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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Red Hoodies, Grandmothers and Droids: Scarlet & Cress Book Review

Hi everyone, and welcome back to another book review! For today I am presenting to you a sort of a book review mash-up, a combination of two books bundled into one review. These two books are Scarlet and Cress by Marissa Meyer, the second and third book of the Lunar Chronicles. I read Cinder last year and marathoned the rest of the series from January to February, and here are my thoughts on them. Another review of Winter will (hopefully) be coming up in the future as well. Warning for spoilers if you haven’t read the first three books of the series!

cover1Let’s start off with Scarlet. The story continues where Cinder left off, but now we have a new addition to the team, Scarlet Benoit, a girl who is trying to find her grandmother. Her location is in France, which is kind of less interesting than New Beijing, but Scarlet is such a badass, and she would do anything to be able to track down whoever kidnapped her grandmother.

I love Scarlet. I like her more than Cinder in a way that I can’t really put my finger to. She’s quite interesting and I just really like her love for her grandmother and how passionate she is in finding her. The story starts off really great, we have Scarlet’s introduction, not to mention Wolf another new character, and we also have Cinder’s plotline, where she meets Thorne and tries to figure out what to do.

Cinder and Thorne’s storyline for me was a little meh. I really preferred Scarlet’s chapters compared to Cinder’s. Although I still really like Cinder, by the middle of the book I was super engrossed in Scarlet’s journey and meh towards Cinder’s. I wasn’t attracted to Thorne at all. I felt like he was a terribly done character, he had so many popular character tropes – the handsome and charming playboy, always trying to pick up a girl, acting like he’s better than he really is. There is no real depth in him in this book.

Title: Scarlet
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Date Published: 2013
Num of Pages: 332
Date Read: 10th January, 2015
Goodreads Link

In the meantime, Scarlet’s story was quite interesting. I really liked her story, and her relationship with Wolf was fun to read, up till the kiss scene. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the two of them are adorable. They are the only two people I ship in the series. But this is just yet another case of young adult instalove. They’ve only met each other for what, a day? Two maybe? And they’re already kissing and being in love and shit like that? Unbelievable. I still think they are cute, but if they hadn’t kissed, if they had just you know, looked at each other lovingly with a lot of sexual tension, if the kiss had happened later in the book or maybe even later in the series, I would’ve been so in love with them. It felt too forced.

But as a character himself, I thought Wolf was yet another one of those trope-y characters. The quiet, brooding type who is strong and intimidating but has a deep dark past and once you get to peel his outer layers, you’ll fall in love with him and blah blah blah. He’s a charming guy, believe me, but he’s not that good of a character.

quote2Amusement touched the corner of his lips. “Animals love me.”
“Oh, I’m sure they do,” Scarlet said, beaming with fake encouragement. She shut the door before muttering, “What farm animals don’t love a wolf?”

Other than those two main plotlines, I really liked the chapters that had Kai’s point of view as well. I thought he showed a great part of the story from another part of the world, and he was a very rational and human character. I liked his struggles to rule the empire, and his thoughts about his feelings for Cinder but also prioritizing his kingdom. It was really fun to read. All in all, I found Scarlet a really solid novel with great plots and twists, and some great characters. But it wasn’t amazing at all. If I hadn’t liked Scarlet or Kai that much, I would probably rate it a 3.5

4 stars

Moving on to Cress, the third book of the series. I found Cress as a character to be less interesting compared to Scarlet. She’s the newest addition to the gang, and she’s probably not the youngest but acts like a child in my eyes. She’s so naive, which kind of makes sense because she has been trapped in this room for most of her life, but her attitude is just icky to me. The way she imagines weird scenarios and how she idolizes and stalks Thorne is just plain weird for me. She reminds me a lot of rapunzel in Disney’s Tangled, but that rapunzel was way more fun and a more dimensional character than Cress. Which is part of why I didn’t like this third book as much as the second one.

cover2The plot was alright for me. It has a lot of twists and turns and again, like the previous two novels, there is never a moment where it is peaceful or relaxed. There is always something going on, always something bad happening, which is fine because this is a young adult novel, and I know a lot of people who like this kind of books, but for me they just felt a little too orchestrated. Like when they were separated and Cress and Thorne was in that desert and then magically, coincidentally, they met people who took them to the same place where Cinder and the others landed. Like, it felt too easy and too planned, it made the whole gang being separated became totally unnecessary. But I do like the whole suspense and action-packed story. I like the little twists with Dr Erland and Cress, and the little plot twist at the end when we thought the gang would be able to escape the kidnapping.

Cress was an okay book for me. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. Not as good as Scarlet, which was mostly because I didn’t like Cress and also because there wasn’t enough Scarlet in it. Plus Wolf was just a dormant and weird piece of chess in this story, there wasn’t any character development from him – in fact I think he has downgraded into a useless, unpredictable character just because he lost his “alpha” (was it his alpha? Or was it beta? I don’t know, I don’t speak wolf). But there were parts that I really enjoyed. I liked Cinder’s relationship with Thorne. Thorne sort of developed ever since he was blinded. I quite liked him more here. And I really liked Cinder and her role as sort of the leader for the whole gang in this book, how she had grown more mature and I think she was the one with the most character development in the series.

Title: Cress
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Date Published: 2014
Num of Pages: 412
Date Read: 24th January, 2015
Goodreads Link

The last parts of the book was intense and I think that was my favourite part of the book. I like the whole sabotaging kidnapping strategy with the little conflicts, and how Cinder met Kai. It could’ve been executed better in my opinion – I sort of hoped it would be as epic as the scene in the third book of Artemis Fowl where he broke into a house and all that. But like I mentioned before, this is a young adult story, it has a mediocre writing style for me (I thought it could be a better written story if it was written by someone else). The characters of the whole gang was flat and one dimensional for me, if the characters had been more dynamic like the gang from Avatar (The Last Airbender), or The Raven Boys, I’d probably love them more.

Another thing that bothered me was the romance. I hated the fact that each of the main characters (the girls) were “paired off” to a “cute” guy to make them more “complete”. I agree what Kristina said in her review of Cress, about how it was really unnecessary. None of the romances I ship too deeply and they were all so predictable.

But all in all, I rated Cress 3.5 stars. It was all right, fast-paced, fun to read. And I do want to read Winter, just to see how it all solves out. I want to know why so many people are raving about it, saying how mindblowing and exciting the series is, especially how the series ended so well with the last book. So far I don’t see why so many people would rate the first three books with five stars. I think the series so far is great, but not good enough for me to actually recommend to people. We’ll see.

3.5 stars


Snow, Sky and Lemon-haired Boys: The Book Thief Book Review

The Cologne sky was yellow and rotting, flaking at the edges.

What does the sky look like today? Ask Liesel Meminger and she’d probably spin a torrent of beautiful sounding words and metaphors just for today’s sky. The words and metaphors used in The Book Thief  is one of the small reasons why I love this book so much.

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Black Swan
Date Published: 2005
Num of Pages: 560
Date Read: 27th December, 2015
Goodreads Link
Where I Bought It

The Book Thief is a historical fiction novel written by Markus Zusak set in Germany during the second World War. Of course, a lot of you have probably already read the book by now. But if you haven’t, don’t think that this novel is just another one of those sad, depressing novels about war and death and hopelessness. This is a book that is different from anything I have ever read.

cover4First of all, what I really love about The Book Thief is how different and unique it is. I love how it was written through Death’s narrative. In most books the writers won’t reveal some major spoiler until it actually happened, but in this book Death would just casually mention what happens to who, chapters before it actually occurred. Another thing I loved so much about this book is the small sections between the paragraphs that show a random word or situation. It’s so unique and interesting to read.

thBut for the story itself, the book starts with Liesel and her journey into being an orphan, and eventually a book thief. I really liked Liesel. I don’t usually like children in real life, but I seemed to really like Liesel and I’d probably love her and give her a huge hug if I met her. I adored her parents as well. Some other writer would make the parents the regular, loving and kind parents but in this book you see two very different parents. The father is a gentle and kindhearted man who was able to soften up Liesel. Meanwhile the mother is stern and mean, and most of the times she doesn’t even show any kind of affection towards Liesel. But you could tell that she loves Liesel as much as her father does. It shows a really fun dynamic between the characters.

Then of course, there’s Rudy. I loved Rudy, and his friendship with Liesel. It’s adorable and honest and innocent and it breaks my heart. The other characters, like Death or Max, were all very fun to read and I really liked how they are more than just a two-dimensional character.

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.

I found this book to be a very fun in some parts, but also deep in others. I adored the whole message it gave to us the readers, about the part of war that is seen from the perspective of the “being” that is most involved (Death), but also from the perspective of a child who is not one of the groups of people who are in danger during that time, but still shows the effect of war towards children like Liesel. This book also teaches us to look in the bright side, to keep on hoping and fighting for life.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 7.31.28 PM

Now moving on to a little movie review, I watched the movie adaptation with the same title a few weeks after reading the book. I thought it was a decent adaptation. It was beautifully shot, I love the actors especially Liesel, I thought she did a great job. It also made me cry, although not as much as I did while reading the book, but still enough.

All in all, The Book Thief was a unique and mesmerizing novel, filled with heartbreaking parts and excellent characters. It was no wonder that so many people loved it so much. If you’re looking for an inspiring, lovely, tear-jerking read, then go ahead and pick this one up.

4.5 stars