ARC REVIEW: Cold Fear – by Mads Peder Nordbo

Title: Cold Fear
(Greenland #2)

Author: Mads Peder Nordbo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 17th 2018
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: October 23rd 2019
Pages: 357
(Originally published in Danish: ‘Kold Angst’)

“Sorry is the most useless word ever invented.”

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

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I really enjoyed the first book The Girl Without Skin despite its brutalness last year, so as soon as I saw there was going to be a sequel I knew I had to add it to my wishlist. Main characters Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating to follow, and I’ve been looking forward to discover what would happen to them next… Before I discuss my thoughts on Cold Fear, I first have to stress that this is one of those series you have to read in order, because this sequel wouldn’t make much sense if you try to read it as a standalone. Trust me, you wouldn’t do yourself a favor if you pick up Cold Fear before reading the first book!

That said, let’s continue with my thoughts on Cold Fear. After enjoying the first book, I was totally expecting to have a good reading experience with the sequel as well… But it turns out I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. First of all I have to say that the Greenland setting really complements the plot in many ways. Instead of being just a random setting for the story to take place, the harsh, brutal and almost ominous Greenland setting is almost omnipresent and almost feels like yet another character taking part in this story. Between the many descriptions and the role of the Greenland setting in the plot, it really made the different places mentioned in Cold Fear come alive for me… And it turns this series into a fantastic example of the powers of the unforgivable Nordic setting that makes reading nordic noir so special.

One of the things that stands out in Cold Fear is the sheer brutality of the plot. Almost excessive violence, murder, canibalism, abuse, rape, child abuse, rape, drug abuse… All of this and more is included into a plot filled with graphic scenes and this story is definitely not for those with a weak stomach. I myself don’t mind things getting bloody and violent, but I did start to wonder if this story went a little too extreme and took it one step too far… Some scenes just seemed excessive, especially those set in the bunker and everything related to the (child)abuse and rape. Trigger warning are definitely in place! Related to this, I also felt the plot itself was a bit too over the top, farfetched and the story itself lacked cohesion for me. Even with the knowledge of the first book, I had a hard time following the story at times and I guess the 1990s flashbacks didn’t really help either. Things can get a little confusing and I personally wasn’t all that satisfied by certain explanations nor how the story ended. I would have liked to see less seemingly useless violent graphic scenes and more background and plot building… As it was, the story just jumped all over the place for me, without giving a satisfying direction or justifying said violence and deaths.

As for the characters… Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating characters, but I felt their development lacked more fleshing out in the sequel. Especially when it comes to Tupaarnaq, who didn’t seem to present and mostly reverted to cliches when she did appear in the plot. Likewise, Tom and the other more important characters also lacked fleshing out for me. I felt that the focus point of Cold Fear was basically on the extreme violence and making this story as brutal and shocking as possible, and as a consequence I don’t think the sequel reached its full potential nor lived up to expectations for me. Others did react better to Cold Fear though, so take my rambles with a grain of salt and don’t hesitate to try it if you think you can stomach the graphic scenes…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #129 – Fever 1793 & The Museum Of Extraordinary Things (DNF)

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two historical fiction reads that I fully expected to love, but somehow failed to connect to. The historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, but the characters fell a bit flat for me… And with a superslow pace and flat characters, I saw no other option but to DNF The Museum Of Extraordinary Things. Oh yes, sadly it’s time for a double dose of unpopular opinion reviews!


Title: Fever 1793
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
First published: September 1st 2000
Publisher: Aladdin
Finished reading: October 17th 2019
Pages: 252

“Life was a battle, and Mother a tired and bitter captain. The captain I had to obey.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I was browsing for possible titles that are set in the 18th century to read for the final era for the When Are You Reading? challenge when I saw this title pop up. I enjoyed her other title Wintergirls when I read it earlier this year and the historical setting and plot sounded fascinating, so I immediately knew I wanted to read this title. I’m not sure if this was the wrong book at the wrong time for me, or if it’s just that I’m not that used to middle grade books in the first place… But the fact is that I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by this story. First things first, and I have to say that the historical setting is well developed and detailed when it comes to the facts of 18th century Philadelphia and the yellow fever outbreak. It shows that the author has investigated historical facts thoroughly and the descriptions feel realistic and help teach the readers more about yellow fever and the impact of the outbreak back then. I could also appreciate the explanation of what was based on historical facts and what might have been changed in the story. That said, I struggled to connect to the story. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it has somewhat to do with the fact that I never felt a real connection with the main characters, making me feel mostly detached from  everything that happened to the main characters. In short, while the historical aspect of Fever 1793 was brilliantly handled, the characters somehow ended up falling a bit flat for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you haven’t tried this story yet and are intrigued by the blurb, you shouldn’t hesitate to try your luck.


Title: The Museum Of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: February 18th 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Finished reading: October 21st 2019
Pages: 385
DNF at 38% (146 pages)

“Coney Island was, above all else, a place of dreams, with amusements like no others, rides that defied the rules of gravity, concerts and games of chance, ballrooms with so many electric lights they glowed as if on fire.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’ve been meaning to read this title for a long time, so I was excited when my TBR jar decided it was time to finally read it. The premise of The Museum Of Extraordinary Things sounds fantastic, so I fully expected to enjoy the story… Sadly, surprisingly enough it wasn’t ment to be. I’m not sure if it was just the wrong time for this story or if my book hangerover after finishing The Lion Tamer Who Lost the other day would have made me struggle with any book in the first place… But the fact is, I REALLY struggled with The Museum Of Extraordinary Things and I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading any longer. The pace is so so slow in general and the parts written in cursive are even slower… I had a hard time staying focused on the story and even started skimreading certain parts; definitely not a good sign. On top of that, I found the main characters to be quite flat and cliche… They lacked development for me to make them more rounded (at least in the part I read), and as The Museum Of Extraordinary Things seems to be a more character driven story, this became a real issue for me. I do have to say that the historical setting in early 20th century New York/Coney Island is absolutely fascinating and the historical references are probably the main reason I even made it this far. But as a whole, this story and me definitely didn’t get along.


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ARC REVIEW: The Dinner Party – by Richard Parker

Title: The Dinner Party
Author: R.J. Parker
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 18th 2019
Publisher: Harper Impulse and Killer Reads
Finished reading: October 7th 2019
Pages: 400 

“Ted felt as if everything was slowing down. He was on the verge of sliding back into unconsciousness.”

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


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I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few of Richard Parker‘s books in the past, so as soon as I saw The Dinner Party I knew I had to add it to my shelves. I admit there was a moment of confusion when I added the title to my Goodreads shelves, as it is shelved under a different author with the same name, but I can now confirm it’s the same Richard Jay Parker that has multiple previous titles published by a different publisher (Bookouture) including favorites Hide And Seek and Keep Her Safe. I had quite high expectations for this story, but somehow I didn’t end up having the reaction I expected to have to this story…

If you are looking for a twisty, explosive and shocking thriller, The Dinner Party fits all those points and more. The story starts with a bang: you are dropped right in the middle of a life or death fight and what is basically a superintense and bloody scene. No introductions, no explanations… Just that scene to leave your jaw hanging on the floor and wondering how that situation came to be. This intense introduction chapter is contrasted by the following ‘mild’ chapters talking about a dinner party involving four couples. Do they have anything to do with that first chapter? Which of them could be involved? The tone of this story is definitely set with that brilliantly played first chapter.

The tension is build up slowly but steadily in the rest of the story, mixing secrets and twists with moments of action and suspense. I initially had a very good feeling about this story, but as the storyline continued and evolved, I started wondering about the credibility of it all. Sure, there is no doubt that if you are looking for adrenaline and action you will be in for a treat with the second half of The Dinner Party. But I myself found everything that happened to the four couples simply to be a tad too farfetched. I could accept the first thing that happened, the second too if I’m generous… But afterwards things really went out of control and my eyebrows started raising themselves more and more and more. On top of that, I didn’t really find the final reveal or explanation behind it all credible at all… Making the ending a bit of a disappointment for me. I did like how we came a full circle and saw the first chapter described again in its proper place in the story though.

As for the characters… Sadly, I can’t really say I liked them. Apart from the fact that I would have liked to see more development, as some fell flat for me and were a bit of a cliche, I didn’t find them likeable at all. I get the secrets and I get that they are hiding things to help generate those plot twists and reveals later on, but somehow they didn’t manage to grab my attention at all. Which is a shame, because between the credibility and characters I definitely ended up having a different reaction than I thought I would. If you like your thrillers fast, thrilling and shocking and don’t mind some lack of credibility and an ‘over the top’ plot, you will probably have a better time reading this story. The fascinating premise and promise of a great story is definitely there!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Birthday House – by Jill Treseder #RandomThingsTours #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Birthday House Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this novella that spoke to me and while I did end up having mixed thoughts, there is no doubt that the premise of this story is fascinating. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Birthday House
Author: Jill Treseder
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 24th 2019
Publisher: SilverWood Books
Finished reading: September 14th 2019
Pages: 149

“Gossip is not interested in innocence. It will curdle innocence in the blink of a curious eye.”

*** A copy of this novella was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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When I received the blog tour invitation a while back, there was just something about the blurb that caught my attention straight away. The psychological aspect as well as the past mixing with the present in the form of memories sounded fascinating, and I was also curious about the murder, its effects on Susan and the why and how behind it all. While I did end up having mixed thoughts about The Birthday House, I have to stress that this doesn’t mean it’s a bad read, and the 3 star rating reflects my personal experience with this story. I’ll tell you all about what worked and what didn’t for me below.

First of all I have to say I still feel the premise of The Birthday House is engrossing and it’s without doubt one of the strongest aspects of this novella. While initially the murder is only hinted at, it is the psychological effects of Josephine’s death and the events leading up to that dreaded day in 1955 that have the main focus. Flashbacks to the past play a very important role throughout this novella, as we try to decipher what went on in the Kennedy house and why things happened that way. It was intriguing to discover that the author based this story on an event that happened to her in the past and now uses this story almost as a form of therapy… She stresses that the events in The Birthday House do not reflect what really happened in the case that affected her personally, but it’s only a possible explanation of what could have gone wrong in a similar situation. I applaude the author for being brave enough to face past demons and put it all out in the open…  I can imagine it can’t have been easy digging all those memories up again and her personal experience does give this novella an authentic touch.

That said, there were also certain aspects of The Birthday House I ended up struggling with… I personally wasn’t convinced with the novella having so many different POVs. It felt a bit chaotic and disorganized having to jump between so many characters as well as the past and present, especially for such a short story. I felt I didn’t get to know each character well enough this way, although I do get why the author opted for multiple POVs as I imagine she was trying to show the mental state of and psychological effects on the different characters involved. Still, the story lacked cohesion for me and I personally would have liked to see less POVs (for example by leaving Mrs. Harrison, the housekeeper, out of the mix to name one). I also wasn’t a fan of the tone and writing; it didn’t feel natural and some of the dialogue and thoughts sometimes even felt a bit forced… Susan’s 1955 POV felt a tad too childish as well, and I also felt part of the plot and reasons behind the murder were simply too cliche. This is my personal reaction to this story though and if you are able to connect to the writing and don’t mind a few cliches and a lot of POV switches, The Birthday House does have a captivating premise.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book The Wise Woman Within resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #122 – The Old Man And The Sea & Stalking Jack The Ripper

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a classic I’ve been meaning to read for ages and a YA story that has been recommended to me multiple times. Both ended up surprising me… I wasn’t expecting to, but I actually really enjoyed my time with The Old Man And The Sea. And while I was fully expecting to love Stalking Jack The Ripper, the romance put a damper on things.


Title: The Old Man And The Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway

Genre: Classics, Fiction
First published: September 1952
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: August 23rd 2019
Pages: 132

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”


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Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever read Ernest Hemingway‘s books before. *hides in a corner* I’ve been meaning to pick up The Old Man And The Sea for quite some time now, and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m glad I thought of this title when I was browsing for short reads to fit one of the prompts for #NEWTsReadathon2019, because I ended up enjoying it so much more than I thought I would. The plot of this classic is very simple: basically it’s a very old man struggling to catch and bring home a huge fish. Not very interesting unless you love fishing, you might say, but I think the power of this story might just be in its simplicity. There are no distractions, just the man, the boat, the sea and the huge fish. The description of the struggle of the old man is thorough and detailed, and it was interesting to see his character evolve over time. You might wonder why on earth he would keep up the struggle for that long. You might wonder why he doesn’t just give up when the sharks come visiting, as he is basically risking his life to bring in some fish meat. Still, there was just something about this short classic that made me enjoyed the ride. And while I’ve heard that The Old Man And The Sea is by far the most entertaining of his books, I’ll be looking forward to try more of Ernest Hemingway‘s books in the future.


Title: Stalking Jack The Ripper
(Stalking Jack The Ripper #1)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Thriller
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Finished reading: August 24th 2019
Pages: 336

“Corpses kept him company most nights, like intriguing textbooks; he cherished dissecting them and discovering the secrets held between the pages of their skin and bones.”


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Warning: it’s unpopular opinion time again!

As soon as I first heard about this book I was completely intrigued. I mean, a Jack The Ripper inspired story set in the same time period and place? There was just no way on earth I was going to be resisting that. A lot of people have been recommending Stalking Jack The Ripper to me over the years, and I was really excited to finally get to it. The story started out strong for me and I had high hopes it would be a winner for me as well… But I guess it wasn’t ment to be in the end. First things first, and I have to say I loved the historical setting and how many historical references to the Jack The Ripper case are incorporated into the plot. Descriptions are thorough and I really felt like I was right there in 1888 along with the main characters. I can also appreciate the twist on the original Jack The Ripper case and his new identity. While I did guess the identity quite early on, it did bring an interesting twist to the story. The forensic medicine element is likewise an interesting touch. BUT. I didn’t see coming that there would be so much romance involved AT ALL. The whole enemy to lovers trope and the constant bantering really took away the attention from what was happening and as things continued I started to struggle to keep focused on the story. The fact that main character Audrey Rose REALLY wants you to know she is an empowering and intelligent young woman and deserves to be working with her Uncle really got on my nerves as well. Her superiority complex and arrogance made me enjoy the story considerably less than I thought I would, and I’m still not sure what to think of Thomas and his behavior either. In short, the characters and romance made me enjoy this story a lot less than I thought I would… That said, with the sequel having Vlad The Impaler references, I will most likely still give the sequel a go some time in the future.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #121 – Smoke In The Sun & The Cellar

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around to YA reads that I fully expected to enjoy thoroughly, but failed to blow me away in the end. The first is the duology conclusion Smoke In The Sun by Renee Ahdieh, which I was expecting to be another 5 star read after loving the first book last year, but it wasn’t ment to be. And while the premise of The Cellar by Natasha Preston is absolutely fascinating, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would.


Title: Smoke In The Sun
(Flame In The Mist #2)
Author: Renee Ahdieh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 1st 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: August 20th 2019
Pages: 416

“Honor was a thing to hate. It drove people to act foolishly, as though they were heroes. As though they were invincible.”


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I’m still surprised I reacted this way to this duology conclusion, because I absolutely loved Flame In The Mist last year and it was one of my 2018 favorites. It might have been that my expectations were set too high, it might have been that I should have reread the first book before starting Smoke In The Sun because I had forgotten about a lot of details… But the fact is, I never felt that same love for the sequel. Even with the help of the glossary in the back, I kind of struggled to keep all the different characters, POVs and plotlines apart, and that made me enjoy the story a lot less. The writing is solid, and I liked the Japanese elements incorporated into the story, as it gives the story the right atmosphere. I would have liked to see the magic more developed though, as it would have given the story that little something extra. Instead, Smoke In The Sun focuses a lot on the relationships between the different characters. To make things worse, we have a love triangle to deal with… And I wasn’t sure if I liked the character development of certain characters. I still think Mariko is a very strong and resourceful main character, and I still liked Okami, but for me Smoke In The Sun lacked some of that special ‘magic’ that turned the first book into a favorite for me. It’s not a bad read, but sadly it wasn’t what I hoped it would be either.


Title: The Cellar
(The Cellar #1)
Author: Natasha Preston

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: March 1st 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Finished reading: August 22nd 2019
Pages: 368

“This was a morning from a nightmare – one that I couldn’t wake up from.”


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I’ve had The Cellar on my TBR for quite some time now… When my TBR jar decided it was time to read it and I reread the blurb, I was instantly excited to finally pick it up. The premise of this story is absolutely fascinating and I’ve been looking forward to read it ever since. But somehow, I didn’t enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would. The elements are there: a twisted serial killer, a kidnapping, a prolonged hostage situation… But somehow it was all overshadowed by just how whiny and annoying the main character Summer was. I get that she is in an impossible situation and to say that she is having a hard time is an understatement, but I really couldn’t stand her character and the chapter set before the kidnapping only reconfirmed those feelings. There was too much romance and teen angst involved for me to take the plot seriously, and the final twists were not at all credible either. Another thing about the plot: the whole ‘trapped inside a room by a twisted individual’ scenario has clearly been done before, and sadly executed better in other stories I’ve had the chance to read so far (including Room, The Butterfly Garden, The Bunker Diary). It’s by no means a bad read and the serial killer we are introduced to is without doubt seriously twisted, but somehow The Cellar didn’t manage to convince me completely despite the promising premise. I don’t think I will be reading the sequel any time soon…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #120 – Twisted & I Am Malala

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new 5 star favorite and another good read as well. I loved Thirteen when I read it a while back, and I think I might just love Twisted a tiny bit more. Steve Cavanagh is definitely one of my favorite new discoveries this year! And it took me years, but I finally managed to read I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, and it was without doubt a very powerful memoir even though I failed to connect with it completely.


Title: Twisted
Author: Steve Cavanagh

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 24th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: August 16th 2019 
Pages: 320

“This was what Paul lived for.

He just liked writing twists good enough to make the reader drop the goddamn book.

And there was one of the way.”


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I’ve had a copy of Twisted on my shelves for a few months, and after being blown away by Thirteen a little while back I was even more excited to finally read it. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think I loved Twisted even a tiny bit more than my first meeting with Eddie Flynn. This book knocked me out with a hammer and left me staring at the last page, trying to process what I had just read… Oh yes, this will definitely be on my list of favorites of 2019. And I can also say that Steve Cavanagh is one of my favorite newly discovered authors this year.

I don’t know how I should even start discussing my feelings, because it’s hard to explain the plot and story in general without giving away spoilers that could potentially ruin the fun. But let’s just say that both writing, pace, plot, characters and twists are top notch and definitely take Twisted to the next level. What I love about this book is that nothing is as it seems. You are told something and believe it is true, only for the next chapter to bulldozer over your newly discovered ‘facts’ and feeding you yet another lie instead. Which you will proceed lapping up greedily, desperately trying to get the full picture of it all as you are on a quest to discover the elusive truth. Lie after lie and twist after twist will mislead you up until the point that you even start doubting your own name and your sanity… Oh yes, Twisted will mess with your mind and it’s definitely the right title for this story. Clever, original, complex, brilliantly executed and hands down one of my favorite reads of the year.


Title: I Am Malala
Author: Malala Yousafzai

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: November 1st 2012
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Finished reading: August 17th 2019
Pages: 352

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

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I’ve been meaning to pick up this memoir for a long long time now. I’m sure most have heard about Malala’s story in some way or the other, and this memoir makes for a very inspiring, powerful and heartbreaking story. I think I might have picked it up at the wrong time, because I somehow against expectations I failed to connect to the story… Especially the first half was a struggle for me; I think it has something to do with the sheer amount of different names, places and politics being involved. While it gives an excellent background and is a goldmine for information about Pakistan, I struggled to keep my attention to the story. But like I said, that might just have been that it wasn’t the right book at the right time for me. When you get to the second half and learn more about Malala’s personal story, both the events of her being shot for her beliefs and the aftermath, it was a lot easier to keep your attention with the story. Malala is without doubt both inspiring and extraordinary… And it is easy to understand why she is considered a symbol of peaceful protest in the world. I might end up rereading this one when I’m in the right mood to see if I react differently to it.


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