YVO’S SHORTIES #174 – Dear Martin & Broken Hearts, Fences And Other Things To Mend

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads… One turned out to be absolutely fantastic (Dear Martin), while the other sadly failed to hit the mark for me (Broken Hearts, Fences And Other Things To Mend).


Title: Dear Martin
(Dear Martin #1)
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: October 17th 2017
Publisher: Crown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 4th 2020
Pages: 226

“You can’t change how other people think and act, but you’re in full control of you. When it comes down to it, the only question that matters is this: If nothing in the world ever changes, what type of man are you gonna be?”

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I already knew Dear Martin was probably have an impact on me after all those raving reviews, but I was blown away by just how much it hit the mark and left me reeling. This is such an important, powerful and absolutely heartbreaking debut and helps educate us just how real the American race problematics are even to this date. In the light of recent events, Dear Martin is even more of an eye opener and I cannot thank the author enough for getting Justyce’s story out in the world. I’m not sure where to even start describing this true gem other than with the words that this story shattered my heart into a million pieces, bulldozered right over those pieces and then left me raging at the injustice of it all in its wake. Dear Martin is a short, but immensely powerful and captivating debut and I literally read it in one sitting. The characters, the writing, the tackling of social injustice and race discrimination, the plot, the letters written to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr… It makes for a real firecracker of a story everyone should read. Dear Martin and its characters will stay with me for a long time without a doubt!


Title: Broken Hearts, Fences, And Other Things To Mend
(Broken Hearts & Revenge #1)
Author: Katie Finn
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: February 14th 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Finished reading: July 9th 2020
Pages: 353

“It seems that thinking ‘things can’t get worse’ is an invitation for things to get much, much worse.”

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I confess that I have been meaning to read this one for years, and even my TBR jar ended up thinking it was long overdue. I was in the mood for a cute contemporary, and really thought Broken Hearts, Fences And Other Things To Mend was going to be a perfect fit… But I guess things weren’t ment to be. Things started out well as Katie Finn has a very readable and engaging writing style that makes it easy to fly through the pages. I initially really enjoyed this story, and was looking forward to see what would happen that summer in the Hamptoms… BUT. Things started to get really frustrating, as it was so clear what was really going on and I really just can’t believe Gemma didn’t realize what was happening right under her nose. Being able to see this ‘twist’ from a mile away as a reader was a huge disappointment, and I really didn’t like how the story and characters developed after that. I had problems with the credibility of certain aspects of the plot and the supposed ‘twists’, and that open ending was kind of a letdown too. I know this is part of a trilogy and the story will continue in the sequels, but still I wasn’t impressed when I saw the story was left hanging like that. And as I didn’t enjoy the first book enough, I don’t see myself reading the sequels and I guess I will never find out how things end between them. Oh well… Fans of the YA contemporary romance genre who don’t mind a cliche or two and a predictable plot will probably have a better time with this story though.


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ARC REVIEW: Saving Ruby King – by Catherine Adel West

Title: Saving Ruby King
Author: Catherine Adel West
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
First published: June 16th 2020
Publisher: Park Row
Finished reading: June 8th 2020
Pages: 352

“The world takes so much, sometimes words are all one can possess.”

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

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I was invited to read Saving Ruby King last month, and I found myself to be immediately intrigued by the blurb of this title. Especially considering recent events in the world… Because we can’t have enough own voices stories out there to help educate us more. That said, I have to say that I’m having a really hard time rating this book, and I ended up having mixed thoughts about the story as a whole. I’ll try to explain below what worked and didn’t work for me.

On one hand, Saving Ruby King is undeniably a very important and powerful read: an own voices debut set in both present and past Chicago that helps give us some insight in the race problematics and issues black people have to face even to this day. This element was the driving force behind this story and the main reason I kept reading. BUT. On the other hand, a big part of the story also focuses on religion. There is nothing wrong with that, but I personally have a huge aversion to stories that focus on religion, and even more if they start sounding preachy. This has nothing to do with the quality of this story, but instead is rather a personal reaction to an element I wasn’t expecting to be so present… But the fact remains that I struggled to keep reading every time religion came in focus, which was a lot.

Apart from my obvious issues with the focus on religion, Saving Ruby King is a fantastic debut. The writing, the complexity of the plot, the multiple POV structure, the character development, the mystery around and secrets of multiple characters, the race problematics, the story of abuse, the violence and also a note of hope… This story has so many elements and it makes for a multi-faceted and rich story. The plot follows multiple characters both in past and present, and it can be a bit of a juggle in the beginning to keep track of how they all fit together, but Saving Ruby King provides us with helpful family trees to make things easier. I also particularly liked the perspective of the church, which was both unique and gave us a more neutral insight in past events.

This is not an easy story to read, and will most likely make you feel uncomfortable. I applaude Catherine Adel West for the realistic development of the plot and characters, and for not being afraid to show the ugly truth and for the characters and elements to go dark and unsettling. This is a story about race problematics as well as a story of domestic violence, child abuse, self harm, murder as well as a spark of hope… Beautifully rendered, and if you are not bothered by the strong presence of religion in the story, you will be blown away by this story. Trust me, this book is worth reading for the black voices and focus on race problematics alone. I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that stood out to me…

“We’re a minute blip on someone’s television. Sixty seconds and my friend is ruined, or ruined even more than she already was.”

“They know they won’t be held accountable for their actions. America doesn’t need ropes and trees anymore to kill us. They have cops.”

“It’s a melting pot jigsaw puzzle with very distinctive boundaries. And those invisible lines still carve up the city, separating black, brown and yellow from white, opportunity and a void of such things.”

“I’m black. That’s what matters. Cops cover for cops. Blue covers blue. Blue doesn’t cover black.”


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Sister – by Kjell Ola Dahl #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Sister Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve become a big fan of the nordic noir genre over the years and after a positive first experience with Kjell Ola Dahl‘s work (The Courier) last year I was ready for more. And Sister most definitely didn’t disappoint! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Sister
(Oslo Detectives #9)
Author: Kjell Ola Dahl
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: April 5th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally written in Norwegian: ‘Søsteren’)

“He knew the only way to find an answer was to walk into the hornet’s nest and see what made it buzz.”

*** 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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I’ve had the opportunity to rediscover the nordic noir genre in recent years and I’ve been trying to explore more authors and books ever since. After a positive first experience with Kjell Ola Dahl‘s work (The Courier) last year I was ready for more… And Sister sounded like the perfect read for me. I do have to confess that I didn’t realize Sister was actually book number 9 of the Oslo Detectives series when I signed up for the blog tour, but luckily this turned out to be one of those series where the sequels can be read quite easily as a stand-alone as well. Lucky for me, but also for those who don’t have time to catch up with the series first (I mean, eight books is a LOT) and are still curious about the Oslo Detectives books… Although you will probably end up like me wanting to read the previous books anyway after you finish Sister. You’ve been warned!

Before I start my review properly, first a big round of applause for translator Don Bartlett for providing us with another fluid and simply fantastic translation. Us poor English language readers wouldn’t be able to enjoy our dose of nordic noir otherwise! As soon as I started reading Sister, I knew that I was in for a treat. While I didn’t have the proper background information of main character Frølich, it was still really easy to connect to both the story and his character almost straight away. In the case of Sister, it didn’t seem too necessary to possess that background information… It was enough for me to know that Frølich is a former cop and currently working as a private detective. I do have to confess this story made me curious about the previous books and his character development over time, as I’m sure he has been through a lot in eight books. Frølich is your typical and almost cliche private detective character with a complicated past and former job as a police detective, but he has that je ne sais quoi that made me like him almost instantly and I enjoyed following him during his investigations.

The case Frølich is asked to investigate is both fascinating, deeply uncomfortable and potentially very dangerous. What starts out as a seemingly transparent case, the asylum seeker needing to find her sister living in Norway to avoid being deported, soon turns out to be a lot more than meets the eye. The story tackles a number of difficult and sensitive topics including abuse, immigrants, an old disaster case, conspiracy and murder… This may seem like a lot, but I personally enjoyed how everything was incorporated into the story. The main focus may seem to be on the asylum seeker case at first, but as the first body shows up Frølich’s attention shifts as he starts to wonder how everything fits in. Slowly more aspects, secrets and twists of the plot are revealed; those secrets and plot twists adding an extra level of suspense as welll as guiding Frølich to different characters and locations in play. We travel through Norway as the story evolves and the descriptions of the different settings really made that nordic noir feel shine through for me.

Sister doesn’t just follow one case and this diversity and overlap turns the story into a multidimentional thriller that is both suspenseful and addictive. We have Norway travels, we have multiple murders, we have an old disaster case and possible conspiracy, we have a human interest and immigrant angle, and we even have a little romance on the side to lighten up things a little… All combined together into one delicious nordic noir meal. If you are a fan of the genre, Sister is without doubt an excellent choice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in
1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven
novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum
psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In
2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the
prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has
been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.


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ARC REVIEW: The Body In The Garden – by Katharine Schellman

Title: The Body In The Garden
(Lily Adler Mystery #1)

Author: Katharine Schellman
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: March 7th 2020
Pages: 336

“Secrets. Lily narrowed her eyes as she looked around the crowded ballroom. She could practically feel them in the air: the secrets, the gossip, and the scandal.”

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

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I confess it was the gorgeous cover that first lured me in, but as soon as I read the blurb I was completely convinced I had to add The Body In The Garden to my wishlist. I love a good historical mystery and between the 1815 London setting and the hint at a newly widowed main character investigating a murder I was fully intrigued. This debut is the first of a new historical (cozy) mystery series and while it failed to blow me away personally, I do believe cozy mystery fans will be in for a treat.

I think that part of the problem The Body In The Garden didn’t work all that well for me was the fact that this story might simply not have been a right fit. While I love historical fiction in general and I do love a good mystery, I tend to prefer mysteries with a slightly faster pace and less frivolous characters and high society talk a lot better. This is of course my own fault as I should have read the blurb more thoroughly, but it is what it is I guess. That said, there is no denying that the pace of this first Lily Alder Mystery book is considerably slow. True, the murder itself happens quickly enough, but the aftermath tends to focus more on society events and interactions rather than the murder investigation itself. For someone who always enjoys the investigation part of a murder mystery the most, this was a bit of a let down… The more suspenseful parts were a bit too far apart for me and I struggled to stay focused on the story as it was. That said, I do have to say that the final twist was brilliant developed and a pleasant surprise to end this story with.

The historical setting in The Body In The Garden was well developed, and I could really appreciate how the author incorporated race problematics into the story with the help of two mixed-race characters (Ofelia and Jack). It was interesting to see 19th century society react to both characters. Talking about the characters, we can see quite a big cast of main and secundary characters in this story, which will definitely keep you on your toes if you want to keep up with who is who. Jack is easy to like as a character, and his rogue charm comes of the pages beautifully. That said, I can’t say that I was a fan of Lily. While I appreciate her stubbornness and fierce belief in what is right and wrong, it soon started to get a bit old that she was always right and that she didn’t want anyone helping her. The whole constant remembering of her deceased husband was really getting annoying as well; I know her being a widow is fundamental for the plot as she wouldn’t be able to move so freely otherwise, but that doesn’t mean we have to be reminded of it every few pages… Also, her behavior seemed to be a bit too modern for the time period she lived in.

The writing itself is easy on the eye, and I still believe the idea behind this new historical (cozy) mystery series is fascinating. I loved the historical setting in 1815 London and the final twist was without doubt well played. I did have some issues with The Body In The Garden, including the pace, focus on frivolous high society events and characters, but I also think this might not have been exactly right story for me. If you enjoy character-driven and slower paced cozy mysteries with a historical setting and a hint of crime, you will be in for a treat with The Body In the Garden.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #148 – Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet & What We Saw

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two backlist titles I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and both turned out to be excellent reads. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford was both hardbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, and while What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler is without doubt a darker read, the heavy elements including rape and victim shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed.


Title: Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: January 27th 2009
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Finished reading: February 3rd 2020
Pages: 396

“The hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.”


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I confess I have been meaning to read Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet for years now, and last year I thought getting a physical copy would help making me finally read it. It still took me way longer than expected, but I finally did! I think it’s probably known by now that I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction and this story is able to give us an original angle. Set in Seattle during the war, the focus is on the Chinese and Japanese community and the threats the Japanese community receives as a direct consequence of Japan’s role in WWII. Main characters Henry and Keiko are able to describe this inner conflict, the racism and the consequences for the Japanese community perfectly. Switching between 1942-1945 and 1986 and between young and old Henry, we slowly learn more about the events that started and blossomed the friendship between Henry and Keiko as well as the more serious events involving the Japanese community as a whole. On top of that we have a wonderful extra element in the form of jazz music and Sheldon, who was such a lovely character and he definitely added a little something extra to the story as well as both him and his music providing a red thread to weave the past and present together. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet is a beautifully written, poignant and sometimes heartbreaking read, but not without a note of hope… And it is able to describe the race problematics and injustice for all those innocent Japanese families perfectly. I’m positive any historical fiction fan will have an excellent time reading this wonderful story about Henry and Keiko!


Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Finished reading: February 4th 2020
Pages: 336

“I wonder which is worse: the fear of the unknown? Or knowing for sure that something terrible is true?”


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I’ve been wanting to read What We Saw for a while now, and I’m definitely glad my TBR jar thought it was time to finally pick it up. I already knew this wasn’t going to be an easy read with the rape and victim blaming topic, and it is without doubt trigger warning worthy… That said, I thought the author did an excellent job portraying the whole situation as well as shining an all important light on the topic. Sadly the events as described What We Saw are all too real and sadly rape victims like Stacey become victims all over again when nobody believes their story and people simply say ‘she had it coming’ or ‘she asked for it with the way she dressed and by being wasted’ without knowing the facts… It was interesting to see the whole story from Kate’s POV as she wasn’t directly involved or too close to the victim. Instead, we see the whole situation as an ‘outsider’ wanting to uncover the truth and not accept what everybody wants or finds it easy to believe as the truth… And showing in the process how hard it can be to go against the popular kids and just how far victim blaming can go. What We Saw is definitely a darker read, but the heavy elements including rape and victime blaming/shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed. If you can stomach it, it makes for a very interesting read!


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ARC REVIEW: Big Lies In A Small Town – by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies In A Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 5th 2020
Pages: 400

“I stared at the signature a while longer, wondering how a life that had started with so much promise could now be shrouded in such mystery.”

*** 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’ve heard so many great things about Diane Chamberlain‘s stories over the years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up one of her titles. I must have more than one title waiting on my kindle, but somehow other books always got in the way… That’s why I thought having an ARC of her newest title, and therefore a deadline, would be the perfect little push I needed to finally remedy this. The fact that the blurb of Big Lies In A Small Town sounds absolutely fascinating definitely helped that decision… Now that I’ve had the chance to finally try her work, I will definitely come back for more soon!

What made Big Lies In A Small Town so successful for me? There were quite a few factors, but let’s start with the basics of the plot. The story is told with the help of a dual timeline and two POVs, something that can go either way for me as it is very hard to get the balance between past and present just right. I think Diane Chamberlain hit the nail on the head with this story though. I felt both Morgan in the present and Anna in the past were equally important, equally well developed and equally crucial to the plot. The dual timeline structure turned this story into a complex, rich and very much satisfying historical fiction read… The POV switches only adding to the suspense and the mystery around Anna and the mural instead of distracting you.

There are a lot of different elements in play in both past and present POVs. We have Morgan with elements including DUI, prison, alcoholism, feelings of guilt, art restoration work, family and even romance. Then we have Anna with elements including racism and the South, gender discrimination, abuse, rape, family, mental health, crime and art of course. That seems to be a lot to have on just one plate, but Diane Chamberlain somehow makes it work and the result is an abundant and lavish story that also has more than one hidden deeper meaning.

It was fascinating to learn that Big Lies In A Small Town was actually based on real events and that the small town Edenton, North Carolina, does actually exist… And so did Anna Dale. It shows that a lot of research went into making this story feel authentic, and the details and descriptions really took the story to the next level. Racism and related problems in the 1940 South play a very important role in this story, and I thought it was described realistically. Likewise, we have Morgan in the present with a different set of problems, which are likewise realistically described. This story proves just how important is to get the research right before starting a story based on true events!

As for the characters… While Morgan and Anna weren’t my favorite characters of their corresponding POVs, I can’t deny that their development in general is very well done and they both intrigued me. Favorites would probably be Oliver and Jesse, but each character put his or her own stamp on the story and they all played a role in representing the many different elements of Big Lies In A Small Town. The pace of this story might be a tad slow, as there are a lot of descriptions and their is a lot of focus on the characters as a whole. But there is also plenty of suspense, and the mystery around Anna and the strange elements on the mural will keep you on your toes as you try to discover the truth.

Big Lies In A Small Town is a historical fiction read that isn’t afraid to go big and throw a complex and wide-ranging plot with a deeper meaning at you; well researched and well developed, the result is an abundant story following two flawed but absolutely fascinating characters. Fans of the genre who don’t mind a slower pace will most likely devour this one!


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ARC REVIEW: The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek – by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: April 23rd 2019
Pages: 320

“Lots of cures are worse than what they aim to cure.”

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

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I love bookish books and I was intrigued by this story as soon as I first read the blurb. What makes this historical fiction story set in 1936 Kentucky so fascinating is that it’s based on true events. Both the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians and the blue-skinned people of Kentucky have existed and it’s fascinating to learn more about them. The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek is well researched and gives you a lot of details about the Pack Horse Librarians, created after the Roosevelt’s New Deal Acts. It also gives you insight in the condition of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky, and while some aspects have been altered (dates of the medical research for example), it gives you a general idea of the phenomenon. This story is also about race problematics and racism; the mountain folk discriminating all non-white inhabitants without exception. While it took me a considerably long time to warm up to the writing style, once I finally did I finished the story in one sitting. The driving force behind this story is Cussy Mary, a character that will win over your heart and one that will probably stay with me for a long time. She is what you call a flawed character, but the good parts of her personality really shine through and I loved reading about her, her job and her patrons. A little warning: some scenes are a bit graphic and there are definitely a few devastating and heartbreaking moments included especially in the second half. Make sure to have your tissues close just in case! I personally found The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek a fascinating story and while it had a slow start for me, I soon found myself I couldn’t stop reading. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction based on true events, loves unique characters and doesn’t mind a tear or two.


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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 #77 – A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful & Ghost Boys

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a title I picked up on a whim and another I needed for the #ownvoices prompt of the Beat The Backlist EPIC Bingo challenge. A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom turned out to be a slowburner, but the rest of the story made up for the slow start. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes blew me away. Definitely a must-read.


Title: A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful
Author: Eric Lindstrom

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 29th 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Finished reading: January 15th 2019
Pages: 353

“I can’t bear the thought of how they’d look at me, and treat me, if they knew how many pills I take every morning just to act more or less like everybody else.”


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This is one of those titles I picked up on a whim without a proper reason of doing so. I do remember enjoying his debut in the past, so that might have had to do with my decision to pick up A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful… Although it might have been the cover itself as well. I have to say that this story was a slowburner for me. It took me a while to get into the story and get a proper feel for the plot and characters. The warming up was slow, but once I did my feelings soared. There is just something about Eric Lindstrom‘s writing and character development that will manage to win you over even if you think it won’t happen. I can really appreciate how bipolar disorder is put in the spotlight with the help of this story, and it was interesting to see how it was portrayed in both Mel’s character and those around her. The chapter introductions were a nice touch, and I just loved how romance only played a tiny part in the story (and mostly innocent at that), leaving room for the important things to be properly developed and discussed. I could really appreciate that! It was interesting to see how things ended and while there are a few high school cliches involved, somehow they didn’t bother me that much. Slow, but sweet and definitely worth the read! Mel will be able to turn around your feelings, David is adorable and the bipolar disorder seems to have been very well handled!


Title: Ghost Boys
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes

Genre: MG, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 17th 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Only the living can make change.”


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I first heard about this book when it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards last year, and to be honest I’m surprised this little gem hasn’t received more attention and love. Ghost Boys is such a powerful read! With race problematics and discrimination sadly being all too real even today, this is such an important book for middle graders and adults alike to read… The topic itself is brilliantly handled, well developed without things becoming too political or dull. The power behind Ghost Boys is the twelve-year-old Jerome, who gives the fatal consequence of racism a face and will make your heart break. The division between the dead and alive chapters was very cleverly done and gives the story an original twist as well as a paranormal touch. I really liked the idea of the other ghost boys, the inclusion of different ideas about life after dead and the incorporation of historical information was very well done. The writing will draw you in right away, your heart will ache for Jerome and those close to him and you will feel the powerful message behind the story long before you reach the final page. This is a story of what sadly is still happening around the world and something ‘only the living can change‘. A true eye-opener and a very important read anyone should read.


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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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