Book Reviews

Triple Book Review: Italy

Hello again fellow book lovers, and welcome back to Tea and Paperbacks, new posts every Monday! Today I’ve decided to make yet another Triple Book Review. I created this new little segment for my blog when I first made a Triple Book Review of three books with similar themes: mystery, and compare them to each other. In this post, I decided to combine three quite different books that only have a small thread of similarity.

In this post, I want to discuss three books that are set (partly) in Italy. Now you might wonder if this was a coincidence or if I did it on purpose. Well, to tell you the truth, this is a very conscious decision. I decided to read as many books set in Italy as I can, because in my summer holiday in August, I will be going on a vacation to Italy! I’ve never been there before and I really wanna know as much as I can about the country, and so I though, what better way to do this than to read books!

Anyways, I will compare the three books not only in terms of their setting, but also like any other regular book reviews, where I discuss my thoughts on all the aspects of the books. Let’s just jump straight into it then!

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How to be Both by Ali Smith

This is the first book I read that I bought and read on purpose because it was set in Italy. Of course, I didn’t just buy it because I know some part of it was set in Italy, I also have heard a lot of good things about this book and Ali Smith. I had initially wanted to read her other works first, the novels she published earlier, but I decided to read this first.

I discussed my in-depth thoughts on the book in my April Wrap Up, but to summarize, I really enjoyed this book. I love the writing style, and I love how smart Ali Smith was in sructuring the novel and separating it into two different parts. It was ingenious because now the readers are split into two and they view the book in a different way.

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However, the drawback of the book was that unfortunately I didn’t really feel touched while reading this book. It didn’t evoke any deep emotions from me, and when I finished the book, I was just like oh, okay then, and then I moved on. It was quite disappointing to be honest, but I still really enjoyed the whole reading experience and the uniqueness of it.

Now focusing on the setting of the book, How to be Both is not only set in Italy. In the first part, it was mostly set in the UK (I think?) with an British main character, George. But then George goes with her mother to Italy to view a painting her mother really wants to see. In the second part, it was mainly set in Italy in the 15th century. And although I heard that Ali Smith did not really portray and describe the Renaissance 15th century very well, I do think I feel the vibe of Italy from this book. From the story of Francesco, to the moments that were set in Italy with George and her mother and the painting, I really liked Smith’s description of Italy, although the location was not a major part of the story.

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A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

This is a classic novel that I found on the library, and I immediately borrowed it because I knew it was set in Italy. It starts with Lucy Honeychurch, our main protagonist, a positive and independent young woman traveling with her cousin to Florence, Italy. There the two women got assigned a room with no view, in which they was disappointed about. An old man and his son overheard their conversation and offered to switch rooms, because theirs had a view.

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The story continues with Lucy exploring Italy and meeting with the her room’s former occupant, a quiet and lower-class young man, George Emerson. The story is mostly about the romance between them two, as Lucy at first denied her feelings to him and never met him after Italy, proceeds to get engaged, but her love rekindled when George comes to live near her house.

Though in the summary it stated that the setting was in Italy, I found that the scenes at the beginning of the book located in Italy was not very prominent in my mind. About two-thirds of the book was when Lucy got back from Italy to England, and that part was where I started getting into the book and enjoying the characters and story. Nonetheless, I saw some unique point of views about Italy through the eyes of E.M. Forster. You see that two women traveling on their own to Europe at that time seemed normal, and that traveling was a way to get education, and that the people would go to a certain country for weeks, even months, unlike what we do now.

I really like the story itself, and how it is sort of a fun and exciting romance rather than the expected dark and angsty one. I liked Lucy as a character, George not so much, but the other side characters were also very fleshed out and fun to read. I actually quite liked the dynamics between Lucy and Cecil (her former fiancee), and I adored Lucy’s little brother who reminded me of myself and my little brother’s relationship. All in all, it was a quite entertaining read.

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Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Okay, I have a lot of thoughts about this book, so this might be a long ride. First of all, Angels and Demons is a book by Dan Brown, and the first book of a trilogy of history-filled fiction, mostly set in Italy. The story starts with our main character, Robert Langdon, a historian, being called to a secret organization called CERN where the director claimed that a professor was killed by Illuminati. The story revolves around Langdon and the dead scientist’s daughter, Vittoria Vetra, on a race against time to save the Vatican.

This book is packed with science, religion, and history, and it gives a unique point of view of them. It involves two main characters, each very smart in history, art, and science, and it’s remarkable how much Dan Brown can fit in so much information and not make the readers explode. It’s one of the main things I really liked about the book.

The plot of the story was also very exciting. It’s very thrilling, and it has a lot of action so nothing gets too boring as well. But other than that, you can also still learn more about the characters and where the story is set, while also focusing a lot of the history of the setting and the different plot twists.

But one of the problems I had with it was its plot twists. At first I really enjoyed them, because who doesn’t like plot twists? But then as the story progressed and it got longer and longer, I sort of felt like the book would never end, that there was always another conflict that suddenly appears, and more and more plot twists. I think in that sense Dan Brown sort of overused the whole plotting for me.

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Nonetheless, while focusing on the location and Italy, I really enjoyed the perspective of Rome and Vatican City in this book. I think this is the most informative book about Italy compared to the other two books in this review, cause you can really see the characters exploring the city, mentioning the historical locations, and the people in there because the main thread of the story focuses a lot on that aspect of the city. Especially in the last parts of the book, during the night where a lot of people were crowded around the Vatican, you can really feel the Italian vibe. It makes me want to visit all the places mentioned in the book.

Another thing I’d like to mention about this book that I liked was how Brown weaved in morality and the rocky relationship between religion and science. As a Catholic myself, and a future scientist/engineer, I can really relate to this book. I felt a lot of things regarding my faith and how it affects what I think about science, and I can really relate to the camerlengo or Vittoria in that way. It was a unique perspective and something that was explored really well in this book.

So overall, I didn’t really like Angels and Demons, story-wise. It was fast-paced and exciting, and it kept surprising us as readers, but the plot twists kind of got repetitive and predictable after a while. And even so, the setting was excellent, with great characters as well, although I didn’t really gel with any of them or love any of them in particular. In the end, it’s a fun book to read, and I’m sure I’ll like the movie more than the book, especially as it presents Italy in a visual way as well.

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Well, that is all for the three books I read that were set in Italy! Which of these three books did you already read, and did you like them? Have you been to Italy? Which books set in Italy do you like the most? Let me know in the comments!

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Dead Kings, Magical Forests, and Kisses: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Book Review

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater is, as you all have probably know, the last book in the four-book series, The Raven Cycle. As most of you probably know as well, I am a huge fan of Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve read all her books except one, and I was so devoted to this series. It’s such a sad thing to see the series end, and I rated this book really high, but I did have some problems with it. Here are my thoughts.

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Warning that this review might contain spoilers to this book and the previous books of the series.

Let’s start with the things that I loved about this book: the characters. Oh my God, if you ask me why I love this series so much, I’d answer with the characters. Stiefvater has this way of crafting unique and human characters and make you fall in love head over heels for them. I love everyone from the gang – my favourite is probably Gansey, and in this book Gansey just breaks my heart. But I love all the other members of the gang as well. I love the development of Adam’s character, from when we read him in the first book to where he is now in the epilogue. I adore Blue, she’s like my heroine and I love how Stiefvater created an embodiment of women’s strength through Blue, not in a typical young-adult way, but in her own unique way.
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“I don’t care to be pretty,” Blue shot back hotly, “I care to look on the outside like I look on the inside.”

I adore the relationship between the characters as well. Gansey and Blue has been a huge ship for me, but in this book, Pynch shines above them. They make me smile and cry, they are the cutest things in the world and I want the two of them to grow old and have babies and make each other happy forever and ever!!! Other than that, Blue and Ronan’s friendship, Gansey and Adam’s relationship, and all the other side characters were so fun to read. Even so, I sort of felt like the villain of the book, the demon, but also Piper, was not very real to me. They didn’t feel too villain-y. And other relationships that we saw a lot in the previous books, like Blue and Maura’s, or Maura and the Grey Man’s, and the addition of some side characters I liked but didn’t really care about (Henry Cheng), weren’t really done well. I missed the banter and love between Blue and the ladies from 300 Fox Way, and the interesting relationship between those ladies with the Raven Boys.
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Adam smiled cheerily. Ronan would start wars and burn cities for that true smile, elastic and amiable.

Anyways, moving on to the plot. This book was not as slow as a lot of Stiefvater’s other books. It flowed awesomely, but at the last parts I sort of felt like the climax was sort of an anticlimax, and the real climax fell a little flat. Even so, the execution was done well and the ending, felt a lot like the ending of The Legend of Korra, where I expected more of the ending of The Last Airbender – if you understand what I sort of mean. I have not problems with how the series ended, though. I thought it was lovely, where everyone ended up.

Another thought I had while reading the book was the writing style. I could cry from Stiefvater’s amazing narration. Some parts, were so lovely and I just want to quote the words over and over again. And can I just say, Stiefvater makes THE BEST KISS SCENES EVER! From the “not-really-kiss” scene in the previous book, to this PHENOMENAL and so anticipated kiss scene, they were both so different to each other but also to any other kiss scenes I’ve read, but also written so uniquely that it’s not like a normal descriptive writing, but like a piece of poem that you want to cut out and glue in your bed so you can read it every day. I just love them so much!!!

Title: The Raven King
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Date Published: April 2016
Num of Pages: 439
Date Read: 25th May, 2016
Goodreads Link

To be honest I don’t really have that many things to say about this book. I have loved the characters for so long, and I sort of knew that I would love it no matter what. And although there were some problems, a few plotholes, and some things I’d like to change, so many aspects of the book was just so beautiful that I can’t help giving it a 4.5 stars.

4.5 stars

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Triple Book Review: Mystery! One Good Turn, And Then There Were None, and The Girl on the Train

I recently read three books from the same genre – I don’t even know why and how come, this rarely ever happens to me! But I decided to make a triple review of these books in the same post, while also comparing them! Here are these books.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

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This is the second book in the Jackson Brodie series, in which I read the first book a few months ago from a random secondhand sale. I really liked the first book, Case Histories. The character were meh, but I liked how Kate Atkinson would unravel a thread of three different cases and have them interconnected with each other. Not to mention the wonderful writing style – it was very different from the normal mystery books, and some people would even consider it a literary mystery novel.

Unfortunately, this second book did not suit so well for me. It was all over the place and I didn’t like how Atkinson tried to do a similar thing as she did in the first book, using different crimes and linking them to one another as if by accident. In here everything seems like a weird coincidence and I couldn’t really like any of the characters.

The mystery itself wasn’t very intriguing for me as well. It involved a little bit of murder and crime, but less mysterious stuff that makes the readers wanting to read more about it. I do like the main character, Jackson, but other than that the other characters were forgettable and hard to remember. I just thought the whole book wasn’t that entertaining or well written, and very different from the first book.

2 stars

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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One of the most famous mystery novels out there and my first Agatha Christie novel! I would first like to thank everyone from the Book Basilisks Book Club for making this a group read – without the book club I wouldn’t have read it (I’ve always wanted to read it but I’ve never gotten the push to do so). This novel is about a group of strangers brought together in an island and being killed one by one by a mysterious person.

I really enjoyed reading this novel. It’s super intriguing, it has that aura of mystery throughout the whole book and the mystery itself was impossible for me to guess, even though when you finally find the real solution you think, “Why didn’t I think of that earlier? It’s so obvious!” and I think that was the best part of the book, because it shows that the author could really write well and disguise all the clues in plain sight.

The writing style was actually not very impressive. The whole book seemed very short to me – it could be because it reads so quickly but it’s also because of how straightforward the whole writing style and storyline is. As for the characters, we’ve discussed about how some of the characters weren’t very memorable and at first it was difficult for a lot of people to recognize who was who. But I do think that in the end it wasn’t very important for us to remember and like any of the characters – because we all know they will die anyway! And the main point is not liking or relating to the characters. Even so, I think if the book had been written with more detail and if we’d been given the chance to know each of the characters and know them enough to root for a character, it would’ve become an even better book.

But overall it was a super fun read. I read it during a readathon and I really thought it was a great choice. I would also like to recommend books like these to read for people who rarely read mystery or want to dive into the genre. It’s a great place to start.

4 stars

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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This novel is a very popular one last year, being dubbed as “the next Gone Girl” and all that. It is basically not just a mystery or crime novel but also a psychological thriller, and I’ve never read Gone Girl but I really liked this one. The story is about two women, the first one Rachel who always goes by train to London and watches a particular house on the side of the train road. One day she reads that that woman whom she always watches is missing and then the story revolves around that.

Compared to the other two books I mentioned above, this novel is more character driven and focus more on the three main characters. The story was told in three different perspectives and you can really read into both these characters’ minds and inner thoughts. I really like that we can really relate and know about Rachel, Megan, and Anna, but not really fall in love with them because they were all really messed up and annoying at some times. I also really like the whole plotline and the whole mystery of “whodunnit” and what actually happened. In the end the revelation of these mysteries were never a huge surprise for me, but while I was reading this novel I kept guessing and anticipating on the ending, to find out who did it. One of the problems I had was how the whole mystery surrounding the incident was how the main character just couldn’t remember what happened because she was drunk when it happened even though she was a key witness to the event. So it was more of a build up on the moment where the character actually recalled what exactly happened, instead of a real “aha!” moment on other mystery stories.

This novel also tackles a lot of issues that are more related to the character than the “crime” or “mystery” itself, like drinking problems, moving on from your ex-husband, unemployment, unhappy marriage, and various other things. Like I said before, in this novel the characters have issues and weaknesses that you can read from in their own voices. I really liked that part and how all the characters were flawed.

Other than the characters, the writing style was not bad as well. Paula Hawkins was a journalist and so she knows that part of the world and it shows in how she states the facts but also reveals the feelings and atmosphere of the current scene. Overall this is a super intense book with great parts. It’s not amazing, but I couldn’t stop reading it and I was hooked from the beginning till the end.

4.5 stars

Wrapping Up

So comparing these three mystery novels, of course there are the good and the bad parts. And I think it really depends on a person which kinds of mystery books they like. I really enjoy reading thrillers like The Girl on the Train the most, so I think I really need to explore more similar books. Even so, I really need to read more classical mysteries such as Agatha Christie‘s works, especially since I also enjoy short stories like the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. And although in a novel more than one mysteries could be shown, it didn’t work so well in One Good Turn. I realized that I also do enjoy the kind of detective slash police work kind of mysteries, although I still need to find a good enough book for that genre.

What about you guys? Do you enjoy reading mystery, crime and thrillers? Which of these three books have you read and enjoyed before? Let me know!

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