Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication date: March 7, 2017
Published by: Clarion Books
eARC, 464 pages
My rating: 5/5 ★

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

The first day of senior year:
Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.
Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is an all around beautiful story about about grief, loss and getting to know oneself, but also the value of friendship and family through it all. After how much I loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, this book had a lot to live up to, and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.

First of all, the writing. It is beautiful. The way Benjamin Alire Saenz writes seems very matter-of-fact and like there's not much emotion there, with very short sentences and chapters. And while you would expect to feel totally detached from the characters and the story because of it, that's not true at all. I teared up multiple times while reading this because the writing is so raw and somehow makes up for the lack of emotion in describing by making the reader feel all the emotions twice as heavily. I honestly can't explain it, but it is wonderful.

Then there are the characters. The friendship between our protagonist, Salvador, and his best friend Samantha is one of my favorite I've ever read about. They have this incredibly close connection, and the way they talk with each other and treat each other is often hilarious but also so honest and heart-warming. It is clear in every single one of their actions how deeply they care for each other and it was wonderful to see them support each other throughout the many challenges they faced throughout this book. 

There is also Salvador's other friend, Fito, who is on his own already an incredibly complex and unique character. Fito had a lot to deal with in his life, and his friendship with Salvador gets closer and closer throughout this book, and I'm almost tempted to say that I liked it even more than what Salvador had with Samantha. Because as opposed to Salvador and Samantha having been very close all their lives, we actually get to follow the friendship between Salvador and Fito develop throughout the book, so we basically get two views on friendship, which was amazing. If for no other reason, you should absolutely read this book for the amazing portrayal of friendship.

But of course, there is also the family aspect. Salvador lives with his gay Mexican adoptive father and has a very close relationship with both him and his grandmother. There are also quite a few aunts and uncles, and altogether they make this big, loving family that was just pretty amazing to read about. Salvador's struggles in this regard when it comes to feeling like he belongs or accepting changes in the life he knows were very relatable. Even though his happy family life was in stark contrast to other people's situations portrayed throughout the book, he still had issues to work through.

Overall, this book was just incredibly beautiful. I 100% recommend it because of the friendships, the family dynamics and the beautiful writing. There is, however, not much plot. We mostly just follow Salvador's daily life while he works through his issues. But I still loved it. There was so much going on on the inside that there was no need for epic adventurous tales. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

February 2017 Wrap-Up

February has been an amazing reading month for me, so please prepare for a long post. It's been a long time since I read this many books in a month, and on top of that I loved almost all the books I picked up. But without further ado, let's get into the wrap-up.

Books I Read

I read 11 books in February, which surprised me quite a bit when I went back and counted them. For a change, this month didn't go by as quickly as the months usually seem to, and as a result, I feel like the beginning of the month (and with it the first books I read this month) was ages ago. So here's what I read:

  • Infini (Aerial Etherial #2) by Krista and Becca Ritchie, 4/5 ★
  • This book didn't disappoint, and I ended up enjoying it about as much as I did the first book. I love the family dynamics and the circus atmosphere in both of the Aerial Etherial books, but I will say that the romance in this one didn't really pull me in. I didn't feel for Luka and Baylee as much as I could have, but for all the other aspects of the story, I still loved this book and I really hope there will be another one in this series (preferably about Dimitri). 

  • The Hook Up (Game On #1) by Kristen Callihan, DNF at 15%
  • I decided to give up on this one very early on because it just wasn't for me. The characters and the story were so one-dimensional, and it just wasn't worth it to push through in my opinion. 

  • Next to Never (Fall Away #4.5) by Penelope Douglas, 3/5 
  • This was a little disappointing as I went into it expecting it to be something different. It's definitely my own fault as reading the synopsis would have cleared up my misconception. But still, this story felt a little unnecessary. I'm honestly not sure whether I really want to read the future books in this series. Somehow, seeing my beloved characters of the previous books as (very controlling) parents didn't really work for me. 

  • Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland, 5/5 
  • This book was a very positive surprise for me. It dealt with a lot of different aspects in unique ways and was overall such a well written and thought out book. I wrote a full review here in case you are interested in more of my thoughts. 

  • Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo, 5/5 
  • The hype surrounding this book was humongous, and I was so happy to see the book totally live up to it. My favorite part of this story are of course the characters, each so unique and human that you can't help but fall in love with them and their quest. I also adored Leigh Bardugo's writing in this one and there were so many quotable quotes that I couldn't help but write down and hope that someone someday makes fan art that I can hang on my walls of all of them. 

  • Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo, 5/5 
  • Other than the fact that I would have needed a LOT of epilogue, I loved this book just as much as the first. I don't even know what else to say other than this series has a special place in my heart and I will definitely want to revisit it again and again. I still think about it a lot and it gives me all the warm fuzzies. 

  • The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen, 4/5 
  • After finishing an epic fantasy series, I often feel the need to pick up New Adult books as they are quick and easy to read. In this case, I was lucky enough to pick one that I really enjoyed and didn't make me roll my eyes once (which I don't think has ever happened before with a NA book). Overall, this was very well written, and to my delight, there was almost no drama at all which is always so refreshing with this genre. 

  • The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years #2) by Sarina Bowen, 2.5/5 
  • As always when I discover a new NA series that I really enjoy, I basically have to binge-read the whole thing. This time, unfortunately, the second book wasn't as good as the first, mostly because it featured a lot more of that drama that I was so glad was missing from the first book. But still: very likable characters and good chemistry. But what also really bothered me is how Scarlet's situation regarding her father's trial etc. was portrayed. There was such a great opportunity to speak on a topic I have never heard about before in books, and instead of actually exploring it, the author seemed to just take the easy way out. 

  • Blonde Date (The Ivy Years #2.5) by Sarina Bowen, 4/5 
  • This was a fun and cute novella, and I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Andrew was such sweetheart and I couldn't help but root for him. 

  • The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3) by Sarina Bowen, 4/5 
  • This book portrayed the topic of coming out really well in my opinion. I've read a few LGBT books before, but this one was different from all of those, and I really appreciated Sarina Bowen's take on this topic. This is still a NA book, and I think the author managed to stay within that genre really well while also making the story meaningful (which is not something I usually expect from New Adult books). 

  • A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab, reread
  • I reread this one in preparation for A Conjuring of Light (which I have just finished and I basically died of awesomeness). I wrote a review for it the first time I read it, which you can find here. My thoughts are mainly the same, namely that this book is perfection and you need to read it. 

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling, reread
  • This was also a reread for me, but this time (and I'm actually a little embarrassed to say this) I read it to my boyfriend over Skype. That's probably the cheesiest thing we have ever done, but I would do anything to get him to read, so no regrets. 

New Books

So while I did read a lot of books in February, I also got almost as many new books, which kind of defeats the purpose with regard to lowering my TBR. But what can you do? At least, most of these are books I also already read this month.

That's it! What did you read this month?

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!