It seemed like a great idea to pick up for non-fiction November, and I’m glad that I read this one. It’s a collection of prints of many of van Gogh’s paintings, with analysis on the neighbouring page, and the book starts with a 30-40 page analysis of the painters life, techniques, and more.
The analysis next to each painting is very detailed and the author clearly has a lot of knowledge about the art. However, the writing was overly academic and therefore quite inaccessible for anyone not in that realm of study. It did bring my enjoyment down a fair bit, because it just isn’t fun to read someone’s pretentious sounding thoughts on a painting. But there were some really interesting insights and I’m still glad I have a collection of van Gogh’s prints.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Credability: 9, Authenticity: 7, Writing: 3, Personal Impact: 5, Intrigue: 4, Informativeness: 6, and Enjoyment: 6 giving an average of 5.71 and a 3* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: mentions of van Gogh’s suicide, mental illness, death.
This isn’t a book that I’d recommend for everyone to go and pick up. But as someone who loves van Gogh’s paintings, this is a nice edition to my shelves
Our protagonist is an 18 year old girl who has a supercomputer grafted into her brain in order to let her control secret agents when they need extraction, and anytime soon it’s going to blow. When Sil is forced to go on the run she joins with an unlikely band of people and learns more about the world she thought she knew.
This is such a fast moving book, which is something I always enjoy. Sil is a really interesting protagonist to be inside the head of, seeing how she starts the book and her thoughts and opinions of the company she works for and how these alter over the course of the novel. I also love that we get some alternative perspectives from the side characters. Both from those inside the company and out.
The core plot point in this book is relatively predictable. But I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think all of you know, from the minimal amount I’ve said so far, that Sil starts out loving her company she works for and then ends up realising it’s bad. However, the twists and turns and the commentary around this? It’s done so well! There is one twist in particular that I just *adored* how it was done! And there were so many interesting discussions and viewpoints.
The writing style itself is also a fun one. Dylan says that she’s emulating Marvel and I think she does that well (and I adore that Sil names her AI Jarvis!). It really does lend the book a fast pace and kept me hooked the whole way through.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Charcters: 8, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 9 giving an average of 8 and a 4.5* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: body horror, death, violence, blood, vomit, medical content, suicide.
I absolutely need more books from this world, and Kate Dylan commented on my insta post suggesting we’ll get just that… I’m so excited! This is a fantastic YA Sci-Fi that I think is light enough to entice newbies to the genre, as well as having enough of the core Sci-Fi components to satisfy those who love the genre. In other words? This book is so much fun. I really do recommend it. And this is another big tick to Goldsboro from me!
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is a huge book, coming in at over 1000 pages in my paperback edition. I had been intimidated by this book for a fair few years (I’ve had it since 2018) and me and Kari decided that buddy reading this one was the way to go.
Well I am so glad that we did because wow I would not have finished this without Kari! Whilst I can see why others might find enjoyment in this book, it was very much not for me.
Don’t be mistaken before you start this book, it is about building a cathedral. The characters and any other plot/world event is just background to the main course of the book. It seems to be incredibly well researched, and I now know more about cathedral building in Western Europe in the 12th century than I ever thought I would (never complain about learning something new!). Whilst this is interesting, I hadn’t expected just how much depth Follett was going to go into. Not bad necessarily, just really unexpected.
There are also scenes of intense violence, both generic violence and against women specifically. I don’t use content warnings personally (although I always provide them) but me and Kari checked that each other were okay after a certain scene. Yeah. That bad. Additionally, the same as my thoughts on Fall of Giants, Follett does a bad job of writing women. He means well, but he doesn’t succeed in portraying these characters as realistic women.
The interweaving of historical events through this book was incredibly interesting, and I’m very curious what was altered for literatures sake and what is accurate to the time. I do think that this part of the book was done well but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to save the book with the rest of the issues.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 3, Atmosphere: 4, Writing: 2, Plot: 4, Intrigue: 4, Logic: 5, Enjoyment: 1, giving an average of 3.29 and a 2* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: rape, sexual violence, sexual assault, murder, death of parent, animal death, bullying, misogyny, physical, domestic and emotional abuse, torture, adult/minor relationship, animal cruelty, body shaming, paedophilia, body horror, child abuse, suicidal thoughts, abandonment.
This book… Is one I’m glad is over. And it has definitely put me off from finishing the Centuries trilogy or anything else by Follett. He puts a lot of research and effort into his books, but I feel like they’re just not for me.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna is the first book in a trilogy, with the second book only being released recently. With that, I thought it was finally time for me to pick up book one.
This book follows young girls who, at 16, have their blood tested to see if it runs pure. Runs red. If it doesn’t? If it runs gold? They are impure in the eyes of their god and must be killed. But the King has a new decree, one that states that those who are impure will instead be taken and trained as soldiers, intended to fight the Deathshreiks that terrorise the land.
I adored this book so much. The character development throughout is absolutely fantastic, how we see our main character alter from initially believing what she was taught to instead questioning this status quo and radically altering her perspective.
The world building is also done amazingly in this book, how the religion of the country is established as well as the history of the attacks. I also liked how the character backgrounds were developed, with the intricacies that were present and added a lot of depth to each individual.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 8, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 9, and Enjoyment: 10 giving an average of 9 and a 5* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: The following warning is found in the book: “The Gilded Ones includes scenes of violence, including some graphic violence, which some readers may find distressing. Additional trigger warnings: death, disownment, loss of a parent/loved one, mutilation, paedophilia, rape, starvation, trauma, torture.
This is an absolutely beautiful YA fantasy book and I am incredibly excited to carry on with the series, with book two The Merciless Ones. With where book one ended off I need to know where the story is going next!
It’s a short story of a man who dedicates his life to planting trees in an area that was decimated by human irresponsibility and how that area changes over time. I found it to be a beautiful story of the impact of small but repeated actions and how we need to be conscious of our impacts on the world around us.
I also enjoyed the second short story in my edition (Vintage environmental) which is from Jean Giono’s son, talking about the first story (which is a work of fiction) and how and why it was interpreted as non-fiction. It was really interesting to get this background and to add more depth to the original work.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 8 with an average of 8 and a 4.5* rating.
No content warnings found.
If you’re environmentally conscious, or want to inspire younger people to become so, this is a great little book to pick up. It sits with pride now on my classics shelves and I look forward to recommending it to people in the future!
Each page in this book essentially contains a scene idea that Pullman had within Lyra’s universe. Whether these were different plot points he though of, extra back story for side characters, or interactions between characters that didn’t make their way into the main books.
It’s a very short and very quick little read, but as someone who really likes the His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust universe, I adored these extra insights to the characters and the world.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 6, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 5, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7, giving an average of 6.57 and 3.5*. It was hard to rate this one given the nature of the book!
No content warnings found.
This is a short little book that is a fab gift (thanks again Renette!) for anyone who enjoys this world. If that’s you? Consider grabbing this! But if you’ve not read any of the other books yet, this is a bad intro to the universe and I’d recommend picking up The Golden Compass first!
Babel by R.F. Kuang. Where do I even start with this incredibly hyped and very popular book? With editions from Illumicrate, Fairyloot, Waterstones and Barnes & Nobles it looked like everyone had this book!
This dark academia fantasy novel is set in Oxford in the 1800s following international students in a translation college at the uni. In this world, silver working provides the power that was made possible in the real world through the industrial revolution. This involves matching similar words across languages and utilising their meanings. But despite relying on foreigners for this work, the English still maintain their “superiority” over people of colour and look to exploit them and their work for their own gain.
The etymology side of this book is absolutely fascinating. The sheer research that Kuang must have done on such a large range of languages is incredibly impressive and really demonstrates the beauty of language.
Kuang also integrates the colonial ideals of exploitation of non-whites for the gains of the empire throughout this novel, and the impact both mentally and physically this takes on people of colour who have been taken under the wings of the empire. These people have been given the privilege of an education not offered to the rest of their countrymen, and they feel like they should be grateful for this. But they were only given this because there was a “use” for them that white students couldn’t provide. And none of the innovations developed will be passed on to China, India, the Caribbean – the places which provided our main characters with the culture and language that Oxford and the Babel Institute finds so useful. Seeing this complex play of emotions and manipulation through the lenses of our characters throughout the novel is fascinating and heartbreaking.
I really enjoyed how Kuang interlinked real history, historical events and technological innovation, with the magical potential discovered in this world. It adds an extra weight to the racism and sexism portrayed, as the reader can’t escape by thinking this is just a fantasy. These events happened, in a slightly different manner, in real life.
I really cannot speak truly to everything this book contains and all of the aspects of it. This book is a work of art. Also, as a white woman I’m not going to be impacted in the same way that others will be. But. This book is god damn gorgeous. I will say, for the reading experience, it is a very slow read. That is usually something that I really don’t enjoy out of a book, I like a fast paced read. However, it works absolutely perfectly within this book. I found myself wanting to savour and relish every sentence and I was more than happy to make my way slowly through this book. So go into this expecting it to be slow, but don’t let that put you off if you’re usually a fast paced reader like me.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 10, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 9, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 9, and Enjoyment: 10 which gives a score of 9.29 and a 5* rating!
Highlight here for content warnings: racism, colonisation, racial slurs, death, violence, xenophobia, classism, child abuse, grief, war, sexism, suicide, murder, gun violence, misogyny, death of parent, emotional abuse, enslavement, torture, physical abuse, cultural appropriation, hate crime, islamophobia, trafficking, gaslighting, addiction, confinement, drug abuse, infidelity, self harm, kidnapping.
In my opinion? This book is 100% worth the hype. It’s a gorgeous, multi-facited, read that has inspired me to reach for more books from R.F. Kuang. I’m hoping to read The Poppy War in December! This will sit pride of place on my shelves and is a definite contender for my book of the year!
Bitter by Akwaeke Emezie is the prequel to Pet, a dystopian (utopian?) YA novel that follows a mute transgender girl named Jam who discovers that her utopian city isn’t as perfect as she was lead to believe. Bitter follows Jam’s mother, Bitter, when she was a teen and shows us how the world came to be as it was in Pet.
This book doesn’t have to be read after Pet, but I personally think that’s the better choice as we meet some of the adults in Pet as children in Bitter.
I really enjoyed how this novel tackled the trauma of dealing with racism, and how activism and rallies and marching aren’t an option for everyone. But how those people are still valid in each and every way they help. I also adored Bitter’s friends, they’re such supportive people and although they’re human and they make mistakes they always come through in the end.
This book is darker than Pet. Pet reads as young YA or older Middle Grade. Bitter, however, is firmly within the YA bracket. There’s a fair amount of violence depicted, as well as the way that topics are discussed being more in depth. Something to be aware of going in, especially if giving this book to a younger reader.
The monsters present in this book are a little darker than in Pet, but I still enjoy how they are used to demonstrate how certain people and groups react. They’re an exaggeration (mostly) but show the possible consequences and how things can go too far. But also how going too far sometimes is the only option. Emezie is able to use them to add this nuance into the narrative without distracting from the intended message by introducing complex human choices into the mix.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 8 for an average of 8.14 and a 4.5* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: police brutality, violence, death, blood, panic attacks, self harm, gun violence, murder, war, racism, child abuse, death of parent, abandonment, classism, ableism, mental illness, emotional abuse, homophobia, bullying, medical trauma, lesbophobia.
This is a really fantastic prequel. It tells us a lot more about the history of the characters and the political and personal climate around them, whilst still remaining very close to the individual characters and their stories. If you’ve read and enjoyed Pet then this is a worthwhile novella that you’ll be so glad you picked up.
Have you read this or Pet? Did you love them too? Let me know!
This wasn’t my favourite of all four books (that was The Travelling Cat Chronicles 😍) but I did enjoy it a lot! It was the first of all four to be truly fantastical. Our main character is a young boy who has just lost his grandfather, the man who was raising him, and is closing up the bookshop he used to run. He is greeted by a talking cat who takes him through four labyrinths in order to save literature.
I enjoyed that the four labyrinths linked to the Greek minotaur and that they all had our protagonist fighting the antagonists with his pure love of books. But I did find that Natsukawa’s message was hitting us over the head just a bit. There was no real nuance in the message, instead it was very obvious that this man was using this as a vessel to complain about current reading trends. Do I disagree with his points? No! But it was still quite heavy handed.
I also felt a little called out at points 😅 we’re so focused on reading as much as we can (okay me, I’m focused on reading as much as I can) that we don’t take pleasure in slowly revisiting a past book, time and time again. I think I need to reread this short novel at some point to really get the idea into my head that it’s okay not to be reading new books all the time!
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving an average of 7.29 and a 4* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: death, kidnapping, grief, death of parent.
Overall, this is a sweet book with a very strong message. One that heavy readers will likely appreciate but that those who don’t devote their life to reading may find overtly over the top. If you’re reading this blog? You’re likely to be a heavy reader, so try this book out! It’s a short one and you might end up loving it anyways, like me!
Air Awakens by Elise Kova is a book I was challenged to read by Princess from Castle Library as a part of my 12 books in 12 months challenge for 2022. Without that, I don’t think this book would have been on my radar. Maybe that would’ve been a good thing…
In this book we have a young woman/girl who works in the palace library. She’s lucky to have this job, and loves being around the books. There’s also magic in this world, sorcerer’s aren’t exactly accepted in society, but the power they have and how it helps the country in the war they’re fighting means they are feared and respected. But our main character is enticed into this magical world after saving the life of a prince. And her life is about to be altered forever.
Unfortunately, this just wasn’t the book for me. The plot concept was really interesting. I enjoyed learning about the different powers, how they were linked to locations, and which ones were rare and which were common. But it was such a minor part of the book that was barely explored.
Instead, the main part of the book was the ridiculous, pining, totally inappropriate, romance. I was rolling my eyes listening to this and speeding up the audio as much as I could just to get through the damn thing! It’s all so over the top, ridiculous, and I really just could not be arsed to listen to this girl whine over this bloke. No thank you. This is definitely the main part of the book, if that’s your vibe then you should totally enjoy this one and I really hope that you do! But it really isn’t for me.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 3, Atmosphere: 3, Writing: 2, Plot: 3, Intrigue: 2, Logic: 3, Enjoyment: 1. Giving an average of 2.43 and a 2* rating. My lowest rated book so far this year.
Highlight here for content warnings: death, physical abuse, fire, gore, injury, confinement, violence, classism, child death, torture, toxic relationship, police brutality, kidnapping, grief, death of parent, gaslighting, war, adult/minor relationship, xenophobia.
Overall? This one ain’t for me, and despite being curious about the war in the world and the possible worldbuilding, I highly doubt I’ll be carrying on with this without outside motivation because I just cannot deal with reading something like that again. Definitely one for those who enjoy more romance in their books!