BOOK REVIEW: The Miniaturist – by Jessie Burton

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Title: The Miniaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: July 3rd 2014
Finished reading: March 10th 2016
Pages: 400
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“Growing older does not seem to make you more certain, Nella thinks. It simply presents you with more reasons for doubt.”

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Having grown up in a town close to Amsterdam, I was immediately intrigued by the setting of The Miniaturist. The fact that the story is set in 1686 only made me want to read this novel even more; I love historical fiction and I really looked forward to the historical descriptions of a city I know quite well. I have to say Jessie Burton didn’t disappoint. While this debut novel isn’t perfect, I still really enjoyed this story. The historical setting and descriptions are very well done and made me feel like I was walking through the city along with the main characters. Nelly Oortman is an interesting enough character; she feels a bit bland at point, but a 17th century woman wouldn’t have been allowed to have a lot of freedom in the first place. The other main characters are quite well developed as well and the story is beautifully written. I would have liked to see more of the miniaturist and the cabinet in the story though; after seeing the various covers and blurb I thought they would play a bigger role in the novel. Part of the plot wasn’t completely credible either, but like I said before: while The Miniaturist isn’t perfect, it is without doubt a very interesting and entertaining read for those who enjoy the genre.

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Nelly Oortman grew up on the countryside, but at eighteen her parents decided to arrange a marriage with a merchart trader named Johannes Brandt. Soon after that Nelly arrives in Amsterdam to begin her new life as Johannes’ wife… But when she enters her new home, she isn’t welcomed as she expected. Johannes seems distant and is never at home, leaving her alone with his sister Marin. Marin doesn’t really seem to like the girl, and Nelly feels quite alone… Having only the servants to talk to. But things change as Johannes gives Nelly her wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. Nelly is told she can furnish her gift as she wishes, and decides to engage the services of a miniaturist for the miniatures. The miniaturist turns out to be a lot more mysterious than Nelly can ever imagine; when she sees the first pieces, she is shocked by the accuracy of the tiny details. The miniaturist seems to know more about the Brandt household than herself, and soon Nelly starts finding out some unusual secrets… And they might be in danger.

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I really enjoyed reading The Miniaturist. The historical descriptions and setting are very well done and really set the right mood for this story. Some of the characters might feel a bit bland at points, but there are always other interesting characters closeby to fill the gap. Some of the plot might not feel all that credible and I would have liked for the miniaturist to have a bigger role in the story, but that doesn’t take away I would definitely recommend this novel by Jessie Burton.

BOOK REVIEW: The Fault In Our Stars – by John Green

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Title: The Fault In Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
First published: January 10th 2012
Finished reading: June 29th 2014
Pages: 316
Rating 4,5

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

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I know, I’m probably one of the last persons on earth reading The Fault In Our Stars. This book by John Green has created quite a hype in the past, and now I’ve read it, I can understand why. I’m not sure if it was because of the tragic love story between two cancer-stricken teenagers. I’m not sure if it was because I was crying my eyes out as I was trying to finish the story. I’m not even sure if it was because of their trip to Amsterdam causing me to have a flashback of all the great moments I had in that city. But what I do know is that I loved it. And that I without hesitation would recommend The Fault In Our Stars to anyone that can appreciate well written YA novels and don’t mind getting ready a box of tissues before reading. Great read!

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Since most will know exactly what the book is about without me repeating all the details, I will keep the summary short. We start with meeting Hazel Grace, who has been fighting thyroid cancer ever since she was thirteen years old. And although she has been declared terminal ever since she was diagnosed and needs oxygen to help her breathe (since ‘her lungs suck at being lungs’), Hazel is still able to go to certain places. In The Fault In Our Stars, we follow her touching journey which is both about trying to live with cancer and trying to have something close to normal teenage life. Hazel is quite a loner, and most of the time prefers being at home with her favorite book An Imperial Affliction, which is like a personal Bible to her.

One day things change as she meets Augustus (or Gus) at the Cancer Kid Support Group. Augustus is currently in remission after having lost a leg to cancer, and goes to the meeting mostly to support his friend Isaac. When he meets Hazel, Augustus decides he has to get to know the girl better… And what starts as a simple friendship bound together by books, soon grows to something more intense. Hazel thinks ‘she’s a grenade’ and wants to ‘minimize the casualties’.  But Augustus doesn’t want to forget her and ignore his feelings, and even spends his wish on making hers come true: a trip to Amsterdam to finally meet the author of her favorite book. But life isn’t perfect and has some nasty surprises ready for both already suffering teenagers. Because ‘the world is not a wish-granting factory’… And life is just not fair.

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There has been a mayor hype around this book and the movie version; in this case I think it’s worth it. The Fault In Our Stars is a book with a strong message that is very likely to provoke tears. If you haven’t read it yet and like YA novels, this one is definitely worth reading!