Tuesday, June 19, 2018

June Mid-month Wrap-up

Hello! Although the middle of the month has already passed, I wanted to put up this post because I don't want my end of the month wrap-up to be extremely long. I only managed to finish my fifth and sixth books of the month yesterday and today, so I decided to write the reviews now and put them out there. Here we go!

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Barcelona, 1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermín Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city's dark past. His appearance plunges Fermín and Daniel into a dangerous adventure that will take them back to the 1940's and the dark early days of Franco's dictatorship. The terrifying events of that time launch them on a journey fraught with jealousy, suspicion, vengeance, and lies, a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives.*

The third book in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series is a lot shorter compared to the first two and is definitely the most action packed of the three. A lot of people have criticized this one because it seems unfinished and rushed. I don't know if the author was pressured into publishing this before it was finished but this book is definitely just a bridge between the previous ones and the last one in the series. It ties the first two books together and doesn't resolve the conflicts it starts, so it's clear that it's supposed to be continued. The fourth book is over 900 pages long and I can't complain. Anyway, The Prisoner of Heaven is a really fun and quick read, with a lot of action that makes you want more. It's definitely one to read if you already have the fourth book and can start it immediately. Unfortunately, I didn't have it when I finished this, which made me really mad. Like the first time I read it, I gave this one 4 stars. 

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.*

Margaret Atwood is an author that I've been meaning to read more books from ever since I read and loved The Handmaid's Tale. For me, that book was a 5 star read that stuck with me for a long long while. I was particularly excited to pick up her other dystopian series and so far this first book hasn't disappointed. This was such an interesting world to go into! The only reason I couldn't give this 5 stars is that this particular distopia felt very distant to me. I just couldn't picture such a world becoming reality any time soon, which made it less mind blowing and more sci-fi. I won't go into the details because I don't want to spoil anything, but this is definitely worth the read, especially if you are a fan of science. I gave this 4 stars and will definitely continue the series.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The internationally acclaimed New York Times bestselling author returns to the magnificent universe he constructed in his bestselling novels The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven in this riveting series finale—a heart-pounding thriller and nail-biting work of suspense which introduces a sexy, seductive new heroine whose investigation shines a light on the dark history of Franco’s Spain. In this unforgettable final volume of Ruiz Zafón’s cycle of novels set in the universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, beautiful and enigmatic Alicia Gris, with the help of the Sempere family, uncovers one of the most shocking conspiracies in all Spanish history.*

After waiting for what felt like ages, I finally got my hands on this book and slowly made my way through it. I say slowly because it's almost 900 pages long, so it took me about 10 days to read. I could have definitely read it faster but I also wanted to enjoy it properly since it's the end of a story that I've been living for in these past years. Let me tell you that this book was definitely worth the wait! I've read every one of Zafón's books and must say that this is is best one. The Shadow of the Wind is one of my favorite books, but this one I think is even better. I don't want to say too much about it because it's the fourth book in a series and I don't wanna give any spoilers. I will just say that this ties together every single event in the first books in a masterful way, while bringing in new characters and new plot lines and also gives a memorable ending to the whole series. I think perfect is the only way to describe it. 5 out of 5 stars!

Not in the pictures but also read:

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon - the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him 'the bitter neighbor from hell.' But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.*

I've been wanting to pick up a Backman book since forever, and I almost bought this one a few times at the bookstore. In the end, I decided to listen to it on audio since it didn't seem like something complicated that you would have to read physically. It feels pretty weird to say, after I praised Eleanor Oliphant so much a few months ago and they do have a similar premise, but I think this book is overrated. It wasn't bad, but it just didn't do anything special for me. While listening to Eleanor Oliphant I had all sorts of feelings that I didn't have with this one. Maybe I identified with the character in that one more, or maybe it was just better written. I gave this 3 stars and now I really want to read Beartown and see if I enjoy it more.

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.
Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives. *

My adventure in the land of YA fantasy continues. Well technically this is a dystopian novel, so it's more in the science fiction genre, but it definitely has fantasy elements too. I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Neal Shusterman's writing it great, his worldbuilding is amazing and even though this is YA, it didn't have too many of the annoying tropes that YA literature usually has. The premise of a world where people don't die is incredibly interesting already, and Shusterman managed to make some valuable points about the meaning of life in the absence of death. The characters felt real and the romance was kept to the minimum. All in all, a very enjoyable read! I listened to the audiobook of this, which is great, gave it 4 stars and will be continuing the series. 

 A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa

Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. His father, himself a Korean national, was lured to the new Communist country by promises of abundant work, education for his children, and a higher station in society. But the reality of their new life was far from utopian.
In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life. A River in Darkness is not only a shocking portrait of life inside the country but a testament to the dignity—and indomitable nature—of the human spirit. *

Finally, I also managed to read this short but heartbreaking memoir. I struggle a lot with non-fiction and it seems that the only kind that I manage to read is memoirs. This particular one was a great depiction of life in North Korea. I knew some information about the regime, especially since I live in an ex-communist country myself, but I was amazed by how much this book thought me. With Bandi's The Accusation (which I read in January), I didn't feel like it brought much to the picture, but this book really did. I also had no idea that people were actually lured into North Korea in the 60's. Ishikawa's story is truly shocking and doesn't have a happy ending at all. I read this as an ebook and gave it 4 stars because the writing wasn't that great, but other than that it's an incredibly powerful book. 

That's it. I'm not sure how many books I will be able to finish by the end of the month since it's already the 19th and I have a major book hangover after finishing The Labyrinth of the Spirits, but I'll do my best!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May Final Wrap-up

It's the end of May and I already have my wrap-up ready because I'm not going to finish other books by tomorrow. In other news, I'm done with my challenge of reading 50 books! When I first started this year and this challenge, I was worried I wasn't gonna make it. And instead I'm already done in less than 5 months. That's crazy! But now that the pressure is off I can read as much as I like and I can even tackle big books because I'm no longer afraid to miss my goal. Anyway, this month I read 13 books like last month and a couple hundred pages more, so I'm really happy with myself. Here are the books I finished in the second half of May!

In an alternate world where the mere presence of American superheroes changed history, the US won the Vietnam War, Nixon is still president, and the cold war is in full effect.  WATCHMEN begins as a murder-mystery, but soon unfolds into a planet-altering conspiracy. As the resolution comes to a head, the unlikely group of reunited heroes--Rorschach, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias--have to test the limits of their convictions and ask themselves where the true line is between good and evil.*

On many lists, this is the best graphic novel of all time. To me it was a revelation because I never thought superhero stories could be written this way. This is definitely not a quick read like other graphic novels, as it is massive and also has a few pages of prose at the end of each chapter. These bits of prose I didn't particularly like, since I felt that they broke the story instead of letting it flow at a decent pace. Some of the prose bits were articles that brought new information, while others were just boring and useless in my opinion. That is why I gave this 4 stars. I'm glad I own this and will probably revisit it in the future, but I must admit that I enjoy memoir type graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis a lot more than superhero comics.

The vampire world is in crisis – their kind have been proliferating out of control and, thanks to technologies undreamed of in previous centuries, they can communicate as never before. Roused from their earth-bound slumber, ancient ones are in thrall to the Voice: which commands that they burn fledgling vampires in cities from Paris to Mumbai, Hong Kong to Kyoto and San Francisco. Immolations, huge massacres, have commenced all over the world.*

This is the 11th book in The Vampire Chronicles, a series that I've been a fan of for a long time. Anne Rice was actually done with the series before this book and then decided to resume it after a 10 year old break. This book came out in 2014, but at the time I was behind on the series so I still had to catch up with some of the older books, so I only came around to reading this now. A lot of the long time fans of this series didn't like this book and I can see why. It took me over a month to finish it because I kept picking other things to read instead of this. The first half of the book is very slow paced so I couldn't get into it. Anne Rice introduces a lot of new characters in this book and she really wants them to develop, so there is a lot of backstory to each one of them. Finally, I decided to listen to the audiobook and that's when I managed to get through the first half and get to the second one, which is where the action takes place. I did enjoy that part, but in the end, I couldn't give this more than 3 stars. I'm not sure I will continue with the series as the next book has even worse reviews than this one but we'll see in the future.

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren't stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?*

As I mentioned before, I don't read a lot of middle grade but this seemed like an important book and a lot of people raved about it so I had to give it a try. I did enjoy it a lot but I don't think it's such a groundbreaking book. I mean yes, it talks about important issues and since it's written for children it will teach them about acceptance, but I feel like everything turns out too perfect in the end. I will not comment about the ending since I don't wanna give spoilers, but it felt forced and I didn't like it at all. Other than that, the book was well written and it was a quick and fluffy read. Great to take you out of a reading slump. I gave it 4 stars.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

In this powerful, labyrinthian thriller, David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. Holed up in a haunting abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, he furiously taps out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated; thus, when he is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. But as he begins the work, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he realizes there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own. Once again, Ruiz Zafón ventures into a dark, gothic Barcelona and creates a breathtaking tale of intrigue, romance, and tragedy.*

This month I got the best news ever, that the fourth book in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series is finally coming out in Romania. I've been waiting for this book for 5 years, and even though it came out in Spain in 2016, it hasn't been published in English or Romanian yet. So until its release next month, I decided to do a reread of the whole series. I already reread the first book, The Shadow of the Wind, a few months ago, so it was time to read the second one. The Angel's Game is not as amazing as the first book, but I do love it a lot. The way Zafon draws you into his stories is unique and I have fallen in love with Barcelona ever since I read his book. He actually made it my number one dream destination for a vacation. So of course I enjoyed rereading this book. I initially rated it 4 stars and kept this rating, even though I wanted to change it to 5 stars a few times. The only reason I'm keeping this rating is the fact that it has a slower first part. But other than that, it's really amazing!  

In a city far away, bombs and assassinations shatter lives every day. Yet, even here, hope renews itself, welling up through the rubble. Somewhere in this city, two young people are smiling, hesitating, sharing cheap cigarettes, speaking softly then boldly, falling in love.
As the violence worsens and escape feels ever more necessary, they hear rumour of mysterious black doors appearing all over the city, all over the world. To walk through a door is to find a new life – perhaps in Greece, in London, in California – and to lose the old one for ever . . .
What does it mean to leave your only home behind? Can you belong to many places at once? And when the hour comes and the door stands open before you – will you go?*

This little book was nominated for a bunch of awards (including the Man Booker) and I've heard a lot of good things about it. Sadly, it fell flat for me. I guess I have to live with the idea that true literary fiction is not for me. These kinds of books feel so distant and pretentious that I just can't get into them. The writing in this is very elaborate, with sentences that span over half a page. It talks about important themes, some of which are quite interesting, but it fails to make you care. I actually debated on giving it 4 stars, since it's not a bad book, but then I realized that finishing it felt like a chore and the only thing that encouraged me was its shortness. It's only a little over 200 pages, which is why I read it in under 2 days. The moral of the story is that I shouldn't build such high expectations for books. In the end I gave this one 3 stars. 

Not pictured, but also read: 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Even if Blue hadn't been told her true love would die if she kissed him, she would stay away from boys. Especially the ones from the local private school. Known as Raven Boys, they only mean trouble.
But this is the year that everything will change for Blue.
This is the year that she will be drawn into the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys. And the year Blue will discover that magic does exist.
This is the year she will fall in love.*

I always say that I'm not a big YA fantasy reader, but somehow BookTube and Bookstagram convinced me to pick this one up. Many people love this and say that the writing is beautiful, which is true. However, I just couldn't get into it. Listening to this, I found out that I'm not interested in spirits and the paranormal. I've enjoyed a few horror books with paranormal elements, but that's because they were written by Stephen King, and his writing is such a comforting thing for me. With this one I felt uninterested for most of the book. I couldn't empathize with the characters and the only reason I finished it is the beautiful writing and the fact that it was on audio. It was also narrated by a man, which felt weird since it was a book written from a female perspective by a female author. I gave this 3 stars but I will definitely not continue with this series. I still have a few YA fantasy series that I wanna try though and hope I will like some of them.

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage--after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures--Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time--until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.*

This is a book that wasn't even on my tbr, but I saw it in the 2 for 1 sale on Audible and decided to pick it up because there were so many people that raved about it. However, my expectations weren't that high and this book totally blew me away! This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story, but the way it is written is just so great. It is told from two perspectives and both are first person, which I love. Even though the timeline is quite linear, the author keeps adding elements to the story as the book goes on, which makes you change your mind about the characters and their actions as you read. You end up loving and hating them at the same time. The main characters are so complex and feel so real that you live through the story and can't put it down. Or in my case, can't help but listen to some more of the audiobook. The narration by Adjoa Andoh was amazing. I'm not sure how I would have handled the names and dialects if I had read this myself, plus this also has some short songs that were sung in the audiobook. I gave this 5 stars and I'm glad I own the audiobook because I will surely listen to it again in the future.

That is it for May. Hopefully June is just as good! Have a great summer!

*Source: Goodreads

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May Mid-month Wrap-up

I have no idea how, but it's the middle of May. So far May has been a pretty good reading month as I've already finished 6 books, so I thought I would wrap them up now. Not sure if the second half of the month will be as good because I started working more now and I don't have as much time to read as I did in March and April. Anyway, here are the books! 

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

Here is the dazzling saga of two women, the brilliant, bookish Elena and the fiery uncontainable Lila. In this book, both are adults; life’s great discoveries have been made, its vagaries and losses have been suffered. Through it all, the women’s friendship, examined in its every detail over the course of four books, remains the gravitational center of their lives. Both women once fought to escape the neighborhood in which they grew up—a prison of conformity, violence, and inviolable taboos. Elena married, moved to Florence, started a family, and published several well-received books. But now, she has returned to Naples to be with the man she has always loved. Lila, on the other hand, never succeeded in freeing herself from Naples. She has become a successful entrepreneur, but her success draws her into closer proximity with the nepotism, chauvinism, and criminal violence that infect her neighborhood. Yet somehow this proximity to a world she has always rejected only brings her role as unacknowledged leader of that world into relief. For Lila is unstoppable, unmanageable, unforgettable!*

I postponed this for a few months but I finally had to finish the quadrilogy of My brilliant friend. This is the fourth and final one of the Neapolitan Novels, the one where Elena and Lila are adults, the one that offers closure to the whole story. As with the other novels, but even more so with this one, there are a lot of events happening, yet the focus isn't mainly on the events but on the reflections of the characters and on the effects of these events on them. I enjoyed this book a little less than the previous ones but I still loved it. The way Ferrante brings you close to her characters is so unique, you feel like you know their deepest feelings but at the same time you feel like parts of them remain completely hidden to you (like with Lila's character). Ferrante has also used some of the story in The Lost Daughter, her earlier novella that I read back in March, adding so much more to it. I was quite happy with how this quadrilogy ended, yet I can't help but feel sad because I will miss these characters. I will definitely revisit these books over the years and am very happy to have them in my collection. Like with the previous ones, I gave this book 5 shiny stars!

Fairia – o lume îndepărtată by Radu Pavel Gheo

My first Romanian book of the year! Unfortunately, this wasn't translated in English but the title pretty much translates to "Fairia-a far away world". This book was so unlike anything I ever read. It's a mix of science fiction, fantasy and fairy tales written in a postmodern style. It follows an expedition that lands on a foreign planet and the land is full of fantastic elements, so it definitely feels more like fantasy than sci-fi after the first few pages. It is a short book, so there isn't a lot of world building but I still enjoyed this quirky little book. Plus Radu Pavel Gheo is one of my favorite writers and I was happy to read something so different from what he usually writes. I gave this 4 stars.   

Războiul solomonarilor by Moni Stănilă

Not only was this Romanian book not translated in English, but it's a really fresh release, so fresh that it doesn't have any ratings on Goodreads yet. I decided not to rate this on there yet because my rating would have been the only one and I didn't want this to start with a 3 star rating, which is what I would give it. I was really excited about this book, so excited that I went to the bookstore to buy it as soon as it came out and started reading it immediately. It's a Romanian folklore inspired fantasy, something we don't have much of. The title translates to "The war of the Solomonars", a type of wizards that you can read more about here. Now, the premise of the book is great. It's a YA novel, aimed at readers aged 12 or older, the main character is 17 years old, so I don't understand why this book had to be so short (250 pages). The author wanted to do so much in this book, with such a complex world. The world building part is great, but there isn't much space for the actual war from the title. The war and the resolution of the war take place in the last 50 pages of the book, the rest of it being the description of the world and the story leading to the main story. There are many characters and many types of supernatural beings in the book that I would have loved to know more about. I really enjoyed this book and would have wanted so much more from it. The writing is beautiful and I really want to support Romanian authors, so I feel sorry that I didn't love this. Hope we get other stories set in this world! 

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II - the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler's Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival - and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.*

I'm probably the last one on the planet to read this, but in my defense I only became interested in graphic novels a couple of months ago. This one needs no introduction because everyone has heard of it, it's on all the "best graphic novels" lists and it had also won a Pulitzer prize. Of course that all that is very well deserved. This was such a heartbreaking story, but the way it was delivered is absolutely brilliant. The author chose animals to portray his characters so they would feel a bit more distant and make the story more bearable, but for me it had the opposite effect. Plus the fact that the story is told in first person really draws you in. I couldn't put this down and read it in a day, so of course I had to give it 5 stars.

Not in the picture:

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold's attackers make them their next target.*

One of the publishers in my country has a pretty great middle grade/YA series and this book is one of the newer ones they published. This seemed perfect for me because it's a "book about books". Even though I don't read much middle grade, there was something that drew me into this book and I'm happy to report that it didn't disappoint. It was such a cute middle grade with puzzles and books! I really enjoyed it. The only thing I didn't like was the fact that it was written in third person. It would have been more enjoyable had it been written in first person, but that's just my personal opinion. I also loved the fact that it's set in San Francisco, which is a city I haven't read much about. This is the first book in a series and the second and third books are out and have great reviews, so I will definitely continue reading. I read this as an ebook and gave it 4 stars. 

Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: neverwhere.*

What a delightful book! I was in the mood for fantasy this month and I think this book is what inspired it. It was also my first Neil Gaiman book and I was surprised by the beautiful writing. I hear that not all his books are written in the same way though, so I will have to discover his other books and see if I like him. The whimsical element is strong in this one, which makes it very unique in my opinion. There are tons of epic fantasy novels out there but I haven't found anything like this. Since it's set in London, it made me think of A darker shade of magic, a novel I read in March and didn't like as much as this one. Neil Gaiman has announced a sequel to Neverwhere and I just can't wait for it to come out! This was an audiobook and I gave it 5 well deserved stars.

That's it for now. Hope May will continue on this good reading streak!

*Source: Goodreads

Monday, April 30, 2018

April Final Wrap-up

April is over! It was a good reading month, although not as good as March. But let's be honest, I didn't expect it to be. I ended up finishing 13 books this month, which is still amazing. I'm back with the wrap-up for the second half of the month and now realize that I haven't finished a single physical book in the past two weeks. I started a few books that I'm in the middle of but still have to finish. Audiobooks, on the other hand, have been a lifesaver. I had a lot of stuff to do around the house and I also had to travel, so I managed to finish quite a few of those. So here are the books I read in the second part of April.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice--Austen's own 'darling child'--tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old.*

I decided to continue my Jane Austen series this month and picked up her second book, which is also her most famous one. This time I wasn't as disappointed and quite enjoyed the book. It seems this was my second time reading it because I marked it as read in my Goodreads but I didn't remember anything from my first time reading it, which was probably ages ago and also in Romanian. The story in this book is still overly dramatic, but the characters aren't as annoying or boring as the ones in Sense and Sensibility. I quite enjoyed the characters of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I also felt a lot more irony from the author in this book compared to the other one. I listened to it as an audiobook and gave it 4 stars.

Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent. *

Boy, was this a struggle! I have watched all the movies and was familiar with the story before picking up the book. I was always intrigued by the fact that they made 3 movies out of such a small book, but I didn't imagine that the book would be so much more boring. The movies were dragging at times but I quite enjoyed them. The book, on the other hand, has such a slow pace that I just couldn't follow. I listened to it as an audiobook and it was the first time I found myself thinking about something else all the time. I felt like rewarding myself when I managed to finish it. I was planning to read the Lord of the Rings series next but after going through this one I'm not sure that I'm gonna do that. It's a nice story and the writing is beautiful but I couldn't give it more than 2 stars.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.*

This is last year's Man Booker Prize winner and one of the Goodreads Choice Awards top nominees in historical fiction. I'm a big fan of historical fiction so I had to give it a try. However, this is not a typical book in that genre. Yes, the subject is historical but this is more like literary fiction. It's also written in a very original form, most of it reads like a play and the plot isn't very elaborate. There's also the supernatural element that is central to the story. So all in all, this is a very different book. I enjoyed parts of it but was sometimes lost, so I wouldn't say this was my kind of book. I also didn't appreciate the random graphic sex scenes that were scattered around the book. They really didn't bring anything to the story so I felt they were there just to shock. I read it as an ebook and ended up giving it 3 stars.

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.*

Finally a YA contemporary that I enjoyed! This was such a nice, fluffy and endearing read. None of it felt forced like other YA books do. It had some of the YA tropes, but nothing that bad. Most of it was in email form, which was new to me and I quite enjoyed the cyber-romance. Given that I rarely am a fan of romance in books because it feels so unnatural and cliche, it's impressive that I enjoyed this. It's a quick, feel-good read. I listened to the audiobook and gave this 4 stars.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. *

I've watched the movie of this years ago, when it first came out, but I've heard that the book is even funnier and the audiobook is nice, so we listened to it on out 8 hour long drive to a friend's wedding. It was quite enjoyable, although I couldn't pick up all the technical details while listening to it and also paying attention to the road. It was quite funny though and my boyfriend also liked it a lot. It was his first ever audiobook and I'm glad I chose one that he enjoyed. One thing though, if you aren't a fan of science don't pick this up! I feel like that is implied with the science fiction genre but with this one it's an absolute must. I gave it 4 stars.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown - Scotland's largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover's paradise? Well, almost ... In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.*

I'm really not good with reading non-fiction, in fact I have some non-fiction books that I'm in the middle of and can't seem to get through, so when I do pick them up I usually go for memoirs because they are closer to fiction and easier to get through. This one was on my tbr because I love books about books and when it as in the 2 for 1 credit deal on Audible I just had to get it. I really enjoyed listening to it. It gave me an insight into the bookselling world and showed some aspects that I wasn't familiar with. It was also funny in a really sarcastic way, which  I'm a big fan of. The author is really cynical when talking about his customers so if you aren't a fan of that style you will not enjoy this. It also felt a bit repetitive at times, but other than that it was a solid 4 star read for me.

So yeah, quite a bunch of audiobooks. Hopefully next month I will have more physical books finished. Cheers for May! 

*Source: Goodreads

Sunday, April 15, 2018

April Mid-month Wrap-up

Hello! It's the middle of April and I already read 7 books! Well, two of them are graphic novels but I still counted them as books. So again, I decided to split this month's wrap up in two to make shorter posts. Here are the books I read so far in April:

The Professor is Charlotte Brontës first novel, in which she audaciously inhabits the voice and consciousness of a man, William Crimsworth. Like Jane Eyre he is parentless; like Lucy Snowe in Villette he leaves the certainties of England to forge a life in Brussels. But as a man, William has freedom of action, and as a writer Brontë is correspondingly liberated, exploring the relationship between power and sexual desire.*

In February, I read Shirley and totally loved it, so I couldn't wait to pick up another book by Charlotte Brontë. This was the only one of her 4 novels that I hadn't read. It was published posthumously but was actually written before the other ones, so the writing is not as great as in her other works. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this a lot. It was interesting to see her write from the perspective of a man. Some of the thoughts of the main character make him not very likable and the romance doesn't feel that real, so I only gave it 3.5 stars. I rounded it up to 4 stars on Goodreads because it's one of my favorite authors after all. I listened to this one as an audiobook, even though I have the physical copy as well.

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.*

This is a highly rated book that I didn't love as other people did. This is a heartbreaking story written very realistically, even brutally I would say. It's a very important book because it teaches people about the Soviet deportations following Western territory annexations during WWII. The fact that it is written as a YA novel is even more important, because it reaches people that would otherwise never find out about these events. I have read many reviews from people that mentioned that it was the first time they heard about what is described in this book. However, I didn't like the writing at all. I realize that YA novels are written in a simpler way but I have read many YA books that are beautifully written. This was just too simple and too distant, which prevented me from attaching to the characters. Even though the events described were extremely painful, I didn't feel too depressed or sad while reading. This could have been a tearjerker but ended up being a 3 star read for me.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into haves and have-nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.*

The first reread of the year! I'm a huge huge fan of Steinbeck's books and have read pretty much every novel he has written. It's been quite a few years since I've read this masterpiece, so it was time for a reread and this time in English since the first time I read it translated in Romanian. It was a little hard for me because the dialog is in dialect and there were words I've never heard before, but I looked them up so it wasn't too bad. This took me about a week to read because it is a big book, but also because it must be enjoyed in small sips. It is quite an atmospheric read. As Steinbeck said:  "I've done my damnedest to rip a reader's nerves to rags." And he surely did! 5 shiny stars from me!

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.*

Another book that everybody loved and I didn't. This was also the winner of last year's Goodreads awards in the fiction category so there must be something wrong with me because I don't understand why. There was nothing special about this book. It was easy to read, with a woven plot that seemed to perfectly adjust itself. Some of the coincidences in the book were almost ridiculous. I can't go too much into detail about the plot because it's sort of a mystery that unfolds itself as you read it. Some of the characters were ok, but I didn't see too much evolution in them. For me Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine  was so much better than this one. I plan on reading a few others from that category as well so we'll see what I think about those. I gave this one 3 stars.

Not in the picture:

Lady Mechanika, Vol.1: The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse by Joe Benítez

The tabloids dubbed her "Lady Mechanika," the sole survivor of a mad scientist's horrific experiments which left her with mechanical limbs. Having no memory of her captivity or her former life, Lady Mechanika eventually built a new life for herself as an adventurer and private investigator, using her unique abilities to solve cases the proper authorities couldn't or wouldn't handle. But she never stopped searching for the answers to her own past. *

This is a very obscure graphic novel that I came across randomly on YouTube. The steampunk setting intrigued me and the graphics seemed gorgeous so I gave it a try. Since I'm new to graphic novels and comics in general, I don't have any experience with superhero ones but this one seems to be a very unusual one. It's really dark and mysterious, so I love it very much. I can't get enough of the amazing images in this comic! The plot is not bad either and I can't wait to read other stories because there are a bunch of volumes out at the moment and each one has a standalone plot. Did I mention this is steampunk with Victorian outfits and monsters? Definitely my cup of tea! I read it as an ebook and gave it 4 stars.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. 
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. *

With the movie being out at the end of last month, I had to read the book first because that's what I do if I'm interested enough. Again, many people love this book but I did not. It was an entertaining read and I can definitely admire the innovative aspect of it, unfortunately I got bored about half way through and found the second half quite predictable (including the ending). The world building part was amazing, which made me fly through the beginning of the book. I definitely liked the book so I gave it 3 stars. This was an ebook read. After seeing the movie I began to appreciate the book a bit more. I even debated on changing my rating to 4 stars but decided to leave it that way. They changed many things in the movie to make it more action packed and less geeky, things I loved in the book, and while I understand the reasons behind it, I felt a bit disappointed.

For the dark Titan, Thanos, the Infinity Gauntlet was the Holy Grail, the ultimate prize to be coveted above all else. Now, on the edge of Armageddon and led by the mysterious Adam Warlock, Earth's super heroes join in a desperate attempt to thwart this nihilistic god's insane plunge into galactic self-destruction.*

The Infinity War movie is coming out at the end of this month, so I thought I would do something new, namely read the comic it was based on. I have seen many of the Marvel movies and I must say that the Avengers ones are my least favorite. The characters don't seem to be as complex and the back story isn't that interesting. That sort of happened with this comic as well. There are a ton of superheroes showing up here and it's really hard to keep track of all of them. My favorite part were the supreme beings that almost certainly won't show up in the movie. I enjoyed this but not quite as much as Lady Mechanika. It is an older comic though, so it's not as beautiful as the present day ones. This was an ebook and I gave it 3 (maybe 3.5) stars.

That's it for now. I'm not expecting the second half of April to be as prolific but I'm gonna do my best. Happy spring!

*Source: Goodreads

Saturday, March 31, 2018

March Final Wrap-up

Hello! It's the end of March and I'm really pleased to announce that this month I finished 15 books. 15! So that's 3 books more than I read in the first two months of the year combined. I don't know what happened to me this month but I was in a great reading mood. I am now over 50% done with my reading goal for this year after only 3 months. In the second part of the month, I continued with my challenge of only reading books written by women. I found it hard after a while, not because there aren't enough women authors on my tbr, but because I'm such a mood reader and don't really stick to my tbr. It was frustrating to not be able to pick up a book I really wanted to read just because it had a male author. So yeah, the challenge was fun, but I'm glad it's over. In this second part of March I discovered graphic novels, which contributed to the length of this list, because they are faster reads. There aren't many books pictured below because I read many ebooks and listened to a couple of audiobooks as well. Anyway, here are the rest of March's reads!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. *

Oh, how I wanted to love this book! I was really excited to start reading it and set it aside for a weekend so I would have time to binge read it. Sadly, after reading almost 150 pages of it on a Saturday, I got bored, so bored that I had to take a mini break and read something else (Persepolis) for a day or so. This is not a bad book at all, it just wasn't for me. The writing is good and easy to follow, the details of the world are really interesting and stuff does happen in it. It isn't that long either, not like other fantasy books. However, the characters felt uninteresting to me and I was just not curious to find out what happened next. I also feel like most of the action is packed in the last 100 pages or so, with little stuff happening in the first parts of the book. I know a lot of people love this one so I'm glad I gave it a try. It's especially good for people that are new to fantasy because it's under 400 pages and it does have a YA vibe to it (new adult, maybe). I'm not sure if I will continue this series because some people say that this is the best one, although others seem to think that the next books are better. I gave this 3 stars.

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

Leda, a middle-aged divorce, is alone for the first time in years when her daughters leave home to live with their father. Her initial, unexpected sense of liberty turns to ferocious introspection following a seemingly trivial occurrence.*

Here's a quick read that comes from one of my favorite female writers. This short novel (novella?) is an earlier work of Ferrante's, published before the Neapolitan Novels and in it I can see some of the themes and stories she later developed in those brilliant books. It's basically a meditation, written in first person as her other novels, of a woman who ponders upon her condition as a mother and as an individual. I am not a mother myself, so I couldn't identify with her thoughts, but I can understand her feelings so I really liked this book. As with all of Ferrante's novels, the writing is amazing. It really brings you close to the character that is telling the story, you feel you know her deepest thoughts, even those she is trying to hide from the world. Now I can't wait to read the last of the Neapolitan Novels. I gave this one 4 stars.

 Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.*

A few years ago I decided to read all of Jane Austen's works in chronological order and this one is the first. My only previous experience with her books was Emma, read by me in high school and not quite enjoyed at the time. So I tried to read this one as an ebook on my phone, on my ebook reader and I also bought it as a paperback. I kept picking it up and putting it down after one or two chapters, until I finally dropped it for good at about one third of the way. I decided to try again, this time with the help of an audiobook, hoping that it would be easier to get through. It was quite enjoyable to listen to and quite relaxing, but I still didn't like the book, especially the first part. The characters were really annoying and their issues seemed so "first world problem" to me, that I just couldn't get into the story, didn't care about the outcome and felt happy it was over. The only thing that saved this book was the good writing and that's why I gave it 3 stars. I will still continue with the next Jane Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice) because I really want to have an opinion about her books. So far, they are not my favorites.

Also finished, but not in the picture:

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.*

This is a story about how I got tricked into reading a romance book, which is a genre I don't enjoy at all. I found this book on a magical realism list and since it was a "book about books", I decided to give it a try. There's absolutely no magical realism in this one and it's more of a book about inexistent books. Instead of writing about books she enjoys, the author invents a bunch of books to talk about. Why? There are so many things wrong with this novel that I would have to write an entire post about it. The story is predictable and bland, like a really bad romantic comedy (and not a funny one). There were many cliches that made me cringe, like the character of the librarian that dreams about characters in books or the two romantic interests (of course it's a triangle). Her talent of matching people to the books they like seems to consist in finding a book that is exactly about their life, which I don't think is a talent at all. I mean why do all these people only want to read about themselves instead of escaping to different places and times? I would carry on but I'm only going to say one more thing. The people in this book are British but they all talk like Americans, except for a couple of "knickers" inserted here and there. This was a quick read, I read it as an ebook and I did manage to finish it so I gave it 2 stars to reward myself for the effort.

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.*

My first graphic novel! I've heard a lot about this one and since it's written by a woman, it had to be the first one I tried in this genre. Well technically graphic novels are not a genre, because they have their own genres like books do and this one is a memoir so it's non fiction. It has two volumes but I read them as a whole and counted them as one book. I was very interested in the part about the Islamic Revolution in Iran, yet it ended up being my least favorite volume (even though it was great too), while the second part about exile and life after the revolution I absolutely loved. Satrapi's work talks about the condition of immigrants, about the role of women in Islamic society and the way religion shapes their lives in a way that I never thought of before. My first experience with a graphic novel was a brilliant one and it made me look for other ones that are must reads. I read this as an ebook and gave it 5 beautiful stars.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned "fun home," as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books.

When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift, graphic — and redemptive.*

This was the second graphic novel of the month. There are many I want to read, but since I wanted to only read books written by women in March, I decided to read this one because many people recommended it. It's also a memoir, like Persepolis, but one that talks about sexual identity and the relationship of the author with her father. I quite enjoyed this book. My only issue with it is that the author relies too much on comparisons with classic literature to deliver her message. Don't get me wrong, I love books about books, but this wasn't supposed to be one of those. I would have liked to know more about her feelings without a parallel to heavy books (that I haven't even read). This way the book felt somehow distant and I couldn't get into it properly. It's why it took me 3 days to read, whereas Persepolis took me less than a day. I read this one as an ebook and gave it 4 stars. The graphic part was amazing!

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary is the devastatingly self-aware, laugh-out-loud account of a year in the life of a thirty-something Singleton on a permanent doomed quest for self-improvement. Caught between the joys of Singleton fun, and the fear of dying alone and being found three weeks later half eaten by an Alsatian; tortured by Smug Married friends asking, "How's your love life?" with lascivious, yet patronizing leers, Bridget resolves to: reduce the circumference of each thigh by 1.5 inches, visit the gym three times a week not just to buy a sandwich, form a functional relationship with a responsible adult and learn to program the VCR.*

First reread of the year! I was sort of in a reading slump and wanted to pick up something light and funny, so I ended up rereading this. I read it many years ago and since I've seen the movie a few times in the meantime, I totally forgot about the differences between the book and the movie. All in all, I really like this book, despite its many issues. I can understand why some people hate it, because it mentions weight and body image issues so much, but I don't see it that way because you don't have to approve of everything a character thinks to like a book. I think in the end the moral of the story is that her weight doesn't matter at all, but maybe people fail to grasp that. I liked this more than the first time I read it, probably because I'm older now. This was also an ebook and I gave it 4 stars.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond's big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. *

Oh man, this book! Even though I expected to like this a lot, it still surprised me. I rarely am impressed by a book and this one impressed me a lot. It was such a breath of fresh air! Both funny and heartbreaking at the same time. The character of Eleanor was extremely relatable, even though she seemed a horrible human being in the beginning of the book. I really feel sorry for the people that started the book and never finished it, they lost a lot. I listened to it as an audiobook and the narration was amazing, but I now wanna get it as a physical book so I can have it on my shelves, reread it and maybe annotate it one day. I gave it 5 stars. One of my favorite reads of the year for sure!

This was March. I am already in the middle of a couple of books that will count as April reads, so I'm not too worried about next month. Hope April is a good one too!

*Source: Goodreads

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March Mid-month Wrap-up

Hello! We're only halfway through March and I've already finished 7 books! Yes, seven, one more than I read in January and February. Of course this is because I have finished two massive ones that I started before, but who cares? The important thing is that I'm already way ahead (10 books ahead) of my goal for the year, which makes me so happy. I didn't want my March post to be 10 books long so I'm splitting it up in two. Since the 8th of March is International Women's Day, I decided to dedicate this month to books written by women. So except for the 3 books that I started before the beginning of the month, all the books I read were written by women and I will continue this until the end of March. Here are the books!

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

One Thursday lunchtime the Earth gets unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the Galaxy is a very strange and startling place.*

I was a little nervous starting this book because I didn't know what to expect. The beginning was sort of boring to me, there was a lot of funny, quirky nonsense that I'm not a big fan of, so I was sure that I wasn't gonna like it and would not continue the series. Since it's a short book, I decided to keep on reading and try to finish it, so I went on and started to like it more and more. In the end, this is a rather deep book with lots of original and smart ideas and even though there is a bit of gibberish that I'm not into, I didn't mind it in the end. I will definitely continue the series because I'm really curious about where this story is gonna go. I gave this one 4 stars.

Under the Dome by Stephen King

It is the story of the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine which is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. No one can get in and no one can get out.* 

I started this massive epic last year but wasn't in the mood and didn't have the patience to continue, so I took a long break. I picked it up again in February and finished it this month, but I actually only read the last 300 pages of it in March. So as you can see, I read a lot more in February than my wrap-up led to believe. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. The way he writes and tells stories is incredibly comforting to me, his characters always become good friends that I thoroughly miss afterwards. I don't even mind that most of his books are so long, because it gives me time to get attached, plus why would you want something you enjoy to end so soon? I didn't expect this book to be as good as The Stand, but I enjoyed it very very much. If you like dystopian and apocalyptic science fiction, this is a must read. It's such a pity that the TV series based on this book isn't that good, because I would have liked to hang out with these characters again. I gave this 4.5 stars and rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there's a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power - they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.*

I decided to pick this up based on a few people's recommendations, although I felt like the premise was a little too much. I'm happy I did because this was a great book. Naomi Alderman was able to touch some really painful points. This book really made me think. If you are a fan of distopian books, this is an interesting new perspective. The writing is also great and the characters are great. This book was a big surprise for me. I gave it 4 shining stars!

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck - in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert's past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.*

You know I had to include at least one historical fiction book in this month's reads. Tracy Chevalier is an author who's books I always enjoy. I love her writing and I love that her books take me to different places, the atmosphere is so great that they always suck me in. This one had a slower start for me because one of the voices that narrates at the beginning is written in a really broken English. Since I read this as a translation in Romanian, I felt that the many mistakes were very distracting. But after that I totally got into the story and ended up binge reading it for the most part. It's a short book, so that isn't too hard. I have this 3.5 stars but rounded it up to 4 because I felt generous.

Books that are not in the pictures:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!*

OK, unpopular opinion time! When the first Harry Potter book came out in the UK I was 10 years old. But given that I live in a East European country and it was the 90's, the books didn't get translated in my language until a few years later and by the time I found out about them I was already reading classics and felt like I was too old for them. Fast forward until now, when I finally decided to find out what all the fuss was about. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Stephen Fry, a really great narration that I sped up to about 1.25 and I still got bored at times. Yes, this is a cute book and I can see why children like it, but for me it didn't feel interesting and at times I actually felt annoyed about some things. It would probably feel different if I had the nostalgia of the people who read it when they were young. I gave it only 3 stars. Sorry, 5 million people that gave it 4 or 5 stars! Right now I don't know if I want to continue the series, if it gets better and if I wanna power through the second and third book to get to the more YA ones that are supposed to be better. We will see!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.*

Hyped books. Can't live with them, can't live without them. I often avoid reading them early because I then feel disappointed, not to mention that I then feel bad for not liking them. Luckily, it wasn't the case with this one. My YA read for this month had to be this contemporary meaningful novel that doesn't feel like fiction at all. Well yes, the characters are not real and the story did not happen literally, yet I feel that this happened too many times already. It all felt so real that I couldn't help but read on, rooting for these characters, but knowing in the end that there's still a lot of work to be done. I love that this story was written as a YA book, because it can be read by anyone and it reaches the people that really need to learn about this stuff. It's also really well written. I feel like there's so much to say about this book but it speaks for itself in reality. You need to pick this up! I read it as an ebook and gave it 4 (more like 4.5) stars on Goodreads. 

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

In 1815 Edmond Dantès, a young and successful merchant sailor who has just recently been granted the succession of his erstwhile captain Leclère, returns to Marseille to marry his Catalan fiancée Mercédès. Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.* 

107 chapters and two months later, I'm finally done with this monster of a classic. I listened to this as a Librivox audiobook and only made real progress once I increased the speed to about 1.3-1.4. That's how I managed to get through about half of it in two weeks. If it weren't for audiobooks I don't think I would have had the patience to read this. First off, it was not what I expected. I wasn't familiar with the story since I have never read it or watched the movie, but somehow I expected more at sea action, with pirates and prison breaks. It's a great book, beautifully written, with characters that develop and mature, meaningful life lessons and a few plot twists. But it is also full of long dramatic scenes and intrigue. It was also hard for me at times to follow the characters because there were so many and they were all related to each others in some way. I guess a list of characters with short descriptions at the beginning of the book would help, of course not if you are listening to it as an audiobook. All in all, it's a good story and I enjoyed listening to the book a lot. Totally worth the read if you are a fast reader or don't mind spending a lot of time on it. I gave it 4 stars.

That is all for now. Hopefully I will have some more books to show at the end of the month. We got a Kindle this month so there will be more ebooks showing up, but I still want to read physical books and there are a lot of them on my bookshelf that are unread. See you at the end of the month!

*Source: Goodreads