Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

Blurb: “Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo–until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.

As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all, they must journey to find each other again.”

Genre: Historical Fiction, War Fiction, War Novel, Novel

Goodreads Rating: 4.2/5

My Rating: 5/5

THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS


This book was something special. I’ve never read anything quite as moving as this book before. I had literally added this book to my reading list and then the next day walked into Waterstones and it was there on the stand in front of me (pre Covid-19 lockdown 3 in the UK). So naturally I picked it up and bought it. I read it within 3 days. It was stunning and breathtaking so I’m going to tell you (and show you) why.

First I loved the way this book was written. It goes from the present to the past, Nuri and Afra’s journey travelling from Aleppo to the UK. There is absolutely no small feat about this journey, their motivation is inspiring. We see their time seeking asylum in the UK and between these chapters we learn about their journey to the UK and their struggles with PTSD, but the way this is shown in the book is pretty and nothing I’ve ever seen before. The last word of the present is the first word of the past flashback and is displayed in the middle of the page in a beautiful illustration as you can see below.

The journey itself that they have made is just incredible. From Aleppo to the car journeys through Syria, having to duck down in the back of trucks and lie about where they were going. To the boat crossings in their small dingy, wearing life jackets and the awful waves throwing people overboard. Potentially losing Mohammed overboard causing Nuri to jump in the water after him, Mohammed being a young boy Nuri has taken responsibility for after he was on his own, almost a replacement for Sammi without realising. And when they reach the camps, Mohammed disappears. So Nuri looses the one thing that even slightly brought him comfort as he resembled and was significant with the loss of Sammi. But when Nuri is in the UK, he still sees Mohammed in his dreams and feels Mohammed is trying to tell him something or point him back to the direction of his wife, back in the direction of goodness, although it doesn’t always end well once he wakes up.

The camps sounded horrendous and it made me realise that people are actually dealing with this in real life. It made me glad to hear that they were given shelter, food and clothes after their horrendous boat ride, but what about when these camps are full? There is a lot of talk through the book of ‘The camps are full‘ and ‘they’ve closed the borders’ so their next part of their journey will be a struggle and thats where the illegal smugglers come in. Giving these people their trust and their money to get them to where they need to be. there is a period of time where they are in Italy. They are sleeping in a park where the volunteers for Red Cross brought them too, and left them there. Afra does not feel safe yet they manage to make a friend as safety in numbers. But awful things happen here, and instead of waiting for salvation that never comes from the Red Cross Nuri takes it into his own hands and they pay a smuggler to get them to the UK.

I feel for me this book is eye opening. This is happening in real life. REAL people are going through REAL situations and trauma like this, and we are treating them like animals and not offering asylum when they people have experienced WAR and had everything destroyed. They have no where else to go. And although in the books they are offered food, shelter and clothes, are they offered this in real life? Most likely not. I’ll be posting some links at the bottom of this review if you would like to donate to refugee relief.

I sympathised with pretty much all of the main characters, they have all been displaced and hit with the horrors of war. A horror that I could not even dream of experiencing or knowing what they are going through. So when Afra originally refuses to leave Aleppo amongst all the ruins because it is where their son Sammi is buried after he was killed in a bomb explosion, my heart breaks for them. I feel so upset for them because they had such a beautiful life in Aleppo before, Nuri tending the bees with his best friend Mustafa, so passionate about the bees and learning their motives and harvesting the honey and Afra and their son Sammi dining and relaxing with Mustafas family. Everything was happy and bright and colourful. And it had all been left in ruins. I can feel the desperation through out the book for a better life, when Afra explains she “doesn’t like this place” or when Nuri explains she “lays in bed all day” I just feel deflated for them and all that they are going through. Their motivation to get to the UK is that Mustafa is there and has started a new business with the bees and Nuri is going to help him as soon as he can when he gets to the UK, some sort of normality and what they were used too in Aleppo. That small slice of home.

It is interesting to learn that Afra is blind due to the horrendous things she has seen. She witnessed the bomb kill her child. War destroy her city. Due to this trauma she is blind, but not blind. She is blind and cannot see from trauma, but her sight will come back over time. This was interesting to me as I did not realise this could happen but it very much can when dealing with immense amounts if life changing stress which made me sympathise for her more. But what made me really feel things is when even though she could see, she still coloured in the colouring books Nuri bought her.

They have also come away/apart from each other in a time where they need each other most. All the way through you can see that Nuri loves his wife, but he has moved so far away from her as Afra has from him. They are withdrawn from each other through this trauma although they rely on each other more than ever. So when at the end, after making it to the UK and seeing Mustafa again, they are drawn back to each other with that feeling of hope and happiness to help them it makes me so overwhelmingly happy. They went through so much together so to finally find themselves back in each others arms made me so elated and honestly, I cried.

This book is eye-opening, harrowing, and with so much depth, an absolute testament to the triumph of human spirit and motivation. I voted this book 5/5 and say that you go and get this book now and Ive never felt so passionately about a book in this way. If you would like to donate to refugee relief there are some links below for you.

The Blog Brew Collaboration: Romance Book Recommendations for Valentines!

Welcome to another instalment of The Blog Brew Collaboration! Stay tuned for updates with our collaboration, we are wanting to re-brand and redesign as a group so this may be my last post as The Blog Brew! Exciting times ahead!

So I’ve decided to write my post about good romance books for Valentines day. Valentines in lockdown means that not many of us are heading out anywhere or have any plans in the mix, but for some, just cuddling up with a good romance book or some reading downtime in the day before lockdown valentines evening plans commence is definitely a must, SO here are 10 Romance book recommendations!

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary.

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
 

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. 

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

The Fault in our Stars by John Green.

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love. 

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand. 

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match

The Kiss Quotent by Helen Hoang.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic… 

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang.

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

One Day by David Nicholls.

15th July 1988: Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.

So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that?

And every year that follows?

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

This book is intended for mature audiences.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

Set amid the austere beauty of the North Carolina coast begins the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner recently returned from the Second World War. Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.

Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just the beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes. The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments and the fundamental changes that affect us all. It is a story of miracles and emotions that will stay with you forever.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Winner of the 2007 BookBrowse Award for Most Popular Book.

An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons. 

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her. 

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.

P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern.

A novel about holding on, letting go, and learning to love again.

Now in paperback, the endearing novel that captured readers’ hearts and introduced a fresh new voice in women’s fiction Cecelia Ahern.

Holly couldn’t live without her husband Gerry, until the day she had to. They were the kind of young couple who could finish each other’s sentences. When Gerry succumbs to a terminal illness and dies, 30-year-old Holly is set adrift, unable to pick up the pieces. But with the help of a series of letters her husband left her before he died and a little nudging from an eccentric assortment of family and friends, she learns to laugh, overcome her fears, and discover a world she never knew existed.

The kind of enchanting novel with cross-generational appeal that comes along once in a great while, PS, I Love You is a captivating love letter to the world!

Day 1 – Rhiannon over at Mrssleejones
Day 2 – Karalee over at talesofbelle
Day 3 – N/A
Day 4 – Kim over at chimmyville
Day 5 – Jessie over at wandererandtraveller (Me!)
Day 6 – Haley over at introvertedcreativity
Day 7 – Luce over at perselem
Day 8 – Beth over at thoughtsofarealredhead

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Blurb: “Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.”

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Crime novel, Nordic noir, Crime Fiction

Page Count: 672

Goodreads Rating: 4.1/5

My Rating: 4/5

THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Trigger Warning: Rape


This is my second attempt at reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo so I went into this book very skeptical and apprehensive. Last time I found my reading capability wasn’t up to standard with the book so to be able to give this another go was interesting and it certainly didn’t disappoint!

So I considered the first part of the book to be incredibly slow. I fully understand and appreciate that for a book of this size, context is very important. But I felt that the amount given made the start of the book really slow for me. Further down the line I realise I appreciated the content given but it definitely tinted the reading experience for me, if it hadn’t been for my first 100 pages rule (where if i’m not enjoying a book and I’m still not enjoying it at the 100th page I won’t continue with the book) I would have absolutely have put it down. But I am so so glad I didn’t!

So straight away after being introduced to the characters I LOVED the contrast of the two main characters, Michael Blomkvist and Elizabeth Salander. For me Michael Blomkvist’s character development throughout the whole book was monumental, I started the book like ‘lord above this man is bland’. Then I realised he has an open relationship with his co-worker and close friend Erika which perked him up a bit, then you realise this man is not afraid to speak his mind, potentially lose his job and stand up to the big boys like he does early on in the book. Towards the end of the book I loved him. The confidence, passion and determination this man holds is commendable and when his relationship with Salander advances I never saw it coming but I was absolutely here for it.

The general mystery of the storyline itself is intense. Michael Blomkvist after going through some legal battles is recruited to work for Henrik Vanger on his estate in Hedestad, Sweden. He’s recruited to write the Vanger daily history. In actual fact he is there to uncover the truth as to where Harriet Vanger disappeared too. The way the mystery is unraveled is one bombshell after the next. I absolutely could not put this book down once it really got into it. The twists and turns, the revelations one after the other I needed to know where she was, if someone had killed her and if so, who? The family had so many secrets. the crescendo for me was when someone was shooting at Blomkvist. At this point you know someone is after him. But It was never who I would expected.

In contrast with Michael is Elizabeth Salander. Right form the start she’s a mystery. I also sympathise for her straight away, not even too far into the book she is raped. But she’s cool, calm and collected and I have a lot of respect for her especially when she takes matters into her own hands. Although she is very shattered and broken person, she is one badass bitch. She’s damn good at what she does and its impressive. This is why when she does start seeing Blomkvist Im shocked but 100% here for it as I said above. I loved the two of them together, they are polar opposites but they balance each other out. The ending did get me though. Salander is aware of his relationship with his co-worker Erika, so to know she was so hurt and wound up got me wanting to pick up the next book!

To back up my point that Salander is a bad ass bitch. When Michael is taken ‘prisoner’ by Henry Vanger in his basement, after realising it was him who was trying to shoot Blomkvist for digging too deep into the family history to find Harriet, Salander realises where he is and comes to his rescue. He’s in a torturous situation in Henry’s basement where we realise that Henry is a disgusting animal who rapes, mutilates and kills women for FUN. After being recruited to do this by his FATHER. SICKENING. But it also influences the investigation into Harriet with Henry being her brother. She was fully aware of what he is capable of. But, a great plot twist as I was not expecting it from him. So naturally my assumption was that Henry killed Harriet. LUCKILY that was not the case.

I was SHOOK when we discovered Harriet was alive. Her involvement in the remainder of the book made my heart warm. She was just running from something awful. I also didn’t expect Henry to kill himself in a car crash after the incident with Blomkvist and Salander in his basement but I guess he thought it was better to die than to go to jail for being an absolutely arsehole of epic proportions, especially because Harriet knew all of his secrets.

And yet once Harriet is discovered it doesn’t end there. Michael, Erika and Elizabeth take on the corporation at the start of the book who Michael tried to tackle before and absolutely decimated them and played them at their own game. If that isn’t a badass team i don’t know what is. Although Salander doesn’t think so so much at the end,

The book itself is really well written, gripping, exciting and I could not put it down. I voted this book 4/5 due to the slow start but thats literally it. It would be a 4.9/5 if it was possible. I also felt like when I was reading, the village of Hedestad reminded me of the small village I visited in Norway, Aurland! Beautiful, small, personal and quaint. Ill post a photograph of Aurland below!

Have you read this book before? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!