It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

TRIGGERS: domestic abuse

As a deeply personal novel, this story offers a lot and while it is not my favourite CoHo book it is perhaps the best when it comes to the structure and the overall message. I had some issues with the writing (again) and wasn’t blown away by the story as a lot of people were. To me it was good but a bit over the top when it comes to characters and their personal stories.

I’ve noticed this before with Hoover, she tends to write characters who are deeply scarred and “damaged” but here it felt too much, every person had their own tragedy lurking in their past. And yes, I do think we are all a bit screwed up but this was just taking it to a whole new level and it was simply TOO MUCH.

My favourite parts of this novel were actually the flashbacks. I didn’t care for Ryle that much because I got a hunch something would be off with him, like the relationship was too perfect. Atlas was such a sweetheart but perhaps a bit too cheesy at times. I really liked how the relationship between Lily and her mother was portrayed, and the ending was just beautiful.

However, I do have some issues with how CoHo wanted to sort of excuse Ryle’s behaviour by giving him this tragic childhood backstory. Yes, I agree, it was horrendous (and a bit too much in my opinion) but I felt like she used that story to explain his awful behaviour. So what you’re saying is, he wouldn’t have acted the way he did if he had a happy childhood? Seriously?

Lilys bravery and her final decision was what made this story a good one. I applaud her for her courage. And I also think CoHo was really brave to tell her side of the story and to go this deep into it. Domestic abuse is something that is still not discussed enough and I think she really helped women by sharing her experience.

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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.

My guilty pleasure reads

Everyone is ashamed of certain books they like. I tend to hide mine and read them at home because if I read them say on a bus, I feel embarrased and I don’t want other people to know I read these kinds of books. In conversations I usually (always) “forget” to mention them because I feel like people would judge me for it, saying “but you are so smart and you read so much, how can you possibly like those sorts of books?” Well, I DO! And I’m done hiding it. So without a further ado here is the list of my guilty pleasure books which I LOVE to read:

  • the Benedicts series by Joss Stirling
  • romance novels, especially authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn
  • some YA fantasy literature, for example the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

My ultimate favourite guilty pleasure read has to be Joss Stirling’s series about savants, people with extraordinary abilities. Her books are a mixture of romance, YA, crime, science-fiction, adventure and I LOVE THEM. Not all of the book in the series, but especially the first three and the last one (there are six books in total). They are easy to read and funny and I just get this warm feeling in my stomach when I pick them up.

The books revolve around a family of seven sons, the Benedicts, who all have special abilities and they are trying to find their soulfinders a.k.a. soulmates. Despite the fact there are seven of them, each one has a distinct personality and I love how the auhor describes the family relationships, they are so welcoming and warm. Their family is probably one of my favourite fictional families.

In between more “serious” reads I like to occasionally indulge myself by reading a romance novel. My favourite authors are Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Nora Roberts (her old novels, Chesapeake Bay Saga, Born in Trilogy, Dream Trilogy) when it comes to contemporary novels and then there are Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn for historical romance. I know, I know these aren’t exactly literary giantesses but I love picking up their novels once in a while because they allow me to simply relax and enjoy the ride because I know everything will be all right in the end.

And my last guilty pleasure books are some YA series. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading YA but I am more picky about which ones I read than I used to be and so I don’t just read anything with a title YA on it. There is some quality YA out there but there is also some pretty average one available to read and when I’m not in the right mood to deal with more serious matters, I pick up the latter one.

For example Vampire Academy is one of these easy breezy books and when I read them, my brain just shuts off and I can read the books with no emotional involvement whatsoever. I’m sorry to say this if you’re a fan of VA but the series is pretty shallow when it comes to emotional complexity. I have yet to read the Bloodlines series (though I doubt I’ll even pick it up) but what I remember most about reading VA is that they are easy to read in one day but when you finish them you can’t really remember what was it that you just read. That’s why I started rereading them and guess what I found out: the reason I didn’t remember what happens in them is because NOTHING HAPPENS.

So these are my guilty pleasure reads (not so guilty anymore though), what are yours? I’d love to find out so please leave a comment below and we can compare our choices.

 

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

This review will contain spoilers.

I have severely mixed feelings about this book. While I was reading it, I quite enjoyed it but since then my rating has dropped and I keep finding new things that went wrong in the novel. There is so much going on in this book and some issues are just not represented right.

First of all what is up with this Syria involvement? The refugee crisis is a serious matter and I got the feeling that CoHo only touched the surface and she sort of inserted it in her book but it was just so wrong. So very very wrong. You can’t mention it once and then move on like nothing happened. If you are going to make it a part of a story then you make it a big part because it’s serious business.

The portrayal of depression in this book is horrific. Yes, the symptoms are listed correctly but then again it feels like the author just googled depression symptoms and then inserted them in her book. And the fact that Merit goes from one extreme situation to the next in a matter of two weeks is literally not possible. You cannot go from attempting suicide to feeling hopeful in a matter of week. You cannot! This was just so awfully portrayed that it gives the impression one can simply shake off depression like it’s nothing. Well, it is something, it’s huge and overpowering and exhausting and YOU CANNOT SNAP OUT OF IT AT ALL MUCH LESS IN A WEEK.

Some comments on the sexuality were just off. I get that Merit is trying to come to terms with the changes in her family but come on, she was just mean and again HAVING DEPRESSION DOESN’T EXCUSE HER ACTING LIKE A BITCH. Her comments on Luck’s sexuality were borderline homophobic. It bugged me a lot.

Sagan was actually lovely though the whole family-is-lost-in-Syria part was off, it should have played a much bigger part in the book. Although I liked the romance part of the book, it was so minor that I really don’t understand why this book is classified as a romance novel. It’s more of a coming of age story.

What I loved about this book were the characters and the family drama. Moby was so adorable and I loved how the relationship between the siblings was portrayed. I also found it fascinating how the whole dad-mom issue was dealt with. That being said I did find it too much to occur in only two weeks. I think the book would’ve worked much better if it took place over a course of several weeks/months.

This books contains so much ideas, too much, if you ask me and I just can’t get pass the whole depression and Syria issues which weren’t handled properly. They deserve a much more in depth approach. Also, the book would work much better if it were longer. The characters and their dialogues was what saved this book from giving it a 1 star rating.