Wyrd & Wonder 2023 wrap-up

First I want to thank all the hosts for organizing Wyrd & Wonder again this year! Like always I enjoyed participating. On my blog I celebrated two of my favourite subgenres: Historical Fantasy and Portal Fantasy. I also shared my Top Three Magical Schools (besides Hogwarts).

During the month I reread The Magister Trilogy. I enjoyed it, but I did hope to like the trilogy more this time. After rereading three books, I didn’t stick to my TBR. I was eager for some new books and I read Sorcery of Thorns. Below are my spoiler-free thoughts of all the books I read during Wyrd & Wonder.

Books I Read

Feast of Souls (The Magisters Trilogy, #1) by C.S. Friedman4 stars (reread)
In four words: intriguing, magical, dark fantasy
What I liked: While rereading this story, I started recognizing parts. What I didn’t remember is how intriguing the Magisters are; powerful and immortal, but at the sacrifice of human lives. Especially Kamala is an interesting character. The book has multiple perspectives, but the story is mostly about her. Kamala managed to become the first known female magister. Now she has a lot to prove. I admired her determination, confidence and fearlessness.
What I disliked: Although I found the characters interesting, I wasn’t emotionally invested in the story. The magisters are too mysterious to really connect with. Other characters are just not remarkable enough. Kamala is one of the few characters I actually sympathised with.
Trilogy has trigger warnings for murder, death of loved ones and rape

Wings of Wrath (The Magisters Trilogy, #2) by C.S. Friedman – 3 stars (reread)
In four words: interesting, but bland sequel
What I liked: I’m glad this trilogy has a couple of strong, complex, female main characters. Female magister Kamala, witch queen Siderea and High Queen Gwynofar are all women who were able to get power in this patriarchal world. Siderea is already fascinating in the first part. She becomes more interesting due to an ambiguous choice she makes in the sequel. I liked how Gwynofar is stronger than she seems and gets more agency in this part.
What I disliked: After reading two books, I still felt mostly indifferent to the characters. A lot of the characters, especially the magisters, show little emotion. This makes it hard to identify with them. Siderea and Gwynofar didn’t get enough pages to really make me care for them. It’s a pity that Kamala plays a smaller role in this part. I liked Kamala and wanted to read more about her.

Legacy of Kings (The Magisters Trilogy, #3) by C.S. Friedman4 stars (reread)
In four words: strong, exciting, satisfying ending
What I liked: There are a couple of significant plot twists. They weren’t a huge surprise to me, because I seem to remember more from the story than I thought. I did like that we finally learn more about some of the characters. It’s interesting that the books have many “grey” characters, who are neither good nor entirely evil. During this last part, some of the magisters grew on me.
What I disliked: I still think this trilogy has too many characters for the amount of pages. If the writer would have focussed on a few of them, I would have liked the story more. I also think the world building could be better.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson3,5 stars
In four words: bookish, action-packed, fun, enjoyable
What I liked: Elisabeth grew up in a library. Not a common library, this one has living books! Without doubt my favourite thing in this story. The book is set in a fascinating world with sorcerers and various kinds of demons. Elisabeth is alright as main character, but I liked the side characters more. Katrien is the kind-hearted rebellious friend I would like to have. It’s a pity that she hasn’t a bigger role. Silas appears to be a very interesting character when we get to know him.
What I disliked: This was a really enjoyable story, but I hoped it would have more depth. Some problems were a bit too easily solved. And I am left with so many questions about the magic system, the demons and the grimoires. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think the story has much more potential.
Trigger warnings for death of loved ones and murder

Podcasts I Liked

Good Stuff of Wyrd & Wonder 2023

  • Just like me, Celeste @ A Literary Escape & Annemieke @ A Dance With Books wrote a post about Historical Fantasy. Both recommended lots of new books for my TBR-list.
  • For Sia @ Every Book a Doorway it has become a yearly tradition to make a list of The Coolest Magical Abilities in Fiction and Cool Magic Systems. She always manages to recommend hidden gems I have never heard of!
  • Eustacia @ Eustea Reads made a great list with 7 Fantasy Books Based on 7 Different Mythologies.

April 2023 wrap-up: a dip in my reading motivation

Readingwise April was a slower month. I kept struggling with a book I wanted to finish, but actually didn’t like. When I finally decided to leave it unfinished, I started another book and my reading motivation instantly came back. The beginning of Wyrd & Wonder in May also really helps! Tomorrow I will post my TBR-list.

Books I read

The Immortality Thief by Taran Hunt4 stars
In four words: action-packed, creepy, sci-fi mystery
What I liked: The more I read in this book, the more I liked it. It’s an exciting and a bit of a creepy story set on an abandoned space ship. The ship hides some terrible secrets. The story felt a bit like a video game. Slowly the characters uncover the secrets and meanwhile they have to fight off all kinds of monsters. The narrator grew on me. At first Sean seems unlikable and incapable. But he actually is a brilliant linguist, kind-hearted and quite cunning. I also loved that this is more than just an action-packed story, it’s also about loyalty and trying to do the right thing.
What I disliked: All of the characters appear to be unsympathetic and aloof. This does change, but it took a lot of pages before I came to like and care for them.
Trigger warnings for murder and gore

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel4,5 stars
In four words: well-researched, bookish, WWII story
What I liked: This was a gripping story from beginning to end! A photo in the newspaper from an old book, brings Eva back to memories of the war. During the Second World War she helped Jewish children flee to Switzerland by forging identity papers for them. The children needed new names, but Eva also wanted to preserve their original names. An old book holds the key to their real names. I loved how well-researched this story is. It felt very realistic. The author was inspired by real persons while writing her characters and describes in detail how forging papers worked.
What I disliked: Romance plays an important role in this story. Although I liked the romance, I actually wanted to read more about the Jewish children. I think this book would have been even better if the focus was more on them.
Trigger warnings for death of loved ones, murder and war

In my Father’s Garden by Jan SiebelinkDNF
I struggled with this book. Although I’m Dutch, I don’t really like Dutch literature. I want to read diverse, so now and then I try books I usually don’t read. But this book was not my thing. I couldn’t connect with the main character and just didn’t get him. I tried to finish it. But when I started to dread reading this book, I decided to quit.

March 2023 wrap-up with more Middle Grade books and a five-star read!

Due to a lot of different reasons I sometimes don’t read as much as I want. But in March I read six books! It’s not this number that makes me happy, but all the time I was able to spend reading. I also read my first five-star book of the year! Just like every month, read the mini-reviews of the books below.

Books I read

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers4 stars
In four words: quiet, comfortable, space travel
What I liked: While other books are good because they are suspenseful, I loved this book because it’s comfortable and contemplative. As always with Becky Chambers’ stories, it’s not about the plot. In this novella there are four space travellers on a mission to explore a couple of habitual worlds outside our solar system. As reader we follow them while they are doing fieldwork and are awed by new species they discover. It’s a quiet story about the wonders of daily life on a space mission.
What I disliked: The ending totally makes sense, but was not entirely satisfying for me.

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier4 stars
In four words: beautiful friendship, historical fantasy
What I liked: I loved that this Middle Grade fantasy book is based on real history I knew little about. It’s set in Victorian London, a time when some children had to work as climbing boys for chimney sweeps. This work was extremely dangerous: the children needed to go into the chimneys to clean them. The writer does a great job in showing what it was like for these children. For our main character Nan there’s hope. A mysterious creature saves her life when she’s stuck into a chimney. It’s the start of a wonderful friendship.
What I disliked: The beginning is a bit slow paced. Yet, it didn’t take too long for the story to grip me.

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1) by Chloe Gong2 stars
In four words: slow-paced, disappointing, unsatisfying retelling
What I liked: This is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in Shanghai during the 1920s. In the story our main characters are heirs of rival gangs. The idea sounds interesting. But the setting, derived from true history, was the only thing I actually liked about the book.
What I disliked: Since there are gangs and a mysterious monster roaming the streets, this should have been an exciting book. But it’s very slow-paced. I also didn’t care about the characters and didn’t like them. I kept reading and hoped my patience would pay off at the end. Yet, the book ends with a cliff-hanger and too many questions about what I actually read. This story was clearly “not my cup of tea.” And to be honest, I also never was a huge fan of the original Romeo and Juliet either.
Trigger warnings for murder and gore

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai5 stars
In four words: beautiful, realistic, heart-breaking, hopeful
What I liked: The Vietnam War was part of my history lessons, but it’s totally different to read about it from the perspective of the victims. I would like to recommend this book to everyone to truly learn how terrible this war was. It’s beautifully written and almost brought me to tears. The story has a dual timeline: we read about Hương near the end of the Vietnam war and get flashbacks from her grandmother Diệu Lan. I felt so much compassion for the characters. They have to make heart-breaking choices and so many people die. Yet they endure and stay hopeful.
What I disliked: There’s nothing to dislike, this book is outstanding!
Trigger warnings for war, murder and rape

Het Ministerie van Oplossingen by Sanne Rooseboom4 stars
In four words: uplifting, exciting, mysterious, secrets
This children’s book starts with a letter addressed ‘To The Ministry of Solutions’. Since this ministry probably doesn’t exist, Nina and her friend decide to help the boy who wrote the letter. They discover that The Ministry of Solutions actually did exist once and get the change to restart it. This story was exciting and I loved the mystery around this ministry.
This is a Dutch book that is not translated in English (yet)

De eerlijke vinder by Lize Spit3 stars
In four words: well-written characters, unsatisfying ending
Jimmy is a young boy who is a proud collector of Tazos. He’s a highly intelligent and kind character that is easy to like. His best friend Tristan is a refugee from Kosovo. Tristan and his family cannot stay in Belgium, because their request for asylum is rejected. But they have a plan and Jimmy can help them. Sadly the ending came quite abrupt and was unsatisfying. The story felt unfinished.
This novella was a gift in honour of the Dutch Book Week 2023

February 2023 wrap-up: coastal reads and Middle Grade books

February was a great reading month! I read two historical novels, both set in the 1900s. And because I work at an elementary school I wanted to explore more Middle Grade books. I reread an old favourite and I read a newer Dutch children’s book that is praised a lot. Read my (spoiler-free) thoughts about the books below.

Books I Read

‘Til Morning Light (Gracelin O’Malley, #3) by Ann Moore4 stars
In four words: beautiful, remarkable, satisfying ending
What I liked: This trilogy is amazing. It’s a beautiful story with wonderful and unforgettable characters. I was a bit nervous for the ending, but it was perfect!
What I disliked: The book has a lot more perspectives than the previous parts. Due to the many subplots, there was less time for Grace’s story. This was a little bit disappointing.
Trigger warnings for death of loved ones and torture

Momo by Michael Endereread
In four words: timeless, magical, enjoyable classic
I read this book more than 15 years ago. It’s a children’s book that was written even longer ago, in 1973, but it has a theme that is still relevant. A gang of time thieves, called the grey men, encourage people to no longer waste time in order to save it for later. No one realizes that the grey men steal the time that is saved. Everyone is always in hurry and no longer has time to enjoy things, except for Momo. But it’s a big task for a little girl to challenge the grey men.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier4 stars
In four words: fossil-hunting, realistic, easy read
What I liked: This story is based on the lives of two real women: Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. They were fossil hunters, which was very unusual for women in the 1800s. I already knew Mary Anning and she was the reason I wanted to read this book. The writer did a good job in portraying her life. I enjoyed the book and finished it in just two days.
What I disliked: At some points I missed depth. I hoped that the story would be more insightful and inspiring.

Lampie and the Children of the Sea by Annet Schaap4,5 stars
In four words: nautical, illustrated, atmospheric fairy-tale
What I liked: This beautiful story is actually written for children, but it’s also a great read for adults. I loved that the book has many characters that are a bit weird. Most of them have to deal with prejudices. The story tells us not to be afraid of weirdness. It also encourages us to embrace our weirdness and be proud of it.
What I disliked: Just a small demerit, but I think the ending was a bit rushed.

Podcasts I Liked

  • Before reading Remarkable Creatures I already knew about Mary Anning because of two podcast episodes. The first one is the short epsiode Mary Anning, Princess of Paleontology from Stuff You Missed in History Class and the second an extensive narritive of her life in Episode 124: Mary Anning at The History Chicks.
  • Inspired by Lampie and the Children of the Sea I listened to a podcast episode about a real lighthouse keeper from history: Ida Lewis, Lighthouse Keeper at Stuff You Missed in History Class.

January 2023 wrap up: a diverse reading month

My year started tumultuous, but thankfully things have settled down. I sometimes forget it, but this month I once again remembered how comforting books are. As always here are my spoiler-free reviews of the books I read.

Books I read

Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles3 stars
In four words: humoristic, philosophical, quotable, unsatisfying
What I liked: I enjoyed the first part of the book. Samuel starts out as a lonely literature professor with no friends. The appearance of a cat changes everything for him. I loved to read about the cat! It was a pity that he only plays a minor role. I like how the story is both humoristic and philosophical.
What I disliked: The book suffers from some info dumps. But my biggest problem was the last part of the book. Some old characters just disappear, new characters appear, things get weird and then the story suddenly ends. The ending was really unsatisfying! It left me with so many questions.
I read the Dutch edition of this story, it’s originally published as two separated books in Spanish: Wabi-sabi & Amor en minúscula

Leaving Ireland (Gracelin O’Malley, #2) by Ann Moore4 stars
In four words: gripping, heart-wrenching historical fiction
What I liked: This book is just as good as the first part! Grace is still a wonderful protagonist. I also love the new side characters, especially Captain Reinders and Liam.
What I disliked: Some parts of the story, in particular when characters talk about Irish politics, were a bit too wordy.
Trigger warnings for death of loved ones, child death, murder and rape

Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings3 stars
In four words: interesting, time travel, rogues
What I liked: Two space ships get in a strange rift. When the crews meet each other, they appear to come from different moments in time. The characters have to work together to save a future that already happened. There are four points of view: from a smuggler, a mathematical genius, a history nerd and a facilities coordinator. I enjoyed reading their backstories, because I started to appreciate the characters a lot more when I truly got to know them.
What I disliked: Initially I didn’t really care about the characters. I kept mixing them up. It would have helped if the flashbacks were earlier in the book. I feel reluctant about the time travel aspect. It worked in the story, but it doesn’t make sense when I actually try to comprehend it.
Trigger warning for loss of loved ones

Podcasts I liked

  • Rogues – with Ren Hutchings at Breaking the Glass Slipper is an interview with the writer of Under Fortunate Stars. They discuss what makes a character a rogue and what the difference is between a good rogue and a bad one.
  • While reading Under Fortunate Stars I enjoyed listening to POWER: Time After Time on Flash Forward. It’s a fascinating episode about an important theme of the book: time travel. Rose Eveleth and a couple of guests talk about how travelling through time may actually be possible for real.

December 2022 wrap-up

It’s quite cliché, but this last month of the year went so fast! I do like the end of the year. It’s nice to look back at the things that happened. So in a few days you can expect a post where I elaborately tell about all the books I read in 2022. I’m already looking forward to writing it! But first the books I read in December and some podcasts I liked.

Books I Read

Gracelin O’Malley (Gracelin O’Malley, #1) by Ann Moore 4 stars
In four words: detailed, heart-breaking Irish history
What I liked: The story gives an insight in the Irish Potato Famine in the mid-19th century. I believe it gives a realistic image of what it was like to live during this time. It made me realize how fortunate I am that I never had to suffer from hunger. I loved Grace as main character, because she’s courageous and generous. I pitied her for the terrible things she has to endure and admired her for how she handled all these things.
What I disliked: The book started slow and had quite a long introduction. It took a while before I could truly immerse myself into the story.
Trigger warnings for death of loved ones, child death, domestic abuse and murder

Papieren Paradijs by Marlies Medema4 stars
In four words: interesting, fact-based, poignant history
What I liked: This book is based on the true story of a Dutch woman who emigrated with her husband to Suriname in 1845. This wasn’t Anna’s choice. As the pastor’s wife she has to come with him, accompanied by fifty other families. It was interesting to learn more about this poignant part of history. I especially liked how realistic Anna is. She can be very emotional and impulsive. It was refreshing to read about an imperfect character that regrets decisions she made and doesn’t always say the right things.
What I disliked: Some parts of the book felt too planned out. It was quite obvious that Anna did certain things to further the plot. Because of this I noticed this was a debut. But it definitively was a good one!

The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams
I already liked Jane Goodall, and this book made me an even bigger fan of her! A Survival Guide for an Endangered Planet was just what I needed. Sometimes I feel lonely in my concerns for the climate. Reading this book reassured me that I’m not the only one who worries. Jane Goodall explains why there are indeed reasons to be concerned, but she also gives good reasons for hope. Her words made me feel a bit more hopeful. She also encourages me to keep doing small things for the climate, even though it may seem trivial. Because Jane writes that “the cumulative effect of millions of small ethical actions will truly make a difference.”

Podcasts I Liked
  • The podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class is a great resource for background information to historical fiction. When reading Gracelin O’Malley it was interesting to get the historical facts in the episodes The Irish Potato Famine: An Unnatural Disaster part 1 and 2.
  • I again want to recommend the Jane Goodall Hopecast. Just like The Book of Hope, this podcast makes me feel hopeful and inspired. In every episode Jane Goodall and a guest talk about how they try to make the world a better place.

SciFiMonth 2022 wrap-up

Thank you Imyril @ One More and Lisa @ Dear Geek Place for organizing SciFiMonth! I had to read a lot of study-related things, but I also made time to read two good science fiction books. One of them became a new favourite! In this post are my mini-reviews of the books, some podcast recommendations and more good stuff I want to share.

Books I Read

Everfair by Nisi Shawl3 stars
In four words: multi-layered, steampunk, alternate history
What I liked: I wanted to read this book for the fascinating premise. It explores what would have happened if the native population of the Congo had adopted steam technology during the colonization. This complex and multi-layered story definitively does justice to the real history. I appreciated how the author tackled themes like racism and nationalism.
What I disliked: The book has many perspectives, but there isn’t enough opportunity to really get to know and empathize with all the characters. I missed a more emotional connection to the story. Everfair is a story of the land rather than the characters. For me this didn’t work as well as I hoped. I still think the book is worth reading, because it definitively was as interesting as I expected.
Trigger warnings for violence, death and war

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta5 stars
In four words: post-apocalyptic, poetic, hopeful, tea
What I liked: The book is set in a world after climate change when parts of the Earth are flooded and drink water is scarce. This realistic future is grim, but the beautiful writing style gives the story a gentle atmosphere. While reading I felt a bit melancholic and hopeful at the same time. The book is told from the perspective of a tea master apprentice. The way she thinks about water and tea made me appreciate it even more.
What I disliked: I can’t think of any demerits. Of course I was hoping for a good story when buying this book. But I didn’t expect it to be so touching!
Trigger warning for death of a loved one

Podcasts I Liked
  • The podcast Noble Blood isn’t science fiction-themed, but I highly recommend the episode The Red Paint on Leopold II if you are interested in Everfair or have read the book. This episode is about how the terrible Belgian king Leopold II colonized the Congo. In his name around 10 million people died! I could name all kind of trigger warnings for this episode like murder, slavery, torture and mutilation. But I think most shocking of all is that the atrocities in the Congo aren’t more well-known.
  • Nisi Shawl, P. Djeli Clark and Zen Cho are guests in the episode Postcolonial Worlds on the podcast Imaginary Worlds. They talk about how speculative fiction can be a useful tool to reimagine the legacy of colonialism and imperialism.
  • The episode Superpowers on the BBC Earth Podcast is about real-life superpowers in the animal world and how they inspire writers.
More Good Stuff in November
  • The Show Your Bujo Theme post by Annemieke @ A Dance with Books inspired me to make my own steampunk-themed bujo page!
  • I want to thank Imyril and Lisa again for the books I won with the giveaway!

October 2022 wrap-up

It was again a busy month. I didn’t make a lot of time to write blog posts. But next month I hope to be more present here. November is SciFiMonth, and I always love to read and write about it! For now, here are the mini-reviews of the books I read in October.

Books I Read

The Last Graduate (The Scholomance #2) by Naomi Novik4 stars
In four words: entertaining, exciting, cliffhanger ending
What I liked: This book was entertaining and exciting. In the Scholomance monsters can litterally hide behind every corner. Good alliances are crucial if you want to survive, especially during graduation day. In The Last Graduate Galadriel is no longer an outsider. I liked reading more about the other students. The dynamics between the students are interesting and realistic. And that ending! I didn’t expect it and the cliffhanger made me eager to read the third part.
What I disliked: The middle of the book was a bit repetitive. I think the story could have been shorter.

Het Werkstuk – of hoe ik verdween in de jungle by Simon van der Geest 4 stars
I work as teaching assistent at an elemetary school. All the children from my group have to read this Dutch book. So I also wanted to read it myself. I really enjoyed it! The story is about Eva who has to write a paper. She can choose every topic as long as it has something to do with biology. Eva only has a mother, so she chooses ‘biological fathers’ as topic. While writing, she discovers more and more about her father.

Podcasts I Liked

  • I really enjoyed the episode How to Be More Loving with Danielle LaPorte on The Marie Forleo podcast. I liked that talk about why positive thinking isn’t always the solution. Pushing away negative thoughts can make you feel worse. It’s sometimes far more helpful to just accept that you feel sad or angry or irritated.
  • The episode with Dr. Marisa G. Franco about How to Make Adult Friends (and Why They Matter) on the Good Life Project was so interesting. They talk about why making friends as an adult is so much harder than as child. And after this episode I realized that I don’t value my friends as much as I should.

September 2022 wrap-up

In monthly wrap-ups I often write that I didn’t read a lot or hoped to read more. This time I think I read enough. Just the amount of books I needed. I love reading, and I can’t do without books. But other things are important too. Time spend with my boyfriend or family is just as essential. And sometime I just want to watch television. This month I started a masters in Educational Needs and I needed time to study. So I want to remind myself, and everyone reading this. Books are patient. They won’t mind if you don’t pay attention to them for days or weeks. Don’t worry, you will come back for them. They will still be there when you need them.

Books I Read

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk3,5 stars
In four words: Estonian, dark, historical fantasy
What I liked: This story is a mix of fairy tale and historical fiction. It’s set at an interesting moment in time: during the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. In history lessons we always learn about the many advantages of agriculture. This book gives a new, fascinating perspective; it’s about the ancient traditions that got lost during that transition. In this story all people could use the languange of snakes to speak with animals. But this knowledge got lost. Our main character Leemet is the last man who speaks snakish. He isn’t particularly likable, but he is a strong and interesting character. I liked reading how Leemet keeps holding on to his own beliefs, despite all the people who try to persuade him.
What I disliked: Some of the side characters felt a bit shallow. It especially bothered me that an important female side character went through quite a big and unrealistic change in personality. I also felt somewhat conflicted about the ending, but I think it does fit the story.
Trigger warnings for violence, death of loved ones, murder and gore

Mansfield Park by Jane AustenDNF
After reading Pride and Prejudice I wanted to read more books by Jane Austen. I hoped I would enjoy Mansfield Park just as much. But I had a few problems with this book. First of all, the characters talk a lot about irrelevant stuff that didn’t interest me. There are many characters, and I didn’t really care about them. The slow pacing didn’t help either. More and more I started to lose my attention while reading. So after 100 pages I decided to quit this book. It’s a pity, but this story didn’t seem the right one for me (at least for now).

My Summer 2022 in Books

My summer was amazing! As you may have read in my last post, I went on a road trip through Norway. Of course I also made some time to read books. This is a wrap-up of the books I read in July and August. As always, I hoped to read more. But I’m satisfied with the book I did read. There were two five-star read, some nice feel-good stories for a change and a fascinating non-fiction book.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville5 stars
In four words: realistic, well-written, hopeful, considerate
What I liked: This book is inspired by a real woman from history: Elizabeth Macarthur (1766 – 1850). I never heard about her before, but I came to love Elizabeth. She’s an English woman who tries to make the best of the circumstances she is in. Her marriage turns out to be a mistake. But even when she is forced to travel with her husband to Australia, she stays hopeful. What is known about the real Elizabeth Macarthur mainly comes from the letters she wrote. Kate Grenville wondered why there’s a contrast between the quite positive letters and what is known about her infamous husband. This book gives a possible answer to this question. I love that this book tells a story that in reality never could have been told, but may be true. The writing style has a nice flow that made the story enjoyable to read.
What I disliked: The only demerit I can think is that the book is too short. I would have liked to read more about Elizabeth!

The Summer Seaside Kitchen (Mure, #1) by Jenny Colgan3 stars
In four words: feel-good, romantic, summer vibes
What I liked: This is a nice summer read with a beautiful setting. The main character, Flora, lives in London and works for a lawyer’s office. At first she isn’t exactly happy when she has to go back to the Scottish island where she was born. But maybe it’s just what she needs. I liked to read how Flora reconnects with her family and with herself.
What I disliked: The romance part of the story wasn’t how I liked it. From the start Flora is in love with her arrogant boss Joel, who doesn’t even knows she exists. I really didn’t get why she likes him.
In the US this book is published as The Cafe by the Sea

Footprints in the Sand by Sarah Challis4 stars
In four words: mysterious, adventurous, travel story
What I liked: This was the perfect story to read on vacation! It’s about an adventurous journey to a beautiful location. The reason for this trip is the death of Great Aunt Mary. Her will is that her cousins Emily and Clemmie scatter her ashes in the dessert in Mali. Nobody seems to know what Mary’s connection is to this far-away place. Emily and Clemmie are two well-written characters with different personalities. I liked the two perspectives (and never switched them up), because it was interesting to read their distinct views on the journey.
What I disliked: There’s also a third perspective: Beryl Timmis, an old friend of Mary. Her story was interesting, but not really necessary. I wouldn’t have missed it if the writer hadn’t included her perspective.

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic, #0.2) by Alice Hoffman5 stars
In four words: magical, romantic, bittersweet fantasy
What I liked: This is the bittersweet story of the Owens siblings: Franny, Jet and Vincent. They are not like other people. They just seem to stand out and each of them has a magical gift. The feeling that you are different is familiar to me. I liked to read how each of the siblings dealt with it. At first they just want to be “normal”. Slowly they learn to accept themselves for who they are. But there’s an old curse that causes the death of the man they fall in love with, and you can’t escape love. I also really enjoyed the fluent way in which the story is told. I haven’t read other books by Alice Hoffman, but after reading this book, I would love to read Practical Magic.
What I disliked: I can’t think of anything negative I can say about this book.
Trigger warning for death of loved ones

The Little Shop of Happy Ever After (Scottish Bookshop, #1) by Jenny Colgan3,5 stars
In four words: bookish, romantic feel-good story
What I liked: Since this book is about books, I knew I was going to enjoy it. The main character is Nina, a librarian who spent most of her life reading. As a fellow bookworm it was easy for me to identify with Nina. I immediately loved her! When her library closes, Nina decides to follow a wild fantasy: she buys an old van and turns it into a mobile bookshop. I loved to read how her dream comes true!
What I disliked: Near the end of the story the books started to play a minor role. Instead the romance became more prominent. Me and the writer seem to have a very different idea about a good love story. Just like the other book I read by Jenny Colgan, I didn’t like the romance. In this story there are two love interests. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, and I think that neither of them were a good match for Nina.
In the US this book is published as The Bookshop on the Corner

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo4 stars
Usually I don’t write a lot about non-fiction books on my blog. However, I didn’t want to leave out this one. Papyrus was an interesting book that taught me about the library of Alexandria, the first booksellers, the first writer we know the name of (it was a woman!) and many other bookish topics. However, this book is more than just a history of books. It’s also of love letter to books. Irene Vallejo herself is clearly a huge book worm. She included personal stories and many anecdotes about books. This makes the writing sometimes a bit rambling. Yet I liked that this book isn’t only made up of facts. Papyrus is a fascinating and enjoyable story about books. After reading it I realized that we as humans would be nothing without them.
This book is originally published in Spanish and I read it in Dutch. The English translation will be published in October 2022.