Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

A Large Expanse of Sea follows Shirin, a young teen, coming of age, in the year after 9/11. It’s 2002, and Shirin has learned to deal with the rude stares and degrading sneers from her peers. She builds her walls to protect her from a world that threatens to harm her because of her race and the hijab she chooses to wear. Rather than interact, she delves into her love for break-dancing with her brother. Until she meets Ocean James, and for once someone wants to know her for her. But Shirin’s not too sure if she’s ready to break down the walls she set up.

Shirin and her family are experts at moving. City to city, school to school. The cycle repeats itself for Shirin all her life. Her parents striving for better jobs, thus a better life for their children. But they don’t see how Shirin is suffering. So Shirin find a new form of happiness in breakdancing and music, which helps Shirin in her isolation.

I’m honestly blown out the water by this book. I didn’t expect to be so wholly enchanted by Shirin. There is so much longing and pain in this story, and I love how Shirin never back down. She stood by her belief where the most comfortable option would’ve been to back down. You see how hurt she is from all that she’s experienced that you can’t fault her for shutting people out. And slowly,  she opens up to others around. We watch her grow, in dancing and herself.

This story is so precious and so important to me. Everything was so real from the emotions, the characters, and then the ending. The characters were so relatable and hilarious. Even the romance cracked me for once. Shirin and Ocean have my heart. A slow burn that was so tender and sweet. The drama behind Ocean was borderline generic but it was interesting to see how Ocean’s history affected him and I think Tahereh Mafi did the best she could’ve done with the story concerning his part.

Rarely do we get to see a Muslim Hijabi teen in a story that revolves around her own coming of age and experiences with romance, but Expanse gives us just that. And I have to thank Tahereh Mafi for that.


Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author

Content warnings: TBA

 

Advertisements

Review: A Place for Wolves

Review: A Place for Wolves

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

James has begrudgingly followed his parents country to country all his life. And suddenly, he’s separated from sister and has never felt so alone. Then comes, Tomas. And then comes the war. A historical fiction set during the Kosovo War, James and Tomas must survive life on the run and face unspeakable choices to return to their family.

This book took a while to hook me in. I didn’t exactly understand what was happening in the first chapter. But once I understood, the story began to unravel in a good way. A tale of survival for these two boys who were willing to do anything to survive the war and return to safety. Together, they escape the cruel world until they’re both unwillingly yanked back into danger.

It’s actually a shorter read than I expected but a strong one that carried itself all the way through. James and Tomas are both on the run after James’s parents disappear, and are forced to make their way to safety before they’re captured too.

There’s letter addressed to James’s sister at the beginning of each chapter, dated long before the war breaks out and shows a closer look into the relationships James had with his parents, sister, friends and how he meets Tomas. It was a good way of introducing their relationship and how they met and fell in love without taking away from the journey they’re on in the main story.

Overall, Kosoko Jackson has delivered brilliantly on his debut. A Place for Wolves has found its own place in my heart.


Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author

Content warnings: TBA

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Years after making herself a household name, Evelyn Hugo is ready, to tell the truth about her rise to fame and what she’s done, and lost, to get there. But she’s shaking the journalism community by plucking unknown Monique Grant to write her story. But Monique is listening as Evelyn begins her tale in the cutthroat world that was Old Hollywood and the stories of her seven husbands along the way.

I am starstruck, honestly. This book isn’t my usual go-to read, but after hearing everyone talking about this, I knew I couldn’t miss this out. And I’m glad I didn’t. Seven Husbands indeed one of the best books I’ve read this year. I wasn’t expecting much because I hadn’t heard much about this book apart from “read it now”. It was a compelling read about race, sexuality, misogyny and how you shouldn’t use your short time on earth being someone you’re not.

Evelyn recalls her life to unknown journalist Monique Grant, starting from her roots: losing her mother and marrying a man (husband number one) to leave her the dead end city and into Hollywood to make her name with the stars. Evelyn is unapologetic and cunning. She learns to play the game and uses everything she can to prove herself. She’s her own saviour in a world that wants nothing more to do with her. I was so in love with her story. The story explores her Cuban heritage and bisexuality. And it is phenomenal. The writing and pacing are impeccable and had my heart racing with every page. This book really surprised me. Rarely do books steal my heart so quickly and within the first chapter.

Monique, in my opinion, was sorely underutilised. It’s not her fault that Evelyn’s story was so overpowering that it literally takes all your attention but a second read through is needed to appreciate her again. She’s an unknown journalist requested to write the biography of Hollywood’s greatest star. And she has no clue as to why she’s chosen. There are breaks between Evelyn’s chapters where we follow Monique as she processes what she learns from Evelyn and later we learn the bombshell in how she connects to the story.

Overall, this was an incredibly well-written story and an utterly brilliant novel. Honestly, if you’re in need of a new read, make sure to pick this one up.


GOODREADS| AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | AUTHOR

Content warning: the death of a loved one, mentions of suicide and miscarriage, unhealthy eating, abortion, domestic abuse, cheating, homophobia, biphobia, alcoholism. (If you’ve read this book and felt like I’ve missed something out, please, inform me.)

 

Book Review: A Golden Age

review_agoldenage.jpg

Rating: ★★★★☆

While I was looking for non-fiction novels about the history of Bangladesh, I came across this. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for but, nonetheless, I enjoyed it just as much. A Golden Age tells the story of the Haque family’s experiences during the war from the perspective of Rehana. A Golden Age begins with a newly widowed Rehana who had been declared unfit by a judge and has had her children taken away. By the second chapter, 20 or s0 years have passed. It’s now 1971 and her children have returned, but the shame of what she had to do stays with her all these years. The novel follows Rehana’s life during Bangladesh’s war for independence. As her children become politically involved, Rehana finds herself drawn into the war as well. While her children are motivated politically, Rehana’s desire for her children’s safety drives her through the entire novel.

Through A Golden Age, Rehana is more of a witness than an active member, unlike her children. We never witness the full atrocities that the people suffered but we do encounter the result of them through her eyes as we follow her from her home to refugee camps. And not knowing fully what the Pakistan army was doing, we’re thrown into the same tense situation is Rehana in. We learn the real costs of war through the lives of this semi-real family. (I believe Rehana was based on Anam’s grandmother and her experiences) I loved the way she described Bangladesh, the culture, the food, the landscape. My favourite part was beginning of the novel and how Anam introduced the land and country. It was, at most times, so calming and beautiful before everything goes terribly wrong.

No one should really think of this as an actual account of what happened but an introduction that can incite further research. A Golden Age is more personal and human, and I felt plenty of emotion while reading Rehana’s story. 


you can find the book at:
GoodReads | Author bio | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Review: Aceldama

review_Aceldama

you can find the book at:
GoodReads | Author’s website | Amazon | Bookdepository
my review:
Rating: ★★★☆☆
~e-copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review~

After purchasing a coin, Tim Harrington starts to have nightmares that become dangerously vivid. When he goes into a coma, his wife, Anna, embarks on a journey and soon learns that an ancient curse is what’s keeping her husband unconscious. She finds herself returning to Paris but her search for the truth goes much further in history. She has no choice but to follow her instinct, even if it means going against scientific logic, history and her own beliefs.

Aceldama has an intriguing premise. It was interesting reading this story as this coin is slowly passed through history, impacting the lives of all its bearers until it reached the hands of Tim Harrington. Hazen has created this intricate line of action with a variety of engaging characters. There were moments of great suspense and paranormal detail. I was intrigued by Anna as a protagonist and was attached to her from the beginning to the end as she did all that she could to save her husband.

However, for no one’s fault apart from my own, I found it difficult to start this book. I wasn’t at all captivated at the beginning but that did certainly change once everything started going. The mix of different perspectives was hard to follow at first, which was strange because I don’t usually struggle with that. For example, there are scenes set in Jerusalem around AD30 (I think) but the language used didn’t fit into the timeframe. The way some of the characters talked felt too modern for that time period and, to me, it felt jarring. There were moments, especially in the beginning, of info dumping which was a struggle to get through but, overall, it was an interesting read.

Kindle Edition, 285 pages
Published May 12th 2016 by Black Rose Writing (first published June 25th 2009)
ASIN: B01F7Q62M6

BOOK REVIEW: Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

you can find the book at:

GoodReads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Author Website

goodreads summary:

Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

my review:

Rating:
★★★★☆

Helen of Sparta begins long before the infamous Trojan War, this novel details the supposed abduction of Helen by Theseus, King of Athens, with Helen as a willing participant.
Helen carries a heavy weigh on her shoulder. A princess to Sparta, but also a daughter of Zeus. Hated by her mother but also an heir to inherit the throne. Helen’s gifts from Zeus not only give her beauty but dreams that foresee the future. In a recurring nightmare, she envisions the Trojan war and the death of her family when she is married to a childhood friend. Determined to escape her fate, Helen makes plans to flee to Athens with King Theseus. Finally feeling freedom, the gods continue to punish Helen for her actions; however, Helen still continues to forge her own future.
Carosella offers a fresh take on Greek mythology from Helen’s point of view. I was captivated by the mix of historical fictions and mythology, along with Helen fiery determination to not be the damsel in distress. Helen’s world is brought to light with the power of the gods and the brutality of the history. Overall, Helen’s story is packed with well-developed emotions and an intense plot. With a somewhat abrupt ending, I am hoping there is a second one in the making.
However, while some characters are well written, some are very flat, and I find myself questioning the irrationality of some of their actions. For example, I struggled to understand why a princess was so often alone or wandering the palace unescorted especially when many men were lusting after her. More than once she is told off for it yet she keeps doing it. She has maids and servants, and there’s no reason she wouldn’t have one with her to see her back to her room.

Although I did feel sorry for  Theseus, I didn’t find him inspiring. Theseus has little depth and serves only as a protector. The most prominent criticism I’m reading from other reviews is that the ending is a cliffhanger, but I didn’t feel this to be the case. The conclusion was supposed to show the reader why Helen later makes the choice she does, igniting the Trojan War. But a sequel would be excellent. [EDIT 29/01/2018: I’m a legit fool and didn’t realise there would be a sequel to this. ]

So there’s definitely some right elements to the story since I was compelled read to the end, and it’s well written, but unfortunately, some of the characters let it down.