Saturday, February 11, 2017

Review: Our Chemical Hearts

Our Chemical Hearts
by Krystal Sutherland
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication date: October 4, 2016
Published by: Hot Key Books
Paperback, 313 pages
My rating: 4.5/5 ★

'I always thought the moment you met the love of your life would be more like the movies...'

Henry Page is a film buff and a hopeless romantic. He's waiting for that slo-mo, heart-palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's seen in the movies. So the last person he expects to fall in love with is Grace.

Grace Town is not your normal leading lady. She dresses in oversized men's clothing, smells like she hasn't washed in weeks and walks with a cane. She's nobody's idea of a dream girl, but Henry can't stop thinking about her.

There's something broken about Grace; a small part of her soul is cracked from the secrets in her past. Henry wants nothing more than to put her back together again, but will she let him.

John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this heartbreaking tale of bittersweet first love.

Our Chemical Hearts was a beautiful and heartbreaking story. There are so many aspects of this book that I loved, so I've compiled a little list to get my thoughts organized:
  • FRIENDSHIP - Henry, Lola and Murray share this wonderful, close friendship that was basically the backbone of the entire story. Especially Lola was such a fantastic friend to Henry throughout the entire story, and I loved to see her always be there for him and, most of all, be (sometimes brutally) honest with him. Our Chemical Hearts captures the importance of friendship incredibly well, something I feel is too often sacrificed for romance in YA.
  • FAMILY - Henry's parents and sister also played an important and realistic role in the story. They were there, supportive, and hilarious to read about.
  • LOVE - The love story in this book is far from perfect. At times it was just your regular cute story of two teenagers falling for each other, but mostly it was very hard to read. It made me angry, and it was so unfair. It kind of broke my heart to read this book from Henry's perspective, but all of this together made the love feel very real to me. Aside from the 'main' romance, there are also a couple of side stories that were just as precious to me. All stages of falling in love and being in a relationship were very realistically captured in different characters, and it was both beautiful and sad.
  • LOSS - I've known this about myself before, but stories about loss always really get to me, and Our Chemical Hearts was no exception. The way the subject was portrayed in this book was very different from other books I've read. It was heartbreaking and unhealthy, and there wasn't really a silver lining to it. All I can say is that my heart is broken.
  • HEARTBREAK - We get so many stories of falling in love and how wonderful it is, but what if it doesn't work out? This is a topic I haven't really read about before, and I thought the feeling was captured incredibly well in this book. I'm also grateful that Krystal Sutherland had the courage to do something different int his regard, because I absolutely loved it.

"John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this heartbreaking tale of bittersweet first love" - I don't think a sentence has ever summarized a book this accurately before. Our Chemical Hearts made me smile, laugh out loud, and cry a lot, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

January 2017 Wrap-Up

I haven't done a wrap-up in forever but it's a new year, so why not pick it back up again. Wrap-ups are some of my favorite posts to do, so I really don't know why I ever stopped uploading them.

What I Read

I finished four books in January, which is a little less than I expected to read but I'm okay with it.
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo, 3/5 ★
  • This book took me over two months to read, and I definitely kind of lost interest in the middle and was bored enough to put it down and pick up other books in between. This was redeemed by the ending though, when the story really picked up again and I was completely sucked back in.

  • Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, 5/5 ★
  • This was such a positive surprise to me and overall just a great New Adult book. The main characters were very mature and there wasn't a lot of drama, which was so refreshing and amazing to read about. There are some very graphic scenes so I'd definitely make sure you're okay with that before going into this.

  • Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo, 4.5/5 ★
  • This is by far my favorite book in the series and I was so happy at how much I enjoyed reading it. The story was action-packed and emotional and definitely made me feel a lot of feels. There are some things that I found could've been done better (and characters that deserved better in my opinion), but overall I really fell in love with this book and I finally cared about the characters and it was just great.

  • Amour Amour by Krista and Becca Ritchie, 4/5 ★
  • This was another great read and Krista and Becca Ritchie have definitely secured their place among my favorite New Adult authors. Their books are just alway so unique, and this one was no exception. I fell in love with the circus atmosphere, and it was really interesting to get the behind-the-scenes insight into it all. And then there's a whole set of unique, authentic and well developed characters, and the family dynamics between them was probably my favorite part of this story.

What I Bought

I spent over a week in London in January, which obviously resulted in me buying way more books than I usually would. There are just English books everywhere, how am I supposed to resist? I also started counting in the ebooks I buy, which also hasn't helped my plan to reduce my TBR. 

That's it! What's your favorite book you read last month?

Friday, January 13, 2017

2017 Reading Goals

I know, I know, 2017 already started so once again I am late with this post. I hadn't actually planned on doing this but in the last few days I've thought of a few things I want to make an effort to change this year reading-wise, so why not sum it all up in a 2017 reading goals post?

First off, I have set my goodreads reading goal to be 50 books this year, which is less than the past few years, but I want an achievable goal for 2017 that doesn't stress me out the entire time. It would definitely be nice to never see 14 books behind schedule on my goodreads this year. I also don't want to have to lower it like I had to do in 2016, because that's just disappointing. I felt like 50 books was achievable while still being a little bit of a challenge.

I have also compiled a list of 8 books I want to read this year:
  • The Last Star by Rick Yancey, because I need to finish this series.
  • Ruined by Amy Tintera, because this was the first book of many I received in a Fairyloot box and I haven't read a single one of them.
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, because I'm curious to see whether this will live up to the hype.
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, because I want to give Patrick Ness another chance.
  • The Archived by Victoria Schwab, because I love every single one of Schwab's books so why haven't I read this one yet?
  • Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo, because I read the first two books in this series and I finally want it to get really awesome.
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia, because there's too much YA fantasy on this list (and this cover is gorgeous).
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, because there's too much YA on this list.

Another thing I want to accomplish is to read 15 books off of my current TBR. There are just too many books that I've owned for a long time and actually really want to read but never do. I always get way too caught up in the excitement around new releases, and while that's okay too, I want to make an effort to read books that I've had for a while too.

That's it! What are some of your reading goals for this year?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: The Sun is Also a Star

by Nicola Yoon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publication date: November 3, 2016
Published by: Corgi Childrens
Paperback, 348 pages
My rating: 4.5/5 ★

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

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

The Sun is Also a Star turned out to be everything I had hoped it would be: a cute contemporary romance that went deeper than just two teenagers falling in love. 

The story of Natasha and David takes place in only one day, and while I think this really helped emphasize the seriousness of Natasha's situation (i.e. trying to do anything to not have to leave the country), it did make the romance aspect of the story a little too instalovey for me. Since this is really the only aspect of this whole book that I had slight problems with, I want to get it out of the way now: I am not a fan of instalove, and I do not believe that falling in love in one day is possible. But I will say that reading this book made me question this view a little. The way Natasha and David meet, and especially the way David is absolutely convinced from the beginning that they are meant to be together, definitely made me want to believe it too. So while two people falling in love in such a short period of time would usually ruin a book for me, with The Sun is Also a Star, it only made me take off a half star. That's how well written this book was. It definitely did make me feel all the feels, so there's no need to deny that I enjoyed the romance even if it all happens in one day.

My favorite part of the story was without a doubt the cultural aspects, even more so the dynamics of both Natasha's and David's family. I don't want to give anything away by talking about it, but let me just say that I was deeply impressed with how the topic of immigration and especially second-generation immigrants was presented. This story especially made me understand the perspective of David's parents who came to America for their children to have better lives, which I thought was extremely interesting.

Overall I think this book is extremely well written, and the way it's told from various different points of view made it even more special and unique. I also especially loved the ending, which was a very positive surprise for me as I hadn't liked the ending of Nicola Yoon's first book, Everything, Everything, very much. 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone! If you, like me, can't usually deal with instalove, I'd still say give this book a go, and try to look over this fact in order to see the by far more important and (in my opinion) extremely enjoyable and interesting aspects of this story.

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.