try a chapter part 1 (in which I try to decide whether to keep these books)

I’ve seen a few videos recently in which people read the first chapter of a book to decide whether they’ll keep the novel on their TBR shelves or whether they’ll donate it instead. There are a few books on my shelves I bought because they were cheap or on sale, ones I’m not sure I’ll ever get to. So I decided to do a “try a chapter” post myself!

As I don’t want to make this post incredibly long, I’ll split it up. I have 10 books to reach a verdict on with me, so they’ll probably fit nicely in two posts. Let’s get started!

the boy with the porcelain blade

the boy with the porcelain blade

“The first in an ornate yet dark debut fantasy series, set in an original and beautifully imagined world, and populated by unforgettable characters.”

my thoughts on the first chapter

I was a bit terrified the first chapter wouldn’t be very telling, as this is a fantasy series. Fantasy novels often require a fair amount of chapters of set-up so the reader can get used to the entirely new world they’ve just been dropped in.

However, the first chapter of the boy with the porcelain blade was quite interesting. From what I can gather, this is an Italian-inspired fantasy novel about a boy called Lucien. He’s one of the Orfano, who are all marked. Lucien has entirely black nails. The first chapter is him mentally preparing for a Test, which I presume is swordfighting or fencing? Either way, I’m into it. Definitely keeping this one!

riders

riders“Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.”

my thoughts on the first chapter

When I started this, I was fairly sure I would unhaul it after finishing the first chapter. I bought a translated copy of Riders a while ago in a sale, and hadn’t picked it up yet. I so rarely read books in Dutch anymore, and it’s clearly going to take a while to get used to. I think I’ll write a post in the future on why I seldomly read in my first language. 

At first, the fact that it was translated took me out of the story. However, by the end I was intrigued enough to want to continue. Surprisingly, I’m deciding to keep this book! Reading the first chapter made me more excited about picking this novel up than I’ve been since buying it.

the graces

de graces

Everyone said the Graces were witches. They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair. They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different. All I had to do was show them that person was me.

my thoughts on the first chapter

I can already tell from the very short first chapter that I will get rid of this.

It literally had an I’m-not-like-other-girls moment, and the female main character spent multiple paragraphs demeaning other girls. Might it be that this is related to the plot, or that she grows to be better? Sure. Still not interested in reading it, though. The first book of this experiment to be added to my unhaul pile! It had to happen at some point, I guess. 

the king’s last song

the king's last song“In the shadow of Angkor Wat archaeologists make an astonishing discovery: the memoir of Cambodia’s greatest king, preserved on leaves of gold for centuries. When the treasure is stolen, two ordinary Cambodians, a young moto-boy and a middle-aged ex-Khmer Rouge, join forces to recover it.”

my thoughts on the first chapter

Honestly, I couldn’t even finish the first chapter of this book. I picked it up during a library sale 3 or 4 years ago, which I apparently shouldn’t have. 

I do not get along with the writing style of this book. It was so hard to concentrate on, and felt so unnatural to me. I don’t even know how to explain why I dislike it so much! Sometimes, you come across an author whose works simply aren’t for you. Geoff Ryman is one of those for me. Added to the unhaul pile.

altar of bones

altar of bones“From the frozen wastelands of Russia, to the winding maze of Paris’s backstreets, from Washington D.C, through America’s mid-west all the way to San Francisco, THE ALTAR OF BONES is a gripping global thriller that spans the generations and unearths the dark secret behind one of the biggest conspiracies of all time.”

my thoughts on the first chapter

Another one I picked up during a book sale and promptly forgot about. After finishing chapter one, I’m absolutely kicking myself for that. I just read the prologue, and was so captivated by the story already!

I actually wanted to keep reading after the prologue, even though I had to a) write this section of the post, and b) go to sleep because I have to go to work tomorrow. I’m definitely going to read this book soon, because it was so compelling. If it wasn’t obvious already, Altar of Bones is going in the ‘keep’ pile!

My first ‘try a chapter’ post ended in me keeping 3 books and unhauling 2. Not bad, right? I’m so happy I decided to do this challenge. Not only does it help me weed out the books I’m not that interested in, it also reignites my excitement for books I had forgotten about.

Have you ever done this challenge? Have you read any of these books?

 

When the hype fails you | books I didn’t end up loving

In the bookish community, we’re well aware of the dangers of the hype train. It’s incredibly exciting to see people anticipate a book’s release, or to hear all your favorite bloggers and vloggers talk about the same book. It peaks your interest in the book too, and might lead to you discovering a new favorite novel. Some of my favorite books are ones I never would have picked up without a little push from the online community.

However, there are downsides to hyped books as well. We’ve all picked up a book everyone raves about, and ended up disappointed because it just didn’t read our high expectations. Can you really blame us for expecting the best, though? When it seems like every person you know has given a certain book a 4- or 5-star rating, you expect to fall in love with it as well. It’s those high expectations that do us in, people. The book might be good, but we were expecting something great.

Today, I’m talking about some books that disappointed me. These may not be bad books, but I just didn’t end up loving them as much as I was hoping or expecting to.

 

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
This is a very recent read for me. I picked it up after seeing it was one of the nominees for the Goodreads Choice Awards in the mystery and thriller category, which is one of the genres I want to read more of. I somehow find it really hard to be truly captivated and thrilled by mystery/thriller books, and this was no exception. It wasn’t necessarily boring, but I was just annoyed with the main character throughout the majority of the book. She kept saying that she needed to prove that she was right, and that she would figure it out on her own, while downing bottles of wine and abusing medication at the same time. “I need to keep a clear mind! This bottle of wine will help.” Yeah, sure.

An Ember in the Ashes (Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes is such a hyped book! I find that YA novels, especially YA fantasy, are very susceptible to the hype train in the online bookish community. When this first released, everyone kept raving about it. They adored the Roman Empire-inspired world, the brutality, and the romance in this novel, and it popped up in quite a few favorite books of the year lists. I finally read it in 2018, and was quite disappointed. I did love the world and the brutality, but was not a fan of the ratio of action and romance. The romance took over here, and I was not on board with it.

 

The Girls by Emma Cline
I think this was a case of misunderstanding what the novel is actually about. When this released, so many people were talking about it. It was a historical fiction about a girl who got involved in a cult – like the Manson family. I’ve always been fascinated by cults (don’t judge me), and that synopsis really sold me on this book. However, I believe this novel is more of a coming-of-age story that involves a cult. The actual Manson family stuff doesn’t come in until 70% of the way through, and I was very uncomfortable with the focus on sex this book had since the main character was only around 14. I understand that may have been (historically) accurate, but it made me uneasy either way.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
For a while in 2017, this book was everywhere. It was one of the most read thrillers, not to mention the amount of times the trailer for the movie was shoved down my throat. I finally decided to read it when I saw a copy at my local library. Wow, am I glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it. This book was so utterly boring. Just like The Woman in the Window it features a female protagonist who is only unreliable because she’s an alcoholic.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Classics are probably some of the most hyped books, as generations of people have loved them. I haven’t read many English/American classics because I grew up in Belgium where they obviously aren’t required reading. When I first wanted to give them a try, I figured I’d start with The Great Gatsby. It’s a very short book so I thought it would be a somewhat easy read. Boy, was I wrong. It took me 3 days to read about 140 pages because this book is so utterly boring. Nothing happens! At all.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
At this point in time, Milk and Honey has received some mixed reviews. When it was first released, however, everyone loved it. I haven’t read much poetry because I always feel like it goes way over my head, but I do want to broaden my reading horizon and include more poetry works in that. Why not start with one of the most popular collections right now? Sadly, this book didn’t work for me. I didn’t connect with the poems, and I guess I’m not a fan of the incredibly short poems that are just one sentence. Nothing against this style of poetry – we all like different things – but I didn’t love it.

 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Like The Great Gatsby, this book seems to be universally loved. People adore the novel, and they adore the movie adaptation of it. All of the praise it has received made me pick it up and try it for myself. To be honest, I thought this was just okay. I don’t really understand why everyone loves this book so much? If this is one of your favorite books, please message me on Twitter or email me so we can talk about this! I simply don’t understand.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
We’re going out with a banger. Oh, this book… Or should I say, this play? Before everyone comes at me, I know this is a play and that it wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling. I also knew that before starting it. That still doesn’t make this a good book/play. It invalidates so much of the original series out of convenience which is just lazy writing. Don’t even get me started on the obvious queerbaiting in here. I can’t deal with it.


In all these instances, the hype surrounding these books partly caused my disappointment in them. I think that if I hadn’t gone into these with high expectations, I would have enjoyed them more – aside from The Cursed Child. Have you read any of these books? Which books were negatively impacted by the hype for you? How can be battle the hype? Waiting for years to read the book clearly didn’t help me either, because that’s what I did with An Ember in the Ashes… I could use your tips!

Most anticipated releases for January – June 2019 | #TopTenTuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, we’re talking about anticipated releases! Books you can’t wait to read, but will only come out in the first half of 2019. I have to admit that I’m a little bit less up-to-date with new releases lately, because I’ve been focusing more on secondhand books, backlist ones, and translated works from foreign authors. Anyway, here are the books I’m excited to read.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu – January 8th, 2019
This is a YA fantasy about two sisters, one destined to become the first female ruler of the Empire, the other destined to live in her shadow. Until their father declares their male cousin as the heir instead. Lu is determined to take back her birthright, while Min has to deal with the powers that awaken inside her. Who’s going to take the throne? I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS! I love everything about that synopsis, and I need to read it soon.

King of Scars (Nikolai #1) by Leigh Bardugo – January 29th, 2019
Who’s surprised this is on my list? Absolutely no one. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the Grisha trilogy in which Nikolai first appears, so maybe I’ll re-read that next year before picking this one up. Anyway, he was one of my favorite characters, so I’m happy he gets his own books now.

Courting Darkness (Courting Darkness #1) by Robin Lafevers – February 5th, 2019
I can’t tell you how excited I am to return to the women trained at the Convent of Saint Mortain. I read the His Fair Assassin series when I first got back into reading a few years ago, and absolutely loved it. Medieval times + nuns + assassins + court intrigue = happy readers. Now we’re returning with Sybella, and I’m so excited! This is another one in which I’ll probably have to re-read the first three books because it’s been so long.

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie – February 14th, 2019
I have absolutely no idea what this is about. All I know is that this is what the Goodreads synopsis says,

Listen. A god is speaking.
My voice echoes through the stone of your master’s castle.
This castle where he finds his uncle on his father’s throne.
You want to help him. You cannot.
You are the only one who can hear me.
You will change the world.

The Shadow Glass (The Bone Witch #3) by Rin Chupeco – March 1st, 2019
I reread the first book in the series in 2018 so I could go into the second one with a fresh mind. Now, I can’t wait to read the third one! This series is so good. If you enjoy YA fantasy, especially ones with a slower pace that are character-driven, you’ll probably love this one.

A Place for Wolves by Kosoko Jackson – April 2nd, 2019
I don’t know much about this book other than it being an LGBTQ+ historical fiction novel. That’s really all I need to know to add this to my list. I guess I’ll find out more in April (or a few months later, because I never have my shit together like that).

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He – April 2nd, 2019
Descendant of the Crane is a Chinese-inspired fantasy about a princess who’s always shirked her responsibilities, until her father is murdered and she has to rule the kingdom. I also believe she does some illegal things to find out who killed her father!

Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor #3) by Mark Lawrence – April 4th, 2019
This might be my most anticipated release of the year. I adore this series, and I’ve been dying to read the third book. If you don’t know, this series follows Nona who starts training at the Convent of Sweet Mercy. She wants to become a Red Sister (Sister of combat), but even as an 8-year-old she has managed to make some powerful enemies. The cast of characters consists of like 98% women, and it’s glorious.

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala – April 23rd, 2019
This story follows Esha, who moonlights as the rebels’ assassin called Viper. All she wants is revenge for what was taken from her during the royal coup. Her latest assignment? Taking down general Hotha. You all know I’m present when there’s a fantasy novel about revenge, assassins, and rebels.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal – May 14th, 2019
‘Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king.’ Remember what I just said about assassins and fantasy? I’m excited!


I can’t wait to read these 10 books. Someone hold me accountable and make sure I actually read these in 2019! I’m hoping to, because they all sound epic. What are your most anticipated reads for the first half of 2019?

Books I have recommended to my friends and family

While everyone who knows me is aware of how much I love to read, I don’t end up recommending books to my friends and family often. Obviously, I’m not counting my blogger/vlogger friends in this list. I most certainly consider you to be my friends (looking at you, Lovelies), but we talk about books all the time. For the sake of this post, I am focusing on friends I’ve made outside of the bookish community, like at university.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This is the book I’ve recommended the most, I think. I made my mom buy a Dutch copy at a book sale, which she ended up loving. She then lent it to my aunt, who loved it as well. I’ve lent my English copy to one of my best friends from university, who loved it to, and lent it to her brother before returning it to me. I’ve become the official promoter of this book! It’s one of the best WWII stories I’ve read so far.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I don’t think I’d still recommend this book today. However, when I first read it I did absolutely love it. So I lent it to the same university friend I mentioned before, and she loved it too. I also think another uni friend read it because of my recommendation, and loved it.

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1) by Kevin Kwan
This is one I am currently lending out to my friend! We watched the movie together in theaters and she really loved it. So did I, by the way. I brought my copy of the first book for her so she could give the book a try as well, since they do differ in certain aspects.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
I lent this to a friend as well, during university. It took some convincing for her to give it a try, which is understandable given the topic of the book. If you’re not aware, it’s about a brother and sister falling in love. The idea grossed both of us out, but the book itself is fantastic.


Those are the 4 books I have recommended to my friends and family! Not a lot, I know. I’m sure I’ve recommended other books too, but these are the ones I’m sure they actually read after my recommendation. Have you read any of these? Which books have you recommended to your family and friends?

 

November wrap up | #theonereadathon + more

I’ve already shared my wrap up for The One Readathon with you all, which you can find here. I will add the books I read during the readathon here, but I’ll keep it short. If you want to know which challenges they all fulfilled, you can take a look at that wrap up. I did read some other books outside of the readathon that I wanted to talk about. I didn’t read a lot during November because so much has been happening in my life. Enough waffling, let’s talk about the books!

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye – 4 stars
It took me quite a while to read Jane Steele, through no fault of the book itself. I’ve been feeling a bit slumpy lately, and just had no desire to read. I think if I had read this book during a different time, it could’ve been a 4.5-star read. This is about a girl called Jane Steele, who loves to read about Jane Eyre. She’s also a murderer. You follow her from childhood through adulthood, and see how her life mirrors Jane Eyre’s – with murders. I loved the characters, the atmosphere, and pretty much everything about this book. I also found myself rooting for Jane as the killer, and had little to no sympathy for the victims. All in all, would highly recommend!

WomanCode by Alisa Vitti – 3 stars
I bought this book because I had seen so many people rave about it on YouTube and Instagram. This book is about cycle syncing, and adapting your life and food to your menstrual cycle. I was expecting something mind-blowing after everyone’s comments, but I was left disappointed. A lot of the things about your menstrual cycle I already knew (thanks high school biology specialization), and the rest just seemed common sense. Don’t push yourself to do HIIT workouts on your period, save those for your follicular phase when you have more energy. I mean, that’s just pure logic. I do want to give her food recommendations per phase a try, to see if it lessens my headaches and PMS. It also bothered me that she spent 50% of the book talking about how much of a genius she was and how this will change your life, instead of actually teaching you HOW to change your life.

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1) by Natasha Ngan – 4.5 stars
This was the first book I read for #theonereadathon, and I absolutely loved it. I didn’t have too high expectations, as I’d seen a lot of mixed reviews already. I have to say that it surpassed those expectations easily, and I ended up enjoying it immensely. I’ll write a full review soon, but I’d highly recommend this book.

The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black – 4 stars
I caved in. I wasn’t planning on read this, but the hype was so strong that I gave in. I didn’t want to buy a copy of this, mostly because I haven’t had much luck with faerie stories. Imagine how excited I was to see it in my local library! I did enjoy this book, but the second half of the book is what made this a 4-star read. The first half was more of a 3-star one.

HP and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J.K. Rowling – 5 stars
Obviously, a 5-star read. I read this one for the rereading prompt in #theonereadathon! It’s a very short one, so I managed to finish it in only a few hours.

Wundersmith (Nevermoor #2) by Jessica Townsend – 5 stars
The easiest 5 stars, ever. In September I read the first book in the series, Nevermoor, and ended up loving it. It was the first middle grade book I fell in love with in a while. I knew I had to read the sequel as soon as possible, and the readathon seemed like the perfect time for that. I can now happily say that I enjoyed reading the sequel even more than I did the first book.


That’s everything I managed to read in November! I know it’s not a huge amount, but I’m still quite happy with it. What did you read this month? Have you read any of these books?

Books that have made me cry

I have to admit that I don’t cry often while reading. I feel like it’s easier for movies and TV shows to get to me, than it is for books. Especially when it comes to full-on ugly sobbing. This post was inspired by a TV show I just finished, Uncontrollably Fond, that made me ugly cry. So let’s talk about the books that got to me!

A FEW TEARS ESCAPED

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has read the book. If you haven’t, don’t worry because I won’t put any spoilers here. Just know that I still haven’t recovered.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
I did not expect to get emotionally invested in this story. If you haven’t heard of this book, it tells the tale of a brother and sister who fall in love. That does not sound like something I’d like to read about. However, when you’re reading through their eyes, it makes you feel like they’re not really siblings. I got so invested in their story, and found myself torn. I don’t want them to be together (because gross!) but I also want them to be happy.

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee
This feels weird to admit because it’s an autobiography. But I felt so sad while reading Sungju Lee’s story… It always breaks my heart to learn about the horrible living conditions others have had to face, especially when they are children. Not that it’s okay for an adult to live in these conditions either, but I hope you understood my meaning.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch
Scott Lynch really comes for you at the end of this book. Expect to be punched in the face, gut, and heart when you’re reading this.

FULL-ON CRY FEST

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
It wasn’t pretty, everyone. It wasn’t pretty at all. I needed a full 15 minutes to get myself together after I finished this book. I don’t think I will ever be okay again, thank you for asking. This WWII story about two French sisters was such an emotional read, and I already know I will re-read it at some point.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I have never cried while watching Troy, even though it’s also the story of Achilles. I already knew how his story ended before picking this book up because I loved Greek mythology and history as a teenager. So it’s not like it was a surprise to me! And I still bawled my eyes out. Seriously. I cried for at least 30 minutes while finishing this book. At some point, I couldn’t even read anymore because the tears had blurred my vision. I’ve read this book twice, and I’ve also cried twice.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I’m still in denial about this one. I still can’t comprehend it. Bonus: if you watch the movie, it’s equally as heartbreaking!! YAY.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (HP #7) by J.K. Rowling
If you haven’t read Harry Potter and don’t want to be spoiled, look away now. For everyone else: I’ll never forgive her for Dobby, Fred, Tonks, and Lupin. Fred and Remus are my favorite characters! HOW DARE YOU??


There you have it, the books that have managed to make me cry. Have you read any of these? Did they make you cry? Which books always manage to make you cry?

Review: Pachinko | a heartbreaking yet beautiful read

pachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee
Published in 2017 by Apollo
Genre: historical fiction (adult)
Rating: 4/5 stars – would definitely recommend

A victorian epic transplanted to Japan, following a Korean family of immigrants through eight decades and four generations.

Yeongdo, Korea 1911.

In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then Isak, a Christian minister, offers her a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, and whose language she cannot speak, Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

Through eight decades and four generations, Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival.

my review

I should have written this review months ago because I read Pachinko in May of this year, and loved it. Although I gave it 4/5 stars, it has become one of my most memorable reads so far. It’s one that will end up on a lot of favorites lists from now on: books that made me cry, emotional reads, favorite historical fiction books, and so on. It deserves a spot on all of those.

Plot

This story follows multiple generations of one family, as well as some of the people they encounter throughout their lives. We start the book off with Hoonie, who was born with a cleft palate and twisted foot. He is the only one of his siblings strong enough to survive. We get a quick overview of his life and marriage to Yangjin. Together they have a daughter called Sunja. She is pretty much the focus of this book. For the majority of the novel, we follow Sunja as she grows older. Aside from Sunja and her parents, we also follow her children, and grandchild.

As you can probably tell, this isn’t a fast-paced book filled with action scenes. It’s a character driven novel, and focuses far more on the people than the plot. I tend to love books that focus on the characters as I end up far more attached to them this way, so this novel was right up my alley.

There’s so much I loved about this story. It taught me quite a lot about Korea in the 20th century, as well as the annexation of the country by Japan and the treatment of Koreans who lived in Japan. Don’t worry, reading this book doesn’t feel like attending a history lecture. Instead, the nuggets of history are interwoven in the characters’ lives. It’s also very obvious that Korea and Japan (just like the rest of the world) were extremely sexist during those times. I’m not going to comment on the world and sexism today, because that’s a rant for another day. While I know that the sexism and troubles of woman are historically accurate, that doesn’t make it any easier to read.

The only downside of this book is that it can be so difficult to read because it’s incredibly sad. This novel is heartbreaking. I honestly felt like nothing good ever happened to this family, and was ready to leap into the book and rescue them all.

Characters

I grew so attached to Sunja. My heart still aches for her, months after finishing this book. She has such a tough life but she never gives up. She keeps going, so she can provide for her family as best she can. I honestly admire her, although I wouldn’t want her life at all. She just couldn’t catch a break!

I don’t know whether I can truly talk about the characters of this book, because it may be a bit of a spoiler? This is the kind of story you have to discover by yourself, and I don’t want to give too much away.

I will say that this book makes you empathize with the characters. The author manages to stir up such strong feelings in you as a reader. There were people I loved and wanted to protect and others I wanted to hurt.

All in all, this is a gorgeous novel about people making the best of terrible situations.


I genuinely don’t know how to convey my feelings on this book properly. I want everyone to read it, but I can’t properly express how I feel about it. If the premise sounds at all interesting to you, please give it a chance.