Book review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Scribner

Publication date: 6th May 2014

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

“Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

My review:

All the Light We Cannot See follows Marie-Laure as she moves away from Paris with her father at the age of six, and Werner, an orphan who is struggling to find his place in the world as he joins the forces in Nazi Germany. The reader joins these two characters on their incredible journey as they try to survive the war each in their own way. Both characters are well developed and likable enough for the reader to form a true bond and I felt eager to follow their journeys.

Written in short alternating chapters of each character’s POV, the plot feels almost feels too linear and I wondered why the author chose this style several times as I was reading the book. My favourite part was by far the moment when their paths cross as this was the closure I needed from the beginning and I finally understood his decision of writing the book in this style.

As far as storytelling goes, no words can do this book justice and Anthony Doerr deserves all the awards. Only a few other authors come to mind when it comes to telling a heartfelt story from start to finish but none manage to do so with as much ease and finesse. Although the scenery is almost always dreary and somber as the war spreads through France, the feeling of hope is so deep rooted in this book that it makes for a very raw and real reading experience.

My pet peeve in Historical Fiction is short chapters as I feel that there is not enough depth to the narrative and not enough time to truly engage with the scenery and characters. I definitely felt that way as I read this book and I would have preferred longer chapters focusing on each character rather than small snippets into their lives until their reunion. I could have carried on reading past the ending as by that point I was so invested in both characters and would have enjoyed reading whichever way the story developed.

It is no wonder that All the Lights We Cannot See is the Goodread’s Historical Fiction win of 2014. This book is moving, exciting and incredible. If you decide to read any Historical Fiction book, even if it is not your choice of genre, I am sure that you will not be disappointed if you make it this one.

Studious Saturday: 50 things that make me happy

studious saturdays

Happy Holidays! I hope that you will all get to spend a truly relaxing and peaceful time surrounded by people you love. In the spirit of Christmas and holiday time I felt that today was the perfect Saturday to post the 50 Things that Make Me Happy tag after I was tagged by the lovely Molly. Thank you, Molly, for the tag!

50 things that make me happy:
1. The spirit of Christmas
2. Meeting the New Year with high hopes of a successful coming year
3. The excitement when booking flight tickets
4. The even more exciting feeling of stepping on an airplane, ready for an adventure
5. Seeing my mum’s happy smile when I walk into Arrivals
6. Writing out and activating my out of office email at work
7. The chatter of strangers in the Madrid metro every morning
8. Hearing a song I associate with my university days
9. Skyping with a dear friend
10. Mastering a complicated dance routine after hours of practice
11. The frenzy and enthusiasm when stepping out onto the ballroom competition floor
12. The joy of a fast and fun quickstep
13. Starting a new booking
14. Sitting down and relaxing after having cleaned the whole house
15. Watching the latest episode of a TV show that I’ve been following
16. Going to the cinema with my mum
17. Coming up with a good idea for a blog post
18. The satisfying feeling of writing a blog post in advance and scheduling it
19. Watching a loved one open a gift from me
20. Spending time at my aunt’s house with the whole family
21. My aunt’s dogs – Riley and Jacob
22. Any dogs in general
23. Skiing down from the top of a mountain with friends
24. Summer BBQs
25. Seeing friends after months apart
26. Stumbling upon old photos from school and the nostalgia that follows
27. Remembering fun nights in at home with friends at university
28. Planning the next city trip with my boyfriend
29. Spending summers in Bulgaria
30. The joy in my grandma’s expression when she sees me after one year away
31. My grandma’s homemade meals
32. Finding a new favourite restaurant to eat at
33. When a difficult recipe is a success in the end
34. The relief of sitting a final exam
35. Lazy at home Sundays with my boyfriend
36. A crisp but sunny winter’s day
37. When a wish comes true
38. Picking strawberries in summer
39. Cooking a meal for my favourite people
40. Going on a walk in the park
41. Spontaneous spa nights at home on Friday evenings
42. Sleeping in on a weekend
43. Having a bath after a long day
44. Learning a new word or phrase in a different language
45. Reading in coffee shops and blocking out the rest of the world
46. Playing board games with the whole family
47. Remembering the lyrics of a song I haven’t heard in a while
48. Having three places in the world that all feel like home
49. Seeing or hearing something that reminds me of a loved one
50. The prospect of many good moments to follow in the future

This was a fun and rewarding tag to do and I highly recommend it to other bloggers! I won’t tag anyone this time as I am sure that everyone has plans to spend time with family and perhaps even schedule their blog for next year. Next Saturday’s post is the final one of the year and it has been one of the hardest ones to write although equally enjoyable. Stay tuned for more and sending you all warm wishes for the holidays!

Book review: The Coordinates of Loss by Amanda Prowse

Book Cover

Title: The Coordinates of Loss

Author: Amanda Prowse

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publication date: 25th September 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✰

Summary:

When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.
In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.
Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?

My review:

I decided to read this book after finishing Anna by Amanda Prowse which I really enjoyed. Needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. She chose a very complex subject matter and explored it through Rachel and James’ relationship after their son Oscar disappears at sea. Grief is a particularly difficult topic to discuss which I believe she handled well with a lot of carefully chosen words and phrases. Most notable of all were the different stages of loss that Rachel struggled through which I felt were especially well documented through the first person narrative.

Character development plays an important part in books written in this style and I must say that we saw all characters grow through expressing their thoughts and reflecting on the past. Cee-Cee was a very pleasant character, often driving the plot forwards and supporting Rachel with the healing process. Her empathy and kindness is so comforting and she quickly became my favourite character.

The Coordinates of Loss is an emotional and poignant book, perfect for readers who are after a true to life story and are keen on exploring family dynamics. However, it should also be noted that this book lacks a fast-paced plot and does not provide any relief until the very end, which is something I believe many readers may also be looking for.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Studious Saturday: My favourite places to read

 

studious saturdays

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are” – Mason Cooley

Hello and welcome to another Studious Saturday post! I am one of those people that can read almost anywhere. I was almost tempted to pick up my book when I was waiting my turn for the dentist! This made me think about some of my favourite places to read and I decided to create a quick discussion post to discuss in more detail. So in no particular order my favourite places to read are…

• On public transport

If you are from the UK, you probably know how awkward it can be locking eyes with the person sitting opposite you. This doesn’t tend to happen in Spain but even so, I much prefer reading my book, especially on my commute to work or when I know a long journey is ahead.

• On a flight

I guess this is linked to public transport although the journey tends to be longer meaning more time for reading. I sometimes get through a whole book when flying and I love the feeling of completely ignoring anything and everything else on the plane and getting lost in the story.

• In the park

The park is probably my favourite place to read, especially on a sunny day with a slight breeze. Unfortunately we don’t get many days like this here in Madrid but when the odd day suggests the perfect weather I love to pick up my kindle and head to the park.

• At a café

On gloomy days I find nothing more appealing than walking to a café, making myself comfortable at a table by the window and starting a new book. Sometimes hours pass by and I finish one book and start another without even thinking about leaving.

• At home

My usual reading place is my bed or sofa, both of which are comfortable enough to get lost in a book, sometimes a bit too much when the plot is engrossing enough to keep me awake into the small hours of the night. Then I find myself tired at work the following day but I don’t mind too much because this is usually how I discover my favourite authors and books.

Question

What is your favourite place to read and why?

Have an amazing weekend and thanks for reading!

 

Book review: The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

Book Cover

Title: The Family Next Door

Author: Sally Hepworth

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 22nd March 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Synopsis:

The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.
Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.
But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange’s compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won’t let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park – and returned home without her.
As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’ll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.

My review:

I feel hesitant posting this review after reading other readers’ thoughts on this book and I think I might be one of the only ones to give it an average rating. This is a quick and engrossing read, similar to other domestic thrillers with confident and headstrong female leads. The story line follows three neighbours from Pleasant Court, a suburb in Australia, who each hide their own secrets, unaware that a huge discovery is about to be made by their new neighbour Isabelle. The pace is steady and secrets are revealed with purpose and in the right doses throughout the book. Despite my initial concerns, the subject matter related to each secret is heavy but unpredictable and very well analysed by the author who delves into each character, narrating their story with close attention to detail.

My main issue with this book is the interaction between the neighbours which I found to be very superficial and gossipy. Some of the themes discussed were dark but this was usually portrayed in the narrative where characters’ thoughts were revealed, unlike the conversations at the suburb which often felt superfluous and repetitive. I understand that perhaps this is also telling of the different ways we hide information from our peers compared to our thoughts when we are alone, but the dialogue left me feeling disappointed and sometimes even irritated. I could not relate to Isabelle or any of the other women and was not impressed by how uninteresting their husbands were portrayed either.

Overall, this book fell a little flat for me and made me question some of the characters’ decisions which I don’t believe was always intended. However, the pace was good enough to draw me into the world of Pleasant Court where relationships are tested and important topics such as parenthood, marriage and mental illness are discussed. It is a quick and entertaining read and perfect for anyone looking for a domestic thriller narrated from a woman’s perspective.

Studious Saturday: How I choose what book to read next

studious saturdays

 

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking” – Haruki Murakami

Welcome to another bookish Saturday post! Now that I’ve had the opportunity to explore the book blogging world a little more and have published several book reviews, I thought it would be the perfect time to expand my horizons and what better way to do so than try writing discussion posts? After last week’s Three Bookish Things book tag which I greatly enjoyed, I decided that I would start a theme here at Facing the Story called “Studious Saturdays” which would include a tag, discussion or list posted every Saturday with a new topic. Today I plan on discussing how I choose my next book in my constantly growing TBR list.

• Recommendations:

This is by far my favourite method. If a friend or family member recommends a book they read and loved and the description sounds like something I would enjoy, it goes directly to the top of my TBR pile and I usually start reading it immediately after finishing my current book. I am lucky to share the same reading preferences with my family and most of my friends so we are often lending books and discussing our thoughts afterwards.

• Ratings:

This used to be more popular a few years ago when I was a student and books wasn’t yet a commonly discussed topic between my friends so I resorted to Amazon and Goodreads top rated books in genres I liked in order to choose my next book. Needless to say, it didn’t always work for me and on several occasions I was disappointed with my choices. This made me realise that just because one reader may enjoy a book within a genre we both love, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the topics discussed in that book would appeal to me as well. Character development and pace is extremely important to me and I was often frustrated with the lack of these writing techniques in books I chose to read because of others people’s ratings. I am not so easily influenced by ratings any more and instead rely on other means when picking up my next book, though ratings are still a factor I consider on occasions.

• Opinions in the book blogging community:

A much more recent discovery, your opinions are something I really value. Ever since I started this blog, I’ve been so engrossed in reading your reviews, tags and discussion topics that I have since then realised how quickly this became one of the main aspects when choosing my next book. I’ve discovered new authors and special books and, unlike ratings and reviews on Amazon, I find I can relate to other bloggers’ opinions much more.

• Read once and loved authors:

Sometimes I stumble across a book written by an author whose writing style I love for one reason or another so I decide to read previous books that they have written or keep an eye out for any future books published by them. I find this method usually works well, though I am often inclined to wait or read another book in between so it is not necessarily how I pick up my next book even though I may add it to my TBR pile. However, I must say that if I decide that I loved the book that much, I have to get my hands on the author’s next book right there and then. This happened with Khaled Hosseini, one of my favourite authors, and it’s also how I discovered my love for Jodi Picoult novels. (Having said that, I am so excited to read A Spark of Light and Sea Prayer, who’s with me here?!)

• By pure chance:

This usually depends on my mood or other circumstances, such as not having any books around me which happens now and again. I don’t usually stray from my TBR list because it’s so long that it would take me years to get through and deciding to read another book not previously present in the list is nonsensical for me. However, if a book I’ve not heard of before is discounted or suddenly appears on Kindle Unlimited I sometimes decide to buy it, though I may not read it straight away. In the latter category fall books that I have to pick up, often because my kindle is out of battery or not with me at that moment. I am lucky that my parents’ and grandparents’ house is full of books in different languages so when I’m visiting I sometimes pick a book at random and I’m usually not disappointed with my choice.

Question

How do you choose what book to read next?

Thank you for taking the time to read this Saturday’s musings and have a lovely weekend!