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
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“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.

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
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“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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Continue reading

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
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“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.

WWW Wednesdays #112 – November 23rd

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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 almost finished rereading Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and of course I’m loving this story as much as I did the first time around. As soon as I do end the final page, I’m picking up the sequel Crooked Kingdom! I’m also reading the Netgalley ARC While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft, although I’m only a few pages into that one so far. And I’m quite far into my very first audiobook experience with Secondhand Smoke by M. Louis. I have to admit it takes some time getting used to the whole audiobook thing, but this action-packed story does make it a lot easier for me to enjoy the process.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I first finished reading Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi, which I had picked up on a whim after being in the mood for a fantasy read. (The fact that it’s a Goodreads Choice Nominee is a bonus of course). I loved the worldbuilding and the prose is great, but I wasn’t too convinced by the characters or the ending. It’s a middle grade read though, and I have a feeling the target group will probably love this story.
* I then finished reading The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt, which turned out to be quite a refreshing new detective series in the way that the detective the series is named after doesn’t play that big of a role nor does she have a messed up private life. It’s also quite a fast-paced read, although I have to admit the sheer amount of characters that is introduced can get quite confusing at times. I had a hard time identifying where each character stood in the story, and it made it more difficult to actually just enjoy the story. I also had problems with the credibility?
* Afterwards I decided to read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and it turns out it is nominated for Best Memoir for a good reason. This memoir is powerful, raw, emotional and simply heartbreaking… The story of a young neurosurgeon who lost the battle against cancer, a man who tried to write down the story of his life during a race against the clock. The rush especially shows in the last part he wrote himself, but that only makes this memoir more authentic. The final part written by his wife was especially moving.
* Afterwards I decided to continue with Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s a truly interesting historical fiction novel set in both Africa and the US and follows different generations of two initial characters. The story was a bit confusing in the beginning, mostly due to the sheer amount of characters that are introduced over time. The pace was a tad slow at times as well, but overall Homegoing is without doubt a very powerful and well researched historical fiction novel.
* The last book I read is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, which was my last TBR jar pick. And boy do I regret not having picked this one up earlier! This originally Swedish book was in one word BRILLIANT. I fell in love with the prose and main character from the very first page and it’s been a while since a book has been able to make me laugh and cry at the same time. Ove has managed to win over my heart, grumpiness and all, and he is hands down one of my new favorite characters. Fredrik Backman is able to combine heartbreaking and sensitive topics with a humor that is right up my alley; I can’t wait to read more of his work soon. (By the way, am I the only one who thinks Ove sounds a bit like the old grumpy man in the movie Up?)

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I’m still trying to read more Goodreads Choice Awards nominees, so I have The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly on my list. I also want to try and read my very first Reading Alley ARC: Tipping Point by Tomas Byrne. Lastly, I have a new TBR jar pick: Little Women by Louise May Alcott. I have to admit I have never read this classic before nor am I that excited about it, but hopefully I will turn out to be wrong about this one. At least it’s a great excuse to squeeze in another classic before the end of this year. 😉

Teaser Tuesdays #115 – November 22nd: A Man Called Ove

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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!)

This book has been recommended to me various times in the past and seems to be everywhere lately. I normally prefer staying away from so-called hyped books, but I’m glad I gave this one a go because A Man Called Ove is about to be added to my list of favorite books I’ve read this year. The writing as well as the main character are simply brilliant. Sure, Ove is grumpy, cranky and doesn’t sound likeable at all, but somehow you grow to love him almost instantly. Ove is turning out to be one of my new favorite characters and I’m sure that won’t change after reading the final chapters today. Looks like I will be adding a new author to my favorites list as well!

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My teaser (11%):

“People also called him antisocial. Ove assumed this meant he wasn’t overly keen on people. And in this instance he could totally agree with them. More often than not people were out of their minds.”

What are you reading right now?

ARC REVIEW: The Power – by Naomi Alderman

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Title: The Power
Author: Naomi Alderman

Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
First published: October 27th 2016
Publisher: Viking
Finished reading: November 14th 2016
Pages: 288
Rating 4qqq

“The truth has always been a more complex commodity than the market can easily package and sell.”

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

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I requested a copy of this book 100% based on Claire‘s review last month, knowing I most likely wouldn’t regret it since we seem to like the same books in the first place. And I wasn’t disappointed. The Power turned out to be just as strong as she had promised in her review and I can fully agree that this story by Naomi Alderman is without doubt a perfect book club read. It’s a story that will stay for you for a long time; it’s been two weeks since I finished it and I’m still having difficulties putting my thoughts together somewhat coherently. I don’t want to go too much into details to avoid possible spoilers, but the message behind The Power (please forgive the pun!) is just that: POWERFUL. It’s a truly unique and clever example of speculative and science fiction at its best and the story will most likely surprise you. The prose is strong and the plot and plot twists are interesting enough, although the general idea behind this book is by far its strongest feature. Because while the characters might not be that memorable after a few weeks, I’m sure you won’t forget about the essence and underlying message of The Power for a long time. I know I didn’t! This book can lead to some interesting discussions, and I’m personally really curious about how male readers would interprete its message. Recommended!

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The world described in The Power is recognizable enough to our own world, but something vital has changed. Suddenly, teenage girls have immense physical power and they can cause agonising pain and even death. The leading powers around the world don’t know how to react to this sudden change in power, and will soon find out how much this small twist of nature will truly affect the world as they know it.

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I’m glad I was pointed out to this title, because it is without doubt a powerful story that will stay with me for a long time. Naomi Alderman writes about an alternative world, but it’s one still painfully close to our own and it makes you wonder about the true power of… well… power. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot because I’m afraid it will ruin the surprise, but I can definitely suggest reading The Power if you have the chance!