Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (part 1)

My reading buddy @samyinbookworld (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) and I have started our very own book club! We named it “The Order of Fiction” book club thanks to our mutual love for Harry Potter. Each month we will be reading one book and then have a discussion about it. The first book we chose was Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and we both ADORED it and even shed some tears. We cannot wait for the film to come out so we can see how true it will stay to the book. I’ve probably watched the trailer more times than I’d cared to admit but I just love this story and these characters so much. Be sure to subscribe to both of our blogs to receive notifications on our next book.

  1. Why did you even decide to pick up this book?

There are two reasons; the first is that I saw the movie trailer and thought it was fantastic, the story seemed so compelling and I loved the idea behind the film, the fact that books saved a group of people who suffered under the German occupation. Just the overall love of reading is what drew me in. The second reason is that my favourite booktuber Jen Campbell talked about the book and how she found it just absolutely stunning and that was that final cherry on top – I immediately went to the library and started reading it. I think I read like a third of the book on that evening, it was just that good.

  1. What was it like to read a novel composed entirely of letters? What do letters offer that no other form of writing (not even emails) can convey? What is the role of handwritten letters today?

This wasn’t the first novel written in letters that I’ve read – I also read Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern and Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos. I believe that novels written in letters offer an in-depth view into the souls and personalities of each character. Writing is such a personal act, it’s just you and that blank sheet of paper and it is completely different to writing emails or texting. It is a much more intimate gesture, to send someone a handwritten letter. So when you receive a letter and read it, it’s like you’re holding a piece of that person’s soul in your hands, an imprint of the person they were in that moment of writing. Unfortunately, letter writing lost its charm and very few people still exchange letters today. I myself am quite old-fashioned when it comes to this and I still exchange letters with friends I don’t see often. Receiving a handwritten letters for me is one of the greatest pleasures in life.

  1. Dawsey first wrote to Juliet because books, on Charles Lamb or otherwise, were so difficult to obtain on Guernsey in the aftermath of the war. What differences did you note between bookselling in the novel and bookselling in your world? What makes book lovers unique, across all generations?

There is one obvious difference and that is the shear availability of books. Nowadays almost everything is available to purchase by simply clicking on a few buttons and I think we can’t even imagine what it’s like to not be able to buy something. In the book, Dawsey received a letter from a bookseller who tried to find him a copy of a book and that to me sounds completely bizarre. All I have to do to buy a book today is go on book depository or amazon and there it is. But the personal touch gets lost in this process. I still prefer going to an actual bookshop to purchase books but the problem is that our local bookstores’ offer is very limited regarding books in English so often I just buy the books I want online.

I believe that what makes book lovers unique is their ability to see the myriad of stories which surround us. A reader lives a thousand lives and we get to experience so much: historical eras which are far away in the past, magical worlds with laws completely different to ours, and we can even glimpse into a potentially real version of the future. This ability to believe and to hold different stories, different possibilities in our mind are what separates a reader from a non-reader. The fact that we believe things can be different. Books also cause an irreparable damage if you ask me, because we are never quite satisfied with the world in which we are forced to live.

  1. Discuss the poets, novelists, biographers and other writers who capture the hearts of the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. What does a reader’s taste in books say about his or her personality?

This can be a tricky question to answer. On one hand I don’t believe that someone’s taste determines their personality but it can show us some of the things that that person values and cherishes the most. For example those who love fantasy novels (myself included) tent to be more creative and open-minded. For me this also means that I can get melancholic because I find our lives to be quite boring when I compare them with books. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – thing would be so much easier and so much better if I were a witch. For example readers who “enjoy” just the classics and frown upon YA set my teeth on edge. Each genre offers so much variety, from shitty books which were probably written in a month and never edited to really terrific novels that crush your heart and leave you to pick up the pieces. And I really hate it when people, who often don’t even read YA, trash talk about it and make me feel inferior because of my reading tastes. Live and let live – the same can be said for books. Read what you love and don’t criticize other people’s tastes. For me, reading widely across different genres is the mark of true intelligence and curiosity.

  1. Juliet rejects marriage proposals from a man who is a stereotypical “great catch.” How would you have handled Juliet’s romantic entanglement? What truly makes someone a “great catch”?

I would most probably have acted the same. While Mark Reynolds sounded perfect on paper, in reality he got on my nerves A LOT. He was so full of himself and acted as though the war never happened and he just went on with his life but the war changed everything and everyone. Dawsey was such a better match for Juliet, he was kind and patient and I just loved his relationship with Kit. I’d like to think I would’ve done the same as Juliet though I would probably be less subtle about it and grew impatient and just started yelling at the poor man. For me, a “great catch” is such a constructed idea, it is completely bonkers. Yes, we all have our fantasies and ideal partners but in reality what matters the most is that you respect and love each other and have enough patience to stick through it even when the honeymoon phase is over. For me, a great catch is someone who is kind and respectful, someone who talks about a problem when they are faced with it and someone who is loyal to the bone and willing to put in that extra effort to make a relationship work.

  1. Which of the members of the Society is your favourite?

My favourite is probably Dawsey, I loved reading his letters. He just seemed to be such a rock solid kind of person, someone who stands firmly on the ground and is always there for you when you need him. My favourite moment of his was when the awful lady from the church came to his house and found him reading when he was supposed to be working. That pretty much sums up my life. And I also found it terribly endearing how kind he was with Kit and how she never ever bothered him. He just showered her with love but in his own quiet, unobtrusive way.

The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co. #2)

In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper.

Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom. 

Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood’s annoyance. Bickerstaff’s coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

Jonathan Stroud’s writing is filled with magic and great character development, but I still think there was something missing in this book. I much preferred The Screaming  Staircase because it was more character driven and the plot was just absurdly genius. This book however… I still liked it, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t fall in love with it quite the same way.

The ending was utterly shocking, but then again so was the ending of the first book. What Stroud does so well is he creates this incessant need for his books, like you just have to read the next one or else you’ll burst with anticipation. That is a brilliant way to write a series because it urges the reader to go on and continue with it.

Lockwood, Lucy and George are still one of my favourite characters of all time but I felt like they had a side role in this book. There was a lot of insinuation regarding Lucy and Lockwood (YAAAS!) and I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing did. You better not disappoint me in the third book, Stroud! George was as awkward and lovable as ever and he is just the central part of this group in my opinion.

Some scenes were so outrageously hilarious, I laughed at loud till I started crying! Stroud is such a funny author, I adore his humour. The plot line was a bit predictable, especially the identity of the villain, I had a hunch about them from the beginning. It wasn’t as scary as the first book, which was also a bit disappointing (and I dislike scary books!). That extra something just wasn’t there for me.

I am really curious to see what happens in the third book, especially after that shocking ending! And I do hope we see Lucy and Lockwood’s relationship progress (oh, please, please, please). Despite the fact that this is classified as YA, I think fans of fantasy will adore this series. It has just the right amount of humour and action and the characters feel like family when you read about them.

Heir of Ashes by Jina S. Bazzar

Roxanne Fosch had a perfectly normal life at the age of twelve. Cool, popular, pretty, smart. Her dreams of a perfect, successful and prosperous future seemed well within her grasp.
By the time she was twenty-two she had become a commodity. A fugitive. She was being hunted.
As Roxanne embarks on the dangerous quest to search for half-truths about her past, she discovers she’s not just an abnormal human, but a rarity even among her Fee peers.
She is hunted by scientists, keen to exploit her extraordinary abilities, as well as other beings far more dangerous whose plans for her she cannot fathom. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

I read The Curse which is the prequel to Heir of Ashes first and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! The story line was so complex and original, though I did wish for more explanations but since it is just a prequel it works perfectly. We were introduced to this mystical world of supernatural beings and to an unlikely love story which ended tragically. This was the opening to Roxanne’s story and it was by far the best prequel I’ve read.

Heir of Ashes was a wonderful urban fantasy novel though I did wish it would contain more fantasy elements, like the prequel. Roxanne was such a great main character, strong, independent, flawed, but still determined to gain her freedom and lead the life she wanted. I admired her courage and the fact that she didn’t sulk and gave in to self-pity. She knew how to handle herself and exploit her strenghts.

Logan was also a great character though I wish we’d learn more about his past (maybe in the next book? I sure hope so.) and his relationship with Archer and Roxanne’s father. The only thing that bothered me about Roxanne and Logan was the fact that Logan kept rescuing her. I mean she’s way stronger than him, why couldn’t she save herself? I do wish the tables will turn in the next book and that Roxanne will get a chance to save him from a deadly opponent or something similar.

The action scenes were a bit too long for my taste and the book itself is quite long which at times didn’t work so well. But overall I really enjoyed the story and would definitely recommend it to fans of urban fantasy and fantasy novels. The one thing I LOVED about this book was the fact that Roxanne wasn’t a teenager. Finally we get a twenty-something-year-old for a main character! How refreshing!

I am very curious about Roxanne’s next move and her relationship with Logan and about the entire supernatural world. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of that in the next book. The writing style was superb and the story kept moving in a fast pace, so I wasn’t bored. I also felt like a lot of thought went into the dialogue which I highly appreciate because a lot of YA fantasy novels are pretty predictable regarding that.

Thank you Jina S. Bazzar for sending me a copy of your book for review, I thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading it and Logan is probably somewhere in my top ten favourite fictional boyfriends. Roxanne was such a delight and I feel like the story really explored her pysche and her background and we got to know her pretty well. I can’t wait to see where life takes her next!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. 

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. 

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

April is turning out to be a wonderful reading month for me because this was the second book I’ve read and it was spectacular. I cried at times and laughed at the jokes but what this book offers most is the sense of kinship and the importance of stories and kindness and friends. It is a heartbreaking portrayal of wartime difficulties and the devastating consequences that followed. It is one of those books that I think would appeal to a variety of readers, no matter their genre preferences.

The epistolary format was such a fun way to portray the different personalities and to share their personal stories and different ways of seeing the world. Each character was meticulously crafted though of course the story is centred around the members of the society. My favourite character was Isola, I just found her so funny and peculiar.

The historical background was pretty hard to digest, because we are talking about the atrocities that occured during the WWII and you cannot make them into less horrendous than they really were. The book gives just enough (and at the same time far too much) to learn what happened to the people of Guernsey during the German occupation and what happened to those that were sent to concentration camps.

What I loved about this book was the sense of hope that lies in its pages. Despite the fact that we see so much of what occured during the war, we still see hope and the possibility that it will get better. I think that is a strong message and something that the world needed at that time. We see such a love of books that can transcend even decades and the most awful circumstances in which we may find ourselves. Books, stories, are what save us from ourselves.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone, especially to avid readers who can appreciate the power of storytelling. A word of warning, though: this book will take a piece of your soul and claim it as its own. Bring tissues.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

Yesterday morning I set my alarm clock to 7 o’clock so I could finish this wonderful, heartbreaking story about old spirits, a beguiling winter demon and a courageous girl whose eccentricity put fear into the hearts of her fellow villagers. This book is a true jem of fantasy literature and I am already counting down days till the paperback release of the second part in the series. It is filled with magic and love and interesting characters and the language is rich and inventive.

What I love most about this book is the portrayal of family relations and the love that binds siblings together no matter what. Alyosha was probably my favourite character besides Vasya because he stood by her side despite what others said about her. He didn’t let society shape his opinion, instead he had a mind of his own and I loved him for that.

Vasya was such a great main character, unique and resilient and brave despite her fears. The winter demon was the most enigmatic character in the book which I did expect because he is after all the lord of the winter. The scenes in the last third of the book were so wonderful and filled with little hints, I couldn’t help but guess what would happen in the next two books.

Although I like romance in a fantasy novel, I actually didn’t miss it here. I mean, there were some hints of a romance woven in there but it was far from your typical YA love story. I wouldn’t even call it a love story, perhaps just a glimpse into what could (will?) happen. The mixture of old spirits and Christianity was tackled spectacularly and I thought the fear of the unknown was so realistically portrayed, I completely understood why people used to burn witches or so called wise women at stakes.

The characters were layered and not one of them was purely good or bad. Konstantin’s struggles pained me but he got on my nerves because of his fierce piousness and Anna Ivanovna seemed just crazy to me. The overall plot, the battle between good(ish) and bad was very original in its form and I honestly didn’t know what would happen next. I was glad to see the author wasn’t afraid to kill off some of the characters, even the ones I liked.

The story started a bit slow but man it picked up the pace. The last third of the book was so intense, I got freaked out at some parts and was even scared to go to bed, it was that scary. I think the story hinted at a lot of things, but the hints were so well crafted, it’s difficult to say what to expect next. I just know I’ll pre-order the second book and read it as soon as it arrives in the mail.

I urge fans of fantasy and YA literature to pick up this book and read it in one sitting. It’s insanely good and unlike anything I’ve read. It instanly became one of my favourite reads of the year and it’s barely April.