Friends can be found in the most unlikely places if one just remembers to look with different eyes

One of my resolutions was to post reviews more often and I think I’m succeeding in that resolution haha. I can’t promise I will post a review every day, but I will post something when I’ve read a book that was special to me in any kind of way. Yesterday I finished reading Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi and I’m completely in love with this book! It’s so, so good!!! First, let me give you a description and then I will try to convince you why you should buy and read this book.

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

I think by now probably everybody knows I love retellings. So when I heard Tahereh Mafi had written an Alice in Wonderland retelling I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And now that I’ve read it I’m never going to forget it anymore! Do you ever feel like cuddling a book because it just was that good and that inspiring? Well, I want to cuddle this book, stroke it and kiss it for good measure too. Why? I will tell you why!

Alice is one of those main characters who crawls under your skin and won’t budge once settled. She’s sweet, extremely lonely and sad, but at the same time incredibly resilient. Because of the color (or lack thereof) of her skin she has always been an outsider. People in Ferenwood believe she has no magic and in a world where magic and color are tremendously important someone who lacks both is just not that interesting. The only one who ever cared for Alice (or so she believes) is her father, but it’s been three years since she last saw him. Now, she has nobody. Her mother seems to hate her, she can’t go to school because she was expelled after she attacked her bully and now she doesn’t have any friends. Even her little brothers don’t really seem to care if she’s there or not. The only thing that keeps her from giving up is the promise of a better life once she has partaken in the Surrender. The Surrender is the day when all children who have turned twelve present their town with the magic they carry inside. Once they have surrendered their gift they will be given a task to complete that will determine which job and higher education they will get. However, Alice hates her real magical talent and refuses to acknowledge she possesses it. Instead, she focuses all her energy on her love to dance and her ability to hear the music of the world. But this is not a magical talent and when she presents this ability at the Surrender she receives a 0, a score Alice didn’t believe was possible. All her hopes and dreams are crushed. That’s where her old bully Oliver comes in.

Oliver is one of those characters that keep surprising you. He lies, he teases, he manipulates and he is arrogant. Yet, at the same time he can be really kind and sweet. He’s got layers and layers of personality, like an onion that has to be peeled to get to the mushy core. Oliver is thirteen and a year ago he received the task to rescue Alice’s father from the dangerous world of Furthermore, where magic runs rampant and visitors are tricked, tortured and eaten. Really a lovely place to be ;). Even though Oliver tried with all his might to rescue Alice’s father he needs help. Help from the girl he teased and who possesses a special kind of magic that would come in quite handy in Furthermore. When Oliver witnessess Alice’s failure at her Surrender he comforts her and persuades her to come with him. And that is where a grand adventure starts.

I absolutely loved the worldbuilding in this book. Allthough it’s full of silliness and humor, the storyworld works according to a set of rules established early on in the book. Never does the author digress from these established rules. So, even though the most fantastical things happen, everything makes sense within the set rules. There are towns where people aren’t allowed to sleep, there are towns that are two-dimensional, towns where speaking or moving is a capital offence and towns that love visitors especially because visitors can be eaten. But most importantly in Furthermore there is one commodity that is regulated very strictly. What commodity could be that important in a world where magic runs rampant? Well, Time of course, because people need time to make sound decisions and in Furthermore people don’t like thinking because than visitors would be able to circumvent traps and dangers. So, at the start of every journey through Furthermore people receive a ruler filled with time and inscribed with a Tibbin (a sort of emergency solution in times of extreme danger that can only be used once). Every visitor has to complete his journey within the time he or she has been given otherwise they are arrested for stealing time.

Another thing I loved was the friendship between Alice and Oliver. At the start they are enemies. Alice hates Oliver because he teased her in school and called her ugly because of her lack off color. Oliver doesn’t know how to deal with Alice, the only one who doesn’t seem to be affected by his powers of Persuasion and that’s the reason why he teases and torments her. Along the way they will discover that they are not that different at all. Their friendship develops realistically and they meet a lot of bumps and obstacles on the road to becoming friends because Oliver is so used to lying and manipulating and Alice has a hard time trusting people and showing what she feels.

The personal journey of discovery that Alice makes was also really beautiful. At the start of the book she longs to be like everybody else and hates that she is so different. But at the end she learns that the things that set her apart are the things that make her her. She learns that she can’t change the way people look at her, but she can change the way she reacts to that and how she looks at herself. In this book there are a lot of life lessons (about love, about friendship, about the way we perceive things) interwoven with all the magic and silliness, which makes for not only a really fun read but also a very satisfying and maybe for some even an eye-opening one.

Everybody who loves retellings, magical and wonderfilled stories, tales of friendship and love, and a story with great characters should pick this one up! You won’t be sorry, I promise you 🙂

Catch a falling star – part three

It’s time to share my final review with you guys and girls about Nora Roberts’ Guardians trilogy. The third book is called Island of Glass (Het glazen eiland in Dutch). As always I will start with a description and then I will share my opinion with you all.

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As the hunt for the Star of Ice leads the six guardians to Ireland, Doyle, the immortal, must face his tragic past. Three centuries ago, he closed off his heart, yet his warrior spirit is still drawn to the wild. And there’s no one more familiar with the wild than Riley—and the wolf within her…

An archaeologist, Riley is no stranger to the coast of Clare, but now she finds herself on unsure footing, targeted by the dark goddess who wants more than the stars, more than the blood of the guardians. While searching through Irish history for clues that will lead them to the final star and the mysterious Island of Glass, Riley must fight her practical nature and admit her sudden attraction to Doyle is more than just a fling. For it is his strength that will sustain her and give her the power to run towards love—and save them all…

In this third book the guardians have traveled to county Clare in Ireland, to the home of Bran and the birthplace of Doyle. The last two guardians, Riley and Doyle, are the main characters. Throughout the trilogy you will come to know much about Riley. She’s an archaeologist with a large network of acquantainces who can hook her up with anything and everything she requires. She’s the brain of the operation, where Sasha is the heart and Annika the soul. Riley is logical, extremely loyal, fierce and tough-ass. A great heroine. The fact that she’s a werewolf only adds to the fun. Her character intrigued from the start of the trilogy and I really liked to read from her point of view.

Main character Doyle is a bit more elusive. In the previous books he didn’t seem to play a major role and he is really private and reserved. As a result I didn’t really feel about this character. As always Nora Roberts masterfully develops her characters and slowly reveals what Doyle is struggling with thanks to his curse of immortality. I did come to like him as a result and really hoped he would get his happily ever after.

If you read a lot of Nora Roberts books you know she writes romance books, so naturally in this book Doyle and Riley fall for each other. However, this love felt too much like instant love for me. In the previous books these two characters didn’t really seem to care much about each other, certainly not more than new friends do. That they would end up together was not obvious from the development of the previous books and as such didn’t feel realistic to me. In my first review about Stars of Fortune I talked a bit about the plot Nora Roberts uses in all of her paranormal series, and in this plot structure we find an explanation for the reason why Doyle and Riley would end up together. It seems as if these two characters were only put together because they were simply the last two guardians and the last two unattached people. This doesn’t make for great romance. Only at the end of the book did I start to feel something towards the romance between these two. A bit of foreshadowing in the previous books would have gone a long way in making this romance feel less insta-love and more like a proper romance.

Another thing I didn’t much like about this book was the fact that the search for the Star of Ice was again really similar to the search for the other stars. Some research is done, Riley calls in a few favors and the team goes diving in underwater caves. And when they are not diving they are doing excercises and physical training. Because this is the same m.o. as in the previous two books it gets really tiring to read. Luckily Nora mixes things up a little by hiding the Star of Ice on land in a place that means a lot to Doyle. As a result the tension that is lacking in the first part of the book gets turned up in the rest of the book. Fortunately the rest of the book is suspenseful and the battle between the guardians and Malmon and Nerezza is also written well.

What I did like about this book was the character development of both main characters. Both Riley and Doyle are written realistically and have to overcome some personal issues before they are ready to defeat the antagonist and before they can really start a relationship.

I also liked the fact that it wasn’t Riley who had to find the star, but Doyle. In the previous books the women were pivotal in the quest, but here it is the man.

If you’re looking for a romantic trilogy with a suspenseful ending, fantastic elements, and well-developed characters then you should definitely read this one! The romance in this last book fell a bit short for me, but luckily that was made up for in the end. Overall I really did like this trilogy, despite its flaws :).

Catch a falling star – part two

Yesterday I shared my review of the Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts with you guys and girls and promised you to post a review of book two Bay of Sighs (Baai der zuchten in Dutch) today. Well, here I am to fulfill my promise. As always I’ll first share the description of the book and then I will give my opinion of the book. If you don’t like spoilers then don’t read this review!

baai-der-zuchten

To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…

Mermaid Annika is from the sea, and it is there she must return after her quest to find the stars. New to this world, her purity and beauty are nothing less than breathtaking, along with her graceful athleticism, as her five new friends discovered when they retrieved the fire star.

Now, through space and time, traveler Sawyer King has brought the guardians to the island of Capri, where the water star is hidden. And as he watches Annika in her element, he finds himself drawn to her joyful spirit. But Sawyer knows that if he allows her into his heart, no compass could ever guide him back to solid ground…

And in the darkness, their enemy broods. She lost one star to the guardians, but there is still time for blood to be spilled—the mermaid’s in the water and the traveler’s on the land. For she has forged a dangerous new weapon. Something deadly and unpredictable. Something human.

In Bay of Sighs we follow the adventures of the six guardians after they have procured the first Star of Fortune, the Star of Fire. The team has moved from Corfu to the Italian island of Capri. Sasha and Bran were pivotal in the capturing of the first star and now it’s Annika’s and Sawyer’s turn to find their star, the Star of Water.

Annika was one of my favorite characters in this series. She’s funny (although she doesn’t try to be), she’s a bit unwordly and doesn’t know how to express or behave herself according to human laws of conduct which results in more than one hilarious situation, she’s really kind and sees the best in everyone and everything. She is one of those innocent souls who keep their sense of wonder despite all the cruelties and hardships in life. Annika has got a major crush on fellow guardian Sawyer, but he doesn’t seem to feel the same for her. Or so she thinks.

I really liked Sawyer too. He’s funny, friendly, loves to tease and offers a helping hand wherever he can. His ability to travel through time and space is also really cool and very handy in times of danger and need. Ever since he saw Annika he’s had major feelings for her, but since she’s such an innocent soul he doesn’t want to act upon those feelings in fear she might get hurt or won’t understand what he wants from her. So he keeps his distance. But Annika makes it really hard for him to be chivalrous because she’s not only beautiful and sexy as hell, but also doesn’t have a problem with prancing around nude. Someone should really tell this mermaid that humans are a bit more prudish about bodies than the merfolk haha.

The romance between these two characters is super sweet and humorous. They keep dancing around each other and have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves. Sawyer because he wants to be chivalrous and Annika because she can’t seduce Sawyer first for fear of her sirenpowers kicking in and ensnaring him in a spell. So it’s up to Annika to convince Sawyer to be a bad boy ;).

The tension in this book is turned up a notch as the evil goddess Nerezza decides to use a human for her dirty work. Her eyes fall on Malmon, a corrupted, dark and evil treasure hunter who tried to kill Sawyer in the past and who had a few run ins with Riley too. Nerezza lures him to her mansion and enchants him to drink her blood. From that moment on Malmon has no more free will and has to do everything Nerezza wants, while at the same time he transforms into an abomination. Something not quite human, not quite demonic, but something in between. The adding of another antagonist ensures that the guardians run into even more trouble while trying to fulfill their quest and Annika and Sawyer will be tested to the limits of their strengths and love.

What I liked less about this book was the fact that the search for the second star was really similar to the search for the first star. Again the guardians have to dive to several underwater caves to see if the star is hidden in one of them. Again Riley has unlimited contacts who can supply them with everything they need from a boat to ammunition and special weapons. Because of this some parts of the book felt a bit repetitive. Luckily the new antagonist added some more tension and gave the protagonists a run for their money.

If you like your romance with a bit of fantasy, a lot of tension and some hilarious situations this book is the one for you ;).

Catch a falling star and battle an ancient goddess, catch a falling star and find true love.

Okay the rhythm of this title sucks, but I couldn’t resist haha. For those of you who have read most of my reviews it’s probably obvious that I’m a little bit addicted to Nora Roberts’ books. I especially love her paranormal stories! So, when I saw that her Guardians trilogy was translated to Dutch I knew I had to read these books. After reading them I can’t say I fell in love quite the way I normally do, but I did enjoy the stories. I will be sharing reviews of all three books in the coming days and will try to explain why this trilogy fell a little bit short for me. If you hate spoilers then only read the first review and skip the other two ;). I’ll start with a description and a review of the first book, then tomorrow I will give a description and review of book two and the day after that I’ll proceed with a description and review of book three. The title of the first book is Stars of Fortune (Een ster van vuur in Dutch).

ster-van-vuur

To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…

Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the fire star. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets.

Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her.

But Sasha and Bran are just two of the six. And they all must all work together as a team to find the fire star in a cradle of land beneath the sea. Over their every attempt at trust, unity, and love, a dark threat looms. And it seeks to corrupt everything that stands in its way of possessing the stars… 

So, let me start by telling you what I liked about this book and then I will tell you what I liked less.

Sasha was a really nice main character. Thanks to her ability to foresee the future and her prophetic dreams she has always been an outcast and never had a real relationship. She lives as a recluse and earns a living with her paintings, some of which are the result of her prophetic dreams. When she keeps dreaming about and painting the same five people and the same island she decides to find out if this place exists. After some searching she discovers that she has painted the Greek island Corfu, and she decides to travel there to find out why she keeps dreaming about this island and these strangers. Because of her reclusive life Sasha is shy, innocent and sweet. She’s not good with people and making friends is really hard. But when she sees one of the women she has painted again and again she decides to just talk to her.

Riley, the woman, is a tough-ass archaeologist searching for three ancient artifacts known as the Stars of Fortune. And her research has led her to Corfu. She’s enjoying a well-deserved cocktail when suddenly a woman walks up to her and tells her she’s been dreaming of Riley. When the woman shows her detailed drawings and sketches of not just Riley herself, but also of four other people Riley starts to believe what the woman is saying. While Sasha and Riley are getting to know one another a man comes strolling by. A man who looks exactly like someone on Sasha’s drawings.

Bran is an Irish man with a special talent for magic. He’s outgoing, mysterious and chivalrous. When two women ask him to come sit with them and when the gorgeous blonde one starts explaining she has seen him in her dreams he’s intrigued. When the other woman reveals she’s searching for the Stars of Fortune Bran knows this chance encounter could be fated, for he is also searching for the Stars. His suspicions about fate seem to be confirmed when it turns out all three of them are staying at the same hotel and on the same floor.

Sasha, Riley and Bran decide to team up in their search for the Stars and the other people from the drawings. They decide to move from the hotel to a villa of an acquaintance of Riley’s so they have a bit more privacy for their research. It doesn’t take long before the next two people from Sasha’s drawings find their way to them. They find the adventurous and friendly Sawyer trying to hitch a ride on the road they take to the villa, and they meet kind, strange and beautiful Annika on the beach near their villa. Together the five of them find out that they are the chosen guardians to destroy an ancient, evil goddess Nerezza and return the Stars of Fortune to the Island of Glass. A dangerous and magical quest that will test their strengths and that will put them in mortal danger.

It doesn’t take long before Nerezza shows her face and decides to test the strength of these so called warriors. In this first fight the last member of their group, the strong, stern and reserved warrior Doyle, joins them. Finally their team is complete and the real search for the Stars can begin. On Corfu they will have to find the Star of Fire, first of the three stars. It’s up to Sasha to brings this first stage of their quest to a happy ending.

I really liked the romance between Sasha and Bran. It developed in a realistic tempo and they were really sweet together. I loved how Bran made Sasha discover the strong woman she always was on the inside and how he helped her to come to terms with her special gift. Bran is a real sweetheart and has a big heart. Yet at the same time he’s a really strong magician who has an immense amount of power, but he never uses this power to hurt people or to take the easy way out in life.

I also liked the fact that the story revolves around a fellowship and a quest (huge fan of LotR here!!!). The paranormal elements all had a good basis and history within the book and were realistic. The fact that Riley was an archaeologist and did historical research to discover hints about the Stars and their whereabouts was also really cool.

What I liked less was the fact that every paranormal trilogy by Nora Roberts seems to have the same plot which starts to become really obvious when you read a lot of her books. She always has one über villain without any redeeming qualities, the pure incarnation of evil. Most of the time this is a god or goddess or some type of sorcerer. Then there are one or more people or supernatural ‘guardians’ who have tried to stop the evil but didn’t succeed entirely. These ‘guardians’ however do succeed in crippling the evil in some way which results in a long absence of the evil until the time is right for the evil to rise again and take revenge. After many, many years three or six special people are born who are fated to destroy the evil if they succeed in finding three magical objects before the evil does. While the chosen ones are busy fulfilling their quest they either fall in love with each other or meet and have to work with somebody (not a chosen one) who turns out to be perfect for them, their one true love. In the end the evil is always defeated and the good guys live happily ever after. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this type of plot and Nora Roberts writes them really well. However, if an author keeps reusing the same plot over and over it gets a bit predictable and tiresome. I like some originality in the stories I read and on this criterium these books were lacking for me.

Another thing I didn’t like was the way how all the characters met each other. It was all a bit too easy and convenient. It would’ve been nice if the search for teammembers had been a bit harder and less coincidental. The fact that there were six main characters also made the book a bit unclear at times. Sometimes I didn’t know who was speaking and other times the author switched from one person to the next so abruptly that I had to read passages two or three times to understand what happened and through whose eyes I was seeing the scene. Normally Nora Roberts is really good at this, but in this series it was a bit of a mess.

If you like paranormal, romantic stories with a quest this book is the one for you! The love story is realistic and sweet, the main characters are well-developed and it’s packed with magic and adventure :).

 

Wednesday – Quoteday #11

I really felt like posting a quote today and it made me laugh out loud because in my new year’s post I said I didn’t want to just post quotes on wednesdays anymore. Guess what day it is haha. Ah well, it’s a good day to share some beautiful words with you guys and girls ;).

I’m really happy today because I finally finished my thesis!!! Despite all the things that went wrong along the way, I’m so proud of the result. At the same time I feel a tiny bit lost and unhinged. Like I don’t know what to do now that I almost have my bachelor. Luckily, reading allows us to become whoever and whatever we want, wherever we land. Currently I’m residing in Furthermore, land of chaotic magic, trickery and mischief and I’m loving every minute of it! And who knows where and who I’ll be tomorrow…

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