Book review | My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

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rating-4-stars

“It made me wonder, though, what would have happened if Kate had been healthy. […] Certainly I would not be part of this family. See, unlike the rest of the free world, I didn’t get here by accident. And if your parents have you for a reason, then that reason better exist. Because once it’s gone, so are you” (8).

My parents’ neighbours have a little free library that they roll outside every morning and roll back inside every evening. It is mostly full of Dutch books of every genre imaginable. However I did find an English copy of My Sister’s Keeper a few months ago. Since I was impressed by the movie, I was really happy I got my hands on this book.

Most of you will probably be familiar with the plot, but I will give a short synopsis anyway. Thirteen-year-old Anna has undergone countless of procedures to help save her older sister Kate. Kate has been battling leukemia since she was two. Anna is a designer baby conceived in order to be a bone marrow donor for Kate. Anna’s life and that of her entire family revolve around Kate’s health. When Kate needs one of Anna’s kidneys to survive, Anna sues her parents for the rights to her own body.

The plot is of course major tearjerker material. The novel depicts a family that was broken long before Anna made her claim. Yet, though it is a heart-wrenching story, I didn’t get as emotionally involved as I expected to be. This might be because of the story going back and forth in time and the numerous switches between characters’ voices. Still at times I had to swallow my tears. All characters are well-rounded and realistically portrayed. It is not difficult to imagine yourself in their shoes.

My Sister’s Keeper is written from multiple perspectives: Anna, Anna’s older brother, her mother, her father, her lawyer and her guardian who helps her during her court process. It is clear from the start that none of these voices can be trusted. Anna herself warns the reader: “you shouldn’t believe what you hear about me, least of all that which I tell you myself” (10). A major theme in this novel is therefore doubt. While reading, I had so many questions. What are the characters really thinking? Who is telling the truth? What secrets are the characters keeping? What is the right decision? As a reader you almost feel like you are the judge; you have to make up your own mind about what is right and what is wrong.

Jodi Picoult did an amazing job raising a big moral problem. How far are parents allowed to go in order to save a child? Is a child able to make a decision that will affect her entire life and will end the life of someone she loves? The ending of this novel surprised me. Although a verdict was reached and Anna came to a conclusion, the consequences never actually came to pass. It keeps you pondering about the what ifs. This is a fascinating book.

Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper. New York, London, Toronto & Sydney: Washington Square Press, 2004.

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Book review | After You by Jojo Moyes

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rating-3-stars

“You didn’t give me a bloody life, did you? Not really. You just smashed up  my old one. Smashed it into little pieces. What am I meant to do with what’s left?” (8).

Me Before You made me smile and got me to tears. I was really fond of Lou and her family. After the novel’s devastating ending, I was very curious about how the characters’ lives would turn out. I therefore absolutely love that Jojo Moyes wrote a sequel. If you haven’t read Me Before You, please stop reading now and check out my Me Before You book review.

After You basically picks up eighteen months after where Me Before You leaves off. Although after Will ended his life Lou travelled a little, she now works in an airport bar and lives in a flat in London. She is shattered by what happened. Then one evening she finds someone on her doorstep who might change her life. Will Lou be able to pick up the pieces? Will she be able to open her heart again, take risks and truly live?

I expected After You to be a success story of how Lou with some difficulties fulfilled her dreams. I imagined it to be kind of similar to the ending of Titanic where several pictures show us how Rose after Jack’s death lived a full life. When Lou reads Will’s letter in Paris at the end of the first book, her life seems to have a lot of happily ever after potential.  If I hadn’t read After You, I probably would have envisioned Lou having many wonderful experiences. Yet After You shows us life with all its problems and perks. We learn how Lou, her family and Will’s family have a hard time coping with Will’s choice and how his choice influences their lives.

Although After You is nowhere near as good as Me Before You, I really enjoyed it. I loved reading about Lou with her quirks and insecurities again. There were certain aspects of the novel I didn’t like. For example, I had trouble with Lily’s rebellious behaviour and the book might have been too heavy with sorrow. If you kind of liked the first book, I don’t recommend the sequel. However if you, like me, loved the characters of Me Before You, you will find After You a very satisfying read.

Moyes, Jojo. After You. UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa: Penguin Books, (2015) 2016.

3 Days 3 Quotes Tag – Day 3

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The last day of my 3 Days 3 Quotes Tag. Yesterday I posted a quote from The Fault in our Stars. The day before that I chose a quote from Jane Eyre. You can find the first quote and the rules of this tag at 3 Days 3 Quotes Tag – Day 1. Today I chose a quote from an epic fantasy novel written by Patrick Rothfuss. In many novels across genres life lessons are present. Sometimes the novel is drenched with it, but most often it is just there in a few lines. Those few words can have an emotional impact and make you contemplate about if and how it corresponds to your life.

Quote Day 3 – The Name of the Wind

“You see, there’s a fundamental connection between seeming and being. Every Fae child knows this, but you mortals never seem to see. We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be. […] It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story” (657-658).

The phrase ‘Fake it till you make it’ immediately pops into my mind when reading this quote. However this quote from The Name of the Wind is a warning; if you put on a mask it may change you for better or worse. It is not hard to imagine there is truth in this quote. You can pretend to be a certain person to gain a positive trait, such as confidence, but society can also cloak you with their ideas of who they think you are. If you start believing in their views of you, it might affect your reality. It is therefore crucial to keep reminding yourself it is your story and you are the one who tells it. If you want to change go ahead, but never let anyone make that decision for you.

Today’s nominees:

Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind. London: Gollancz, 2007.

3 Days 3 Quotes Tag – Day 2

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I love to discover and rediscover wonderful quotes. On Pinterest I collect all kinds of texts. From books, movies, songs, people like you and me, and so on. Some to inspire, give courage, lift my spirits or just make me laugh. When I have an off day, reading my collection of Pinterest quotes always makes me feel better and gets my hopes up. Yesterday I shared a quote from Jane Eyre. Check out this quote and the rules at 3 Days 3 Quotes Tag – Day 1. Today I chose a beautifully written quote from a contemporary love story.

Quote Day 2 – The Fault in our Stars

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days” (260).

Some people in our life make a bigger impact than others do. It is not about the quantity of time spent together, it is the quality that matters. An hour spent with your best friend can be more memorable than a week spent with someone else. Although we don’t have an equal amount of time on earth and although we are not able to spend as much time with the people we love as we would have liked, it is important to treasure the time we are able to be together.

Today’s nominees:

Green, John. The Fault in our Stars. United States: Dutton Books, 2012.

3 Days 3 Quotes Tag – Day 1

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Maja @ MayaTheBookExplorer nominated me for the 3 Days 3 Quotes Tag. If you are looking for honest and smashing reviews, go check out Maja’s blog.

I’ve been wanting to do this tag for ages, but I couldn’t really find the courage to start. Since I am a perfectionist, I put way too much pressure on choosing the perfect quotes. Until yesterday that is. Instead of choosing one of Tolkien’s or J.K. Rowling’s books to quote from (books with in my opinion brilliant quotes), I decided to just walk to my bookcase and pick three books from three different genres. In every book I love there is a quote that strikes a chord with me and I often jot down these quotes in my notebook. I am really fond of the quotes I chose and I hope you enjoy them as well.

The Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day).
  3. Nominate three new bloggers each day.

To the bloggers I’ve nominated: please feel free to ignore the nomination if you don’t want to do this tag.

Quote Day 1 – Jane Eyre

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.” (129-130).

Jane Eyre is a highly quotable novel. I found it difficult choosing the quote I liked most, but considering current affairs this one seemed appropriate. As the Women’s March of last week demonstrated, it is still key to focus on gender issues and strive for equality in the present day. The issues addressed in Jane Eyre, a novel written by a woman about a woman, were way ahead of its time. This quote speaks for itself. When read out loud, it sounds so powerful and strong.

Today’s nominees:

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. London, etc.: Penguin Classics, 2006.

Book review | The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

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rating-2-stars

“The being chased by hellhounds and blowing things up was a comparatively unimportant part of the job. Getting the books, now that was what really mattered to her. That was the whole point of the Library […] It was about finding unique works of fiction, and saving them in a place out of time and space” (16).

An enthusiastic comment of one of the employees of my local bookstore on a wrapper convinced me to buy this novel about a library that is a world on its own. The Invisible Library contains loads of books, magic and mystery. It sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? Unfortunately this book did not meet my expectations at all.

Irene works for the Library with a capital L. Her job is to collect books from alternate worlds and bring them safely to the Library. She and her assistant Kai go to an alternative London to retrieve a book. Sadly it is stolen before they arrive and their mission only seems to go downhill from there.

The Invisible Library seems to have all the ingredients for a good story: a courageous heroine, a handsome and mysterious man, a dangerous mission set in a Steampunk reality, an evil villain, supernatural creatures and of course magic. Still it somehow doesn’t work. While I did find the plot interesting enough, I was simply not captivated.

More importantly, much in the book puzzled me. I did not feel connected with the main character or any of the other characters for that matter. I had trouble grasping their emotions and thoughts. When the characters gave each other looks, I quite often did not know what it was meant to portray. Furthermore, I felt like I was frequently given explanations about this strange universe three chapters late if I got an explanation at all.

It could be Cogman’s writing style is not my cup of tea. The only reason I finished this book is, because I brought it with me on the train and didn’t have anything better to do. I found this quite a frustrating read. Has anyone of you tried this book?

Cogman, Genevieve. The Invisible Library. London: Tor, 2015.

Book review | The Graces by Laure Eve

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rating-5-stars

“Everyone said they were witches. I desperately wanted to believe it. I’d only been at this school a couple of months, but I saw how it was. They moved through corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake, stares following their backs and their hair” (1).

It is simply impossible to put down this book once you start reading. I started it on Christmas Eve and couldn’t tear myself away from it on Christmas Day (much to the annoyance of my family, since we were doing a Harry Potter marathon). I might have missed most of the first and third film, but I did finish this awesome book.

The Graces are said to be witches. What else could they be with their beauty, wealth and carefree lives? The three Grace children, fifteen-year-old Summer and seventeen-year-old Thalia and Fenrin, are the most popular kids in school. Each Grace is unique in their own way and everyone in town is enthralled by them. River, new in town with a past full of dark secrets, is just as obsessed with the Graces as everyone else is and she desperately wants to get noticed by Fenrin Grace. However being friends with a  Grace might not be forever and it is key to keep in mind the higher you climb the harder you may fall.

The big question I had while reading this book was: are the Graces actually witches? Nothing really extraordinary happens in most of the novel. It makes you question if the novel is about the dangers of human obsession instead of witchcraft. The Graces portrays teenage angst and high school social dynamics accurately. It was recognizable and I am relieved I don’t have to go through high school ever again. Although sometimes a work environment can resemble high school quite a lot.

The story is told from a first-person perspective. Still River was a mystery to me. What frightened me was how clearly obsessed she was with wanting to fit in. What boundaries would she dare cross to stay in the Graces inner circle? Although she mentions her past, she does not unfold it until the very end. River’s got one hell of a revelation in store for the reader.

Prepare yourself for a great twist. Prepare yourself to be hooked. This is one wicked read you will enjoy immensely. The sequel will be released in September. That is a long wait…

Eve, Laure. The Graces. London: Faber & Faber, 2016.