Friday, August 31, 2018

August Wrap-up

Hello! Where did August go? I had a good reading month, with the BookTubeAThon and everything, managing to finish 15 books, which is this year's record. However, in terms of pages, I didn't read more compared to the last months, because some of the BookTubeAThon books were really short. This month I fell in a historical fiction hole that I still haven't gotten out of. Technically, I read more pages because I have started some books that I haven't finished, either because I'm not in the mood for them or because I didn't have time. So here are the books I managed to finished after the BookTubeAThon ended.

The studio lot looks like 'thirty acres of fairyland' the night that a mysterious woman stands and smiles at Monroe Stahr, the last of the great Hollywood princes. Enchanted by one another, they begin a passionate but hopeless love affair, starting with a fast-moving seduction as slick as a scene from one of Stahr's pictures. The romance unfolds, frame by frame, watched by Cecilia, a thoroughly modern girl who has taken her lessons in sentiment and cynicism from all the movies she has seen. Her buoyant humour and satirical eye perfectly complement Fitzgerald's panorama of Hollywood at its most lavish and bewitching.*

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my absolute favorite writers and this was the only one of his novels that I hadn't read. I picked it up in June but wasn't in the right mindset for it, so I put it on pause and then picked it up again after the BookTubeAThon and finished it in a couple of days. Although this is an unfinished book, I loved it a lot and couldn't put it down. Fitzgerald's writing is just magical and I can't help but be in awe of every sentence. My edition of this book also contains his notes about the book, including plans for changes and the ending that he never got to write. It was so interesting to get into his writing process, something we never get to see from an author. Now I can finally watch the TV adaptation of this book. I gave it 5 stars and will surely reread it in the future. 

The Shape of the Ruins is a masterly story of conspiracy, political obsession, and literary investigation. When a man is arrested at a museum for attempting to steal the bullet-ridden suit of a murdered Colombian politician, few notice. But soon this thwarted theft takes on greater meaning as it becomes a thread in a widening web of popular fixations with conspiracy theories, assassinations, and historical secrets; and it haunts those who feel that only they know the real truth behind these killings.
This novel explores the darkest moments of a country's past and brings to life the ways in which past violence shapes our present lives. A compulsive read, beautiful and profound, eerily relevant to our times and deeply personal, The Shape of the Ruins is a tour-de-force story by a master at uncovering the incisive wounds of our memories.*

Now let's talk about my favorite book of the month and one of the best that I read this year. I don't remember how I found out about this author, but I knew that I wanted to read this book even before the Romanian translation came out this year. I didn't know a lot about the plot and still I felt I had to read this book. It took me another few months from the moment I got it until I felt in the right mood for it but here we are. This book takes historical fiction to a whole new level. First, it's beautifully written, then there's mystery and suspense, but also so much soul. This book made me quit the other books I was reading and devote my time to it entirely. I'm not even that interested in Colombian history, but this book made me care so much. The Romanian translation by Marin Mălaicu‑Hondrari was also brilliant. This was a 5 star read for me and I will recommend this book to many people in the future.

In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.
Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.*

As soon as I finished The Shape of the Ruins, I had to get into this one. This was actually on my "to read" list for a longer while, but since it was published a few years ago, I had to order it online. I loved this, although it wasn't as good as The Shape of the Ruins, just because it felt unfinished. It has the same great writing (with the same amazing translator), strong historical setting and good story, but it felt like it should have been longer. Most of the novel felt like and introduction to something and I would have loved for the story to unfold further. That being said, I still gave this book 4 stars and now have a new favorite author to add to the list. I'm really excited to see what he comes up whit next. 

After her mother dies in childbirth, Aurora del Valle is raised by her imposing grandmother, but despite growing up in a rich and privileged environment, Aurora is unhappy. Haunted by terrible nightmares and the inexplicable abscence of many of her childhood memories, and finding herself alone at the end of a love affair, she decides to travel to Chile to discover what it was, exactly, all those years ago, that had such a devastating effect on her young life.*

Next, I decided to continue my historical fiction binge with another South American writer. This novel is the second in the saga of the Del Valle family, the first book being Daughter of Fortune, which I read last year, and the third book being the famous The House of the Spirits, which I read many years ago and plan to reread soon. What I don't understand about the first two books is why Allende made them just historical fiction. The third book, that she actually wrote first (in 1982) was also magical realism and was so much better. Out of the three in the series, Portrait in Sepia was my least favorite, although I still enjoyed it a lot. Allende's writing is always gorgeous and her characters are so full of magic, that she creates an atmosphere that is so typical to her novels. I really love how immersed I feel every time I read on of her novels. I gave this particular one 4 stars. 

Paris, 1490.  A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house—mother and daughter, servant, and lady-in-waiting—before taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven. There, master weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has to finish the tapestries—his finest, most intricate work—on time for his exacting French client. The results change all their lives—lives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look.*

Tracy Chevalier is my go to author for quick historical fiction reads. I read most of her novels, but there are still a couple I had left, this particular one being one of them. I like her novels because she takes inspiration from historical elements and then speculates on the story behind the known facts. The writing is light and enjoyable, plus they are written in first person, usually from multiple perspectives, which I love. I love the medieval setting in this one and the artsy theme. This was a quick read and I gave it 4 stars.

Here are the audiobooks I listened to this month:

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.
She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.*

One of the most hyped YA releases of the year, this is the sequel or rather the companion novel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I listened to and quite enjoyed back in April. I picked this up as an audiobook as well, and I wasn't a big fan of the narration but listening to it helped me get over the boring parts. Many people loved this book but there are many that also gave it 2 and 3 stars, meaning that they thought it was just okay. Unfortunately, it was a 3 star read for me too. That doesn't mean it was bad or I didn't enjoy it, but compared to the first book it was just an average YA contemporary. I wasn't a fan of the character of Leah, for most of the book she was just complaining and hurting other people, especially her mother. The romance in the book didn't feel real to me, I just didn't care, which is so different from the feelings Simon's story gave me. This was  quick listen and I enjoyed myself, so all in all I'm not sorry I read it.

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.*

I discovered Neil Gaiman's books, but specifically his self-narrated audiobooks, this spring. While I did watch the American Gods TV show without reading the book, I knew nothing about Norse mythology, so I thought this would be a fun read. Of course I listened to the audiobook, since Gaiman's voice is so soothing and his narrations are beautiful. These stories were so much fun! There were a few in there that weren't that interesting, but most of them were great and I enjoyed myself a lot. Not much to say other than that because I don't want to give any spoilers, but I ended up giving the book 4 stars and I'm excited to read more from this author.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.*

Ok, so I caved and read, or rather listened to, this very popular book. First off, I must say that I was tricked into reading a chick lit romance book by thinking it was historical fiction. Yes, the setting is historical, but there's very little emphasis on the historical setting and very much on the plot and characters, while the writing is pretty bad. I'm sure that this character was good looking, but I don't need to hear about her breasts every 2 minutes. I was also confused by the narration of the audiobook because the voice of Evelyn telling her life story and the one talking to Monique were narrated by two different people. I get the point of multiple narrators for different characters but not this. Of course the strongest point of this book is the plot that keeps you entertained and interested through 400 pages of bad writing and cringy phrases. I know that many people cried at the end of the book but I didn't feel that sad, probably because I didn't empathize with any of the characters, especially Evelyn. I ended up giving it 3 stars, because I enjoyed myself while listening to it, but I still don't get why this book is so highly rated on Goodreads.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.*

The last book I finished this month is another historical fiction. I listened to this big novel as an audiobook and I have mixed feelings about it. This is one of those books that people either love or hate (lots of 1 star and 5 star reviews on Goodreads), but for me it was somewhere in between. I feel like many of the arguments people have against this book come from identifying the characters' ideas as the author's opinions. Yes, the characters often sound preachy and it's annoying sometimes because the book is so long, but that makes them sound real in the end. The story dragged though sometimes, and the book probably could have been  shorter. I would have probably struggled with it if I had read it as a physical book. For that I only gave it 3.5 stars, yet I can't help but admire this author's hard work because this is a solid piece of historical fiction. 

That is it for August. Hope September will be just as good, if not better! 

*Source: Goodreads

Thursday, August 9, 2018

BookTubeAThon Wrap-Up

Hi! So this is a story about me reading 7 books in 7 days and hating it. Well, not exactly hating it but not enjoying myself very much because of the pressure. This was my first attempt ever at a readathon. It was because everyone was posting their BookTubeAThon tbr videos and I wanted to give it a try. Last week I realized that readathons are not for me, because of multiple reasons. First off, I am a slow reader. I've seen people on YouTube fly through hundreds of pages while I sometimes only manage to read 30 pages in an hour. I read faster in Romanian but not by much. Then, in order to finish 7 books in 7 days you need to read shorter and easier books. For me that often means YA, which is a hit or miss. Yes, there are short books for adults too, but they are either literary fiction, which is not really binge-able or chick lit, which I don't like. Finally, I'm not one to binge books. I'd rather read constantly every day, usually in the morning if I have time, a bit here and there during the day and then at night before bed. Reading for hours on end doesn't happen to me very often. So in conclusion this readathon wasn't that fun for me. I ended up reading 1726 pages, which is more than I would normally read in a week, but some of the books I finished weren't great reads. My average rating for these books was 3.6, which is lower than my average for this year (3.8). Oh well, maybe I was just out of luck while choosing my tbr. Most of my books were ebooks or audiobooks, because my physical books were too long and didn't fit any challenges. So there's not much to show in the picture but anyway, here are the books.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki,  Jillian Tamaki (Illustrator)

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.*

This was the book decided by the coin toss. The options were both graphic novels, both ebooks, both around 300 pages, which looked like a quick read. I actually cheated and started this on Sunday night, just because I didn't have anything to read in bed. As expected, I finished this on Monday because I just flew trough it. I wouldn't say that I was disappointed by this because I got to look at beautiful art, but the story didn't do much for me. It tried to touch on some important themes but didn't quite deliver. I wouldn't say it was bad, just nothing special. The art though, was amazing. So it's totally worth it. I ended up giving it 3.5 stars as an average between 5 stars for the art and 2 stars for the story. 

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

David Storm's father doesn't approve of Angus Morton's unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realise that his own son, and his son's cousin Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery, or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands.....
The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear apocalypse story of genetic mutation in a devastated world and explores the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.*

Next up, I picked up this classic work of science fiction, which counted both for the beautiful spine and the green on the cover challenge. I actually wanted to pick another book with a beautiful spine, but it was almost 500 pages long and there was no way for me to finish that so quickly. Although this book seems fairly short (200 pages), it took me some time to get through since it was written in 1955 and the writing is quite literary. It also took some time for me to get into it, which made it impossible for me to finish it in a day. In the end I quite loved this. The only thing I didn't love about it is that it's so short, so a lot of things are left unexplained. That's why I only gave it 4 stars but I'm curious to read some more books from this author now. 

On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, offer a fresh and often funny perspective on the formation of a writer. 
King then turns to the tools of his trade, examining crucial aspects of the wriiter's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

This was my book about something I want to do (writing, very original) and also my audiobook for most of the week. It was my first audiobook read by Stephen King himself and while I must admit that he isn't very good at it, I still enjoyed listening to him tell the story. This is non-fiction but it's a memoir, so it reads more like fiction, plus the writing advice part is really well made and keeps you interested every second. I liked this so much that I definitely want to own a physical copy and maybe annotate it some day. I finished it on the fourth day of the readathon and gave it 5 stars!

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.*

This short novella was supposed to be the book I read while wearing a hat the whole time, but I ended up skipping the hat altogether. Honestly, I found the challenge quite stupid and unnecessary, plus why would I put on a hat to read a book on my couch? This has been on my radar for a long time, especially because it won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards in 2016, and it seemed to be the perfect short thing for a readathon. I ended up listening to the audiobook because it was available on Scribd and I'm so glad I did. The narration brought some authenticity to the story, something the voice in my head wouldn't do. I really loved the concept of an African inspired science fiction story. I'm not a big fan of short stories in general because I feel you can't really get close to the characters in such a short time, but this novella really packs a punch, both with tons of action and characterization of Binti. Of course the first person narration helps a lot. I'm really curious to read the next one in the series. I gave this 4 stars. 

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.*

And then there's the book that almost got me in a reading slump. The thing with readathons is, if you have a specific goal you can't really dnf books, because you invest so much time in them and then you have nothing to show for that lost time. I picked this as my book to movie adaptation, even though the movie hasn't come out yet so I have yet to see it. Many people have raved about this book, even booktubers I trust have found it ok, and the trailer for the movie seemed fun and cute. But boy, was this book boring! The premise of the letters is something short that takes place in the beginning and frankly doesn't affect the life of the main character the way I thought it would. Instead the whole book is just the whining of a spoiled and immature teenager about what boy she likes more. This book is quite long and it was painful for me to finish it, the only way I managed that was by picking up the audiobook about half way and forcing myself to listen to as much as possible until it was over. I gave it 2 stars and will most certainly not be continuing the series. Let's just hope that the movie is a bit better.

The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring....
In Coraline's family's new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. 
The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own. 
Only it's different. *

Finally, the last two books I read that didn't complete any particular challenge except for the challenge of reading 7 books in 7 days. I've been into Neil Gaiman books lately and I was curious to pick up this middle grade that is so famous and that everybody loves. This book is considered very creepy, especially by adults, but for me the creep factor wasn't that high. Maybe it's because I've read some true horror in my life, but this didn't impress me at all. I read it as an ebook on my phone while reading other books as well and didn't feel the urge to finish it if it wasn't for the readathon. I don't think it was bad at all, just not as amazing as I was expecting, so I had to rate it 3 stars because that's just how I felt about it.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island--from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. *

The last book of the BookTubeAThon is also the one that took me out of the slump if I was in one. Finally a book about books that I really enjoyed! This was everything that Mr. Penumbra should have been and I literally couldn't put it down. I read it in around a day so I managed to finish my 7th book in time to complete the final challenge. Not only is this book great for people who love books, but it's cute and heartwarming, a real feel-good novel. I had a few issues with the writing so I only gave it 4 stars, but I really enjoyed it. This was also an ebook that I read on my Kindle.

Wow this was a long post to write! Hopefully the rest of August will be a good reading month!

*Source: Goodreads

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July Wrap-up

Hello! July is finally over and I have to talk about what I read. This month I focused on bigger books, so I didn't do a mid-month wrap-up because I only had finished a couple of books back then. I did manage to finish 10 books this month, but there will only be 9 in this wrap-up because the 10th one is part of the Booktubeathon that I'm attempting this week and there will be a different post for those books. This post will be extremely long so let's get into the books!

Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones

Cathedral of the Sea follows the fortunes of the Estanyol family, from their peasant roots to a son, Arnau, who flees the land only to realize spectacular wealth and devastating problems.
During Arnau's lifetime Barcelona becomes a city of light and darkness, dominated by the construction of the city's great pride -- the cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar -- and by its shame, the deadly Inquisition.*

I found this book from a "books about Barcelona" list after finishing my beloved The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. This book is nothing similar, but it is set in Barcelona, which is amazing. It takes place in the Middle Ages and follows the story of Arnau Estanyol, from before his birth and throughout his adventurous life. It is definitely a saga and even though my copy only has 570 pages, it is a massive book that took me ages to finish. I enjoyed this a lot, don't get me wrong, but the language it is written in is quite archaic and there is lots of history in it, which makes it kind of hard to go through for someone who doesn't know anything about medieval Spain. Despite reading this in my native language, it was the first time in many years when I had to look up Romanian words in the dictionary. The story is beautiful but it isn't lighthearted at all. This book contains rape, misogyny, violence and antisemitism, just to name a few. So it's more on the serious side of historical fiction. There are some faults to this book but I admire Falcones a lot for writing such an intricate and well researched work, so I gave it 4.5 stars. 

The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.*

After finishing Cathedral of the Sea, I needed some light YA to cleanse my palate, so I picked up a "classic" YA contemporary that has been on my tbr for ages. I don't have much to say about this book, since for me it was an average read. I know many people love it and I can see why. I would probably have liked it more if I was a teenager myself. There are many themes in this book, but none of them is visited in depth, so I feel that the author tried to do too much with it and didn't achieve anything in the end. I ended up giving it 3 stars, although now I think I was a bit too generous. Maybe 2.5 would be a more accurate rating. 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed--again. She's been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden's only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle's murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend--but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.*

This book has been all over the internet lately and I gave in to the hype. I usually don't read mystery thrillers, but this has a historical setting and an interesting premise, so it looked like something I would like. And yes, I liked it a lot! I feel like you can't talk too much about this book without giving stuff away, and it is better to go into it without knowing too much about it. To me the ending was totally unpredictable, which I feel is good for this type of books. It felt a bit confusing at times, so I gave it 4.5 stars, but I rounded it up to 5 on Goodreads, because this debut author deserves it. 

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.*

So, an Australian author wrote a book inspired by Romanian myths and fairy tales and I totally loved it! This book had everything I wanted from Războiul solomonarilor, even though it wasn't heroic fantasy but more of a historical/fairy tale type of fantasy. Even though this is YA, it is truly well written and totally charming, a book that you can totally immerse yourself in. It does have a few faults and that is the reason I gave it 4 stars. This book has really strong female characters but I felt like the male characters could have been more complex. As with all YA fantasy, there are a few tropes in this book, but I didn't mind too much. I think that if you read this book without prejudice and let it take you away you will have a great time.

This is the riveting first-person narrative of Kvothe, a young man who grows to be one of the most notorious magicians his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard.*

This was a month long enjoyment and a mammoth of a book. This was a reread as I want to pick up the second book in the series, which I haven't read. I decided this was perfect to reread as an audiobook and I was totally right. I started it at the beginning of the month, then took a long break half way to listen to The Poppy War, then listened to the second half. It seemed that back in 2016 I was a little stingy with my ratings, because I only gave this 4 stars, but now changed my rating to a 5. This book is amazing and so enjoyable to listen to, especially in the Nick Podehl version of the audiobook. I was going to read the second one physically but now I'm not sure, because this was such an amazing audiobook. Patrick Rothfuss' writing is beautiful and listening to it is very relaxing. This is definitely a must if you are into fantasy and you might like it even if fantasy is not your genre. So amazing!

Not pictured, but also finished:

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.*

True crime is a genre I haven't tried out yet, but this book intrigued me. I must admit that I was drawn in by the hype, but I also was intrigued by the resolution of this case and I wanted to read the book before looking up who the actual killer is. I usually struggle with non fiction, but this was a delight to read. Michelle McNamara was a great writer and this reads like fiction most of the time. It is also a bit like a memoir as she talks about her life and the time she dedicated to solving this case. It is also very sad that she died before this was solved, but she was confident that it would get solved in the end. I'm not sure if this is a genre for me, but this book was so good. I read it as an ebook and gave it 4.5 stars, rounded to 5 on Goodreads.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.*

It seems like this month was all about new hyped books. I tried a chapter from this book on my Kindle and immediately had to continue. I had some Audible credits so I decided to get the audiobook and I didn't quite like the narrator, but I loved the book. It begins as a classical coming of age story, but then turns into something mind blowing. The Asian inspired setting really brings something to this story. It also reads like a YA most of the time but contains some violent scenes that make it an adult book. I can't wait for the second book in this series to come out. I gave this 5 shiny stars!

A tour-de-force by rising indy comics star Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he's the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny's life with his yearly visits.*

I found this graphic novel on Scribd and read it on my phone during off-times at work. It was a quick and entertaining read, with an interesting twist at the end. I didn't find the art amazing but it wasn't bad. The story on the other hand I quite enjoyed. I found it quite compelling for a YA graphic novel, so I ended up giving it 4 stars. I think this is better if you go in it without knowing much about the story so I won't give anything away.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls.*

This book was the oldest one on my "want to read" list on Goodreads and it was on there for almost 6 years so it was high time I gave it a try. This is featured as as a "book about books" and I guess it is, only it doesn't feature anything but made up books so nothing I can relate to. It also features a mystery and lots of technology that seemed more or less accurate, although I don't have enough knowledge to know if it was. I didn't care too much for the writing, which made me struggle with the first half of the book. Even though this is slightly under 300 pages, it seemed to go by so slow at times. The ending, or should I say the resolution of the mystery, was quite cool, so I ended up giving this ebook 3 stars but I'm not sure this was worth it.

This is it for July! Hope August will be a great reading month!

*Source: Goodreads

Sunday, July 1, 2018

June Final Wrap-up

Hello! It is the first day of July, which means it's time to wrap up another month. I managed to finish a couple more books this week, bringing my total for June to 12 books. I did however read more pages than in May, due to the fact that I read a book of almost 900 pages and 4 books of over 400 pages. What I realized is that I often shy away from bigger books because I'm afraid that they are going to take a longer time, lowering my monthly total. But now that I have surpassed my original goal of 50 books (I already finished 65 books this year), I decided to read more of what I want and less of what I feel like I "should" read. I also want to favour bigger books instead of shorter ones that might look like quick reads but then end up being bad. Judging by this month's ratings, my 2 star and 3 star reads have been these short books that I picked up as quick reads. So I'm going to try to get away from the pressure of finishing over 10 books next month. Meanwhile, here's what I read in the second half of June.

Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

Awakenings--which inspired the major motion picture--is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for decades in a trance-like state, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Oliver Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, "awakening" effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of his patients, their lives, and the extraordinary transformations which went with their reintroduction to a changed world.*

Oh, nonfiction! The bane of my existence. I have always been fascinated by neurology, and even though I didn't end up choosing it as a specialty, I continue to be fascinated by this subject. I loved Oliver Sacks'  The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat short story collection and I wanted more from him. That being said, I started this book almost 3 years ago and only now managed to finish it. I struggle with nonfiction, as I mentioned before. In this one I got stuck in the case report part. Basically, it was a brief account of each patient's life story and then their history before and after the L-DOPA treatment. I found this part quite repetitive, which made it hard for me to pick it up and read more than 2 pages. Finally, what saved me was the audiobook. I was only about 30% into the book when I switched to the audiobook and managed to listen to it through the end. Although I didn't remember much from the first part of the book because it's been ages since I read it, I quite enjoyed listening to the rest of it. I'm not sure I learned much information from this book, but I'm happy I read it. Now I'm curious to watch the movie as well as the documentary that goes with this book, if I can find it. I gave this book 4 stars.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history--performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.*

First off, let me just say that this book was a big disappointment for me. I love books about time traveling and immortality, so I was very excited to pick this one up. The premise of the book is great and there are some great ideas in it, but there was so much I didn't like about it. The writing was really strange, with the story being told in a really simple way, but then with lots of motivational and uplifting quotes. Another problem I had was with the historical parts which were really poorly described. I just couldn't feel like I was there at all, which is sad because that's the main reason I like historical fiction. Then there was the issue of the characters, most of them so underdeveloped. Finally, some of the events in the book felt a bit forced and illogical, but I won't get into that because I don't want to give any spoilers here. All in all, this book was average at best, so I gave it 2.5 stars, which is exactly half of the maximum rating.

As usual, multiple books have been ebooks or audiobooks, so no picture. Here they are:

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?*

This month I continued my Jane Austen series with her last novel, which is also considered her best one by many people. To me it was the least favorite from what I read from her. The story was uninteresting, the characters were uninteresting, this book just felt boring and less than average. I considered dnf-ing it a few times but decided to power through it at 1.2x speed, since it is pretty short and the audiobook was quite nice. That being said, I think I'm done with Jane Austen, at least for this year. I will accept that this is an author I'm not a fan of and move on. I've read 4 of her books and only enjoyed one (Pride and Prejudice), her most famous book and I must admit that there is a reason for it to be so famous. But all her other books have not been for me. I gave Persuasion 2 unimpressed stars.

This is the sixth book in The Witcher series, an adult fantasy series that is famous for inspiring the PC games with the same name. I didn't include the synopsis for this book because I think it would spoil too much of the first books, but I will say that this series should be better known in the book world. It is beautifully inspired by Polish folklore and is something different from what I've read before. This book was a bit slower paced than the previous ones and felt more like a bridge between the first books and the next ones, where I feel like a lot is gonna be revealed. I quite enjoyed the read and was happy to be back with these characters cause it's been a while since I read the previous book. I will definitely not be waiting so long before picking up the next book. I read this as an ebook because my physical copy was borrowed by some friends and gave it 4 stars.

The Humans by Matt Haig

Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man--as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son--who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew--the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth. *

Another Matt Haig book that wasn't quite what I expected. Granted that after reading How to Stop Time, I wasn't that excited anymore. I still wanted to give it a chance, since a lot of people found it extremely funny. For me, it was moderately funny at best. Most of the jokes were cliches, and so were the characters. The first couple of hours of the audiobook made me roll my eyes many times. After that, it was acceptable. In the end it was ok, I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads, but I guess it was more of a 2.5*, like the other Matt Haig book. In conclusion, his books seem average to me and I probably won't pick up any of his other books. I only had these two on my tbr anyway, so no hard feelings.

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. 
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. *

This was another quick read that I squeezed in on the very last days of the month. One of those "books about books" that seemed cute and fluffy. And that's what it was. The story isn't particularly believable and the letters didn't seem like they were written by British people in the 40's, but if you take this book for what it is you won't be disappointed. That's what I did and I enjoyed it. It's historical fiction bordering on romance. It did teach me about the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2, a subject I had no idea about. And that's why I read historical fiction, to go to places and find out about events I didn't know much about. Pick this up if you are in the mood for something light and enjoyable, with a touch of history. I read it as an ebook and gave it 3 stars.

That's it for June. Hope July will be a great month! 

*Source: Goodreads

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 4.5 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