BOOK REVIEW: Homegoing – by Yaa Gyasi

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Title: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: November 21st 2016 
Pages: 305
Rating 4qqq

“You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”

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As soon as I came across this story a few months ago, I just knew I had to read it at some point. I always have a weak spot for a solid historical fiction novel, and Homegoing had all the signs it was going to be just that. I somehow ended up posponing this read longer than I had initially planned, but the Goodreads Choice Awards were the perfect excuse to finally pick up this novel by Yaa Gyasi. And there is no doubt that Homegoing deserves its nomination. It’s a truly interesting historical fiction novel set in both Africa and the US, starting in the 18th century with two characters and following their future generations during centuries. I actually kind of had One Hundred Years Of Solitude flashbacks every time I considered this aspect of Homegoing, and that is definitely a compliment. Sure, the story is a bit confusing in the beginning, mostly due to the sheer amount of characters that are introduced over time. The pace was also a tad slow at times, but that is all forgotten if you look at just how brilliantly written this story actually is. The author is able to include so many important moments in the history of both slavery and race problematics in general, and manages to do so without it feeling like a dull history book. Each character adds a little something to the story, and even though it was hard to keep track of them at times, the fact that there are so many of them adds to the charm. Homegoing is without doubt a very powerful and well researched historical fiction novel that I can recommend to any fan of the genre with my eyes closed.

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Two half-sisters are separated by forces beyond their control: Esi is sold into slavery, while Effia was married to a British slaver. Their future and and those of their future generations of family have been changed forever by this fate, and their destinies will eventually lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history. The true legacy of slavery will be revealed with its many many aspects, all with the help of these two generations of families.

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While not perfect, Homegoing is without doubt well researched and is one of the most interesting books on slavery I’ve read to this date. Thanks to the three hundred years and different generations of those families, Yaa Gyasi is able to talk about so many important fact relating to both slavery and race problematics in general. And even though the pace is a bit slow and the sheer amount of characters can get confusing, there is no doubt that this is an excellent historical fiction novel with a powerful message.

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WWW Wednesdays #113 – November 30th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m currently trying to finish Another Day Gone by Eliza Graham before the end of today, although I’m not sure if I will actually be able to since it’s still early days when it comes to my progress. I guess part of the problem is that I’m not sure if I’m actually in the mood for historical fiction right now… That and my Crooked Kingdom book hangover.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I first reread Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo in anticipation of the second book in this duology. I loved it just as much the second time around! This one is without doubt my all time favorite Bardugo and among my favorite YA fantasy books as well.
* I then finished reading While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft, which turned out to be a good enough read. I admit it wasn’t as good as I was expecting and part of the plot and plot twists were either farfetched or even a bit predictable. The ending was a surprise, although I’m not sure I actually liked it. Also, the characters were not exactly likeable.
* Next up is my very first audiobook experience with Secondhand Smoke by M. Louis. I’ve tried my hands at audiobooks in the past, but could never actually get into the voices that told the stories. I was offered a copy of this one, and I ended up enjoying the whole experience a lot better than I thought I would. The story is full of action and plot twists, and the characters are without doubt interesting. Could have done without the romance and wasn’t sure about the ending, but overall it is without doubt a very entertaining story. It also worked perfectly as an audiobook and I was able to multitask while listening to it. I’m not sure I will switch to audiobooks any time soon, but one or two every once in a while have become way more tempting.
* Next up was one of the Goodreads Choice Awards finalists: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison. And boy I definitely got more than what I had expected! This book is mentioned in the horror genre for a good reason, because this is without doubt one sick and messed up story. I will never look at my butterfly tattoo in the same way again… The story is well written, although the beginning and ending are a lot stronger than the middle part. In fact, the pace slowed down considerably and it took me longer than imagined to finish it. I’m not sure all of it is believable (for example: why don’t those girls ever fight back??!!), but it is without doubt one hell of a horror story. And it definitely isn’t one for the weakhearted…
* I also read His Kidnapper’s Shoes by Maggie James, which turned out to be another interesting psychological thriller with an interesting twist. The character development is probably the most interesting part of this story, as we see how both the kidnapper and her ‘son’ evolve over time and deal with their lives. The story switches between past and present and touches some very sensitive topics; you’ve been warned.
* And the last book I finished since last week is Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. I’m not sure if it was just because my expectations were set too high, but while I thoroughly enjoyed reading this sequel I don’t think it’s actually as good as the first book. Sure, I loved the characters and the twists and I no doubt have a small book hangover after finishing it. But it missed the spark of Six Of Crows. That doesn’t take away I’m sad to say goodbye to these characters…

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I  want to try and read my very first Reading Alley ARC next: Tipping Point by Tomas Byrne. I also have another Netgalley ARC pending (sooo close to the 80% now!) The Killing Game by J.S. Carol. I’ve heard great things about it, so I’m looking forward to finally picking it up. I also want to finally dive into This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. I have loved everything written by this woman so far this year, so I honestly don’t understand what’s taking me so long. Lastly, my newest TBR jar pick is still Little Women by Louise May Alcott.

Teaser Tuesdays #116 – November 29th: Another Day Gone

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TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme originally featured at Books And A Beat. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I’m currently reading one of my pending Netgalley ARCs: Another Day Gone by Eliza Graham. I was in the mood for a historical fiction/WWII themed read and even though this story is actually set during three different generations, it sounded quite interesting. It’s still too early to tell more about it, but it looks promising so far.

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My teaser (6%):

“Her number was in my mobile’s memory. My finger paused as I went to push the green dial button. What to say?”

What are you reading right now?

2017 Beat The Backlist

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I know that technically there still is more than a month of 2016 left, but I saw this new 2017 challenge mentioned by Donna over at Chocolatenwaffles’ Blog and I just HAD to join. (P.S. visit her blog if you haven’t already, she’s awesome. 😀 )

The 2017 Beat The Backlist challenge is hosted over at Novelknight AND also includes a Harry Potter themed mini challenge; how cool is that?! Of course I will be joining that one as well, proudly trying to win the Hogwarts House Cup along with my fellow Ravenclaws. (Yes, I finally checked Pottermore and I can now officially say that’s my house.)

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# What is the ‘2017 Beat The Backlist’ challenge about? #

This challenge runs from January 1st to December 31st 2017 is all about finally reading all those poor neglected books that have been collecting dust for way too long, ignored and/or pushed aside for new releases and ARCs. And since my TBR pile is about to explode and I’m definitely guilty of the above, I will set my goal to read 50 books that have been published before 2016 next year. And not only that, at least 20 of them will have to be published before 2013… I know I have read WAY more books than that this year so far, but I’m ashamed to admit more than a third of them have been books published in 2016. Oops?!

# GOALS #

In short, my goals for this challenge will be:

  • read 50 books published before 2016
  • read 20 books published before 2013
  • review each book 
  • update challenge post monthly

# TBR #

Since I will be trying to read a few titles that have been on my shelves for a while next month, I will be making a proper TBR closer to the end of this year. But if I can’t get to them before, I can promise that titles like the Red Rising trilogy, Outlander and The Darkest Minds will sure be mentioned.


Make sure to check out the official challenge page at Novelknight and sign up if you want to join the fun! Your TBR pile will thank you. 😉

BOOK REVIEW: When Breath Becomes Air – by Paul Kalanithi

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Title: When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Health
First published: January 12th 2016
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: November 18th 2016
Pages: 208
Rating 4,5qqq

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”

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I have been reading more memoirs and non fiction reads than average in 2016, but Paul Kalanithi‘s story is without doubt one of the most powerful ones I’ve read this year and it deserves being nominated for Best Memoir in the Goodreads Choice Awards. When Breath Becomes Air is powerful, raw, emotional and simply heartbreaking… The story of a young neurosurgeon who lost his battle against cancer, a man who tried to write down the story of his life as he was trying to race against the clock. This rush especially shows in the last part of the memoir he managed to write himself, but that only makes this memoir more authentic and adds a whole other level to it. It’s hard to write about and/or criticize the work of a person whose life and dreams were cut short, and I have decided not to take in account the minor flaws in the prose and pace that might slow down the reading at points. The mismatched pace is a sign of a man who ran out of time, and desperately tried to finish what he had always wanted to do at some point in his life: write a book. If you are looking for a powerful memoir and don’t mind having a few packs of tissues ready, pick up When Breath Becomes Air. You won’t regret it.

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Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the age of thirty-six, just as he as about to complete a decade worth of training as a neurosurgeon. Suddenly, his life went from making a living treating the sick and dying to being a patient himself… And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. In this memoir, he wrote about his connection to literature and questions about the virtuous and meaningful life, and how he ended up deciding to study to be a neurosurgeon. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future suddenly flattens out into a perpetual present?

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When Breath Becomes Air is without doubt one of the most powerful and emotional memoirs I’ve read this year. If you look critically, the prose might have a few minor flaws and the pace wasn’t perfect, but that is all soon forgotten if you just think about who wrote this story in the first place and his background. Paul Kalanithi was a man running out of time, and yet still determined to follow his dream and finally write his book as his legacy. Powerful throughout and the final part written by his wife was especially moving.

Friday Finds #109 – November 25th

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FRIDAY FINDS showcases the most interesting books I’ve encountered during the last week and have added to my neverending TBR list on Goodreads. Below a selection of my newest additions; click on the book descriptions to go to its Goodreads page! 😀

My finds:

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ARC REVIEW: The Girls Next Door – by Mel Sherratt

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Title: The Girls Next Door
(Detective Eden Berrisford #1)
Author: Mel Sherratt

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime
First published: October 27th 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: November 17th 2016
Pages: 318
Rating 3qqq

“No one in the shop came to her aid. She had been condemned the same as her daughter. Guilty until proven innocent.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I am always a sucker for a good crime thriller, so it was easy to say yes to another new detective series. The blurb of The Girls Next Door had me intrigued right away, and the story had without doubt quite a powerful start. The beginning of this story was just as gripping and edge-of-your-seat as the cover has promised, but unfortunately I don’t think the story was actually able to maintain that level of intensity. I think the main problem was the sheer amount of characters that is introduced throughout the story, which can get quite confusing at times. I personally had a hard time identifying where each character stood in the story, and that made it a little more difficult to enjoy the story. The amount of characters also made their individual stories seem a bit rushed at points. What I did like was the fast pace and the new main character of this series. Eden Berrisford is one of the exceptions to the detective cliche and she doesn’t have a messed up private life distracting from the case. In fact, she doesn’t really play that big of a role in the story… Which makes The Girls Next Door into the first book of a refreshing new detective series I will definitely be keeping in mind despite the few things that bothered me.

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Six months after that terrible night where sixteen-year-old Deanna Barker was stabbed, someone is coming after the teenagers of Stockleigh. A wave of vicious assaults troubles the community, and everyone is left wondering why those teenagers were attacked. Was it because of what happened to Deanna? Or is something more going on? Detective Eden Berrisford has to race against the clock to catch the person behind the attacks, but the case gets personal when her own niece goes missing…

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This story is without doubt a fast-paced and easy-to-read thriller, although it did lose its intensity later on in the story. There were too many different characters involved to my taste, or at least they managed to confuse me at times as it was hard to figure out where each of them stood in the story. I also wasn’t sure about the credibility of part of the plot, although the case itself is quite interesting. Eden Berrisford has won points for originality as a detective character! In short, while The Girls Next Door has its flaws, I have the feeling it’s still the start of a refreshing new detective series. Make sure to give it a go if you like the genre.