Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review: Holding Up the Universe

by Jennifer Niven
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication date: October 4, 2016
Published by: Penguin Books UK
Ebook, 400 pages
My rating: 3.5/5 ★

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy 
in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed 'America's Fattest Teen'. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum's death, she's been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby's ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER.

I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone. Until he meets Libby.

When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world - theirs and yours.

Overall, this was an incredibly cute story about learning to love who you are, and also falling in love with someone else. It had some very positive aspects, but I still can't say that it's one of my new favorite books.

First of all, let's talk about the characters. I liked both of the main characters a lot. Jack is the popular guy who's actually really insecure on the inside, and Libby the outsider who's actually very confident and strong. I admired Libby for how she stood up for herself and how she handled her past that was always threatening to pull her back down. But most of all, I enjoyed reading about Jack and his struggle with prosopagnosia. Learning about his condition is definitely what stayed with me the most when I wasn't reading the book, and it kept me thinking and trying to imagine how life must be for Jack. 

The story itself was cute, but also way over the top in my opinion. The romance was fortunately very subtle and well developed, which I absolutely loved. The characters' feelings seemed to develop over a reasonable amount of time, and what I liked most is that it wasn't this big deal when they discovered their feelings. As for the other aspects of the story, it was all too dramatic for my taste. I just can't deal with these public, out-there proclamations and actions, and I also struggle to identify with characters whose thoughts seem way too big for their age, etc., and this book unfortunately had all of that. I'm not saying that's entirely bad, or that I hated that, because I still enjoyed reading the book; it just kept me from really connecting to the characters and the story, and it would have definitely taken that connection to make this a 5 star raving review.

Another thing that I struggled with at first was the pacing of the story. There were a lot of jumps between what seemed like random scenes and flashbacks to the past, and we never really got to see anything play out. I don't know if that actually changed in the second half of the book or if I just got used to it, but I felt like towards the end there was more of a story with a natural flow and progression, which made it a lot easier to follow.

So overall I can say that if you're looking for a cute, well developed contemporary romance with interesting and likable characters, go read this book! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Review: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1)

by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication date: June 5, 2012
Published by: Henry Holt and Company
Hardcover, 356 pages
My rating: 3.5/5 ★

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

I enjoyed this first book of the Grisha trilogy, but I have to say that it didn't blow me away. I am interested to continue with the series, though, so that's good.

I had two main (though altogether still rather small) issues with this book, which I think kept me from falling completely in love with it. First of all, there are a lot of 'technical terms' with regard to the magic system, which made it pretty difficult to get into the story and the world. I still don't fully understand the whole system, and I definitely don't understand what exactly the different 'types' of Grisha do. I'm hoping that this will become clearer in the next books.

The second thing was the writing. I have heard a lot of people rave about Leigh Bardugo's writing, which makes me think that maybe the 'problem' I had with it is only in the first book. But to me, the story didn't have a very great flow. The important things happened too abruptly in my opinion, where I would have wanted the scene to be fleshed out a little more. All in all this made me feel more distanced from the story, and I definitely didn't get as invested with the characters as I would have liked. Also, none of the romance scenes made me feel anything at all, which is pretty disappointing for me.

I really hope to get more into the story and the characters in the next book!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: The Crown (The Selection #5)

This is the fifth book in the series and might contain spoilers for the previous books!

The Crown
by Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #5
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Romance
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Published by: HarperTeen
Paperback, 278 pages
My rating: 2/5 ★
When Eadlyn became the first princess of IllĂ©a to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

Unfortunately, The Crown did not live up to my expectations at all. Especially considering that the story actually ended the way I had hoped it would after The Heir, I am very disappointed to say that I didn't like this book. Eadlyn ends up with the guy I had secretly hoped she would while reading the previous book, yes, but by the time she decides she was in love with him, there was actually a different, much better choice. 

The first half of the book was actually pretty good. I was enjoying myself until about the last 100 pages, but then it went downhill really, really fast. The ending was essentially just one big rush of huge revelations. There was so much important information dumped on the reader without that it had been previously hinted at or really explained at all.

The plot in general and especially the romance (if one can call it that) was very, very rushed. There are two books centred around Eadlyn falling in love and in the end there wasn't any room to actually develop it? This was definitely the biggest disappointment for me. It had been going so well for so long: Eadlyn getting to know the boys and starting to like them for different reasons, it all felt really natural. But then this life-changing second happened (well, nothing actually happened) and destroyed it all. I had such high hopes for a well developed, slow-burn romance, but then Eadlyn literally fell in love in a single moment. First she talks about liking all the boys and not knowing what love even means, and then suddenly she's throwing around words like 'soulmate'. Wait, what? 

I've read and enjoyed four books by Kiera Cass, but this one just didn't work for me. Even the writing seemed rushed. The dialogues especially felt forced to me, so that even though I actually liked some of the quotes, I was just rolling my eyes because they were too 'big' and didn't fit the situation at all. Conversation didn't flow naturally, and that is something that always throws me off in books. 

Overall, it just felt like Kiera Cass wanted to get this book over with. I don't really mean that because I know how much work goes into writing a book, but in my opinion, The Crown doesn't compare to the other books of the series at all. It's a very weak ending to what I found a very fun and entertaining series. 

As I said, I'm very disappointed. Considering how short this book is, I feel like there would have been so much room to flush out the story more, give it more depth and develop the characters and especially the relationship further.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

U.S. West Coast Road Trip

Well, hello there! Do you still know who I am? No? Well, it has been over two months! Once again, university has taken over my life for the past few weeks, but my exams are over and I am back. Well, I am leaving again this Saturday, but that shouldn't affect this blog. Hopefully. I have one post scheduled and that's quite the achievement for me, so be proud.

Anyway, today I want to talk about what I'll be doing the next three weeks, because I'm going on HOLIDAYS. I'm going on a road trip in the U.S. with two of my friends! Now that we have finally managed to book all our hotels etc., I am relaxed enough to actually talk about the trip. We have a pretty packed program and there will be lots and lots of driving, but I can't wait to see all of the things!

So we are flying out to Las Vegas on July 16 where we will stay for two nights. I'm not sure what to expect in Las Vegas, and I'm pretty sure it won't be my favorite place in the world, but it felt like we just had to include it in our trip.

We are then going to visit a number of national parks in the area, namely Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon and Grand Canyon. This is where we'll do most of the driving, as we only planned to stay at these places for one night each (except Grand Canyon with two nights). I am super excited to see these places, as the landscapes will be entirely different from what I'm used to here in Switzerland. The only problem: the heat. I don't think mid-July is the best time to travel into the desert, but oh well.

From Grand Canyon, we will drive down to Palm Springs and then San Diego, where we will again be staying for (only) two nights. Next up is Los Angeles (of course!) for two nights and then we'll make our way up to San Francisco, where we will be staying for three nights. This is probably the part of our adventure that I'm most excited about. These are cities that I've seen in movies and read about and I can't wait to see them in real life. I really hope my expectations aren't too high!

Overall, I think we probably have a little too much planned, but we just wanted to get to see as much as possible. Because of this, we of course have to make the absolute best of our time in all of these places. That's super difficult in my opinion because the more I research a city for example, the more things I discover that I feel like I absolutely need to see, and we definitely don't have time for everything.

This is where you might be able to help me: Have you ever been to any of these places? If so, what's something we absolutely have to see or do? Any suggestions or tips will be much appreciated, since we are leaving on Saturday and don't really know anything about anything. We're a very organized bunch as you can see. I am super excited (if a little nervous) though, so I'm sure that makes up for all the lack of planning. Somehow.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

April 2016 Wrap-Up

Hello there and happy May! Let's have a look at what I read and bought last month, shall we?

What I Read

  • The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski, 5/5 ★
  • This one was the perfect ending to an even more perfect trilogy. If you haven't read The Winner's Curse yet, what are you even doing?

  • The Score by Elle Kennedy, 3/5 ★
  • After such an epic fantasy book, I needed some light reading, and this one worked wonderfully for that. New Adult is my go-to genre when I need to stop thinking and just read, and Elle Kennedy has managed to keep my eye-rolling at a minimum with her Off-Campus companion series.

  • The Heir by Kiera Cass, 4/5 ★
  • This was definitely the biggest surprise for me this month. I went into this book with pretty low expectations, and they were far exceeded! Here's my full review.

  • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab, 5/5 ★
  • This book blew me away. I still think about it all the time, and it's given me the worst book hangover. Nothing will ever live up to the awesomeness that was this book. I attempted to write a coherent review, but mostly just shouted how much I loved EVERYTHING.

  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, 3/5 
  • Unfortunately, this book didn't really meet my expectations. I wrote a full review for this one as well.

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik, 5/5 ★
  • This was all around great. Beautiful writing, gripping plot, complex characters and a unique, rather dark feel to the whole story - it definitely lived up to the hype for me!

What I Bought

That's it! What are some new additions to your bookshelf? 
Any new favorites you discovered this month?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything
by Nicola Yoon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication date: September 1, 2015
Published by: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 306 pages
My rating: 3/5 ★

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

This book got quite a lot of hype when it was released last year and so my expectations had been pretty high. Unfortunately, I have to say I was a little underwhelmed by the story. There were some things that I really loved, such as the writing and the unique format of the book with its illustrations, etc. I also pretty much flew through it, so I can't say that it didn't get me hooked. 

So why didn't I give it a higher rating? Everything, Everything is a pretty short book, and that was very noticeable for me while reading. I wish the characters were more fleshed out and the story better developed. A lot of times, things happened very abruptly and there would definitely have been room for more of a build-up for the big moments of the story.

The plot also really didn't make sense to me. I realize that a fictional story doesn't have to be logical or anything but for example a lot of aspects of Maddy's sickness weren't really explained. There are some people that are allowed to touch her, others aren't. When her teacher comes to visit her he has to go through decontamination but I don't think her mom or nurse do. I would have needed more information to actually buy the story, but before I really got to know anything or anyone, it was already over.

I can't really talk about one of my main reasons for not loving the book without spoiling anything, so only click below if you read the book!

View/Hide Spoiler

As I said, Nicola Yoon's writing is one of the things I really loved. It was light and easy to read but there are also some very quotable lines in the book. I'm definitely interested in reading more by this author, even though Everything, Everything wasn't quite what I had hoped it would be. I'm a huge fan of books written in letter, e-mail or IM format, so Yoon definitely made a fan by including all of that.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Review: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)

This is the second book in the series and might contain spoilers for the previous book!

A Gathering of Shadows
by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #2
Genre: Fantasy
Publication date: February 23, 2016
Published by: Tor Books
Hardcover, 512 pages
My rating: 5/5 ★

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

WOW! This book was amazing! I definitely enjoyed the first book in the series but this one was so much better! While ADSOM was a rather slow read for me, I couldn't put this one down. The emotional involvement (aka feels) I didn't really have with the first book was overpowering in AGOS. The whole book was absolutely perfect.

First and foremost, I adore all the characters.

Lila is reckless and sometimes stupidly so, and even though she is completely different from me personally, I felt like I understood her so well. All the things she's running from, her trust issues, her fears - they felt very authentic. I'm really impressed by the long way she's come and am very much looking forward to seeing what development she will go through in the next book. There were moments when I thought 'Oh Lila, what are you doing?' but I was never annoyed with her thoughtless actions. Lila is overall a really fascinating character and the relationships she's building with the other characters are giving me LIFE.

Speaking of which, Kell and Lila are my favorite thing ever. Their relationship is incredibly well developed. I loved their comradery in the first book but I love where it is headed even more. It is so well written and absolutely perfectly paced. Their stubbornness when it comes to deliberately not thinking about the other person fits their characters so perfectly and it makes my heart sing.

Kell himself is another very complex and interesting character that I absolutely love to read about. He is in a very difficult situation throughout the book as he doesn't really know where he belongs and has the most conflicted feelings. His internal conflicts were portrayed perfectly. All his thoughts made so much sense to me and I really hope we (and he himself) learn more about him and his past in the next book.

As to Rhy and Alucard, I can't wait for more of both of them. Alucard is such a fantastic addition to the already amazing set of characters in this series and he might actually be my new favorite. I see great things in his future!

I honestly can't put the amazingness that is this book into words. I would tell you to read it, because you definitely should, but I don't want to be responsible for anyone's death-by-bookwait because that ending killed me.