memories out there. Why didn’t I enjoy this memoir better then? Well, this is mostly a case of me, while truly appreciating the wonderful prose, somehow being unable to connect to the words, story or the things that happened to her. This failed connection made it hard for me to keep myself invested and I didn’t enjoy my reading experience as much as I thought I would. This is 100% my own experience with Heart Berries and has nothing to do with the excellence of this memoir.


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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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