Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday (#2): The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson


Let's travel back to November 3, 2010 and my review of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
 
Publication date: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Dial Books
Age group: YA
Pages: 288
 
Description (from Goodreads):
 
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.
 
 
MY REVIEW FROM NOVEMBER 3, 2010
 
This is one of those novels I wanted to read because of the fact that some of my favorite book bloggers had hyped about this. I actually went as far as making a request for the local library to order this one in English (I don't know is the going to be a Finnish translation...)

Lennie and Bailey. Bailey and Lennie. 
When Lennie suddenly loses her big sister Bailey her whole world feels like it is crashing down. They have been seen together forever, and Bailey has been the one Lennie has been able to trust in everything. What will Lennie do now when she feels like she has lost a part of herself?

Toby. Bailey's boyfriend, who knows something Lennie does not. When Toby and Lennie start to spend time together, they notice that when they are together, they can feel Bailey's presence. But their friendship turns out to be something more when they both, under grief, try to get help for the grieving process. 

Joe. A new boy in town. An amazing musician who has moved from Paris. Joe's long eyelashes, outlook and musical talent catch Lennie's attention, and as their relationship develops, Lennie notices, that when she is with Joe, she does not feel grief over Bailey.

Lennie is between two guys; Toby who feels as she does and Joe, with who she is completely in love with. What happens if Joe finds out about the weird connection between Lennie and Toby?

I really liked this novel even though it wasn't as good as I expected it to be. I liked Lennie as a character, but at points she just really annoyed me. I don't know how to explain why. If I need to state my favorite character, I would say Joe, since he seems to fill most of the traits of my dream guy. 

What I really liked about this book was the little notes written my Lennie. Those really told something about Lennie as a character and in that way I was able to get into the story better. As the goodreads synopsis says, if you are a fan of Sarah Dessen, I bet you would like this one as well. 

"The Sky is Everywhere" is a beautiful and effective debut novel which will leave you thinking about loss, love and second chances.

 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday (#1): Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham



Let's travel back to December 30,2010 and my review of Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham
 

Release date: April 10, 2007
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Age group: YA
Pages: 288

Description (from Gooreads):

A teenager struggles through physical loss to the start of acceptance in an absorbing, artful novel at once honest and insightful, wrenching and redemptive.

On a sunny day in June, at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything — absolutely everything — changed. Now she’s counting down the days until she returns to school with her fake arm, where she knows kids will whisper, "That’s her — that’s Shark Girl," as she passes. In the meantime there are only questions: Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life? In this striking first novel, Kelly Bingham uses poems, letters, telephone conversations, and newspaper clippings to look unflinchingly at what it’s like to lose part of yourself - and to summon the courage it takes to find yourself again.


MY REVIEW FROM DECEMBER 30, 2010
 
Shark Girl, a debut novel by Kelly Bingham, is a book that you cannot put down. A beautiful, heart breaking and inspiring story written in verse will make you cry, laugh and honour your life, just as it is. 

On a normal summer day Jane goes to the beach with her mother and Michael. At the morning when she woke up she never though that that day would change her life...for good. Jane goes to swim and after 10 days in coma she wakes up in a hospital bed without her left arm. Everything she has dreamed about changes.

For years Jane has been the best artist of her school, winning prices from her art pieces. Now, without her right hand, she feels like that part of her life, the part she loved the most, is over. In hospital Jane meets Justin, a 11 year old boy who's other leg has been amputated. Through Justin, inspirational letters by others who have gone through the same and through the support of her friends and family she tries to build her world again. 

But none of the support is enough if she herself isn't ready to face her loss.

As mentioned before, "Shark Girl" is a novel written in verse. It is Bingham's debut novel and I must say how positively surprised I was about the language, the story, everything. The novel is so beautifully written it keeps you reading until you reach the end, and even then, you want for more. Bingham's description of Jane and her feelings is heart-breaking and it really makes you feel happy about the things you have. Shark Girl is also an inspirational story about how we all should accept ourselves as we are, because sometimes the things in us we don't like are ones that we cannot change. We just need to get along with them to be happy.
 
 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (#22): Deadly Design by Debra Dockter (June 2, 2015 by P.G. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

For more information, click here.



The emotional power of If I Stay meets the survival story of Maze Runner

Genetically engineered identical twins Kyle and Connor McAdams were born two years apart. Their parents figured it was safer that way, to increase their odds of survival. Connor was born first, paving an impossibly perfect path for Kyle to follow. He was the best at everything—valedictorian, star quarterback etc. Kyle never thought he’d be able to live up, so he didn’t even try.

But when Connor, 18, suddenly drops dead of a heart attack, and Kyle learns of other genetically modified kids who’ve also died on their eighteenth birthdays, he’s suddenly motivated—to save his own life. Like Connor and all the rest, Kyle was conceived at the Genesis Innovations Laboratory, where the mysterious Dr. Mueller conducted experiments on them. The clock’s ticking as Kyle searches for answers: who was Dr. Mueller really, and what did he do to cause their hearts to stop at eighteen? He must unravel the clues quickly, before, he too, becomes another perfect, blue-eyed corpse.
 
"emotional power of If I Stay"
 
 
"genetically engineered"
 
 
"he's suddenly motivated - to save his own life"
 
 
"mysterious Dr. Mueller"
 
 
What are you waiting for this week?
 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Release date: March 4, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Age group: YA
Pages: 355
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.


Dear Winner's Curse,

After seeing your beautiful cover, I wanted to like you so badly. I wanted to read you, love you and buy you to my own collection. My expectations for you were extremely high. And the way other people, readers that opinions matter to me, talked about you, I was sure that we would connect. But alas, rather than writing a love letter for you, I have to write something else.

Don't worry, this isn't a hate letter. I almost wish that I could write a hate letter, because that way I would feel at least something towards you. Because right now I don't feel anything. I feel like reading you did not do anything for me. Like someone could erase those two nights I spend with you and I wouldn't really even notice it (expect then I would not have a memory from those awesome Twizzlers I ate while spending time with you).

I was so excited to meet Kestrel, even if her name sounds kind of weird. I was also really looking forward to meeting Arin, mostly because his name reminds me of someone I know. I had heard such praise about your world building that I was sure I would be able to delve right in. But no! Rather than finding myself immersed with your world building, I was bored. I feel like nothing happened. Yes, Kestrel buys a slave. But after that there's a lot of stuff that did not feel move the story forward at all. Or at least that is how I feel.

The more and more I read you, I started to find it harder and harder to like Kestrel. I constantly felt like she has no idea what she is doing or what she wants from life. And I do get that we all struggle with questions like that sometimes and that I in no way can put myself in the shoes of Kestler, but hey, I needed something to grasp into and unfortunately I did not find it from you. Yes, she cares for her family, but outside of that, it feels like it is all the same what happens to people. Someone else, someone who really liked this book, might interpret this differently, but I just want to say how I felt. I constantly also felt that though she tries to seem like she does not care about her superior status, she acts differently. And that kind of behaviour always annoys me to no end. Given, she proves herself towards the end, but by then, it feels like too little too late.

This love story of Kestrel and Arin? When did it really happen? Did I miss something? Yes, Kestrel is constantly feeling like she shouldn't feel anything towards Arin, but she can't help it. I do get that this whole forbidden love thing is usually a fundamental part of books similar to you, but after a while it just gets annoying, especially since you know that in the end it is going to happen anyway. I wasn't looking for any grand romantic moments or clich├ęs, but I didn't want to feel like I missed the whole falling-in-love process either.

When it comes to Arin, I felt even less that towards Kestrel. Like seriously, I felt nothing. And I must admit at points I was kind of terrified of him. Yes, he's protective, but seriously.... sometimes you can go too far. Once again, this is a point I feel a lot of people are going to disagree with me.

I think one of the reasons why I felt so disconnected from you is the fact that I am not a regular fantasy reader. Maybe as someone who extensively reads fantasy, I could have appreciated your very slow-building plot a bit more. One aspect that I did find interesting was the politics of your world, the division of the people into different groups and so on, but unfortunately that wasn't enough. I also had some problems with the way you were written. The style your author uses is very fast-paced and unfortunately I did not work for me when it felt like nothing really happened in your most part.

Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I started with you thinking that I am going to meet my new favourite book. Maybe at the point when I noticed that I am not connecting with you, I gave up and started to look for flaws. I still don't quite know what happened, and since I did not feel any sort of connection with you, I probably won't even think about it too much.

You and I were not meant to be, but hey, don't despair. It seems like you are getting plenty of love elsewhere.

Sincerely,

Milka



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (#21): Tracked by Jenny Martin (May 5, 2015 by Dial Books)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

For more information, click here.



The Fast and the Furious gets a futuristic twist in this action-packed debut!

On corporately controlled Castra, rally racing is a high-stakes game that seventeen-year-old Phoebe Van Zant knows all too well. Phee’s legendary racer father disappeared mysteriously, but that hasn't stopped her from speeding headlong into trouble. When she and her best friend, Bear, attract the attention of Charles Benroyal, they are blackmailed into racing for Benroyal Corp, a company that represents everything Phee detests. Worse, Phee risks losing Bear as she falls for Cash, her charming new teammate. But when she discovers that Benroyal is controlling more than a corporation, Phee realizes she has a much bigger role in Castra’s future than she could ever have imagined. It's up to Phee to take Benroyal down. But even with the help of her team, can a street-rat destroy an empire?

OKAY BEFORE I SAY ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT THIS BOOK, THE PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL FROM PENGUIN DESCRIBES THIS AS A MIX BETWEEN THE FAST AND FURIOUS (which I don't really care about)  AND FIREFLY (which I really DO care about)

"father disappeared mysteriously"


"blackmailed"


"Cash, her charming new teammate"


"Can a street-rat destroy an empire?"


What are you waiting for this week?
 

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.



MY THOUGHTS:

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.