All the Light We Cannot See (Book Review)

I read some really great books this summer. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of not-good books out there. I thought I’d write up a few reviews of the good ones I’ve read this summer for any of my readers who are looking for new material to dig into.

I’ve got a variety of genres that I’ll be reviewing, so if you’re not into fiction, don’t despair, there’s more to come. The first book I’m reviewing is the most recent one I’ve read, and one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. By the way, I use the word reviewing very lightly. I suppose I am more recommending, as I am not getting too deep into themes etc.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Genre: historical fiction

Recommended for age 18+

531 pages (It’s long!)


All the Light We Cannot See is a story about a blind girl living in France, and an orphaned German boy whose extraordinary technical skills land him in training academy for Hitler Youth. Their stories intersect in the citadel of Saint-Malo. I don’t want to divulge much of the plot should you choose to read it 🙂

From the book cover: “Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.”

This would be a fantastic novel for a book club! I found I wanted to read it slowly to enjoy the beautiful imagery, but I was compelled to read quickly, spurred on by the suspense.

There is rough language in this book, but it is not excessive or glorified.

My favourite part of reading this novel was the unpredictability. I was never at the point where I just knew how it was going to turn out. The characters are very real, and relatable. I would rate it at 4.5/5 stars 😉 (One part I didn’t like was surrounding a jewel called the “Sea of Flames”. It wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t sure if the story was going to go all science-fiction-y on me; it doesn’t, so now you can enjoy it, knowing that 😉

Here are two short excerpts to give you an idea of the writing style:


7 August 1944


At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country.
The tide climbs. The moon hangs small and yellow and gibbous. On the rooftops of beachfront hotels to the east, and in the gardens behind them, a half-dozen American artillery units drop incendiary rounds into the mouths of mortars.


From The Girl

She eases open the left-hand shutter and runs her fingers up the slats of the right. A sheet of paper has lodged there.
She holds it to her nose. It smells of fresh ink. Gasoline, maybe. The paper is crisp; it has not been outside long.
Marie-Laure hesitates at the window in her stocking feet, her bedroom behind her, seashells arranged along the top of the armoire, pebbles along the baseboards. Her can stands in the corner; her big Braille novel waits facedown on the bed. The drone of the airplanes grows.

Let me know if you read it, or have read it!

*Feel free to comment with what you’re reading! I’d love to hear some suggestions since my book list has depleted 🙂


Spice Rack Bookshelves

While looking for bookshelf ideas for the reading nook, I came across this Ikea Spice Rack idea.
I originally had wanted to do rain gutter book shelves, like this:

I thought this would be more customizable for length, and Ikea is a bit far away for us, so it seemed easier. But it proved to just be a big pain, and more expensive!
So off we trekked to Ikea. We spent a couple hours there, and found a lot of handy things, but no spice racks! We should have just found someone to ask, but by the time we thought of that, we were all the way through the store, so we just left it.

At home, we checked online, and discovered there were indeed 250ish spice racks stocked at our particular Ikea! Oops. Instead of making the big trip again, we ordered them online.

Anyway, after all that, we had a perfectly timed snow day yesterday which gave us time to put them up. We decided to hold off hanging them up in the reading nook for a few months, and hung 3 in a bedroom upstairs. Nap time is more like book-time around here, so this was a nice solution to keeping the books a little neater upstairs.

DSC_0291 DSC_0294

We decided not to paint them, because, well, let’s be honest here, less work! But also because I like the plain wood colour. We may paint the two shelves for in the reading nook, but that project is at a standstill for now 🙂 The spice racks are small, so you can only fit about 5 books on each shelf, but I like that the kids can see the covers, instead of hauling 30 books off the shelf to find the one they’re looking for. This was also a very affordable solution, only $5 or so per shelf. And if you’re smarter than us, you can save the extra $15 shipping cost 😉

Summer Reading List

I felt very ambitious with my reading list at the beginning of the summer and used this flowchart as a starting point. Although I planned to read more from that list, I only got around to two (The Kite Runner and Half Brother).

Summer 2012 Reading List (Fiction Only)

(What I Finished–with a rating out of 5 stars)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (5 stars)

— A depressing, but realistic look at Afghanistan over the last 40 years. The story centers on the friendship between two boys growing up during this time. Definitely worth reading.

 Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel (4 stars)

— A story about a family who takes in a chimpanzee and raises it like a child. Intriguing overall story-line. I’d say it’s written for teens age 14-17.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

  • The Hunger Games (1) (4.5 stars)
  • Catching Fire (2) (4.5 stars)
  • Number three is in the yet-to-get-to list

— Fascinating story that has gotten a lot of mixed reviews. Well written, unique, unpredictable, yet disturbing and revolting at the same time. Once I finish the series, I hope to write my own review on the books.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon (5 stars)

— Great easy-reading. I read about one or two chapters at a time (they are quite long) and sometimes squeezed books in between reading this one. Witty and made me laugh a lot! I can’t wait to get into the rest of the series.

The Winter Seeking by Vinita Hampton Wright (3 stars)

— Interesting novella about a young woman studying Mary (the mother of Jesus). She writes a story as if she were friends with Mary throughout her life. Unique, but not super captivating.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (3.5 stars)

— About a girl who can taste emotions in the food people make. She tastes her mom’s loneliness and discontentment in the lemon cake she bakes for her 8th birthday. Started out good, but I felt lost as the book went on and I’m still not sure what actually happened.

Gossamer by Lois Lowry (4 stars)

— Quick read for kids. About the little creatures who plant dreams in sleeping people’s head and the fight against the bad ones who plant nightmares. It was cute.

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (4.5 stars)

— About a girl born in India who was supposed to be killed just for being a girl. Her mother sneaks her away to an orphanage and she is adopted by an Indian couple living in America. A good read, and interesting (a little bit depressing) look at Indian culture.

His Banner Over Me by Jean Little (4 stars)

— Children’s book based on the life of Jean Little’s mother. Good read, I’d guess kids age 8-12 or so would enjoy it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (5 stars)

— I’ve read this a few times, but it’s always 5 stars in my book.

(What I’m Reading Now)

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

(Yet To Get To)

Mockingjay (#3 of The Hunger Games )
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Home by Toni Morrison
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A Light in the Window by Jan Karon

(What I Gave Up On)

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

— I read about 3/4 of the way through and still felt like the story hadn’t started yet.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

— I admit that I only read about 4 pages, but it bored me and I had more interesting books to read!