Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Gypsy Morph (Terry Brooks)

A solid finale to a strong enough trilogy

★★★★☆ – CALSPIE 8.43

Title: The Gypsy Morph (Genesis of Shannara #3)
Author: Terry Brooks
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Dystopian
First published: 2008
Edition: paperback, published by Orbit in 2010

The last cities have fallen. Demons and once-men swarm the ravaged landscape of the former United States. A small band of survivors – the elves of Cintra and a ragtag group of human children and their protectors – flees northward toward a safe haven promised by the mystical King of the Silver River.


This final book in the Genesis of Shannara trilogy gives a strong finish to this trilogy of books in a long running series of books. I am reading the whole Shannara saga in chronological order and this is the final book in the first trilogy.

I enjoyed this one better than the middle book. The story is stronger and things come together quite nicely. Terry Brooks’ books will never be the best written, but I really enjoy the tone of them. There were a few writing choices that irked me, some pet names people had for each other and the random Spanish words to denote that a person was in fact Mexican (I think that’s right), was a little bit unnecessary, but overall it was absolutely fine.

The stories of this author’s books all kind of follow a similar format and it is a format that, though maybe a bit formulaic, works for me. I always know what I am getting into and sometimes that is exactly what I need.

This series, like another epic fantasy series I love, is set in a future world where civilization is destroyed and gets rebuilt into this fantasy world. I really enjoy that trope and it is nice to get that background in this series before moving on into, eventually, the original Shannara books. That does mean that this series certainly begins more dystopian than fantasy, but it really ends up firmly in fantasy territory.

All in all, I enjoyed this series and this was a solid final book. I am looking forward to continuing this journey into Shannara with the Legends of Shannara duology, which I have never read before.

4.25 out of 5 stars



  • Characters: 8.5
  • Ambience: 8.5
  • Language: 8
  • Story: 8.5
  • Pacing: 8.5
  • Interest: 8.5
  • Enjoyment: 8.5
Books · Reading Diary

Weekend Reading Diary: 6-8 January 2023

First 5*-read of the year and one that did not fare so well…

Friday, 6 January 2023

9.00 – Yes, I am afraid this is my first reading diary of the year. I am hoping to finish at least one book this weekend, hopefully more. And it will give me a chance to just chat randomly.

I am still reading the same book as I was a few days ago: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch is my main read, Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning is my bedtime read and I am listening to A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib on audio. All are on my January TBR.\

I am about to read a bit more in Snow Like Ashes. I am enjoying it ok. At this moment in time when I’m almost halfway through the book I think I will happily read this one, but I doubt I will be reading the next one. You never know, that may change if I end up loving the second half of the book. At the moment it feels a little too… young maybe… for me. The love triangle is already making my eyes roll and the characterization is not that great. However, so far it is an easy read and it is kind of entertaining. Certainly not a candidate to DNF for now.

Darkfever…. I am about 20% into that one. The writing really is not great. The story is intriguing enough to keep going for now, but I am not sure about that one. I tend to struggle with these kind of urban fantasy romances, but I keep trying as I am sure there is a series out there that I will end up loving. Recommendations would be most welcome!

11.00 – I had a good solid reading stint and managed to read over 100 pages in Snow Like Ashes, which is a lot for me! My brain feels calm and settled. Yay! Anyway, I just passed the 300 page-mark, so it’s time for a break. I have about 122 pages left. I doubt I’ll finish it today, but hopefully tomorrow. It’s odd, the book reminds me of other books, like the villain reminds of a mixture of Lord of the Rings characters (Saruman and Theodan for example) and other bits remind of other fantasy books I have read. It doesn’t feel original, but then it doesn’t grate me either. I am enjoying the read enough.

Right, time for some chores. I will be listening to some more of A Little Devil in America while doing them. I can’t wait to get back to it. I adore Hanif Abdurraqib. He really is one of my favourite writers and I am LOVING the listen!

14.20 – It’s a good reading day. I seldomly read this much? Is it the book? Snow Like Ashes is a fast paced YA fantasy story. It is quite predictable, but it reads away easily and it doesn’t require me to think. I am enjoying the experience and I do think that the kind of book it is definitely helps me to read faster than normal. It is exactly the kind of book that would get you out of a reading slump. I am not in a reading slump by the way. Just saying!

Some of the twists I saw coming a mile off, but that’s ok. It doesn’t necessarily bother me. I have about fifty pages to go. My guess is that I will have enjoyed this first book, but that I won’t continue the series for now. This book will probably end up on my unhaul pile. That’s not to say that I may well pick up the second book at some point, most likely as ebook.

Let’s get through those final 50 pages first. I should be able to finish it today at the rate I’m going. However, we do have people coming for dinner this evening and I have some chores to do now. I’ll see how it goes. Otherwise, tomorrow for sure.

On a side note, when I listened to A Little Devil in America earlier, the author talked about Merry Clayton. She is the lady who did that incredibly powerful female vocal on ‘Gimme Shelter’ by The Rolling Stones. I ended up listening to her own version of the song and the album its on. There are a lot of great covers on that album (which is also called Gimme Shelter). I would highly recommend given her a listen. Her life story is quite tragic and the only way I can honour her is by playing her music. I will see if I can get hold of a vinyl of her album, because I am really enjoying it!

Anyway, time to do those chores!

16.20 – I just finished writing up my review for Snow Like Ashes. I can’t believe I finished it so quickly! But then, the chapters were short, the font reasonably big, so it was not as long as it seemed. That was a fun read. As predicted, I won’t be continuing on with the series and this book will go on the unhaul pile. Luckily the book had a reasonably good ending for just leaving it there. It left me happy and fulfilled.

Right, better get ready for visitors in an hour. I don’t think I will have more reading time today, so I may not check in until tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 7 January 2022

9.55 – So, starting a new book today! How exciting! Since I just finished a fantasy book and I am still reading a Kindle book, it kind of has to be a physical book that is not fantasy. I am still sticking to my January TBR and I am going with The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell. It’s a gorgeous hardback, so it’s perfect that I still have a Kindle read on the go to read in bed.

Talking about that Kindle read – I am about 25% into Darkfever and… it’s not great! I will persist a little while longer. It may get better. If not, I will DNF. It’s quite cringey so far. The underlying plot seems interesting but the writing…. Well, let’s just say again it’s not great. For me anyway.

It’s a slow start this morning. We had some friends over last night and I did not end up going to bed until almost two. My fault, cause I decided to do a bit of journalling before going to bed. I am trying journalling as a way of relaxing and processing my day. I am enjoying the being creative bit. Yesterday’s entry was just a few pieces of lyrics of a song that Hanif Abdurraqib talked about in A Little Devil in America that I wanted to remember and that I had listened to during the day. Honestly, I love that book. It’s things like that I want to document and remember. The things that I notice, that I paid attention to.

16.20 – I haven’t gotten very far into The Marriage Portrait. I only read like 20 pages so far today. I read so much yesterday that I am not forcing it today. I did listen to another half hour of A Little Devil in America and I can already say I’d be surprised if it didn’t end up as one of my favourites at the end of the year. That reminds me that I haven’t done a Favourites of 22 Post yet!!! Oh dear! I will try and do that later.

But anyway, yes, A Little Devil in America. I have less than an hour left (in real time, not sped up audio time). I hope to finish it tomorrow. I am so excited to recommend it to anyone and everyone. I can wholeheartedly call Hanif Abdurraqib a favourite author, because no other non-fiction author talks with so much eloquence and passion as he does. When I finish the book I will go back through the paperback and find a plethora of quotes from it to add to a journal page. It is that kind of book. I adore it!

Sunday, 8 January 2022

9.00 – Well, I have my first DNF of the year. I got to 26% into Darkfever and at yet another reference to how pretty the main character is and how everyone expects beautiful women to be stupid, I just can’t… I hate the writing! Hence I am saving myself more pain and I told myself to just stop!

I had only 1 DNF all through 2022, so this is an ominous start! But it’s a good thing not to waste my time reading something that I am just not that into.

I am not sure yet whether I will choose a different book for my ‘adult’ prompt or to just leave it. I will probably read something else from my existing TBR first. I can’t really take my The Marriage Portrait hardback to bed, so I will have to choose something else. I do have one other e-book on my January TBR. For my unlikely e-book prompt I have a choice between The Visitor by Katherine Stansfield, which sounds like an eerie read set on the Cornwall coast, Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff, which sounds like a YA SciFi (which I am not sure I am in the mood for), or The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer, which is historical fiction set in Japan. None of those really seem to go well alongside the historical fiction I am reading at the moment to be honest. Maybe The Visitor, but that’s kind of historical fiction as well, so I am not sure.

Of course I could read a physical book as I had the unlikely physical book prompt as well. My choice there is between Decider (Dick Francis), but that’s a hardback as well, Luz (English title: My Name Is Light) by Elsa Osorio or Green Rider (Kristen Britain). The latter is also quite a big YA fantasy book of almost 500 pages, so again, not really suitable to read in bed. Luz is an option, I guess. I have it in Dutch. It was originally written in Spanish, I think, so it’s translated. It’s actually the second time it has come up with this prompt. Last time I chose something else, but the rule is that if I pull it out a third time I HAVE to read it…. or unhaul it. I may read it. I think it would be ok to read comfortably in bed as well. So… maybe that one? I may read the first chapter during the day and decide whether to go with it.

19.10 I didn’t have much reading time today in the end. I am almost a 100 pages into The Marriage Portrait and so far it’s a good read. I love the way Maggie O’Farrell writes. I read and loved Hamnet a couple of years ago. I also read After You’d Gone a few years before that, and I remember really liking the writing style then, even if the story did not quite work for me. I seem to prefer it when she does these historical fiction stories based on real history and real people. Still, I think she’s an author I’d read anything from and I am sure I will go back to her older books at some point.

I have 25 minutes left in A Little Devil in America. I may take some time to finish it this evening or otherwise tomorrow. It’s absolutely my first 5* of the year. I am loving it sooooooo much!

23.55 – I just finished writing my thoughts on A Little Devil in America. Absolutely loved it and what a great way to end a weekend, even if I did not end up reading that much yesterday or today.

Have a great week!


Brief note on a Monday morning: I started Luz (or My Name Is Light) last night and after 10 pages I absolutely hated the writing, so that’s another DNF. I have too many books on my shelves to read a book of which the writing annoys me. This is a good thing. I should DNF and unhaul a book when it’s not for me!

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: A Shot in the Dark (Lynne Truss)

Kind of a cozy mystery with a very dry sense of humour


Title: A Shot in the Dark
Author: Lynne Truss
Genre: Fiction/ historical / mystery / humour
First published: 2018
Edition: Hardback, published by Raven Books in 2018

After the notorious ‘Middle Street Massacre’ of 1951, when the majority of Brighton’s criminals wiped one another out in a vicious battle as the local police force enjoyed a brief stop en route for an ice cream, Inspector Steine rather enjoys life as a policeman. No criminals, no crime, no stress. He just wishes Sergeant Brunswick would stop insisting that perhaps not every criminal was wiped out that fateful day. So it’s really rather annoying when an ambitious – not to mention irritating – new Constable shows up to work and starts investigating a series of burglaries. And it’s even more annoying when, after Constable Twitten is despatched to the theatre for the night, he sits next to a vicious theatre critic who is promptly shot dead part way through the opening night of a new play. It seems Brighton may be in need of a police force after all…


First Line(s):

The day of the notorious Middle Street Massacre dawned like many another in those happy, far-off days.


I have to admit I bought this book for the cover. I love Brighton and a book set in Brighton sounded like fun, especially since this appeared to be kind of a cozy-ish mystery. I had read a book by Lynne Truss before, so I kind of knew what to expect from her, humour-wise.

I did not mind the writing exactly, but I did find I lost interest at times throughout. I did not fly through it the way I had expected to. It was a light read, but it still took more reading than I bargained for. I think I struggled with too many of the characters and did not really like any of them. I just wanted to bash everyone’s heads together and I am not sure that was what the author intended.

This book was set in 1950s Brighton and references Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock a lot, a book I have not read, but is sitting on my shelf. I am not sure I ever quite got that 1950s feel. All the right references were there, but somehow it did not ring true.

Overall, I did enjoy parts of it and I kind of enjoyed the way the author always let the reader know she was crafting a story, almost pulling the reader closer so she could tell you a secret.

This is not a novel I would recommend to everyone, because it has a very specific sense of humour. It’s very British and even for me it is a bit too droll at times.

4 out of 7 stars

CAWPILE score: 6.4

  • Characters: 6
  • Atmosphere: 5
  • Writing Style: 7
  • Plot: 7
  • Intrigue: 7
  • Logic: 6
  • Enjoyment: 7
Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW: What am I reading on 13 July 2022

My reading has finally really picked up! Yay!

On a sidenote: my typing is very slow as I injured my finger. It’s not the only thing I injured! We’re dogsitting for a friend and their dog and our dog were getting on ok, so last night we left them alone to sleep in a big space. Then this morning we were suddenly woken by the dogs fighting (my dog telling the other dog off – not properly attacking because luckily she didn’t bit him or anything – just made a racket, but we did not know that!). So half asleep I jump out of my bed, run out into the hallway and trip over something. Result: some awful carpet burns, a bruised big toe and my wedding ring slicing into my finger web. Ouch, ouch and ouch again. Not a great start to the day. Luckily it turned out the dogs at least had not hurt each other.

So, slow typing, slow walking and generally feeling a little worse for wear today, but let’s talk about books!

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?


What am I reading?

My main book is The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick. It’s the first book in a series about Eleanor of Aquitaine, a fictionalised account of her life. It’s set in the 1100s. In this one she is married the French King. I am not quite halfway (210 pages in), but I am enjoying it. A good summer read for me. I knew very little about Eleanor apart from that she is the mother of Richard I.

I am listening to Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I have never read Dickens, but always meant to and I figured audio would be a great way to do so. The audio book is narrated by Matt Lucas and he is actually doing a really good job. I am enjoying the listen. I have the paperback as well, so I know I am about 80 pages in.

Finally, I am reading an anthology. I am reading Better Than Fiction, edited by Don George. Its subtitle is ‘True Travel Tales From Great Fiction Writers’. I am 4 stories in and I am enjoying it so far. It makes a nice change every now and then.

What did I recently finish reading?

In the last week I finished a paperback, an e-book from my 2022 TBR and an audio book : paperback: The Reader by Bernard Schlink, e-book: To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, and audio book: Wildwood by Roger Deakin.

I absolutely loved Wildwood. That was a new favourite read for me. I also enjoyed The Reader quite a bit, more than I expected for sure! To Kill A Kingdom was not really my kind of book, but it was decent enough.

What will I read next?

I am hoping I will feel confident enough in my current reading pace to finally pick up The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, but I may have to sneak in a short book first. I certainly won’t be finishing my audio book any time soon. Probably not even before the end of the month!

Books · Yearly Reading

A Year of Reading: 2021 – Final Stats

A final look back at the books I read in 2021. It’s a bit late, but c’est la vie!

Total books read: 119

This is about normal for me. I have periods I don’t read that much and ones where I read verociously, so the spread is pretty uneven. Normally I read a lot in summer, but in 2021 it was my summer that was slow reading. I read the highest number of books in January (14) and the lowest in August (6).

Fiction v Non-Fiction v Poetry, etc

I read 74 fiction books and 30 non-fiction books. That is a good balance for me. I also read nine books that I consider poetry, but only one anthology and three short story collections. Oh, and two graphic novels. I definitely want to read more poetry and short stories in 2022.

Physical v eBook v Audio

I read 67 books in physical format (23 hardbacks/44 paperbacks), 29 eBooks and 23 audio books. Of the 23 audio books 16 I also owned in physical form. This was the first time that my reading exceeded my buying, so my TBR has reduced across the board. Yay me!

Book length:

The most common length of book was between 300 and 400 pages. I read 20 that were less than 200 pages as well though! I read only 2 books over 600 pages and none over 800. Clearly big books were not my bag in 2021. Maybe in 2022. My shortest read (at 63 pages) was a poetry book called Peace Flows From The Sky by Susan Polis Schutz. My longest book was The Empire of Gold by S A Chakraborty at 782 pages.

Year published:

I read only 8 books that were published in 2021. I read 1 book that was published before 1699 and 5 from the 1800s. By far the biggest category was books published between 2011 and 2020 (75). I find I am less bothered with keeping up with new releases.

Star ratings:

I think I got better at choosing my reads as I had 46 books that I rated 6/7 stars. 13 books I rated 7/7 and I consider favourites. There were 24 books rated 4/7 and 29 5/7.

I DNFd only 2 books in 2021 and there was one book I decided not to rate.

Some author and language stats:

I read more female authors than male in 2021 (69 v 47). Most books I read were by authors born in Europe with the majority – 44 – from the United Kingdom. 46 Authors were born in North America with almost all of them (45) from the USA with one lonesome Canadian author. I read 8 books by authors born in Africa and 11 from Asian born authors, one lonesome Australian and 2 Brazilian authors. There were quite a few authors (often translated works) from the Middle East, which I have been enjoying a lot. Clearly I need to read more South American works. I am also concentrating on reading a few Russian classics in 2022.

Random stats

I read 16 translated books. I only read 12 books that could be considered Young Adult or Middle Grade. Of the 23 audio books I listened to, 18 were non-fiction. Contemporary and Historical fiction were my most read genres with Fantasy and Memoirs not far behind.


I am excited for this year, but I am making a rather slow start! 😂

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (J K Rowling)

This was good, but why do I feel like nothing much happened?


Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: J K Rowling
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy
First published: 2005
Edition: Hardback, published by Bloomsbury in 2005

Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts begins, and it feels like a reassuring place to return to after the strange events of the summer. Disappearances, murder and an ominous chilling mist which swirls through both the Muggle and wizarding worlds are harbingers of more-sinister purpose. Voldemort’s army is swelling, and with it the Death Eaters are growing bolder and more deadly.


It had been quite a while since I read the fifth Harry Potter book, but it was easy to dive right back in, mainly because my daughter had been reading the Harry Potter books in the meantime. When she got to this one, I figured I better read it as well.

I enjoyed the experience of reading it, but though I did not get bored at any point, I did feel like nothing much was actually happening in this book. There was a lot of trying to get information and also, as our characters are sixteen/seventeen now, love becomes more important to them, which was both amusing and slightly awkward.

It does feel like Rowling’s writing has matured again in this one and it definitely reads a bit more complex. Some reasonings behind decisions still felt a bit iffy and I did not always quite believe it enough, but overall I enjoyed her writing here.

Some major events do take place toward the end of the book, which did pull at my heart strings and I am actually quite looking forward to diving into the final book next month.

This is not my favourite Harry Potter, but I did enjoy it.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reading Challenges

Back To The Classics Challenge 2022

Because I am hoping to read more classics this year I figured this challenge, hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate would be a great motivation.


The categories and the book I have chosen for them are as follows. There is far more information in Karen’s blog post, so do check it out if it is interesting to you!

1. A 19th century classic. Any book first published from 1800 to 1899

The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol (1836) – READ

2. A 20th century classic. Any book first published from 1900 to 1972. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1972 and posthumously published.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925) – READ

3. A classic by a woman author.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817) – READ

4. A classic in translation.  Any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer. 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877) – READ

5. A classic by BIPOC author. Any book published by a non-white author.

Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz (1959) – READ

6. Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic. It can be fiction or non-fiction (true crime). Examples include Murder on the Orient Express, Crime and Punishment, In Cold Blood.

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (1936) – READ

7. A Classic Short Story Collection. Any single volume that contains at least six short stories. The book can have a single author or can be an anthology of multiple authors. 

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier (1940)- READ

8. Pre-1800 Classic. Anything written before 1800. Plays and epic poems, such as the Odyssey, are acceptable in this category. 

The Aeneid by Virgil (about 19 BC) Beowulf (c900) -READ

9. A Nonfiction Classic. Travel, memoirs, and biographies are great choices for this category.

The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano (1789) – READ

10. Classic That’s Been on Your TBR List the Longest. Find the classic book that’s been hanging around unread the longest, and finally cross it off your list!  

Around The World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (1872) – READ

11. Classic Set in a Place You’d Like to Visit. Can be real or imaginary — Paris, Tokyo, the moon, Middle Earth, etc. It can be someplace you’ve never been, or someplace you’d like to visit again.

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie (1964)- READ

12. Wild Card Classic. Any classic you like, any category, as long as it’s at least 50 years old!

Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dosteovsky (1864) – READ

Books · Reading Plans

2022 Reading Goals/Plans

Some goals will be the same as I had for 2021, but I think I want to make add some that are a little bit more specific for the coming year.

(As always, I have put my Goodreads target to 50)

1. Prioritize my 2022 TBR

I will post my 2022 TBR in the days to come. Because my biggest weakness is my Kindle book collection, for 2022 I will put 22 digitally owned books on my list. It’s a bold move!

2. Continue my Balancing My Books, and tie my book buying to it.

I actually got a lot out of doing this over the last year. It did curb my book buying and made me realise exactly what comes in and what goes out so to speak. Though I am very happy with the books I did buy in 2021, I want to try and cut it down even more until I have reached a more ‘normal’ TBR. I am thinking of allowing myself to buy a book for every two or three physical books I read. And one Kindle book for every four digital books I read. The latter I think will be ok, as I actually did not buy that many Kindle books over the course of 2021. I will see how I get on with that.

3. Read new books quickly

I would like to read new books within a month unless there is a specific reason why I am saving it for later. This goes for both physical and digital books!

4. Don’t be afraid of series and big books!

I would definitely like to delve into reading more series in 2022, especially (epic) fantasy, and I need to stop being scared of reading big books! I want to add an overview of the series that I have on my shelves that I have not started yet or want to re-read at the bottom of my series page.

5. Use my TBR game if I have no specific book I want to/have to read.

Late this year I created a TBR game to help me choose a book when I felt uninspired. This was a fun way to pick a book from my shelves. I have adjusted it a bit, but if I decide I need to change the categories again, I will. I am considering of choosing a few books like this every month, but let’s start by taking it one book at a time when I feel I need a helping hand.

6. When buying books consider:

  • I don’t like that many YA books these days
  • translated fiction
  • impulse buying is seldomly good – sit on it before getting a new book
  • when buying used consider whether I will actually read it soon (exceptions for classics maybe?)
  • don’t believe the hype – someone else’s hype is not yours!


(Now some additional motivational things that I won’t be too strict about:)

7. Read three Russian classics

I don’t think I have ever read any Russian literature and I feel ready to dive in, but one step at a time. I am leaning towards reading the following books (but they may change and recommendations are welcome!):

  • Notes From Underground (Fyodor Dostoevsky) 1864 – This one is only short and it will be a great way to dip my toes into Dostoevsky’s work. I am not sure he will be for me, but I have heard good things about this one, so I think it’s a good place to start.
  • Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) 1877 – Yes, this is a big book, but of all of Tolstoy’s books this one appeals the most to me. It’s intimidating for sure, but I think it’s time.
  • The Overcoat (Nikolai Gogol) 1836 – This is another short one, but it’s one people seem to love and that I am curious about. Offsetting the big Tolstoy book with a couple of shorter ones makes this doable.

8. Read five novels by an author (not including series).

I would like to read five books by Elif Shafak in 2022. I have read two of her books (The Architect’s Apprentice and Forty Rules of Love) and I have enjoyed them both a lot. She is an author I would definitely want to read more of.

9. Read three books in Dutch.

I have a terrible habit of not reading books in my own language. I have one shelf full of books in Dutch and I hardly ever look at them. I want to go through those and pick out some I actually want to read. I may do a try-a-chapter with a few of them. If there any I really don’t think I will ever read, I will remove them from my shelves and donate them. If I read three this year, I will be happy.

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Architect’s Apprentice (Elif Shafak)

A very enjoyable well researched tale set in Istanbul


Title: The Architect’s Apprentice
Author: Elif Shafak
Genre: Fiction / Historical
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

Sixteenth century Istanbul: a stowaway arrives in the city bearing an extraordinary gift for the Sultan. The boy is utterly alone in a foreign land, with no worldly possessions to his name except Chota, a rare white elephant destined for the palace menagerie. So begins an epic adventure that will see young Jahan rise from lowly origins to the highest ranks of the Sultan’s court. Along the way he will meet deceitful courtiers and false friends, gypsies, animal tamers, and the beautiful, mischievous Princess Mihrimah. He will journey on Chota’s back to the furthest corners of the Sultan’s kingdom and back again. And one day he will catch the eye of the royal architect, Sinan, a chance encounter destined to change Jahan’s fortunes forever.


There is something about Elif Shafak’s writing I loved in the first book by her I read (Forty Rules of Love) and it is the same thing I love here. Her writing is full of detail and descriptions and yet manages not to get bogged down in them.

Here she spins a tale set in 16th century Istanbul, weaving fact and fiction together expertly. In her note at the end she explains why she chose to change some actual events and yes, it works. It works really well.

In many Middle Eastern tales love rarely ends in happily ever after. Maybe to have love and lost has more poetry to it than just to love. I think more than a touch of this premise runs through this story as well. I really enjoyed our main character’s journey as he goes up in life, as we follow in him through the years, even decades.

Love in many forms run though this story; Jahan’s inappropriate love for a sultan’s daughter, the love for his white elephant Chota and the love for his master, the royal architect.

And in the meantime we learn about the mosques in the city, why they were built and for whom. I loved the details about the building work.

Interestingly enough, kind of by coincidence I was reading a non-fiction book about the history of the Middle East as I was reading this one and it really helped me grasp some of the historical context.

I plan to read more from this author soon. I really enjoy her writing.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Life (Keith Richards)

An eventful life that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable memoir


Title: Life
Author/Narrator: Keith Richards Narrator: Johnny Depp/Joe Hurley
Genre: Non-Fiction/ Autobiography/Memoir/Music
First published: 2010
Edition: Audio book

With The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the songs that roused the world, and he lived the original rock and roll life. Now, at last, the man himself tells his story of life in the crossfire hurricane. Listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records, learning guitar and forming a band with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones. The Rolling Stones’s first fame and the notorious drug busts that led to his enduring image as an outlaw folk hero. Creating immortal riffs like the ones in “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Honky Tonk Women.” His relationship with Anita Pallenberg and the death of Brian Jones. Tax exile in France, wildfire tours of the U.S., isolation and addiction. Falling in love with Patti Hansen. Estrangement from Jagger and subsequent reconciliation. Marriage, family, solo albums and Xpensive Winos, and the road that goes on forever.

I read this for a book club and although it took me a long time to listen to, I enjoyed the ride.

Rolling Stone Keith Richards is iconic, whether you like him or not, and I feel that in his memoir you find out exactly why. He tells his life story with flair and humour, without arrogance or grandure, and man, has he lived a life!

Whether everything told this is memoir is accurate remains the question, as he must have been under the influence for much of these events. However, he certainly tells his stories well and I do not really care how accurate they are.

Much as I enjoyed the glimpses into his eventful private life, the bits I enjoyed most were the bits where he talked about music. When he talks about chords and guitar techniques and the way some of the most famous songs in the world were written, I was glued to the words. I loved his passion and his pure understanding of music and what it means to him. Also, when he talks about other artists he has worked, you can feel his love and admiration for them.

It was interesting hearing him talk about the Stones and especially with the passing of Charlie Watts recently, when he talked about him it brought a smile to my face. Although he tells his side of the story of his difficulties with Mick Jagger and sometimes puts him in a bad light, he always seems to find excuses for him as well.

This autobiography was a bit too longwinded in places, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A note on the narration: The audio book is narrated partly by Johnny Depp, partly by Joe Hurley, going back to Johnny Depp and finished by Keith himself. Every time I found the swap of narrator a bit jarring for ten minutes or so, but I did get used to all of them. My favourite narrator was Keith himself, but although the American accent threw me at first, I really enjoyed Depp’s narration as well.

6 out of 7 stars