Book Review: The Stolen Ones - Vanessa Curtis

Book Review: The Stolen Ones – Vanessa Curtis

My name is Inge. I am sixteen. I live in Munich. Food is rationed, though the war ended years ago. My boyfriend is Jewish. My parents would not approve, so I hide this from them. I think they are hiding something from me, too. Letters arrive on my birthday, but they are not addressed to me. They are for a girl named Kasia. This is her story.

After picking this up at YALC I thought I knew what this book would be about and I was pleasantly proved wrong while reading The Stolen One. This has a lot of twists and turns throughout which I didn’t expect – it’s kind of part historical fiction, part mystery. Different, but I like it.

What stood out for me about this book is that it focused on the wider Nazi horrors and what they did to a large number of communities as well as the Jewish population. A lot of WW2 and post war fiction focuses on the Holocaust – and rightfully so! But, it means that I haven’t read much about others who were impacted by the Nazi regime.

I really liked Inge, I found her to be intelligent and headstrong but also realistic for a 16 year old who’s surrounded by secrets. It shows both the good and bad in people and that just because a war ends, doesn’t mean that things go back to normal. There is a lot of confusion, hurt and pain after such an event.

The relationships Inge have are vital to the plot and it was clear there was both planning and care that went into writing them. At times I felt the her conflict and confusion. The novel did a great job of capturing that age where you realise the adults around you are humans with their own flaws, thoughts and feelings that might not match yours.

I do wish that the book had been longer, I felt that there could have been even more to the novel and get into some more depth – I can’t pinpoint where I would have liked it because it would be a massive spoiler!

Last but not least, I learned a great deal from this book about parts of the war I knew nothing about and after reading I definitely want to do some of my own research. This was so well told – I really want to have a read of other novels by Vanessa Curtis at some point.

I gave this 4 stars, I thought this book was interesting and there were quite a few twists that I didn’t see coming which was really appreciated. If you enjoy fiction about WW2 this will be a good read for you even though it is set after the end of the war. I’d really love to know more about what happens to the characters after the end of the novel as well which is a sign they were well written.

Book Review – Vicious – V.E Schwab

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Well, this was a bit bloody brilliant wasn’t it? Vicious was the first V.E Schwab book I read and I’m more than a little bit in love with the novel and plot. Victor and Eli are both stand out characters and, more so, I was just knocked sideways by how smart the plot was.

When I first started reading the novel I did get a bit confused, there’s quite a few characters to start with quite early on, we’re going between modern day for the characters and 10 years ago. That took quite a bit of getting used to and I had to really concentrate at times to make sure I knew what was going on. However, once I got past that I was obsessed with this book.

Personally, I love Victor he was definitely my favourite character, even if he wasn’t always likeable. I feel that all of the characters were interesting but there was just something about Victor that I found so interesting, possibly in his way of thinking, his motives. I didn’t quite connect with Eli the same way but I might in the next novel, who knows?

This is a book that really kept me reading, I needed to know what what going to happen – how the ‘game’ was going to play out and more importantly who was going to survive. And I was completely hooked. I also had a huge soft soft for Sydney and needed to know what was going to happen to her.

Also, no spoilers but that ending, THAT ENDING. I absolutely loved it and I’m quite glad I picked up both novels after Vengeful was released because while I am taking time to process between books I can go to the next one without that much of a wait.

I gave this 5 stars, I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. I am kicking myself for not picking up a V.E Schwab novel sooner. She is clearly an incredible story teller and I can’t wait to see what happens in Vengeful.

What My Star Ratings Mean

What My Star Ratings Mean!

We’ve all seen the normal way of rating books. 1 Star to 5 Star, but what those ratings mean to people can really vary. So, I thought I’d make it clear what my ratings mean and give you some examples of books I’ve loved and loathed!

1 Star

Why was this written? What was the point of it at all? Normally it will be a one star if I find that it’s offensive, ridiculous or just nasty. It takes a lot for a book to be 1 star.

 

2 Star

When I don’t like a book. There’s always a reason behind it, usually, if I find it boring or don’t like the way in which it’s written. Also, it can be the topic and how it is portrayed.

3 Star

This doesn’t mean the book is good or bad, but just meh. There’s probably some things I don’t rate about it. It could be the pace, the plot or the writing. I simply means that I probably won’t pick it up again and it’ll eventually make its way to the donate/give away/selling pile.

4 Star

This book was really, really great. I loved certain aspects of it and I’m going to recommend it to people. For X reason it was quite a 5 star for me but damn it was good.

5 Star

OH MY GOD WOW, EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS. IM GETTING ALL MY FRIENDS A COPY AND TWEETING THE AUTHOR AND AHHHHH I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!

It’s true that over time I have been known to change ratings depending on how I feel. A book I might have thought was a masterpiece at 15, I might not feel the same way about now. Similarly, I used to hate classics with a passion but now I’m a little older I can appreciate some of them and understand why they were so important! We change so much in life, which means our ratings will too!

 

How do you rate your books? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: The Surface Breaks – Louise O’Neill

The Surface Breaks - Louise O'Neill

There was a LOT of hype for this book. A feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid, umm all of the yes! I know that Louise O’Neill is a fantastic author who isn’t afraid to challenge taboos, but this was different. If you’re looking for the Disney version of the Little Mermaid (which I love to no end) this is not for you. This is much more gritty.

We meet Gaia, the youngest princess of the Sea King. She and her older sisters are the pride of the kingdom must be perfect at all times. As her fathers favourite, Gaia faces her own pressures, including her fate as the most beautiful princess with a voice of gold. But Gaia wants more. She wants to know what life is like above the water, to know why her mother would risk it all just to see the human world.

This was heavily promoted as a feminist retelling. This wasn’t wrong but I wouldn’t have promoted it that way. The feminist aspects, I feel, don’t come into the novel until much later. There is a lot of misogyny and I felt quite uncomfortable reading parts, which was completely the point. That said, if you’re uncomfortable with misogyny, body perceptions or homophobia this may be a challenging need.

I also found it fascinating that this brings the fairytale into a more modern world. I wasn’t completely sure when this was set but it’s definitely not in an older time period, which I feel might have worked better? But maybe that’s just me.

This novel does teach a lot and makes you look at the world but at times I felt that it was trying a little hard to be feminist. At times the lessons felt a little forced or predictable. That said, I feel its true merit lies in the last quarter of the novel and that saves it.
I’m so torn when reviewing this book. I loved the idea, I loved the premise but for the majority, I sat at 3 stars, until we got to the last few chapters which really impressed me. The Sea Witch was an excellent character and the novel itself did look at some really important notions of being a woman. There were parts that were quite graphic, but it didn’t feel out of place, it just drove the point home further. As a feminist retelling, I did really enjoy it but I also felt that the best part was pretty rushed. But the ending was so, so good, currently sitting between 3.5 and 4 stars.

Book Review: Notes On A Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig

In a world where we have constant access to social media, instant news and 24-hour access, the world can feel a little too fast. Now, I love social media, it’s one of my passions but even I need to step away sometimes. Matt Haig captures that in this book, that we as humans need to have that distance. We need to go on walks, to have someone step in sometimes and go hey, this is the real world. Well, I know I do!

I absolutely adored Matt’s previous book on mental health Reasons To Stay Alive. It talks about his own experiences of depression, as he stood at the age of 24 at the edge of a cliff, contemplating killing himself. But, how does someone get from that point? With great difficulty, but Matt has a beautiful way of writing about it. So, of course, I pre-ordered this the second I found out about it.

While I was reading this I was struggling with panic attacks, things weren’t going as planned, I’d lost my job and this is the book I needed. When I told people this book changed my life I meant it. This is broken down into short chapters, with lists, ideas and this format makes it so readable. I wasn’t sure at first but when the whole books is about breaking things down, slowing down and taking your time, it makes perfect sense.

The best thing is that Notes on a Nervous Planet doesn’t tell you to just stop using technology, sit in a field and meditate. Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to do that an avoiding the world around us isn’t possible, nor is it healthy. I was refreshing to read because it made me realise I wasn’t alone in feeling anxious about the speed of the world around us.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re struggling, if you’ve wondered if you’re alone in this then you need to read this book. Even if you haven’t I recommend reading this for a beautiful look at the world around us. This is an inspiring, thought-provoking and beautiful read.

2017 in review.

I’ve thought about, and more than slightly dreaded, writing this post for a few weeks now. What first came to my mind about this year was the negatives, because there have been more than a few. I’ve had more jobs this year than I wanted to, I’ve seen both the best and the worst in people and I’ve struggled myself. That said, when I was driving on Christmas Day, I realised I felt content. 

Let me explain. This time last year we were living at Ali’s Mums, I’d just started a new job that I wasn’t happy in and all in all I was quite low. In 12 months so much has changed for me and Ali. We’re in our own place, which was so special, we’re both working in jobs that we feel good at and enjoy and we’re happy. I’ve realised I can survive Ali being away for months at a time, and we can still get through tough times apart (I lost my job when he’d started the second month of tour, not great timing).

I’ve definitely seen the best and the worst of people this year, but through it, all learnt that I have some wonderful friends and that my family will always support me. When I was going through awful times this year, job hunting, going through the pain of spinal injections, losing Hamski and just feeling lost, I had people around me who cared.

Even though all that happened I fought my way through. For so long I’d thought, great, the ‘real world’ is about hating your job and being miserable. Thankfully, and while I never take any job for granted, I’ve actually found that I have so much passion working in Social Media, something I’ve wanted to do since I was a student. I’ve realised that if I’m in pain I can go back to the doctors and be firm with the help I need. I’ve learnt that, when I have to, I can survive on just texts and phone calls with Ali, even at the worst of times.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had a great time too! I’ve been to Pride in Brighton, got published in a magazine, went on holiday, fallen in love with another little hamster and grown my blog more than I thought I would.

So, while 2017 might not have been the easiest, it’s shown me that I’m resilient and you know what, sometimes, I’m pretty damn cool too.

Book Review: Riot Days – Maria Alyokhina

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In 2012 a group calling themselves Pussy Riot staged a protest ,called ‘Punk Prayer’, against Putin and the Russian government. Following their protest  the women were forced to go on the run from the law. Maria, called Masha in the memoir, is one member who gets caught and sent to prison for her ‘crimes’, this is her story.

The story of Pussy Riot hit headlines worldwide, women put in prison simply for protesting. Going into this memoir I didn’t know what to expect, I’d followed the story with interest but wondered what had happened to the women. This memoir explores the reasons behind the protest and what many people forget, the humans who lived it.

The book is set out in a fragmented style, almost as if it were a diary. That said it can make it incredibly hard to read. There were times when the book jumps between time frames and situations, which caused a lot of confusion while reading and meant that I often lost concentration while reading. I also think there was an issue with the translation, some things didn’t come across clearly, leaving me to guess what the author meant.

This is an important book to read, there is a lot we don’t know a lot about what happens to political prisoners. With Masha’s determination and status within her prisons she was able to make some changes to the way women were treated in prison. She was able to give them some basic human rights, many of which they are denied.

It is a fascinating look at the reasons behind the movement, however, there were points where I felt too distant from Masha, I didn’t feel like I knew her as a person. She mentions a son at the beginning but he’s hardly mentioned for the rest of the book, I wanted to know more about her life, her family and who she was outside Pussy Riot.

I gave Riot Days 3 stars. While I enjoyed it and thought that it was an interesting look at the life of a political prisoner and what lead her there. That said, there were issues with the way translations came across and the format made it incredibly difficult to follow.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for this review copy.