YVO’S SHORTIES #88 – And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer & The Enchanted

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories I highly enjoyed for different reasons… The novella And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer by one of my favorite authors Fredrik Backman and a story I had to put on hold the first time around but highly enjoyed: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.


Title: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Novella
First published: August 24th 2015
Publisher: Atria books
Finished reading: March 4th 2019
Pages: 97
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Och varje morgon blir vägen hem längre och längre’)

“I’m constantly reading a book with a missing page, and it’s always the most important one.”


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I think most of you are already aware of the fact I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman‘s work… I decided to pick up this novella first before hopefully diving into the Beartown sequel next month. Novellas can go either way for me, as I normally prefer a more developed story, but there are exceptions where I’m able to connect to a short story in the same way. And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer is one of those exceptions. Not only is it good to see Alzheimer in the spotlight, we also see its effects on both the person itself and those close in a refreshing way. This novella has an almost surreal touch where memories and the real world overlap and exist at the same time. I love the way Fredrik Backman uses the prose and memories to help understand what it would be like having a fading memory. Past and present are liquid as we see the grandfather, his son and grandson in different stages of their life in such a way that erases all boundaries. The representation of the grandfather’s memories as a square where persons and objects alike are incorporated is fascinating… Especially how the square changes over time as Alzheimer starts taking over his brain. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking family focused story that is well worth your time.


Title: The Enchanted
Author: Rene Denfeld

Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Phoenix
Finished reading: March 7th 2019
Pages: 233

“After a time, it seemed that the world inside the books became my world. So when I thought of my childhood, it was dandelion wine and ice cream on a summer porch, like Ray Bradbury, and catching catfish with Huck Finn. My own memories receded and the book memories became the real memories, far more than the outside, far more even than in here.”


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I remember first trying to read this story a few years ago and being unable to connect to the magical realism elements of the story… It really shows that there is something as the right or wrong time to pick up a book, because this time I was fully mesmerized by this magical story. The Enchanted isn’t for everyone and if you are not a fan of magical realism I won’t suggest reading it. If you are open to the genre though, this story will prove to be a little gem. The story behind The Enchanted is actually quite dark, as the main setting is inside Death Row of a maximum security prison. We get to know some of the darkest and most dangerous criminals in a very special way, and it’s an interesting as well as very disturbing glimpse inside their heads. I love how we hop between different characters in such a flowing way that really helps keep everything connected. One of the voices only has his identity revealed at the very end, but this doesn’t mean the story doesn’t make sense or is harder to follow. No, you will get swept up in the whirlwind that is this magical story and savour each and every single magical realism element that will help soothen the sometimes difficult and disturbing subjects as (child) abuse, violence and mental health. Rene Denfeld did a fantastic job combining the different elements, waving them together in such a way that will leave you speechless by the time you reach the final page. The writing, the magical realism, the characters, the contrast of the fantastical and brutal reality… It’s true that The Enchanted is not for everyone, but the right person will be just as enchanted as I found myself to be.


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ARC REVIEW: An American Marriage – by Tayari Jones

Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: January 29th 2018
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Finished reading: February 7th 2019
Pages: 320

“There are too many loose ends in the world in need of knots. You can’t attend to all of them, but you have to try.”

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

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There has been a lot of hype around An American Marriage ever since it first came out last year, so much that I decided I wanted to see how I would react to this story myself. I was definitely excited when I was approved for an ARC of this version with a new cover! Nothing can beat that other gorgeous blue cover for me, but I do love how well this new cover fits the story. The two main characters back to back, the handwritten letters as a background, the use of contrasting colors… Truly eyecatching. Now that I have finally had the chance to read An American Marriage, I can understand why it has been praised this much. Powerful, raw, moving, emotionally draining… This story will most definitely leave its mark. Let’s start with the fact that sadly having an innocent man going to prison is something that still happens even to this date. Prejudice and racial discrimination are two phenomenons we cannot seem to get rid of in society, and Southern US does have its history. The way this story is told and the different elements are introduced and incorporated into the plot is brilliant. An American Marriage proves to be an eye-opener as well as an emotional and heartbreaking story about two persons being ripped apart by a wrong conviction. The story is told from three different POVs, all three characters being key to this story. Celestial, Roy and Andre each have their own role in An American Marriage, each has their flaws and each is developed realistically and evolves during this story. Unfortunately for me, I was never able to fully warm up to them though, which is one of the things that prevented me connecting to the story fully. The pace was also considerably slow at points, which might be a turn off for some. These are only minor complaints compared to the wonderful writing style and the way this story is constructed though. I really like how we go from different POVs to letters written between Celestial and Roy during his stay in prison and back to regular prose afterwards. It’s a representation of how the characters were limited in their communication during this difficult time and it adds a little something extra to the story. The representation of the failed justice system and how screwed up things were this close to the present days is both shocking and a revelation. I’ve read stories about innocent men in prison before, and Tayari Jones’ voice is a welcome addition to the group. Could I have done without the love triangle? Yes. But I guess it does help showcasing just how far the consequences of that wrong conviction will go. It’s without doubt a powerful read I’m glad I finally had the chance to read.

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Celestial and Roy come from different backgrounds, but are both well on their way to success. Roy is a young executive and Celestial an artist with a promising career, and when they marry they see themselves with a wonderful future. They settle down in a routine that seems to work for both and everything seems to be right on track… Only for everything to be ripped away one fated night. Will they be able to overcome the obstacles put in their away and prove for once and for all they locked an innocent man behind bars?

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I already had some ideas about An American Marriage when I first started reading it, but I didn’t realize the full extent of this powerful and emotionally draining story until I was already in way too deep. While it is true that I failed to connect to the characters completely, I wasn’t happy with the love triangle and the pace was a bit slow at points, it was the story itself that made me forget about those minor complaints. An innocent man behind bars just because someone pointed their finger (basically), the struggle to prove the truth, the strain the situation has on a relationship and those close to Roy in general, the racial discrimination, the failed justice system, the family history… Powerful elements that have been excellently developed and executed and which turn this story into one well worth your time.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #53 – The Walls Around Us & Love And Gelato

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around another YA edition, although the books belong to different genres. The first was an absolute cover love case and a story that managed to surprise me. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma has to be one of the few stories were magical realism as an element didn’t actually bother me. The other is a typical contemporary romance story set abroad, Love And Gelato by Jenna Evan Welch, and was too cliche for me to properly enjoy.


Title: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma

Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Finished reading: October 6th 2018
Pages: 319

“Our private taste in books showed a hint of our secret selves, and sometimes I was the only one who got to see those secrets.”


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This is one of those books I just knew I had to read without even knowing what it was about… The power of a beautiful cover. It’s also one of those books where it’s better to go in blind, because the full effect of it will be that much more powerful. The Walls Around Us isn’t your ordinary YA story. Strange, captivating. brutal, mesmerizing… You will be in for a ride with this one. You think this is just another thrilling crime story when you start reading, with a hint of a teenage Orange Is The New Black and a bit of Black Swan. But The Walls Around Us offers us more than that. It’s one of the first times magical realism is used in a story that didn’t actually bother me. Instead, the strangeness and beautiful descriptions took me on a journey along with the main characters, enjoying my time discovering what exactly was going on. The prison scenes were fascinating, and the many dance related scenes were a nice touch as well. I can’t say I was a fan of most of the main characters, but they did work perfectly in The Walls Around Us I guess. I enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would, and all in all it was more than a pleasant surprise. I don’t think The Walls Around Us is for everyone, but the right person will be just as mesmerized by this strange and magical story as I found myself to be.


Title: Love & Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch 

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: October 9th 2018
Pages: 400

“You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it’s for the same two things.”
“What?”
“Love and gelato.”


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I know contemporary romance isn’t really my thing, but I have fond memories of my various stays in Italy and I really felt like travelling back there again through this story. I mean, who can resist that setting and the possible talk about a lot of delicious Italian ice cream? Because there is one thing true: Love & Gelato makes you crave all kinds of Italian food. And the author did an excellent job at describing the city of Florence and the setting in general. It almost felt I was there along with the main characters! The setting was probably my favorite part of this story, and I liked the idea of the journal and Lina learning more about her mom that way. The writing makes it easy to fly through this story as well… But there were also a few things that really bothered me as well. The first elephant in the room is of course the dreaded love triangle. Why o why do most YA books have to be ruined by this trope? I would have loved this story so much better without it… Because the love triangle (or in fact multiple ones) also ment the introduction of a whole lot of cliches. And cringeworthy moments. And more cliches. It ended up being just too much for me, although I have the suspicion fans of contemporary romance stories will enjoy Love & Gelato a lot better than I did. It’s also the perfect summer/beach read despite some sad and deeper moments.


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

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


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

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

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


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


Title: Orange Is The New Black
Author: Piper Kerman

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

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


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


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ARC REVIEW: The Sun Does Shine – by Anthony Ray Hinton @StMartinsPress

Title: The Sun Does Shine
Author: Anthony Ray Hinton
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, True Crime
First published: March 27th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: March 11th 2018
Pages: 272

“And with that laughter, I realized that the State of Alabama could steal my future and my freedom, but they couldn’t steal my soul or my humanity.”

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

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I was intrigued by the premise of The Sun Does Shine as soon as I first read the blurb. I have a weak spot for memoirs, and Anthony Ray Hinton‘s story is without doubt one that will be able to catch your attention straight away. I knew right from the start this wasn’t going to be an easy read, but it is almost impossible to wrap your head around all that the author has had to go through during all that time. Powerful, infuriating, heartbreaking and with a dose of hope and forgiveness… The Sun Does Shine is one of the best true crime memoirs I have read to this date, and his story will stay with me for a long time. Why did this memoir have such an impact on me? Let’s see if I can explain my reasons… In a nutshell, this memoir is about the life of a man who had to spend thirty years on death row despite being innocent and having a solid alibi. His crime? Being born poor and black in the South (Alabama), a place where he ended up being judged by the color of his skin and the money in his pocket instead of the simple fact he was guilty or not. This fact alone will be enough to enrage you, one infuriating detail of his case after the other causing sparks and making you want to scream and pull at your hairs. How is it possible that in 1985 things like this still happened? Incriminating an innocent man with a solid alibi, discriminating him and denying him his rights? It made me want to travel back in time and just tell those persons involved in his case what I really thought of them. The Sun Does Shine talks about the author growing up as well as the difficulties he has had to face during his entire life, even long before he was wrongly convicted of a crime. Racial segregation and discrimination is an important element in this memoir, and even though Anthony Ray Hinton never points a direct finger at the guilty and even stresses he forgives them, it shows us readers just how wrong the system was and still is in Southern Alabama. It’s a topic that has always touched me, and it is very well described in this memoir.

But this memoir isn’t just about injustice and racial discrimination. Like the author stresses, it is also about hope and forgiveness, which shines through in his writing and underlying message. His experience during all those years on death row is fascinating to read, as well as describing his personal relationships with fellow inmates and how the experience truly changes men. While I believe in punishment for those who have committed crimes, I don’t think death row is a solution. Like Anthony Ray Hinton said, who are we to judge who is innocent and who deserves to die? And then I’m not even thinking about possibly innocent men and women killed because of a mistake during their trials. Anthony Ray Hinton‘s case shows us just how wrong things can go, sending an innocent man to spend thirty years of his life on death row. I’m truly impressed and inspired by his view of life and ability for forgiveness. I can recommend this memoir to everyone; it is a true eye-opener.

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In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with robbery and two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Hinton was working the night the last robbery took place and had a solid alibi, so he knew it was a case of mistaken identity and believed the truth would soon set him free. But the fact that he was innocent didn’t mean anything to those in charge of the trial, and with no money and simply being a poor black man in the South, he was sentenced to death soon after. He spent the first three years on Death Row at Holan State Prison without speaking a word to anyone except those who believe in his innocence. His initial anger and despair of being sent to his death as an innocent man changed when he realized he had to accept his fate, and he was determined to not only survive and prove his innocence, but also find a way to live on Death Row.

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Powerful, inspiring, infuriating, heartbreaking, but also full of hope and forgiveness. The Sun Does Shine shows us how racial discrimination and prejudice helped send an innocent man to death row and keep him there for thirty years despite solid proof of his innocence. The pure injustice of it all makes you want to scream, but both his case and experience is very well documented in this memoir and makes for a painful, but inspiring, intriguing and very powerful read. I’m truly impressed by his views on life and his ability to be able to forgive the unforgivable. Highly recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #14: Hide And Seek (ARC) & The New Hunger


Oh yes, it’s time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And I’m happy to say that with today’s edition I will be finishing my last pending 2017 review; Hide And Seek by M.J. Arlidge is the (un)lucky book to win that title. No more backlog, woohoo!! It was an interesting enough thriller that can be read as a stand-alone as well. The New Hunger by Isaac Marion I finished earlier this month, a zombie novella that will hopefully make me get a copy of book number two some time this year (although I saw there is going to be a third book, so I might wait until there is more news about that one).


Title: Hide And Seek
(Helen Grace #6)
Author: M.J. Arlidge

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 8th 2016
Publisher: Berkley Books
Finished reading: October 14th 2017
Pages: 416

“In prison it is the hope that kills you, not despair.”

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


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I kind of messed up when I requested a copy of this one, because I totally didn’t realise Hide And Seek was actually book number six of a series. Oops? Thankfully (at least for me), Hide And Seek can also be read as a stand-alone without missing too much of the background information. What I liked in this thriller is the fact that the main character is actually a cop trapped inside a prison… Call that original! Helen Grace is framed for a murder she didn’t commit and now has to survive in a prison full of enemies; more than one inside thanks to her and they are not happy. This setting and plot makes for some very interesting reading and the writing only makes it easier to emerge yourself fully in the problems Helen Grace has to face while trying to survive. And it’s not just the daily life that is challenging, because on top of that there is a killer on the loose on the inside. Hide And Seek definitely ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to a thrilling read.


Title: The New Hunger
(Warm Bodies #1.5)
Author: Isaac Marion

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Horror
First published: January 28th 2013
Publisher: Atria
Finished reading: January 17th 2018 
Pages: 170

“Nothing is permanent. Not even the end of the world.”


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I read the first book Warm Bodies ages ago (read: 2015) and wasn’t aware a sequel came out last year until recently… So I thought it was about time I picked up the novella while I wait until there is more news on book three so I can read both sequels together. The New Hunger is a prequel novella and I think I actually enjoyed it better than the first book. It might have been because of the lack of romance in this one, but The New Hunger turned out to be quite an interesting read despite the fact I’m not really into zombie stories. The writing and pace make it into a superfast read and I enjoyed reading about the background of the Warm Bodies characters and how it is to survive in this dystopian world in the first place. Get ready for a bunch of zombie attacks, dystopian scenes and characters in survival-mode when you pick up this one! Short, but sweet with a healthy dose of fresh brains.


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