Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My review:

“You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit.”

This book has turned me into a person of few words, and I mean this in the best way possible.

This world was so easy to slip into. I felt like a speck in the masses of Blackcliff. Inconspicuous and insignificant. We are all life and dark and strength and spirit. Each of us is a soldier in battle. Some of us know what we are fighting for, some of us are simply fighting to find out what for. Others have no will to fight. Most days, the struggle is deciding who we are fighting with, and who we are against. Sometimes, but more often than not, we are against ourselves.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

I am a skeptic when it comes to fate and prophecies and claims like “everything happens for a reason”, but I was meant to read this book. That’s all I know.

★★★★★ (5 stars) for the everyday soldier, fighting for a better life.

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Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My review:

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”

– – –

Me: “Everyone, meet Rachel.”
Everyone: “Hi Rachel,” a cacophony of voices mumble in unison.
Me: “Rachel, would you like to tell everyone a little bit about yourself? No?”
Someone: “She’s a fat liar! But mostly fat,” a voice shrieks.
Me: “Anna, shut the f*ck up. You are a homewrecker, and frankly you are just a b*tch.”
Me: “Since everyone here is f*cked up, I will take it upon myself to do the introductions.”
Me: “This is what you need to know.”

• Rachel is the girl on the train. She is depressed and an alcoholic.
• Megan lives in one of the houses that can be seen from the train.
• Scott is married to Megan, and of course, lives in the same house as her.
• Anna lives a few doors down from Megan and Scott, with her husband and child.
• Tom is Rachel’s ex-husband. His house is home to Anna and their child.

– – –

This book is a great work of fiction. I have not read or seen Gone Girl and I do not plan to, so I will not be talking about how similar or dissimilar they are. To me, this book was a mystery. I did not read any reviews about it. I did not read any blurbs. It was not recommended to me. All I had to go on was the title. So, I think it’s safe to say that there is indeed a girl on a train.

I don’t want to get into too many details, but there are a couple of things I want to mention.

First, I need to say how refreshing it is to read about a depressed/alcoholic character who faces real consequences as a result of their illness(es). Rachel’s struggles are very real. It was not romanticized. It was realistic. It made me pity her, and dislike her, and feel hopeful for her. It was all portrayed very well.

Similarly, the character development in this book is fantastic. I can’t recall reading another book that filled me with so much distaste for its characters. It is amazing. They are so real, so flawed, so human.

On another note, as soon as the second female narrator was introduced, I knew that I could not trust a single person. Every character’s moral compass is damaged. A factory defect. As a self-proclaimed master of psychobabble, I love the questions that were raised about the authenticity and permeability of memories. The truth is falsifiable. Always.

In any case, I just think that everyone should read this book.

★★★★ (4 stars) for making me ridiculously more paranoid observant during my daily commute on the bus.