BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Kilo – by Toby Muse #damppebblesblogtours @tobymuse @EburyPublishing @EmmaFinnigan @damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Kilo damppebbles blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma Welton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve always had a strange interest in anything related to drugs crime and the war on drugs, so there was just no way I could resist this non fiction account on the drugs world in Colombia. It turned out to be an absolutely fascinating read! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Kilo
Author: Toby Muse
Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
First published: March 24th 2020
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Finished reading: March 27th 2020
Pages: 320

“The drug war doesn’t move backward or forward; it simply turns in circles.”

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

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Some of you might already know about my strange interest in anything related to the drugs world and the war on drugs. I was actually already about to read a different drugs-related non fiction book when Emma’s email arrived with the question if I could join the blog tour for Kilo on a really short notice… I normally wouldn’t have been able to, but I decided to make an effort for Kilo as the blurb sounded right up my alley. A non fiction account focusing on different areas in the Colombian drugs world? Bring it on! I knew from the start I was going to be in for a treat and put my other reads on hold to be able to dive straight in.

And guess what? I definitely made the right decision! Anyone who is interested in the Colombian drugs world should add this newly published non fiction account to their wishlist, as it turned out to be an absolutely fascinating read. Definitely one of the best drugs-related non fiction reads I’ve had the pleasure to read so far! So, why did this book work so well for me? There are many aspects that contributed, but one of the main reasons is probably the format. Instead of a dry and maybe dull account of only part of the drugs world, Kilo offers you a diverse and complete picture of the different stages as well as areas in play in this world. This might seem a bit chaotic, but the different parts are cleverly combined by following the ‘journey’ of a one kilo brick of cocaine; from the beginning when the coca plants are harvested to its transport to the final destination, Kilo will show you each step along the way and gives abundant information about each ‘sub-world’.

Kilo travels all over Colombia as it shows us both sides of the cocaine business, giving this non fiction account a multidimentional feel. From the coca leave harvesters to the rebels, the combo leaders, sicarios, drugs smugglers and anti-drugs units, Kilo will help giving you insight in every single cog in the big cocaine business wheel… As a result, you will find a colorful and complete picture of how the cocaine production and distribution affects many lives both inside Colombia and in the rest of the world. Toby Muse uses a wide cast of different characters to introduce us to the various stages of the cocaine business, some characters returning later on while others only have a temporary spotlight on them. Each character serves its purpose, and shows us how brutal, dire and sometimes hopeless the whole situation is… There is no escaping the violence associated with cocaine, and the consequences for most are life-threatening to say the least.

The writing style is simply spot on, feels fluid and really made both the characters and different settings come alive for me. There is nothing dull and dry about this non fiction account! Instead, Kilo gives us a colorful and abundant image of the Colombian drugs world as a whole, showing us both sides instead of just focusing on either the cocaine business or the war on drugs. This fact alone already took this book to the next level for me, as it felt like as a reader you were getting two for the price of one! A real bargain for anyone who is interested in or wants to learn more about the Colombian drugs world. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Toby Muse is a British-American writer, television reporter, documentary filmmaker and foreign correspondent. He has reported from the front lines of the conflicts in Colombia, Iraq and Syria. He has embedded with soldiers, rebels and drug cartels, producing exclusive reports from cocaine laboratories and guerrilla jungle camps. He lived in Bogota, Colombia for more than fifteen years, reporting across South America and the endless drug war.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter // Facebook // Website

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK // Waterstones // Foyles // Book Depository // Hive.co.uk


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YVO’S SHORTIES #153 – I’ll Be Gone In The Dark & If I Stay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles with a completely different target group and genre, but both I’ve been meaning to read for a while and both were stories I ended up enjoying. The true crime title I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara and If I Stay by Gayle Forman.


Title: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara

Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
First published: February 27th 2018
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: February 25th 2020
Pages: 340

“If you commit murder and then vanish, what you leave behind isn’t just pain but absence, a supreme blankness that triumphs over everything else.”


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True crime has always intrigued me, so I’m not sure why I don’t pick it up more often… I’ve been meaning to read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara ever since it was first published two years ago, but somehow I just never got to it. I’m happy I finally did pick it up though. I confess I hadn’t heard of the Golden State Killer before, so this book was a true goldmine filled to the brim with information about his crimes and the investigation as it evolved both back in the 1970s and 1980s when they were first investigated as well as the cold case investigation in the 21st century with the help of DNA tests. True crime journalist Michelle McNamara played a big role in the investigation around the identity behind the Golden State Killer and it is sad that her untimely death ment she wasn’t able to see the guy finally get caught in 2018… Still, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark shows just how talented and determined the author was in her investigation and I can imagine just how big of a help she was in uncovering the truth after all that time. The details of the Golden State Killer crimes, both the rapes, home invasions and the murders, are pretty brutal and it’s hard to believe that with so many victims and attacks he was still able to escape justice for this long… I’ll Be Gone In The Dark doesn’t sugarcoat the graphic and gruesome facts, and definitely makes you glad you weren’t living in the areas mentioned back then… Or at least rethink about how terrifying the knowledge that someone dangerous is prowling close to where you live is, and how difficult it would be to defend yourself if he suddenly shows up in your bedroom that way. Definitely not a read for those with a weak stomach, but more than recommended if you are a true crime fan!


Title: If I Stay
(If I Stay #1)
Author: Gayle Forman

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 2nd 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: March 3rd 2020
Pages: 196

“He got it before I did. If I stay. If I live. It’s up to me.”


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I’m probably the last person on the planet to read this one! I’ve been meaning to try If I Stay for years now, but to be honest I wasn’t so sure if this story would be for me… I was afraid it was going to be too sappy and cliche for me, and that the hype around it simply wasn’t worth it. I confess I kept my expectations low, and the unexpected happened: I ended up being so much more invested in this story about Mia and Adam than I thought I would be! While I do feel part of the plot is a bit cliche, and especially the flashbacks can be a bit slow, there were also other elements I really loved. The most important of them being just how important music is throughout the story. Both the classical cello and the rock guitar come together beautifully and also represent the different characters in play in If I Stay… Somehow I ended up rooting for Mia and Adam despite the cliches, and I loved the fact that we saw the present story progress from the point of view of Mia’s unconscious self. Definitely an unique angle! The story introduces questions about life and death and it was intriguing to see Mia struggle to decide whether to stay or let go after this tragedy… Cliches and sometimes slow pace aside, I had a great time reading If I Stay and I might even have almost shed a tear or two at some point.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #145 – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened & Regretting You

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I’ve been looking forward to… I’ve been meaning to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson for years now, as I loved her humor in Furiously Happy, but sadly this first memoir didn’t have that same spark for me. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover was without doubt a great read though, although not my absolute favorite of hers.


Title: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
Author: Jenny Lawson

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: April 12th 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: January 15th 2020
Pages: 328

“Everyone else there had a sophisticated palate. I had one that needed therapy, and possibly an intervention.”


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I had so much fun when I read Furiously Happy back in 2016, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up Jenny Lawson‘s first memoir… I’ve been meaning to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened for years now, and although I’m glad I finally did, a part of me was a bit disappointed by what I found. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad read, but somehow that spark of Furiously Happy wasn’t really there for me. The snarky, blunt and sometimes sarcastic humor is still there, and I can’t deny laughing out loud more than once. But other parts felt like the author was simply trying to hard to be funny and quirky. And when the supposedly funny bits are starting to feel forced it really takes away from the reading experience. Some chapters worked better for me than others, and I didn’t always like how she talked about sometimes heavy topics… It’s one thing to not take yourself seriously and make fun of yourself, but certain comments/chapters could be insulting to some. The photos are a nice touch though! All in all, while it wasn’t a bad read, it by no means lived up to my reading experience with Furiously Happy. Might it just be that it is because raccoon Rory doesn’t appear in this first memoir? Or was it the different focus in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened? Who knows, but I’m going to stick with Rory for sure.


Title: Regretting You
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 10th 2019
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Finished reading: January 20th 2020
Pages: 365

“I feel like the contents of my life have shattered, and fragments of me have spilled out all over someone’s dusty hardwood floor.”


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I’ve been excited to read this one as, while I seem to have a love/hate relationship with her books, I did enjoy her most recent books without exception. Regretting You uses a dual POV, switching between Morgan and her daughter Clara, to tell us their story in the aftermath of a terrible accident. Morgan found herself pregnant with Clara at seventeen and doesn’t want her now sixteen year old daughter make the same mistakes… This is soon put in perspective as their lives seemed to crash after the accident. Secrets come to light, grief makes them different persons and both struggle to see and understand the truth behind the situation. I have to say that the whole cheating angle REALLY bothered me, and especially how both Morgan and Johah were treated. Absolutely despicable! My aversion is a personal reaction though and while it made me enjoy the story considerably less, I do think it was described well. I was truly disappointed by certain behavior of certain characters though… And I can’t say I was that much of a fan of either Morgan or Clara. That said, I absolutely adored Miller and I quite liked Jonah too despite a few disappointments. It was interesting to see the different relationships evolve over time and see the plot develop and reveal its secrets and twists… And surprise: I didn’t even mind the sexy scenes! In short: while Regretting You isn’t my absolute favorite CoHo book and there were a few things that bothered me (including the whole cheating angle and certain behavior of certain characters), I can’t deny it was still an excellent read and I had a great time reading it overall.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #133 – SHOUT & With The Fire On High

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! …


Title: SHOUT
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Poetry
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 7th 2019
Pages: 304

“untreated pain

is a cancer of the soul

that can kill you”


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While it’s true that I’m not exactly a big fan of poetry, I do like to try it every once in a while if the subject matter speaks to me. SHOUT has been recommended to me a couple of times, and when I saw it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards I decided to give in and finally read it. First of all I have to say that I truly admire Laurie Halse Anderson for not only speaking up about what happened to her, but also inspiring others to open up and talk about their own experiences. I confess I’ve yet to read Speak, but it’s on my TBR and I’m definitely hoping to get to it some time soon. SHOUT is 100% free verse, so don’t expect clear poetry structure and elements, but I guess the structure works as it helps the author talking about a wide variety of subjects including her childhood experiences, her time in Denmark and more recent events including author related experiences. Trigger warnings are definitely in place for difficult elements as (child) abuse, rape, violence, mental illness, alcoholism and drugs. They are the main reason behind this poetic memoir though: SHOUT is all about the author wanting to give victims the right to shout what happened to them from the rooftops as well as telling about her own experiences. I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t always able to connect to the writing style all that easily, and some ‘chapters’ worked better for me than others. This is purely talking about the form, not the content, which is both powerful, heartbreaking and harrowing. This memoir might not be for everyone, but there is no denying its power.

Title: With The Fire On High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: November 10th 2019
Pages: 400

“And I know the past isn’t a mirror image of the future, but it’s a reflection of what can be; and when your first love breaks your heart, the shards of that can still draw blood for a long, long time.”


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Elizabeth Acevedo’s books have been on my radar for quite some time now, and as I’m a huge foodie I just couldn’t resist picking up her newest book With The Fire On High first. My expectations were high after reading various glowing reviews, and I have to say that expectations were more than met. Because from that gorgeous cover to the very last page this story simply delivers. The driving force behind With The Fire On High is the main character Emoni. Strong, driven, talented and determined to do whatever is best for her family despite difficulties life keeps throwing at her… The fact that she is a teenage mom, but not afraid to fight the prejudices, show the world what she is worth and fight for the ones she loves is truly inspiring. The development of both Emoni and the other characters is thorough, spot on and really made them come alive for me. As a girl with Puerto Rican/black heritage, Emoni’s character is able to teach us more about prejudices, race related struggles as well as community and culture. I loved the introduction of not only Spanish words and sentences, but also Latin flavors, spices and food in With The Fire On High. I also loved just how big of a role food plays in the story in general, and all those mouthwatering descriptions and recipes definitely made me crave food. And as someone who has lived in Spain and visited Sevilla herself, those chapters brought back great memories. The writing itself is beautiful and something to savour on its own, but With The Fire On High turned out to be the perfect YA realistic fiction recipe with a dash of slowburn romance to sweeten it all. Recommended!


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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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