YVO’S SHORTIES #42 – Leah On The Offbeat & The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two authors I’ve read books of before that belong to my all time favorites… Although this time around they didn’t manage to get the highest rating. Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli was definitely the fluffy and feel good read I was looking for. I still prefer Simon, but this one was very entertaining as well. And Jonas Jonasson‘s books seem to be hit and miss for me… I absolutely loved The Hundred Year Old Man, but both other reads (including The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden) didn’t hit the mark for me.


Title: Leah On The Offbeat
(Creekwood #2)
Author: Becky Albertalli

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 24th 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: August 27th 2018
Pages: 364

“I hate when assholes have talent. I want to live in a world where good people rule at everything and shitty people suck at everything.”


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Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is definitely one of my all time favorite reads, and as soon as I heard there was going to be a sequel I was jumping up and down out of excitement. Then I started thinking: but how could a sequel ever live up to the first book? Of course there was no way I could keep myself from spending more time with some of my favorite characters though, so I knew I had to pick up Leah On The Offbeat at some point. I’ve heard mixed things about this title ever since it was published, but this didn’t stop me from being curious and wanting to give it a go myself. And while I don’t think it is as good as the original, it does have a love triangle and the main character Leah can get annoying, I do love the diversity in this story. And basically it’s cute, it’s fluffy, it’s lgbt, it has interesting characters and I had a great time reading it. Becky Albertalli is an expert in creating quirky, interesting and well developed contemporary characters and it is exactly those characters that take this story to the next level. Plus, we get a whole lot of Simon and his gang as well! Would I have preferred not having the love triangles? Probably. Could I have done without some of the drama and cliches? Maybe. Did Leah started to get on my nerves at points? Likely. But that doesn’t take away that Leah On The Offbeat was just the cute contemporary read I needed where diversity, quirkiness and uniqueness are not only encouraged but also praised.


Title: The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden
Author: Jonas Jonasson

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Humor
First published: 2013
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Finished reading: August 29th 2018
Pages: 419
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Analfabeten som kunde räkna’)

“He was being all normal again. He was practically apologizing for existing. Which was, of course, rather contradictory if he didn’t exist”


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I read The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared back in 2015 and it ended up being on my list of all time favorites ever since. It’s true that Jonas Jonasson‘s dry and sometimes sarcastic humor and writing style in general isn’t for everyone, but if it’s your style you will be blown away by it. I’ve been looking for a repeat experience ever since, but sadly I haven’t been able to. Hitman Anders was a total miss for me, although I still had hope for The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden. I tried keeping my expectations low, but still I wasn’t charmed by this one either. Let’s begin with the positive. I do like his writing style and there are definitely some funny moments there. I like how the author incorporated many politically and socially important historical events in his book as a background for the main characters. Nombeko’s history is fascinating and shines a light on the complicated past of South Africa, although it’s not the main goal of the story. The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden has a dual POV structure, where we follow not only Nombeko in South Africa, but also the Swedish Ingmar and later his sons Holger and Holger. I personally wasn’t a fan of the Swedish POV especially in the first half of the book, although I did grow to like Holger Two. Things also improved in the second half as the different storylines merged and the story started to flow better. Still, it was hard to connect to some of the characters and the story did drag considerably at points. It was nice to see how everything did fit together and how small their worlds ended up being, although I don’t think it was exactly credible. I don’t think the story was ment that way in the first time, but it wasn’t the laugh-out-loud funny story I was expecting either. Oh well, maybe the new The Hundred-Year-Old Man sequel will manage to finally blow my socks off again?


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ARC REVIEW: Stage Four – by Sander Kollaard

Title: Stage Four
Author: Sander Kollaard

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: January 18th 2018
Pages: 148
(Originally written in Dutch: ‘Stadium IV’)

“Everything she was, was stored in her soft brain tissue. The tumor growing in that tissue – the meteorite on its way to destruction – threatened not so much her life as her identity.”

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

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I vowed to read more international authors/translations this year, and somehow this book spoke to me when I saw it mentioned. I know technically I could have tried reading Stage Four in Dutch, but my language skills are more than rusty so I decided to cheat and read the translation instead. This story was first published five years ago, but its translation is scheduled to be published next month. There is no doubt that Stage Four is a very interesting read. It tells the story of a Dutch couple who first met in Sweden back in 1968, and now want to enjoy their golden years by traveling around Europe in a camper van. Those dreams are crushed as Sarie is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer before the trip has even started… Stage Four both shows us the past, how the two main characters first met, and how they react to the terrible news all those years later, try to live with this new reality and make the most of the time they have left. The writing is interesting and includes a lot of descriptions of both the places they visit (which made me feel as if I were visiting Sweden myself) and facts related to Sarie’s illness. The decline in Sarie’s character is tragic and heartbreaking; their love and devotion beautiful. I have to say I was quite shocked by the ending though!

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Dutch couple Sarie and Barend Vervoort decide to celebrate their retirement by buying a camper van and travel around Europe. They also want to return to some of the places in Sweden where they traveled together when they first met back in 1968. But this dream is shattered before the journey has even started as Sarie falls ill in Belgium and is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. After one too many invasive treatments, Sarie decides to face the inevitable head on and wants them to go to Sweden anyway… Going back to where it all started all those years ago.

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Stage Four is both a beautiful, tragic and heartbreaking love story of a couple trying to accept and live with the diagnose of stage IV lung cancer. The flashbacks to 1968 help build their characters and it was interesting to see their relationship evolve as well as how they deal with the progress of the disease. There are lots of descriptions of the Swedish destinations included, making it feel as if you were there yourself… A very intriguing read although the ending was quite shocking.


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BOOK REVIEW: Beartown – by Fredrik Backman

Title: Beartown
(Björnstad #1)
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Sports
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: September 15th 2017
Pages:432 
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Björnstad’)

“The very worst events in life have that effect on a family: we always remember, more sharply than anything else, the last happy moments before everything fell apart.”

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Fredrik Backman managed to blow me completely away with his story A Man Called Ove last year, which turned out to be one of my new all time favorites. I’ve been wanting to read one of his other books ever since… So now I finally have more time to read my own books, I decided to pick up my copy of his newest story Beartown. Confession: I’m not a hockey fan at all, so I wasn’t sure if reading a book centered around this sport would work for me. Also, my love for A Man Called Ove is so great that I wasn’t sure if another book would be able to live up to that level of wonderfulness. And it turned out my fears were grounded, because I do think Beartown came nowhere close to reaching that level. BUT. It is also true that this is a completely different story and should be evaluated as such. Because don’t get me wrong, it was without doubt a very good story and it shows Fredrik Backman is a brilliant writer. That said, I wish I could rate both halves of this book separately, because I had a completely different experience for both. While I had my doubts about Beartown during the first half of this story, all of this faded into the background when I reached the second part. Because by the time I reached the final page I was left with a broken heart and my emotions all over the place. It’s impressive that just one book is able to provoke so many contradicting emotions… What started out as a story with a lot of potential, but something that wasn’t able to convince me yet, ended in something I could easy have given a full 5 star rating for. In the beginning, I found myself struggling with the amount of characters and POVs that made it quite hard to keep track of them all. The writing was good, but somehow didn’t manage to lure me in completely and all the hockey talk wasn’t for me either. I found myself not as invested and I was feeling quite disappointed since I LOVED the characters in A Man Called Ove and was hooked right from the first page. Beartown turned out to be a slowburner instead, and while it took me about half the book to get used to the huge cast of characters, writing and situation in Beartown, as soon as I did I was hooked. This story has a few trigger warnings for the more sensitive readers, but the themes discussed in this story and the way the characters react to different situations are both intriguing, messy, realistic and will provoke very powerful emotions. You will love them, hate them, want to yell at them, slap them, hug them, make their pain go away… And you will feel powerless as you turn page after page and see how things unfold. So if you, like me, aren’t immediately convinced by this story, struggle with the multiple POVs and aren’t a hockey fan, don’t discard this book. Beartown is one of those stories where things will most definitely get better; although better is an understatement for the brilliant and realistic execution of the second half.

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Beartown is a tiny community deep in the forest and a true hockey town. Some say Beartown is finished and things have been going downhill for a while. Their hockey team hasn’t shown any true potential in years and jobs have been disappearing as the forest slowly reclaims her territory. But the people in Beartown still believe tomorrow will be better than today, and their junior ice hockey team might be the key to that dream. They are about to compete in the national semi-finals; if they win, this could mean Beartown is back on the so-called hockey map. So all the hopes and dreams of the town now rest of the shoulders of a bunch of teenage boys… How will they react to the pressure? Will they be able to win the game? And what will this whole experience do to their young minds?

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I have called Beartown a slowburner before, and I think this is just the right term for my feelings for this book. It took me a while to warm up to this story and to be honest in the beginning I wasn’t convinced by the multiple POVs and the amount of characters introduced. I’m not a hockey fan and I wasn’t sure if I could handle the prominent role the sport has in the story… But all those worries disappeared as soon as I reached the second half and found myself fully invested. I don’t want to give away too much to avoid spoilers (since the original blurb had a few as well), but some things will happen that will provoke very strong emotions and these feelings won’t let you go until you reach the final page. The fact that there are so many conflicting emotions will leave you wrecked, but fully satisfied. The ending is quite interesting as well, and will make you wonder about how the story started. All in all recommended despite the not that convincing start!


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ARC REVIEW: I Am Behind You – by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Title: I Am Behind You
(Platserna #1)
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Genre: Horror, Dystopia, Paranormal
First published: August 1st 2014
Publisher: Riverrun
Finished reading: September 4th 2017
Pages: 416
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Himmelstrand’)

“The things we take for granted are the things we miss the most when they disappear.”

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

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

Warning: some mild swearing ahead. Couldn’t express my feelings for this one otherwise. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read my share of crazy, weird and quirky stories and I actually enjoy reading them to take a break from the ‘ordinary’. But there is weird, and then there is I Am Behind You. My first thoughts when I started reading were literally: what the hell did I sign up for when I requested a copy?! Because there is one thing for sure, and that is that even after finishing it the only thing my mind is able to process is WTF WTF WTF did I just read?! I Am Behind You is actually a translation of a Swedish novel published back in 2014… I wonder if part of the story was lost in translation and made it more difficult to enjoy it, but considering the other reviews out there I’m quite certain this is not the case. The first thing that stands out to me is the plot, or actually the lack of a plot that actually makes sense. Like the characters, you are left in the middle of an empty field without a clue what is going on. Instead of adding suspense and intrigue, it only made me feel VERY frustrated and added to the overall struggle I had with this story. The worst part is that a lot of things are never explained at all and leave you empty handed and with that WTF feeling I mentioned before. The multiple POVs are also confusing and take a long time to get used to… The flashbacks are a nice touch, and I think I would have actually prefered seeing more of those instead of the current POV since the flashbacks at least made a bit more sense. I wasn’t a fan of the characters at all though. I disliked one even more than the other and this made it very hard to care about them or what would happen to them. And apart from the the lack of a proper plot, multiple POVs, unlikeable characters and the sheer absurdity of it all, I had a hard time connecting to the writing style as well. It might have been the translation, it might have been the writing, but it took me a lot longer than normal to reach the final page and to be honest it was a real struggle. And after such an unsatisfying ending, I kind of wish I could have DNFed this story instead. Because there is one thing for sure: this story 100% isn’t for me. I like weird, I like unconventional, but I Am Behind You was just batshit crazy. Guano style.

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When Molly wakes up early in the morning and asks her mother to go to the bathroom, something strange seems to be going on. Because the toilet block is no longer there. In fact, everything else has gone too and the only thing left are four campers in a neverending field of grass. Where are they? And why are they there in the first place? The four families will do whatever it takes to get back to the ‘normal’ world… But is that even possible?

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I was actually really looking forward to this book, but I guess I should have known after reading the blurb. The thing is: I normally like stories that are unconventional. Call me weird, but I find a dose of crazy to be rather refreshing every once in a while… But I wasn’t prepared for I Am Behind You. Because this story will definitely give you an overdose of crazy. The plot is basically absurd and doesn’t make sense and I was clueless even after reaching the final page. I didn’t manage to connect to the characters or writing style and overall unfortunately I had a really hard struggle with it. The fact that it took me about three times as much as normal to just finish it will say enough… Definitely not a story for me.


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BOOK REVIEW: A Man Called Ove – by Fredrik Backman

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Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Humor, Contemporary
First published: August 27th 2012
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: November 22nd 2016
Pages: 337
(Originally written in Swedish: “En man som heter Ove”)
Rating 5qqq

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”

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There has been a lot of hype around Fredrik Backman‘s work this year, and I thought it was about time to find out just exactly what everybody was raving about. And boy do I regret not having picked up my copy of A Man Called Ove earlier! This originally Swedish book was in one word BRILLIANT. I fell in love with both the prose and main character from the very first page and it’s been a while since a book has been able to make me laugh and cry at the same time. Ove has managed to win over my heart, grumpiness and all, and he is hands down one of my new favorite characters. He really reminded me of Carl, the grumpy old man from the movie Up! And Ove’s character is just as endearing in his own grumpy way. Apart from the prose itself and the fabulous character, Fredrik Backman is also able to combine heartbreaking and sensitive topics with a humor that is right up my alley. The humor might not be for everyone, but even so I would suggest trying A Man Called Ove if you haven’t already. It’s without doubt one of my favorite reads this year!

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Ove is a grumpy man who finds his solitary world turned upside down when a young family moves in next door. He is the kind of man with strict routines and a short fuse. People around him call him ‘the bitter neighbor from hell’, but is he really bitter just because he doesn’t seem friendly all the time? Behind his cranky exterior is a story and a sadness that will slowly be revealed as random things start happening when the family next door moves in.

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This is not the first time I have been blown away by a Swedish book, and A Man Called Ove has definitely been added to my list of all time favorites. I’m having a hard time writing a coherent review, but what I can say is that I strongly suggest reading this story. It’s just that good! I’m aware the humor I myself loved might be a turn off for some, but even so I would say it is worth the try. I will be looking forward to read his other books soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All – by Jonas Jonasson

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Title: Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All
Author: Jonas Jonasson
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Contemporary
First published: September 16th 2015
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Finished reading: June 25th 2016
Pages: 400
(Originally written in Swedish: “Mördar-Anders och hans vänner (samt en och annan ovän)”)
Rating 1,5qqq

“If only children could be free of all that crap previous generations had gathered up for them, he said, perhaps it would bring some clarity to their lives.”

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I should have been warned sufficiently by the low Goodreads rating, but I thought this would be one of those unpopular opinion books. Why? Because unlike most book bloggers out there, I absolutely loved Jonas Jonasson‘s other novel The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared and I was hoping of having a similar experience with this new book. I guess I was wrong. While The Hundred-Year-Old Man was interesting, fast-paced and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All was simply painful to read. In fact, I have been considering a DNF at various points in the story and decided to skim-read the last part because I just couldn’t take it any longer. Such a shame, because I really wanted to enjoy this book! Why is Hitman Anders nothing like his other novel? First of all: the story simply isn’t funny. Instead of laughing out loud, my eyebrows worked overtime as I became more and more annoyed by the plot and characters. Or should I say: lack of plot and character development. Seriously, the plot just doesn’t make any sense and the religious elements really started to get on my nerves. I mean, a former hitman finding Jesus and wanting to start his own church?! Sorry, that just isn’t doing it for me. I felt no connection whatsoever for the characters and the only reason I was able to finish this book is because I skim-read the last 40% of the book. As you might have guessed, I wouldn’t recommend this book. Make sure to try his other book The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared though!

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Hitman Anders has been having a problem with drugs and alcohol most of his life, making him quite violent and earning him a few prison sentences. Now he is fresh out of prison yet again, he decides to stay away from the hard stuff so he won’t end up right back inside… And then he meets a receptionist at a 1-star hotel and a female Protestant vicar who happens to be an atheist. The three get together and put together a very unusual business plan that is supposed to make them all very rich. It seems to work for a while, until their most important asset of all of a sudden finds Jesus. With Anders no longer wanting to do his job and focussing his day on his new religion and drinking ‘the body of Jesus’, the receptionist and vicar will have to find a new way to get their money… And the new plan is even more ludicrous than the last one. Will they be able to succeed against all odds?

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I really wanted to enjoy Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All despite the negative feedback, but unfortunately I will have to agree with the mayority on this one. Unlike Jonas Jonasson‘s other novel, this one didn’t manage to impress me and I even thought about DNFing it at some points. Both the lack of character development, the uncredible/poor plot and the fact that this story isn’t funny at all unfortunately just made me feel really disappointed by this book in general.