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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BOOK REVIEW: Love, & You – by Gretchen Gomez

Title: Love, & You
Author: Gretchen Gomez

Genre: Poetry, Non Fiction, Romance
First published: April 4th 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: June 4th 2017
Pages: 142

“addiction
comes
in
different
forms

i was the addict.
he was the drug.

and every time i tried
to go into detox, he kept
coming back to me
with pretty hello’s.”


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I normally don’t tend to review the poetry I read, but I just HAD to make an exception for Love, & You, a poetry bundle written by fellow book blogger Gretchen Gomez (chicnerdreads). I’m sure most have already heard about her blog and wonderful poetry posts, but make sure to visit her if you haven’t! ❤

I remember adding Love, & You to my wishlist as soon as I first heard about it and my interest increased steadily as I read glowing after glowing review. But I have to give credit when it’s due and say it was actually Amanda’s wonderful review that sealed the deal for me, confirming just how much I would be able to relate to the poems. And she was 100% right. It’s been days since I devoured Love, & You in record time, and I still haven’t recovered from the emotion overload. Because to say it crudely: damn, that girl can write powerful poetry! Wonderful, emotional, raw, beautiful, powerful, strong, exceptional… Trust me, I can keep the adjectives going for a long time if you let me. This poetry bundle is all about her experience with a toxic relationship and her slow recovery from it. The poems are highly personal and it really feels you get to know her a lot better through her poems. I truly admire her courage first talking about such a personal topic and then going ahead and publishing the poems afterwards!

It’s not widely known, but I was unfortunate enough to have a quite similar experience with a toxic relationship in the past. The details don’t really matter right now, but it did mean that the poems in Love, & You made an even bigger impact on me than they would to others who haven’t had such an experience. Trust me, she doesn’t exaggerate the effects of such a relationship and its looong and difficult road to recovery. Writing (both poems and other forms) can be a very important form of self-therapy and I loved learning more about her journey through her writing. I wrote some poems myself after my experience that helped me learn about the past and accept what happened, but those just seemed like silly scribblings compared to those shared in Love, & You. I loved both the writing style, form and the way the different emotions are voiced. It’s not often that I’m left speechless, but I found myself lost for words after finishing this bundle. Thank you for describing my own feelings and memories so much better than I could ever done!

It’s easy to say I can highly recommend Love, & You.


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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: No Excuses Detox – by Megan Gilmore

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Title: No Excuses Detox
Author: Megan Gilmore

Genre: Non Fiction, Cookbooks, Health
First published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Finished reading: November 4th 2016
Pages: 208
Rating 3,5qqq

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

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I actually read this cookbook by Megan Gilmore last November as part of the promise to myself to start eating healthier, but I haven’t published my review before since No Excuses Detox is actually going to be published recently next month. The cover and promise of quick, affordable and delicious food recipes that will make it easy to follow a healthy lifestyle every day had me sold straight away. This cookbook focuses on showing everyone that it is doable to start changing your eating habits and that there are literally ‘no excuses’ to be posponing the change. No Excuses Detox talks about the most common excuses and shows a wide variety of recipes that will please even the most complicated eater. I do admit I wasn’t convinced by everything that was talked about in the introduction and I think some of the points were a bit too complicated to be called simply ‘no excuses’. That said, the recipes are without doubt excellent and I liked that the author showed just how cheap a healthy meal can be. I have quite a few marked and I will be looking forward to try out more.

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In this cookbook, the author presents a collection of 100 recipes that are both quick to prepare, affordable, delicious and family-friendly. These recipes will make it easy to follow a healthy lifestyle every day and convince even the most complicated eater. Recipes for traditional comfort food favorites have been altered to make them both healthy and still taste as good as their counterparts. It also gives answers to all most common excuses for posponing a change, and shows that being ‘too busy’, ‘healthy food is expensive’ and ‘healthy food probably won’t taste good’ are no excused to stick to a healthy diet.

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I always enjoy browsing cookbooks for more healthy recipes, and No Excuses Detox was without doubt a little goldmine. I don’t agree with everything that is said in the introduction about the common excuses, but I did enjoy the different recipe chapters. From budget and family-friendly recipes to variations of your favorite comfort food; if you are looking for a book that might help you start eating healthier, this one is worth the try.


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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
Rating 4qqq

“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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