The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Finally, after 5 years of waiting, we have the fourth and final installment of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The Labyrinth of Spirits concludes the story that started with Daniel who discovered the works of Julian Carax in the The Shadow of the Wind. A series that started with an enchanting story and kept you invested with all it’s subsequent sequels.  The word sequel is in italics because despite the order of publication, it is said that you can read the series in any order. If you ask me, I’d recommend that the fourth installment definitely need to be read after both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game. The third book, The Prisoner of Heaven, you can read without having read The Angel’s Game, as at that point in the series, there isn’t much that connects book two to book one or three.

In The Labyrinth of the Spirits we are re-introduced to characters from all the previous novels and we learn how they are all connected to each other. The series is a story about a love for books, libraries and reading. In all three books there is a focus on a different fictional author, in the first book we learn of Julian Carax who wrote The Shadow of the Wind and in The Angel’s Game we are introduced to David Martin, an author of thrillers who were mysteriously commissioned to write a book about a new religion. In the last book we encounter Victor Mataix, an author of children’s books, who became a friend of David when they were both imprisoned during the Civil War.

The stories centers around the disappearance of the minister, Mauricio Valls. An investigation follows to locate him, but later in the story we learn that as much as there is a huge focus by the state on his disappearance, they have no intention of wanting to find him either. It turns out that Valls is a war-time criminal whose crimes will implicate a lot of other people in high positions. The new character, Alicia Gris is one of the police investigators that is tasked with finding Valls. Through her investigation we learn a different side of Valls and how his crimes have impacted the lives of the Sempere family and Victor Mataix. It’s a sad story that reveals the true reason for why Mataix was imprisoned, why Daniel’s mother died and who the true parentage of some of the characters in the novel are.

At over 800 pages, The Labyrinth of the Spirits is a lengthy but impressive conclusion to the series. We get answers to most of our questions and once you are immersed in the story, it won’t feel as if you’re reading such a door stopper! I will say that there are some questions that were not explicitly answered but are left to the reader to conclude. I know that we can’t always have everything spelled out for us, so I’ll overlook that, because the last instalment was an epic conclusion and Zafón again illustrates why he will always be one of my very favourite authors. EVER.

Thanks for Harper Collins for providing me with an ARC.

The Beauty of Words: Poetry Recommendations #2

Poetry is one of my favourite forms of the written word, as mentioned before. I also find that it’s the perfect type of literature to pick up when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on a full length book, but you miss reading.

In keeping with my decision to review poetry more often on my blog, I’m here again with some poetry books I’ve read in the last week. As I’ve read almost every single poetry collection I have on my bookshelf, I sought out some poetry collections on Netgalley and these are the three that I read:

Worlds of You – Beau Taplin

I’m familiar with Beau Taplin’s work as I’ve read some of his poetry before, but I haven’t owned or read an entire collection of his poems, but rather bits and pieces. All of which I enjoyed. Worlds of You is a collection of his poetry, some are older poems I’ve seen before, but he arranged it into sections that illustrates his growth in life and love.  There were large parts of the collection that were romantic of which some were really nice, but I mostly enjoyed his poems about growth and self-affirmation. The last 100 pages of this collection were truly inspiring and were successful in making me realise that sometimes my self-worth is lacking. I’d recommend this if you enjoy his work or if you’re in need of some inspiration on self-growth.

Sisters’ Entrance – Emtithal Mahmoud

I’ve never heard of Emtithal before, but the cover caught my attention and I am so glad that I could read this collection of poetry. I am not exaggerating when I say this book was breath-taking. As a muslim woman from Sudan she accounts the heartbreaking reality of war and the life of a refugee. Her poems illustrate life during war, human suffering, bravery and most of all the resilience of women who are affected by it all. She also touches on the prejudices of being a woman of colour refugee and boy does she have a way with words. Written poignantly, I’m pleasantly surprised how much these poems touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Whether you enjoy poetry or not, you HAVE TO READ IT.

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The Day Is Ready for You – Alison Malee

Alison’s collection of poetry is about love, life and self-esteem. All the poems are short and the books is fairly quick to read. I’ve enjoyed half of the poems, but the other half I didn’t care for. If you’re a regular reader of poetry, then perhaps you might not enjoy this. I would recommend it if you’re new to poetry as these short poems would be quick to get lost in and isn’t overload with metaphors that will leave you confused.

All three of these books are under 200 pages (The Day is Ready for you = 144 pages, Worlds of You = 192 pages, Sisters’ Entrance = 128 pages), which makes for a quick read you could get done in one sitting.

Disclaimer: I received these books from the respective publishers via Netgalley for review consideration

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

When I read the synopsis of The Hazelwood, I was intrigued. I saw reviews mention ‘fairytale’ and ‘twisted’ and thought this was the perfect book for what I was in the mood for at that moment.  I’ve been reading classics, poetry and literary fiction continuously for the last few months and I needed something dark. The Hazelwood sounded perfect.

Alice, a seventeen year old girl, and her mother have been living what could be described as a nomadic lifestyle. They are followed by bad luck and has to move every few months. This is largely due to her grandmother, an author of a book of dark fairytales, who she has never met. The book and author has a cult following and fan base that Alice have been warned to look out for by her mother, Ella.  Probably for good reason, until one day they received news that the ageing author has passed on and believed that their luck will be changing. Unfortunately, it changed for the worst…

In the aftermath of her grandmother’s death, Alice finds that the fictional world called Hinterland in which the fairytales were set were not fictional, but based on fact. One of the characters from Hinterland abducts Ella and although she was warned to stay away from Hazel Wood (the place where her grandmother stayed), Alice sets out to find her mother. And she enlists the help of a friend who happens to be a huge fan of the stories. The type of person who her mother told her to stay away from. Assuming the only way to get to Hinterland, Alice and her friend Finch sets off into the Hazel Wood.

I found this story to be interesting and I loved the magical and fairytale element to it. Even more so when suddenly the world and the ‘people’ that inhabits it turns out to be real. The best part of the book for me was the pacing of the story that kept me, as a reader, interested and wanting to pick up the book every chance I get. The mystery was intriguing. What was the Hinterland all about? Why did her grandmother stay in The Hazel Wood as a recluse? Was she scared? Was she protecting her daughter?

The downside of the novel however were the main character’s ignorance about social justice issues. That annoyed me more than her personality. I will say that I wanted to know more about the grandmother and how she got involved in this other world. All in all, if you’re in the market for a bit of a dark fairytale, you’ll find it picking this book up. However, it’s not as dark and twisted I’d thought it be. It was a good read, but it wasn’t amazing.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

With Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng’s debut novel, I knew I was going to read every book she writes from then on. So when Little Fires Everywhere came out, I had to have it. Unfortunately, I did not have time to pick it up immediately as I would have, but while on my week off from work, I decided to use the time to read, and Little Fires Everywhere was the only book I managed to read quite quickly. It was fast paced, deeply engrossing and equally full of characters to love and hate dislike.

It starts off on a high with the Richardson’s house burning down and their youngest daughter to blame for starting the fire. Intentionally. So how did things go so horribly wrong in this seemingly perfect family living in the picture perfect Shaker Heights? This novel explores the family dynamics of the Richardson family and the society they live in. It also chronicles the life of the rich and privilege in the community as well as the poor.

Mia and her daughter, Pearl, moves to Shaker Heights where Elena Richardson rents out her home to them for a very reasonable price, feeling that she is helping those less privileged. Her relationship with her new tenants starts off well, so well that her children become very good friends with Pearl. Soon their lives are completely intertwined with Elena’s youngest daughter looking up to Mia as a mother and Pearl feeling more at home in the Richardson’s house than her own.

What could have been a great friendship between the families goes sour when Elena’s best friend adopts a Chinese born baby. When the baby’s mother wants custody of her daughter back, Shaker Heights are divided and the two families are also on opposite sides. To have different opinions should not be such a problem, but when Elena discovers that Mia had something to do with the custody battle, she turns on her completely.

With their friendship over, the dynamics changes. There is spiteful behavior, digging up others’ past for blackmail and it just becomes ugly there on out. The story moves forward showcasing how their relationship changes, but it also highlights the struggle of the other secondary characters, such as the baby’s mother. A quick look into her past, her difficulties adjusting to a new lifestyle and a single mother and her fight for her child is heartbreaking. How her story comes to a close is bittersweet and unfortunately you’ll have to read the book to know that. My opinion is that despite the ways she went about it, I like how HER story ended (of course I pity the other party, but…)

Now, with these two families having conflict, it’s not that easy for the children. The kids has established their own unique relationships between the adults and the kids of the other family and it’s hard for them to choose or rather let go. But what I admired was Pearl’s unwavering friendship to Lizzy, and unknowingly took the blame for something she didn’t have to. Digging into someone’s past or present (private) life really brings nothing but trouble and this story is testament to that. Everything that happened and blown up was started by someone who sparked a little fire.

I won’t drag out this review any longer: I loved it. I enjoyed this novel more than I did her debut novel! And just like with her first, I still feel like I will read whatever book Celeste Ng comes out with. I adored this book, it really was a good and engrossing read. You won’t want to put it down.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Jonathan Ball publishers for review consideration

Two poetry books and a novella

Helium by Rudy Francisco

The first time I heard the name Rudy Francisco was when I came across one of his poems, featured below, and when I saw Helium on Netgalley, I didn’t think twice before getting it. It’s fantastic, I loved almost every poem written in Helium. It’s raw, beautifully written and it might even make you shed a tear or two. Rudy is talented when it comes to describing life situations, emotions and feelings with words. If you have an hour to spare, reading Helium will be well worth your time.

 

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Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki

Spring Garden is a novella by Japanese writer Tomoka Shibasaki and translated into English by Polly Barton. It centres around the lives of the handful of people that lives in an apartment block and the friendships they establish with each other. Taro, Nishi and Mrs Snake are the only inhabitants in their block and Taro and Nishi became friends shortly after they met each other. Nishi confides her obsession with the house close to their building with Taro, who seems baffled at first, but then become slightly fixated with Nishi’s interest in the house and their past and present inhabitants. Nishi has a book called ‘Spring Garden’ that were published by a well-known business man and his stage actress wife and she has been fascinated by the pictures, what they mean and exploring the house in which they were taken. The story itself basically just explores her new friendship with Taro and her quest to see and document the inside of the house. It’s an odd novel, because nothing really happens. There is no big reveal, no hidden secrets about the book and house. All you get is a story about friendship that’s quick to read and very enjoyable too.

 

Particles of Light by Chris M L Burleigh

This is a very short poetry book, only 26 pages long. There are a handful of poems I liked, but most of them I disliked. I didn’t enjoy this collection very much and after I finished reading it, I wasn’t quite sure if I understood what I read. Perhaps I need to give it another read, but probably not any time soon. I enjoyed the book when I started it, but then the further I read, I lost interest in the content. It’s a pity!

 

Image sources: spring garden | rf poem | particles of light book cover

Disclaimer: I received these ebooks from Netgalley for review consideration

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