Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (#25) - Top Ten Books That I Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS From The Last Three Years

It was surprisingly difficult to pick just ten books, but here they are, in no particular order.

1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote ~ This books blew my mind in so many different ways and made me incredibly interested about the true crime genre.
This one is a classic for a reason!

2. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord ~ though I loved Lord's debut novel 'Open Road Summer', I found myself enjoying this one even more! It will be published at the end of March and I think you all should add it to your TBRs.

3. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson ~ This one was so incredibly touching and real and just a rollercoaster ride for my emotions. A perfect contemporary read!

4. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover ~ probably the best new adult book I've read! This onw definitely gave me all the feels!

5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell ~ once in a while, you find books that you can really identify with. For me, Fangirl was a book like that!

6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ~ so imaginative, addicting and fast-paced! One of the coolest books I've read and it's filled with awesome references to movies and games.

7. Anna and the French Kiss trilogy by Stephanie Perkins ~ all the three books! It was impossible for me to pick just one! If you have read these books, you'll understand why.

8. Yes Please by Amy Poehler ~ no way I could make this list without including the book written by Queen Poehler. Hilarious, witty and full of laughs and wisdom.

9. Columbine by Dave Cullen ~ an incredibly well detailed, researched and touching book about the Columbine school shootings!

10. Saga (vol 1-3) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples ~ funny, imaginative, action-packed. I really need to get my hands on vol 4. Saga has made me super interested about graphic novels in general! 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Release Date: January 28, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Age group: YA
Pages: 342
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.


I remember seeing this book around a lot around the time it was released. I added it to my Goodreads TBR back then, thinking that I must get it to my hands instantly. But once it was released and more and more reviews gave it only a so-so rating, I kind of forgot it. Now that the second book in the series is close to publication, I finally thought it would be a time to read this one.

Cruel Beauty fits into the category of fairytale retellings that just seems to grow and grow. Knowing that this one was claimed as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite fairytales of all time, my expectations were pretty high. Before starting this, I was hoping for a kickass main character, a problematic love interest and some awesome magic. The beginning of the book promised so much, but as the novel processed, I unfortunately found myself enjoying the story less and less, as a result of which my overall opinion about this book is just... meh. I didn't hate it, but I did not really like or love it either.

The main character Nyx has been raised to marry a monster. Before she was born, her father made a deal with the Gentle Lord, a demon of bargains, and promised that when his wife gives birth to twin girls, he will give the other one as a wife to the Gentle Lord when the girl turns 17. So when the girls were born and their mother lost her life in childbirth, Nyx was sacrified and raised to become the wife to the man everyone in Arcadia feared. On her 17th birthday, she is married to the demon and taken to the castle – she is prepared to suffer for the rest of her life, but she is also determined to avenge her mother's death and destroy the Gentle Lord in the process.

The way Hodge first establishes Nyx made me really excited about this novel. Nyx is not one of those innocent, clueless girls that suddenly finds about her destiny. Rather, she has been raised to become a killer of a monster – she's bitter and finds her father's decision unjust, but she also knows her destiny and her status as the only hope of Arcadia. When she goes to the castle of the Gentle Lord, she is prepared to hate him, to struggle through the motions of marriage just to fulfil her destiny. But when she realizes that The Gentle Lord, Ignifex, is not what she expected, her mission gets more complicated.

The one thing that I really found myself struggling with is the fact that it feels like Hodge had felt forced to insert some sort of love triangle into the story. Rather than just focusing on the relationship between Nyx and Ignifex, a third guy Shade, a shadow of Ignifex and a servant to him was inserted into the story. Whereas Ignifex was supposed to be this dark, mysterious figure, Shade is portrayed as a somewhat righteous, wronged man, an ally for Nyx. Love triangles work sometimes and really add something to the story, but in this case, this whole situation just felt so incredibly forced and as the story processes, it got more and more difficult for me to go on with it.

I am not really a high fantasy reader and do not require 100 pages of world-building, but still, some of it would be nice! I am kind of sad that Hodge had not developed the premise of this world more – there are glimpses of interesting things there, but they are not really developed... AT ALL. The whole Hermetic magic aspect feels so underdeveloped that for most of the time I had no idea what was going on. How does this magic work? What is it's purpose? How does the magic of the Gentle Lord work? Towards the end of the novel, I a list of so many questions in my head and unfortunately most of them were left unanswered. The only reason I am really considering reading the second book is the fact that I want to see whether Hodge has developed her world-building skills.

For someone looking for mainly relationship focused, kind of soapy read set in a fantasy setting, Cruel Beauty is a good pick. If you are looking for a well-build fantasy world, I suggest that you pick something else.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Book Review: William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope (William Shakespeare's Star Wars #1) by Ian Doescher

Release Date: July 2nd, 2013
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Quirk Books
Age group: Adult
Pages: 174
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Rating: 4/5

Description (from Goodreads):

Inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in the English language—and William Shakespeare—here is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas's epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying...pretty much everything.

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations—William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.


Star Wars and William Shakespeare together? COUNT ME IN!

Ian Doescher has done something that should have been done years ago (maybe someone has done it before, but this is the first time I have come across it). The film, Star Wars is familiar to us all, usually even to people who have not seen the film. And of course, everyone should know who Shakespeare is. 

Loyal to the style of Shakespeare and his plays, the story is told in iambic pentameter, thus making the dialogue of the original movie fit to the Elizabethan time period. There are also some pretty kickass illustrations in the novel, my favorite being one in which Luke holds a Storm Trooper helmet (like Hamlet holding a skull). 

There is a book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell some of you might be familiar with. Basically it is a discussion about the theory of the journey the archetypal heroes go through in different mythologies. After researching these different hero journeys, Campbell came up with the definition called monomyth, which he summarized by saying : "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."  While forming this theory Campbell looked into the work of Freud (Oedipus complex) and Jung, for example. But other important source of Campbell were the stories and mythologies found around the work, including the works of Shakespeare - Hamlet was among his list of archetypal heroes mentioned.

The death of innocents doth bring me joy,
Because the dark side is my chosen path,
The senseless end of others pains me not.
For I have play'd the part of judge severe
And then have been the executioner
Why would I care for those on Alderaan,
When I have murder'd innocents as they?
'This my dark calling, which I do embrace
To Alderaan we fly on course direct,
And to this feast of death I'll not object.

When making Star Wars, George Lucas was intentionally using Campbell's theory of monomyth. Thus the link is established - Shakespeare wrote plays with archetypal characters, Campbell researched them and then Lucas used Campbell's theories to write the characters to Star Wars. Thus, the characters and the relationships found from Star Wars fit perfectly to the format of a Shakespeare play. There is the difficult father/son relationship between Darth Vader and Luke which can be found also from for example Hamlet (and also The Tempest, but in that case it is between a daughter and father). In Shakespeare's plays the villains are also usually very easy to identify, like Sith Lords, and they are usually purely evil - examples of this are for example Iago from Othello. There are also shared themes between Star Wars and Shakespeare's plays - for example Macbeth is also about the desire for power and the actions of fate and destiny.

"Thou shalt not label me
A mindless, brute philosopher! Nay, nay,
Thou overladen glob of grease, thou imp
Thou rubbish bucket fit for scrap, thou blue
And silver pile of bantha dung! Now, come,
And get thee hence away lest someone sees." 

What I usually love most about Shakespeare plays are the interesting side characters, such as Caliban from The Tempest. These side characters usually bring humor to the play or somehow comment on the actions taken by the other characters, making it easier for the people to follow the events that are taking place. In Shakespeare's Star Wars, 3-CPO and R2-D2 are the observant side characters who comment on the events in a very humoristic manner. Obi -Wan Kenobi is an interesting one because at first he is the mentor and the wise man (almost like Prospero from The Tempest), but later on he becomes the haunting, advice giving ghost who reaches the hero (like Hamlet's father). 

I have done some research about the Elizabethan staging conventions for university and I was glad to find some links to those from Doescher's work. The characters talk "aside", which means that despite the fact that they are in close proximity to the characters they are talking about, their words are only heard about the audience - this is a convention that was familiar to the Elizabethan audiences and using it, Doescher adds a bit more credibility to his work. There are also monologues and soliloquies which are also widely used in Shakespeare's writing. The different elements of the set are also mentioned in the dialogue because the sets of Shakespeare plays were usually limited to only a couple of key items such as the throne which established a king from the other members of the cast. In this case, the small items mentioned were ones such as light sabers and Darth Vader's helmet. 

A must read for every Star Wars/Shakespeare enthusiast.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (#20): Future Perfect by Jen Larsen (October 6, 2015 by HarperTeen)

"Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating."

For more information, click here

Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.

Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is.
But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.

As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?

Through her indecisions and doubts, Ashley’s story is a liberating one—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.
   This one sounds AWESOME! 
 What are you waiting for this week?  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (#24): Favorite Heroines

For more information, click here.

1. Elizabeth Bennet  - I think Elizabeth is one of the first fictional characters I have ever identified with. I was very young when I was first introduced to P&P and since then I have felt a connection towards her. She's witty, confident and a bit stubborn, but she also tries to acknowledge her flaws, which is something that I think we all should aspire for.

2. Cress - Though I love both Cinder and Scarlet, I have found myself connecting to the largest extent with Cress. Though I don't see much of myself in her, I love her as a character - yes, she is vulnerable, but she is also extremely strong. And she's just so wonderfully awkward (which is something I can totally connect with!)

3. Hermione Granger - Oh Hermione! I grew up with you. I love you! 

4. Mia Thermopolis - Mia is one of those characters who along Hermione were there with me while growing up. I love her awkwardness and her sense of humor. And yeah, I kind of love Josh too.

5. Cath - The moment I really got into Fangirl, I felt such a connection with the book and with the main character Cath. I have SUCKED with adjusting to college (it's my final year now and I still don't feel like myself in this place) and I was really able to identify with Cath's struggle. Too bad I haven't found my own Levi.

6. Tina Fey - Okay, not a fictional character, but a real life heroine! This woman changed SNL for the better! She is funny, does not really care what other's think about her, and in general, she just kicks butt! 

7. Katniss Everdeen - She's strong, brave, caring and just generally a really good, realistic heroine! 

8. Lorelai Gilmore - Perhaps not a book character, but nevertheless a super awesome lady! Though I love Rory, I have always identified more with Lorelai and her sense of humor. I also love her confidence and wish that I would possess a similar level of confidence.

9. Jane Eyre - Though her situation is not one I would want to find myself from, I love how she copes with it and how she grows as a person. She has been dealt a bad hand, but she tries her best to find some sort of happiness, which she eventually really gets and deserves.

10. Amy Poehler - ALL HAIL THE QUEEN! If I were to worship a human being, it would be this lady. She's my hero, my inspiration and constant source of joy for me. I have so much love and appreciation for this woman it's insane.

My MOM! My nm. 1 heroine ALWAYS!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas

Release date: December 9, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Harper Teen
Age group: YA
Pages: 289
Buy the book: Amazon

Description (from Goodreads):

Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day

5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market

4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi

3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm

2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)

1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees—of stealing upwards of $10,000

Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.

Before I started to read this book, I had seen it being compared to the classic 1980s teen drama The Breakfast Club, directed by the iconic John Hughes. The more I read this book, the more I started to see the connection. It is obvious that it takes a lot to reach the level of geniousness Hughes reached, but I think that for the fans of the film (which is something I would identify myself as), this book is a funny, quick and pretty cute read.

The main character of this novel, Chloe, is bit of an outsider. She is fairly new to her school, a bit shy and just in general feels like she does not exactly fit in. She is obsessed with making lists and feels like sometimes the obsession might be a problem – instead of living her life and gaining new experiences, she makes lists, some important, some just completely random. She works in a local supermarket, crushes over her co-worker Tyson and hopes to find something that would not only connect her with Tyson, but also with her other co-workers.

It is Christmas eve and Chloe has been scheduled to work. Alongside her are a big group of other employees, but the book really focuses on the group of teenagers working in the story, which includes Chloe, Tyson, Sammi, Zaina, Micah and Gabe. Tyson, the guy Chloe has a crush on, is sweet, very gentlemanly and funny, but I feel like we never get to know enough of him to fully fall in love with him. Both Sammi and Gabe are bit mysterious – Sammi seems to be in a group home, whereas Gabe kind of seems to fit to the “popular, rich guy type”. Micah is honest, smart and nice – he helps others and easily delivers random trivia, even when it is not necessarily welcomed. Finally, Zaina is beautiful, but also cloaked in mystery. Like in The Breakfast Club, these teenagers all represent some sort of stereotype at the beginning of the novel which are then opened up and either comfirmed or denied as the novel develops.

Like in The Breakfast Club, the events of this novel unfold within one day. The novel starts from the morning of Christmas eve, and follows the events of the day. A regular work day is interrupted by the possible theft that has taken place inside the store, most likely among the employees. The money from the Christmas donation box has been taken, which means that most likely over 10,000 dollars are missing. When the group of teenage employees are identified as a possible suspect, they are forced to stay in the store after the closing and while waiting for their verdict, they have to spend time together and to figure out how to get away from the uncomfortable situation they have been put it.

I really enjoyed the structure of this book and how it really takes its time to develop the relationships between the characters. Throughout, it makes you aware of the fact that these are people who have known each other before (it is not their first day at work, for example), but that this moment, this accusation of them being thiefs, brings them together in a way that has not happened before. Yes, they might have been frienly acquiantances, but now they actually have to be on each others side and ignore the fact that during a regular day, they might not develop any kind of deeper relationships. Since Tyson is Chloe's “love interest”, the connection between her and him is discussed a bit more than the connection she has with others, and to be completely honest, I wish that they would have just been friends rather than anything romantic. I just feel like forcing those feelings in a day (even though there might have been some prior feelings) feels like rushing. Yes, they are cute and all that, but I feel like this is the one major aspect of the novel that lacks realism.

Since Chloe is obsessed with lists, this book also includes some lists. Most of them are the type that we write in our diaries: lists about movies we love and boys we have crushes on. There are also something that could be called “to do” lists – tasks that Chloe gives herself to connect with Tyson and the other co-workers. Finally, there are lists about weird customers and things that happen in the store. It is these lists involving “weird” people that kind of riled me up at points, but at the same time, I won't judge, because I wrote about same type of things when I was in high school – the way people stress, what they buy etc.

All in all, as I briefly mentioned before, Top Ten Clues You're Clueless is a quick, cute read that will most likely cater to all readers of YA contemporary fiction, as well as to fans of Hughes's The Breakfast Club.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Release date: February 10th 2015
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: HarperTeen
Age group: YA
Pages: 400
Pre-order the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own—an ability she didn't know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince—and Mare against her own heart.
From debut author Victoria Aveyard comes a lush, vivid fantasy series where loyalty and desire can tear you apart and the only certainty is betrayal.


Red Queen, the much hyped debut of USC alum Victoria Aveyard, mixes together fantasy, elements often associated with dystopian novels such as the division of society into specific groups and romance in an attempt to take the reader on a journey filled with court intrigue, deceit and lies, secrets and new discoveries.


The fantasy world Aveyard places her story in is generally built with patience and detail. Aveyard gives the reader time to acquiatance herself/himself with the traditions and history of her setting, as a result of which the beginning of the novel might at parts feel a bit slow to a reader expecting action from page one onwards. 
The world inhabited by Mare is divided by blood. Reds, the groups of people Mare belongs to, are servants who have lived under the rule of the Silvers for decades. The Silvers, the upper classes, keep their control through their abilities, which allow them to act like gods through the control of elements such as fire and water. At the top of the hierarchical pyramid are the royal houses and the royal family themselves, consisting of a king, queen and two sons, Cal and Maven. 

Aveyard brilliantly describes the specificies of the court buildings, the little nooks and crannies that form these spectacular buildings Mare faces when she is dragged out of the Stilts (the section for the Reds) and taken to the world of the Silvers. The scenes where the abilities are used are vivid and well-written, making it easier to understand this fantastical world - the excellent worldbuilding and the writing that accompanies it allow the reader to enter Aveyard's fictional world and to discover it with Mare and her companions.


Throughout the novel, I found it extremely easy to be on Mare's side, to root for her and to see things through her eyes. She's strong, courageous and fearless, but also does not run away from situations in which she might have to display weakness. She's taken to the Silver court out of blue after becoming face to face with a power she had not idea she witheld and though the situation is one in which she could coward on and accept her destiny, she attempt to see the situation as a possibility to help and to better the situation of her people, the Reds. 
Probably everyone who has read the synopsis has caught up on the slight mention to a possible love-triangle in connection to the fact that the king has two sons. Love triangles always seem to be the thing that either makes or breaks a young adult novel for some readers - we saw them in Twilight, The Hunger Games and several other young adult novels set in some sort of fantastical world or consisting of fantasical characters and settings. I have personally always been on the fence when it comes to live triangles - I don't mind them if they actually are complicated and add something fundamental to the story but usually I feel like they tend to be ones where it is obviously clear with whom the female character should be with, which makes the scenes involving the said triangle seem like a waste of time.

To be completely honest, I probably wouldn't even call what we have in this book a love triangle. Yes, there are two princes there, but it is way more complicated than that. I can't really say much without spoiling some things for you, but all I want to say is that do not let the fear of being faced with another bland love-triangle keep you away from reading this one.

Though Mare is very much at the centre of this novel, attention should be given to some of the brilliant side-characters. Both of the princes are interesting and definitely not what I first expected them to be. The queen is a total bitch, but I am hoping that her story will be developed further in the following novels in the series. The members of the rebel guard as well are characters that I hope will be further discovered in the sequels - they are given a crucial role in this one as well, but they could be developed more.


Aveyard's style is engaging, entertaining and very descriptive. One of my favorite things about this book as a whole is the way she takes her time to establish her fictional world, allowing the reader to familiarize herself with it and the people that inhabit it before plunging into fast-paced, dramatic scenes.
The pacing is well done and the way Aveyard has built this story definitely made me want to keep reading - this definitely was one of those books I hoped I could have read all at once. The dialogue is well written and the way the characters talk to each other feels realistic even when the setting is one that I cannot point my finger at.


Overall, I very much enjoyed Aveyard's debut. It is not as detailed or extended as high fantasy novels categorized as "adult fiction" are, but personally I did not mind that since I wasn't really expecting high fantasy when starting with this one. Generally, I do not really have any complaints, except maybe the fact that the ending is a bit abrupt - there will be a sequel though, so that probably explains it. 


Deadline reported already in 2013 that Universal Pictures has optioned Red Queen. The novel is part of a trilogy, which means that it fits perfectly to the young adult film mold utilized so ofter these days (The Hunger Games, Divergent). According to Deadline, the film (and probably also the novel) has been pitched as "Divergent meets Game of Thrones", which definitely is something that fits into the novel - it has the class division/special powers aspect of Divergent and the court intrigue and secrets aspect of Game of Thrones
I could definitely see this one as a film, but at the same time I am starting to get wary with all of these young adult adaptations and the fact that out of the huge number of them that come out yearly, usually only a very small percentage are actually well-made, acted and have some cinematic value. Time will show how this book does on the markets and whether that encourages Universal to begin the filming process. So far, the hype has been highly positive and the early reviews praising.