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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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Summer Holidays TBR!

The summer holidays are coming, and I’m so excited to just lie down in my couch at home from morning till evening and just reaaaaaaaad! And of course watch movies, have picnics outside, go to the beach, or maybe go get a part-time job, but mostly reading!

So after I calculated it, I have roughly 10 weeks of basically free time and no studying. That is a solid number, so I’ve chosen several books I plan on reading in summer! Here they are.

1. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

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This is the ultimate summer book, according to many people, and I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time. It is even one of the seven top books I want to read in 2016! A light contemporary novel about the disappearance of a friend and how the main character completes the friend’s bucket list throughout the summer. So this time of the year seems like the perfect time to read it.

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Most of you probably already read this when you were younger, but this is the first book in a children’s series about a cast of children traveling through different dimensions. I planned on rereading this series this year, because I don’t remember much about this interesting series, unlike the other childhood reads such as Narnia or Inkheart that I remember very vividly. I think it’ll be fun to read the whole series this summer.

3. There But For The by Ali Smith

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I read Ali Smith for the first time in April this year, and I really liked her. So I plan on reading more books by her, starting from the one book I have of her, There But For The! I’m not really sure what this book is about, so I think I’m just gonna go into the book blindly and hope for the best.

4. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

Another not-so-new author for me, I loved Donna Tartt so much when I read her two books last year, The Secret History and The Goldfinch. This is her less-popular novel, and again I don’t really know what this book is, but I think I’m gonna love it as well!

5. Candide by Voltaire

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As I mentioned in one of my Sunday Updates, I bought this gorgeous book in Paris, France on my trip there. I wasn’t even planning on reading anything by Voltaire before I bought this book, but I was in a French mood, and I saw his tomb under the Pantheon in Paris, and I was tempted to buy this one because of that. Not to mention, the edition I bought is so cute, and I know reading it would be more fun that way.

6. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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I really liked Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which I read in the first month of 2016. So it’s natural for me to want to read her second well-known book, Eleanor and Park! I heard it’s just a cute and fun read with adorable high school romance, which will be perfect to read in the beach!

7. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I have told you all in a post somewhere before, but I have never read a book by Gillian Flynn! Which is an abomination because I loved Gone Girl so much. So I thought I need to start immediately, and what better time to read a psychological thriller than in the summer? I chose Dark Places because I heard great things about it, plus the movie is coming out soon, so I hope I can read it before then and not be too spoiled for the movie like I did for Gone Girl. As far as I know, this novel involves killing gangs, the death of the family of the main character when she was young, and a twisted ending.

8. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

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I am currently reading Angels and Demons (although by the time this post is published I might have already read it), and I really like it so far. It’s like a perfect combination of science, religion, thriller, murder, historical fiction, and fast-paced action, which is like perfect for me! I think I’ll really fly through the second book of the series this holidays.

Well, those are all the eight books I really wanna get to this summer. I doubt I’ll be able to read them all, and maybe somewhere along the line I’ll be interested in other books instead of these. But let me know which one of these do you recommend the most!

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April Wrap Up & May TBR!

Where has April gone, eh? Hello everyone and welcome back to Tea and Paperbacks! The month of April was a fantastic reading month for me! I can’t wait to share to you all the books I read this month! Here they are…

Books Read in April

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (review)

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One Good Turn is a mystery detective novel and the second book by Kate Atkinson I’ve read. I read this on the beginning of the month and I was so disappointed with it. I really enjoyed Kate Atkinson’s writing and in this book it also shows, but the plot planning and the characters were a huge letdown, especially compared to the first book in the series, which was amazing. In here some of the characters came back but they weren’t very interesting to read – in fact, in my opinion, none of the characters in this novel really stuck to me. The crime itself wasn’t very engaging or even remotely interesting, so overall it wasn’t a very good book. I don’t think I will be continuing the series for now.

2 stars

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (review)

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This is the second book I read this month and it was oddly also a mystery novel! I have heard and read so many great reviews of this novel, and I decided to see why it was called so. Not to mention the movie is coming soon and I want to be able to read the book before watching the movie, as we all booklovers do. This book was really, really good. I enjoyed it every step of the way, and the best part is just I just can’t stop reading it! By the time I reached the midway point I just could not put it down. The mystery itself was compelling, but what really gripped me was the characters and the three different women who were the main perspectives in the book. But, anyways, I loved it and to read more of my thoughts on the book and if you want to see my comparation of the book with two other mystery novels, check out my triple book review which was published recently!

4.5 stars

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

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This book was a book I didn’t plan to read and even before reading the book, I had no inclination to read it. It was my friend’s book and I wanted something light and simple and I expected it to be good (since it was Jodi Picoult and I loved My Sister’s Keeper), so I borrowed it from her. Unfortunately, I hated it. I wouldn’t admit this to the book’s owner, my friend (who hasn’t read the book), but I did not like this book at all. First of all let’s start with the beginning, the premise itself. When I started reading it, coming into the book knowing nothing but what it said on the back of the book, I didn’t expect the book to be so simple. I eventually found out that this book was written by Jodi Picoult and her daughter, and it was aimed at young adults, but for me it was more of a middle grade novel. Not that I didn’t like reading middle grade novels, I do, but this is a lot like a badly written middle grade novel. The premise of the book was alright. It could’ve been something amazing, if handled by good hands. It’s about a character in a book who comes to life inside the book and has his own thoughts and feelings when the book is closed, when no one is reading it. And it’s about how he strikes up a conversation with a reader, a teenage girl, and tries to escape his story world to be in the real world. It felt quite whimsical and fun at first, and sort of reminded me of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke which I loved when I was young, although it’s quite different. Anyways, premise was alright.

But for me the execution was not done well. It goes back to the writing itself. I don’t know if it was because Picoult was writing this alongside her daughter, or maybe because she’s just not cut out for writing children’s books, but this was a huge downfall compared to My Sister’s Keeper, the only other book I’ve read by her. The writing was so bland and childish, and it was quick to read of course, but just painful after a while. On top of that, all through the book there will be these random phrases that were meant to be lyrical and touching and smart but ended up being cliched and makes me sick. Sentences like “that’s when you know you love someone, when you get hurt” or some disgusting shit like that.

Now let me continue with the characters. The main character, the girl, is so one dimensional with no interesting features whatsoever. Same goes with the other main character, the fictional character from the book. They were both so forgettable and boring and I feel so frustrated. Not to mention their whole relationship, with all the insta-love that disgusts me. The girl was only, like, 14 or something, and after two days of talking with this character from this book, she’s suddenly claiming that she’s “in love” and etc? It’s just mind boggling. Even one episode from Teen Titans, a similar one where Raven befriends a man inside a book, has a more real relationship and a more touching story than this whole book.

The last point I would like to point out is about the whole world building and the correlation. In this book world, several fantastical elements are introduced, with some rules, like how when a person opens a book the characters in the book are immediately pulled to their scenes to act out the story, and things like that. They’re creative and all, but I just feel like some rules did not make sense at all. I know that’s basically the purpose of fantasy, to not make sense, but it felt like the whole world and what can happen or what cannot happen was not developed properly here.

Now I don’t want to spoil the mood of this wrap up post by blabbering about how horrible this book is. You guys already know that it’s a terrible book from my rant above. I can go into more detail, but I honestly don’t see the point in doing so. So I just wanna conclude by saying this was a huge disappointment, and I will still be checking out Picoult’s other books, but I will definitely not be reading her other YA novels (because apparently this is only the first book in a series). I feel like maybe you’d say: oh, maybe this is aimed at younger readers, so that’s why you didn’t enjoy it! But I feel very strongly that I know what a good middle grade book is, and even if I had read this when I was a middle grader or younger, I would probably hate it just the same. It’s a terrible book, no matter who is reading it.

1.5 stars

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (review)

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This is the third book I read for my triple book review which you can definitely check out. I read this book during my TBR Takedown Readathon, it was also chosen as The Book Basilisks Book Club‘s group read of the month, and I had a great fun reading it. It was my first Christie, and I read it super duper quickly because of how fun it was. My one problem with it is just how short it is and how the characters weren’t very developed. For more of my thoughts go ahead and read my review!

4 stars

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

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This was another book I read during the TBR Takedown, and it was already in my TBR ever since I heard the news that it was being published. I really liked Felicia Day through her conventions and her work in Supernatural. But after reading this memoir, I realized that I only know very little of her. Her most valuable and loved work is her role in the gaming community and as an innovator and business woman, and I really enjoyed that side of her life that she told in here.

The first parts of the book was even more interesting for me. I loved how she told us about her early life, her childhood of being alone and homeschooled, and being an awkward teenager. I love her whole writing style in this book, it’s so quirky and fresh and hilarious. She makes fun of herself A LOT, but I can see her confidence and how fun she really is. I also love how she’d insert inspirational things and really teach us a lesson through her life.

From this book, I did not only get entertainment from her hilarious narration, I also got a lot of new motivation and inspiration. I learned so many new things about her struggles and how she overcame it, how she finally got to where she is. And although on some parts I’d sort of lost interest or feel like I’m getting kind of bored, her refreshing voice makes me more interested again through her writing. Overall, it was a wonderful memoir, a huge fun to read but also inspiring to all.

3.5 stars

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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As I mentioned not too long ago, I decided to read more classics and famous books from this list and I have continued my streak of reading at least one from the least each month. This month I chose this novel, because it’s been mentioned everywhere from regular conversations to movies to other books. I just wanna know what it’s all about and why so many people love it. The Catcher in the Rye starts with the main character, Holden, and it’s about his perspective during a time of his life. He was just kicked out of school (again) and ran away to New York.

As I said in some updates on my Goodreads, I do understand why so many people love it. It’s very full of hidden meanings and metaphors – and I probably only know half of it. But I was super disappointed to find that I didn’t like this book. First of all what really got to me was Holden and his writing style and personality. I despised every time he would say “it killed me”. And I am a person whose biggest pet peeves is people complaining about things. And Holden complains about everything. And I mean, everything. I hated him because of that. Sure, I understand that he’s a teenage boy, a rebel, etc., and sure there were things that he complained about that I did relate to. But it was just way too much complaining, man. Not to mention this character’s actions himself. Talking weird things to taxi drivers, drinking in bars, talking to nuns randomly, like who does that? And I hate how he hates everyone and everything. It just makes everything feel so negative.

The plot itself was mind boggling for me. The whole book just basically follows Holden around for several days and it has no twist or turn or real conflict whatsoever. Again, I know this is mostly just metaphorical, but it’s just not my thing. The only thing that I really liked about this book was Holden’s relationship with his sister. And the ending where he really showed how much he loves her and how cute they was what made me not rate this book 1 star. Because otherwise I would’ve done so. Instead it showed a real, normal relationship between Holden and his sister and I quite liked that.

But yeah, overall The Catcher in the Rye was annoying for me. Sure it had a fast and easy writing, which was great for the readathon and great for me because I was able to finish it more quickly. But I just feel like this book just wasn’t for me. I know why a lot of people liked it, but I personally didn’t.

2 stars

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun (review coming soon)

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I read and finished this first book in a series called Cat Who during my second readathon of the month, the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. I had loads of great fun reading this. The Cat Who series revolves around a journalist Qwilleran, who works in the local newspaper and writes articles about art, and set in a fictional small town where weird murders happen. This first book was more of an introduction, of how Q just came to the city, and how new and clueless he is (and we are) about the people there and the art community. And also of course, the cats. As a person who loves cats and enjoys these quirky light mysteries I really enjoyed it. I love the whole vibe of the book, and it sort of reminds me of Welcome to Night Vale, which I really like as well. And my plan is to continue reading the series (there are like 20 books in this series!) as a light reading between heavier books, and have fun!

3 stars

How to be Both by Ali Smith

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This was my first book by Ali Smith and I had heard so many things all over the internet about how genius and amazing she is. I went and bought this book without knowing much about the story other than the fact that it was divided into two parts, and that it was partly set in Italy. I already own There But for The, but I didn’t read that one first because this one was set in Italy and I plan to read more books that are about or set in Italy before my trip to Italy this summer.

I got the edition where the first part is with George’s perspective. I really enjoyed reading her story, and the plot was quite slow but the great writing and the nice characters were very enjoyable. Then I reached the second part and I was suddenly surprised to find the totally different writing style. I didn’t like the second part as much as the first part in the beginning – the writing was too much for me and there were times when I’d have to reread a page again because I didn’t know what I just read. But after a while I finally got to know the characters and began to get used to the writing. Some parts were so beautiful to read. Others weren’t very memorable. But I like how Ali Smith was so smart in planning the book, dividing it in two and both being able to tell a different story while complementing each other. I’m very curious to find out what I would think if I had gotten the edition with the opposite position.

Even so, after finishing this book I sort of felt like I didn’t feel very moved by the whole book. I feel like it’s a great book, and I had no objections reading it, but after I finished I was just like, “oh” and then I can just move on to another book. Which sort of means that the book didn’t evoke any strong emotions from me. But, overall I really enjoyed reading this book. The writing style is really unique, with the absence of quotation marks and the lyrical prose of the second part. The characters and the relationship with each other was great, and I love all the great quotable moments that just take my breath away.

3.5 stars

Currently Reading

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  • The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun
    Continuing my fun with the Cat Who series, I’m currently in the first chapter of this second book! Can’t wait to have a general good time reading this!
  • A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
    As I said before, I’m going to Italy this summer and my homework for that trip is to read more books that are set in Italy! One of the most famous one is this. I really hope I’ll like it and I’ll be able to see what Florence will feel like through Forster’s words.

TBR

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  • The Cat Who Turned On and Off and The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun
    These are the third and fourth books of the Cat Who cozy mysteries, and I can’t wait to read more fun mysteries with the cats! I know I’ll just fly through these books and I’m gonna have loads of fun.
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
    My friend read this recently and absolutely loved it, and it has been on my TBR for so long. I feel like I need to read this soon so I can watch the movie and talk to people about how awesome it is, because I know it’s awesome and I’ll love it!
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
    All I can say is that I am both scared and excited to read this book. I have loved the series so much and I was a little hesitant on whether I should read the book now or later so as not to see the series ending. But we’ll see as the month goes.

2016 Resolutions Updates

I read a total of eight books this month, which was more than the average! It’s great, I had two readathons in April and both were super fun. Although the books I read had a mix of great books and horribly bad books, I still feel like April was a productive reading month!

  • Read 55 books (18/55: I’m on track!)
  • Borrow more books from the library (2 book borrowed from the library, and 1 book borrowed from a friend)
  • Read 2 hours a week (4 hours 40 minutes reading in avg per week)

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Anyways, I can’t wait to start reading more in May! I don’t think I have any readathons planned for May, but I still hope to read much more and not only a high amount of books, but better books that are all 5 stars! What about your reading month in April? Did you read a lot of great books, or were most of them misses rather than hits? Share to me your thoughts and if you have your own wrap up post, don’t hesitate to link it in the comments so I can read it! Until the next post everyone!

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