Tear Jerker – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

by Heather Morris

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Published 2018

Genres: Historical Fiction

“He must transfer the five digits onto the girl who holds it. There is already a number there but it is faded.
He pushes the needle into her left arm, making a 3, trying to be gentle.
Blood oozes.
But the needle hasn’t gone deep enough and he has to trace the number again.
She doesn’t flinch at the pain Lale knows he’s inflicting. They’ve been warned – say nothing, do nothing.
He wipes away the blood and rubs green ink into the wound. “

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia.

In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival—literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.

Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

Mel says…

I have been eager to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz since before it was released here in Australia. The Holocaust is such a dark time in human history and I feel that by listening/reading to the stories of the victims, that I am somehow paying my respects.

The incredible story of Lale and Gita’s survival over 3 years spent in Auschwitz-Birkenau, is absolutely mind blowing and incomprehensible.

Lale’s heroic, and sometimes ignorant, approach to survival ensured that many of his fellow Jews were able to fight of starvation and to work together to defy all odds and walk out of the concentration camp, when many, many people were not so fortunate.

From the recollection of the gas chambers, through to the shootings due to pure boredom by the SS guards, Lale recalls it all in this raw story, based on true events.

If you read one book this year, make it this one. It will send chills down your spine and make you appreciate how fortunate you are to not be exposed to such horrors.

Keep the tissues handy!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Yoga Book Club – Yoga School Dropout by Lucy Edge

 

 Yoga School Dropout

by Lucy Edge

 

Published 2005

Genres: Non-fiction / Travel & Adventure / Spirituality / Memoir

 

“Today asana has been made into a photograph,’ he said. ‘There is no difference between this and gymnastics. We see calendars with photographs of someone balancing on a rock in handstand, the sun setting between their hands, yoga in front of waterfalls, even naked yoga. But asana is not a performance, asana is what happens in the posture and afterwards. A circus man can do many postures – this is not asana.’

Lucy decides to leave her advertising job in London behind for a spiritual and yogic journey through India. Along the way she meets yogis from all different walks of life, tries different lineages of yoga, receives teachings from gurus, and learns things about herself that she never expected to.

 

Janelle says…

I’ve been mostly AWOL lately due to starting a new life chapter as a yoga teacher which, what with all the training and the practicing and the teaching and the reading and the studying, has really put the brakes on my reading and blogging time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving it and am super happy…but I do wish I had more like 48 hours in every day sometimes.

The good news though is that my yoga buddies and I have started a yoga book club. This is good news because 1) it’s my first ever book club and I’ve always wanted to be in one, and 2) instant book blog material! So here we go.

For our first book club read we chose this travelogue/memoir about a woman who travels to India to find authentic yoga and her true self. I found I really couldn’t warm to the main character until right near the very end. She was not well introduced at the start so I felt no connection with her whatsoever, as the story jumped straight in to her leaving her metropolitan life and job in advertising in order to run away to the other side of the world. I spent a lot of the book wondering who this woman really was, what was her deal, and did she even care about yoga or was she just there to be able to say she’d done it?

I did enjoy the tour through yogic India and the different people she met along the way, both from Indian and Western cultures. The topic of how yoga is viewed and practiced in India vs how it is portrayed in the West came up a few times and was intriguing, and I continued to think about it and try to form my own opinions even after putting the book down.

I also thought that there were a lot of yoga terms and Sanskrit words used, which, if you had little to no knowledge of yoga philosophy, would likely have gone straight over your head and supremely frustrated you. I don’t think this book is friendly to those with only a mild interest in yoga, it’s written with a lot of assumed knowledge and I think that let it down in making it less accessible.

Overall, I wasn’t expecting to absolutely love this book but I thought I would like it more than I did. If you’re really into yoga and you’ve done some reading on the history and philosophy behind it, you might enjoy this if the premise sounds good to you. For everyone else, give it a miss.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Quirky – Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Turtles all the Way Down

by John Green

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Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Young Adult

‘Okay, so there’s this scientist, and he’s giving a lecture to a huge audience about the history of the earth, and he explains that the earth formed billions of years ago from a cloud of cosmic dust…’

An old woman in the back raises her hand, and says, ‘That’s all fine and good, Mr Scientist, but the truth is the earth is a flat plane resting on the back of a giant turtle.’

‘The scientist decides to have a bit of fun with the woman and responds, ‘Well, but if that’s so, what is the giant turtle standing upon?’

And the woman says, ‘It is standing upon a shell of another giant turtle.’

And now the scientist is frustrated, and he says, ‘Well, then what is THAT turtle standing upon?’

And the old woman says, ‘Sir, you don’t understand. It’s turtles all the way down.’

“It’s turtles all the way fucking down, Holmesy. You’re trying to find the turtle at the bottom of the pile, but that’s not how it works.”

Mel says…

To be honest, before I requested this book from the library I didn’t actually read the synopsis. I purely wanted to read it based on my past experience reading John Green’s novels.

I love a good Young Adult fiction and this was no different. Such a cruisey and easy read that I managed to knock over within a couple of days.

Green creates such a loveable and quirky protagonist in Aza Holmes. At so many times I wanted to give her a big hug and try to help her get out of her head. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to suffer from OCD, but Green paints a damn realistic and horrifying picture.

Although at times I felt this novel was veering off course and going off on odd tangents, I still couldn’t help but enjoy the story of Aza.

3.5/5 stars – I am in a generous mood so have rounded this up to 4 stars!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy Read – Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

April 2018 – Janelle’s choice

Hex

by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Horror

“At first he didn’t understand where the heavy, stale stench of corpse was coming from. “Okay, just come…” he began, but then he heard the whispering. He looked around, straight into the tormented, nightmarish face of Katherine van Wyler.”

Welcome to Black Spring, a picturesque town with an ugly secret. A 17th century woman with sewn shut eyes and mouth walks its streets day and night… enters its homes… watches its people when they sleep. They call her the Black Rock Witch.

So accustomed to her presence they’ve become, the townsfolk often forget she’s there. Or what will happen if her eyes ever open.

 

Janelle says…

Expectations were high for this one, it had been talked up and guaranteed to deliver the scares. The premise sounded so good to me – a seemingly normal town, with the exception of an ancient witch from the dead who randomly pops up in the street, in people’s houses, etc., and this is so normal to the people who live there that they barely bat an eyelid. WHAT?!

I went back and forth on this one while reading it, I enjoyed the beginning but then found the book to drag a little, then it picked up again, then dragged a little, and then I raced through the end because I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen. So in terms of a story, yes I think this delivered.

But the big question is, was it scary? And surprisingly I’d have to say “meh”. It was creepy, sure, but I didn’t find myself hiding under the covers at night like I thought I would be. And let’s face it, that’s what I was here for. So while I did enjoy this read, I felt it didn’t really deliver on its promise to me, and so I can’t go above a 3-star rating.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Mel says…

Please note that I am STILL shivering from some of the creepy moments in Hex.  I have read only a handful of horror books in my life (criminal, I know!) and all have been good reads, but none of ever made me feel like I need to look over my shoulder to make sure I am in fact still alone in my room. Enter Hex…

Janelle introduced this book to me by saying she’d heard it is ‘one of the scariest books ever written’, so I was initially sceptical/eager to see what all the fuss was about.

The first 1/4 of the book was a bit of a drag and to be honest, I didn’t understand the initial introductions of the “witch” better known as Katherine. All of a sudden a family is having dinner while an ancient witch, whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut, is standing motionless in their living room. Like seriously, wtf!? Then the shivers started.

By the halfway mark I was upset that there wasn’t enough time in my day for me to sit and purely read, with no distractions. I stayed up until the wee-hours of the morning and got out of bed early on Sunday to finish this eerie book and I was glad I did.

The ending made me want to cry, and that wasn’t the first time I felt this way. Aside from the chill-factor, Hex was also a story about the lengths a parent will go to to protect their child. Love does funny things to people and this was very apparent.

This wasn’t quite 5 stars, so I am doing a cheeky 4.5. Grab a blanket, hot tea and Hex. Thank me later!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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Yawn – The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

The History of Bees

by Maja Lunde

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Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Crime Fiction

“The little plastic container was full of the gossamer gold, carefully weighed out. I tried to transfer invisible portions lightly out of the container and over into the trees.

Each individual blossom was to be dusted with the tiny brush of hen feathers, from hens scientifically cultivated for precisely this purpose. No feathers of artificial fibers had proven nearly as effective. 

….in my district the tradition of hand pollination was more than a hundred years old. The bees here had disappeared back in the 1980’s, long before The Collapse;..”

 

 Mel says…

This was in my TBR pile for so long and I finally got my hands on a library copy. The History of Bees had such high praise on Goodreads, so I was really looking forward to the concept of 3 intertwining stories, all set in different eras of time.

The story of William, set in the 1800’s was probably my least favourite of the 3. He begins by being bedridden with an unexplained illness and his family try desperately to get him to begin participating in life once more. He is then driven by immense guilt from his children to get back on his feet (literally and figuratively) and develops a brilliant idea to design a new concept of bee hive. Fast forward through his dramas and his story begun to bore me to the point where I skipped the last handful of his chapters, as my care factor was ZERO!

George is a modern day bee keeper who has a struggling honey farm. He fights battles to keep his farm and family together. He is also an ignorant father and angered me to the point I wanted to throttle him with the book. Some of the conversations he held with his son and wife made me wonder how the hell these people managed to put up with him. Such a prat!

Finally we have Tao. Tao lives in China, post “Collapse” and works tirelessly to make ends meet. Her son is struck with a mystery illness and he is taken away for “treatment”, which Tao and her husband then have to struggle to find where their son was taken and what has happened to him. I related the most with Tao, as she demonstrates the lengths a mother will go to for her children. She is a fighter and a bad ass woman, who never gives up hope of finding her son alive.

Overall, The History of Bees had very few subtleties as to how each story related to the next and I found the minor links boring. I am still scratching my head as to how this book has such a high star rating on Goodreads because I unapologetically give it 2 stars.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy Read – Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

January 2018 – Mel’s choice

Everything, Everything

by Nicola Yoon

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Young Adult

“According to the Big Bang theory, the universe came into being in one single moment – a cosmic cataclysm that gave birth to black holes, brown dwarfs, matter and dark matter, energy and dark energy. It gave birth to galaxies and stars and moons and suns and planets and oceans. It’s a hard concept to hold on to – the idea that there was a time before us. A time before. 

In the beginning there was nothing. And then there was everything.”

 

Maddy is allergic to the world; stepping outside the sterile sanctuary of her home could kill her. 

But then Olly moves in next door. And just like that, Maddy realises there’s more to life than just being alive.

You only get one chance at first love. And Maddy is ready to risk everything, everything to see where it leads.

 

Mel says…

This book had been sitting on my Goodreads ‘to read’ shelf for so long, so as part of my 2018 Reading Resolution to read more of the books on my current ‘to read’ shelf, I chose this for our first buddy read of the year.

I’m glad this was the first buddy read of the year, as it gave me the warm and fuzzies. I liked the unusual plot line of Madeline being a “bubble girl” and reading about the life  challenges she faces each day, being so isolated from the open world.

It was very clear through the narrative that Maddy was a positive, well educated young lady, who had a very loving mother. To begin with, she didn’t appear to loath life in her “bubble” as she simply didn’t understand what she was missing out on in the outside world.

As the plot develops, this shifts and her world opens up to mass possibilities.

One negative I could find, and this is minor, is that there were many similarities to John Green’s ‘A Fault in Our Stars’, in a young romance novel way, but this did not deter me from enjoying this book.

I highly recommend this book to all of my Aussie friends as a great summer beach read, or to anyone else enjoying an icy start to their year, for a cosy warm hug.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Janelle says…

The premise of this book had me intrigued, and like Mel, it had been on my TBR for a long time.

This was a welcome change of pace for me, and most of all I enjoyed the sweetness of the relationship between the two teen protagonists, Maddy and Olly. I also loved how the book was formatted, with drawings, IM chat transcripts, made-up word definitions etc., strewn throughout to break up the text and show a different perspective of their daily lives.

I had been expecting more focus on the way Maddy had to live her life because of her illness, isolated from the world and never without risk of being infected by a mystery contagion. That aspect of the plot was probably what interested me most, but in fact I found the book didn’t seem to dwell too much on it. I also thought that the connection between Maddy and Olly was all a bit too sudden and convenient to be believable.

So this didn’t rock my world, but I would definitely recommend this if you enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars or if you’re a fan of YA in general.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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2017 wrap-up – our top books and reading goals

2017…what a confusing little devil you were! Either so up you’re up, or so down you’re down. Frankly, you were a bit silly and you can go in the bin now.

But the good news is, we’ve finally put together our yearly wrap-up and goals for the next 12 months!

Janelle says…

My top 5 books of the year

Fever Dream – Samanta Schweblin

Unsettling, memorable, unique. I can’t compare this book to anything else I’ve read before, and I couldn’t not give it 5 stars after the profound experience of reading it. If you like books that push the boundaries and leave you thinking, you could give this one a try, just not if you’re a more conservative type.

Shelter – Jung Yun

I loved this book for the fact that it was both an exploration in to cultural and generational divides, and a page-turner to boot. It was confronting but also human. A wonderful surprise of a book.

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

One for the feels! This was all about the characters for me, Hannah Kent does characters so well and I just fell for them. She also does atmosphere well, and this would be a perfect cosy Autumn or Winter read.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

I just want more of this book, I would happily re-read it again and again. This is a bit of a “Swiss army” recommendation for me, it has something for everyone and I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it. I can’t WAIT for the movie!

One Dark Throne – Kendare Blake

This series has totally captured my imagination and my heart, I love it so much. The story is captivating and addictive, the world that Kendare Blake has created is intoxicating. Semi-dark fantasy with richly drawn characters (you’ll have a hard time choosing a favourite!). Would be great for Game of Thrones lovers. This is bound for the screen at some point, surely.

 

My reading goals

I failed my Goodreads reading challenge for the first time in 2017, falling short by 5 books. And that’s ok, because reading 43 books in a year is still great. I’ve really re-adjusted my Goodreads goal for this year to be more realistic, and I’m aiming for 24 books. That way, I can get to some of the chunkier books that are waiting to be read and not feel irritated by how long it’s taking me to get through them!

I was also kind of participating in the Shelf Love Challenge again this year. I say “kind of” because I didn’t really pay any attention to this at all after I set my goal, I didn’t blog about it, nothin’. I was aiming for between 21-30 of my books read this year to be from my own shelves, and ended up with a total of 15. Considering I currently have around 170 unread books at home (and that number’s about to grow – the Lifeline Bookfair is coming up you guys, I don’t care I’M GOING), that’s pretty crappy. I’m going to say that for 2018, I want at least 50% of the books I read to be from my own piles at home!

 

Mel says…

My top 5 books of the year

The Dry – Jane Harper

This was one of the first books I completed in 2017 and I called it early in my review with my pick for ‘Book of the Year’. I stand by my initial claim. This book was my favourite read of 2017 and I have recommended it to many people since, who all say they loved it also!

Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf

This was a cute, easy read that Janelle picked. I loved the warm and fuzzy feelings it gave me and can’t wait to watch the Netflix version.

Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur 

I’m not usually one to read poetry, but this book had so many amazing reviews that I couldn’t resist. It explored darkness, lightness and everything in between. Highly recommend!

The Black Book – James Patterson

My Dad highly recommended this gem to me, as he knows I love anything Crime Fiction. Right from page 1, it reeled me in and didn’t let go until the final page. This was my first James Patterson adventure and I was looking forward to my second, ‘The Zoo’ but that one fell into my DNF pile for 2017.

Force of Nature – Jane Harper

My second Jane Harper pick for Top 5 and I won’t apologise for it, it is well deserved! Can this woman do no wrong? She has me on the edge of my seat from the start of each novel and now I am equally as anxious for book number 3.

My reading goals

As I surpassed my initial Goodreads reading goal in 2016, by 7 books, I set myself high expectations in 2017 with a goal of 30 books. Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve my goal this year and fell short by 12 books coming in at only 18/30 books read. Sigh….

One to keep persisting and pushing myself, I have set my 2018 goal to 20 books in the Goodreads reading challenge and hope I can manage to achieve this, if not surpass it once more!

 

We want to know how your 2017 reading year was! Leave us a comment below!

 

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When you fail your reading challenge…

 

So….we both failed our Goodreads reading challenges for 2017. What does this mean? What is life, even?

There’s only one thing for it. In the words of Aaliyah (R.I.P.), “dust yourself off and try again”. Here’s some more thoughts:

 

Janelle says…

I finished my Goodreads 2017 reading challenge at 43 books read out of a goal of 48. So close, I could throttle something (I’m looking at you, 11.22.63).

I’ve never not completed my Goodreads challenge before. At first I was in a bit of shock, how could this be? I ALWAYS finished my Goodreads challenge. But you know, as much as I would have liked to have read 5 books on 31 December to sneak over the line, that will never happen. No use crying about it, right? I still read 43 books, which is amazing and I’m really happy with that.

On a side note, I also failed my #ShelfLove reading challenge for 2017. Man, I was crrrrap at challenges last year! I was aiming to read between 21-30 unread books off my own shelves, but I ended up only reading 16. Still, that’s more than I got to for this challenge in 2016, so I guess that’s something. And this year I REALLY want to stay away from the library more. I MEAN IT (this time).

More about our 2018 reading goals later…

 

Mel says…

I set my 2017 Goodreads goal at 30 books….I failed miserably and only managed to scrape over halfway with 18/30 books.

Much like Janelle, I blame 11/22/63 for taking up MONTHS of my time with its 1000+ pages but because it was SO good, I will get over that.

2017 was the year I decided to focus on differing genres and I am so glad I did. I discovered some excellent new authors and am very excited for what’s to come in 2018.

 

How about you? Did you win at any reading challenges last year?

 

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Let Down – Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water

by Paula Hawkins

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Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Crime Fiction

“Again! Again!”

The men bind her again. Different this time: left thumb to right toe, right thumb to left. The rope around her waist. This time, they carry her into the water.

“Please,” she starts to beg, because she’s not sure that she can face it, the blackness and the cold…

…She sinks. By the time they drag her out the second time, her lips are the blue of a bruise, and her breath is gone for good.”

 

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

Mel says…

 

Ugh, whhhhyyyyyyyy!!!???? Why was this book such a let down?? What did Paula Hawkins do that was so different to The Girl on the Train?! Sigh…

It took me roughly 3/4 of the book to finally understand who’s who, without having to read 1-2 pages of their designated chapter and that was my biggest pet peeve. What was with the large amount of characters that the plot followed? Why couldn’t the plot be solely told through the protagonist, who I am still confused as to whether it was Jules or Lena, but either would have been fine.

The plot was interesting and intriguing, but my focused wained due to the confusion from all the different angles and I began resenting this book by page 200.

This was my main holiday read over the Christmas break and I’m somewhat disappointed that I stuck with it.

2/5 stars 😦

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy Read – A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

December 2017 – Janelle’s choice

A Darker Shade of Magic

by V. E. Schwab

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Published 2015

Genres: Fantasy

“Kell brought the blade to the back of his forearm. He’d already carved one line today, for the door that brought him this far. Now he carved a second. His blood, a rich ruby red, welled up and over, and he returned the knife to its sheath and touched his fingers to the cut and then to the wall, redrawing the circle and the line that ran through it. Kell guided his sleeve down over the wound – he’d treat all the cuts once he was home – and cast a last glance back at the babbling king before pressing his palm flat to the mark on the wall.
It hummed with magic.
As Tascen’, he said. Transfer. 
The patterned paper rippled and softened and gave way under his touch, and Kell stepped forward and through.

In this richly fantastical world exists four parallel Londons – dull Grey London, vibrant Red London, dangerous White London, and banished Black London. Kell is one of only two Antari, someone with a magical gift that allows him to travel between the Londons. Not long after coming in to possession of a mysterious object, Kell meets Lila Bard and the fates of the two become intertwined as they learn the truth about the object, and fight together to keep it out of the wrong hands.

Mel says…

When Janelle suggested ADSoM, I had heard zero about this book/series. She explained the concept of parallel London’s to me and as a self confessed London literary lover, I was sold.

I devoured this book in just over a week (an achievement for me, as I have a very active toddler) and I was not disappointed. After 100-odd pages, I was able to understand the differing versions of magical versus non-magical London’s and how the movement between each “city” worked.

There were a few sections to the book that I felt could have been written better and others that bored me, but overall it was an exciting tale and one I would be interested in continuing through the series.

I bumped up my review from 3.5 to 4 stars, as it isn’t very often, lately, that a book has me eagerly wanting to get home and read.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Janelle says…

I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this book! I’ve heard so much about the Darker Shade of Magic series (there are now three books), and the concept of parallel cities and being able to move between them was so exciting to me. Especially with that city being London, there’s just some kind of extra special magical air about it.

This world was so vast and detailed, I just loved V. E. Schwab’s imagination. She must have had a blast writing this. In the first 50 or so pages I felt a bit overwhelmed by all that was being thrown at me, but then stuff started happening and I sank in to it quite comfortably.

The scene-setting and richly-drawn characters, landscapes and details of the lives in this world where my favourite part of this book. When I look back at the plot now that I’ve finished reading it, I feel like at the bones of it, it was a pretty simple story that has been done before. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it and will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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