BOOK REVIEW: The Color Purple – by Alice Walker

Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker

Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 1982
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: April 5th 2017
Pages: 304

“Oh Celie, unbelief is a terrible thing. And so is the hurt we cause others unknowingly.”

myrambles1reviewqqq

Warning: possible unpopular opinion ahead.

Part of the promise I made myself this year is that I would try to read more classics this year as well as try to finally read some of the TBR backlist titles. The Color Purple by Alice Walker fits right into both categories: it’s a modern classic I’ve somehow never picked up before and I decided to change that this month. I’ve seen a lot of raving reviews about this classic and a lot of high ratings, so I found myself rather looking forward to it. And I have to say I was surprised when I found myself struggling to continue reading this story instead… Because it took me a LONG time to get used to the writing style. I get that the author is trying to make Celie’s voice feel more authentic, but it also makes her chapters a lot more difficult to read with all the broken sentences, words and bad grammar. Celie is an uneducated child wife living in the South and I’m sure very accurately described, but that doesn’t take away my feelings of frustration while I read her chapters. Luckily I found the second half of The Color Purple to be a lot better (mainly thanks to Nettie), or else I don’t think I would have finished it… To make things clear: my feelings have nothing to do with the fact that this book is right in your face when it comes to unpleasant themes as child abuse, rape and violence. Alice Walker doesn’t try to sugarcoat the situation and action of the main characters and while unpleasant, it does also give a very strong message. It’s without doubt a colorful read and I understand why it’s called a modern classic… I guess it just wasn’t for me.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

The Color Purple tells the story of two sisters who ended up living separate lives. While Celie is not able to escape her destiny and becomes yet another uneducated child wife living in the South, she managed to avoid her sister Nettie having to face the same fate. It does mean they will have to live far away from each other… As Nettie ends up living as a missionary in Africa. The story follows the two sisters over time and even though they are not able to keep contact, they remain loyal to each other and both have faith that some day they will see each other again. What will happen to the two sisters? Will they survive the challenges life will throw at them?

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

I really wanted to like this modern classic, but I never recovered from my initial struggle with the writing style and voice of one of the main characters (Celie). The story itself is without doubt both shocking, intimidating, intriguing and heartbreaking; raw, but very realistic descriptions and feelings. I do have to say I enjoying the second part a lot better, but I’m having the feeling this book and me just aren’t a good fit. Most people seem to have a lot of love for The Color Purple, so don’t let my review discourage you! A little warning for those who are sensitive to graphic scenes including abuse and rape though.


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. Instagram. FacebookBloglovin’.

ARC REVIEW: The Last Gods Of Indochine – by Samuel Ferrer

Title: The Last Gods Of Indochine
Author: Samuel Ferrer

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Signal 8 Press
Finished reading: March 13th 2017
Pages: 422

“I told Jean-Luc I feared entering a world where everyone is a stranger; the truth is, I am escaping from a world where everyone knew me too well.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqq

I confess I’m terribly behind with my ARCs and this historical fiction story was long overdue. The Last Gods Of Indochine belongs to one of my favorite genres and both the Cambodian setting, era and reference to local mythology had me intrigued immediately. This novel by Samuel Ferrer surely didn’t disappoint. The Last Gods Of Indochine is mostly set in Cambodia and has two main storylines: one set in the 1920s and one set in the 13th century. I was instantly charmed by the story of Paaku the Lotus-Born all those centuries ago, and the mythology and ideas of his world are intriguing. His chapters are without doubt my favorite part of this novel, and I enjoyed learning more about both his world and his character. I wasn’t instantly convinced by Jacquie on the other hand, and it took me some time to connect to her. It was very interesting to read about her journey to Cambodia though and the circumstances under which both her grandfather before her and Jacquie herself had to travel in those days. I also particularly enjoyed their travels within Cambodia and it was nice to see both storylines slowly connect. In short, The Last Gods Of Indochine is a well written historical fiction story with an intriguing plot and a fascinating read in general for fans of the genre.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

In medieval Cambodia, Paaku the Lotus-Born is an orphan raised by a Vishu priest. One day something incredible happens and the community starts to believe Paaku might be the incarnation of a god… Something that might turn out to be dangerous for him and he is not sure if he wants that title in the first place. Meanwhile, in 1921, Jacquie follows the footsteps of her grandfather and travels to Indochina. Her grandfather was a famous explorer who died during his travels, and Jacquie wants to learn more about the country he explored. Soon she starts learning about the tragedy of Paaku’s history and the storylines slowly intertwine…

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

If you enjoy reading well written historical fiction stories with an interesting setting and a touch of (Asian) mythology, The Last Gods Of Indochine is an excellent choice. Two stories set in two completely different centuries slowly start to intertwine… And the ‘modern’ world clashes with the medieval story. I had a great time reading this novel and especially Paaku’s POV stood out from me. Such a fascinating story!


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramBloglovin’.

BOOK REVIEW: The Song Of Achilles – by Madeline Miller

brthesongofachilles

Title: The Song Of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Fiction
First published: September 20th 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Finished reading: February 28th 2017
Pages: 352
Rating 4,5qqq

“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

myrambles1reviewqqq

To take a little break from my ARC mountain, I decided to pick up one of my Beat The Backlist titles. Basically, I have been wanting to read The Song Of Achilles for YEARS. I still don’t know why I haven’t picked up this modern mythology adaptation of the Achilles and Troyan War story written by Madeline Miller before… Especially since so many fellow booklovers seemed to have enjoyed it and I also I read (part of) Homer‘s Iliad during my Ancient Greek classes back in high school and wanted to revisit the story. The Song Of Achilles surely didn’t disappoint; I can understand the love for this book now! Not only is this a very well written story and a lot more pleasant to read than the Iliad translations I’ve seen around, but the character development is very well done as well and I especially loved Patroclus’ character. The pace is quite slow at points, but I personally didn’t mind and I practically devoured this book. If you like mythology, good stories and want to refresh your memory on the Achilles and Troyan War facts, The Song Of Achilles is an excellent choice!

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Patroclus isn’t exactly the perfect young prince and his awkwardness makes his father very frustrated with him. When he accidently kills another boy, his father exiles him to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Against odds the two princes become friends and as they grow up together their bond grows stronger and stronger, despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother and sea goddess Thetis. One day word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, and Achilles must go to war and fulfull his destiny. Patroclus isn’t exactly a skilled fighter, but he would follow Achilles everywhere including to the distant Troy. What will happen to the two during their journey?

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

I think most people are at least vaguely familiar with the details around the Troyan War and Achilles. It’s quite a popular Greek mythology story and popular movies have helped to promote it, but it is important to realize those movies have been (heavily) adapted to please the masses. If you want to have a better idea of the ‘real’ story, this mythology adaptation by Madeline Miller is an excellent choice. It reads a lot easier than the Homer translations without changing too much of the plot, and while the pace is a bit slow I had a great time reading this story.


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramBloglovin’.

ARC REVIEW: A Gentleman In Moscow – by Amor Towles

bragentlemaninmoscow

Title: A Gentleman In Moscow
Author: Amor Towles

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Hutchinson
Finished reading: February 24th 2017
Pages: 462
Rating 4qqq

“No matter how much time passes, those we have loved never slip away from us entirely.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqq

I first heard about this book last year and originally wanted to read it before the Goodreads Choice Awards last November, but I wasn’t able to get a copy in time. I’ve heard nothing but great things about A Gentleman In Moscow ever since and I was delighted to both find it mentioned at Netgalley AND actually receive an ARC copy of it shortly after. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but it’s been a while since I last read a story set in Russia. This novel by Amor Towles starts in the 1920s and follows the main character during the next two decades, successfully combining historical facts with the personal stories of the characters and making A Gentleman In Moscow that much more intriguing to read. Sure, this novel has quite a slow pace and that might disencourage some readers. But the prose and descriptions more than make up for it and the slow pace can be explained in the first place by the fact that it’s a mostly character-driven story. It’s beautifully written story that will appeal to both fans of the historical fiction genre and to those who enjoy a proper character-driven story. Because it’s the main characters who make this book into such a lovely story; without Count Alexander Rostov and his new friends at the hotel, this story would simply fall apart.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

On 21 June 1922, the life of Count Alexandre Rostov is about to change forever… In fact, he is lucky to be still alive the next day. The Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is forced to spend the rest of his days inside the Hotel Metropol just across the Red Square. And they don’t take him to his usual suite either; he is led to a small attic room without even a proper window. Rostov is forced to embrace his new life stripped of everything that used to define him, and it makes him question what makes us who we are… And during his years at the Metropol, he slowly starts to discover new ways to find purpose in his life.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

If you want to try the historical fiction genre, but are afraid of dense fact-ridden bricks that are difficult to read, A Gentleman In Moscow will come to the rescue. It’s true that the pace is a bit slow, but apart from the beautiful descriptions of the 20th century Russia this novel is mostly about the life of Count Alexander Rostov inside the hotel and the way his character develops over time. It’s a truly fascinating read and the prose is wonderful; more than recommended!


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. InstagramBloglovin’.

ARC REVIEW: The Thankful – by Jamie Campbell

brthethankful

Title: The Thankful
Author: Jamie Campbell

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: August 19th 2016
Publisher: Eltham Press
Finished reading: January 12th 2017
Pages: 132
Rating 4qqq

“Like most everyone else in the world that day they had no real idea. What they has was a feeling. A weight in their stomachs that anatomy text books could not explain.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqq

Confession: I’ve had The Thankful pending for way too long. I’m not sure why though, because this historical fiction ARC about the May War of 1940 in the Netherlands sounded truly fascinating. I grew up in the Netherlands myself and I’m aware of the basic facts of what happened in the country, but it’s been a long time since I last read a story with so many details. Jamie Campbell does a great job of explaining exactly what happened during those days with the help of the main character Ruth. The Thankful basically follows her story as she tries to escape the Germans, but you will learn what happened during the May War along the way. The choice to leave many Dutch and German words without translation is without doubt original, although I do think it would have been a lot more difficult to enjoy the story if I wouldn’t have been able to understand those languages myself. The geography can be quite confusing as well (even for me and I grew up there), but those are only two minor details in an otherwise excellent description of the May War. If you want to learn more about how the Netherlands ended up being invaded by the Germans during WWII, The Thankful is without doubt a great choice. A lot more entertaining than a simple history book without losing its historical accuracy!

shortsummary1reviewqqq

The twelve-year-old Ruth Imker with Jewish heritage has been running for most of her life. She had to leave Vienna because it was no longer safe, but before long she couldn’t stay in Cologne either. They sent her to Rotterdam, because the Netherlands was supposed to be safe. But even though the Dutch didn’t expect it, the Germans came during the early morning of the tenth of May 1940. Ruth will have to run again and try to find a way to get to England… And she has an unlikely protector to help her. Will they be able to escape?

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

Even though the story might be a bit more difficult to understand for those who don’t understand Dutch and German due to the use of certain use in that language, I still think it is a great read for those who want to learn more about the May War. Apart from the words in foreign languages, the rest of the story is both intriguing and easy to follow; you will find yourself hoping the characters will be able to find a way out. Not perfect, but without doubt an interesting historical fiction read!


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. Bloglovin’.

ARC REVIEW: That Burning Summer – by Lydia Syson

brthatburningsummer

Title: That Burning Summer
Author: Lydia Syson

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: January 24th 2017
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Finished reading: January 8th 2017
Pages: 336
Rating 3qqq

“It wasn’t his strength he needed. Nerve. That was what had deserted him. Like water into sand, it had seeped away while he wasn’t looking, and left him drained.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqq

I always enjoy reading historical fiction, especially if the story is set during or around WWII, so that explains why I found That Burning Summer by Lydia Syson an easy choice. I was really looking forward to another WWII story, but unfortunately I wasn’t too convinced by this one. I’m not saying it was a bad read, but it took me a long time to get a proper feel for the story and I struggled to focus on the plot. I cannot put my finger exactly on the why though… It might have been the tone, it might have been the pace, but it just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. The premise of That Burning Summer is interesting even though I’ve read about characters hiding soldiers in the past. The Polish airman Henryk has an interesting background, but I felt the focus of this story was too much on the ‘childish’ romantic feelings between him and Peggy instead of what is happening in the war. That angle would have been much more interesting, especially since as far as I could tell the descriptions of the war are very accurate and seem well researched. Instead, both the childish feelings of Peggy for the soldier and her annoying little brother distracted from what could have been such an intriguing story. Most people seem to enjoy That Burning Summer though, so it might just have been me…

shortsummary1reviewqqq

It’s July 1940 and the soldiers are struggling to keep the war out of England. Then one day a plane crashes in the march somewhere on the south coast of England, and it is the sixteen-year-old Peggy who finds the pilot. She is supposed to report the event, but Peggy feels for the young Polish airman who is afraid to return to the fight. She decides to help him find a place to hide, and leads him to a remote and abandoned church. Peggy knows what she is doing is illegal and tries to keep it a secret… But it is turning out to be really hard to hide a soldier when her younger brother follows her everywhere and she has to steal food at home to feed him.

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

I really wanted to enjoy That Burning Summer, but unfortunately my experience wasn’t as positive as I thought it would be. I’m having a hard time putting my finger exactly on the way, but I’m quite sure the ‘childish’ romance scenes and slow pace did have a lot to do with. The historical elements are great though and it’s nice to see a Polish airman playing such a big role in this story.


signature

You can also find me at Goodreads. Twitter. Bloglovin’.

ARC REVIEW: Point Of No Return – by Martha Gellhorn

brpointofnoreturn

Title: Point Of No Return
Author: Martha Gellhorn

Genre: Historical Fiction, War, Romance
First published: 1948 (republished December 20th 2016)
Publisher: Open Road Media 
Finished reading: December 30th 2016
Pages: 332
Rating 3,5qqq

“He had no other life and no other knowledge; he knew that he could not live anywhere now because in his mind, slyly, there was nothing but horror.”

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

myrambles1reviewqqq

Those who follow my blog are probably already aware of the fact that I enjoy reading historical fiction and have a special interest in stories set during or around WWII. I’m actually quite surprised I hadn’t heard about Point Of No Return before, especially since Martha Gellhorn is considered to be one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century. The story was actually first published in 1948, only a few years after the war ended, and has been republished last month. There is no doubt that Point Of No Return is a powerful read and I admire the author for her courage and what she was able to achieve during her life. The plot itself is intriguing and follows an American Jewish soldier during the war up until his ‘point of no return’. The story is without doubt well written and well researched, although it did read a bit slow and I personally thought there would be more focus on the concentration camps… There was a little too much focus on the romance to my taste, but that might just have been me. The final part also felt a bit rushed, especially since it’s the part I felt would have been most interesting. Still, there is no doubt this is a very solid WWII historical fiction read.

shortsummary1reviewqqq

Jacob Levy grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and is a typical American boy. He doesn’t give his Jewish heritage or the world affairs much thought, but when the United States joins the war in order to stop Hitler, Jacob joins the cause. As a soldier during the last months of WWII, Jacob lives through the Battle of the Bulge and the discovery of Nazi concentration camps. This experiences have a big impact on his life, and witnessing the liberation of Dachau forces him to confront a level of cruelty beyond his own imaginations…

finalthoughtsreviewqqq

After reading the blurb of Point Of No Return, I honestly thought the discovery of the concentration camps and its impact would have played a bigger role in the story. It was only mentioned near the end and that part actually felt a bit rushed. Rather than developing this angle, Point Of No Return is about the experiences of an US Jewish soldier and how the war has changed him forever in general. Still a solid enough read, but not as good as I was expecting.