A Castle In The Clouds | A Review

Hey everyone! Today I bring you my review of ‘A Castle In The Clouds’ by Kerstin Gier! Before I get into my review, I just want to add that this is a translated novel! (Translated from German to English.) I can’t wait to read more translated books in the future!

A Castle in the Clouds: Gier, Kerstin, Fursland, Romy: 9781250300195: Books  - Amazon.ca

(Synopsis from goodreads.)

Way up in the Swiss mountains, there’s an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.

Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure–and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart.

First, let’s talk about the plot! The original premise of A Castle In The Clouds was everything I could have ever wanted on a cold winter afternoon. A mystery in an old hotel in the mountains? Sign me up! And can we talk about that stunning cover? The execution however…totally lived up to my expectations! There was mystery, humor, and romance. (Which in case you haven’t noticed already, is one of my favorite combinations.)

The book follows Sophie, a 17 year old high school dropout navigating her life as an intern in the old hotel in the mountains, which is most commonly known as; The Castle In The Clouds. Sophie reminds me a lot of Sophie from the film ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. They’re both charismatic and caring people. However, she didn’t have much character development in the story. Nevertheless I did enjoy the fact that it was a very plot driven story. That intrigued me, as I’m used to reading very character driven books. Tristan and Ben where two other lovable characters. There was even a love triangle between both boys and Sophie! Now, I dislike love triangles, so I disliked that aspect of the book too. Why must it always be your favorite character that ends up heartbroken? I also think the romance felt a bit out of place. Moreover, I absolutely adored Tristan! He was a guest at the hotel, and there was this vibe to him that reminded me so much of Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. He even looked like him! Tristan was honestly such a delight to read about! Ben on the other hand, was alright. Ben was a young adult set to inherit Castle In The Clouds from his father. I found him to be slightly stuck-up at times, but I didn’t dislike him though.

Unfortunately if I reviewed every side character, this review would be 30 paragraphs long. 😆 The hotel staff had some nice and funny characters, but none of them stood out to me all that much. (Except for Old Stucky, he was one heck of a guy.) Another side character that I enjoyed reading about was none other than Don B. Jr, a snarky 7 year old guest at the hotel who had me laughing like crazy. From his rude comments, to his spontaneous actions, Don was certainly a memorable character. Next we have the Ludwigs, who where the sweetest old couple ever, and had a lovely backstory! From sassy Gretchen and her other self absorbed sisters to Amy and little Gracie, these hotel guests where nothing but boring. But my favorite side character was hands down ‘The Thriller Writer.’ The only thing we as readers knew about him was that he writes books…And asked the kitchen staff to send him a raw animal to 💫inspire his writing💫. All in all, each side character had their own personality, and I found that to be one of the best parts of the book! Despite having so many characters, the story never became overwhelming or complicated. So props to Kerstin Gier for executing the story in such a beautiful way!

“Bienvenue. Willkommen. Benvenuto. Welcome to A Castle In The Clouds. Enjoy your stay.”

― Kerstin Gier, A Castle In The Clouds

The dialogue between the characters was immersive, and every line was fresh and fun! The thing with mysteries is that every piece of dialogue matters, so naturally I paid close attention to it…Only to find that all of my assumptions where completely wrong. (Let’s just say I’m not the best detective. 😂)

In case you’re wondering, the entire novel is in Sophie’s perspective. I found Sophie’s narrative to be super entertaining! The writing style was also very descriptive. Typically, I dislike descriptive stories. However, I loved reading the author’s descriptions of the hotel! The author writes in such a way that allows the readers to feel like they themselves are in the hotel and are experiencing the same events as Sophie, and to me that’s something truly special!

The overall enjoyment level was slightly affected by the weird pace fluctuation. I felt that the climax came out of nowhere, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t anticipating a huge plot twist. Unexpectedly though, I found myself breezing through the last 150 pages! It was simply too gripping to put down!

‘A Castle In The Clouds’ was a cozy read, perfect for fans of mysteries and contemporary! I highly recommend you give this novel a go!

Age Rating: 13 and up

TW: Violence, talk of kidnapping and murder, kidnapping, some suspense

Final Rating: 9.5/10 or 4.75 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What is your favorite mystery novel? Let me know in the comments below! Have a fabulous day!

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A Pho Love Story | An ARC Review

Hiya! Today I’ll be reviewing ‘A Pho Love Story’ by Loan Le. It’s actually my first ever eARC/ARC, and I am so happy I was approved to read this novel! Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. (Please note that the synopsis provided is from goodreads.) Without further ado, here is the review!

A Pho Love Story: Le, Loan: 9781534441934: Books - Amazon.ca

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.
If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.
For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.
But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember. Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories? 

First let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded very promising, and the plot was executed pretty well. The readers were able to get lovely descriptions of Phở and other delicious Vietnamese foods, which made me, admittedly, very hungry. Unfortunately, I felt as though we didn’t get much time in the restaurants. It would have been so cool to see all the steps it takes to establish a restaurant.

The characters were a delight! Bao was snarky and always made me laugh. He was honestly just a really kind and caring character towards everyone really. I loved how the idea of not knowing what he wanted to do in the future was executed in the novel. Uncertainty about the future is a very real that people go through, so it was definitely cool to see! Linh on the other hand knew she wanted to be an artist. It’s wonderful to see young people pursuing the arts, and I loved how Loan Le incorporated Linh’s family into her art. Linh’s inspiration for creating art was very beautiful and I found myself liking her character. However, she wasn’t as memorable as I thought she’d be. Moreover, Linh and Bao had a very healthy relationship. They were so cute together, and made a fantastic team! There was some miscommunication, but it was worked out throughout the novel!

Since the version I read of A Pho Love Story was an ARC, there won’t be any quotes in my review. Instead, take this cute cat!

The side characters were unique as well. I loved how the cast was almost all Vietnamese. It was very refreshing to see! Linh’s friend Ally, and Bao’s friend Viet, where great supporting characters. They were both helpful, and funny. I only wish the author went more in depth into the lives of the side characters. I also absolutely adored the family dynamic. The tension between the two families felt raw and realistic. Another character I enjoyed reading about is Chef Le and his family’s hilarious cameos. It was nice to see a very wholesome relationship between the Mai sisters. Evie and Linh have a lovely sibling dynamic that I wish was explored more in the book. A Pho Love Story is gorgeously done in terms of creating a sense of community within families, and I fell in love with that. Having a loving family is something very special, so I am very happy it was explored vividly throughout the novel.

The dialogue between Linh, Bao, and their friends felt pretty average, nothing ground-breaking was said. It was the dialogue between the main characters and their parents that really intrigued me. I haven’t read many YA novels where the parents and children had intricate relationships. Furthermore, it was very interesting to see Vietnamese spoken throughout the book. I love learning about different languages and cultures, so this only added to the enjoyment of the novel!

I unfortunately struggled with the writing style. The point of view switches from Bao to Linh, and vice versa every 10-15 pages or so. I found myself struggling with trying to understand if the we were in Bao’s head, or in Linh’s. At other times, the story felt repetitive and boring. In my opinion, A Pho Love Story didn’t need to be over 400 pages long. If it was slightly shorter, I’m sure I would have loved it even more.

As mentioned previously, the book seemed to drag on at times and felt a bit repetitive. That did affect the overall enjoyment level a lot. Nevertheless, it was still an incredibly refreshing read that I totally recommend!

Age Rating: 13 and up

TW: Stories of war and death

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

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So, will you read A Pho Love Story? Have a great day!

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Love From A to Z | A Review

Hiya everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing my most anticipated read of 2020, Love From A to Z. Happy new year everyone! I hope 2021 treats you well!

Love from A to Z: Amazon.ca: Ali, S. K.: Books

Even though, for the most part, I’ll read books with aesthetically pleasing covers, I still never review the covers. (Please don’t come for me, I’m a sucker for pretty book covers.) However, can we talk about this book cover! People of color, and Muslims, on a book cover?! I love it! That’s when I immediately knew I had to read this one. And thankfully, I was not disappointed.

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together. An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break. Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her. Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father. Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting. 

Now on to the actual review! So first let’s talk about the plot. Love From A to Z’s original premise was simple. Two teenagers falling in love is certainly not a unique plot to the Young Adult Genre. But it’s the way the plot was executed that truly made me fall in love with this contemporary novel. The whole marvel and oddity thing keep the story engaging, and gave a unique feel. Every time it switched from Zayneb to Adam, and vice versa, a marvel or oddity would be discovered.

“Maybe that’s what living is—recognizing the marvels and oddities around you.”
― S.K. Ali, Love From A to Z

The main characters were so incredibly diverse and unique. First we have Zayneb; A fiery and passionate hijabi who is half Trinidadian, and half Pakistani. Next we have Adam Chen; An easy going and quiet Chinese, and Finnish boy. I mean, can we talk about the amount of biracial rep?! At first, I didn’t like Zayneb. I thought she was annoying and got overly angry. But then I realized that if you aren’t angry about something, than no one else will be either. Over the course of the novel, Zayneb learnt that there is a method to the madness. What I mean by this is, she learnt how to get angry politely. (Minor Spoilers ahead.) For example; When she wore a t-shirt and leggings in a swimming pool in Doha, the manager told her the custom was to wear tight swimsuits only. To overcome this challenge, she wore a burkini. When the manager refused to let her wear a burkini, it was then that she confronted him. So essentially, what I am trying to say is, Zayneb learnt how to solve a problem calmly. But if she couldn’t solve it calmy, then she would show her anger. Adam was a rather introverted and polite character. He loved making things, especially for his little sister Hanna. Adam was honestly so wholesome. Zayneb and Adam, despite being polar opposites, got along really well. They shared the same values, which certainly was a driving force in their relationship. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I loved how there was no love triangle or any people getting in the way of their love. It was just the two of them. I loved how they accepted each other for who they were, and actually did thorough research on certain obstacles that might affect them in the future. Overall the plot was executed very well! And the characters, including some side characters, were funny, and diverse!

The dialogue between the main characters was raw and pure. The book really gave the readers an interesting and positive look at what it’s like for Muslims to marry. In the media, Muslims are portrayed as terrorists, and women are seen as opressed. In real life, that is totally not the case. In most romantic stories, the couple will always kiss before getting married. In Adam and Zayneb’s case, they weren’t allowed to touch until after marriage. This is done to ensure that lustfullness is not the thriving source of love before marrying someone. It was so cute when they wanted to hug and kiss, but remained respectful of each other and didn’t. It was just so adorably awkward.

The writing style switched between raw and harsh, to poetic and elegant from time to time. However, none of the writing seemed out of place. The author did a great job at setting the mood through her dialogue and writing.

At times the story seemed a bit slow, and at other times it went a bit fast. So the pacing was slightly off. But that didn’t really affect the enjoyment level that much. Overall, this was such a cute read that is great to show people who have mixed feelings about Muslims. Muslims are people just like the rest of the world. That’s why it’s so important to write #ownvoices stories. They can really change a person’s entire perspective. Henceforth why I think that you should definitely pick this one up!

Age Rating: 12 and up

TW: Islamophobia, talk about violence and death

Final Rating: 9/10 or 5 stars

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If you’re curious about my review policy click here. So, will you read Love From A to Z? Or if you have already, what did you think about it? Have a fabulous day everyone!

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