[ARC] The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

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It was very hard to comment about this novel. The story begins in the 1907 with Cathy Wray, young and pregnant, escaping home to London to avoid losing her child to strangers. In London she finds work and home in the toy emporium of Papa Jack.

Papa Jack is a grumpy toy maker, able to craft wonderful toys, almost magical, compelling to every child, who see the emporium as a fantastic place to spend winter days.

Up to this point, The Toy Makers seems an innocuous story: Cathy is accepted, loved, we see beautiful games created by Papa Jack and his sons, Kaspar and Emil, both willing to contribute to the emporium activity.

But soon reality slightly creeps into this beautiful atmosphere: there are the memories of the war in Russia and the emigration to England, then the beginning of the first world war and the soldier’s trauma, and the familiar disputes due to jealousy and resentment, but how much is needed to break the emporium magic?

I needed some days to decide that I liked The Toy Makers a lot: the book takes unexpected paths; the apparent lightness of the context (the magical toys, like Emil’s toy soldiers) has instead more profound implications, partly determined by what happens in the world outside the emporium.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale ★★★★★

*I read this book in english

Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White

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Now I rise follows And I darken, first installment of The Conqueror’s Saga.

At the end of the first book we left Mehmed sultan, Radu on his side and ready to help him and Lada aiming to the Wallachia throne.

This novel follows the adventure of both Lada an Radu; the former desperately in search of a way to gain the throne back (by means of alliances, deceptions or the mere display of force), while her brother is sent by Mehmed to Constantinople as spy to easy the conquest of the city by the sultan.

In this novel there is more action than in the previous one, we are shown battles on both the sides, but I found it overall slower than  the first book (that I really liked). Now I rise is a novel of transition, this is quite evident and it’s a shortcoming of the book.

The ending instead is quite strong and it provides the foundation for the third (and last?) book of the series.


* Now I Rise by Kiersten White ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

City of Thieves by David Benioff

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How hard is to retrieve a dozen eggs? If nowadays is very easy, in Leningrad during the nazi siege it was very different.

This is the task assigned to Lev, a seventeen years old boy arrested by the police and accused of thievery, and to Kolya, a soldier accused of deserting his group. The dozen eggs are the key to freedom and salvation, otherwise they are going to be executed.

The characters met in the jail, and from that moment the adventure to get the eggs begins. They will firstly explore Leningrad and then the fields out of the city, where partisans are fighting the german troops.

The story of Lev and Kolya brings us in the streets of the sieged city, where people suffer daily frost, hunger and bombardments, and where survivors do everything to stay alive, also the unimaginable.

The same is out of the city, where the german threat is even more real, and so Lev and Kolya will have to do everything they can to keep surviving.

City of thieves is a compelling novel, full of adventures and humanity. It’s hard to leave the two guys while reading the book, and it’s even harder to forget them when the book is come to the end.


* City of Thieves by David Benioff ★★★★★

*I read this book in italian

The Divine by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka & Tomer Hanuka

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The divine is a graphic novel illustrated by Asaf and Tomer Hanuka from a story by Boaz Lavie.

Mark is a young US militar who choses to enroll in a dangerous mission in Quanlom, following his friend Jason, an fanatical soldier who loves guerrilla and action. Mark is a good-natured explosion technician, but the uncertainties in his future (his wife pregnancy, a vanished career opportunity) force him to take part of the well paid mission.

The Quanlom mission soon assumes dramatic feautres: an army of children soldier defend their lands, destroied by war, with the help of a mysteryous magical being, whose aim is to save nature and inhabitants from the greedy occidental presence.

The divine is a dramatic graphic novel that speaks about the outcomes of a war (and how many the wars we do not know nothing about) perpetrate with the help of occidental countries.

While writing this comment I discovered that the story takes inspiration also from a photo (Associated Press Apichart Weerawong on 27 June 2000) that shows the twins Johnny and Luther Htoo, children and soldiers and – as stories tell – possessor of magical powers.

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The Divine by Asaf & Tomer Hanuka, Boaz Lavie. ★★★★☆

*I read this book in Italian

Poco raccomandabile by Chloé Cruchaudet

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Paul Grappe è un uomo come tanti: si innamora, si sposa e poi capita la guerra durante il suo servizio militare. Paul un po’ sopporta, poi però decide che non sarà l’esercito a determinare la sua vita, e fugge, disertore, con l’aiuto della moglie Louise.

A Parigi però è impossibile vivere tra la gente, Paul è ricercato ed è costretto a trascorrere il tempo chiuso nell’appartamento, in attesa della fine della guerra e dell’amnistia.

Una notte però il desiderio di uscire è così forte da scatenare nell’uomo la folle idea di vestirsi come una donna per passare inosservato. Da quel giorno in avanti inizia il suo travestimento, grazie anche all’aiuto di Louise che gli insegna a vestirsi e a atteggiarsi da vera donna, e gli trova persino un’impiego come sarta.

Inizia così a vivere Suzanne, che però si trova limitata nel lavoro di sartina che infine abbandonerà per diventare la regina del Bois de Boulogne, tra prostitute, omosessuali, feticisti e persone in cerca di avventure illecite.

Ottenuta l’amnistia, tornare a essere Paul però non sarà così semplice.

Quella di Paul e Suzanne è una storia in cui l’identità di una persona non è scolpita nella roccia, ma è mutevole per eventi e desideri: dopo aver vissuto come Suzanne, una regina, per Paul è impossibile tornare nella mediocrità è quasi impossibile, anche perchè è Paul a dover sostenere, da uomo, il ricordo tremendo della guerra.

Paul e Suzanne sono due facce della stessa persona, e la loro storia è mirabilmente descritta in questa graphic novel, in un gioco di bianchi, neri e sfumature in cui spicca solo il rosso, a simboleggiare la femminilità di Louise che poi erediterà Suzanne, man mano che il matrimonio tra Paul e la donna collassa.

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Poco raccomandabile by Chloé Cruchaudet ★★★★☆½

[Series] A land fit for heroes by Richard K. Morgan

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Richard K. Morgan è autore di una serie di stampo fantascientifico che ho molto apprezzato incentrata su uno specifico personaggio, Takeshi Kovaks. Morgan è però autore anche di una trilogia fantasy nominata A land fit for heroes.

Per questa trilogia, più che per altre, penso che parlare dei singoli romanzi – prescindendo dalla serie – potrebbe fare più male che bene, quindi segue un commento della serie nel suo complesso.

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Richard K. Morgan is the author of the sf series about  Takeshi Kovaks that I liked. Morgan is also author of a fantasy trilogy named A land fit for heroes.

For this series I think commenting each single novel is not the better choice, so here follows a review for the whole series.

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La storia del mondo in 100 oggetti by Neil MacGregor

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Neil MacGregor, storico e direttore del British Museum, ha realizzato per la BBC 4 il programma radiofonico A history of the world in 100 objects in cui durante ogni puntata dava voce a un oggetto scelto all’interno del British Museum. Dal programma è nato il libro omonimo che riporta i 100 oggetti scelti e il commento di Neil MacGregor

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Neil MacGregor, historian and director of the British Museum, made for the BBC 4 the radio program A history of the world in 100 objects; each episode was about a single object chosen in the British Museum collection. From the radio program this book was born, each chapter describing one of the 100 object chosen and the comment by Neil MacGregor

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