An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 26th 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Buy on Bol.com, Buy on Book Depository
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
Hello precious, and welcome to my top ten of favorite books this year! An Enchantment of Ravens was SUCH a beautiful book to read: gorgeous writing, wonderful characters, and a great plot. Honestly, I felt kinda desperate when I finished the book and realized it was a standalone novel because if there was more I would have jumped at the chance to dive into this world again.
If you’re a fan of fairy folklore, An Enchantment of Ravens is THE book for you. The story reminds me so much of traditional folklore and holds true to traditional aspects. At the same time, it is so incredibly unique and unlike anything I’ve read before. The various aspects of the story just work so well together; there’s humor, adventure, and lots of traveling. It’s wonderful!
The writing, guys… Margaret Rogerson is BORN to write. Her prose is so expertly crafted. It is creative and imaginative and I can’t wait to read more of her work. The world-building might have been a little on the underdeveloped side, but I found that I didn’t really care as much because the story was just so well-done.
One of my favorite (and main) aspects of the book is the whole concept of crafts; cooking, writing, painting, and so on. Isobel, our protagonist, paints for the faerie folk, who obsessively collect any crafts because they are unable to create any themselves. Then one day, out of the blue, a faerie prince shows up to have his portrait done and THE REST YOU’LL HAVE TO READ FOR YOURSELF. The whole concept is just so freaking awesome and well thought out.
You want to read An Enchantment of Ravens! It is such a gem to read and if you love faerie folklore or fantasy you won’t want to miss this. It is beautifully written and is so original you won’t want to stop reading until it’s finished -and then you’ll want more!
Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 16th 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Buy on Bol.com, Buy on Book Depository
The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
Flame in the Mist was a very enjoyable read, albeit a bit confusing with a plot that was a bit all over the place. Before I start this review, I first need to get something off my chest… Because, honestly, calling it a Mulan retelling seems a bit of a stretch, as one of the few things the two tales have in common is that both protagonists grab a knife and cut off their hair in order to hide their feminity. This too doesn’t really hold, as the idea of genderbending isn’t really exclusive to Mulan… It has been used before by many other authors, one of the most prominent being Shakespeare in Twelfth Night (which is believed to be written in the early 1600s). That being said… I LOVE GENDERBENDING. I need more genderbending stories, so this book is a step in the right direction!
This review has been waiting to be written for such a long time, but somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to write it. My main problem is that I have such mixed feelings about Flame in the Mist. I enjoyed the story quite a bit and I know I want to read the sequel, but I’m just not blown away by the story and a part of me expected to be blown away by it.
The romance was good… but it wasn’t great. The thing is, though, it was a slow burn romance and I’m usually ALL over that. But I think my annoyance stemmed from the fact that the love interest was simply the only ‘available’ love interest in Flame in the Mist. That, and I didn’t feel like this story necessarily needed a love interest. I think instead of focusing on the romance the story should have focussed more on who tried to kill Mariko. That way the plot would have been a little less all over the place and kept some focus.
Another plot element that I wasn’t sure about was the fantastical part. More than anything, that part confused me. I realize that this can very easily be solved in the sequel, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was ‘just there,’ and none of it is explained. The end of the story was pretty damn awesome, but it felt rushed and as a result, it left me unsatisfied and I really didn’t know what to do with it all.
Flame in the Mist was enjoyable but confusing. The story was really interesting, but the plot was all over the place and it left me unsatisfied as a result. I need that sequel to find out what happens next and to explain the leftover vagueness its predecessor left! I guess what I am trying to say is: Flame in the Mist had some awesome bits and some unsatisfactory bits, but I am not giving up on the story!
At the start of 2018, I asked myself if there was anything I wanted to do differently this year. Now, I’m not usually the kind of person to do resolutions, as I am of opinion that they aren’t really effective. However, I decided to make an exception for this year in order to step outside of my bookish comfort zone.
Somewhere in August, during my travels through Scotland, I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi. This book, this beautiful emotional book, proved to be one of my favorite and most memorable reads of 2017. And it got me thinking: ‘When was the last time I read a non-fiction book?’ Truthfully, I couldn’t come up with an answer because it was THAT long ago.
Frankly, I was a bit disappointed in myself. Not that there’s anything wrong with what I read… I love YA fiction and all kinds of fantasy books, but I always pride myself on being open to reading anything and somehow I got stuck in my ways and never really stepped out of that comfort zone in very really long time.
Time for a change! Now, I’ve already made a headstart in changing my reading habits by reading Dutch books again (a lot of which are non-fiction). You can read all about how that came about in my previous post. But, in addition to this, I made a list of books I was interested in reading and the goal is to have read these books by the end of this year. The point is not to stop reading fantasy books or young adult fiction, but I just want to read books that I normally wouldn’t read or are easily overlooked.
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi – Autobiography/Health (read my review of this book here)
- Thanks, Obama by David Litt – Autobiography/Politics (recently finished this, full review to come)
- The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace – Poetry/Feminism
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – Poetry/Feminism
- Every Second Counts: The Race to Transplant the First Human Heart by Donald McRae – History/Medicine
- Michelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin – Biography/Politics
- Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist – Fiction/Travel
Now, this is where you come in! I would like to have YOUR input to make the list a bit longer. What do you think would be a book outside my comfort zone? AND what books would you recommend to me?
So what do you say? Give me ALL the recommendations you can think of!
This post recaps my month: my personal life, the fun and not so fun; books I’ve read; movies/ tv shows I’ve watched; and all other things worth mentioning.
Whoops, this recap is long overdue… As in nine LONG days overdue. January has been very eventful (so is February, if you’re wondering, but more about that later). January was a month of changes and ALL OF THEM VERY GOOD! I promise all I have to tell you is going to be worth the ridiculous amount of capital letters.
I have wanted to shout this news from the rooftops ever since I heard it, however, I’ve managed to keep myself somewhat in check and as a result, not a whole lot of people know about this -not so little- tidbit of information. A few months ago I applied for the MSc Publishing program at Edinburgh Napier University. I never made it a secret that I wanted to work in the field of publishing, and with my bachelor’s degree in the pocket (yes, really!) it is time for the next step. I applied and about a month later I was offered an unconditional offer, WHICH I ACCEPTED!! Starting September 2018 you will be able to find me in Edinburgh and I am wildly excited about the whole thing. I love Scotland and I love that I get to spend a full year there studying on a subject that I am passionate about. So if you have any recommendations regarding any activities, events, or whatnot in Edinburgh, feel free to tell me all about it!
Next, some of you might know I have been working on a research project for the past few months. I conducted research on the influence of marketing through book blogs, Bookstagram, and BookTube on the buying behavior of YA readers. A subject quite close to my heart as you might have guessed and I am really proud of the final result. I wrapped everything up and handed it in this month and received my grade a week later. Now for those of you that don’t know how the Dutch grading system works: grades vary from 1 to 10. 10 means you aced it and couldn’t have done any better and 1 pretty much means that the whole thing sucked. From 6 and onwards the grade is sufficient. My grade for my research project *drumroll please* is a 9,5. Yes, a NINE POINT FIVE on a scale of 1 to 10. I’d have to say I am pretty damn proud of myself, haha.
Nope, that is NOT all, because I have even more good news! The last two weeks of January I started my new internship at a Dutch YA publishing house! I am now a marketing intern at Blossom Books, the Dutch YA publishing house that publishes books by Tahereh Mafi, Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, Sara Holland and more. I have loved every moment of my last internship and I hope this one will be just at great.
I smuggled a bit and included two books started in December as well. January was ALL about finishing my Throne of Glass reread, only to realize that the final installment won’t be out until freaking October 2018 and then dying from sadness upon that discovery.
- Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas.
- Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas.
- Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas.
- Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas.
- Thanks, Obama by David Litt
- Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi (CURRENT READ)
Turns out I have become Lucifer crazed. I binge-watched that show like there as no tomorrow and LOVED every single second of it. Then the Designated Survivor craze got to me too… Give me one week off and I’ll go through Netflix like I haven’t been able to in months, haha.
The Gifted season 1, episode 9 – 10.
Hawaii 5-o, season 8, episode 9 – 10.
Lucifer, season 2, episode 1 – 18.
Lucifer, season 3, episode 1 – 11.
Designated Survivor, season 1, episode 1 – 22. THIS SHOW IS SO GOOD!
Designated Survivor, season 2, episode 1 – 10.
The Maze Runner. I just love these movies (which might have something to do with Dylan O’Brien).
Bad Moms. Rewatched this with a friend and it was just as hilarious as the first time around.
How did January treat you?
This review is a combined effort between me and my sister. Every month we will read a book that is outside our comfort zone and review it by asking each other questions related to the title we are reviewing. The idea is to provide you with two different perspectives: that of an English student and a medicine student.
This review might contain spoilers, as we may discuss any part of the story (sometimes the questions we ask each other might be general, while other times they might touch upon something specific about the ending, etc). If you have not read the book and do not wish to be spoiled you might want to avoid this post.
When Breath Becomes Air Published by Random House on January 19th 2016
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Bol.com, Buy on Book Depository
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a naïve medical student "possessed," as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.
Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. "I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything," he wrote. "Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: 'I can't go on. I'll go on.'" When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.
The English student to the med student:
What did you think about the medical jargon of When Breath Becomes Air? To me, a non-med student, the medical terms appeared to be very easy to understand. Was the explanation too oversimplified in your opinion?
I think Paul Kalanithi wrote his book in a perfect way. It was easy to read because of the beautifully written prose he used and I think it was approachable for both medically and non-medically schooled people. Personally, I don’t think that he oversimplified anything. Of course, he explained some terms, and his personal course of his disease was written in a more simplistic way, but I think that that’s what made the book so strong. His story wasn’t just a case he saw passing by, he had to live it, and therefore he wrote the book in such a personal and less medical manner. There were quite a few terms that he didn’t explain further, but even when he did it wasn’t something that stood out or I was bothered by. At the end of the day, it is impossible to know the exact definition of every diagnosis and having something explained only proves helpful.
Did the situation Paul finds himself in, and his narrative of all he endures, scare you? You study so long to work in this field, only to perish from something that you study to treat.
I think in a way, everyone is afraid to die and, more specifically, everybody is afraid to die a long painful death. So, in that way, yes. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul’s story, is so beautiful and raw that you feel everything and the thought that this might happen to me, or to someone close to me that I love is something I don’t even want to think about.
As a med school student, you get trained to recognize what they call ‘alarming symptoms’, and they drill it in that you always have to check for these complaints. I think that doctors feel like they will be able to catch such a disease before it can have a fatal impact, but at the end of the day we are all people, and when things get scary we try to make them less scary. Not to mention that it is almost impossible to catch this kind of disease before it has wrecked havoc on your body.
I think When Breath Becomes Air did open my eyes in some ways. Med school is a long trajectory and when I look back at the past years I notice that I postpone certain things because I am busy. Med school takes so much of your time, but at the end of the day you only have one life to live and as Paul’s story showed you don’t know how long you get to live it. I made the decision to stop postponing social events and meetings with friends for when I have more time. I love med school, but it shouldn’t define me like it almost did Paul at certain moments. So now I do try to meet up more with friends more often and do the things I want to do without pushing them back for ‘when I have the time’.
Paul describes and approaches parts as med school very lightly. It almost feels like he brushes over them whereas he mentions small things, small events in his study, that have a big impact on him as a person. It seems like those small moments are the ones that almost seem to break him at times. Can you relate to this?
I think this is something that every medical student can relate to. By learning about all kinds of disorders, a lot of them deadly, you somehow learn to tune out the part where you realize that a lot of people suffer from a particular disease. However, sometimes it does hit you… I remember a particular case about a woman that had a pregnancy wish and even though we had discussed these kinds of cases a million times, this one hit me hard, and I sat in class to thoroughly saddened and wishing that there was something that I could do for her (this was a paper case; I had never even met the patient). I think this is a way of coping with everything you see as a med student. Sometimes this mechanism shuts off the small things, the things that seem insignificant, and then that small thing ends up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Then, 15 minutes later you’re ready to go at it again.
The med student to the English student:
Even though When Breath Becomes Air was about Paul’s last months and his transition from a doctor, to a patient, to a dying man, he always had the dream to write and publish his own works later in life. As an English literature student, how did you perceive Paul Kalanithi’s writing?
His writing, to me, was incredibly memorable. It was fast-paced, which was evidence of how fast his time was running out, yet incredibly poetic with a beautiful flow to it. The way he spoke, or more accurately wrote, conveyed that he was an intelligent man. At the same time the subjects he touched upon somehow felt easy to understand through his literary explanations. I always have trouble with medical jargon. It feels distant and I always find myself unable to follow, but Paul Kalanithi combined his passion for medicine and literature and turned it into beautiful prose. It is perhaps one of the most memorable pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered for that very reason. He uses literature to describe certain medical issues and I found myself completely engrossed.
In the beginning of When Breath Becomes Air, Paul describes his youth and how his mother tried so hard to keep them on the straight and narrow, all to give them the best chance to get into some great colleges. While doing this she made him read certain books. He says that this was the most dangerous thing that she could have done, for his love for literature started there. Can you relate to this?
I can always relate to a fellow bookworm. Although, my parents never truly had to make me read books, really, I did that all on my own. My parents never really pushed for great colleges. They encouraged us to learn, but they never forced us. They encouraged by taking trips to the library (and taking home way more books than the limit that was set beforehand) or by giving us a small allowance and taking us to the bookstore when we saved up enough money to buy the next Harry Potter installment. While I have always loved to read, I never was the kind of child that read ‘classic’ literature.
I finally fell in love with the classics during high school when I discovered a fondness for Jane Austen’s wit and sarcasm. This opened the way for me to explore the classics and fall into the world of poetry and led me to discover the wonders (and hardship) of Shakespeare, Dickens, T.S. Elliot, and more. I always loved to read, but I learned to love literature at a later age and I have been obsessed ever since. I think I can most definitely relate to what Paul Kalanithi calls the dangers of literature. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s a love that’s never truly satisfied. There are always more books, more words, and sentences to be read and enjoyed. You’re never truly done.
Unfortunately, Paul couldn’t finish his autobiography. His wife did this for him by writing the epilogue and telling us readers how his final days were spent, the following funeral, and how she managed to move on. To me, this was very touching as you could read the love she still felt for her late husband. How did you perceive the epilogue? Was it structurally as good as the rest of the book written by Paul himself? Or did you have some difficulties with her way of writing?
The way this book ended, with the epilogue this way, is what makes the ending so powerful. Her writing is incredibly powerful and emotional. Her words are what broke me down. When you start reading When Breath Becomes Air you know the way it is going to end. There’s this sense of impending doom throughout the entire book and Lucy brought a measure of peace with her words. I felt quite hopeless near the end of the novel and, although her unflinchingly honesty was sometimes hard to take, the grief in every word, Lucy brings a spark of hope to the story as well. That, to me, was beautiful. Her prose, too, was beautiful and I think you’ll find her touch upon Paul’s work infused throughout the entire novel as Lucy was the one to bring When Breath Becomes Air to completion.
While reading Paul’s last chapter I had a certain moment thinking ‘this would be the perfect ending.’ It’s a sad and terrible ending, but it’s almost like he’s concluding his story here, without knowing that this was actually the last chapter that he would ever write. Did you feel the same way?
Definitely, I think part of what makes this book so powerful is its ending. Paul had his life taken away at such a young age, but When Breath Becomes Air isn’t a story about dying, it’s a story about living. Paul Kalanithi was an incredibly talented and inspiring individual who had some incredibly important things to say about life and about living life. I think the ending of When Breath Becomes Air conveys this view: even in that last chapter Paul Kalanithi wasn’t focused on death, he was focused on living and that’s what makes the ending so powerful.
This post recaps my month: my personal life, the fun and not so fun; books I’ve read; movies/ tv shows I’ve watched; and all other things worth mentioning.
This post is embarrasingly late… As in half a month late, but you know what they say: better late than never! November was all about finding the balance between working and everything else. Little breakdowns, fun moments, excitement before the holidays: November had it all in spades!
Three months, that’s how long I’ve been doing my work placement already! I’d like to say it’s been all roses and sunshine, but I like to be real with you and I’ve been struggling a bit with balancing my work and ALL the rest. I’m really enjoying my time at Overamstel Publishers. My internship is fun and I’ve really settled into my work, but outside of work, it’s been an effort to fit other things in.
The thing I found hardest during November (and even the two months before, I now realize) is that I barely find the time to go running or do my workouts. Not even just that, when I get home from work I feel so tired that I barely have the energy to cook a decent meal… and I love cooking! I think the main problem is that when I leave from home it’s still dark outside and when I leave work the sun has set already. If I want to go running I have to run through the city center in order for it to be safe. I normally run in the park right behind my apartment building, but to run in a park while it is dark outside just isn’t safe and I hate the alternative. It’s busy in the city center and SO MANY TRAFFIC LIGHTS where I have to stop.
I guess in a way, especially in the workout department, November disappointed me. I feel like I lost my dedication to running and working out, not even necessarily my dedication, it’s more like I lost all energy to do so and that gets to me. I want December to be different in that department.
Now, reading-wise life is pretty damn awesome. I talked a bit about it in my previous post: how working at a publishing house has developed my reading habits and the type of books I read. I read a LOT in November and an awesomely weird mix of books as well: I read some fantasy, an essay type non-fiction book, a memoir, a retelling. I love the reading I’ve done and I’m seriously hoping December will be just as awesome (just, you know, with some more workouts thrown in).
I have also been really active on Instagram and have been loving every second of it. I truly love photography and the more I do it the more I find myself developing my style even further. I am hoping to experiment some more photography wise in December. I even purchased a backdrop, which is a pretty big deal, considering I normally take all my pictures outside, haha.
I’ve been pretty horrid at keeping up with my own statistics, but as the books I’ve read (and the movies and tv-series I watched) have been pretty memorable I think I can provide you with a pretty good account.
- The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine. (4/5). Review. If you’re into fairytales this one is a must read!
- Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. (3/5). I had some pretty mixed feelings about this book, watch out for my review to find out what I thought!)
- Hunted by Meagan Spooner. (4/5). Beautifully crafted tale!
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. (5/5). Reread… If possible I ended up loving it even more!
- Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas. (5/5). I FINALLY READ THIS, WHY DID I NOT READ THIS SOONER?!
I continued rereading the ENTIRE Throne of Glass series and am pretty pleased to say that I have finished them all and am currently halfway into Tower of Dawn.
Shooter season 2, episode 5 – 8. I still love this show and *cough* the lead actor *cough*
The Gifted season 1, episode 1 – 8. This show is so good! Can’t wait for the next episodes (and the season finale!)
Hawaii 5-o, season 8, episode 1 – 8. I’m starting to think I have a thing for the number eighth, haha.
A Christmas Prince. And guys, it was bad… so bad… I ended up laughing so hard because the entire movie was just so ridiculous.
Wonder Woman. Because I needed to watch this again to be reminded of the awesomeness that is this movie. IT WAS STILL GLORIOUS!
How did November treat you?