Category: book report

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola YoonRating:…

The Sun Is
Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not
destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of
girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love
with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to
Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my
parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her,
I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has
something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single
moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

I have wanted to read this
book ever since I saw a picture of it on Tumblr. I will admit that I was mostly
drawn to it because of the beautiful cover (check out this link to see how it
was created – out of nothing but string and nails!)
, but when I read the
synopsis I was even more intrigued. The story takes place over one day in NYC,
and is told in chapters with alternating narrators; the POV changing between
Natasha, Daniel, and the Universe(!). The last narrator is what really made
this story stand out for me. In between the more traditional chapters focusing
on the events that take place during the day, every now and then there is a
chapter that completely breaks the pattern. It can be a short life story about
a minor character that features in the main plot, or a brief deviation into a
fact that becomes relevant to the story, such as the traditions of naming in
Korea or the evolutionary history of eyes. Sometimes they are just a few poetic
pages about fate or coincidence. These chapters focus on subjects or objects
that may seem like side-tracks, but which end up mattering hugely to the story.
I am so in love with this way of storytelling. It gives the story a lot of
depth and makes you think about things an ordinary contemporary love story
would not.

As I was reading this, I had
to stop and ask: “Can this author read my mind?!”. This book brings up thoughts
and ideas about fate, the universe, and coincidence that very closely echo my
own. Are things meant to be? Are there alternative universes? How do the tiny,
miniscule choices we make every day shape our lives and futures, or the lives
of those around us? These are questions that usually pop into my head right as
I’m about to sleep, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. In this novel,
questions like these are approached from both scientific and
philosophical/poetic angles. All of this made the book stand out from the other
contemporary YA novels out there.

The love story in this novel
comes across as sort of insta-lovey, but somehow it works. I usually don’t like
this trope, but even though Natasha and Daniel’s love story play out over the
course of just one day, it feels like much longer. During this day, they get to
know each other very deeply. I love their relationship, and their discussions
are a joy to read. Seeing them come at questions from the very different angles
of a scientist and a poet is both hilarious and thought-provoking. They are the
kind of couple you just can’t help but root for.

Aside from the love story,
this novel focuses on many different and important subjects, such as
immigration, race, identity, and family relationships. I would say that
immigration is the biggest issue in this story, and throughout the novel the
author gets to approach it from many different perspectives. This is a big
theme for both characters, as one is an undocumented immigrant from Jamaica
about to be deported, and one is a second-generation Korean immigrant, born in
America. In the “universe chapters”, we also get to explore the relationship
their parents have with their new country. In many ways, this is a story of
identity, and not just concerning immigration. I remember reading somewhere
that there is really only one story – Who am I? This novel fits that idea very
well.

This book surprised me. I was
expecting a light and fluffy read. Instead I found a deep and complex story in
spite of the cliché premise. I would describe it as a romance with an
existential twist. Most of all, it was brilliantly interesting and
thought-provoking. I would 100% recommend it to anyone who likes romance and is
looking for a story to completely lose yourself in. It’s a perfect summer read.

//love from L

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The Da Vinci Code by Dan BrownRating: ★★★★★SynopsisAn ingenious…

The Da Vinci Code by Dan
Brown

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis

An ingenious code hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. A desperate
race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe. An astonishing truth
concealed for centuries … unveiled at last.

While in Paris, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is awakened by a
phone call in the dead of the night. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been
murdered inside the museum, his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon
and gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu sort through the bizarre riddles,
they are stunned to discover a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo
da Vinci—clues visible for all to see and yet ingeniously disguised by the
painter.

Even more startling, the late curator was involved in the Priory of
Sion—a secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and
Da Vinci—and he guarded a breathtaking historical secret. Unless Langdon and
Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle—while avoiding the faceless adversary
who shadows their every move—the explosive, ancient truth will be lost forever.

Thoughts

I. Love. This. Book. So much!
I have been wanting to read it for so long and I’m so glad I finally got the
chance. I listen to a lot of audiobooks at work and I have been trying to get a
hold of the audiobook of the Da Vinci
Code
from my local libraries for months now, but it has not been available.
Some lucky star must have been smiling down upon me, because a few weeks ago I
got given a big bag of audiobooks from a friend, and lo and behold, the Da Vinci Code was hidden in the huge
pile of Nordic Noir (a genre I don’t really read at all). I find it incredibly
satisfying and symbolic (ha!) that I had to search this hard to find a book
centred on the quest to find a sacred object.

Before reading this book I had
seen the film, so I was already familiar with the plotline, but the Dan Brown
books just have so much more details than any film could ever include. I
learned so many cool facts when reading this book, like why villain and village
are derived from the same word, and that the planet Venus moves in a perfect
pentagram across the sky over an 8-year cycle. These are not exactly world
changing or very practical facts, but they are the kind of small titbits of
interesting knowledge that my Ravenclaw brain totally adores. I love learning
these little things just for the sake of knowing them, not because they will
ever be of much use to me. In my opinion, they make the world just a bit more
magical.

The film had stayed
surprisingly true to the book, at least in the first half. In the second half
there were bigger differences, which made reading the book a lot more fun. This
novel is a true page-turner, and keeps up a high pace throughout. It is one of
those books that you just can’t put down. This is my favourite Dan Brown novel
I’ve read so far. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes mystery, history,
and cool facts. Be prepared to be completely drawn into this mysterious story.

//love form L

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCourRating: ★★★★☆SynopsisYou go through…

We Are
Okay by Nina LaCour

Rating: ★★★★☆

Synopsis

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your
mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left
everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her
best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast,
at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy
she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter
break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face
everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has
made a home in her heart.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

This was a short and quick
read, but such a beautiful story. It deals with grief and loneliness is a very
poignant way. I found the writing to be absolutely stunning, and it paints a
vivid picture of the hardships Marin is going through. The story is told in
alternating chapters of flashbacks, a technique I’m a big fan of. I really like
how the backstory is unveiled bit by bit until right at the end you see the
full picture. It also helps make this novel into a page-turner. I read the
whole thing in one day (it’s just over 230 pages). I spent that day completely
absorbed in Marin’s strange and sad story.

I really liked the character
of Marin. As more and more of her backstory is revealed we learn more about her
and understand better why she acts and feels the way she does. She is not the
type of character you wish you could be, but she is the kind that you want to
gather into your arms, give a big hug, and tell them everything will be okay. Another
part of Marin’s character that I adore is that she loves to read and analyse
novels, which makes me relate to her even more.

This is a very sad story. It
focuses on grief in a very real way, showing all the ugly sides. There is
definitely no sugar-coating. It is raw and real, which I think makes this a
very important and necessary story, even though it comes across as quite a
downer. However, there are other facets to this novel. It also has important
themes of friendship and moving on from love. Okay, I know this is a little bit
of a spoiler, but I hope you won’t mind. The two main characters (Marin and
Mable) are both LGBTQ+. However, this is not a story about being LGBTQ+. Don’t
get me wrong, stories that deal specifically with that theme are hugely
important, but in this story the sexuality of the characters is only one aspect
of who they are, not their entire personality. I really love this, as it makes
the characters so much more realistic and complex. ‘Cause, you know, LGBTQ+
people are real, multifaceted people. What I’m trying to say is that a book
does not have to deal with LGBTQ+ issues in order to feature LGBTQ+ main
characters. Nina LaCour writes characters like these beautifully both in this
book and in Everything Leads to You (which
I also love).

Overall, this was a very nice
read, but not quite as good as Everything
Leads to You
, in my opinion. In spite of being so short this novel manages
to deal with a surprising number of topics, and to deal with them very, very
well. It’s hard to pin down just one subject or describe the plot simply. It’s
about many things all at once, which is what makes it such a brilliant read, in
my eyes. As Marin says about the novels she loves: “It’s better if it’s
complicated”.

//love from L

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The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerRating:…

The Time Traveler’s Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger

Rating: ★★★★☆

Synopsis

This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when
Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was
twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a
rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself
pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither
prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both
intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Thoughts

This book has been on my TBR
for a very long time, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. I remember seeing
this film years ago and being totally blown away. When I decided to read the
book I strongly remembered liking it, but I was quite fuzzy on the details.
That made it the perfect time for me to pick up the book version of this
magical and twisted story of love and time.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is
at one a science fiction story of time travel, and a beautiful love story. The
time traveling aspect of it is incredibly well planned. I imagine it is hard
enough for a writer to plan out a story chronologically, but to plan out the
story of two characters who don’t even share the same timeline mush have been
incredibly challenging. For example: In some parts of the story, Clare is a
child and Henry is middle aged. He knows and has lived through so much more
than Clare and acts accordingly. The things that are going to happen in her
future has already affected him and become part of his character. It is only
when the story reached the end that you start to understand why he acted the
way he did. In the same way, when Clare and Henry meet for the first time in
“real time” she is the one who knows more, and he is a very different person from
the Henry of middle age she knows from her childhood. This book proves how much
the things we go through in life changes us as people. I know for sure I am not
the same person I was 2 years ago. And for Clare and Henry to constantly be out
of tune with what experiences they share or don’t – well let’s just say things
get a bit complicated.

This story also raised the
question of fate or destiny. When Henry travels to the past, can he change his
own present? Should he? When Clare learns snippets of her own future, could she
decide to change what will happen or is that already unavoidable? And most
importantly, are Clare and Henry in love by choice or fate? This is one of
those mindboggling books that really makes you think, and will linger in your
mind long after you have put it down.

The love story in this novel
is a bit more on the grown up side. This is not YA, and deals a lot with
marriage, miscarriages, and childbirth. However, I would still call this an
epic love story, and definitely something out of the ordinary. It has a
star-crossed lovers vibe to it, where Clare and Henry are torn apart by forces
out of their control. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll just say
that I really love these two together. Something else that sets this novel
apart from the YA genre is that it is in fact quite a sad story. There is no
sugar coating or feeling that of course everything will work out in the end. In
spite of being sci-fi, it comes across as very real.

I really loved this book. It
was confusing in a good way, and I recommend taking your time when reading it.
It is not a book you want to rush through. I would recommend it to those who
want a more complex and thought provoking love story. It is the perfect book
for loosing yourself in. Happy reading!

//love from L

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Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford Rating:…

Radio
Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford 

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Synopsis

1926, the BBC. The nation listens. A woman finds her voice.

London, 1926. Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job at the fledgling
British Broadcasting Corporation whose new and electrifying radio network is
captivating the nation. Famous writers, scientists, politicians – the BBC is
broadcasting them all, but behind the scenes Maisie is drawn into a battle of
wills being fought by her two bosses. John Reith, the formidable
Director-General and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary Director of Talks
Programming, envisage very different futures for radio. And when Maisie
unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices
heard both on and off the air…

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

I adore this book. It has all
the things: feminism, creativity, character development, LGBTQ+ characters, the
roaring 20’s, success stories, real history, London, romance, politics, spying,
fascists, anglophiles, and technology. This is a story of a young girl throwing
herself into her career wholeheartedly and with passion in a time when it was
seen as radical and modern (in a bad way) for women to work at all. Women who
did not hold high positions (and there weren’t many of those) lost their jobs
once they got married, and maternal leave for those who were allowed to stay on
was unheard of. At the start of this novel only married women over 30 were
allowed to vote. It is actually chocking to see how widely accepted and
unquestioned this was not even 100 years ago. It has reminded me of how very
new the rights I have and take for granted are, and how much work we still have
to do.

This is one of those books
that inspire you to do great things. Seeing Masie find her passion and a great
and uplifting mentor in Hilda Matheson (who was in fact a real person, look her
up!) is so moving. Getting to see how radio and the BBC became what we know
them as today was very exciting. There was so much more to it back then that I
never thought of. As Masie becomes more comfortable in her job and her passion
for radio grows, so does her self-esteem and confidence. Masie as a character
has one of the most expansive arcs of character development that I’ve seen in a
long time, and it’s a true joy to watch her grow. However, Masie never would
have grown so much without the patronage of Hilda. I admire her so much. She is
a visionary and force to be reckoned with, and must have been so strong to
reach so high in a world and time when women were so held back. Her mantra of
“Onwards and Upwards!” and the help she gives Masie makes this a great story of
female empowerment and women building each other up, which I really think we
could use some more of, both in literature and in general.

As you can probably tell from
my gushing and rambling, I really loved this book. I had not heard anything
about it before spotting it in the bargain section of Book Depository. It was
quite coincidental that I wound up buying it. I love it when that happens –
pure serendipity. If you find any of the subjects this book touches upon interesting
– feminism, historical fiction, driven characters doing exciting work and so on
– I highly recommend this book to you. I hope you will love it as much as I do.

//love from L

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman Rating:…

Norse
Mythology by Neil Gaiman 

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Synopsis

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the
fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the
source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse
Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins
with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the
deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the
gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths
while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and
cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and
Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From
Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive
natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their
tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths
breathe pungent life again.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

Reading these stories gave me
such a surge of nostalgia. I grew up on these myths. The battered big book of
myths for children (which is still on my shelf to this day) was my favourite
bedtime storybook. Perhaps I am especially fond of these stories because I’m Swedish,
but part of what makes me like them so much is that once upon a time people
believed them to be true. Somehow, that makes them “real” stories in my eyes.
Gaiman has taken the original myths and added a bit of character and
vivaciousness to them, making this book a captivating read. I recognized almost
all of the stories from my childhood, save for some details and the more
gruesome stories. I now realize that my storybook for children was rather
edited and simplified. Fortunately. Some of these myths are extremely gruesome
and violent, and would’ve probably emotionally scarred 5-year-old me for life.
Even so, for the most part these stories are just incredibly entertaining,
switching between thrilling and funny. I love seeing the parallels to other
famous fantasy stories in these myths, because many fantasy writers have been
inspired by these stories of heroes and giants and magical objects. For
example, the Fenris Wolf, the monstrous wolf who is destined to swallow the sun
and moon at Ragnarok, inspired J.K. Rowling when she created and named Fenrir
Greyback, the werewolf from Harry Potter. It proves that these stories were not
only important to Vikings in the olden times, but still have an impact in our
lives today. They have lived on, and are still as spellbinding as they were
then.

//love from L

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The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett A…

The
Century Trilogy by Ken Follett

A series
review of Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, and Edge of Eternity.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Synopsis

This is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. This is a huge
novel that follows five families – English, Welsh, German, Russian, and
American – through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War and the
struggle for votes for women, the Second World War and political turmoil, and
the Cold War and the civil rights movement.

Fall of Giants (#1):

It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V. The Williams, a Welsh
coal-mining family, is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts,
aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter
von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled
with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to
two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to emigrate to America fall foul of
war, conscription and revolution. In a plot of unfolding drama and intriguing
complexity, “Fall Of Giants” moves seamlessly from Washington to St
Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering
chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the
mighty.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

This is a truly astounding
work of historical fiction. The three novels contain well over three thousand
pages combined, and span over the course of most of the 20th
century. The amount of research that goes into writing something like this
boggles the mind. This series has made me into a fan of historical fiction,
even though I never liked history much in school. I think the difference lies
in the fact that in this series history is told through individuals, making
things so much more personal. It proves that history is really about people –
not power or land. The stories of the characters and families we get to follow
through three generations are so captivating that I would love them even if
they did not take place in this very interesting time in history. The fact that
they are set against a true background just makes them even more fascinating.

The series is a great mix of
diplomacy, espionage, politics, cruelty, love, suffragettes, civil rights,
wars, and revolutions. It has helped me comprehend just how much changed in one
century, and how the world came to look the way it does today. I actually think
I learned more reading this series than I did in school. Follett has captured
key moments in history by putting one of his characters on the fringes of the
events or sometimes right in the centre of them. Real historical characters
appear in the story now and again, such as Churchill, Stalin, and Kennedy. In
all of these “cameos” are true to character, and these famous people either say
and do things that are historically accurate, or act in a historically probable
way. Once again, all the research is mind-blowing!

The series can be very graphic
at times, and there are passages of such inexplicable cruelty and violence that
it’s hard to read through them. This story is after all based on true events,
and nothing is sugar coated. History is gruesome sometimes. Therefore, I’d like
to put a trigger warning for violence and rape on this series.

My favourite book of the series
was probably the first one. I loved the characters of Ethel and Maud, two women
from widely different backgrounds who come together to fight for the rights of
women. I also find the time before and during the Great War fascinating. Over
the course of the series you get incredibly attached to these families, and it
gets very hard to remember that they are not actually real people. I also loved
getting to see the entire life spans of some of the characters from the first
book in the series, and getting to follow their children and grand-children
through history.

I highly recommend this series
to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and doesn’t mind a long and heavy read.
It’s perfect for anyone looking for a reading challenge. I listened to the
audiobook version of this series, which was perfect for me as I usually don’t
have quite enough patience for novels of this length. The audiobook had also
done a great job of giving all the characters the correct accents. The
characters are incredibly complex and well rounded, and the historical accuracy
is sometimes scary. It is the most realistic work of fiction I have ever read.

//love from L

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton Rating:…

The
Miniaturist by Jessie Burton 

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Synopsis

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam–a city ruled by glittering wealth
and oppressive religion–a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering
with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah
Dunant.

“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed …”

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives
in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader
Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes
is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse
office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding
Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an
extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish
her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic
artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and
unexpected ways …

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt
household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to
understand–and fear–the escalating dangers that await them all. In this
repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be
different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as
rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits
them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation … or the architect of
their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a
magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance
and truth.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

I feel like I am very late to
the party with this one. This book has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be
read for almost two years. I actually bought it after visiting Amsterdam and
seeing the doll house that this book is based on in the Rijksmuseum. It was one
of my favourite items in the whole museum. It was so incredibly intricate!
There were even embroidered initials on the handkerchiefs in the linen cupboards.
To then hear about a novel based on that doll house was just too exciting.
Despite of my initial excitement, it went to the bottom of my TBR pile and
stayed there – until now.

I didn’t know very much about
the premise when going into this book besides the doll house part, but it was
still entirely unexpected. It was so much more mysterious and dark than I
thought it would be. What I thought would be an interesting piece of historical
fiction turned out to be just that AND much more. The plot took twists and
turns which I would have never expected in a million years, and the characters
where brilliantly complex. You could never be certain of their real motivation
and plans. I did not guess where the story was headed or where it ended at all.

The story takes place in
Amsterdam in the late 17th century, the hight of the Dutch trading
empire. As Nella moves through society you really see how central trade was to
every single person living in this place at this time. Perhaps especially to
Nella and the other people living in her household, as Nella’s new husband
Johannes is an important tradesman. This book really shows the Dutch Empire in
detail. For example, in the back of the book you can find a list of what
various things would have cost in this time. The list features things like “A
house gown – 10 guilders”, “A hundred pounds of lobster – 120 guilders”, and “A
miniature cabinet house, furnished with 700 items over several years – c.
30,000 guilders”. The amount of research underlying a story like this one is astounding
to me. I am so in awe of all writers of historical fiction.

I ended up really enjoying
this book, even though I found it a bit confusing to start with. I loved the
mysteries hiding beneath the surface, and the addition of the Miniaturist into
this mix of character was brilliant. However, I found it a bit slow-moving at
times. It had a perfect mix of history, mystery, and magic. It is so unique and
different from any other book I’ve read. I think this will be one of those that
stay with me for a very long time after having finished it. It is quite
haunting. I recommend this book to everyone who liked historical fiction and
are willing to read something with a bit slower pace.

//love from L

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirRating: ★★★★★SynopsisLaia is…

An
Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Rating:
★★★★★

Synopsis

Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not
vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved
ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives
with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in
the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire.
They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make
a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother,
she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest
military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its
most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained
to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are
intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

This is the best fantasy
adventure I’ve read in a long time. First of all, the setting is quite unusual
for a (western) high fantasy novel. It simultaneously brings to mind The Roman
Empire and One Thousand and One Nights.
The world the story takes place in is at once complex and intricate, and easy
to understand and follow. Tahir blends together history and magic in a way that
makes the story come alive. The thing that really made this story stand out in
my eyes was the fact that the characters were all ordinary people, not kings or
nobility as is often the case in fantasy novels. This is a story of the
oppressed – slaves and rebels and soldiers fighting against their will. It
makes everything feel raw and real.

The main characters of this
story are Laia and Elias. They are both narrators – the story is told from dual
points of view, both in first person. At first I was worried this would lead to
some confusion. This was the case when I read Allegiant, which is told with the
same technique. Then I kept forgetting who it was telling the story, and
sometimes had to go back and reread entire chapters because I had thought it
was Tris narrating when in fact it was Four. Surprisingly, I did not have that
issue with this book at all. I think it has to do with the fact that Laia and
Elias have such different lives. Their stories are very different and they are
often in different places, so it’s easy to keep track of who it is you are
reading about. It also helped that the chapters weren’t too long, making it
easy to avoid putting the book down in the middle of one.

I really liked the character
of Laia. Throughout the novel she is afraid and shows her weaknesses, but she
still rises to the challenge. She is so much braver and stronger than she
thinks, and she has such a good heart in spite of the world she lives in and
the terrors of her past. Somehow, she reminded me a lot of Disney’s Moana; both
in spirit and in looks. Elias is also a character who has many weaknesses,
which makes him more human. However, he has his heart in the right place and is
unexpectedly kind given his past. He reminds me a bit of Bellamy from the 100.
Both Laia and Elias have flaws and make mistakes, which makes them much more
real and relatable.

I brought this book with me on
a recent trip to Paris, and there was not one dull moment of the flight and
train journey it took me to get there and back again. It was such an immersive
read that I was surprised at how much I had read and how much time had passed
when I put the book down. The story is high paced throughout, and the
underlying mystery and secrecy makes it a proper page-turner. However, I’m
gonna have to put a trigger warning for rape on this book, as it was featured
quite a few times, either mentioned or as a threat.

This is the perfect book for
loosing yourself in. It has it all; great worldbuilding, complex characters,
and a thrilling plot. I also really liked the writing style and the message. I
highly recommend it to all fantasy lovers who are looking for a refreshing and
unique series. I am so glad I decided to pick this book up, and now I am
desperate to read the sequel.

//love from L

Find it on Goodreads

More reviews here

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie…

Lola and the Boy Next Door
by Stephanie Perkins 

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Synopsis

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes
in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the
better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot
rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the
neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So
when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back
into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the
boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts

I first read this years ago,
back when I first read Anna and the
French Kiss
(which is one of my absolute favourites). Back then, I wrote a
review for Anna, but for some unknown
reason I skipped the review of Lola
and went straight on to reviewing Isla.
This missing review has bugged me for some time, so here it is at last. My
review of Lola and the Boy Next Door.

Strangely enough, I enjoyed
this book much more the second time around. Usually it’s the opposite;
rereading is never quite the same as that very first read when you don’t know
how things will play out. Perhaps I was expecting another book like Anna the first time I read this, and was
therefore a bit disappointed. For even though both Anna and Lola are written
along the same pattern with an adorable love story and personal growth for the
main character, I find them to be quite different.

Firstly, the setting. This
story takes place in San Francisco. It seems like a lovely city, and I would
love to visit it someday. However (risking offending some San Franciscans
here), it just can’t compare to Paris when it comes to creating a romantic and
enchanting backdrop. There is just no way to compare to the City of Light, and
that might be why the third book in this series goes back to Paris.

Secondly, the themes. Lola and the Boy Next Door deals with
much deeper topics than the first book in the series. Some examples are
bullying and parents with substance abuse issues. This means Lola is not quite as light and fluffy as
Anna was. Sure, the romance in this
book is top notch on the adorable scale, and Cricket is such a sweetheart, but
combined with the darker themes it makes this a different kind of book from Anna.

As I said, Cricket Bell is the
sweetest character ever. He really lifts the whole story in my opinion. Part of
why I did not enjoy this book as much as Anna
was that I did not love the character of Lola in the same way I love the
character of Anna. However, Cricket Bell saved the book on the character front
in my opinion. Some other characters who lifted the book were Anna and St
Clair, who get to make Easter Egg appearances. It helps tie everything together
into a series, and it’s so much fun to see where Anna and St Clair have wound
up after the ending of Anna and the
French Kiss
.

All in all I really enjoyed
this book. I will probably recommend this series until the day I die, and I
will continue to do so here. If you are looking for a romantic contemporary
with a bit more substance, perhaps to get you out of a reading slump, this is a
great book to pick up. And as I have discovered, it keeps being great however
many times you reread it.

//love from L

Find it on Goodreads

More reviews here