Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie)

Shamsie, Kamila - Home Fire

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Home Fire
Author: Kamila Shamsie
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Retelling
First published: 2017
Edition: paperback, published by Bloomsbury in 2018

Practical-minded Isma has spent the years since her mother’s death watching out for her twin brother and sister in their North London home. When an invitation to grad school in America comes through unexpectedly, it brings the irresistible promise of freedom too long deferred. But even an ocean away, Isma can’t stop worrying about her beautiful, headstrong, politically inclined sister, Aneeka, and Parvaiz, their brother, who seems to be adrift—until suddenly he is half a globe away in Raqqa, trying to prove himself to the dark legacy of the father he never knew, with no road back.

In this novel the author used the framework of Sophocles’ Antigone to build a very current multidimensional story.

The tale is told in sections from a number of perspectives, which all come together to show the impact the jihadist movement has on Muslim families living in Britain. The idea of having to consider how your every action could come across is deeply troubling and heartbreaking , yet the reality of many of the families living not only in Britain, but across the western world. This novel manages to convey this heinous fact and also explores the conflicts of love, both in the familial and romantic sense.

This was a very powerful read, but I regret that I did not fall in love with this book. Though I enjoyed it, I never felt quite pulled in. I think this was the writing more than the subject matter. I always felt quite distant from the characters in the various perspectives and I found it a little frustrating. I did not believe in the characters as much as I wanted to.

Overall, despite my own frustrations, this was a really good read that I would highly recommend and it is a subject matter I would like to explore more.

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Callanish (William Horwood)

Horwood, William - Callanish

★★★★★★★

Title: Callanish
Author: William Horwood
Genre: Fiction / Animal Fiction
First published: 1984
Edition: paperback, published by Penguin in 1985

An immature golden eagle is captured and brought to the London Zoo for showcase and display. Creggan begins to lose his sense of freedom, as the cage curls around himself, cutting off access to the sky. An older female eagle who’s been trapped in the cages for a long time gives Creggan the strength to survive, and the hope of one day escaping this man-made construct.

This was a re-read for me. It probably had been about seven or eight years since I last read it and I had forgotten how amazing a read this is.

William Horwood has been a favourite author of mine since I was a teenager. He writes stories about animals being animals incredibly well. This particular one is about golden eagles and follows the journey of a captive juvenile eagle at London Zoo and at the same time follows our human main character, whose path echoes some of the storylines of the eagles. Of course he does anthropomorphize his animal characters to some extent, but his stories hold so much love and respect for the natural world. I love his descriptions of the animals and their surroundings and seeing the world through their eyes.

Something about the way Horwood writes makes me feel all the feels and although this is not a sad story, it is powerful (at least it is for me) and I cried like a baby several times, sometimes out of happiness! Both the eagles’ and the human stories broke and warmed my heart. The ending is simply perfect.

An absolute treasure of a short book at under 200 pages. The blurp really does not do it justice.

7 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo)

Acevedo, Elizabeth - The Poet X

★★★★★★★

Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / YA / Poetry
First published: 2018
Edition: paperback, published Egmond UK Limited in 2018

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

This novel was a joy to read from start to finish. But is it a novel? Or is poetry? I think it’s somewhere inbetween or both. It tells a story in verse and it manages to tell this wonderful story with so few words.

I have never read a novel quite like this in style and I found myself clinging to every word, every sentence. The story is simple, about a girl conflicted by her upbringing and her desire to be free. The slam poetry angle really works incredibly well. I found it hard to stop reading!

You cannot help but love Xiomara and with the way this book is written, you feel like you come to know her so well. I could not help but feel a real affection towards this fictional teenage girl with these big feelings. That is very clever writing indeed.

Tthis is a popular YA book and it absolutely should be. If you have not read this yet, please do, because I have no doubt you will enjoy it.

This novel is a triumph.

7 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: My Sister, The Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite)

Braithwaite, Oyinkan - My Sister, The Serial Killer

★★★★★★☆

Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
First published: 2018
Edition: paperback, published by Atlantic Books in 2019

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

For a shortish novel, this sure packs a nice punch!

I went into reading this book, fully expecting to love it after seeing so many raving reviews about it from people I trust! Luckily, it completely lived up to my expectations.

This novel is sassy and original and I truly savoured every page. The chapters are short and snappy and it is easy to think you will just read one more, thus I ended up reading this within 24 hours, which pretty good for me and says something about how it kept me reading.

I liked how this novel is set up and told. It is not quite a thriller, not a mystery, but it does involve murder and I kind of love that. I also thought the characters were really well presented and the way they interacted was just so well written.

The ending did not quite hit the mark for me and I found it a tad predictable, but that did not bother me that much on a whole, as I simply enjoyed the ride. Did I mention it is set in Lagos, Nigeria?

If you are looking for a short read with a bit of sass and a likeable main character that does not always make the right choices, look no further. 

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Frenchman’ s Creek (Daphne du Maurier)

Maurier, Daphne du - Frenchman's Creek

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Frenchman’s Creek
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 1941
Edition: paperback, published by Virago Press in 2006

Bored and restless in London’s Restoration Court, Lady Dona escapes into the British countryside with her restlessness and thirst for adventure as her only guides.

Eventually Dona lands in remote Navron, looking for peace of mind in its solitary woods and hidden creeks. She finds the passion her spirit craves in the love of a daring French pirate who is being hunted by all of Cornwall.

This was my first foray into this author’s books and I was not disappointed. Despite the fact that in the end the book did not blow me away, I really enjoyed the writing.

Our main character Dona is multifaceted and is neither good nor bad, but somewhere in between, with her desire for adventure getting her into trouble. You could feel how she was torn between the life she had and the life she longed she had. Sometimes I found her incredibly selfish, but I always understood her reasons.

I did feel the rest of the cast of characters were somewhat underdeveloped and much more could have been done with them. Of course this kept the focus on our main character, but I kind of wanted a bit more from the novel in that respect.

The plot and the ending were somewhat predictable, but overall I enjoyed this one and made me want to read more Du Maurier in the near future. I guess starting with one of her lesser known books was not a bad thing. I have all those amazing books to look forward to.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Towers of Midnight (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)

Jordan, Robert - The Wheel of Time 13 Towers of Midnight (with Brandon Sanderson)

★★★★★★☆

Title: Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time #13)
Author: Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2010
Edition: mass market paperback, published in 2011 by Orbit

The sun has begun to set upon the Third Age.

Perrin Aybara is now hunted by specters from his past: Whitecloaks, a slayer of wolves, and the responsibilities of leadership. All the while, an unseen foe is slowly pulling a noose tight around his neck. To prevail, he must seek answers in Tel’aran’rhiod and find a way–at long last–to master the wolf within him or lose himself to it forever

Meanwhile, Matrim Cauthon prepares for the most difficult challenge of his life. The creatures beyond the stone gateways–the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn–have confused him, taunted him, and left him hanged, his memory stuffed with bits and pieces of other men’s lives. He had hoped that his last confrontation with them would be the end of it, but the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. The time is coming when he will again have to dance with the Snakes and the Foxes, playing a game that cannot be won. The Tower of Ghenjei awaits, and its secrets will reveal the fate of a friend long lost.

Dovie’andi se tovya sagain – It’s time to toss the dice.

These final books in The Wheel of Time series are an absolute triumph. Whether it is Jordan’s plot or Sanderson’s writing I am not sure, but they are incredible.

The characters we have been following throughout this series start to intersect and the plot seems to magically come together in the most glorious way. I have enjoyed every page of this tome of a book and this being a re-read somehow helped piece things together.

Mat and Perrin’s storylines show so much strength and character and Rand finally feels like Rand again, even if I feel we do not quite get enough time with him to get to know him again in this book. What we do get is some resolutions to a number of story arcs and a clearer picture of what is to come.

I know how hesitant people tend to be about reading The Wheel of Time series because it is rather sprawling in size, but in my opinion it is worth every single page, even the slower ones.

I am wholeheartedly looking forward to re-reading the final book in a couple of months’ time, especially since this one ended on a number of cliffhangers and I can’t quite remember how it continues.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Dress Shop of Dreams (Menna van Praag)

Praag, Menna van - The Dress Shop of Dreams

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: The Dress Shop of Dreams
Author: Menna van Praag
Genre: Fiction / Magical Realism    Pages: 263
First published: 2014
Edition: Kindle e-book

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passers-by, but the colourfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel- toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

It took me a long time for this novel to grow on me. I am happy to say it did eventually, but it was too late to unequivocally say I loved this tale.

The characters did little for me for the first third of the novel, but in the end I did really like Cora and Etta’s characters and stories in particular. Unfortunately, I still did not quite manage to feel engaged by Walt, the male lead.

The novel is magical realism, a love story and a mystery rolled into one. Although I had not quite predicted the mystery all the love stories were pretty predictable and unexciting. The writing was a little distant somehow and I just failed to fall in love with the characters. 

That may sound like I did not like this novel, but honestly I think it was quite charming and I was happy to read it. There was no point at which I was bored, but neither did the plot or story excite me. It was okay for me.

4 out of 7 stars