Refugee Week & The Displaced Review

June 18, 2018 in Biography, Memoir, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Other Books

This week is the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week. With World Refugee Day occurring on Wednesday 20th June 2018, it feels that this week is the perfect time to share with you one of my most recent reads, The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives.

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Refugee Week & The Displaced ReviewThe Displaced: Refugee Writers On Refugee Lives by Various
Published by Abrams on 10th April 2018
Genres: Essays, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Anthology
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In January 2017, Donald Trump signed an executive order stopping entry to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries and dramatically cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States each year. The American people spoke up, with protests, marches, donations, and lawsuits that quickly overturned the order. But the refugee caps remained.

In The Displaced, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, brings together a host of prominent refugee writers to explore and illuminate the refugee experience. Featuring original essays by a collection of writers from around the world, The Displaced is an indictment of closing our doors, and a powerful look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge.

Abrams published this anthology of essays back in April and were kind enough to send me a copy. With contributions from 19 prominent refugee writers from around the world, each with their own stories to tell, this is a timely, thought-provoking book that everyone should be reading.

These stories are insightful and emotional. The writers share their lives and experiences – from leaving family behind, to being reunited with parents that they don’t recognise. From finding their identity to carving out a new life in an unknown country.

As one would expect, these essays are all beautifully written. Edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, all of these pieces pack a punch, in many different ways.

This book is a sadly all-too-needed reminder of the humans who are at the heart of the hideous, fear-inciting stories we see in the mass media.

These stories need to be read. As the world faces an enormous refugee crisis, I have no doubt that these essays will raise awareness of the real-life experiences of refugees and their families. If only we could get copies of this book into the hands of those who need educating most!

For every purchase of this book, Abrams will donate 10% of the cover price (a minimum of $25000 annually) to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) who are a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression and violent conduct.

This is a collection that will stay with you long after you close the back page – and well it should!

Refugee Week 2018

 

 

As part of the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week, we are being invited to partake in at least one of 20 simple acts.

 

You can find the full list of Simple Acts here. Might I encourage you to participate in number 9, read a book about exile.

 

Obviously, The Displaced fits this description perfectly and I urge you all to read it.

If you are interested in further books on this subject, check out the links provided on the Refugee Week website. Of course, please also feel free to share any title suggestions below.

Remember to share your read online using the hashtag #SimpleActs.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Ash Princess

June 14, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Ash PrincessAsh Princess by Laura Sebastian
Series: Ash Princess Trilogy #1
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 14th June 2018 (UK)
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

The queen you were meant to be
The land you were meant to save
The throne you were meant to claim

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. Ten years later, Theo has learned to survive under the relentless abuse of the Kaiser and his court as the ridiculed Ash Princess.

When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can't ignore her feelings and memories any longer. She vows revenge, throwing herself into a plot to seduce and murder the Kaiser's warrior son with the help of a group of magically gifted and volatile rebels. But Theo doesn't expect to develop feelings for the Prinz.

Forced to make impossible choices and unable to trust even those who are on her side, Theo will have to decide how far she's willing to go to save her people and how much of herself she's willing to sacrifice to become Queen.

A Wee Summary

Theosodia Eirene Houzzara, daughter of the Fire Queen aka the Queen of Astrea, was six years old when the Kalovaxians attacked her homeland. She was 6 when the Kalovaxian warrior the Theyn murdered her mother before her young eyes.

She has spent the last decade in the palace of the conquering Kaiser, dubbed “Ash Princess” and given the name ‘Thora’ and under the constant surveillance of her three ‘shadows’. Her only friend is, ironically, the Theyn’s daughter, Crescentia.

Those Astreans who remain alive are enslaved in one way or another, often in the hallowed mines where magical Spiritgems are mined. The Kalovaxians ignore the sacred nature of the gems, disrespecting the Astrean way of life.

There remains a band of Astrean rebels who seek to free their country and see Theosodia (Thora) in her rightful place as Queen. The Kaiser tortures Thora, punishing her for the acts of these rebels. She knows that she must show deference to the Kaiser at all time, lest she be whipped.

When one of the main rebels is captured, the Kaiser forces Thora to kill him. Along with his death goes Thora’s distant hope of rescue.

When the Kaiser’s heir, Prince Søren, returns from his warfare training, it becomes clear that he has feelings for Thora. She begins to wonder if he might somehow be her route to freedom.

My Thoughts

On the whole, I enjoyed Ash Princess. It has a very well-built fantasy world with interesting politics and magic. I will warn you though that some people may find some of the issues tackled triggering. (View Spoiler »

I must admit that I felt this book rather “samely”. Broadly, it resembles many YA fantasies I’ve read in recent years. However, I tend to enjoy this kind of fantasy so this is just a warning if you’re somewhat fed up with such themes. Oh and there’s a bit of a love triangle going on too, FYI.

While I really liked the world building and premise of this book overall, I didn’t really connect with Theodosia (Thora). Although we get a bit of an insight into her mind, I just didn’t feel drawn to her. Perhaps this was intentional as part of the PTSD she suffers from? I’m not sure.

It was those around Theodosia that actually piqued my interest. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to be a bit vague with this, but I liked Søren and would’ve loved more on him. There are rebels as well that I hope we get to learn more about in the next book.

Ash Princess is largely set within the confines of the palace, and I’m looking forward to finding out what lies further afield.

While I didn’t feel that this book was anything particularly ‘new’. I did enjoy it. There were a few twists – some I foresaw, others I didn’t. These twists coupled with the darkness and the politics of the world have me genuinely intrigued about book two, Lady Smoke, which will be out next year.

Have you read Ash Princess? Do you share my opinions?

three-half-stars

Review: Thirteen

June 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Crime, Thriller

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: ThirteenThirteen by Steve Cavanagh
Series: Eddie Flynn #4
Published by Orion on 14th June 2018
Genres: Crime, thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

The serial killer isn't on trial. He's on the jury.

Hollywood actor Robert Soloman stands accused of the brutal stabbings of his wife and her lover, but he is desperately pleading that he had nothing to do with it. This is the trial of the century, and the defence want Eddie Flynn on their team.

The biggest case Eddie has ever tried before, he decides to take it on despite the overwhelming evidence that Robert is guilty. As the trial starts, Eddie becomes sure of Robert's innocence, but there's something else he is even more sure of - that there is something sinister going on in the jury box.

Because of this, he is forced to ask: what if the killer isn't on the stand? What if he's on the jury?

The premise of Thirteen immediately caught my attention on NetGalley – the serial killer is not the one on trial, rather he is occupying a seat on the jury!

I had high hopes for this read and wow, it even surpassed my expectations.

Let me start by saying that this is actually the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series but you don’t have to have read the other three – I hadn’t and I loved it! Cavanagh makes his characters easily accessible to us, filling us in while, I imagine, refreshing the memories of long-term fans.

A Wee Summary

Hollywood actor Robert “Bobby” Solomon stands trial for the murder of his equally famous wife and their security guard. All the evidence points towards Bobby’s guilt, but Eddie Flynn finds himself believing in Bobby’s innocence and working his case.

All the while, Flynn is watched from the jury by Joshua Kane who has infiltrated the bench. With chapters told from both Flynn and Kane’s perspectives, we gain a fascinating insight into the minds of the defense lawyer and a highly intelligent killer.

My Thoughts

Cavanagh’s writing is brilliant. He provides us with just enough information that we find our own theories evolving, feeling compelled to read on.

I really liked the character of Flynn, an ex-con-man turned into a defense attorney. I knew I’d love him from the outset, with his tricks in courts piquing my interest.

The whole concept of the trial itself was fascinating to me. The evolving case kept me guessing, with Flynn and Kane head to head.

I don’t think there’s higher praise to give this book than to tell you that the minute I finished it, I downloaded Cavanagh’s first book in the series straight to my Kindle (it’s currently 99p). I’m so excited to learn more about Flynn.

I could gush all day about this book but I’m so wary of any spoilers. It really is an altogether fantastic read. It almost felt like a movie playing out in my mind. Read it!

five-stars

Review: A Thousand Perfect Notes

June 6, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA

Review: A Thousand Perfect NotesA Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews
Published by Orchard Books on 7th June 2018
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Subscription Box
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music - because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

Ever since I came across Cait’s (the author’s) blog, Paper Fury, several years ago, I’ve been waiting for the day that I’d get to hold her book in my hands and savour more of her writing. That day has finally arrived with A Thousand Perfect Notes gracing the shelves TOMORROW (7th June 2018), and it was definitely worth waiting for!

A Tiny Summary

Beck Keverich, 15, lives with his 5-year-old sister, Joey and his mother, whom he calls The Maestro. In her earlier years his mother had been a famous pianist. Now, The Maestro pins all of her hopes and dreams on Beck’s shoulders as she forces him to practice the piano constantly, to the detriment of the other aspects of his life.

His mother left Germany with him when he was young, but his uncle still lives there – a world-famous pianist and composer who continues to promote the Keverich name. The Maestro is determined that Beck will live up to that famous name.

Beck and Joey live in poverty – going hungry and lacking in clothes as their mother has spent all of her savings on the piano that she insists Beck plays at all hours of the day and night. She wants Beck to emulate her, but what does Beck what? It isn’t until August enters his life that he starts to wonder this for himself.

My Thoughts

This book was an emotional rollercoaster. Beck’s mother abuses him, dictates his life, destroys his confidence and beats him. All the while, Beck tries to protect Joey and allow her some semblance of childhood.

The characters in this book are marvellous. I adored Beck, Joey and August and the interactions between them are simply fantastic. Drews had me snorting with laughter one minute (which is rare for me when reading), and had my heart breaking the next.

I don’t tend to read many YA contemporaries but this book drew me in from the first page. If you read Cait’s blog, you’ll feel her style leaping off the page. Her characters are so real, her writing is stunning and, as one would expect from Cait, this book is laced with delicious food!

Truly, this is an incredible debut that managed to tackle such important and difficult issues, while still entertaining the reader. I devoured this book and I’m sure you will too!

Apparently, this wonderful book hasn’t been picked up by US publishers yet, so if you’re in the US remember you can still get your hands on this gem via Book Depository (not an affiliate link).

I can’t wait for Drews’ next book, The Boy Who Steals Houses, which is out in 2019. In the meantime, I’ll continue to get my fix of Cait’s writing over on her blog Paper Fury.  If for some strange reason you aren’t already a visitor to her blog, I suggest you do the same. Oh and read A Thousand Perfect Notes – it’s not to be missed!

four-half-stars

Unboxing: Illumicrate #11

June 4, 2018 in Bookish Posts, Illumicrate

It’s that time again – ILLUMICRATE! As you probably know by now, Illumicrate is a quarterly bookish subscription box. You can find out all the details on their website, and if you fancy a look inside previous boxes then you’ll find all my posts here.

This quarter the theme is “Hidden Talents”. It’s only the second themed quarterly box that Illumicrate have done, so I was intrigued to see what it contained.

View Spoiler »

To be honest, I’m still not completely convinced by this latest themed format of boxes – but maybe I’m just grumpy and hate change? That said, I still can’t wait to see what Illumicrate has in store for us with the August box!

Did you get this box? What did you think of it?