March 2020 wrap-up

Just like a lot of other people, my month didn’t go as planned. COVID-19 spoiled many of my plans and made me feel anxious and confused. But I am glad me and my family are healthy. At some points I totally wasn’t in the mind-set to read. There were also days when books were a great way to escape the real world for a while. I managed to read five books in March. The Shadow Sister was one of them, but I already included that one in my Pondathon wrap-up. Here are my thoughts about the other books I read.

The Pearl Sister - Lucinda RileyThe Pearl Sister (The Seven Sisters, #4) by Lucinda Riley4 stars
The fourth parts tells CeCe’s story. She was an important side character in the previous book, so we already know her a little. CeCe still is different than I expected. She isn’t as confident as she appears. Because I sometimes feel insecure too, it was easy to connect to CeCe. I also liked the fact that she has dyslexia. In real life I know quite a lot of people with dyslexia, but there are few book characters that have it. CeCe’s story starts where the previous book ended. With nothing left to loose, she goes to Australia to discover her roots. On her journey, CeCe hears about the Scottish Kitty who lived hundred years earlier. As companion of a rich woman she travelled to Australia. What was meant to be a temporary stay, became Kitty’s new home. I love that The Seven Sisters take me all over the world! I didn’t know a lot about the history of Australia. So it was very interesting to learn about the culture of the Aboriginals. I admire all the research Lucinda Riley did for her books. All stories are based on facts and she often included characters that really lived at that time. As usual, I am looking forward to the next part!

The Testaments - Margaret AtwoodThe Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale, #2) by Margaret Atwood4 stars
When I first heard that there was a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, I thought it was unnecessary. I decided to still give it a try after someone recommended it to me. The story is set around the same time as The Handmaid’s Tale. There are three characters who tell their story: an older Aunt who experienced the foundation of Gilead, a young girl who grew up in Gilead and a girl living in Canada. The different perspectives give interesting insides in how Gilead was founded and its position in the world. When comparing The Handmaid’s Tale to The Testaments, the books are very different. The Handmaid’s Tale has an oppressing and grim atmosphere. The Testaments is more hopeful and rather driven by the plot than the characters. Both books are good in their own way, but I think The Handmaid’s Tale had more impact. It left me with a small book hangover, while The Testaments was ‘just’ a good and exciting story. In the end the sequel was indeed not absolutely necessary, but I do think it’s an interesting addition to the story.

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1) by Katherine Arden  – 4 stars
The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine ArdenThe book has a slow start, but gradually a good story unfolds. It’s set in a fantasy version of medieval Russia. Our main character Vasya lives in a small village where it’s almost always winter. Around the fire people tell each other stories about demons that claim unwary souls. Vasya knows these stories aren’t just fairy tales, because she can see the spirits. She gets friends with a domovoi, the household spirit, and a vazila, the spirit of the stables. It was easy to like Vasya. She is courageous and loyal and I also liked her connection with nature. I love the fact that the whole story is based on Russian history and folklore. It’s clear that the writer did a lot of research and knows a lot about Russia. A drawback for me was the plot. It’s basically a fight between good and evil and the plot twist didn’t really surprise me. But the atmospheric setting and Vasya herself made this book worth reading.

The White Mare - Jules WatsonThe White Mare (Dalriada Trilogy, #1) by Jules Watson  – 3,5 stars
Trigger warnings for rape and graphic violence.
I found this big book coincidentally between my mother’s books. The story is set in Scotland at the time of the Roman invasion. Of course I learned about the Romans in history class, but they were almost always the heroes. It’s interesting that this story gives me a different perspective. Yet, the start of the story is quite slow and the writing style was sometimes a bit too dramatic. That’s why I almost gave up on The White Mare. The interesting setting and eventually the characters kept me reading. Our main characters are the Scottish princess and priestess Rhiann and the Irish prince Eremon. They are prepared to do anything to prevent the Romans from conquering their land. It did take some time before I came to like the characters. But Rhiann and Eremon grew on me. After a few hundred pages the story got more exciting. In the end I do think it’s a good story. I even consider reading the sequel.

Pondathon wrap-up

In February I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Pondathon! This amazing readathon was organized by The Quiet Pond. I read five books and took part in a couple of side quests to help protect the Pond. With Bastet, my own Pondathon character, I managed to get two quest rewards. The first one is the Mark of the Brave for protecting Xialong. I achieved Recipe for Compassion by helping Cuddle.

Character card Bastet with quest rewards - Pondathon

As expected, I deviated a little from my Pondathon TBR-list. From the five books I read, three were on my TBR. I still want to read The Bear and the Nightingale and Tash Hearts Tolstoy. Mabye I will get to them in March. Here are my thoughts about the books I read for the Pondathon.

The Snow Child - Eowyn IveyThe Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey3,5 stars
Jack and Mabel’s dream of having a child never came true. Living in Alaska is also not what they hoped for. Both feel lonely and disappointed in their life. After hundred pages I didn’t know if I wanted to continue such a sad book. But the appearance of the snow child is a little light in the dark and cold winter nights. From that point onwards the story is more hopeful, but still made me feel a bit gloomy. Jack and Mabel and their relationship made this book worth reading. First I mainly pitied them. The couple is in a different life phase than I am and initially I couldn’t really connect with them. Yet I came to care about Jack and Mabel. It was interesting to read how their relationship develops. I did hope the story would have more magic. It’s limited to a few moments and in strong contrast with the hard reality found in the rest of the book.

Lilac Girls - Martha Hall KellyLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly3 stars
My mother’s boyfriend lent me this book and praised the story. It’s always interesting to read stories set during the Second World War. Most of them are based on real persons and events. Lilac girls too. The book has three main characters: the American Caroline who works at the French consulate, the Polish teenager Kasia and the German doctor Herta. Ravensbrück, a concentration camp for women, is what connects the characters. Kassia was my favourite character. I could easily sympathize with her and I was shocked by the things she went through in Ravensbrück. Herta’s chapters were interesting to read. Although I wouldn’t have missed them if the writer had left them out. Initially Caroline’s story was a bit boring. I didn’t understand why it was relevant. It took a long time before the three story lines finally came together. Usually I like books with multiple perspectives. In this case I wasn’t sure if all the perspectives were really necessary. I think Lilac Girls has a good story, but it could have been better told.

This Cruel Design - Emily SuvadaThis Cruel Design (This Mortal Coil, #2) by Emily Suvada4 stars
This sequel is exactly what I hoped for after reading the first part! It is just as fast-paced and thrilling as the previous book. So much is at stake in this story. Not just a couple of characters, but the whole world. It’s amazing that the plot still kept surprising me. Things we learned in the first book appear to be very different… We see unexpected sides of the characters and are introduced to some new ones. Most interesting is the character development of Catarina. Next to saving the world and fighting to stay alive, she is struggling with her identity. And that ending! I really don’t know how this will end for the characters. The third part was published last month. I can’t wait till I can borrow it at the library!

A Mercy - Toni MorrisonA Mercy by Toni Morrison3 stars
For black history month I wanted to read a book by this famous writer. Since she died last year Toni Morrison was on my TBR-list. It’s said that she writes beautiful and she was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature. This story indeed reads like poetry. Which also means that it sometimes is a bit incoherent. Each chapter is told from a different perspective. The story starts when the Dutch trader Jacob Vaark takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner. Next to Florens, we also read about the other women in Jacob’s house: an older servant, another girl and Jacob’s wife. The book was interesting to read, because each character tells their own part of the story. The different perspectives did make it a little hard to connect to the characters. Despite not giving it more stars, I do think it was a good book. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped.

The Shadow Sister - Lucinda RileyThe Shadow Sister (The Seven Sisters, #3) by Lucinda Riley4 stars
This third part is about Star. She has always been a quiet girl who let her sister CeCe speak for her. Just like her sisters, things also change for Star after Pa Salt dies. Her father’s clues lead her to an old bookshop with a curious owner. Of course I loved this bookshop just as much as Star! Her past has something to do with the English Flora who lived hundred years ago. She was an independent girl with a passion for nature and drawing. Flora’s quiet life at the countryside came to an end when she had to move to London. I could easily connect with both characters. Just like Star I am introvert and I share her love for books. Similar to Flora I love animals and I appreciated the fact that she is a vegetarian, just like me. The Shadow Sister is my favourite part of the series (so far). I already have The Pearl Sister at home, so that will be the next book I am going to read!

January 2020 wrap-up

I started the year good by reading four books. I may read a fifth book during the last week of January. No five-star read yet, but Record of a Spaceborn Few was my favourite book of the month. Here are my thoughts about the books I read:

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton4 stars
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart TurtonIt took some time to get into this story, but after that, it blew my mind. As you may suspect from the title, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed. The day of her death repeats itself until the protagonist solves her murder. Despite this repetition, the story gets more interesting and complex after every day. Because the protagonist each morning awakes in the body of another person. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed that none of them were women. But I loved how this story is much more than an interesting murder mystery. There are so many other questions to be answered. Questions about the identity of the protagonist, about the reliability of any of the other characters and how they ended up in this strange time loop, to name just a few. The book kept surprising me, because everything continued to be different than I expected. The ending left me confused, but also in awe with the amazing plot.

My Sister, the Serial Killer - Oyinkan BraithwaiteMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite3,5 stars
The cover and the title of this book are striking. I think the content is more modest. It’s not particularly exciting or funny, yet a captivating story that kept me reading. Central in the story is the relationship between the narator Korede and her sister Ayoola. Ayoola has a habit of killing her boyfriends. After that she calls Korede to clean up the mess. I’m not sure what to think about the characters. I didn’t really like them, but they were interesting to read about. Ayoola doesn’t feel remorse for the people she killed. That could make her the villain of the book. But Korede doesn’t see her sister in that way, so as reader I couldn’t see her as a bad person either. Korede’s feelings are complicated. She doesn’t approve of her sister’s actions. At the same time she doesn’t feel too bad for the men that were killed. She never even thinks about going to the police. So the characters are well-written, but I did hope to see more character development.

Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers, #3) by Becky Chambers  – 4 stars
Record of a Spaceborn Few - Becky ChambersI admire Becky Chambers for writing three books that are very different, but still form a good trilogy. The first part, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, was an amazing book that made me feel really happy and relaxed. So my expectations for Record of a Spaceborn Few were high. Again the story has multiple points of view. We follow the daily life of some people on the Exodus Fleet. Each of the characters gives interesting insights about life on the Fleet. The many details make this world feel very realistic! A drawback was the lack of a clear plot. This would not have bothered me if I’d loved the characters. They did grow on me, but it took time. Some of the characters feel lost and unsure at the start of the book. I was a bit taken aback when I didn’t immediately saw the affection between the characters I loved in the first book. But I was glad to discover that those gentle moments also were there in Record of a Spaceborn Few, especially at the end. Even though the book didn’t entirely met my expectations, it was a good story. I would love to re-read it, and see if I’ll love it more now I know what to expect from it.

The Storm Sister - Lucinda RileyThe Storm Sister (The Seven Sisters, #2) by Lucinda Riley4 stars
This is the story of the second sister, Ally. It starts just before the death of Pa Salt. The first chapters of the book overlap with the first book, but it was interesting to read everything from a different perspective. Ally also has her reasons to find out more about her origins. It brings her to Norway. There she learns the story of Anna Landvik, a talented singer who lived in the 19th century. Again this book has a couple of strong, well-developed female characters. I liked to get to know Ally and Anna and to see how they changed throughout the story. I do think the first book was slightly better. The plot of The Storm Sister was a bit predictable at some points. And personally I like Maya more as character. But I really enjoyed reading Ally’s story and I am definitively continuing the series!

The Literary Grand Tour of the World – December update & wrap-up

This December I read only two books. That’s far less than I usually read in a month, but I really enjoyed both! Here are my thoughts about them:

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley4 stars
The Seven Sisters - Lucinda RileySetting: Brazil = 3 points
This book series is immensely popular in the Netherlands. When a good friend highly recommended it to me, I decided to try The Seven Sisters myself. The first book was indeed amazing! It starts at the moment Maia gets a call that Pa Salt has died. Her beloved father adopted Maia and her sisters as babies. All six sisters are given a clue to their true heritage. This brings Maia to Rio de Janeiro. Once there, she discovers that her own history has something to do with Izabela, who lived in Rio during the 1920s. I loved how present and past are connected. Because each book tells the story of one of the sisters (mysteriously enough there never was a seventh sister, but there will be seven parts in the series…), we really get to know them. I like how the first novel is a story on itself, but there are still many mysteries left to be solved. I am looking forward to reading Ally’s story in Storm!

Gods of Jade and Shadow - Silvia Moreno-GarciaGods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia4 stars
Setting: Mexico = 3 points, non-white cast = 1 point
I was looking forward to reading this book! Five years ago I travelled to Mexico and Guatemala. It was nice to be back in some way. And the idea of the story is so unique: it is inspired by Maya mythology, but set in the 1920s. This means there are ancient gods and demons, but also automobiles and fancy hotels. The result was an interesting historical fantasy. Next to the amazing world-building, the characters were well-written too. Especially Hun-Kamé, the God of Death stood out. His character development is astonishing. He started as a cold and not particular nice character. But he slowly changes throughout the story and I actually came to like him.

With these books I earned 7 points and I got 5 extra points for completing the December task. This brings me to a total of 40 points. I want to thank Kat from Minas Morgul for organizing The Literary Grand Tour of the world. I loved to participate! In total I read 10 books for the challenge. Through these books I visited 9 countries on 4 different continents:

Africa
– Sudan: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (+5 points, +1 point for non-white cast)
Europe
– The Netherlands: Schilderslief by Simone van der Vlugt (+3 points)
– Sweden: Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson (+3 points)
– Balkan: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (+4 points)
North-America
– United States: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada (+1 point)
– Mexico: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (+3 points, +1 point for non-white cast)
South-America
– Barbados: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (+5 points)
– Colombia: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (+5 points)
– Brazil: The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley (+3 points)
Other
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (+1 point for LGBT+ cast)

Look out for my wrap-up post of 2019 on the last day of the year!

SciFiMonth 2019 wrap-up & The Literary Grand Tour of the World November update

In this post I am going to do a couple of things. Of course I will talk about SciFiMonth. I am going to share what happened in the blogosphere and which books I read. Next to that, I will give an update of The Literary Grand Tour of the World.

First I want to thank Imyril from One More and Lisa of Dear Geek for organizing SciFiMonth! It inspired me to write five science fiction-themed posts:
Top four most realistic dystopias
Venturing into space: Books set on spaceships
What can possibly go wrong: Top three disaster movies
Top four kickass heroines in SciFi books
Alternate history: Steampunk & Dieselpunk TBR-list

Other bloggers also wrote great posts. I loved to read the 9 Favourite Themes & Features in SF from Avery on RedRocketPanda. On her blog Exploring by Starlight Louise talked about SF Tropes and Themes she loves and hates. Jess from Jessticulates shared her Time Travel TBR. I also enjoyed reading her discussion post exploring the question ‘Is Frankenstein the first AI novel?‘ And Caitlin from Realms of My Mind wrote an interesting post about her Favourite AI in Books.

Books I read for SciFiMonth

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Wayfarers, #1)5 stars
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky ChambersThis book was so comforting to read! It regularly put a big smile on my face. The story is set in the Wayfarer, a spaceship used to make tunnels between different parts of the galaxy. The crew has five humans and four non-human characters. Especially the non-human characters were interesting. Becky Chambers often surprised me with the many details about other species. I truly admire how well she wrote the characters. All of them, even the side characters who are just in a few sentences, felt real. It was beautiful to read that, despite the many differences, the crew members accept each other for who they are. They put genuine effort in understanding each other. Although the book does have a good plot, it isn’t very important. It’s a character-driven story that emphasises love and friendship. This made it a true feel-good story!

A Closed and Common Orbit - Becky Chambers

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Wayfarers, #2) – 4 stars
This sequel is about two characters who played a minor role in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. I won’t spoil which characters, but I can tell that the characters are just as well-written as in the first part! This book actually has two stories. One of them is set after the events in the first part and is told from the perspective of one of the characters. The other story line tells about the childhood of the other character. The story lines complement each other very well and I liked both. Because the focus is on the two main characters, I think there is a little less attention to world-building. A Closed and Common Orbit is still a really good book!

Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor3,5 stars
This book actually felt more like fantasy than science fiction. I knew it is set in post-apocalyptic Africa, but it didn’t really feel like the future. Furthermore, magic plays a big role. I enjoyed reading how Onyesonwu learned it. But the story also deals with heavier topics like rape, slavery and genocide. Years ago the Okeke village of Oyesonwu’s mother was attacked by Nurus. During this attack a Nuru raped her mother. In the story Onyesonwu has to come to terms with the fact that she is a child of rape. She grows up in a village far from the genocide against the oppressed Okeke. She and her friends still feel the need to go on a journey to stop the genocide. Because the heavy parts alternate with lighter parts, the book was not too difficult to read. I even think the subplots got a bit too much attention on some points. Most of the book was quite good, but I had a problem with the ending. It felt rushed, because it was resolved in just twenty pages. On top of that, the ending was confusing and just too easy. What Nnedi Okorafor attempted to do was interesting, but for me she succeeded only partly.

This Mortal Coil - Emily SuvadaThis Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada4 stars
This book is set in a future when people are able to recode their DNA and change their bodies. This idea was fascinating. It’s realistic and totally believable. It did make some parts of the book a bit technical. To be honest, I didn’t entirely understand how the technology worked. I’m not sure if the writer did this on purpose or it was just me. Fortunately the plot was strong enough that this didn’t bother me too much. The main character, Catarina, is the daughter of a legendary geneticist. He may be the last hope to defeat a terrible plague that causes people to literally explode in toxic clouds. The problem is that Cat’s father was kidnapped by a shadowy organization. Cat survived two years on her own hoping that he is still alive. Until a soldier brings the news that her father is dead… From there the story keeps going. It is fast paced and exciting. And those plot twists! One of them was totally unexpected and truly astonished me!

The Literary Grand Tour of the World – November update

Some books I read this month also count for The Literary Grand Tour of the World. Not all of them are set on Earth, though. But I do get some diversity points and two books get me points for setting:

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Setting: In space, mainly LGBT+cast (wlw-relationship, non-binary character & trans character) = 1 point

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Setting: Sudan = 5 points, non-white cast = 1 point

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
Setting: United States = 1 point

With these 8 points I now have a total of 28 points for The Literary Grand Tour of the World. December will be the last month of this reading challenge. I am looking forward to reading The Seven Sisters and Gods of Jade and Shadow.

The Literary Grand Tour of the World – October update

In this first month of The Literary Grand Tour of the World I read five books, all set in different countries. Three are from the TBR-list I made, the other two were books I coincidentally found at my library. Here are my thoughts about the books.

Schilderslief - Simone van der VlugtSchilderslief by Simone van der Vlugt4 stars
Setting: The Netherlands = 3 points
This book is set close to home, in the country where I live. It is just published, so not translated in English yet. The main character is Geertje, known as the lover of Rembrandt van Rijn. At the start of the book she is arested. From jail she tells the story of her life. It was so interesting to read! I loved to learn more about Rembrandt. The writer does a great job in combining fiction and facts. I have read a lot of other books written by Simone van der Vlugt, and this one was just as good as anticipated.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All - Jonas JonassonHitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson – 3 stars
Setting: Sweden = 3 points
As expected this book has a bizarre plot and a couple of odd characters. There is a dumb gangster, a priest who doesn’t believe in God and a hotel receptionist. They are selfish and most of their actions are morally wrong. So these characters are actually quite unlikable. Yet they shouldn’t be taken too serious, because the driving force behind this book is humour. It was indeed entertaining, but I never laughed out loud. Overall the story was okay, but most of the time I felt pretty indifferent about it.

Washington Black - Esi EdugyanWashinton Black by Esi Edugyan3,5 stars
Setting: Barbados (& Canada) = 5 points
Washington Black, Wash for short, is a field slave in the nineteenth century. As a young, kind-hearted boy with a harsh life, he is easy to like as narrator. One day a scientist who wants to make a flying machine, chooses Wash as his man servant. After an accident they use the Cloud-Clutter to flee. I expected this flying machine to play a big role in the book. Yet the story went in a way I didn’t expect. It was less adventurous than I thought it would be. Although the pacing was sometimes a bit slow, it was interesting to read about Wash’ life and his search for freedom.

The Tiger's Wife - Téa ObrehtThe Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht4 stars
Setting: an unnamed Balkan country = 4 points
The main characters of this book are Natalia and her grandfather who just died. I could try to summarize this story, but that wouldn’t do it justice. The Tiger’s Wife is not a book you read for the plot. The beautiful writing style was what I loved most. In a calm way the book meanders through time. Parts set in the present are alternated with mythical stories about grandfather’s past. The two key stories are about the appearance of a tiger in the isolated village of his childhood and of his encounters with the deathless man.

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García MárquezOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez –  3 stars
Setting: Colombia = 5 points
I wanted to read this book for ages, and I finally did. Initially I didn’t know what to think about the story. It’s weird and illogical and the main characters, the members of the Buendía family, aren’t particularly likable. I kept reading, because I wanted to know why this book is so famous. At a certain point I got used to the strange things that happen. So this wasn’t an issue for me. I actually think the weird plot in combination with the writing style give One Hundred Years of Solitude its unique atmosphere. My problem with the book was that I didn’t understood or cared for the characters. That’s why it was kind of a struggle to finish it.

During October I managed to get a total of 20 points. Look out for my November TBR later this week. Next to The Literary Grand Tour of the World, I am also going to participate in SciFiMonth!

Hogwarts House Battle readathon – wrap-up

This month I participated in the Hogwarts House Battle. This readathon was organized by Katie from BookMarked. I managed to read a lot: 8 books with a total of 3067 pages! With 400 points for the class challenges I ended the month with 3467 points for Hufflepuff. Not bad! Here are my thoughts about the books I read.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. RowlingHerbology – Caring: Read a book that means a lot to you
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling – reread
After rereading Order of the Phoenix I couldn’t resist the temptation to continue with Harry Potter! What I admire about the last three parts is that they are quite dark, but still have a lot of funny moments. During this reread I also noticed that the focus of the books is slowly shifting. In the fifth part the lessons still have a prominent place in the story. But in the Half-Blood Prince they are more in the background. Instead Voldemort and the relationships between the characters are most important.

The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan DoyleCare of Magical Creatures – The Beasts: Read a book with an animal on the cover
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle – 3,5 stars
A man visits 221B Bakerstreet to ask for advice. He tells a legend about a fearsome hound. Than he explains the possible connection between this legend and the death of Sir Charles Baskerville. This is the start of an interesting mystery. While reading it’s obvious that the book was published more than hundred years ago. The language is a bit archaic and the pacing is slower than most modern mysteries. I still enjoyed reading how Sherlock Holmes and Watson solve the mystery. I do have to admit that I prefer the modern Sherlock from TV. In the series Watson has more personality and Sherlock is even more iconic than in the book.

I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy NelsonApparation – Teleportation: Only read this book in public
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – 4 stars
The chapters of this book alternate between twins. Noah tells the reader about his life when he and his sister are thirteen and later fourteen years old. Jude’s story is set three years later. While reading the book I was not sure what to think about the characters. But the beautiful writing style kept me going. It’s a bit “artistic” and full of metaphors. The writing style fits with an important theme in both story lines: art. It also reflects in a wonderful way how the characters look at the world. In the end I came to understand Noah and Jude and they really grew on me.

Cloud Atlas - David MitchellDivination – The Future: Read a predicted 5-star Read
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell –  4 stars
This book is made up of six stories. Although my expectations were a bit too high, I liked most of them. After reading the first one I was quite disappointed. But I kept reading and the stories became more and more interesting. Each of them is set in a different moment in time and about other characters. As reader you can discover connections between the stories. Each time I found a reference to another story, it felt like a small reward. There are also themes that play a role in each story. If you want to read this book, I would recommend to start it without knowing a lot about it. I think Cloud Atlas is best to discover by yourself.

Eva Luna - Isabel AllendeHistory of Magic – Historical: Read a book from another generation
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende – 3,5 stars
Just like most other books from Isabel Allende, this was a beautiful character-driven story. Eva Luna is an extraordinary woman that tells the reader about her life. Some parts are a bit weird, but overall I enjoyed the story. It was easy to read and I liked the writing style. Next to Eva, the book also has a couple of other interesting characters like a found grandma that sleeps in a coffin and a famous trans actress.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret AtwoodStudy of Ancient Runes – Ancients: Read a classic novel
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 4 stars
This book is set in a terrible, dystopian version of the United States. As a Handmaid, the protagonist has only one function: to breed. For other women life isn’t much better in this society. From the first page onward the story is grim, but captivating. The word-building is done incredibly well. We can only see the world through the eyes of the narrator. What’s going on and how this situation came to be is slowly revealed. And for once I didn’t mind the open ending. It actually fits the story and probably made it even more powerful.

Want - Cindy PonFlying – Fly High: Read your most anticipated book
Want by Cindy Pon – 5 stars
I expected to enjoy this book and I was entirely right! It has an interesting world, great characters and an amazing story. The world attracted my attention since I heard about Want. The book is set in a future where the air is seriously polluted. The rich wear special suits that protect them from getting ill, the rest is doomed to die young. Our narrator, Jason Zhou, and his friends want this to change. This exciting story is not only enjoyable, it’s also very relevant right now. There are lots of similarities between the book and the world we live in.

The Last Namsara - Kristen CiccarelliCharms – Something New and Unexpected: Read a new-to-you book
The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – 3 stars
Main character of this book is the most feared dragon slayer of the country. Despite her powers, Asha must mary a cruel man. Her one chance to escape this arranged marriage is to kill the most powerful dragon. I did enjoy reading this story, but I wasn’t really feeling it. The idea was interesting, but I think the writer could have developed the plot better. The characters were okay, but none of them really came alive for for me.  It’s a shame that I didn’t like the book more, because I do understand why many people are enthusiastic about it.

Magical Readathon – N.E.W.T.s 2019: The results

First, I want to thank G from Book Roast for organizing the Magical Readathon! I enjoyed participating in both the O.W.Ls and the N.E.W.T.s. At the start of August I shared my TBR-list for the N.E.W.T.s. I intended to read four books. I did and even read an extra one! Here are my thoughts about the books I read:

Muggle Studies

A – Cover that includes an actual photo element
The Throwaway Children - Diney CosteloeThe Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe – 4 stars
Just after the Second World War Rita and her little sister Rosa are left with their widowed mother Mavis. She marries again with a terrible man. He pressures Mavis to send the children to an orphanage. It is meant to be a temporary solution. But the papers that were signed, tell something else. Mavis doesn’t realize that she actually gave her children away. What follows is a heart-breaking story. Many times I felt really sad for these two children! Partly because this story may be fiction, but things like this actually have happened. The book does a wonderful job in telling this story.

Transfiguration

Timekeeper - Tara Sim

A – Read a book with LGBTQIA+ representation
Timekeeper by Tara Sim – 3,5 stars
This book is set in a version of London in 1875 where a damaged clock can fracture time. If a clock isn’t repaired on time, the time in a town just stops working. So a mechanic like Danny is literally a timekeeper. The premise of this book is so original! I enjoyed reading it. I do think the pacing could be better. The book dragged at some points. Especially the middle was a little boring.

History of Magic

A – Read a fantasy book
The Bone Witch - Rin ChupecoThe Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – 4 stars
Tea never intended to raise her brother from his grave. She also never expected to be a bone witch. After this revelation Tea has to leave her home to train and control her magic. As reader I learned just as much about the magic and her world as Tea herself. The world building in this book is amazing! This did slow down the story. At some points the book was a bit too descriptive. But overall I didn’t mind the slow pacing. The writing style also totally made up for it. This book is the first part of a trilogy, I hope to read the other books at some point.

The Valley of Horses - Jean M. AuelE – Read a book that includes a map
The Valley of Horses (Earth’s Children, #2) by Jean M. Auel – 4 stars
Apparently most of the books I have read this month have a slow pacing. This story too, it’s entirely character-driven. The chapters alternate between Ayla and Jondalar. I knew for sure that these two characters would meet each other. This happened only 150 pages from the end. So some parts of the book really felt like waiting. But I kept reading, because it was interesting to read how the characters lived 35.000 years ago. Especially Ayla’s story was fascinating.

O – Tom Riddle’s diary: Fond memory — reread a favorite (or read a classic)
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5) by J.K. Rowling – reread
I have read Harry Potter many times. When I was younger I reread the whole series at least twice. After that I chose to reread some of the books separately. So this is probably the fifth time I read Order of the Phoenix. This part has always been my favourite. It’s darker than the earlier books. Harry has to deal with the aftermath of what happened at the end of part four. What he experienced is already upsetting. In addition to this, half of the wizarding population doesn’t believe him. All these circumstances cause Harry to really grow as a character.

Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test Results

Pass grades:
Outstanding (O)
Exceeds Expectations (E)
Acceptable (A)

Anouk has achieved:

History of Magic: O
Muggle Studies: A
Transfiguration: A

The requirements for the career I chose are:

Wizarding career - Journalist or writer

In July I got six O.W.L.s including one for History of Magic and for Muggle Studies. Now I succefully passed the N.E.W.T.s in three subjects. This means I fulfilled all the requirements to call myself a journalist/writer!

Magical Readathon – O.W.L.s 2019: The results

This Magical Readathon is organised by Book Roast on youtube. At the start of this month I shared my TBR-list for the O.W.L.s. I read six books and managed to get all the O.W.L.s I hoped for! Here are the results.

Assassin's Quest - Robin Hobb

History of Magic – Published at least 10 years ago
Assassin’s Quest (Farseer Trilogy, #3) by Robin Hobb – 3 stars
This is probably one of the biggest books I ever read, the Dutch edition has 911 pages! The best thing about this book is definitively the relation between Fitz and Nighteyes. These parts are very well-written and made the story worth reading. But I think the book didn’t need to have so many pages. I also was a bit disappointed with the ending.

Dear Martin - Nic Stone

Muggle Studies – Contemporary
Dear Martin by Nic Stone – 4 stars
A powerful and very relevant story about being black in the United States. We follow Justyce, who was put in handcuffs for helping a drunk friend. To make sense of this incident, he starts to write letters to Martin Luther King. The book does a great job in discussing racism and its consequences.

Defence Against the Dark Arts – Reducto: Title starts with an “R”
Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn HamiltonRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton – 3 stars
This action-packed story starts in a town in the middle of the dessert. Amani is desperate to leave it. She grabs her chance when a mysterious foreigner appears. Personally I think the story went a bit too fast. Action scenes quickly succeeded each other. I would have liked more space to get to know the characters. Because I didn’t really care about the characters, I lost interest in the story. This was a pity, because I liked the setting. It’s a fantasy world inspired by the Middle East with Western elements.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green & David LevithanArithmancy – Work written by more than one author
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan – 4 stars
I did need some time to get used to the characters. After that I loved the two Will Graysons. They are well-written and realistic. I never mixed them up, even though the characters have the same name. Most things that happened to them, never happened to me at that age. But the vibes felt familiar. I also loved the ending!

A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J. MaasTransfiguration – Sprayed edges or red cover
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – 4 stars
This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but with more magic and an amazing plot. I actually didn’t expect to like this book so much. The first half of the book was okay, but not very exciting. I knew what was going to happen and I felt quite indifferent about it. But at a certain point the story started to make more sense. Feyre also grew on me. She is a strong and admirable character. I came to like her and the story too.

Circe - Madeline MillerAncient Runes – Retelling
Circe by Madeline Miller – 4 stars
This is a retelling about the witch Circe. It was interesting to learn more about Greek myths! I already knew some of them, but I never looked into it. The thing with myths is that they are usually about fundamental events and actions of the gods. In this book the focus is on the character development of Circe.  I liked that we really get to understand her. The story is also beautifully told.

In August I will start with the N.E.W.T.s. Look out for my TBR!

Wyrd & Wonder 2019 – Wrap-up

I loved participating in Wyrd & Wonder! Thank you for organizing it, Imryl, Lisa and Jorie. I enjoyed reading all the fantasy-themed blog posts. Some of my favourites were this love letter to maps in books on Realms of my Mind, this post about Victorian era fantasy on Jessticulates and ten books featuring dragons on Zezee with books. I managed to read five fantasy books this May. Here are the books and my thoughts about them.

The Girl at MidnightThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – 3 stars
This book was a reread to decide if I want to continue the trilogy. Four years after I first read it, I didn’t remember much. I do know I gave the book 4 stars. The second time I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first time. I loved the fact that Echo lives in a library and loves books. The regular references to other books were so nice! The world as well as the characters were okay, but nothing was especially noteworthy. Since there are so many other books to read, and never enough time, I won’t continue this trilogy.

The Dollmaker of KrakowThe Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero – 5 stars
My favourite book of this month! The story is just as beautiful as the cover. I think it’s a great book to learn children about the Second World War. Adults will enjoy it too, though.  It’s about a living doll whose name is Karolina. A magical wind brought her from the Land of Dolls in the hands of a dollmaker in Krakow. The dollmaker is a kind-hearted, but shy man. He is a wonderful character and I immediately loved him. Karolina helps him to make friends. But everything changes when the Nazis invade Poland. The friends of Karolina and the Dollmaker are Jewish and their lives are in danger.

The Crimson Skew (Mapmakers Trilogy, #3) by S.E. Grove – 4 stars
A good conclusion to a great trilogy! I can’t tell anything about the plot without spoiling the other books. But all the characters from the previous books play a (small) roll. I also liked how we keep learning new things about the world.

Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1) by Robin Hobb 4 stars
Assassin's ApprenticeTypical for Robin Hobb’s books are amazing characters and a slow pacing. This was also true for Assassin’s Apprentice. Because the book takes its time,  you really get to know the characters. The story is told from the perspective of Fitz. Because he is a royal bastard, his life at the royal household is harsh and lonely.  Some people hate him for what he is. But for the royal family Fitz is in the perfect position to become their personal assassin.

Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy, #2) by Robin Hobb – 4 stars
This book is twice as big as the first part, and that isn’t a bad thing. It means there’s a lot of space for character development. Not only Fitz, but also most of the side characters change throughout the story. Tensions in Buckkeep slowly keep rising too. It’s was interesting to read how small things that happen add up until everything explodes…