Tag Archives: 5/5

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
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Links: Goodreads.

Source: Borrowed from mom (Slovenian translation).

Genre: Historical fiction.

My rating:

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

I don’t often read historical fiction unless it involves ball gowns and dashing dukes (aka historical romance). But my mom recommended Guernsey and I sometimes actually listen to her, so I decided to read it – and was very pleasantly surprised. Guernsey Literary is a great book, one of my (increasingly rare?) five-star/heart reads, and I can’t recommend it enough.

(A note, I think the two authors are there because one started the book, couldn’t finish it herself because of some medical issues, and asked the other to do it. It doesn’t diminish the quality of the writing in any way. It’s superb.)

It’s written entirely in the form of letters. If that’s interesting to you, go for it. If you don’t like epistolary novels, give it a try anyway, it’s really that good. Letters need to be very carefully thought out if the plot is going to work, and I think the authors did very well with keeping all the voices of the characters separate (and keeping track of events and who knows what and all). Of course, the letters are longer (and include some dialogue, for example) than they would be if they were real, actual letters, but I wasn’t bothered by this because the story sucked me in so much.

The characters are fantastic. Julia, the main character, is this unconventional reporter who made a name for herself writing cynical articles during WWII, and is now intrigued by the existence of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (and who wouldn’t be?), and makes her way to the tiny Channel island of Guernsey. Dawsey’s (the main male character’s) letters were a treat to read, you really get the sense that he’s a calm, thoughtful person, and when Julia meets him in person, that’s exactly how he is. I loved getting to know the characters both through their own letters and through the descriptions the others write in theirs.

The people of Guernsey are distinctive, interesting, and funny without being mere caricatures. I guess in such a closed setting, it would be easy to fall into cliches, but the authors avoided that by creating beautifully rounded characters who each shed light on the events of the war years.

Now, WWII is a major theme here. I admired the authors’ way of talking about some very serious topics – they kept things light but meaningful, there is never the sense that the war merely serves as a backdrop for the current events. The atrocities of war, the sacrifices made (*spoiler in white* those scenes where the people of Guernsey describe how they sent their children away to England to keep them safe nearly broke me, people. It’s one of my triggers lately, children being in difficult situations, and this hit me hard. But it was so thoughtfully, beautifully done, I was in awe. *end spoiler*), the authors deal with them all. The characters each found their way of pushing through, of somehow coping with the ugly reality, and it’s amazing to see how they managed.

I don’t know what else to say to convince you to read this. I kind of want to journey to Guernsey myself, explore the funny little island, and learn its history. I know I’ll be recommending Guernsey Literary to anyone who wants a meaningful read and re-reading it soon. Oh, and I read the translation (by Miriam Drev), which was great. I’m always conscious of how works are translated but here, I barely noticed it at all.

Have you read Guernsey? What did you think?

Do you have any other good historical recommendations (that aren’t purely historical romances)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

In Which I Flail Over The Raven Cycle

It’s been a long time, people, but I finally found a series that broke my reading slump for good (fingers crossed). The last time I binge-read an entire four-part series in less than 10 days was when I first read Twilight (don’t judge, okay?).

So I’m beyond happy to have finally caved to peer pressure – because Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle is great. Let me tell you why (also this is a non-spoilery sort-of review of the entire series):

  • The characters are fantastic. Okay, I know people are saying that they’re really over-privileged white spoiled boys (and girl), but I couldn’t help but feel that the over-privileged part was more of a hindrance in their case. And I know readers are especially partial to Ronan (or Adam), but I have to say Gansey stole my heart. He’s such a good guy and you know how much I love good guys. I was also afraid that Blue would be your typical manic pixie girl, but she’s just so relatable and down to earth and kind. She’s a wonderful heroine.
  • The adults aren’t complete morons. So often in YA, adults either act as antagonists or are completely absent from the plot, leaving teenagers to save the world (which is…fine, but gets old pretty fast). Here, I loved Blue’s relationship with her mother, the psychic ladies, and Mr. Gray. They never stole the spotlight from the main characters but they also didn’t let them flail around on their own.
  • The writing is addictive. I’ve read the Mercy Falls series before and I liked Stiefvater’s world a lot, though it didn’t blow me away. With The Raven Cycle, however, I couldn’t stop reading. When my local bookstore didn’t have Blue Lily, Lily Blue in stock, it was the worst (they got it for me from another town so I didn’t have to order through The Book Depository and wait for two weeks, whew).
  • The worldbuilding is detailed but not overpowering. As always, I’m super glad when I find a series where the author doesn’t beat me over the head with their world. Like, the mythical king Gansey is looking for (the drive for the entire series) was completely unknown to me, and though I didn’t particularly care about the king (and didn’t even check if he’s an actual historical persona), I could still follow and enjoy the plot.

All in all, this series is a treat. If paranormal YA is your thing, you need this in your life. And then we can chat about who your favorite raven boy (or girl?) is, alright?
Have you read The Raven Cycle? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you! :)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published in October 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

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This review should really have been written a year and a half ago when I first read Carry On, chewing through the entire book in one day. But I never got around to actually writing down my (very enthusiastic) thoughts, so I put Carry On on my “to be re-read soon” pile and now I finally took the time to do it! My re-read was the result of a pretty big reading slump – I just needed to re-read a favorite and fall in love with books again. There are spoilers in here (because that’s how I roll these days), so you probably shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t read the book yet. But it’s been a while since its publication, and you’ve been warned. So.

Carry On has received mixed reviews – and I can absolutely see why. It’s a big mess of a book, the setting and topic and everything so reminiscent of Harry Potter, some people couldn’t get past it. I guess it’s possible to read it as a sort of parody. Rowell picked a ridiculous number of fantasy tropes and mashed them all together and yes, the resulting story is overwhelming at times.

But I loved it. I loved it the first time when I barely grasped what I was reading because I was so eager to see what happens and I loved it now that I took my time to savor Rowell’s writing.

I think it’s mostly the characters who make this story great. Rowell’s characters always have this fascinatingly real feel to them (see my reviews of Eleanor & Park and Attachments and Fangirl if you want to read more gushing praise), even if they’re vampires, ha. Something about them just speaks to me and they get under my skin and I can’t help but root for them. It’s good to know that I can trust an author to create likeable characters every time.

Simon Snow and Basilton Pitch are among my favorite YA couples of all time, and that’s saying something. I liked that they were more preoccupied with the fact that they were supposed to be mortal enemies than by being “hopelessly queer”. Coming out stories are important and powerful but I enjoyed reading a book where the fact that they weren’t even both human was more important than their sexual orientation. (Not that there was no mention of it. There were confusion and questions and people judging. But none of that mattered in the end. Because <3.)

I also enjoyed the side characters, Penelope in particular. I want to read her story. I even liked Agatha – the first time I read the book she sort of seemed pale and unimportant, but she’s a really intriguing young woman if you pay attention to her. I’d read her story, too.

And can I say that I wanted to clap when I read the ending? Flipping the Chosen One trope on its head was the best thing ever. I didn’t know what to expect with all this talk about Simon being the Greatest Mage that ever lived and his power being amazing, and then he sort of just fizzled out instead of being a big hero. Well, he did sort of save the day in the end – unintentionally. He didn’t want this burden, he didn’t enjoy his role, and for once, he wasn’t made to accept it and “grow a pair”, but was left to live the rest of his life in peace. I really liked that.

I now have only Landline to read (and a couple of novellas). I have a copy on my shelf, but I’m afraid to read it because it might not be as good as I want it to be and then I’ll have to wait for her next book to be released, which is just horrible. I’ll auto-buy all her books from now on, and I hope you’ll give them a try if you haven’t already.

Have you read Carry On? What did you think?

Who are your auto-buy authors?

I’d love to hear from you! :) 

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3) by Scott Lynch
Published in 2013 by Del Rey.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (hardback).

Genre: Adult high fantasy.

My rating:

With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring – and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

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This is the review for the third part of the series, so it will definitely contain some spoilers for the previous two books. You can read my reviews of The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies – and then we’ll chat! :) This isn’t a simple review, either, but a delayed sort of read-along I’m doing with DJ from MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape – we’re calling it The Bastard Read-along. So if you’re reading this as well (either for the first time or re-reading in preparation of the forthcoming publication of The Thorn of Emberlain), leave the link to your review in the comments and I’ll make sure to link it somewhere in this post and in the master post of the read-along as well. If nothing else, be sure to check out DJ’s review – he’s reading the books for the first time so his perspective is different from mine!

Now, I am definitely sure I only read The Republic of Thieves once before – I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d read Red Seas Under Red Skies once or twice, and I’ve now read The Lies of Locke Lamora at least five times (which makes sense since I’m translating it into Slovenian). My memory of this book was therefore much more sketchy than with the previous two books, which isn’t that bad, actually.

The Republic of Thieves brings back an element I missed with Red Seas Under Red Skies: the flashbacks to the time when Gentleman Bastards were still a young gang of thieves, going through a rigorous education. Here, though, we have an actual parallel story line, unlike with Lies of Locke Lamora, where the flashbacks serve mostly to illustrate the characters’ backstory and the setting.

The switching of timelines – the past one where the young Gentleman Bastards depart for a foreign city to put on a stage production of a famous play, The Republic of Thieves, and the present one where Jean and Locke are competing with Sabetha to win the election in Karthain – make for a fast-paced story, much like in the first book. None of the parts dragged like they did with the second book, and I was once again immersed in both stories, cheering on Locke and his crew.

But the tone of this third book is different from the first one. Here, Locke is no longer the cocksure, brilliant thief convinced he’s the smartest of all – he’s lost friends and made mistakes, so while his schemes are still brilliant, his thoughts are tinged with regret and even self-doubt. Jean is grieving but still his loyal self, ready to prove that his friendship with Locke will always stand the test of time.

The most significant addition to the story, however, is Sabetha. I know many fans disliked her – she is proud, distrustful, and even a little traitorous, but I thought she was great. We’ve been listening to Locke pine away for her for two books, and now that she’s finally here, she’s human. Yes, she’s brilliantly educated and beautiful – Locke’s obsession with her has not diminished – but she’s also wary and prickly and careful, worried she’ll make the same mistakes that made her run from the Gentleman Bastards in the first place. I loved her relationship with Jean, the fact that they managed to talk despite the huge obstacle that is Locke Lamora’s ego.

I also need to mention the Bondsmagi – the scary order of magicians we’ve met before in the form of the Falconer who aided the Grey King slaughter half of Camorri criminals in the first book. Here, the Bondsmagi are the silent force that toys with the people of Karthain, steering the election like it’s some sort of a puppet show. I liked the insight we got into their world, I admired (and loathed) Patience and was horrified by what remained of the Falconer.

The hints about the Eldren were also interesting; this ancient, mysterious civilization that left behind magnificent ruins and vanished without a trace. I really, really hope we’ll get to discover more about them in the rest of the series.

And now all there’s left to do is wait for The Thorn of Emberlain to be published. We know the unrest in the Kingdom of the Seven Marrows is reaching boiling point and our favorite thieves will probably try to make the most of it. I hope we’ll get to see more Sabetha as well, but I’ll let Lynch surprise me. This is definitely one of my most anticipated releases and I hope it’ll happen in 2017.

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Have you read The Republic of Thieves? What did you think?

Are you as eager as I am to read The Thorn of Emberlain?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

How Not To Fall by Emily Foster (Series Review)

How Not To Fall and How Not To Let Go by Emily Foster
Published in 2016 by Kensington.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle / ARC via NetGalley. Thank you Kensington for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Data, research, scientific formulae–Annabelle Coffey is completely at ease with all of them. Men, not so much. But that’s all going to change after she asks Dr. Charles Douglas, the postdoctoral fellow in her lab, to have sex with her. Charles is not only beautiful, he is also adorably awkward, British, brilliant, and nice. What are the odds he’d turn her down?

Very high, as it happens. Something to do with that whole student/teacher/ethics thing. But in a few weeks, Annie will graduate. As soon as she does, the unlikely friendship that’s developing between them can turn physical–just until Annie leaves for graduate school. Yet nothing could have prepared either Annie or Charles for chemistry like this, or for what happens when a simple exercise in mutual pleasure turns into something as exhilarating and infernally complicated as love.

PEOPLE, listen up. I’ve found a romance so good, I gave it five stars! And the sequel is great, too, so sit back and let me gush, okay?

I saw How Not To Fall on the Smart Bitches newsletter (it’s funny, really, how many of my romance reviews should start this way), checked Goodreads, and saw Becky gave it a very good rating. I proceeded to one-click buy it and emerged several hours later, teary-eyed and heartbroken, to DM Becky about how good it was and how I wanted to read the sequel immediately. As luck would have it, the sequel, How Not To Let Go, was available on NetGalley, and I immediately plunged back in, with very satisfying results. I rated the first book with 5 stars and the second with 4, which is why we have that 4.5 rating up there.

It’s difficult to review just the first book, How Not To Fall, because it doesn’t have an HEA  and ends on a cliffhanger. I’m putting this out there even though I dislike spoilers, because when reading contemporary romances, happy endings are expected and you might feel hoodwinked if you get to the end of book one and the couple aren’t where you wanted them to be. So if you want to get the whole beautiful story of Annie and Charles, you’ll have to commit to both books (like that’s a bad thing).

Let’s start with the characters, though, shall we? Both Annie and Charles are scientists. They’re both very smart (like genius-smart), which makes for some really interesting conversations. However, I never felt like the scientific parts were too much, I liked how the subject of Annie’s studies pertains to the story itself.

The first thing I noticed about this book (reading the preview on Amazon), was how strong Annie’s voice was – the story is narrated by her and she’s funny and honest and awkward. I wish I could write voice like that. It also made me root for her from the beginning. Annie is wonderful because she’s got this great self-esteem, she knows she’s smart and young and pretty, and there’s very little hesitation on her part. (The second book has both characters’ POVs, which was a nice addition.)

Charles is a very interesting romance hero. His traumatic past makes him sound like another Christian Grey, and while there certainly are similarities between that stupid series and this one, Charles’ troubles are addressed in a much more sensitive, realistic manner. The first book focuses more on Annie, while the second explores Charles’ past in more detail. He’s got some serious commitment issues, so their involvement begins with an expiration date: Annie is leaving for grad school and they only have a month to enjoy each other’s company. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

If you’re thinking that you’ve read this kind of story a hundred times before, just trust me: you haven’t. It’s a smart romance and I liked it, even if it’s not perfect (*spoiler in white* Like the fact that Annie is a virgin at 23 and Christian needs to, erm, show her the ropes. *snort-laugh* *end spoiler*). The author is a sex educator by profession, so you can bet that sex is medically accurate and also very hot. No “fade to black” scenes here.

If you’ve read the entire review and I haven’t convinced you to read these two books, I’m sorry. I also hope I didn’t create too much hype and that you’ll give them a try, be amazed, and report back to me. I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for Foster to write another book.

Have you read How Not to Let Go? How can I convince you to give it a try?

Do you like angsty books when they’re good?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Companz.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: borrowed from a friend.

Genre: YA high fantasy.

My rating:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

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I have a love-hate relationship with hyped-up books. I am always afraid to read them because they so often disappoint, yet I have the feeling that I should be reading them because I’m missing out on all the fun the cool kids are having. This is why I went into Six of Crows with no small amount of anxiety. I’d already read one Bardugo book (Shadow and Bone) and while I liked it, I didn’t love it, and I never finished the Grisha series. Well, I’ve never been happier that I decided to give an author a second chance!

Six of Crows simply has everything I love in a good fantasy. A diverse, interesting cast of morally gray characters? Check. A heist? Check. A well-developed world without info dumps? Check. A dash of romance that doesn’t overwhelm the plot? Check and check.

I loved the crew Kaz put together to take on a nearly impossible job. Each individual is important, well-rounded, and flawed, but also good. I don’t know how to explain this. The multiple POVs could have been too scattered or too similar if the characters weren’t well thought out, but their voices were distinct and I enjoyed them all.

But Kaz Brekker absolutely stole the show. I probably mentioned that I have a soft spot for thieves (Hello, Locke Lamora!) and orphans, but Kaz is a special breed of both – a cold, brilliant crime lord who elevated his crew of misfits from common pickpockets to great con artists. BUT he also has a weak spot, which makes him human in the best way possible. *happy sigh*

cannot resist a good heist plot and this one delivered beautifully. The story was just convoluted enough that it kept me on my toes and yet straightforward, without unnecessary subplots. Bardugo wrote a thing of beauty and I can’t wait to read Crooked Kingdom. Six of Crows undoubtedly made it into my top 10 of 2016!

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Have you read Six of Crows? What did you think?

Any other thief stories I should check out (maybe with an all-woman crew or a female band leader)?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.