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!

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