Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There – Catherynne M. Valente

16128147Title: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Publisher: Much-In-Little
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Genre/themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Adventure
Source: From my own bookshelf
Series?: Book 2 in the Fairyland series

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

WARNING, THIS IS BOOK 2 IN A SERIES SO THIS REVIEW MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS.

Goodreads Synopsis:
In the kingdom of Fairyland-Below, preparation are underway for the annual Revels… but aboveground, the creatures of Fairyland are in no mood for a party.

It has been a long time since young September bid farewell to Fairyland, and she is excited to to see it again; but upon her return she is shocked to find that her friends have been losing their shadows, and therefore their magic, to the kingdom of Fairyland-Below… it spells certain disaster and September won’t stand for it. Determined to make amends, she travels down into the underworld where, among creatures of ice and moonlight, she encounters a face she recognizes all too well: Halloween, the Hollow Queen. Only then does September realize what she must do to save Fairyland from slipping into the mundane world forever.

Come and join in the Revels with September and her friends. But be warned: in Fairyland-Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem…

My Thoughts:
I started this book right after I finished my re-read of book 1. I was eager to see what more the author was going to do with the world. I must say that she pleasantly surprised me.

September is once again whisked away to Fairyland, although this time she manages to do so on her accord, as she follows the Silver Wind through a crack in the worlds. Her return starts off pleasantly but soon September notices that something is wrong. The shadows of all the creatures are disappearing. At first September is not quite upset, as she had already parted with her shadow the last time she was in Fairyland. But September’s shadow has taken on a new name and is now ruling the land beneath Fairyland. It is up to September to talk some sense into her shadow and save Fairyland from losing its magic.

September is faced with some difficult scenario’s in this book and I feel that is what makes this book much better than the first one. I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland but this book had much more depth. Usually Middle Grade Fairytale books are characterized by their black and white view of the world, where the main character is represent good and the villain represents evil. Although these stories can be lots of fun there is an enormous degree of predictability in those stereotyped books. After all, it is rarely that evil wins. Cathrynne Valente tried break down this binary of good and evil and that made for a very fun read!

When September is confronted with her shadow’s evilness, she is indirectly faced with her own evilness, as shadows take on all the bad traits that people normally not really express in their character. And September’s shadow has a valid point: why shouldn’t the shadows deserve their own chance at happiness? September is faced with a major dilemma: on the one hand Fairyland is losing its shadows and on the other hand there are shadows that she cannot rob of their newly received freedom. It is this conflict that makes this book so interesting, because this starting point there are so many scenario’s that can play out. There is a very real chance that evil might win this time!

As mentioned in the review of the first book, The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland, I do not really consider this book to be Middle Grade. First because it has much more depth than Middle Grade and secondly because there use of language is advanced. There were some words and phrases that I did not get, and although I am not a native speaker I do consider my language level adequate enough to comprehend 99% of what I read.

Bottom-line is that I enjoyed this book. September is a clever girl who really thinks for herself and questions the motivations of others. This makes for a very interesting journey in the quest for the shadows of Fairyland. Even if you thought that the first book was just ok, I still urge you to give this a try; there are so many wonderful things to discover in Fairyland!

5 Stars

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Review: The Book of Tomorrow – Cecilia Ahern

6631792Title: The Book of Tomorrow
Author: Cecilia Ahern
Publication Date: January 1, 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre/themes: Mystery, Fantasy, Contemporary, Chick Lit, Magic Realism
Source: My local library
Series?: No this is a standalone.

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Born into the lap of luxury and comfortable in the here and now, spoiled, tempestuous Tamara Goodwin has never had to look to the future–until the abrupt death of her father leaves her and her mother a mountain of debt and forces them to move in with Tamara’s peculiar aunt and uncle in a tiny countryside village.
Tamara is lonely and bored, with a traveling library as her only diversion. There she finds a large leather-bound book with a gold clasp and padlock, but no author name or title. Intrigued, she pries open the lock, and what she finds takes her breath away.
Tamara sees entries written in her own handwriting, and dated for the following day. When the next day unfolds exactly as recorded, Tamara realizes she may have found a solution to her problems. But in her quest to find answers, Tamara soon learns that some pages are better left unturned and that, try as she may, she mustn’t interfere with fate.

My thoughts:
I was so misled by the cover and the author. To be honest, I had expected to find a romancy, chick-lit type book. Instead I found an amazing story, full of magic and mystery. So much more than I had bargained for and therefore it exceeded all of my expectations.

Tamara was the one that found him; her father after he killed himself. Turns out that daddy has immense debts and she and her mom are losing everything. Since they no longer have a house they move to rural Irish countryside to leave with Tamara’s uncle and aunt. One day she finds a blank diary in a traveling library. The next day, however, the diary is not so empty.

This was such an amazing book <3! With every page there was more mystery. Mystery about the diary, mystery about her mother who since moving only sleeps, about her aunt who wants to control everything and then there is that mysterious house on the other side of the road, where Tamara is not allowed to go. Questions, I had so many questions. I just wanted to know so bad what the hell was going on! This book was like a puzzle. Every few pages there was a new clue, that exposed a little bit more about all the weird stuff that was going on. But there were always such plausible explanations for the mystery that at one point I began to question Tamara’s sanity, and even my own! I was totally ready for a very disappointing end, but instead the ending I got was everything I hoped for. Like I said, the entire story fitted together like a puzzle!

Tamara was an amazing narrator. She left nothing out. Especially her self-reflection was very inspiring. Tamara is not a nice person. If I would have met her like she was at the beginning of The Book of Tomorrow, I would never have liked her in a million years. But Tamara knows this about herself. Under all the harshness and meanness, Tamara is just a young woman afraid of abandonment. Coming from a one child household, where her parents were already busy, she feels really alone. This loneliness drives her to lash out against anybody that is coming close, even people that mean very well to her. I have a lot of respect for the side characters in this book. They had to put up with a lot of trouble and a lot of bad mouthing from Tamara, but they all saw the goodness in her. Brick for brick the wall around Tamara came down.

I also really liked the concept of the diary. I won’t give away to much about it because you have to find out for yourself what the impact of the diary is. I can say that it was really cool concept and it added a lot of magic to the story. I would have liked even more diary! But in the end I totally agreed with Tamara’s decision concerning the diary. It prevented her from fully living!

The setting of this book was also really magical. Tamara’s aunt and uncle live on the grounds of a burned down castle, in rural Ireland. The descriptions about the former glory of the castle and the chapel were amazing. The story just really fit into the setting and added to the mystery. After long walks through the empty woods and a visit to a scorched castle I would start to question the freaky things too! All in all this was an amazing book that really went above and beyond my expectations. I am certainly glad that my prejudice towards this cover did not stop me from reading it! Consequently I have added all of Cecilia Ahern’s books to my wishlist :).

5 Stars

Review: The Girl Who Circumnagivated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente

9591398Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Publication Date: May 10, 2011
Publisher: Much-In-Little
Genre/themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Fairies
Source: My own bookshelf
Series?: Yes #1 in the Fairyland Series

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

My thoughts:
This was a re-read for me. I read this for the first time last year and I was very charmed with the book. I took me a very long time to buy books 2 and 3 so I decided to re-read this one to get more into the story.

This story starts with September, a little girl from Omaha. She rides on the back of the Green Wind to Fairyland where she meets the evil Marquess, and finds out that Fairyland needs saving. Is September up for the job? This story is wonderful! The cover is gorgeous, the characters are magical and the adventure is just all over the place, in a good way ;)!

Let me start with September. September is such a sweet girl. She has a good heart (well, at least she grows a good one) and she is desperate for an adventure. She gets this in the form of a quest. September meets really awesome beings on this quest. She becomes friends with a Marid, named Saturday and a Wyvern, named A-through-L. There is really not much I can tell you about all the other creatures she meets because there are just so many! Catherynne Valente did such a fantastic job coming up with the magical world of Fairyland. She really has great imagination!

I first thought that this book was Middle Grade but I really think that this book is a little too difficult to classify it as that. The language is not geared toward Middle Graders as it quite complex and also there is some plus 14 content, as some scenes are painted quite vivid. I think this is a pity because this would be such a wonderful book to read out loud. Don’t know if there are any fourteen year old’s out there that want to be read to, haha.

It is just really difficult to explain why this is such a fun and good book. It has really pretty chapter headers, with wonderful illustrations. September is a really likeable character and I would want to go on an adventure with her! It was not all rainbows and sunshine however, because there was certainly some evil going on. There is not a lot of depth in the characters but I think that would only muddle up the magical qualities of this story. This re-read was somewhat less enjoyable than the first time I read it, just because of the flatness of the characters, but still well worth a read. There is really not a lot more I can tell you other than: read it!

4 Stars

Review: Three to get Deadly – Janet Evanovich

Three to get Deadly - Stephanie PlumTitle: Three to get Deadly
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publication date: February 15, 1997
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre/themes: Mystery, Humor, Crime
Source:
From my own bookshelf
Series?: Yes, the is book 3 in the Stephanie Plum series.

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

WARNING THIS IS BOOK 3 IN A SERIES. THIS REVIEW MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS.

Goodreads Synopsis:
A “saintly” old candy store owner is on the lam – and bounty hunter extraordinaire Stephanie Plum is on the case. As the body count rises, Stephanie finds herself dealing with dead drug dealers and slippery fugitives on the chase of her life. And with the help of eccentric friends and family, Steph must see to it that this case doesn’t end up being her last….

My thoughts:
Stephanie is tasked with bringing in candy store owner Moses. Mo is a well loved member of the community and nobody believes that he could be capable of doing anything illegal. Stephanie runs into a lot of hostility and seems to be stuck, nobody willing to help her. Except of course, Joe Morelli who would do anything to catch the bad guys!

This was such a fun book! One for the Money was my first venture into mystery and I haven’t yet regretted it. The Stephanie Plum novels are funny and mysterious at the same time! Stephanie is still in the process of learning bounty hunting and like I have said before, this is one of the most realist aspect of the novels. I would not have believed in she had turned bounty hunter extraordinaire overnight; the fact that she is still make lots of (funny) mistakes really makes her super endearing!

I was a little disappointed that Grandma Mazur did not have a large role in this book. I really like her Two for the Dough and I had hoped to see more of her. I expect that she will show up in future novels though ;). Instead Stephanie had a different sidekick in Three to get Deadly. A woman, who packs a little bit more punch than Grandma Mazur. Lula, now also working for Vinnie’s bond agency, was a hooker that Stephanie rescued in One for the Money. Since then, Lula is looking for ways to repay Stephanie for her kindness. She feels that the best way to do this, is aiding Stephanie in her research into Mo. Lula is a kick ass woman and I would not want to meet her angry. She is also really funny and has hilarious one liners! Lula, however, has an intense aversion for law-enforcement so Stephanie found herself alone and abandoned more than once, which made for some awkward situations :).

The only down side of this book was that the ending was a little hard to follow. The ending made sense but I did not really quite get how Stephanie connected the dots to get to the conclusion. I might have read over the lines but still it could have been a little clearer! Nothing really major wrong with this book. It is just really enjoyable :).

The last thing I want to mention is that I think that all three Stephanie Plum novels I read so far were all really original. They have widely varying story lines and I don’t have the feeling that I am reading episodes of a TV show where the patterns are always the same. Hopefully Janet Evanovich will keep me guessing in books to come! I have ordered book 4 and 5 a few days ago so hopefully I’ll get them soon.

4 Stars

Review: Romeo & Juliet – William Shakespeare

286808Title: Romeo and Juliet
Author: William Shakespeare
Publication date: 1597
Genres/themes: Classic, Play, Romance, Drama
Source: The No Fear Sparknotes edition online

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

My thoughts:
I will not go very in depth in this review because so much has already been said. I am not an expert of 16th century literature and have nothing to compare it to so these are just so random thoughts.

This was not the first time that I read Romeo and Juliet; when I was in high school we got a visit from a group of actors who perform Shakespeare plays. We got a week long workshop and at the end of the week we did a small performance of the play (luckily only our teachers and the Shakespeare crew were in the audience!). We went rather in depth during that week but to be fairly honest I did not remember a single detail when I began reading the book this time around. I first tried to read the original text but I got so bogged down that I read the Sparknotes’ No Fear text instead. It is basically the original text with a modern English version alongside it. I did not need the modern version all the time but I was very convenient to consult it from time to time, to make sure that I understood the play correctly!

If you want to critique this play there are so many things you can find that are worthy of critique. Yes, Romeo is totally weird for loving Rosaline so much he almost drowns in self-pity first, and then all of sudden becoming infatuated with Juliet. Yes, Romeo is arrogant. Yes, Juliet is just a spoiled girl. Yes, Juliet is 14. All those things are true. People often forget, however, that you have to read Shakespeare in the context it was written in. It was perfectly fine to marry at a much younger age in the 16th century. Love was an entirely different concept, and Romeo has a right, as a male, to feel superior to girls. These things all make sense when put into perspective. If you strip down Romeo and Juliet, its core just shows to what lengths people in love are willing to go. For me, that is exactly the message I got from these. Sometimes two people just feel that they are meant for each other and nobody can keep them away. I loved that the Friar recognized that the love between Romeo and Juliet was real and that he helped them to get married rather than let them commit sins. The Friar, and his female counterpart The Nurse really made Romeo and Juliet happen. Without them, the ending would not have been as tragic, but they probably would have wither slowly, unable to ever be together. Although harsh, at least they are together in death.

The first act I listened to in audiobook form. I really liked the idea that I was listening to an actual play because each character had his/her distinct voice. As I said, it was hard to follow, because they recited the original version but now that I have read the play and feel more familiar with it, I really want to see the play sometimes. I know that there are many troupes that regularly perform Romeo and Juliet, so if they ever play here I am certainly going to try and see it!

Because it is a classic love story, I give Romeo and Juliet 4 stars.

4 Stars

 

 

Review: Girl of Nightmares – Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares - Kendare BlakeTitle: Girl of Nightmares
Author: Kendare Blake
Publication date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Orchard Books
Genre/themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Ghosts, Supernatural
Source: From my own bookshelf
Series?: This is the second and final book in the Anna series

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

WARNING, THIS IS BOOK 2 IN A SERIES, REVIEW CAN CONTAIN SPOILERS.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Cas Lowood is no ordinary ghost hunter – he’s in love with a dead girl. Her name is Anna Korlov. Anna Dressed in Blood. The girl who sacrificed herself to save his life. Racked with guilt, Cas sets out to do what he does best – hunt a ghost. But this time his aim is not to kill. He must rescue Anna from the depths of Hell. But Hell is also home to a creature Cas has battled before…Just your average boy meets girl, girls gets sucked into hell story.

My thoughts:
I was disappointed with this. After reading Anna Dressed in Blood I was really surprised with the YA Horror genre. Girl of Nightmares did not live up to the expectations set by Anna. And that really bummed me out.

First off, I thought that Cas was incredibly selfish throughout the first half of the book. His mom worries about him so much and he just totally disregards her emotions. Not once, not twice, but all the time. She is the only family she has left and Cas puts himself into danger over and over again. Since he is not particularly careful with himself I cannot imagine the dread his mother must have gone through. I just could not understand why we was so self-centered. He just demanded so much of his mom and friends and really gave them nothing in return. I was amazed that they were willing to put up with his ego. They must have been super good friends to go through that and still remain loyal. The second half was better. Cas started to realize that his behavior was negatively effecting his mother and became more careful. From then onwards he also tried to keep Thomas and Carmel out of his business. But, guess what, they were not going to let themselves get chased away. Convenient, huh?

This book was really not scary at all. Really hard if your trying to be a horror book. In Anna Dressed in Blood I had a few arm hair raising moments but there was only one scene in Girl of Nightmares where I was generally spooked. That scene was not even really long. That was perhaps my biggest disappointment; not living up to his genre. If this had been a paranormal book, fine. But this is a horror book and it was not scary. And there was not a whole lot of action. Certainly in the middle the book dragged. Never a good sign.

What did I like? Most of all the ending. For once (without spoiling) Cas was not selfish. He did what was best for all the parties involved. It gave the book a really neat, closed-off ending. There was no argument and no chance to get back from it. I like it when there are no loose ends. The last couple of scenes in general were just really good. I would have liked that much action throughout the book though. Another thing I liked was the further development of Thomas and Carmel. They really became more and more there own characters. I already found this a huge plus point in Anna Dressed in Blood, but in this it became more evident. I really liked the world, although I am glad that ghost are not real, and the concept of Cas’ astame sending away those ghost is really cool. Despite my disappointment about this book, because it just couldn’t live up to my expectations, I am definitely going to check out more of Kendare Blake’s books because I do really like her writing :).

3 Stars

Review: Prince Caspian – C.S. Lewis

587316Title: Prince Caspian
Author: C.S. Lewis
Publication Date: March 5, 2002 (First published 1951)
Publisher: Harper Trophy
Genre/themes: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Classic, Adventure
Source: From my own bookshelves
Series?: Yes, this is book 4 (Chronological Order)/book 2 (Publication Order) in the Chronicles of Narnia

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

Goodreads Synopsis:
The Pevensie siblings travel back to Narnia to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

My thoughts:
I am reading the books in chronological order so this was the fourth book I read. So far it is also the best one. Especially since I was not really happy with book 3, this was a nice change of pace.

First off I am very glad we are back in Narnia. After all this is called the Chronicles of Narnia and not the Chronicles of the Neighboring Countries of Narnia. I also liked that the for me typical characters of Narnia, the Pevensies and Aslan, were featured in this story. This story was just so much better than the last one. First, adventure. Real adventure! It has been a year since the Pevensie children returned from the wardrobe and they are off to boarding school. All of sudden they are magically sucked back to Narnia. In the year that they have been gone, time has gone a lot faster in Narnia. In their absence another line of kings have come to power, kings that have driven away the true inhabitants of Narnia. But there is an alternative: Prince Caspian!

I liked how the involvement of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy was not clear right away. It did not give away that much and that is really important with such short novels. Because of the shortness it often becomes very predictable what is going to happen. Of course, Middle Grade fantasy has a guaranteed happy ending so I could guess which direction the book was going to go but still, a lot was left to my imagination.

I love the quirky characters of all the animals in this novel! The lazy bear, the valiant mouse and the clever badger! They really make this story so magical, especially for children. Nothing is more awesome than talking animals! I would love to have a talky and fuzzy squirrel :). The only thing that I did not really like was the quick resolve in the end. The build-up towards the end is good, and there are certainly a lot of scenes I enjoyed but all of a sudden it was the end. I cannot really extend this review that much longer because I will be giving away to much of the story then. Let’s just say that I hope that the last 3 have the same level of entertainment as this one!

4 Stars

Review: Ascension of the Whyte – Karen Wrighton

22451703Title: Ascension of the Whyte
Author: Karen Wrighton
Publication date: June 9, 2014
Publisher: Sleepless Psyche Publications
Genre/themes: Fantasy, Magic, Young Adult
Source: Won in a giveaway hosted by author
Series?: Yes, this is book 1 in the Afterland Chronicles

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sara Carson did not believe in life after death, Heaven, Hell or even reincarnation. However, what she didn’t know was that some of us are special. For some of us, death is just the beginning of our next great adventure. Sara Carson was one of those special people, and her most incredible journey did not begin, until the day she died.

My thoughts:
I was completely thrown off by the synopsis. I expected to get a story about life after death and how death is just the beginning of a journey. I expected bright lights and heaven, that sort of thing. What I did not expect, however, was to get a fantasy book. A good, solid fantasy book. That is my first big compliment. This synopsis intrigued me and still gave nothing away about the story. Maybe other publishers can start to do this is as well?

In the prologue we meet Sara Carson. Sara Carson is not the main character of this book. Well, she is and she isn’t. Sara Carson is hit by a truck and dies. That is where her story begins. This book takes place in the Afterlands. A place were certain people go after they die on earth. Living on earth is not really the main point for the people that go to the Afterlands. What takes place after death on earth is much more important. For centuries 4 casts have lived in Afterland, but a 1000 years ago one of the casts was destroyed. When Sara, now Rose, arrives in the Afterland through the awesome process of re-incarnation she is a the first Whyte to arrive in a century. She get’s the daunting task the unite the Afterlands.

I liked the setting immediately. The magical feeling I got reminded me a lot of Harry Potter. In a good way. I got the same: I want to go there and learn all the magic-type feeling. Rose was a really likeable character and although she seems sweet and shy at first, she is a kick ass woman who knows what she stand for. Her novice cell has suck likeable characters as well. Ash, Auriel and Lee all have distinct personalities and I hope that they get a more distinct role in the next book. Although I liked Rose a lot, I would have liked to get a little bit more of her thoughts. Because of the omniscient narration, you get a lot of information, but it therefore lacks a focus (in terms of emotions, feelings and thoughts) on person. The narration works for the novel but since I love the world and characters so much, I would have liked more thoughts.

I noticed that Karen Wrighton put a lot of research and thought into her world building. Nothing was left to improvisation. She had a really clear sense of what everything looked like and how things function in the Afterlands. Sometimes this led to somewhat elaborate descriptions that I skimmed over but overall it really helped me to get into the novel. So far I have not really noticed any things that don’t make sense. Everything in the book makes sense according to the rules of the Afterlands. One aspect I thought was particularly clever was the concept of re-incarnation Karen Wrighton used. The novices that arrive in the Afterlands are actually spirits/souls that have been in the Afterlands before. That means that all their knowledge and power is already somewhere in their conscious, which explains their rather rapid learning.

The biggest problem for me in this book was that there were still some editorial errors. Quotations often missed end punctuation and sometimes I missed words in sentences that didn’t really make sense without them. An extra run-through by an editor would not have been in vain. These minor errors are really a shame because at times they pulled me out the story. Overall, however, I really like this book. This is certainly a very good beginning of what is (hopefully!) going to be a very awesome series. Unfortunately, there is not indication of a release date for book 2, but I am keeping my eyes open. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

4 Stars

Review: Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

126381Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication date: 2003
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre/themes: Realist fiction, Cultural – Africa, Historical Fiction
Source: Borrowed from the library
Series?: No, this book is a standalone.

You can add this book to Goodreads by clicking the cover.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.

When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.

My thoughts:
This book was really interesting on two levels. One the first level it is my first encounter with a book by an African author set in a country where I know very little about. The time period is right about a military coup and the consequence of that coup are very visible. The second level is the story of Kambili and her family. In their situation the military coup is a part of the background rather than the main event in their lives.

So first, the military coup. I know, like I said, little to nothing about the history of Africa. That is really one of the reasons for me to pick this up. The situation that Nigerians had to deal with is terrible. There is scarcity of food, water, electricity. Basically everything. Even a well trained professor like Kambili’s aunt has problems with feeding her family. People disappear when they speak out against the regime. The people revolt but nothing really changes. Instead of staying and trying to chance things the educated people are fleeing to America. How awful this may sound, this was not the main theme of this book. I was really the backdrop to which this story was set. A reminder that things can be terrible outside your door but that they can be even worse inside.

Kambili and her family live a good life. Kambili’s father is wealthy and own a newspaper and several factories. They have enough money for food and life in a big house. Kambili’s father Eugene is a devoted Christian. They go to mass every Sunday and there are lengthy prayer sessions before each meal and before bed. Eugene is in essence a good person, a really loving father and husband. But, and this was difficult to accept for me at first, he is a good person despite the terrible things he does in the name of Christianity. His abuse was not OK, but it was not fueled by his hatred but rather by his fear for the wrath of God. This shed an entirely new light on how behavior works. Beliefs can make you a better person, but also a more evil person. Kambili loves her father. Sometimes she is ashamed she does. Especially when Eugene lashes out against her brother Jaja, or his wife. But Kambili understand why her father does it. I think that this takes incredible courageous; she remains believing in the goodness of her father.

Jaja, is different. He cannot reconcile the goodness of his father (that he believes in at first) with the abuse. When Jaja and Kambili go to live with her aunt for some time, they see how different a family can be. At first they are strangers to their cousins but something beautiful happens when they strengthen their family bonds. Here is where Jaja can bloom and become his own person. From then on he goes against his father. He reacts in ways Kambili never can. The ending is unsuspected and it took me some time to figure out what was happening after the last page. This read was really powerful and provided me with new insights.

4 Stars

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

4327066Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Publication date: February 2, 1999 (first published 1999)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre/themes: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, LGBT, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Romance
Source: Borrowed from my sister
Series?: No, this book is a standalone

Goodreads Synopsis:
“I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they’re here. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day…or wondering who did the heart breaking and wondering why.”

Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

My thoughts:
Charlie is a wallflower. He does not participate in life. He has been like that ever since his Aunt died. He is the boy on the sidelines. Then one day he just decided to walk up to Patrick and Sam. The three of them become the most beautiful friends. That part of the book I really liked. Charlie cares deeply for his friends, especially Sam, whom he is (not so secretly) crushing on. Their relationship is natural. They are there for each other when they need to be but know when to give space as well. Charlie finally learns that there is more to life that just being

That is the mean message I got from this book. There is just so much more to life that going with the flow and doing what is expected of you. By deciding your own direction, so many beautiful things can happen. Bit by bit, Charlie blossoms and becomes his own person. There is, however, always a little something that holds him back. The moment he reached complete happiness, there is always the fall. Then he goes to a place where no one can reach him. For me this is where the trouble started. I just can’t understand why exactly he does not allow himself to be happy. It might be somewhere in the book, somewhere between the lines and I just didn’t catch it but still, there was no ‘ahah’ moment at the end of the book. No big reveal which would clear up some of the unexplained thing.

This book is in letter form, letters Charlie has been writing to an anonymous friend. This friend never writes back (at least not that I know of) and it never becomes clear who this person actually is. I find it kind of weird that Charlie pours his heart out to this stranger by writing letter after letter, but I seems to help him. I really wanted to know who this person was. It think that hints to the bigger problem I have with this book. There were just too many mysteries left to solve and I don’t like when books do that.

I also found it a bit unrealistic that all of his friends were so much older than him (15 versus 18). I know I doesn’t seem a lot now, but certainly in High School there is a big difference in maturity. I do believe that Charlie was mature enough to be Sam and Patrick’s friend. I do however, not think that he would be so readily accepted by seniors. Especially because he is really shy and awkward at times. That makes Charlie a really likeable person and Sam and Patrick very good friends but it’s a friendship that only happens to one in a million. Which could of course make it all the more beautiful ;)!

The reason I give this book 3 stars is because I really, really like the friendship part. It left me with too many questions to really be satisfied when I was done. And despite liking Charlie a lot, it just couldn’t get swept away. Despite it being only a 230 page book, it took me 4 days to read. Normally I would blaze through in 2 days max. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so that is next on my to do list. I hope things get a little clearer then.

3 Stars
This book was the first book I read for the LGBT challenge hosted by Cayce from Fighting Dreamer. You can find my sign-up post here.

LGBT Challenge - Fighting Dreamer