En svensk klassiker, det är Elin Wägners Norrtullsligan. Skriven och publicerad i början av 1900-talet, klar och humoristisk på sitt sätt men ändå väldigt allvarlig. På något plan kan den ses som grunden till Sex and the city, med sina fyra kvinnliga karaktärer som hela historian handlar om och med Pegg som huvudkaraktär och den som berättar historian genom sina dagboksanteckningar. Pegg är en bit över tjugo när hon flyttar till Stockholm för att bo i ett litet kollektiv med tre andra kvinnor i två hyresrum medan hon arbetar som kontorist på ett företag. Norrtullsligan berättar Peggs historia under året hon bor i Stockholm, som arbetskvinna i ett samhälle där kvinnan ännu inte hade rösträtt och inte heller någonting att säga till om på sin arbetsplats. De tre andra kvinnorna hon delar sitt hem med jobbar också som kontorister och alla fyra visar vars ett perspektiv på livet som arbetande kvinna och allt vad det medför. Kvinnorna får stå ut med många orättvisor, sexuella trakasserier i varierande grad från både sina chefer och okända män ute på gatorna och många, inte minst andra kvinnor, tittar ner på dem för att de jobbar men Pegg och hennes vänner är trots alla svårigheter nöjda. De har en frihet som få andra kvinnor har och anser sig lyckliga i sina liv.

För mig är det här definitivt en feministisk bok, även om den inte alltid klassificeras som det. Norrtullsligan är litteratur i en kurs jag för tillfället läser och jag skulle antagligen inte ha läst den om jag inte hade behövt det men jag är glad att jag fick en chans att upptäcka den. Det är en väldigt speciell bok som känns frisk och betydligt yngre än sina etthundra år. Wägner har ett vasst språk som pekar ut alla orättvisorna som kvinnorna i Ligan stöter på under sin tid i Stockholm men den är samtidigt rolig, charmig och har flera ögonblick där man verkligen kan känna solidariteten mellan de fyra kvinnorna. Boken berättar utan svårigheter om ett liv som känns avlägset men som inte är så djupt begravet i historian ändå. Jag önskar definitivt att jag fått möjlighet att läsa Norrtullsligan i skolan och för er som varken fick det eller har läst den efter hoppas jag att ni nu ska ge denna speciella bok en chans. Den kan mycket väl komma att förvåna er, så som den gjorde mig.

Ice like Fire

Something in Sara Raasch’s Snow like Ashes kindled some deep curiosity in me. From a literary point of view, the novel wasn’t anything extraordinary, but there was something in the story that caught my attention. I’ve been eager to jump into the sequel, Ice like Fire, to see if that unnamable thing still existed in the story.

In Ice like Fire we return to Winter three months after its liberation. Meira is now known as Queen Meira and her people are slowly rebuilding their kingdom and nurturing themselves back to health from years of slavery in the country that invaded them sixteen years ago – Spring. Everything is alright now that they're free again and have a ruler to lead them. But Meira is cautious. The king of Spring, Angra, was supposedly killed in the battle that finally freed Winter, but Meira knows more about magic than any other person in her kingdom. Despite everyone promising her that Angra is gone and Winter is safe, Meira has an uneasy feeling. She has a hard time believing that the king of Spring really is gone, but when her people reopen a mine that turns out to hold the magic chasm – a place that has been searched for since way before Meira was born – a new threat appears.

To save her people, both from Angra three months before and now when they’re rebuilding their kingdom, Meira has had to align herself with Cordell, a Rhythm nation who now expects good payment for all they’ve done for Winter. Theron, prince of Cordell, has always had Meira’s back, but his father, King Noam, has a more sinister agenda. While Meira want to keep the magic chasm closed and turn away from all kinds of magic, even the conduit magic that a king or queen can use, so that everyone can live safe away from magic and its dark side – the Decay – no one else seems to side with her. Noam wants the power from the chasm himself but even Theron wants to open it, to distribute magic and power equally to every person in the world. Meira lacks resources and allegiances to stop it and her only hope is to go out on a journey to find the three keys needed to open the door to the chasm and find allegiance in other kingdoms. She knows it’s the only thing she can do to save Winter and, possibly, the entire world.

Compared to Snow like Ashes, the stakes are a lot higher in Ice like Fire. Meira is queen and she does what she can to adjust to the role, a role she has never been prepared for. She has to see Mather, a boy she grew up with thinking he was the rightful heir to the throne ut which was only a cover to keep Meira safe, fall away from her more and more each day. They loved each other at one time but now that Meira is queen and dating Theron, Mather takes a step back. Their friendship fade away when Meira needs it the most and for a long stretch of the novel she’s alone and afraid. She has a heavy burden to carry and no one to trust it with. Theron is under the belief that he and Meira wants the same thing, to open the chasm and give magic to everyone, and soon they move further from each other as well. On top of that Meira has a hard time adjusting herself from the orphaned soldier-girl she was to the queen she is.

All three main characters goes through a big change in this novel. Meira battles herself – wanting to be one version but knowing she needs to be another. Mather has to accept the fact that he’s not king but a soldier and one that Meira no longer loves. Theron fights hard for equality for every person and kingdom and though he intends to marry Meira everything he does just drives her further away. It was definitely well-handled by Raasch, the character development, how they had to accept and adjust to new situations but also grow to what they are supposed to be. I can see a clear difference in Meira from the first chapter to the last and I think this is a very important thing. Character development is always necessary in any novel and a book can’t feel real unless the reader can understand and even see themselves in the characters. But in this story it’s even more important. Meira and Mather has lived their whole lives believing everything to be a certain way only to have it all turned up-side-down and being expected to know how to handle the change without a problem. Their internal battles are an interesting part of the book.

Many other characters goes through changes as well but it was most noticeable in the three main characters. I found that I had a hard time to connect to anyone besides Meira, Mather and Theron, like the rest weren’t as real as those three. Even characters that plays bigger roles, like the princess of Summer, feels empty, like a shell. I would like to see Raasch giving more personality to her side-characters. Meira manages to hold up the story on her own but without her it would’ve fallen through completely.

Some things that bothered me was how hard it was for older characters to see things from the perspective of the younger ones. They seemed to think that since they were back in Winter nothing bad could happen to them and so much troubles could’ve been avoided if the return of the Winterians had been handled differently from the people in charge. It also bothered me that the novel was nearly 500 pages and more than half of it felt unnecessary. I think Ice like Fire could’ve been cut down at least a hundred pages and still covered everything important. It took me a long time to read it, which I didn’t expected, because during the first half I was more bored than interested in the story. It wasn’t until the end that things really kicked off and then everything happened so fast that I felt like I couldn’t keep up with it all. It ended on a huge cliffhanger, which got me more annoyed, but despite everything else I still very much look forward to the third and final installment of the trilogy.

I think Raasch has a good story going, even though certain parts are a little rough. For a while I was afraid that the novel suffered from Second Book Syndrome, but that changed towards the end and it left me interested in seeing what lies in store for Winter. It might not be the best book I’ve read, but it has potential, as does Raasch, and I’m interested in seeing what else she’ll do in the future. I definitely think you should give this series a chance because despite what I’ve pointed out as annoying and bothersome, deep down the story is a good and entertaining one.

The Next Together

The moment I found out about Lauren James’ The Next Together I was certain that I had to read it. It’s a story about love and reincarnation and it got me excited right away. I actually got it for Christmas but didn’t pick it up until the start of February for no other reason than that I wanted to have it to look forward to for a little while longer. Eventually, however, I couldn’t contain myself and jumped into it with high, high hopes and I’m glad to say that they held up.

Katherine and Matthew have lived together and loved each other in multiple lifetimes. They’re destined to be reborn and find each other, only to be faced with big problems that it seems only they can solve only to be ripped apart by death yet again. They’ve lived during the siege of Carlisle, been to the Crimean War and worked in laboratories in 2019 and 2039. Every time they die they’re brought back but no matter how hard they think, and no matter that they’ve had 300 years to figure out why and who brings them back, that’s still the biggest mystery of all. Maybe they’ll get to live peacefully together in one lifetime without having to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

I was hyped when I first heard about this novel. I like the idea of reincarnation but haven’t read a book about it before. My hopes were high, as I said, and James managed to meet them. It’s her debut novel and a pretty good one at that. It’s filled with fun banter and exciting moment and, despite the fact that some parts are extremely serious, it’s still not too heavy.

James introduces us to pretty few characters – the biggest are obviously Katherine and Matthew and for the most part the story centers only around them. Occasionally other characters appear, such as Katherine’s aunt in 1745 or an army general in 1854. Bigger roles falls to Katherine’s two grandmothers in 2039, along with Matthew’s older brother Tom. But for the most part it’s all about Katherine and Matthew and their quest to, apparently, save the world time and time again.

Katherine is quirky and has a unique sense of humor. It wasn’t always something that was my cup of tea but she did make me laugh at times. In some parts of the novel her personality annoyed me however, she was a bit too much, but rather in very real way, like an actually human being that I would find too talkative, she wasn’t a bad character. Matthew on the other hand is more serious but certainly had moments when he lit up the pages too. Mostly he’s pretty chivalry and I kind of liked it. He’s nerdy and a bit of a geek but he always takes care of Katherine and both of them seems very real and believable. It was easy to understand them, easy to follow along in both the story and their conversations and easy to get to know them. It’s a big story, a heavy theme, but they carry the book on their backs together and are, in my opinion, perfect for this novel.

The side-characters aren’t in the story very much, as I said, it’s mostly about Katherine and Matthew and even when they’re around other people they aren’t really incorporated. The two grandmothers, a married couple, along with Matthew’s brother Tom has the biggest roles of the side-characters. I liked that James had a homosexual couple in her story and I liked how she described Tom as a famous internet hacker in one moment and a very real, and, in Katherine’s words, disgusting guy the next. The grandmothers wasn’t around very much but Tom was and he, just like Katherine and Matthew, seemed awfully real, so James has definitely proven that she can write believable characters.

Something that bothered me however, was that neither Katherine’s nor Matthew’s parents really made an appearance. They’re mentioned throughout the novel, during certain lifetimes Katherine is an orphan, but in 2039, which is their “right now” lifetime, they’re only background noise. Katherine never actually speaks to them, she only mentions that she did. Matthew’s parents makes some kind of appearance but they’re not really there, either. They’re not officially presented to the reader and that bothered me a lot but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it seems like James has done this for some reason I yet can’t figure out, so I hope this will be revealed in the sequel (which I didn’t know there was until I came to the end, I thought it was a stand-alone the entire time I was reading).

Speaking of the end. I’m as annoyed as the next person with cliffhangers but I don’t really let it bother me since it’s what’s to be expected when you read a series. I was extremely curious to the end of The Next Together (so much, in fact, that it took me a week to read the first hundred pages because I immediately realized when I started reading it that this was a special book and that I wanted to take my time with it, but when I came past around 125 pages I was so curious that I finished the entire thing in one sitting) but was awfully annoyed when I finished the novel. It has something of a cliffhanger, but not just that. It’s more of a huge bomb left to explode in your lap when you close the last page. I didn’t fully understand everything and I think that’s James’ point, which made me even madder. It was about this time that I realized there was a sequel and calmed down a bit, but then I saw that the next book won’t be out until November this year and I got annoyed again. There were too many loose threads and too much time for me to guess at what’s going to happen until I can find out and it bothers me in a way that I haven’t been by the end of a novel for some time now.

Despite the awful ending (which was only awful because it ended without me getting the answers to all my questions, otherwise it was too bad!) it’s a wonderful book. I really enjoyed it and it has a cool layout as well. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and the book is split up in four different lifetimes which entwine with another very well. Different lifetimes have different fonts and Katherine’s name is different in all so that you more easily can keep the lives apart. At the top of every page is a timeline which point’s out the exact year the story is at that page and there’s also excerpts from Katherine’s diaries, from newspapers or articles online as well as a few maps. It makes it much easier to keep track of the different lifetimes and it’s fun and different reading parts of the story from the view of diary entries.

I am very much looking forward to the sequel and I think this is a novel that you really should give a chance. It’s part love story, part action-packed thriller and it’s served with a big scoop of humor. It might surprise you to be more than just a story about a boy and a girl, destined to meet and fall in love with each other in life after life.