THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt: How I Went from Loving It to (Almost) Hating It

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SYNOPSIS

The Secret History follows a group of six eccentric college students who, under the influence of their Classics professor, become obsessed by the way of living and thinking of those they study.

But this obsession will only bring out the worst in them, and when an unforeseen yet pivotal event occurs, they are ready to do anything, even the unthinkable, to prevent their downfall. 

At the center of this tale converge fierce jealousy, unhealthy friendships and a good dose of moral corruption which will, inevitably, lead to the most terrible acts of desperation. 

GENRES: Contemporary, Mystery


The title says it all: The Secret History started out strong and ended up being a huge disappointment. Curiously enough, this is a well-loved book on Goodreads and most people who’ve read it will tell you it’s one of the best books they ever cracked open.

I cannot say that I agree.

The Secret History is an incredibly dense and complex book that deals with a lot of dark themes. My main problem with it is that Donna Tartt didn’t always tackle them properly… or at all. I think it’s also interesting that I was blown away by a fraction of this book, and then reached a point where I just couldn’t bear the characters or the plot anymore. 

So, if you care to hear an unpopular opinion or maybe challenge your own positive opinion about The Secret History, well, feel free to tag along for the ride!

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THE LAST MAGICIAN by Lisa Maxwell: When Old NY Gangsters​ Wield Illicit Magic

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SYNOPSIS

While magic once thrived in New-York, only a few remaining Mageus now show an ability for it. Esta Filosik, like any other Mageus living in New York, is confined to the island of Manhattan by the Brink, a magical barrier erected by the Order and meant to steal the power (and often the life) of any Mageus who crosses it. 

All her life, Esta has been forced to hide her ability to manipulate time for fear of being punished by the Order. Secretly, she has also been trained to travel in the past and steal magical artifacts from under the Order’s nose until she’s ready for the most hazardous heist of all, the one that will change everything.

This time, Esta must change the future by traveling back to 1902 and stealing the Order’s most precious book before a man known as the Magician gets ahold of it and destroys every chance the Mageus have at freeing themselves from the Brink. What Esta didn’t expect, though, was to find this world brimming with magic and ruthless gangsters so alluring, and to find herself torn between securing the future of all the Mageus and staying true to those she has come to hold dear in the past. 

 

GENRES: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult


THIS BOOK IS A MASTERPIECE. 

I could end this review right here because, let’s be honest, this is pretty self-explanatory. But I will indulge in the pleasures of a rave that, hopefully, you will have just as much pleasure reading. 

First, let me tell you that The Last Magician is hugely underrated. Why doesn’t everybody talk about this book all day and dream about it all night? With its lively writing style, badass characters, and engaging plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very last page, The Last Magician qualifies as one of the most underrated YA fantasy books. 

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Should You Bother Reading THE SHAPE OF WATER?

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36521316  SYNOPSIS

The year is 1962. Elisa Esposito, mute her whole life, works as a janitor at Occam Aerospace Research Center in Baltimore, along with her friend Zelda. 

Elisa’s monotonous life takes a turn when she meets with the amphibious man who is kept in the Center to be studied by Richard Strickland, the soldier who captured him in the Amazon. Elisa and the creature automatically feel drawn to each other and start to communicate with sign language. Soon, they develop a deep love for each other. 

Strickland, obsessed with the creature in a twisted way, wants to dissect it before the Russians get ahold of it. To save her beloved from the hands of Strickland and the Russians, Elisa, with the help of her friend Zelda and her neighbor Giles, must orchestrate a plan to sneak the amphibious man out of Occam unnoticed. 

 

GENRES: Historical Fiction, Sci-Fi, Romance


As most of you probably already know, The Shape of Water is also a movie directed by Guillermo del Toro. It was released at the end of 2017 and received numerous awards since it came out.

Until recently, it was unclear to me whether the movie was based on the novel or the other way around, since the book was released only a short while after the movie. Turns out the answer is neither of the foregoing options.

I found out in an article that The Shape of Water was actually Daniel Kraus’ idea, not del Toro’s, and that Kraus shared his idea with the famous director when they were working together on some other project. Del Toro loved it, and together they decided to make a movie and a novel out of it. Both were written simultaneously and independently, though del Toro and Kraus talked a lot about where the story would go as they were working on it. 

The result? Two extremely similar stories, with just a couple of differences. In this case, is the book really better than the movie? Or can you get the most out of the story by watching the movie only?

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Is TIN MAN by Sarah Winman the New CALL ME BY YOUR NAME?

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36676536 SYNOPSIS

Ellis and Michael were thrust into each other’s path when they were twelve. Quickly, they became the best of friends and the close friendship they shared, which helped them deal with the joys and pains of growing up, somehow blossomed into something more along the way. 

Years later, Ellis is all alone. His wife, Annie, died in a car accident a few years ago and his childhood friend and first love, Michael, is nowhere in sight either.

Lonely and grief-stricken, Ellis recounts the events leading to his marriage with Annie and his losing touch with Michael. When given a box full of Michael’s possessions, Ellis burrows into Michael’s diary and finally finds what answers he needed to fill in the blanks in their story. 

 

GENRES: Contemporary, LGBT


When I first read the synopsis of Tin Man, I couldn’t help but compare this book to André Aciman’s masterpiece, Call Me by Your Name. First love between two young men and some unfortunate circumstances that prevent them from ending up together? Yes, please! 

Those who have the misfortune of knowing me in real life know ALL about Call Me by Your Name—whether they wanted to or notbecause I made it my mission to share my unconditional love for this story. I also wrote a review stating the reasons why you should read the book and watch the movie, so feel free to check it out if you’re interested in knowing my thoughts on the subject.

Since I love this story with all my heart, it is no surprise that I feel drawn to books built on a similar premise. In a way, Tin Man also sounds like a follow-up to Call Me by Your Name. While André Aciman’s novel solely focuses on Elio and Oliver’s whirlwind romance from its blossoming to its end, Tin Man explores a darker side of first love: what comes after it ends and how is one supposed to go on when that kind of unbounded love has been taken away from them. 

So, today I want to look into the similarities and the differences between Call Me by Your Name and Tin Man and let you know if fans of André Aciman’s incredible novel should go into Tin Man with such high expectations. 

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VICIOUS by V. E. Schwab or How to Sympathize with Villains

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SYNOPSIS

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates. Brilliant, ambitious and cunning, they got along more than fine until senior year. When a shared interest in adrenaline and near-death experiences helps them uncover the secrets behind EOs—ExtraOrdinary beings—Victor and Eli develop an obsession with turning themselves into EOs. 

Fast forward ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison with an insatiable desire to take revenge on Eli. With an escaped convict and hacker, a twelve-year-old girl with necromancy powers and an undead dog in tow, Victor sets himself on a hunt for his long-ago friend now foe. What could have happened ten years ago to make Victor and Eli turn against each other? And who between the two will be left alive at the end? 

Alternating between several perspectives and timelines, Vicious is a riveting tale of revenge, broken friendship, and sheer wickedness. 

 

GENRES: Adult Fantasy, Sci-Fi


Often enough, fantasy authors create two basic types of characters: the strong and virtuous protagonist and their devilish antagonists. I might be playing into the stereotypes here, but typical stories are indeed woven into this pattern—hopefully with a few creative elements incorporated in there. 

Imagine my wonder when I dived into Vicious by V.E. Schwab and was catapulted into a fantastic tale full of anti-heroes, betrayal, jealousy and lofty ambition. None of the typical tropes used in fantasy books found their way into Vicious. There’s no hero, no romance, no swords, no honor and no morals.

Let’s put the emphasis on “no morals” here. 

Our two main characters, Victor and Eli, are both terrible human beings. They are two of the most twisted and forbidding souls imaginable. And you know what’s most fascinating about Victor and Eli? As much as they’re portrayed as the most despicable of humans, it’s impossible not to sympathize with them to a certain extent.

That’s what I wish to discuss today. I think it is fascinating and no doubt thought-provoking that we, readers, are somehow able to find redeeming qualities in horrible characters. 

So let’s look into what makes Victor and Eli so evil and why they are deemed as likable, redeemable souls nonetheless. Does it have something to do about V.E. Schwab’s talent for creating complex stories and characters? Or does it rather have something to do with what qualities our society values? 

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Is THE ENGLISH WIFE by Lauren Willig Really Worth Reading?

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34945222 SYNOPSIS

When Bayard van Duyvil is found dead at the ball he is hosting, his wife, Annabelle, goes missing. Soon, everybody believes Annabelle is responsible for her husband’s murder.

Janie, Bayard’s sister, doesn’t believe it for one second and claims she has seen Annabelle dead in the river. To make light on what really happened that night and to try and save her family’s reputation, Janie seeks out the help of a journalist, Mr. Burke.

Together, they will unravel the web of secrets surrounding Bayard and Annabelle’s marriage and piece each fragment together while everything Janie thought she knew starts to crumble into dust.

 

GENRES: Mystery, Historical Fiction


The premise of this book sounds tremendous. Who doesn’t enjoy a vile murder and a desperate hunt for answers that lead to the unburying of dirty family secrets?

The combination of an enthralling intrigue and a late nineteenth-century setting is also a favorite of mine. Books including both often result in a 5-star rating for me—don’t judge me for my lack of impartiality, I can’t help having a soft spot for Victorian settings!

But with The English Wife, that didn’t happen.

As much as I believe this novel holds potential, I also think it needs some serious polishing. In my opinion, there are two main issues in The English Wife. If it wasn’t for those, I would probably have given this book a much better rating because there was some very good stuff in there. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get past the problematic elements in this book, so let’s talk about those!

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CALL ME BY YOUR NAME: Why You Should Read the Book AND Watch the Movie

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SYNOPSIS:

Call Me by Your Name is a compelling story about the romance that blossoms between seventeen-year-old Elio and Oliver, a graduate student from Columbia University.

When Oliver spends a few weeks in Italy during the summer of 1983, he stays at a distinguished professor’s villa. There he meets the professor’s son, Elio.

Neither Elio nor Oliver expected their world to collide so forcefully. Unexpected love and an idyllic few weeks soon follow, leaving neither of them unscathed when summer must come to an end. 

 

GENRES: Contemporary, Romance, LGBT


If you’ve neither heard of the book nor the movie yet… Where have you been in the last few months??? Call Me by Your Name has been on everybody’s lips, whether they’re a book or a movie lover.

After diving into both—and loving them both very fiercely—I only have praise for this story. If it can give you any indication, I watched the movie 4 TIMES IN 2 DAYS! Then I listened to the audiobook and dived into the physical copy a few days later. So now, let me tell you why this story took over my life—and compromised my finals—and why you should give in to it as well!

Continue reading “CALL ME BY YOUR NAME: Why You Should Read the Book AND Watch the Movie”