Matthew Sullivan – Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore – Thoughts

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‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’ by Matthew Sullivan is a captivating and smart novel.
Lydia, the protagonist, works as a bookseller at the Bright Ideas bookstore, which is not only her place of work but also her refuge. This is a place where many different kinds of people find comfort in the soothing presence of books. Among them, Joey. At a certain point, though, the books and Lydia’s friendship are not enough anymore. Joey kills himself, inside the bookstore. Lydia finds his body, along with something else. A photo of Lydia herself, blowing the candles of her birthday cake when she turned ten years old. How is it possible that Joey had it? Who gave it to him? And why he killed himself? How is Lydia connected to Joey? From that photo, and from the few possessions the young man has left to Lydia, our protagonist will unravel a mystery that involves her directly, and very personally. There’s something in Lydia’s past she doesn’t want to recall anymore, but she will have to.
I read this books in a few days, and I couldn’t really put it down. The characters are so very well written, all of them. As a reader, you become part of Lydia’s investigation in a way I have never experienced in any mystery book I have ever read before.
The plus side of this book, coming from my first PageHabit subscription, is that it contained notes from the author explaining certain choices and details of the story.

Tim Parks – Calm – Thoughts

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I thoroughly enjoyed “Calm”, a book part of the Vintage Minis collection with selections from Tim Park’s “Teach Us to Sit Still”.
Park, in these selections, explains how he’s an absolute skeptic about spirituality. Until he finds himself immersed in the alien world of a Buddhist meditation retreat and, slowly, he really finds that inner peace.
How to find that peace? How to stay calm, how to not be submerged by problems, by pain?
“Calm” is a very fast read and a very enjoyable one. I myself am very skeptic about spirituality. I’ve tried once, one session of yoga and I still can’t understand how you’re supposed to free your mind from the everyday’s problems and stress. All I could think of was exactly what I was supposed to avoid. Free your mind! I know one session is not enough, but I started reading this book fully sharing Park’s point of view: skepticism.
I loved reading his journey towards finding what he was (probably not) looking for. His writing is captivating, funny, and honest.

David Baldacci – Split Second – Thoughts

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I discovered David Baldacci’s series dedicated to King & Maxwell watching the tv series inspired by the books.
Split Second is the first of six books that focus on former Secret Service agent Sean King, and Michelle Maxwell, a Secret Service agent as well who is under investigation after she fails to protect a politician who is a candidate for the presidency.
The two team up to solve what initially seem two separate cases, only to discover there might be more lying under the surface.
The book is a fast read, the story is captivating even if it seems a little far fetched towards the end.
The two characters are very well built, and they go along perfectly together; they are definitely the most interesting and fun part of the story.
Split Second is an enjoyable read with two promising characters who seem equipped to solve any kind of mystery.

Orhan Pamuk – My Name is Red – Thoughts

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My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk is one of the most strange yet interesting books I’ve ever read. I would describe it as sumptuous. It wasn’t an easy read, it requires a lot of attention and focus. I admit sometimes I got lost into it.
The story centers around the murder of a miniaturist, who was working along with others on a book celebrating the life of the Sultan in Istanbul. Who is the murderer? Someone who didn’t want the book to be completed? Another miniaturist?
The aspect I’ve found the most interesting is the way this story is told. Every chapter narrates the events from the point of view of different characters, with the first chapter introducing us the victim. The corpse talks to us. And as the story unfolds, we can read a chapter in which a drawing talks to us, even a color.
As I said, it’s a difficult read, but definitely a satisfying one.

Affinity Konar – Mischling – Thoughts

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Mischling by Affinity Konar is one of the toughest reads I ever encountered in my life.
This novel tells the story of 12 years old twin sisters Pearl and Stasha, who are introduced to the horrors of the Second World War in the most horrific way possible. They become part of “doctor” Mengele’s Zoo in Auschwitz, in 1944. This zoo is populated with children who bear a special interest to him. Pearl and Stasha go through horrors that go beyond human grasp. Because even though this is a novel, Mengele’s horrors are not. It’s difficult to imagine that he was a human being, who put children through the most horrible sufferings to satisfy his needs. He made the most abominable experiments on young children, twins especially.
Even though their childhood is being taken away from them, Pearl and Stasha find comfort in one another, in that particular connection only twins possess.
Until, one day, Pearl disappears. And Stasha ‘s last ray of hope seems to shatter.
From now on, we follow two different paths: Pearl and Stasha’s, and when the camp is finally liberated by the Red Army we begin a new journey, we go through what they go through, both of them using the power of hope to keep going, to keep fighting.
Until the very end, that will make you cry, and cry.
An amazing writing, powerful and soft at the same time.
These are two quotes that I will not forget:

“This is how I walk, I told myself. One step, then another. This is how I walk in memory of Pearl, the girl whose every step could have been musical, and for all time.”

“In my forgiveness, their failure to obliterate me was made clear.”

Paula Hawkins – Into The Water – Thoughts

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I always try not to have too high expectations after reading another book by an author I enjoyed reading the first time.
It is, I think, useless to compare The Girl On The Train with Into The Water, as they are completely different stories, completely different atmospheres.
I enjoyed reading Into The Water, but I wasn’t fascinated by the story as it happened with The Girl On The Train. I have several issues with it.
The first one being the massive presence of characters. There are just too many. Sometimes, it’s a bit confusing, remembering that A is the wife of B, who’s a friend of C, who is connected with D, who’s the mother of E. Moreover, none of these characters is fully explored. We just get a glimpse into their life, but not enough, in my opinion. I think it would have been nice to get a deeper focus on Jules and her relationship with her sister. There were traces of it, but merely hints, not enough to really care about the sisters. Same problem with the other characters, you can’t really care about them, because you’re not given material enough to actually care.
There’s not a pivotal moment of revelation, and the end felt quite toned-down, it didn’t leave me satisfied.

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“Who had invented the light bulb?”
Take three men with uncommon minds. Three geniuses: Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse. Take a young lawyer named Paul Cravath. Put him in the New York of 1888. Give him the hard task to figure that out.
“The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore is a novel based on true events. All the characters portrayed really existed, almost all the events described really did occur.
This is by far one of the most fascinating books I have ever read.
A novel based on true occurrences, with personages who really existed and who made history, yet it looks like a story only a very gifted novelist could have imagined, given the amazing facts that happened.
You will be completely absorbed by this story, you will root for Paul and Tesla, and you will hate and then be surprised by Edison.

“Refraction, he called it. The way the light is broken up into component colors when it passes through a prism. I felt like a refraction of a person. So many different shades that layer to create the illusion of a solid thing. I was only what was reflected back in others.”

“Who had invented the light bulb?”.
You will be surprised…

Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey – Thoughts

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Northanger Abbey is such a delightful read.
Jane Austen introduces us her heroine, a young, innocent, and humble girl named Catherine.
Our so called heroine is the protagonist of a story which is made of light-hearted tales, humor, frivolity, ingenuity.
Catherine is on her own adventure when she is introduced to the world of parties, meeting young men and women. Her love for Gothic novels will lead her to pursue her own investigations when she is invited to spend some time at Northanger Abbey, where she is convinced that something mysteriously frightening has happened.
This novel is a very joyous one: it entertains, and it leaves you with a positive and bright end.

Ruth Ware – The Woman in Cabin 10 – Thoughts

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“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware will take you away and won’t let you go until the very last page, and it will leave you with a sense of satisfaction.
I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a surely fast read, the “classic” page-turner.
In a very Agatha Christie way, a group of people is isolated in a confined space, in this case on an exclusive cruise liner. One of them thinks a crime has been committed, but no one seems to believe her. But our protagonist won’t let go without a fight. She starts her own investigation, that will ultimately lead her to a true nightmare.
What I loved about this book is how well Ware was able to build that oppressive sense of claustrophobia. The small spaces, the sea surrounding the boat, giving no way to escape those spaces.
I could feel the protagonist’s fear of those enclosed spaces, her anxiety gripping, her fear but at the same time her strength.
I had read Ware’s previous book, “In a Dark, Dark Wood” and loved it, but “The Woman in Cabin 10” will absolutely capture your attention and you’ll find yourself cheering and fighting with her protagonist until the very end.

Pietro de Angelis – Il Mistero di Paradise Road – Riflessioni

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Ho letto questo romanzo tutto d’un fiato, si può dire. “Il Mistero di Paradise Road” è ambientato nella Londra di fine 800. Avendo letto alcuni romanzi di Wilkie Collins, ho potuto notare simili toni e sfumature, che mi sono piaciute molto.
La storia è avvincente, coinvolge alzando il velo sui misteri un poco alla volta, lasciando che il lettore arrivi alle proprie conclusioni.
Ciò che ho molto apprezzato è il contrasto tra il protagonista maschile e femminile di questa storia. Due figure che non potrebbero essere più agli antipodi per visione della vita, per sentimenti e passioni.
Essere donna nella società di fine 800, e per di più una donna con passioni che non si potevano condividere. Essere un uomo concentrato sul lavoro, sulla rispettabilità. Incontrarsi ma mai capirsi.
La scrittura è molto ben congeniata, scorre veloce ed elegante. Alcune citazioni sono veramente bellissime:

“Piove da una settimana; una pioggia regolare e insistente, che stacca i pensieri dai loro ormeggi e li porta pian piano alla deriva.”

“Essere soli in mezzo alla folla, sentirsi soli anche se circondati da migliaia di persone, e aspettare con ansia qualcuno; una persona qualsiasi, che mostri di sapere, che riesca a indovinare…”

“Ricopiare versi mi calma. Mi sembra di mettere dei naufraghi in salvo.”

“Leggere è come scoprire che qualcun altro ha fatto il nostro stesso sogno.”

“E’ solo la mia anima che va a fondo, mentre il copro continua a galleggiare…”