The Aftermath by Rhidian Brooks (Book Review + Movie Trailer)

Publisher: Penguin
Page Count
: 325

I am struggling with how to even start this review. You all know how torn I am when it comes to the topic of books set during or closely after World War II. Some of my favourite reads treat that topic (check out Wolf by Wolf or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for some great examples) and I was ready to love and get my heart broken by The Aftermath as well. But somehow, that’s not what happened at all.

Rachael could find no solace in other people’s tales of woe. Pain was uniquely one’s own, and undiminished by a democracy of suffering.

The Aftermath certainly offers a perspective not too often shown. It deals with former enemies living in close quarters. With legitimate resentment and unwillingness to forgive and forget, while simultaneously needing to move on and let go. There is a constant push and pull as the story is mostly told from the confines of the families Morgan and Lubert, one English and one German. And that’s the whole point. These families have never done anything to each other per se, but their nationalities and what those countries have done during the war has led to loss on both sides and that in term to suffering. There are no real winners in war, so pain exists everywhere.

That is exactly what the book tried to show from as many angles as possible. There are complex moral questions to answer as you get confronted with what surely was the reality for many people. I am in no way EVER going to excuse the atrocities Germany (or Austria for that matter) has committed during the war, however, how can you judge every single person of a country for what the government did? How can you decide who has a clean slate and just did their best to survive or who willingly and eagerly participated? What about the children who were taught a certain mindset, sometimes too young to question what was going on – is their resentment towards the occupation justified?

And that is not all! The people who now want to rebuild the country and set it on a rightful path again, how much are they allowed to interfere really? If they disdain the entire populace, are they really able to help or are they making things worse? 

I’ve not met a German who has difficulty believing that they have been defeated, Wilkins. I think they have, to a man, accepted it, gladly, and with some relief. The real difference between them and us is that they have been comprehensively and categorically fucked, and they know it. It is we who are taking too long to adjust to that fact.

I don’t feel in any position to give or come up with proper answers here, but I was glad to have the book shine a light on those intricacies. I am not going to lie, some parts really hurt to read about. My grandmother was a young girl during the occupation and she had bad memories that haunted her until the end. I am not here to judge anyone’s right or wrong-doings, but I liked that the book showed that things weren’t that simple, that every side had its flaws.

However, why did I not love this book then? Everything felt very clinical and presented to me. There weren’t just the families, but also the Trümmerkinder (children living in the rubble), who basically started and finished the book and felt detached from everything else (despite providing a pivotal turning point for the story). While everyone had their part to play in showing what was going on, I had an immensely difficult time connecting to anyone in particular. While I was on board with some of the pain and resentment, some people felt manic and others had me furious at their unwillingness to adapt.

My biggest issue was probably the fact that the story just trickled along and then threw everything at you in the final 40 pages. I don’t mind introspective, slow stories. I don’t even mind it when nothing monumental happens at all and you just get a glimpse at a moment in time, but rushed endings have the tendency to ruin things for me. They never quite feel as satisfactory as the slower and intimate moments suggested it would all be thoroughly explained.

Fazit: 2.5/5 stars! An interesting view at post-war Germany that failed to fully capture me.

Now about the movie. I haven’t watched it yet, but I intend to at some point, because an actor I know has a role in it. However, I thought I would still share the trailer with you. From what I could see, it mainly focuses on the affair between the British wife of the colonel and the German man living in their requisitioned house. I love Alexander Skarsgard, so I don’t exactly mind that they didn’t use a German actor for the role (even though Alexander’s German does not sound authentic). Still, I could see almost all the characters from the book appear at one point or another. The piano music (especially in the second trailer) is also very much in tune with the book. It looks faithful enough, but I suspect that there wasn’t enough room in that one film to really explore all angles.


Have you read The Aftermath? Have you watched the movie? Let’s talk!

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (The Witcher #0.5 Book Review)

Publisher: Gollancz
Page Count
: 280

It is a well known fact on this blog that I very much like the Netflix adaptation of the Witcher (it made a surprise entry into my favourite shows of 2019 list, because I couldn’t stop watching it upon its release). However, before that, I never played the games and honestly didn’t even know that the books existed. The Last Wish was originally published in 1993 (my birth year, or as I like to call it, the best vintage) and just completely escaped my notice until now. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that The Last Wish wasn’t a Witcher novel but a Witcher anthology instead, with everyone recommending to read it first. That truly explains a lot about this book!

Much like the show, you have to be prepared to not really know when things are happening and what their connection is. Reading The Last Wish, I felt like the show had done a great job, as I could clearly identify the contents of episodes 1 to 5 (not necessarily in that order) within the pages. Some character names were changed (why is Dandilion called Jaskier on the show?) and some might not have appeared yet (or will never appear at all?), but I think I had a grand advantage having watched the show before reading the book. I was prepared for the jumbled up timelines, for the messy tasks Geralt has to perform and for the characters that slowly crept into his heart.

I was especially surprised by the nonchalant mention of several well known fairy tales (such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, etc.), because they weren’t just tales within that universe, they actually happened there (even though in an even more sinister way than most remember it). Some got their own chapter, others were just mentioned in passing, but the inspiration was very clear behind the use of those characters/tales. That really made me think that Geralt was always just a village away from all the nighttime stories I knew so well from my childhood. A strange thought, a bit of a funny one too, but also a befitting one for it helps build a familiarity with an utterly different world.

“Evil is evil, Stregobor,” said the witcher seriously as he got up. “Lesser, greater, middling, it’s all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I’m not a pious hermit. I haven’t done only good in my life. But if I’m to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

So, if you pick up The Last Wish, you will find a series of tales introducing Geralt to you. He will show his true character and keep you guessing at what kind of massive mess he has gotten himself into. It ends on such note, that you will want to know more about the (in this version not THAT stoic) witcher and the trials that await him. It’s exactly what was promised on the cover! However, you should not expect a traditional story with beginning, middle and end. There are hints at something that spans greater for sure, but it’s just really not what The Last Wish is.

I am definitely intrigued and would pick up further novels. My only problem for now is that I am an absolute cover snob and this is the only one Netflix has released with the TV show cover and I would like matching ones. There are about eight or nine books in total though, so I feel like the show still has a lot of material to draw from and will hopefully release the other books with the tie-in covers as well!

Never not proud of this drawing I made. Geralt, my foul-mouthed hero.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Definitely worth a read if you are a fan of the show (or games too, I suppose)!

Have you read any of the Witcher books? Have you played the game? Loved the show? Let’s chat!

Anna K. by Jenny Lee (Book Review)

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Page Count
: 374

It’s time to make a confession: I have never read or watched Anna Karenina in all my life. Why is that little tidbit of info about me avoiding/being oblivious about a Russian classic vital to you in this very moment? Well, Anna K. is a the glorious modern retelling of said classic and I hereby freely admit that I have no way of comparing the two, but I hope that still gives me a “unique” view on the book. It definitely made me curious about the original novel, that’s for sure.

Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.

This book really left me in some sort of emotional state of mind! It took me a bit to find my footing, but from the get go, Anna K. is a fast-paced whirlwind of amazing characters. A lot happens as you sort of play tag with the characters and switch from one POV to the next almost seamlessly. At first, I was a bit unsure of just the vast amount of characters, but they were interconnected beautifully and each had their own voice and personality and depth to them despite all of it being told in the 3rd person (to me that sometimes feels a little less personal, but not here). On the one hand, it felt like you were just observing the characters’ lives, but on the other hand, you had clear insight into all their motives and desires.

What I first believed to be a superficial glitzy love-at-first-sight teenage foolery, turned out to be so much more than that. I loved the upperclass Manhattan/Greenwich setting. I loved that Anna K. was a Korean-American teen and that her family’s tradition clashed and blended with American society standards. I adored the character dynamics and how everyone was connected in a more or less expected way. I loved how heightened and extra a lot of it was. At some point, there was one tragedy after the other and each time I thought my heart couldn’t possibly break any more, but then there was another one just around the corner. Yet, you don’t leave this book sad (maybe a little wistful), but rather full of hope and love for all these characters.

There’s not much fault one can find with this book in my opinion. The characters aren’t perfect paper cutouts, but actual human beings with faults and flaws. Anna and Steven even made it into my list of favourite literary characters and that’s not an easy one to get on. So, if you aren’t into cheating plotlines and characters using an excessive amount of drugs, maybe this isn’t the read for you. The love is also very … insta? Love at first sight in general comes quick to these characters. But if you want a Gossip Girl approach to a Russian classic (and I’ve been told Jenny Lee did a pretty remarkable job with the retelling) with a more diverse cast of characters, you should definitely check it out! I promise you will keep turning page after page in anticipation of what might happen next and how things could possibly go so terribly wrong for someone so lovely.

As a last thought, I would really encourage you to check out the Author’s Note at the end of the story. It really added even more spark to an already very entertaining and heartfelt rollercoaster of a read for me.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A fun and emotional take on an old classic!

Have you read Anna K. or Anna Karenina for that matter? Would you be interested in doing so? Let’s chat!

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

Publisher: Gollancz
Page Count
: 458

**CW: rape, sexual assault, abuse, self-harm, murder, violence, vomiting, gore**

I like Leigh Bardugo as an author. I have not, in fact, read everything she has written, but just like about every human on earth, I have really enjoyed the Six of Crows duology and could easily have seen her become one of my household favourite authors. When it was announced that she had written her first adult book in a sort of dark academia setting, I was fully on board. And it’s not that this book didn’t deliver on what it advertised, it just turned out that I wasn’t really the right reader for it.

First of all, you get thrown into a world you understand very little of. Bardugo is great at creating a whole universe with magic, and rules that apply to it, that feels real and accessible, but I was just lost. I’ve never been to the Yale campus and even with a map, there were so many details I had a hard time connecting with. Aside from Gilmore Girl’s Rory, I really have no connection to it if I think about it some more. But then there are also the actual magical societies. I thought we would gradually get eased into the matter, but instead you start into the midst of it all, and believe me when I say it is a mess.

Aside from the confusing societies, it takes a while to get to know the characters and therefore really get into the story. To me, connecting with the people on the page and their journey is so important, but there were so many blanks that eventually got filled in, but it took me a good 100 pages to really get into it.
Alex Stern, the main character of the series and who’s real name is actually Galaxy, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Her past is hard to swallow and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I understand her anger and her way of keeping people at bay, but at the same time, I felt like I was kept at bay sometimes. That’s maybe why I found golden boy Darlington (who I need back desperately and who will be the main reason I will pick up the sequel) and quiet but caring Dawes more accessible. Also, Turner was a big upside of the book for me, because he felt like the lawful good person the story needed. But I enjoyed the dynamic among all characters and the way we still got to explore how some of these relationships were formed. Where a lot of things felt like pre-established fixtures, at least this was something that felt like it was still in the making.

“I let you die. To save myself, I let you die. That is the danger in keeping company with survivors.”

So, there were some aspects I really enjoyed (especially the emancipation and handling of different female characters) and others I did not understand or connect to as much as I had hoped. The fact that a lot of it was presented in the shape of a paranormal crime story maybe didn’t help me personally. I understood that murder and mayhem would be involved in Ninth House, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be so much like a detective story. Those of you who know me, know that I get a little bored with the investigation-type plots. However, I can see how a lot of readers would be the opposite of me and enjoy those the most!

In conclusion, I would say that this book is A LOT. There is blood and gore and death around every corner. I understand if it is too much to stomach for some people, especially those who are more used to YA content. If you aren’t sure, I would just take a look at what different people who’s opinion you trust are saying about it and then make up your own mind. Or go in completely blind!

“Take courage; no one is immortal”

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Maybe this just wasn’t for me as much as other readers, but I would still continue with the series!

Have you read Ninth House? Have you read other books by Leigh Bardugo? What do you think about her first take on adult fiction?

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord (Book Review)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count
: 368

I can’t believe I read this brand new 2020 release, but it was one of the easiest tasks ever to convince me to pick it up! Twitter wars, teen banter, copious amounts of Gossip Girl and Mean Girls references, grilled cheese and all the sweet goods one could imagine as well as the enemies-to-lovers trope – this book basically consisted of all the things I love and adore.

When you go into Tweet Cute, I feel like you very much know what to expect and that’s not a bad thing at all, because the execution is what matters. I went into it having quite a lot of the story elements that would be used in mind already, but I was still surprised when some of them were used. Sometimes a certain plot point would arrive much sooner and I’d be surprised by how much of the story was still left. Nonetheless, I never felt like the story was dragging on or stretching out parts of it too much, everything flowed nicely and made sense in the grand scheme of things.

This won’t be a very long review in total, just because there is very little to say other than my utter adoration for Tweet Cute. The characters were fun, the setting was cool (I like some preppy uptown New York academy), the banter was hilarious, but what I loved the most was the complex family dynamic. The pressure you sometimes get from wanting to please your parents, the rivalry that can ensue with a sibling because of different treatment and the fierce loyalty one might still feel, even when things are not at their best at the moment. All those things make a story feel real and relatable.

Now, can someone please make me a grilled cheese?? I am hungry!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Such good fun! (Caution: Do not read while hungry or craving food!)

Have you read this book also? Have you seen it swarm around the blogosphere as much as I have? Let’s chat!

January 2020 Wrap-Up

The month of January really felt like a whole freaking year, but that also means that a lot has happened and I got a decent amount of reading done. After the reading slump that was 2019, I am really happy to have found my groove again, because I have missed books. Here’s what I have read recently (and the books being almost color-coordinated is pure coincidence):

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) This Modern Love The Field Guide to the North American Teenager Fleabag: Scriptures Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)

As per usual, click on the covers to get re-directed to Goodreads, where you are always welcome to add me as a reading buddy! For the books that I have written reviews for, you can find them by clicking on the titles above.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may have already heard the big news. I have submitted all necessary paperwork for a working holiday visa for Canada. In other words, if my application goes through *fingers crossed* I will be able to go to Canada for an entire year WITH an open work permit, allowing me take any job without a company having to sponsor my stay. It has long been my wish to return to Vancouver, so this would be a dream come true and a possible first step towards a more permanent stay on the long run. Wish me luck!

FAVOURITE THINGS OF THE MONTH

No lie, I am so immensely proud of my Geralt of Rivia drawing! The Witcher was binged by me back in December, but I couldn’t get Henry Cavill out of my head, so I drew this at a later time. I think it’s my best drawing yet. And I really, really wanted to do the rest of the cast, but I am not sure I am even able to do that.

This was my attempt at Yennefer, but it just … doesn’t look like her? I am proud of the drawing, because it looks life-like and cool and it has the kind of eyes that follow you around he room, but it just isn’t … Yennefer. I could not replicate the Geralt magic …

Something else I absolutely loved this past month was Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. My love for this movie knows no bounds and I will talk about that in a little more detail in an upcoming binge-watching post, but just let me tell you, that it’s fantastic. I laughed, giggled, cried, gasped and generally felt pure joy watching some of my favourite actors and actresses get directed by one of my favourite directors. This drawing of Jo is my latest artistic endeavor and the level I am currently at. It’s not as great as the Geralt of Rivia one, but I will keep trying.

MY POSTS

TV SHOW/MOVIE RELATED

TRAILER POSTS

I hope you had a good start into the new year and a survived the first month with not too many quarrels. Here’s to a good month of February!

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan (Book Review)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count
: 385

**TW: Self harm (blood mages need to cut themselves to use magic), parental abuse, war, torture and gore**

I’ve wanted to read this book for so, so long! And I know that it divides people, because so many hate it, a lot of people think of it only as “meh” but then there’s people like me who absolutely 100% LOVED this journey. It’s honestly not often that I see a book where I could throw my last name in and it would just blend in nicely with the others, also, if I am not mistaken entirely, there’s going to be a Katya in the sequel and that’s just one letter away from my name, so I am going to take it! All those minor details aside, monsters, gods and mortals with major morality quarrels are the way to my heart.

“There was madness in his black eyes – madness and something terribly close to divinity.
Which was, in essence, the same as madness.”

You don’t get much time to adjust to this very rich world before you are thrown into a war that has lasted centuries already. The different viewpoints are clear, but you uncover so much more to it all throughout the story, it’s hard to explain where you find yourself and your allegiances at the end of it all. Our three main characters all grew up within certain belief systems and it has shaped them into the people that are presented to us at the beginning of the tale. Especially Nadya’s religion plays a huge part of her self image and it’s understandable that she meets people who portray everything she was taught to hate with hostility. I thought I would be more annoyed at them for being so stubborn and unwilling to see the other person’s point of view, but ultimately, it just made for all the better tension when they all ultimately meet and have to team up. None of these characters are saints, even if some might believe differently, because they all have done terrible and selfish things at one point or another, but for me it was easy to see how (at least most of them) came to be that person. I did not hold their past against them, which made some betrayals sting all the more. But honestly, it’s not just the main three characters you find yourself easily attached to, I also found myself drawn to the fiercely loyal companions and was worried about their well being by the end just as much as the others. I am not exaggerating when I say I screamed “MY POOR CINNAMON ROLLS OF STEEL!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY BABIES?!?” during the final pages.

Now, I understand if the romance in the book might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It worked for me, but then … I am also someone who wasn’t bother by the Rey and Kylo Ren pairing in Star Wars? I chose that specific example, because I know the author is like the number 1 Kylo Ren fan and there are certainly some Reylo similarities to be found here. Just like that didn’t work for everyone, I am guessing it also won’t work for every reader here. I, personally, felt the tension and was fine with it.

“When he stepped past her, a smile flickered at the edges of his lips. There was darkness at the corners, something evil just underneath the surface, sinister. He turned and grinned at her, monstrous but beatific, holding out his hand, darkness gone. Maybe she’d just imagined it. She took his hand.”

There’s also the diversity I enjoyed a lot. While you feel this world largely inspired by Slavic culture, the world ranges from deserts to snow regions, includes people of color, with disabilities and different sexualities. To me, those are all parts of what makes for good and enjoyable world-building. I was most fascinated by the supposed gods and the religious texts and accounts of saints though! There’s definitely a lot more to it than meets the eye and I wonder what we will discover about their origin and purpose as the series goes on.

I am glad I waited beyond the hype and checked out the book myself, because for me, this was an immediate hit. Also, even though I still have to wait a couple months, I am way closer to the release of Ruthless Gods (aka the sequel) than I would have been had I read the book upon its release. I still want it so bad right now … the sooner the better!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Give me all the monsters, gods and mortals and the sequel while you’re at it!

Have you read the book? What are your thoughts on it? Let’s chat!