Category Archives: Book Reviews

Update on Book Reviews!

Hi Friends,

Just a heads-up, I will now be posting all book reviews on Well-Read Twenty Something 🙂 this blog will still be up and running for my latest rant, but if you want all my book reviews, please follow my new page! The layout is still in the works, and I’m still transferring all the old book reviews over, but it is up and running! Check it out!

Thanks!

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BR: The Carnelian Legacy

17453523.jpgThe Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet

Rating:★ ★ ★

Favorite Line: “Never forget that it is by choice that the ordinary person decides to live a life that is extraordinary.”

Summary:

The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet follows the adventures of a Marisa MacCullum as she is thrown into a world unknown after her own has fallen apart.

On the evening of her father’s funeral, Marisa takes her horse for a ride in the Oregon countryside to clear her head and settle her nerves. While riding, a strange occurrence sends her horse into panic and her to the ground, where she hits her head and is knocked unconscious.

Marisa wakes to two strange men staring down at her and speaking a language totally unknown. She soon finds out that not only did she get knocked out, but she also got knocked into an entirely different realm and is no longer on Earth.

Unsure of what to do, Marisa takes advantage of the men’s hospitality and she tags along on their journey, which she soon discovers is one of utmost importance regarding the politics of this new country.

Marisa soon becomes more involved with this adventure and gets caught up in tense situations, all while trying to adjust to living in a new world, and also trying to find a way to return home.

Review:

This book was better than I expected. I didn’t have the highest expectations because I’m not the biggest fan of the Young Adult genre, and this one was clearly that, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with what I got from The Carnelian Legacy. While the story didn’t take total control over me, I did find myself not wanting to put it down at times, especially toward the end. It is exciting and adventurous, and has quite a few plot twists to keep you engaged.

This book follows the classic guidelines for a good YA novel: unexpected heroine, fun sidekick, charming, yet secretive hero, monsters, royalty, romance, betrayal, etc. It really hits them all—which is ultimately good, because that is exactly what many YA readers are looking for and expecting.

I enjoyed the characters, especially the main three, Darian, Marisa, and Arrie, however I did find them very predictable at times. I was hoping for a little more character development, but the author did give us enough to build upon and create a solid image of these three in our minds. I’ll be honest, at times I found myself completely annoyed with Marisa—she was whiney, she overreacted to little things, and she read way to far into things that were not that big of a deal. However, when I reflected on this, I realized that I was probably all of those things when I was 17/18 and it made me less annoyed with her behavior—but I did have to remind myself of that several times in the book.

The plot was fantastic. It was set up nicely and flows easily throughout the book—not once did I find myself confused about what was going on. I don’t want to go into what worked and what didn’t for me, because that would probably ruin the book for everyone, but I did think the plot was very exciting.

My biggest critique of this book is actually the use of the God figure in it. I don’t mind that a God figure was used, but what I minded was how quickly she took on the God of the new country. Now, to be clear, it wasn’t a different God as our own, but it did have a different name, and Marisa uses it almost immediately upon learning it in this new land. I had a hard time with this because if I went to a new world and they told me God was called Garon (which it is in the book), I would still pray to God, not Garon, so I was a little perturbed that she took on this new name right away—it just didn’t seem natural to me.

I give this book 3 ½ stars because I did think it was good, and I do want to read the other books in this series, but I didn’t think it was fantastic.

I would recommend this book to people who are looking for a fun YA novel, because it really is that and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

*I recieved this book free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange to a fair and unbiased review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

BR: All the Light We Cannot See

Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.

 

Category: A Book Set In Europe

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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (530 pages)

 

My Rating: ★★★★★

Favorite Line: Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

Review: 

Set in France and Germany during World War II and the few years leading up to it, this story tells the story of two children, an orphan boy in Hitler Youth, and a blind Parisian girl who flees from occupied France to the coast with her father.

I read this book shortly after reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which had quickly become my favorite WWII based fiction, but this book challenged that ranking from page one.

Full of breathtaking passages and deep emotional scenes, All the Light we Cannot See hooks you to the two main characters, forcing you to embrace their story as if it were your own.

You can’t help but hurt for Werner, the Germany boy, as he goes through Hitler Youth. You watch his mind slowly change from the young innocent boy who used to listen to French broadcasts with his sister from the attic of their orphanage, to a young soldier locating enemy spies and ignoring any opposition he had in his mind. Even while he abandons his beliefs for those of his commanders, you never fully abandon your belief in him, because after all, He was just a boy. They all were. Even the largest of them.

Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, had to flee Paris with her father to the coastal town of Saint-Malo to stay with her wacky, secluded uncle. This bold girl, encouraged by her spirited father’s puzzles and her braille books, especially Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, finds joy and courage everyday and helping those around her find their own.

Marie-Laure, despite her blindness, and the disappearance of her father, remains the true light of this book. Her determination never ceases and her cleverness only grows as the war goes on.

When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?

The book moves toward the inevitable meeting of our two protagonists in a beautifully written narrative with fun (yes, fun, even in a book about WWII) subplots, but yet in many places it will break your heart.

****

Anthony Doerr won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, along with several other awards for All the Light We Cannot See. Some other works by Doerr include: The Shell Collector (2001), Memory Wall (2010), About Grace (2004), and The Snake Handler (2011).

All for one and one for all: My favorites from the Musketeers

After what felt like a lifetime, I finally finished The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. Yes, yes, I know, I should have read this book years ago; it’s a classic after all. Growing up I had heard the story of the Musketeers so many times, and while I now know the version I knew then was an extremely abridged version, I did not think I needed to read the book. Furthermore, in order to excuse myself from tackling this monster of a book, I believe I convinced myself that I MUST have read the book at one point in high school, because the story was so familiar to me. But eventually, as ashamed as I was to admit it, especially when I have claimed to love the work of Dumas, I had to face it that I had never read the French classic.

One of my goals for 2015 is to complete a reading list that consists of 50 different book challenges. One of the challenges is a book with more than 500 pages. When I saw this, I knew it was a perfect time for me to finally read The Three Musketeers. Plus, thanks to my handy, dandy kindle, I didn’t have the excuse of not wanting to lug around a five pound book with me everywhere I go. So, I sucked it up and plunged in to the tragic romances, heartbreaking betrayals, and thrilling adventures that make up this multi-plotted, constantly moving novel.

I do admit, it took me a long time to finish this book. I went in waves, going through periods of being completely hooked for days, using every spare moment to read another paragraph, page, or chapter, only to then slump into a dry spell of not wanting to pick up the book and having no interest at all of what happens to our four bold protagonists. When this happens to me, it’s usually because the author goes off the plot and gives long explanations of history and background of the area and I loose my motivation to continue, but here it was different because Dumas does not do that often, and when he doesn’t it’s not for an extended amount of time–for the most part, he stays on plot. The only logical reason I can think of for my on-again, off-again, relationship with this book, is that since it is such a long book, and it has a very complex plot with many different crucial players, it takes a long time to read it right, and after going a couple of weeks with the same story, and then realizing I had only made a small dent in the book, I needed to give my brain different type of entertainment for a couple days before getting sucked into the book again.

Now I can proudly say I have conquered this book, and I am so happy that I can honestly say that I love the story of The Three Musketeers. 

I will not go through and bore you with a critic over the whole book, and frankly, I don’t think I could give it a proper critic after only reading it once, especially since I read it leisurely and not educationally. There is so much going on that it would take a couple reads to analyze all the different moving parts and how Dumas weaves them perfectly together. However, what I will do it take a few of my favorites quotes from the book and tell you briefly why they stood out to me.

1.

“Oh, I see you prefer peregrination. That’s well madame; and there is an old proverb that says, ‘Traveling trains youth.’ My faith! you are not wrong after all, and life is sweet. That’s the reason why I take such care you shall not deprive me of mine.”

This quote is said by Lord de Winters to the infamous lady known throughout the story as Milady. She is truly evil. Lord de Winters says this as he is holding Milady captive in England and giving her the choice of exile or a trial. Now, she has quite a past, so a trial would mean the worst for her, so if she has the choice, she would choose exile, even if the thought of that is as bad as death to her.

I like this quote because it could have been said by a number of characters in the book and still be relevant. All the characters either grow tremendously in the storyline or we learn of their past growth that led them to where they are when we meet them, and they all hold true to the proverb Lord de Winters speaks of, “traveling trains youth.” Furthermore, this book is all about self-preservation in the most direr of situations, so the second part of the quote rings true to most of the characters, “That’s the reason why I take such care you should not deprive me of mine.”

Putting the plot of the book aside, I felt personally attached to this quote the moment I read it, because I saw it as a justification of the life I’m living now. “‘Traveling trains youth.” I’m constantly asked why I’m in Europe and what I’m planning on doing with my life, and why I made the “unorthodox” decision not to get a career right out of college, and more often than not my answer is rewarded with a sigh or an eye role. Even here in Europe I find many people who think my year as an Au Pair as a waste of time. What I wish people would understand is that I’m still young–I look young, I think young, I act young…I’m young. I didn’t take a year in Europe to run away from a career, I came here to take advantage of my youth, to do things that I can’t do when my youth leaves me, and as Dumas puts it, I came here to train. Train for the rest of my life, give me experiences that I could never have unless I put myself out there, on a limb, in a place I had only dreamed of going before.

2.

“Within six months, if I am not dead, I shall have seen you again, madam–even if I have to overturn the world.”

This is said by the Duke of Buckingham to Anne of Austria, the Queen of France. This love affair was one of the saddest because it was doomed from the start, yet the Duke, truly infatuated with the Queen, never abandoned his love for her, nor did he ever do anything intentional to harm her, politically or emotionally. Yet, this quote is like my first one–it could be said by many different characters in the book and no one would doubt it’s sincerity. This book continues to go back to the theme of doing anything and everything for the one you love. If nothing else remains true in this novel, the truth of undying love remains solid through the entire thing.

When I started reading this, I didn’t think it would be as focused on love as it was. I mean, I knew it had romantic sub-plots, but I did not think the plot would focus primarily on the love affairs of the Musketeers and their close companions. I think it can be argued that love is as great of a theme as friendship, even though I believe most would categorize this book in the “power of friends” category quicker than the “power of love” section, especially with the whole “all for one and one for all” thing the musketeers have going on.

While many of the relationships in this novel revolved around an affair of some sort, the love remained beautiful to the reader because of the way the characters truly still believed in love, and the purity of love. It was clearly a different time and culture when this story was placed, and in the novel marriage was definitely more of a political and social relationship then a romantic one, but the the idea of love was still strong and Dumas did a beautiful job of portraying the power that stands behind it.

3.

“You are young,” replied Athos; “and your bitter recollections have time to change themselves into sweet remembrances.”

This is the last line in the book, before the epilogue, and I found it to be a beautiful ending to this tragic story. I don’t want to ruin any of the details, but this book doesn’t have the happiest of endings–it’s not completely sad, but it’s also not a Disney ending. But this quote, spoken by the always wise Athos, pushes away the sadness and allows room for the reader to see the potential of a happy future–what a beautiful thing to do for your readers.

I guess I can add this to my reasons for holding onto my youth: giving myself time to change bitter moments into happy memories. As Athos says this, the reader understands how much he desires to have this time back–time to change all the hurt he suffered into, at least, a memory less painful. But we, as readers, also understand that Athos is unable to do this, and even though the cause of his unhappiness is gone, he will never fully recover from the hurt and pain put upon him. He is unmendable. His friend, however, one he views as a brother and life-long companion, still has time to put all that has happened behind him and forgive, and Athos, being the eldest of the group, wants to make sure his brother does not fall onto the same bitter path that he chose many years prior to the story.

The theme of forgiveness is not as visible as the theme of vengeance in the book, but the final advice from Athos seems to lean more towards it than towards anything else. He is a man who held onto his hatred and his pain as tightly as he held onto his bottles of Spanish wine. He was unable to let go of the events in his past and they tore him apart emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He understands this pain eats him alive, but unwilling to forgive, he allows it to consume him. While, on the outside, he is the strongest (mentally) of the musketeers and their unofficial leader, he knows he is too weak to fight his own pain.  Nevertheless, his final advice, his final warning, gives the reader a shed of hope that his younger, fresher companion will not follow in his footsteps of living in the past, but step forward, forgiving and refreshing his past, so it becomes a power to push him forward, instead of a weight keeping him in behind.

All of us, young and old, can benefit from this final quote from Athos, remembering that life keeps moving and we can either stay bitter and angry or we can move forward with “sweet remembrances.”

The Three Musketeers is timeless. While not as fast paced as most modern day novels, it packs a punch that is full of every theme a reader could ask for. Dumas adds humor to a drama, and romance to a sword fight, and while there are many new adventurers to admire in literature, there aren’t many who compare to the classic characters of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan

Irish Literary Beauty

In honor of St. Patrick’s day coming up, and my realization that I have been in Europe for eight months now, I have decided to do a Irish themed literary post.

Irish authors are famously known for their stories of hardships, trial, and brokenness–just read any of the old classic Irish authors and you will find these themes everywhere. However, you will also find light and beauty in their writings. Many Irish stories tell of perseverance and dedication to finding joy in life and the good in the world, that is often overshadowed by sadness and despair.

Traveling and living in Europe has brought me so much joy, but it’s not always the picture perfect setting you see on my Instagram. There have been many times where I have just sat down and asked myself “what am I doing here?” but the answer is always the same–I’m trying to figure out where I belong.

As many of you know, I love my books, and I love finding those wonderful quotes where it feels like the author wrote it only for your eyes and your heart. Around St. Patrick’s day I always like to dust off the old Irish poems and reread sections from some Irish authors whom I hold dear. And as it is soon approaching, I would like to share 20 Irish quotes that have really struck this 20 something traveling girl’s heart.