YVO’S SHORTIES #64: An Officer And A Spy (DNF) & Educated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that didn’t manage to convince me. The first, An Officer And A Spy by Robbert Harris, sadly a DNF, something that rarely happens. And I had high hopes for Educated by Tara Westover after so many glowing reviews, but I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again.


Title: An Officer And A Spy
Author: Robert Harris

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 26th 2013
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: November 12th 2018 
Pages: 429
DNF at 30% (129 pages)

“It seems to be a necessary part of the criminal mentality: to survive captivity, one must somehow convince oneself one is not guilty.”


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An Officer And A Spy is one of my TBR jar picks and a title I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I had been looking forward to it despite the mixed reviews, mostly because the setting sounded fascinating. I still think the setting on its own is very interesting and the general plot has a lot of potential. A possibly wrongly convicted officer, espionage, the threat of a war and other struggles definitely sound like a good recipe for a successful historical fiction read. Sadly, the execution of those elements in An Officer And A Spy just didn’t work for me. I have picked it up only to put it down again after only a few pages multiple times over the last few weeks. I’ve tried and tried to at least make it to the end to see if things improved later on, but in the end I decided to make the difficult decision to just DNF it. I hardly ever give up on a book, so it definitely makes me sad to do so… But between the superslow pace, writing style, too many descriptions and a lack of interest in both the plot and the characters, I think this was the right choice for me. An Officer And A Spy just never grabbed me and I was never able to stay interested in the story… It’s very possible this story simply wasn’t for me even though historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. A lot of readers did love it, so definitely don’t give up on it if you are thinking about reading it.


Title: Educated
Author: Tara Westover

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: February 20th 2018
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: November 14th 2018
Pages: 352

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occured to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”


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It’s unpopular opinion time again… You’ve been warned. 

I have been looking forward to finally read Educated for months now, especially after reading so many glowing reviews. This is probably one of the reasons my expectations might have been too high, that and the fact that this memoir has been compared to The Glass Castle. The fact is: I was quite underwhelmed by all of it. This was not what I was expecting, and I feel sad for feeling this way, but it is what it is… I’m going to try and explain the reasons why. First of all, I know that I’m a skeptical person, and I don’t tend to believe things easily just because they are written down on paper. I also had a hard time believing Tara Westover‘s story as it was written down. Please don’t tell me I’m implying she is a liar, which I’m not. I do believe that she wrote Educated based on her memories, memories that can have gotten distorted over time especially if her early life has been such a struggle. And I really had to take her story with a whole lot of grains of salt to be able to continue reading. Like I said, I’m not saying she hasn’t had a tough life, or that her family didn’t do what they did, just that I didn’t find her story as told credible. I mean, for a survivalist family living in the mountains they sure have a lot of luxuries including at some point even a phone, TV and internet (not talking about the enormous mansion they seem to be having in the end). Her family life definitely wasn’t standard, with them not even having a birth certificate for a long time, not going to school and working in the junkyard etc etc. But I would rather call it eccentric for the most part instead. Also, at one point she describes her father as bipolar, something that is never confirmed as the same disease prevents him getting a medical diagnose. Still, I would have liked to have seen this angle developed further rather than just throwing the ‘bipolar’ word out and leave it at that. Another thing that bothered me were the many many serious accidents, a few life threatening, and somehow they are all healed with essential oils and other herbal cures? I do believe in holistic treatments along with medical care, but this is just getting too hard to believe. (I’m not saying they weren’t injured, just that the injuries maybe weren’t as bad as they remembered?) Anyhow, this reckless behavior and indifference towards general safety of others and the ‘miracle’ recoveries were just too much for the skeptical person in me to handle. Another thing I found hard to believe? Where all the money came from. First we are told they are poor, then money starts popping up everywhere somehow. I can get why her childhood chapters are a bit vague about money, but how on earth did she get the money together to get into a prestigious college and university? I know there are grants, but they don’t cover it all and it is a LOT of money we are talking about and very prestigious and expensive education. I mean, she goes to the UK and studies abroad for a long time? And then travels back and forth between the US and the UK multiple times? The flights alone cost a fortune, and surely aren’t covered by grants. A real mystery to me. There is also the question how she got into college in the first place, especially since she was never really educated at home in the first place. Somehow being able to get a superhigh score just by teaching herself advanced math and everything else in the test just doesn’t come over as credible to the skeptical me. Maybe she had a higher level of education than stated in the memoir before she started preparing herself for the test? I don’t know, but as it is Educated wasn’t at all credible to me. I’m not saying her being able to get her degrees isn’t admirable, and I’m sure she’s had a hard life especially with her despicable brother Shawn (I’m not even going into the abuse and her brother here, or we could still be talking tomorrow), but sadly her memoir wasn’t able to convince me.


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WWW Wednesdays #197 – November 21st

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m still trying to read as many Goodreads Choice Awards nominees as possible and I’ve been meaning to read Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi for months now, so I’m looking forward to see what I’ll make of it. I’m also finally reading my final pending NG ARC for this month: Heresy by Melissa Lenhardt. Western themed historical fiction it is!

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Educated by Tara Westover (2,5/5 stars) REVIEW 29/11
I have been looking forward to finally read Educated for months now, especially after reading so many glowing reviews. This is probably one of the reasons my expectations might have been too high, that and the fact that this memoir has been compared to The Glass Castle. The fact is: I was quite underwhelmed by all of it. This was not what I was expecting, and I feel sad for feeling this way, but it is what it is… Be prepared for a loooong ‘shorties’ review explaining why.

2. Last Lullaby by Carol Wyer (4/5 stars) REVIEW 24/11
There is no doubt that Last Lullaby is a strong sequel and another excellent detective thriller by Carol Wyer. I always enjoy her way of writing; it’s engaging and really makes you fly through the pages. The case in this sequel is another fascinating one, especially since it’s almost like a Russian doll with all those hidden layers slowly being discovered. I love it when a story manages to surprise me and keeps me guessing about the identity of the killer until the final reveal. And even though Natalie Ward still isn’t a favorite of mine, I’m still looking forward seeing more of especially her team as a whole.

3. The Cottingley Fairies by Ana Sender (3/5 stars) REVIEW 14/12
I first fell in love with the cover of The Cottingley Fairies, and after I read in the blurb it was based on true events I was fully intrigued. Proof that fairies really exist, and a reference to the famous author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? It cannot get more intriguing than that. I was looking forward to find out more about Elsie and Frances’ story, since this was the first time I had heard about it. In the end I was unfortunately quite underwhelmed by The Cottingley Fairies.

4. Not A Clue by Chloe Delaume (DNF 9%) DNF REVIEW 30/11
As soon as I started reading Not A Clue I knew we won’t be able to get along. Why? The writing style. Right from the very first sentence, I found myself scratching my head and wondering what the heck I just started reading. The writing style is just one big humble bumble of random words and nonsense being woven together, short ‘sentences’ mixed with randomness and endless weird descriptions and repetitions over and over again.  I’m not sure if this is a case of ‘lost in translation’ or a writing style that is 200% not for me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to keep struggling through the pages. I almost never make the decision to DNF, especially this early in a story, but sadly Not A Clue and me just weren’t ment to be.

5. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 03/12
I was surprised when I saw just how well I reacted to the story initially. Of course I already knew I liked Holly Black‘s writing style, and this is part of the reason this story worked for me. And what a start! I like it when a YA fantasy story isn’t afraid to go dark and throw some blood and action at us. Of course things turned south later on and I had some problems with this book… But overall it was still mostly an entertaining read.

6. Cold Dark Places by Kylie Brant (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 25/11
I had a good feeling about Cold Dark Places and it turns out my instincts were right. I do love my detective thrillers, but I also love when a story is able to bring something original to the mix. Being able to get a glimpse inside of the head of both the serial killer Samuel and Eryn as well was simply fascinating. Another bonus was that both other POV characters Cady and Ryder were easy to like… The writing is spot on, the pace is superfast, the plot twists are brutal. Oh yes, this was one hell of a ride and an excellently constructed and complex one at that. I’ll be looking forward to see more of Cady Maddix in the future!

7. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (3/5 stars) REVIEW 03/12
I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again! I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason The Wife Between Us didn’t manage to convince me probably has to do with the fact I felt this book was simply trying to hard. Sure, there are a LOT of twists involved and a lot of things I couldn’t guess beforehand, but I’m not sure if I actually LIKE how these plot twists are presented or developed. Instead of being shocked and saying ‘wow, I definitely didn’t see that coming!’, I was mostly left confused and not in a good way. Let’s just say my eyebrows worked overtime with this one…

8. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (/5 stars) REVIEW 09/12
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  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

Depending on how fast I finish my current reads, I’m going to try and squeeze in more Goodreads Choice Awards nominees before the final round closes. The two titles that have caught my eye are When The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and The Death Of Mrs Westaway. I’ve heard good things about both so fingers crossed. I also need to continue with my ARCs so I can hopefully keep my promise to mostly read my own books in December. Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard is up next. My newest TBR jar pick is still The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble; I don’t think I’ll get to it this month, but I’m hoping to read it before the year is over.


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WWW Wednesdays #196 – November 14th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m probably already finished with Educated by Tara Westover by the time this post goes live, but as I’m putting this WWW together I still have quite a few pages left. I also started Not A Clue by Chloe Delaume and wasn’t impressed; part of the reason I put it down and picked up Educated instead, not wanting to have three disappointing reads in a row. I’m also starting Las Lullaby by Carol Wyer soon; I always seem to love her books so hopefully this one will tip the balance towards the positive again. I know picking up The Cruel Prince by Holly Black will be a risk, as there are very mixed reviews out there and I’m scared I will belong to the negative group. But I guess I’ll never know if I don’t try right?

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Liar’s Wife by Samantha Hayes (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 22/11
If the blurb of The Liar’s Wife doesn’t convince you already, I can promise you that this is only just the tip of the huge iceberg of plot twists, shocking surprises and suspenseful scenes that this story has in store for you. Make sure to free some time, because you will want to keep turning those pages until you find out what exactly happened all that time ago and how everything fits with what is happening now. Without doubt an excellent psychological thriller and a very satisfying read despite some difficult themes.

2. Elevation by Stephen King (2/5 stars) REVIEW 20/11
I have no clue whatsoever why this novella is marked as ‘horror’. Contemporary romance with a hint of sci-fi and even a far-fetched urban fantasy… Maybe. But horror? I don’t think anyone would find Elevation scary unless you are afraid of hights or stepping on the scale. I know it’s only a novella, but the characters just felt like one big cliche for me and didn’t add anything interesting to the story for me. A big problem, as the story is mostly focused on them.

3. Daughters Of The Lake by Wendy Webb (4/5 stars) REVIEW 18/11
Daughters Of The Lake is a wonderfully written paranormal romance and mystery story with a gothic feel. What at first glance seems to be a simply mystery and historical crime with a dual timeline turns out to be so much more, giving you a rich and original plot to savour. I especially loved the folk tale elements, and the paranormal touch is well constructed as well. The balance between all those different elements is spot on, and with easy to like characters you will have an excellent time discovering more about the past and how it affects the present. Recommended!

4. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (1/5 stars) REVIEW 26/11
I was hoping to find something interesting and inspirational in Girl, Wash Your Face, especially after hearing others swear by it. I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t even know where to start summarizing my opinion about this one, but my shorties review has turned into a full blown rant with a LOT of details. Make sure to prepare yourself for that one. 😉

5. All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover (4/5 stars) REVIEW 26/11
There is no doubt Colleen Hoover is a star in creating flawed and realistic characters that will have to go through a lot before they reach the final page. I had a few problems with the story, but I still think All Your Perfects was mostly a great read. And once again she has managed to make me enjoy a genre I normally tend to stay away from… Something not to take lightly.

6. Her Final Confession by Lisa Regan (4/5 stars) REVIEW 28/11
I have consistently enjoyed the books of this detective thriller series so far and book number four is no different. Her Final Confession is fast, suspenseful and filled with plot twists and shocking surprises. Intense is an understatement! While not everything about the plot and twists is exactly credible, it’s still quite easy to forget about the credibility and enjoy the ride anyway. The writing style and the characters have a lot to do with this! Entertaining, intense and full of suspense: Her Final Confession is without doubt another excellent addition!

7. An Officer And A Spy by Robert Harris (DNF at 30%) DNF REVIEW 29/11
I have picked up An Officer And A Spy only to put it down again after only a few pages multiple times over the last few weeks. I’ve tried and tried to at least make it to the end to see if things improved later on, but in the end I decided to make the difficult decision to just DNF it. I hardly ever give up on a book, so it definitely makes me sad to do so… But between the superslow pace, writing style, too many descriptions and a lack of interest in both the plot and the characters, I think this was the right choice for me.

8. The Living by Isaac Marion (2/5 stars) REVIEW 23/11
I was really hoping The Living would be a more positive reading experience for me, but sadly it was a repeat experience of The Burning World. The whole different stages of zombies and returning to life angle is without doubt refreshing, and the story has some interesting aspects. But between the writing style, lack of plot, confusing POV switches and WE chapters I just couldn’t enjoy this final installment. I was in fact relieved it was finally over, and that is never a good sign. If you are able to connect to the writing style though, you will probably have a significantly better experience.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I will probably read my last pending November NG ARC next, which is Heresy by Melissa Lenhardt. It’s been ages since I read a Western themed historical fiction story, so I’m looking forward to it.Then I’m hoping to pick up a few Goodreads Choice Awards finalists… It’s going to be between The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen depending on which genre I’m in the mood for. . My newest TBR jar pick is still The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble; I don’t think I’ll get to it this month, but I’m hoping to read it before the year is over.


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