BOOK REVIEW: Hold on Edna! by Aneira Thomas

“The birth of the National Health Service – the UK’s greatest asset – coincided with the birth of one little girl in South Wales, Aneira ‘Nye’ Thomas, the first baby to be delivered by the NHS.”

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

RATING: 4/5 ☆
AUTHOR: Aneira Thomas
SYNOPSIS: “Nye’s story follows generations of her family who battled to survive before the NHS was launched, through to those who went on to dedicate their lives to working for the NHS – and also, ultimately, to be saved by it. An emotive, extraordinary and yet uplifting reminder of a time not so long ago, when the value of your life came down to how much you had in your pocket. It is a touching and entertaining human drama, but more importantly – a fierce defence of the most important accomplishment this country has ever and will ever achieve.”
BUY THE BOOK HERE: Publishers Website / Amazon

Thank you to the publishers, Mirror Books, for sending me a copy of this to read!

Right away, this book surprised me with the directness of the story telling. We’re thrown head first into this family’s history, straight to the moment of birth.

Starting off with such an adventurous beginning, there’s a risk the book could lose momentum. However, this isn’t the case. We’re carefully taken through the generations of Thomas’ family, each one is told with care and kindness that is so often missed in true story novels. Each person we’re introduced to is explained to us in detail, their characteristics and their personalities. The way they have been brought to life is incredibly well done, given that there must have been only stories and documentations to work off of.

There isn’t a dull moment in this memoir, something I believe is down to the captivating writing of Thomas. This could easily have fallen short or flat or felt too personal for the reader to connect to, but she makes these names familiar to us and in a way, we feel connected to them. Although this does fall prey to a few telltale signs of a debut author, such as over description or dramatisation in some parts, overall it reads very well. There’s isn’t any awkwardness to the writing, something I was surprised by. It’s clear that a lot of time, effort and love went into telling her family’s history.

The timing of this book is also impeccable. I’m sure Thomas wasn’t expecting her book to be released amidst a pandemic but it adds another layer of appreciation to this already heartwarming true story. While we’re reading about people suffering from injuries and illnesses that today would be a simple trip to the GP, it adds gravitas to the situation we’re all in. Those of us lucky enough to access the NHS realise how much of it we may have taken for granted, knowing that if we break our ankle we have somewhere to go where we’ll be treated, without it being a financial burden. I finished this book with a sense of ease, a welcome reminder that the NHS has always been there for me and will continue to do so. This was a brilliant debut novel and I’m grateful that I was given a chance to read it!

BOOK REVIEW: While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

“On a platform in occupied Paris, a mother whispers goodbye. It is the end. But also the beginning.”

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

RATING: 5/5 ☆
AUTHOR: Ruth Druart
SYNOPSIS: “Santa Cruz 1953. Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door. Paris 1944. A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope. On a darkened platform two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined.”
GENRE(S): Historical Fiction
BUY THE BOOK HERE: Amazon

The e-ARC of this was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If I’m being honest, I’m still at a loss of words. This book was one of the most emotional things I’ve read this year, I tore through it in one sitting and I’m still processing the raw complexity of what I just read.

The pacing of this book is fast, we’re thrown head first into the story of the main family that we come to know as Jean-Luc, Charlotte and Sam. Their lives seem like any other American families, until we find out the horrors of their past. Immediately I felt for these characters, they were true reflections of real people and I felt every one of their heartaches, breakdowns and struggles. Sam, especially, was uniquely heartbreaking. Every one of his emotions was raw and real, I wanted nothing more than to scoop this child up and tell him everything was going to be okay. My heart physically hurt reading about the struggles he was going through, his story broke me in a way that I’m still reeling from.

The time jumps from Post-War, to Pre-War were done in a way that was easy to follow. Often when Historical Fictions jump around I find the timelines confusing, but this one was plotted and written in a way that kept it simple and understandable. The Post-War scenes added character depth that I needed, it provided me with backgrounds to these characters and a way to get to know them before they evolved into the people we meet at the beginning of the story. There’s a tangible tension that runs throughout this novel, I was often at the edge of my seat, desperate to know what would happen next. Druart managed to keep me entertained and intrigued the entire way through this novel, so much so I hadn’t looked up from my text once whilst reading this.

Knowing that no matter how this story ended, someone would end up at a loss, pulled at my heartstrings throughout. I was constantly in awe of the characters’ bravery, strength and will to do what was right, even when it was the more difficult decision. Druart has a way of conveying such strong emotions through her words, at several intervals I felt myself tearing up and by the time I reached the Epilogue, I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore. The last 20% or so of this novel was incredibly impactful and will stay with me for a while. This was truly one of the most beautiful and brilliant Historical Fictions I’ve read in a while, I hope I’ll have more Ruth Druart to read in the future, her voice is a welcoming breath of fresh air in this genre.

BOOK REVIEW: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

“Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because visions weakens, and voices wither, and talent fades…. Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end… everyone wants to be remembered.” 

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

RATING: 5/5 ☆
AUTHOR: V.E. Schwab
SYNOPSIS: “France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.”
GENRES: Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction.
BUY THE BOOK HERE: Amazon / Book Depository / Waterstones

The e-ARC of this was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book had me on my radar for quite some time before I saw it pop up on Netgalley. It bounced around Bookstagram and Booktube for a while, everyone in eager anticipation for what the next V.E. Schwab book would hold. Every book I’ve rad by Schwab has been a four or five star read and knowing that this book contained some element of historical fiction, I was immediately intrigued.

There’s something uniquely magical about Scwab’s writing. From the first sentence I knew this was her world and her work, she has a way of transporting the reader into a world so unlike their own yet manages to make them feel at home there. There was something innately relatable with Addie, her desperation for a life more than her own is something I think we all can understand. Her despair in that split second for something tangible was raw. But seeing how this bleeds into the rest of her life was heartbreaking not only for her, but for us. Everything can be drawn back to that moment she made a deal with the Devil and in a story about love and loss, that scene remains one of the most grounded from the entire novel.

Addie herself is something beyond human. For those who have seen The Old Guard on Netflix, she reminds me a lot of the immortals within that film. She’s cynical but also hopeful, she’s seen the worst in humanity but still has love for mankind. Through the flashbacks we learn a small chunk of the three hundred years she has lived and this helps us to understand the person she is when we meet here in 2014 New York. Personally, I found these flashbacks to show a necessary part of her development. Without them I feel that I wouldn’t have grown to love her as much as I did in the end, I think they are some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking scenes I’ve read in a V.E. Scwab novel. Addie was a wonderfully multi-dimensional character, she felt like a friend and a stranger all at once.

The other two main characters, Luc and Henry, had their own moments to shine and did not disappoint. Luc intrigued me the entire way through this novel, his rare appearances in the story line and even rarer physical appearances in Addie’s life had me desperate to know more about him, beyond what we saw of him through Addie’s eyes. I would read an entire retelling of this through his perspective, his scenes had me enthralled like no other. Henry was an interesting enough love interest, although I do feel that he paled a little in comparison to Luc. I have a feeling this may have been purposeful from Scwab, given the entire arc of this story. His background was poignant, something I feel a lot of us can relate to. Without going into too much detail, I will say that he is the most human character out of them all. Which I suppose makes sense, given that he is quite literally the most human character out of the main three.

Scwab’s prose is atmospheric and lyrical, somehow managing to capture the timeless element that a story like this demands. Some of the quotes seemed to leap off the page and touch my heart in a way I haven’t felt since reading A Gentleman in Moscow (for reference, my favourite book of 2019). Her ability to weave a story seamlessly over several decades with multiple characters and scenes is truly enchanting. I could read her writing for the rest of my life and never bore of it, she’s one of the most gifted authors I’m lucky to have found. This book will stay with me for a while and I cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy of this masterpiece.

BOOK REVIEW: Stories of Hope by Heather Morris

“…all of these and more. As the teller of Lale’s story, I had to identify how memory and history sometimes waltz in step and sometimes strain to part, to present not a lesson in history, of which there are many, but a unique lesson in humanity.”

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

RATING: 3.5/5 ☆
AUTHOR: Heather Morris
SYNOPSIS: “In Stories of Hope, Heather Morris takes us on an inspirational journey through some of the defining experiences of her life, including her profound friendship with Lale Sokolov, the tattooist at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the inspiration for her bestselling novel.”
GENRE: Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction
BUY THE BOOK HERE: Amazon / Waterstones

Thank you to Manilla Press and Bonnier Books for reaching out to me and providing me with an ARC of this to review!
Enter my giveaway and win a copy of ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ – information can be found here.

From the get go, it was made clear that this would be, as the titles suggests, a collection of stories of hope. The book starts off with a message from Morris as she reflects on the year 2020 so far which by all accounts, has been lacking in hope. She comments on how we’ve all been united in a way unseen since the war, determined to defeat a common enemy. I do think this served as an interesting opening, in a way it dates this novel and might make it feel almost foreign to someone who would pick it up in the future, post-pandemic. But it also adds a personal touch, everyone reading it in the present day will have a connection to the pandemic one way or another and it speaks to us as readers, making us feel a little less alone in these uncertain times.

The novel switches between personal stories, anecdotes and essays from the author with key points focusing on her childhood and her time with Lale Sokolov, the man who’s story so many of us became familiar with through The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Personally, I found the stories with Lale to be the most interesting. Given that this book claims to be an “essential companion” for readers, it makes sense for Morris to give us a bit more insight into her interactions with Lale as she was writing his story. The actual format of this book was a little confusing, almost jarring at times. Morris switches from stories of her childhood, to her experiences as a parent and time with Lale in inconsistent ways throughout, the anecdotes don’t always flow well together and seem out of place. I almost wish it was told in a more chronological order, this would avoid a few of the repeated stories and moments throughout the novel.

A key theme within this collection of stories is listening. It was a clever way to structure this novel and keep everything related, the way Morris managed to link different generations was an aspect I also enjoyed. Although some of the thoughts she had felt a tad repetitive, she managed to keep it interesting enough that I didn’t bore of this. I think another thing that solidified my interest was her inclusion of theories and scientific evidence from related professionals, such as Professors and Doctors. It was a solid addition to the book, one that I can tell a lot of research went into.

The addition of Livia’s Story at the end was an element I was pleasantly surprised by. Although it was only a few pages, I was able to see the way in which Morris’ writing had grown since her debut novel. I have to commend her for including the names and stories of other survivors she met while investigating, albeit some of them are very brief. It was a reminder of how much I enjoyed Morris’ novels and would be more than happy to read any future works by her, I think it was a wonderful way to end this book.

BOOK REVIEW: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

“In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.”

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

RATING: 5/5 ☆
AUTHOR: Amor Towles
SYNOPSIS: “Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.”
GENRES: Fiction, Historical Fiction
BUY THE BOOK HERE: Amazon / Book Depository

This was perhaps one of the easiest 5 stars I’ve ever given to a book. Towles is an author I’m familiar with, I read A Gentleman in Moscow last year and it was an instant favourite of mine, so much so I got a tattoo inspired by it. Because of how much I loved his other novel, I was a little hesitant going into this one. I wasn’t sure if it would live up to my expectations but as you can already guess, it did.

Towles has a gift of making the reader feel as if they are really there, in whichever setting he wants you to feel at home in. For this book, there was no denying the atmosphere of 1930’s New York leaped off the page. From his descriptions of quartets in bars or snow settling over Central Park, every detail painted a vivid image in the readers mind that elevated this story to another level. I also appreciate the way this book was formatted and broken up – something I usually don’t pay too much attention to. The novel is split into four sections, these being the seasons of the year, and then into smaller chapters within these four sections. Each season has a very clear theme to the writing, Winter is all melancholy whereas Autumn is a fresh start.

Our main character, Katey, also changes throughout the seasons. Her development and timeline is closely linked to the weather and months of the year, another aspect I rather enjoyed. Though we see the most of Katey as this book is told through her eyes, the other characters by no means fall flat because of it. There’s an abundance of side characters, however the ones this novel focuses on are Katey, Eve and Tinker. They’re the enticing trio that lead us through the story and not once did I bore of any of them. Towles did a brilliant job of keeping them mysterious and enchanting throughout. Tinker reminded me of Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby and I particularly enjoyed following his character. The relationships between these three was beyond entertaining to watch as it unfolded and shifted, there were moments of yearning, heartbreak and anger in such close proximity to each other. Although this novel is only around 300 pages, the way these characters manage to evoke emotions from the reader makes it seems as if we’ve known them for years.

As with A Gentleman in Moscow, the writing is simply breathtaking. Towles has a magical tone to his prose and is able to craft sentences that knock the air out of your lungs. I absolutely have to include this quote from the first chapter or so, it was this moment that I knew this would be a five star read and a new favourite:

“Anyone who has ridden the subway twice a day to earn their bread knows how it goes: When you board, you exhibit the same persona you use with your colleagues and acquaintances. You’ve carried it through the turnstile and past the sliding doors, so that your fellow passengers can tell who you are – cocky or cautious, amorous or indifferent, loaded or on the dole. But you find yourself a seat and the train gets under way; it comes to one station and then another; people get off and others get on. And under the influence of the cradlelike rocking of the train, your carefully crafted persona begins to slip away. The super-ego dissolves as your mind begins to wander aimlessly over your cares and your dreams; or better yet, it drifts into ambient hypnosis, where even cares and dreams recede and the peaceful silence of the cosmos pervades.”

His ability to reflect human nature in his writing is one of the factors that made this book so memorable for me. There was something about this book that awoke something within me. I feel like it looked into the innermost parts of my soul and spoke to me, in a way so few books do. I cannot stop thinking about this and I know I’ll have to reread it soon and annotate along the way, there are several quotes I have to find because I simply want to shout them from the rooftops. If you’re looking for your next read, please pick this one up. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s one of those books that everyone will take what they need from it and I needed it more than I realised.

BOOK REVIEW: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Rating: 5/5 ☆
Author: Samantha Shannon
Synopsis: “A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.”

Where do I even start with this one? It sat on my shelf for months, the sheer size of it intimidating me and almost mocking me from my TBR pile. But a few days ago I finally decided to pick it up, if anything so I could say I gave it a go and maybe unhaul it if I didn’t like it. Yet I ended up here, finishing it in two days and desperately wanting to read more by Shannon.

This was my first venture into the genre of Adult Fantasy. I’ve read my fair share of YA Fantasy and I’ve always enjoyed them, however Adult Fantasy seemed a little daunting to me. Having been influenced by Game of Thrones, I came to believe that all books in this genre would be ridiculously lengthy, difficult to get into and way too over-hyped (as you can tell, GoT isn’t for me). This threw those expectations out of the window in the best way. I was head over heels for this story within the first 100 pages, unable to put it down unless I needed to eat or sleep. I devoured this quicker than I expected to. The last 500 pages flew by, I didn’t move for almost five hours to finish it.

The world building was faultless. Given that this is the first (and as far as I’m aware, a standalone?) book, I expected it to take a while for me to be convinced by the magic system and kingdoms. However, that wasn’t the case, I felt that there was enough detail given to every aspect of this world without it feeling over explained. As the book is split in perspectives told from the East/West/South, each section has a standout history weaved with magic, dragons and betrayal. There’s a note at the beginning of the novel from Shannon explaining that she blended different cultures and histories together to form the lore of this book and it shows. There’s so much vast knowledge poured into this book, it was refreshing to read a fantasy with such a rich background.

Another element of this that enthralled me was the power of the female characters. Too often in fantasy it’s assumed that women have certain roles or boxes that they must fit into and they’re exiled for doing otherwise. Or, there’s one token female character that can do everything and anything. But within this novel, it was all about the power that women hold, from the magic of the mages to the inner strength of the draonriders. There was such a sense of intensity that radiated off of these characters, it was inspiring to read about the adversities these women overcame in their lives and the force they still had. They practically leaped off the page with their realness. Shannon did a wonderful job of writing these strong women characters, without it feeling overly done or purposely written to prove a point. They reminded me of women I know in my own life who fight dragons every day.

I have to mention how exhilarating it was to read about characters with such an array of sexualities, genders and traumas. Not a single protagonist felt like a copy and paste of another one I’ve read, it was made abundantly clear that they all had their own pasts, strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, their sexuality isn’t sensationalised. This was a pleasant surprise, these characters were allowed to live and love as they please, without the author acting as if she’d done us all a favour by writing a true representation of humanity within her novel. The main romance was especially well executed, I believed the love story and that Shannon was writing and found myself rooting for their happiness.

This deserves to be as hyped as the other fantasies we see on the shelves. From the incredibly real characters to the breathtaking world building, this is one that demands a spot on every fantasy lover’s bookshelf. I can see Samantha Shannon becoming a fast favourite of mine, this was a masterpiece unlike any other!

BOOK REVIEW: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Rating: 5/5 ☆
Author: Tracy Deonn
Synopsis: “After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus. A flying demon feeding on human energies. A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down. And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.”

The ARC of this book was kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I think I’ve finally found my favourite book of 2020. If I could give this more than five stars, I would. From start to finish, it was incredibly well written, well paced and exciting. It felt fresh, breathing a new life into the YA Fantasy genre.

Honestly, I’m still reeling from finishing this. It had me captivated at every turn, there’s no words for how incredibly breathtaking and enjoyable this was. Bree herself is one of the most well written lead characters I’ve read in YA in God knows how long. She’s strong willed, stubborn and most importantly, human. The problem I sometimes have with YA heroes is they seem too perfect, too far from reality to relate to. But Bree is written in such a real sense it feels as if she’s a friend that I’ve known for years. Her internal struggles with her grief and friendships are real issues that the reader can relate to, as is the struggles of not knowing her history or heritage. Deonn did a wonderful job of crafting this character that I’m sure everyone will be able to see a part of themselves in.

The world building within this was one of the most exciting parts. The way we slowly learn about the society and everyone involved is perfectly plotted and paced. Nothing feels as if we’re being overwhelmed with information, everything is given to us through natural discoveries that Bree makes. The magic system was so creative and well thought out, I cannot imagine the endless hours of work that went into constructing something like this. But it pays off, nothing feels underdeveloped. The mythology aspect of King Arthur, his knights and Merlin was perhaps the most enjoyable factor for me. As someone who loves mythology (and adores the TV show Merlin), this idea of basing an entire system and society off of such an iconic legend was thrilling to read. It takes real talent to perfectly balance myth and magic without making it come across as cringe or too easily connected, but once again Deonn did a wonderful job with this. Seeing where the myth inspired the magic was enchanting, the magic used the myth as a springboard to sound off of, it wasn’t a direct copy of the legends or stories passed down through generations. It was fresh, mixed with Bree’s own history and ancestry. I’ve never read something with as much creativity and brilliance channeled throughout.

I have to dedicate a little paragraph to my new favourite character from YA. Selwyn Kane, the perfect mixture of alluring and broken. Sel appears as a side character for the first half of the novel, until Bree is thrown headfirst into the Legendborn society. But from the first interaction we have with him, I knew he would become an instant favourite. Although I don’t want to compare him to other YA book characters, think Will Herondale and Ronan Lynch. He’s mysterious but doesn’t follow the overused trope of ‘bad boy with a secret past’ that we often see in YA. I’m eager to learn more about him in the next instalment of this series, I think he has real potential for a lot of character development.

There’s so many amazing things within this novel, I could write a review that goes on forever. But I think the real enjoyment comes from experiencing it for yourself, I cannot recommend this one enough. There’s a list of content warnings that can be found here, so please make sure you give these a read beforehand! I eagerly anticipate the next book from Deonn, I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy of this masterpiece!

AUGUST WRAP UP: 5 Star Reads

I haven’t officially written a wrap up yet on this blog, but I figured I’d start with August of this year as I managed to read a surprising number of 5 star reads this month!

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo.

I actually already have a full review up for this one, which you can find here, but to quickly quote myself:

“This was one of the most heartbreaking, raw and beautiful books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Listening to the audio book of this was an immersive experience that had me crying almost every other chapter. Acevedo’s writing is something of perfection, every line, every sentence, every word was chosen and crafted with such careful consideration. I’ve never felt this enthralled and emotionally connected to these two sisters. Their stories were balanced and intertwined with such a real sense of purpose. I know this one will stay with me.”

Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford.

This one was kindly gifted to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was incredibly well researched and it shows from the first chapter. I have to commend Clifford for her detail in the research she put into this book and the dedication of telling the stories of those less heard about. There isn’t a dull page, her way of retelling these stories of trauma and triumph is breathtaking. I appreciate that this book questions a lot of the general standards we hold to be true about the Holocaust, “What is a survivor?”, “Who classifies as a survivor”, “Do they ever really survive?” This read has been an eye-opener into a part of history that we believe to be well documented, and how much we still have to learn.

When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott.

This one was also kindly gifted to me through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, although this one I had my eye on for a while after loving Scott’s first book.

This was beautifully written, poignant and poetic. I felt immediately connected to the story and characters, desperate to find out more information as the story slowly unfolded. Although it’s a slow burner, it’s absolutely breathtaking. The way Scott writes this is beautifully poetic, the writing almost leaps off the page as you’re pulled into this story of grief and loss. It presents itself as not just a war novel, but one that explores the aftermath and the inconceivable damage war does to an individual. Scott does a wonderful job of balancing the multitude of characters we come across in this novel, not one feels underdeveloped or overwritten. There’s a real, human feel to every person we encounter. It was haunting and moving, one that will leave me thinking.

Girl in the Walls by A.J. Gnuse.

Another one kindly gifted to me through NetGalley!

Girl in the Walls is a gripping, emotional story that had me on the edge of my seat reading. It explores grief and loss in a way I’ve never experienced in a book before, through the stunning writing of Gnuse and the captivating imagery that carries this story. It had me looking over my shoulder and re-evaluating every creak of my own house whilst I was reading. There’s a raw and honest connection built up between the reader and the characters, learning about them through the eyes of the girl gives us a unique perspective on their lives. This was haunting, right up until the last line. I cannot stop thinking about it, in the best way.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson.

This one struck a chord with me, one that I can’t quite put into words. It was raw, beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. After sitting on it for a few days, I realise how incredibly brave of Johnson it was to publish this. Through their Memoir-Manifesto they cover a range of topics that aren’t typically discussed in YA literature, or literature of any kind for that matter. Their complete transparency with the readers and their experiences made the novel feel like a personal connection was forming between the reader and the author. Listening to this on audio book was an added bonus as they narrated it themselves. This is something that feels like it transcends the boundaries of a book, it’ll make an impact.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.

I have to preface this by explaining that I had no expectations of this book. Originally I had bought it because I found it in my local charity store and it was on sale, I briefly read the blurb but forgot about it until I picked it up randomly one night.

This was beautifully human and heartbreaking. The way in which Lefteri tells this story by seamlessly blending flashbacks and present day is haunting. There’s a grief that hangs over this entire book like a storm cloud, unrelenting and unwilling to let up. I’m still at a loss for words over the heartache that was this story. It managed to put things into a wider context and I know it’ll stay with me for a while. Trust me when I say, this is a must read, especially given the current social backdrop.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab.

Perhaps one of my most anticpated reads of this year and kindly gifted to me by NetGalley!

There’s something uniquely magical about Scwab’s writing. From the first sentence, I knew this was her world and her work, she has a way of transporting the reader into a world so unlike their own yet manages to make them feel at home there. Scwab’s prose is atmospheric and lyrical, somehow managing to capture the timeless element that a story like this demands.

Her ability to weave a story seamlessly over several decades with multiple characters and scenes is truly enchanting. I could read her writing for the rest of my life and never bore of it, she’s one of the most gifted authors I’m lucky to have found. This book will stay with me for a while and I cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy of this masterpiece. I’ll have a full review of this up on my blog during its publication week!

BOOK REVIEW: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Rating: 5/5 ☆
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Synopsis: “Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.”

It’s been a little under two weeks since I finished this novel, yet I am unable to stop thinking about it. It’s remained on my mind the entire time, so here I am writing a review.

This was one of the most heartbreaking, raw and beautiful books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I was tearing up and crying within the first chapter, I cannot begin to tell you how powerful Acevedo’s writing is. The way she constructs her sentences and builds up the readers emotions to break them down only a few lines later was truly mesmerising. There is no way to describe the writing other than perfection, every line, every sentence, every word was chosen and crafted with such careful consideration. There wasn’t a single line that felt out of place, everything was written with such power that it felt like the story was being read exclusively to me and no one else.

I’ve yet to read an Acevedo book in print, so my opinion here might be biased, but if you have the option I highly recommend listening to this as an audiobook. Acevedo herself narrates this, along with Melania-Luisa Marte (who is a wonderful poet, I recommend listening to her performances on YouTube) and together the deliver the raw emotions that are so prevalent within this novel. Through their powerful performance you understand the grief and pain and suffering that these sisters face and the daily challenges in their lives, before tragedy strikes. The delivery of some of the lines alone was enough to bring me to tears, there was a weight to these words that I know I do not understand the full capacity of but still evoked emotions in me.

The exploration is sisterhood and lost/found family in this was another thing that had me breathless from the beauty of it all. There’s a clear connection between the sisters that we, the readers, are able to see but they are not until they meet. Nothing about their relationship feels forced, there’s awkward moments and real emotions between them before they reach a point of agreement. I appreciate how real Acevedo made this, she didn’t try and make everything perfect with their first interaction. Their journey of denial, to acceptance, to eventual love for each other was incredibly moving to read. I do not think I’ve read a book before that explores sisterhood as well as this one did.

I don’t want to talk too much about the actual plot and events of this book, I believe the best thing you can do is go into this blind. A full list of Trigger Warnings for this book can be found here, there are several heavy topics discussed within this book so please take a look at them and make sure you’re in the right head space for this.

Overall, this was a story that demands to be heard. Just like the two sisters this novel centers on, it makes no apologies for its exploration of emotions and topics that do not typically feature in mainstream books. I know I’ll be catching up on Acevedo’s previous works and keeping an eye out for whatever she writes next, she’s become a new favourite of mine.

THE FOLKLORE BOOK TAG

Taylor Swift recently dropped her eight studio album, Folklore, and I am absolutely in love with it. I saw this tag going around and I wanted to give it a go, considering I adore Taylor and reading! (Side note, if you haven’t listened to this album already, go give it a listen! You won’t regret it).

Ilsa (the creator)’s original post can be found here!

The rules are:

  • Link to the original creator Ilsa @ A Whisper of Ink
  • Tag at least 3 people
  • Declare the rules and list of prompts in your post
  • Thank whoever tagged you and link to their post

For this one, I think I’m going to have to go with A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. This book had me drowning in my emotions and just when I thought I had figured out where the plot was going, it was turned on it’s head. I thoroughly enjoyed the many twists and turns this book put me through. I find myself thinking about this book and the ending, the characters come back to me at the most random of times and I almost want to reread it (but I also don’t have the emotional strength for that. Yet).

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a book that’ll always make me feel bittersweet. The happy moments are so soft and lovely, but the sad moments make my heart feel like it’s falling out of my chest. The way Miller balances these two extremes is one of my favourite elements of this book.

This book is actually the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard this song! The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is so captivating, I remember reading it and not being able to put the book down. I was desperate for more information on Evelyn, her story was one of the most interesting things I’ve read.

I think if you’ve been following me for a while, you knew this would be my answer for this question. IT by Stephen King is hands down one of the worst books I’ve read in years. I have a full review up for it on my blog, but in short it was awful. There was little enjoyable about this novel, I especially wished I had saved myself the time of reading this 1000+ page brick of a book.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is hands down my favourite book of all time. Every time I reread it I find myself discovering new details that I hadn’t picked up on before and it makes me love this novel even more. There are certain quotes that bring my to tears even without their entire context. This book tore my heart out and stomped on it multiple times and I love it for that. It’s truly the most moving book I’ve ever read and I don’t think I’ll ever make it through a read without crying.

I struggled to think of an answer for this one, but I eventually settled on A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This book took my entirely by surprise when I picked it up last year. But there’s something about it that feels so personal and I can’t explain it. Reading it felt like one of the most exclusive experiences I’ve ever had with a book. I think it changed me as a person, a little. For the better.

The first book that jumped to mind for this one was Percy Jackon by Rick Riordan. These books captivated my late childhood, for the first time I understood why people hyped up books and raved about them. These books introduced me to reading and without them I don’t think I’d be the reader I am today. They always remind me of the summer before Year Six when I tore through most of them, desperate for the next one.

I went with Half Bad by Sally Green for this one! I remember reading this for the first time the summer before I was going to visit in (internet) best friend for the first time. This was also the first buddy read I ever did, together me and my friend read the trilogy over a few weeks and I’ll never forget how much fun it was (and heartbreaking, the last book in this series is emotional ooof).

I’m not sure if this entirely counts, but They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera is a wonderfully sad book that I still remember reading vividly. I adored the way this book was structured and how the key plot point is given away in the title but you’re still desperately rooting for the characters throughout out. This book made me feel isolated on behalf of the two main characters, the writing was that powerful.

Honestly, I still don’t think I’m over If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. I read this book earlier this year and since then I’ve been craving another Dark Academia that enthralled me like this one did. I read The Secret History right after, but it didn’t impact me quite like this book did. I’m desperately looking for another book that’ll haunt me like this one still does.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo is a book that came to me right when I was desperate for something to knock me off my feet. This book did exactly that. I learned so much from this book and it made me question so many of my own thoughts and beliefs. Since finishing it, I still think of the beauty of this book. It was like nothing else I’ve read.

So, there’s so many books with incredible female characters whom I adore but for this one I had to go with my girl Nina Zenik from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Nina is everything I love about kick ass female characters. She’s strong, selfless, can hold her own but also knows when she needs to ask for help. I adored her character arc over the two books and her feature in King of Scars. She’s just amazing.

For this one, I went with Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I think there’s something eerie about this book that I’m still not able to identify. The writing is beautifully ghost like and there’s so many things talked about in the book that we’re only told a little about, leaving us in the dark about certain things. Reading this book gave me chills and the ending was especially haunting.

Oh, to be loved by someone like Rhysand loves Feyre in A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. This book is full of nothing but yearning and soft declarations of love. Everything about this book makes me love the concept of unconditional love. Rhys and Feyre will always make me weak at the knees, their love is undeniable and wonderful to read about.

There’s a lot of characters I could have picked for this one, but I have to go with Alex Claremont-Diaz from Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. This book is one of my favourites and I adore Alex. He’s relatable, strong willed and one of my favourite main characters. I found myself constantly laughing or swooning when I was reading his moments of embarrassment or confessions of love. Please protect Alex at all costs.

I believe I mentioned this in my Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag, but I’m still so sad I didn’t love this one! I always say that Tom Hanks has a knack for telling incredible stories and making us care about characters, but this collection of short stories didn’t do it for me! Maybe it’s because they were short stories and I much prefer my plots well fleshed out with developed characters but whatever the reason, this wasn’t a great read for me. I still have a great love for Tom Hanks’ films, thankfully.

I’m tagging a few friends, but no pressure to complete this tag if you don’t want to!

gracelwrites / readingonastar / stormyreadsya

If you’d like to come talk about how wonderful this album is, or anything bookish in general, come find me on Instagram! I’m pagesofachilles!