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Review: Ravensong by TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

I don’t know where to begin with this book. I didn’t know where to begin after I read the first in the series, Wolfsong, so here I am all over again, hoping that I’ll be able to think of something that works and say anything that shows a fraction of what I felt while I was reading Ravensong.
I was so excited for it. This was not a secret (I don’t think it could have been, really, even if I tried with all my might)

This book had a stark difference in the way it utilised its point of view. A different story needing a different outlook is much more than understandable, and though I was excited to see how the change would play out ultimately I would realise: I love Ox and I love Wolfsong and though it would be easy for me to pick a favourite, that would never mean that Ravensong was bad – because it wasn’t. I loved it anyway, and I loved it in a different way. The thing about reading Wolfsong was that I also came to realise that I adored all the characters that were there for me to enjoy – so the book being told by a new voice was welcome, and fun, at its core.

The writing style before I remember as crisp and sharp and full of emotion, and it still was, now. It had a way of making me reflect on my own writing style; how mine is elongated and often runs in triplets and have a very obvious tendency to be verbose. It was refreshing to relive, I didn’t notice how much I had missed the style in the two years that had elapsed between books. It’s great too because, amidst the ache and the burn and the awe, there is always jokes; fun comedy in light of whatever serious situation is happening. I latched on to that, it was something I both really appreciated and could never wait to see when or where it would next pop up. TJ Klune has a talent for knowing the time and the place, and he also has a skill for creating a time and a place if he wants to, anyway.

The story was damning; I cried at least four times? At Wolfsong I’m sure it was at least six (the first time I read it, that is). The touch of tragedy but still triumphing it is always wonderful to see. That and, I don’t know, it’s a huge story and one of the biggest things about it is a loss none of the characters can control. I like a book that makes me feel a lot, so I’m not at all surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. There’s something about being able to cry at a story that’s inherently good; it talks a lot of the skill of the author and the openness of the reader. And I liked it – it makes me feel like even more of a part of the story. It was leagues more than the word intriguing can convey; I’m excited for whatever’s going to come next
adored it

I did a review of Wolfsong when I read it, about two years ago (give or take a little). I remembered feeling like I had to be the luckiest person alive when TJ Klune himself said he enjoyed it. That alone meant a lot to me. What also meant a lot to me was seeing the opening lines of it printed out in front of Ravensong.

It felt nice, first of all, to be remembered and also it felt wonderful to be included and I liked that this little Welsh group got to be seen the way it has. It felt important, and I felt very lucky all over again. It definitely made my day much more enjoyable when I saw it; the hours were a breeze and a constant grin was on my face.

In my last review, I talked about LGBT representation. I still think it’s important and I always will; Ox being openly bi was one of the many reasons I adored him. So, in the blog posts leading up to Ravensong, when I saw “unless I am explicit about a character’s heterosexuality, readers of Ravensong (or any book of mine) should assume said character is queer. Easy, right? Unless you see a dude like balls deep inside a vagina , or a woman talking about how she wants to get all up in some dude and ride him like a wooden rollercoaster, they gay. (Or, even better, they could still be doing BOTH those things because bisexuality is a thing that exists.)”, I was blown away. I was so happy. It was also great to watch this unfold as the truth, with characters embracing who they are and ones being mentioned to be aromantic – it’s refreshing to see. I hope it never, ever stops, and I hope that if I get as far into writing as TJ Klune has, I can do something even a fraction as meaningful and important with my words and my characters.

I hope the book does well, because honestly, it deserves to.

Sian Thomas

Review of “The Bookshop” by Roger Barrington

 

(4.5 / 5)

“The Bookshop” directed by Catalan feminist auteur Isabel Coixet, is a faithful adaptation of British writer Penelope Fitzgerald’s 1978 Booker Prize nominated novel.

Set in a small Suffolk coastal town in 1959, as with all Fitzgerald’s novels, it is drawn from her own experience, as she worked in a bookshop in that country for a time in the 1950’s.

The plot is about awfully nice Florence Green, (Emily Mortimer) as a widowed middle-aged woman who decides to open up a secondhand bookshop in fictionalised Hardborough and concerns her battle with the local bigwigs General and Mrs  Gamart who want to convert the property into an Arts Centre. Also encountering opposition due to small-town small mindedness and ignorant philistinism she garners support from recluse Edmund Brundish, (Bill Nighy) and 13-year old Christine, whom she employs as her assistant. Into the mix comes loquacious rakish BBC man Milo North who Christine perceptively recognises is not a nice man.

The tension arises out of the burgeoning friendship that develops between our heroine and Brundish in opposition to the Machiavellian ruthfulness of the appalling Gamarts.

Isabel Coixet is a multi-award winning Catalan director, who first came to my notice with the superb, “My Life without me”. (2003). She continues to make highly acclaimed film, “Elergy” (2008) and “Endless Night” (2015) and a dominant theme throughout her dozen or so other feature movies is that the central character is a woman who takes control of her life.

Emily Mortimer is ideally cast as Florence Green, the brave and pioneering but vulnerable woman who doesn’t look for confrontation, but will take it on if she has to.

 

Bill Nighy who plays her ally Edmund Brundish is in usual scene-stealing form. Has there been a British actor since Denholm Elliott ho constantly manages to achieve this? All the best scenes in the film feature him.

 

 

American Patricia Clarkson is a regular feature in Coixet’s films and this is their third collaboration. This underrated actress manages the clipped British accent nicely and subtly provides us with a nasty determined character who is determined to get her way within the small community she resides in, as she always does.

 

Thirteen-year old actress, (at the time of filming), Honor Kneafsey as bookshop assistant Christine provides a mature performance of the precocious but charming adolescent. A couple of years on, she is already a veteran of nineteen films and looks a rare talent, even though her middle class speaking voice seems a little out of sorts with Christine’s working class antecedents.

 

Coixet’s Suffolk doesn’t look authentic. In fact, exterior shots were filmed on location in Northern Ireland, whilst interior sets were in Spain.

However, this isn’t really a problem, as Suffolk isn’t key to the story. As I mentioned earlier, it is where author Penelope Fitzgerald resided for a time in the 1950’s whilst she worked in a secondhand bookshop. But the location could be anywhere, and not only in the UK, where closed communities exist.

“The Bookshop” is a story about courage and determination. We  learn late into the film that during WW1, Edmund was an aviator, so he is the ideal person to recognise Florence’s qualities. By contrast, General Gamart, (Reg Wilson) a veteran of the same conflict but who served in The Suffolk Regiment, comes across as the worst kind of army officer of this period, who stoops to levels of deceit to cowardly succumb to his wife’s demands.

This film is also about small town bigotry, in terms of it’s consolidated opposition to a person who doesn’t conform to their small minded way of thinking. If you are brought up in a small town or village, you may appreciate what I am writing.

The time setting of the book and film is significant. The last year of the 1950’s, a period when Britain was coming to grips with the austerity of and aftermath of  WW2, marks a time with the 1960’s, just around the corner,  a decade that transformed society. Also, Arts Centres, that sprung up after 1945, were becoming the trendy venues of the 1960’s and 1970’s, thereby marking a total contrast to the traditional British secondhand bookshop – an institution that in our era of online bookselling and e-books is slowly succumbing to its eventual inevitable demise.

It didn’t pass me by, that I was watching this film at Chapter, an arts centre in Cardiff. I pondered whether I had to give one thing up – secondhand bookshops or arts centres, which choice would I make, coming down in favour of the former. A difficult decision because i love both, but books have always featured strongly in my life. I have always lived in places where books take over the place. Even in the modest flat I live in now, I have upwards of two and a half thousand books. I will never be able to read all of them before I, (hopefully), gain admittance to that great library in the sky, but that doesn’t stop my sense of anticipation when I enter a secondhand bookshop to explore its contents. “You are never alone in a bookshop” is the closing line of this film, and if you feel as I do, then you will identify closely with this.

The satisfying climax works perfectly, but I don’t wish to give the game away by saying more here.

This film will divide the majority of viewers, into those who love it, and those who loathe it. The start is a little sluggish, but if you accept what it is trying to achieve on its own terms, then you will find this an utterly absorbing and memorable film.

Country: U.K., Spain, Germany

Language: English

Running time: 113 minutes

Certificate: PG

Continue reading Review of “The Bookshop” by Roger Barrington

Review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay by Sian Thomas

I’ve recently finished The Witches of New York by Ami McKay. For quite some time, the book was the base of my “Big Pile of Books I Need to Read” – purely because it was the largest one. I thought it intimidating at first – I hadn’t expected it to be the size that it was. However, by the time I reached the end, I found myself wishing that it was longer. The book has potential, I do believe, but I’ll get to that later.

For a while now, stories with a strong aesthetic have appealed to me more than stories with some unfathomably-mind-blowing plot twist that I never asked to be on the other end of. This book, this style of writing, was right up my alley that it and I more or less lived in the same block of flats. It was so gorgeous – all this talk about a tea shop, girls, style, soft magic, attraction (straight and gay). Even the way littler things would be described; colour, cups, plants, glass, feathers on a bird, silk of a dress, the appearance of ghosts. All of it just seemed to constantly scream out for me, and it was what I enjoyed about the book the most. I have things that agree with me, the things I find pretty or such, and this book just seemed full of them. I love the way a tea shop exists; quiet and usually more than meets the eye (as was the case here). I love little glass bottles filled with things like glitter or seeds (as was, also, the case). I love small keys, things kept on a chain because of how important they are, I love different blends of teas that all, above having their own flavour, seem to also have their own meanings. There just seemed to be so much care and effort put into every little detail with this book, and I really loved that.

The characters and the story both I’ve decided not to go into very much. The characters, Eleanor, Adelaide, and Beatrice, were all intrinsic, individualistic, and all in all, just quite lovable. I’d rather people went into the unravelling of both them and the plot blind, but I will say: I did enjoy it; the story was gripping and the characters were lovely. It touched on a lot of things I like (amongst the already incredible scenery and the like) and I relate to: the subtle fear of pushy men that every girl seems to know and knows how to combat, the camaraderie of women. While intriguing, it wasn’t too fast. It really was enjoyable. I think a lot of people all sorts of ages would enjoy this book.

Back to potential: the book has it. Ending happily, but with just enough of a nudge in some characters direction, I feel like I did certainly have closure, but just a tiny smidgen of it was withheld. I suppose I may have become fond of stories with a neat little bow wrapped around them and then encased behind glass for the rest of time. That’s on me, I do think, but you’d catch me picking up a copy of any book that would follow at the heels of this one, that’s for sure.

Review: Gaslight by Eloise Williams by Sian Thomas

I read Gaslight by Eloise Williams recently. What pulled me to it was definitely the setting – I love a story set somewhere I was born, somewhere I continue to be (and probably will remain – I’m certainly happy for that to be the case). Cardiff has a history, it has looked so many different ways, been so many different things (which can continue to be true as we all trudge through time together). I really did enjoy experiencing it in the Victorian Era. Something about knowing my home completely differently while I also have the pleasure of following a story was lovely.

This may be a peculiar thing to lead off with, but I really liked the line under the title on the cover of the book: “Have you seen her?”. Sometimes words strike a chord with me; this did. I like the mood this seems to create from the very get-go. The book does have quite the atmospheric feel to it. From cover to cover, there’s something enchanting about the intricacies of the character and the setting she resides in. “Have you seen her?” makes me feel as if I should be looking; as if hints of the character (Nansi) or other characters or even of this version of Cardiff’s past are still all over the place, waiting for the kind of attention only I can give them, because I’m already where they were. Something about that, that co-existence, is pleasing.

The story itself I don’t want to spoil, but the allure of a theatre story (definitely with some other things thrown in) in this era was a good combination. It was nice to imagine, and it was just as nice to be led into imagining it and down the path of the story. There was a moment I liked in particular; Nansi steals a piece of sea glass for a show, and during the show that piece of sea glass is used to really sell an act. The way the audience’s rapture is described, and the way the ploy plays out and the anxiety and nerves of Nansi’s surrounding it, was always a scene that had me hooked because of how easy it was to get lost in it, to become enraptured myself.

I think the book is good for a lot of ages. I enjoyed it, and I’m sure that relatives my age or younger (or older!) would, too. There is something about a young person’s endeavours (in this case, Nansi discovering the truth of her mother’s disappearance and her family in general) and watching them grow from their starting point of “clueless” to a stronger character with an ending to be proud of. It’s nice in a sense, to watch someone grow like this. To watch a character stand up for people who can’t, to stand up against people she hadn’t dreamt of standing up to before. I am immensely pleased to hear that Gaslight won the Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year 2017 award. Being good for all sorts of ages, and a story of fair intrigue, I’d say it did deserve it – and the four stars I give it.

Review: Wax by Gina Damico by Sian Thomas

Even though I’ve read a lot of books this year (we’re into the 20s, I think), and even though I have a lot more books to read (I have 21 in my room, but reading all the books out there would be stellar, too), I think I’ve found the best one this year. My favourite one for this year. My favourite one, possibly overall? The first book that might have just overtaken all the others that I love. Wax by Gina Damico swept me off my feet, and I couldn’t be happier.

One of the most remarkable things about this book is that it’s so funny. There were so many times that I genuinely laughed at what was happening – and that was new for me. I’ve smirked or smiled while reading before, sure, but I’ve never had to take a step back, put the book down, and have a right giggle before building myself back up and carrying on. The main characters Poppy and Dud erupted the most laughter from me, but a close second being the character ‘Jesus’.

All the characters were remarkable. My favourites no doubt being the main, Poppy Palladino and Dud. I can’t get into the relationship or their dynamic too much without spoiling it, but I did love the outspoken female who acts sort of like a role model or confidant, and harmless boy whose loyal to her. They felt like best friends, and reading their interactions were always great.

I love stories lately where most (if not most, then all) of the characters end up okay, with a happy ending. I got so tired of studying Shakespeare plays and watching all the characters die in the last few scenes, I got so tired of tv shows that were “going there” and killing off main characters, I got tired of books with “twists” that just kind of stung, and didn’t impress. In truth, I got real sick of characters dying, and it isn’t like I can reach the authors I’ve read lately, shake their shoulders, and tell them there are other things that can happen in life, and I’m so glad I didn’t feel this way at all with this book. The ending reminded me a little of Big Hero 6. Bittersweet, but still ultimately happy. With and without death, I suppose. You have to read it, to know what I mean, and so I don’t spoil everything horrendously.

I remember looking at this book and thinking it was a horror. I don’t remember why, it was a long time ago, and it sat in my Amazon wish-list for a really long time before it came into my hands. I think I noted the idea of spooky wax figures and was sold, because at that time I was super interested in getting spooked by a book. Even if that was my initial reaction, and was not the outcome, I’m glad of both. I’m glad I (somehow, even if the memory of how is blurry) found the book, and that I read it. I read one chapter yesterday, and the rest of the book today. I blitzed through it immensely fast because it was just so immeasurably enjoyable.  I’ve read the last two chapters a couple more times, now. I just love it so much. I am not sure anything else I read will come as close to how highly I think of this book. Which is both good (I found a new really great book!) and bad (I have so many other books to read and I am worried that they will not be able to come as close to how good Wax was). But nonetheless I give it five stars and recommend it wholeheartedly. It was so good. I don’t even have the words. I want to read it all over again.

Review: Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan By Sian Thomas

This review contains spoilers.

I recall seeing this on the Twitter page of I Loves The Diff’, which is what got me intrigued to read it.
Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan pulled me in for two reasons. Firstly, it was more of a sci-fi novel, and as someone trying to widen my horizons when it comes to reading, this struck me as a good a place as any to go to try something new. Secondly, the book is set in Cardiff. It’s firstly set in Cardiff (but on Mars), so the names of well-loved streets and public places are used here and there, but later is set in real, Earth-Cardiff.

I enjoyed an incredible amount that the novel was set in Cardiff (both on Earth and on Mars). This is something I have not experienced before. The closest I’ve ever come has been the Welsh theme of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, or the occasional mention of a Welsh name in the webcomic, Homestuck. I’ve never seen something be based in Cardiff so heavily – and it was wonderful to see. However, I do worry that this was the only aspect of the book that I really liked.
While the sci-fi elements of it was good, I found it a little sad to hear the descriptions of a ruined and decrepit Cardiff. After all, I live here, and it’s still bustling and full, and I like that. To hear that Animal Wall was gone, or the Museum was falling apart, or that Cardiff Castle was more ruin than attraction, was a bit disheartening to envision.

The plot itself wasn’t too bad. I liked the message that intelligence can thrive in ways other than purely academic, and with that, the message that there is worth to be found in people outside of their academic achievement. As a student currently waiting for some exam results, this was pretty nice to hear, and eased my conscience up just a little.

However, my biggest bother with this book was the presentation of some of the characters. I usually consider myself easy to please, when it comes to literature. I usually find reasons to love characters anyways. I often welcome a love interest with open arms, and usually am able to trudge through a plot even if I find it particularly difficult to, or if it doesn’t sit well with me. This book was different to that, and I got more grateful that I was nearing the end with every page flip. I didn’t mind the flowering relationship between Bree (our female main character) and Halley (the male love interest), as it seemed a simple and innocent enough relationship that I could get behind. However, it was later found that Halley initiated the characters’ friendship and by extension, relationship, on being bribed to do so for the easiness of a science experiment – so it was fake. My biggest criticism of this is that when called out on this by Bree, Halley said:

(Halley): “Bree, you’ve got…”
“Don’t tell me I’ve got it wrong!” I (Bree) laughed.
“I was going to say, you’ve got to forgive me.”
(…)
“Why should I forgive you?”
“I’m the one who doesn’t deserve to be on this mission. I’m only here because I agreed to lie and cheat and spy on you for Carter. I am a liar, I’m despicable and I know I am. Still, you have to forgive me.”
“That makes no sense,” I said.
“Love makes no sense.”

And later,

(Halley): “I’ve fallen in love.”
“Will you stop using that word?” I (Bree) cried. “No one says that word! If you think for a moment that I could ever believe what you’re saying…”
“You have to,” he whispered. “Or I don’t know what I’m going to do.(…)”

There are so many things with this especially, which did shape the whole novel and the perception of it and other characters, that I found astoundingly bad.
This is a book in the YA genre. This is a genre that I continue to enjoy, because it was the one I experienced mostly as I started to really enjoy reading, and as of recent years, it’s becoming a wonderful and diverse genre, and one doing far better than it used to. This is a genre for people my age, and people younger. These scenes I have a problem with. While I was able to spot the problems, I’m not sure others would have, and it’s a dangerous line to blur for younger people.
Pushing forgiveness done out of love, when the relationship itself began on deceit is, firstly, not love. Expecting to be forgiven because you love someone, is not a reason alone to be forgiven. I do worry the author has made a mistake, consistently using “You’ve got to” or “You have to” as a way to make a male character feel far more forceful in wanting to be forgiven, and then using guilt to further this. A guilt trip into forgiveness when he was in the wrong just feels like poor writing, or even ignorant writing. People, especially recently, do not have the tolerance for this kind of characterisation and neither do I. I worry this would be behaviour people could attach themselves to and then look for – especially young girls who may enjoy the YA genre – and land themselves in a relationship where their feelings are not considered and their emotions are, effectively, abused.
This pushes the forcefulness of males which comes off very poorly. If a man was telling me I had to forgive him because he loved me I think I’d turn and run as fast as I could and for as long as I could go. This is a stereotype we need less of, as many, many people have coined on to its hindrance on men’s emotional well being, which needs to be addressed as much as hindrance of women’s chances in society, as this scene and beyond it only pushes the submissiveness of Bree, which goes against the rest of her character established through the rest of the novel. She is a character that went to great lengths and seemed perfectly capable of standing up for herself – until giving in and forgiving when Halley got hurt in a later scene, and then jumping straight back into action into her much stronger female role, which had already been established.

I’m angry. And I expected better of a book published so recently (2016), and a book written by a woman. A part of me feels let down, and I’m hoping the next book I read will bring my spirits back up.

I still give the book 2 stars. I did still enjoy that it was set in my hometown, which made it slightly more enjoyable, and on some level, I did enjoy the sci-fi story.

Review: One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards by Sian Thomas

One Was Lost was a book I picked up because I had decided I wanted to branch out a little further from my normal cheesy YA book, or my normal poetry book. I have a tendency to stick close to my comforts in a lot of areas, including reading, and this book was able to help me breach this constraint.
I had decided to stretch out further and try my hands at a story more centred on thrill, horror, mystery, suspense. For a while now, I’ve wanted to experience a book that made my chest constrict in a funny way, in a way that made me scared. I know we’ve all had our hand at murder mysteries and crime novels and even television crime dramas or horror movies, but none of those ever seemed to settle right with me, and none of them ever seemed to really be what I was searching for. One Was Lost managed to do something that a book had yet to do for me.
Most things that I read I can usually guarantee a happy ending, or at least ones where all the characters live, save for Shakespeare’s works. Most of the time, I’m pretty much certain that’s how things will go, and I usually hope for that, too (I am guilty of really, really loving a happy and pure ending). With One Was Lost, I was less sure of this, and in turn, I hoped for it much more fiercely. I wanted it to end well so desperately and was so torn that it was the a book that just might not do that, that I felt that little constraint in my chest that I had wanted to feel. As the characters got put in more and more danger, and the likelihood of a happy ending seemed to dwindle, I got more and more entrenched in the story and more and more hungry for answers and a good ending. When there was one, I felt relief and happiness so big and all-encompassing that I was sure I was a balloon that had been blown up to bursting. It was such a wonderful feeling, another I admit I am guilty of enjoying, to watch characters trudge through the unimaginable, and come out the other side. I hope my praise can reach out to the author, Natalie D. Richards, because I am brimming with it.  The feelings I had throughout my read were incredible, and something I’m glad to have experienced.

All the characters are interesting, with their own little stories that fade impact and shape the bigger, overall plot. Each of them (like our main character, Sera, and the others, Emily, Jude, Lucas) were all lovable and easy to attach oneself to in different ways. All of them had characteristics I loved, and attributes I admired, and in the midst of their heavy story, it was still wonderful to see them in my mind’s eye interacting and even laughing. A brief summary can be found on Natalie D. Richards’ website: http://nataliedrichards.com/books/onewaslost/  as this can supply an explanation and introduction to the book better than I can, as I do not wish to spoil anything.
To add to this even more, the writing made this feel even more real. It was clear and concise, and unbelievably detailed. There was a period in the text where Natalie D. Richards describe the feeling of thirst so well and so closely, that I found myself feeling thirsty and scrambling for bottles of water to get me through.

I give this 4 stars. It was a good introduction to the other aspects of my usual YA genre with a far more intriguing and mysterious core, and I did enjoy the story of it incredibly so. I very much loved it.

Review: The Thief Lord, Cornelia Funke by Sian Thomas

(5 / 5)

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke has been a long time favourite book of mine. I read it first about five years ago, and I remember reading it, loving it with my whole heart, finishing it, and instantly reading it again.

Once upon a time, I was recommended it. Someone that I knew once knew how much I loved the Professor Layton game, “Professor Layton and the Last Spectre”, as within this game there was a small gang of poor and homeless children who banded together to keep each other safe and warm who I took an overwhelming attachment to. The Thief Lord reminded them of these characters, and in turn, of me. And I could not be more grateful to have discovered a book that reminded me so much of characters I already loved, and created whole other characters who I loved just as much – perhaps more. Not only did these characters hold such a special place in my heart, they’ve stayed there undeterred for years. Even as I continue to consume new media and content and entertainment, there has yet to be something that knocks Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord from its #1 spot in my heart.

The plot is sweet, and something I loved all those years ago an equal amount as I still love it now. It is mysterious and alluring and downright fun – and to top it all off, the way it’s presented is unimaginably atmospheric, which is a factor I love an immeasurable amount. Being set in Venice, somewhere I have always wanted to go but have yet to find the opportunity to get there, it was like I got to go there for myself. And even better, it was like I got to go and I got to relive this story again and again in a place as beautiful in real life as it is in my mind’s eye.
The writing made this atmosphere even more incredible. The way Funke would describe the water and stone, the pathways and alleys, the boats and the famous buildings was mesmerising. The way it was written had a hand in shaping my own writing goals, as I also love at atmospheric touch in my own work. This has shaped me for so long and is so intrinsically a part of me that honestly I am so, so happy.

The characters are all lovely, each with their own unique personality and lovable traits. My favourites were always Prosper (our main character), Victor Getz, and Ida Spavento. I always thought, and continued to think of them, as lovable forces who would keep anyone safe – which they did. Prosper takes care of his younger brother, Bo. Victor Getz helps care for them (and the other runaway kids), as does Ida Spavento. They all just seemed like the sweetest  characters, who I feel unimaginably lucky to have discovered and cherished as much as I do.

I give the book 5 stars, as it holds such an important place on my bookshelf and in my heart. It remains my absolute favourite book, and I’m sure that will continue to be the truth in the foreseeable future, and probably also beyond that. I cannot recommend it enough, especially to those who love  heart-warming tale.

Review The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini by Sian Thomas

 

(5 / 5)

 

I  recently read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and I don’t know if I have the words to describe my reaction to it.

Five stars, first of all, let’s start there. I don’t think I want anyone I’m close to missing out on such an outstanding and completely mesmerising book like this one. I’ve read so many books lately, and all of them have been good, but I think they have been good in their own right. However, none of them (at least, none of the recent ones I’ve read) have been quite as enthralling as this.

I don’t want to go too far into the plot (I don’t think, for one, I could do it justice as it was incredibly intertwined and intricate), however I do want to say that it’s probably the saddest and most bittersweet plots I’ve ever had the utmost pleasure to experience. Two boys in Afghanistan, their lives and endeavours and trials and tribulations to come – everything life throws at them. It was truly tragic, with sprinkling happiness and and overall wonderful redemption.
Sad stories are the best ones, I think. But I never expected this tale to be so true of that statement and also, somehow, change it. Sad stories are the best stories. I’ve learnt about the concept of catharsis at school and I think I really, truly, felt it. So maybe sad stories are the best ones, but maybe the sadness should be in moderation for me (it was really, honest and truly, the most heart wrenching and devastating yet amazing books I’ve ever read).

One of the things I’ve noticed after reading this was how sure I usually am that, as a reader, I am going to receive my happy ending. This book changed that. Situation after situation that tugged my heartstrings and made me tearful made me less and less sure of myself. I’ve felt the normal, almost-rush of fear when you notice a book has a lot to complete yet so little pages to do it in. And I had that with this book. Yet, with every other book I’ve read I haven’t truly felt afraid that things wouldn’t work out. I always knew they would, because they always do. I didn’t have this with this book.
I was unsure. A good kind of unsure. An exciting and all-encompassing unsure that left me not knowing if there could possibly be a happy ending coming my way after the turmoil the main character (Amir) had gone through, as well as the turmoil all the other characters had gone through, as well. There was one, single chapter left, and I did not know whether, within about the forty minutes it would take me to read it, I would be grinning or crying. Eventually, it was both, and I’m quite happy with that.

As I said, it was an extremely bittersweet book, with the excellent kind of plot execution that always draws you in for the entire time (and then some – I’ve only just finished it and it’s still the only thing on my mind). It had the kind of writing that was honestly beautiful, full of lovely description and meaningful dialogue and fantastic general, actual, real storytelling which struck a cord somewhere within me and really made my heart feel for it(/the characters).

I bought it to expand my horizons, to diversify my bookshelf. And I’m so glad I did. I went in borderline completely blind, and I came out the other side a little different to how I went in. I’ve been given a history lesson, a gratitude lesson, and probably also a lesson on writing (which I hope to carry into the future).

I feel as if, through reading this book, the kind of problems I have faced or am expecting to face have been minimised and put a little into place. Which doesn’t erase them, but does make me feel a lot more at ease with my life tonight than it did when I woke up in the morning. And I like that. I’m happy I got that. It was unexpected and nice, almost like an extra gift from the author as well as a phenomenal experience.

Review The Girl From Venice, Martin Cruz Smith by Sian Thomas

(3 / 5)

In the past, I’ve always been quite wary of wartime fiction, or general historical fiction. It was never something I particularly enjoyed, as I wasn’t big on history, or war, or reading about either.

Since then, however, I have slowly brought myself away from this view. This is where The Girl From Venice comes in. Though not my first experience of historical or war fiction, it was still one I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Set towards the end of World War Two, the main character, Innocenzo (Cenzo) Vianello works as a fisherman in Pellestrina where he finds (what he thinks is) the drowned corpse of a lady. Wanting to do the right thing, he tries to take her where she can be identified. On the way he is intercepted, and by the time he is allowed back on his own boat, she’s hiding on the boat eating his food.

The story follows their interactions, eventual separation and search to find one another again. Also exploring other factors in between, such as familial complications, political endeavours, the conclusion of the war, its impact, and love.

I’ve only read one other book set in Italy, and that’s The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. That book stood as my all-time favourite for a very long time, and remains as such. The writing and scenery helped it gain this title. So, setting in Italy has always appealed to me. I love that the writing style in The Girl In Venice goes perfectly with it. Especially with this story. What with being a fisherman, Cenzo spends a lot of time in the water. The description of it (among the other places the story was set, as the characters did travel) saw that I got my fair share of gorgeous writing that made me feel so involved in a scene and so hooked into the story. If anything, it was probably my favourite aspect. It was an inspirational style, and one that drew me in until the very end.

The book was very good. My interest in historical fiction and war time fiction seems to be developing nicely, and I’m glad I read this book and it helped me to see as such.