Book review | Room by Emma Donoghue

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“After nap we do Scream every day but not Saturdays or Sundays. We clear our throats and climb up on Table to be nearer Skylight, holding hands not to fall. […] Then we shush with fingers on lips. I asked Ma once what we’re listening for and she said just in case, you never know” (50).

Room was on my TBR list for a while now and I am so incredibly glad I finally got to it, because this novel simply blew me away. Room tells about five-year-old Jack and his mother who live in Room. They never leave Room. Ever. Old Nick comes to Room sometimes when it is night. Jack has never seen Old Nick from up close, only through the slats of Wardrobe. Old Nick brings them food and every Sunday they can ask for a Sunday treat. His mother wants to go to Outside and so they come up with a plan.

Emma Donoghue chose a challenging subject for this novel and she picked an unusual character to tell the story. The entire novel is written from Jack’s perspective with a five-year-old’s use of language, grasp of reality and view of the world. As is often the case with a child narrator in an adult novel, the reader is more knowledgeable than the narrator. Jack gives the reader a brutally honest view of his life, his mother’s situation and our world in general.

By selecting an innocent and inexperienced storyteller, Emma Donoghue on the one hand lightens the load of the book. Jack’s wonder and cheer make this gruesome story bearable and less dark. On the other hand certain situations in the novel are even more shocking, because they are told by a child. Although Jack fails to understand certain horrid events, the reader does not.

With 401 pages in my edition it is a novel of average length, but it reads like a short story. If you are able to see the world through Jack’s eyes, it might make you question what most of us take for granted and change your perception of the world. Room is a devastatingly beautiful novel and I would definitely recommend it.

Donoghue, Emma. Room. London: Picador, (2010) 2011.

Book review | Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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rating-3-stars

I often bring a book with me wherever I go. However some time ago when I was at my parents’ place I didn’t have a book in my bag, since I hadn’t planned staying that long. So I asked my youngest brother if he had a cool book lying around. He handed me Anna Dressed in Blood and I am very happy he did. I just really (really!) liked it. I had an awesome afternoon reading this spooky book.

Anna Dressed in Blood is a terrific ghost story. It felt like reading about a younger cousin of the Winchester brothers from the TV show Supernatural. Cas hunts ghosts ever since his ghost hunting father was killed by an incredible nasty one. Cas and his mom move from place to place chasing ghosts. When Cas is tipped about Anna with her white dress soaked in blood, he knows it will be his next gig. However Anna is an incredible powerful ghost and defies a lot of Cas’ knowledge about ghosts. Is she too much for him to handle?

This book is a goose bump read. Not too spooky, but spooky enough to keep you in your seat reading as fast as you can to find out what happens next. It contains Voodoo magic which always scares the hell out of me. Kendare Blake writes fast-paced, action-packed scenes that make you laugh one moment and hold your breath the next. I love Cas’ sarcastic humour and the book’s gory descriptions. My only point of critique: although it is a young adult book, the language and writing style seems to better suit a children’s book. Since I no longer fit in the young adult category, the reading level of this book was way too easy for me.

This does not make Anna Dressed in Blood a less entertaining read though. If you are in for some creepy hours on the couch, I would highly recommend it. Has anyone read the sequel, Girl of Nightmares? I saw this book trailer (caution: contains Anna Dressed in Blood spoilers) and it really makes me want to read it.

Blake, Kendare. Anna Dressed in Blood. Antwerpen: Uitgeverij Manteau, (2011) 2013.

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.

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.

Book review | The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan

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rating-3-stars

“The problem with good things that happen is that very often they disguise themselves as awful things. It would be lovely, wouldn’t it, whenever you’re going through something difficult, if someone could just tap you on the shoulder and say ‘Don’t worry, it’s  completely worth it’ ” (1).

Some books you just have to read with tea and mini chocolate muffins  (my favourite) within easy reach on your table or nightstand. Jenny Colgan’s The Little Shop of Happy Ever After is so sweet it will give you a sugar high. If you are not into those happy ever after romance novels, I don’t recommend this book.

I however do on occasion enjoy a good chick lit and, though a chick lit novel does not require deep thinking, it does lift your spirits on the rainiest of days. In Jenny Colgan’s message to her readers, she notes “this book is about reading and books, and how these things can change your life […] for the better” (ix). Some books get you thinking or they teach you something. Others, such as this one, are like security blankets; they make the world a little brighter.

In The Little Shop of Happy Ever After, twenty-nine-year-old Nina loses her job at the local library. Though she was never a risk taker, Nina decides to start a mobile bookshop in the Scottish Highlands. Shy Nina soon finds herself in an adventurous romance, but it might just be her dashing new man is too good to be true.

A protagonist who loves to read. A bookshop. An adventurous turn in life. The Scottish Highlands. Check, check, check, check. All these things excite me. I started and finished this book on the train from Amsterdam to Berlin. Since I travelled alone, this book was lovely company. I suggest to read this book when you want to feel good, because Nina’s story will without a doubt make you smile.

Colgan, Jenny. The Little Shop of Happy Ever After. London: Sphere, 2016.

Book review | A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

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rating-5-stars

“I peered into the dark, gleaming interior of the can I’d opened: blue. […] I painted all day. And when the sun vanished, I painted all through the night” (507).

I love Sarah J. Maas’ storytelling. She paints this amazing world. A world I don’t want to live in, because let’s face it I’m not brave enough to survive in it. But it is a world that I love to dream about while safely tucked in my bed.

A Court of Mist and Fury might be my favourite book of 2016. Although I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas just seems to hit one right note after the other in the second novel of the series. To all of you who have not read A Court of Thorns and Roses yet, please beware this review contains spoilers. If you are looking for a spoiler-free review of the first instalment, check it out here.

A Court of Mist and Fury opens with Feyre trying to come to terms with what happened Under the Mountain where she made a deal with Rhysand to spend one week a month with him at his court, was forced to kill two High Fae, almost died and finally became High Fae herself. It is not a surprise that Feyre is not able to forgive herself for what happened. The Spring Court slowly seems to turn into a prison and the time she spends at Rhysand’s court is her only escape.

This short intro might convince you it is a quite dark novel, but to me this couldn’t be further from the truth which this quote perfectly demonstrates (my favourite quote of the book by the way and I guess everybody else’s fav too):

“To the people who look at the stars and wish […] To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered” (337).

Quite a few new characters are introduced in A Court of Mist and Fury. I absolutely love all the characters who form Feyre’s new family. Another treat is we learn a lot more about Rhysand. Who doesn’t love a tall, dark and mysterious guy? Feyre’s character development in this novel is amazing. She starts off as an insecure girl forced into the damsel role and transforms into one fierce woman who can defend herself and the people she loves. Tamlin is not as present in this book. Although I admit to liking Tamlin in A Court of Thorns and Roses, I almost despise him in A Court of Mist and Fury. When rereading the first book, all those flaws that are so evident in the second novel were already present in the first.

I don’t want to give anything (else) away, but what I will tell you is: if you haven’t already read this book, you definitely should. It is a book about self-discovery, friendship and true love. It is full of drama, funny scenes, ooh and aah moments and I literally clapped my hands after reading certain sections. Hence my most anticipated book of 2017 will be ACOTAR3!

Maas, Sarah J. A Court of Mist and Fury. London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi and Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.