Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Teaser Tuesday (#1): Burial Rites by Hannah Kent


Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! For more information, click here

From Burial Rites by Hannah Kent:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3) by Stephanie Perkins

Release date: August 14, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Dutton
Age group: YA
Pages: 352
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.



MY THOUGHTS:

I don't think I've waited for a book this much since the last Harry Potter book was released. After falling in love with both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, the anticipation for this book has been a grueling process. But it is finally released. And I finally got a chance to read it. And I finally had a chance to fall in love, once again, with Stephanie Perkins's characters and writing. 


Isla and Josh are both from New York, but they attend a school in France. Yes, it is the same school Anna and St. Clair attend in Anna and the French Kiss. Isla's mother is French and her father American, so for her whole life she's kind of felt like she's living between two places and two worlds. Josh's father is a senator, which has made Josh used to living in the limelight, even if he does not like it. He is used to pretending to be someone else, someone who does not really care about much. All changes when he connects with Isla, a girl he has been aware of for years, but who seems to show up just when he's in need of a friend... and maybe more.



To Isla, it seems that unlike everyone else, she has not idea what she wants to do after graduation. Should she stay in Paris or go back to New York? What should she major in? What can she do when she feels like she's not "that good" in anything? Though I knew what I wanted to do and study after graduating from high school, I did feel for Isla throughout the novel, because right now, with only one year left of university, I am trying to come up with what to do next. Isla is extremely critical and harsh on herself and her talents and constantly feels like she isn't good for anything. Yes, reading about a character like that can get extremely annoying, but Isla is so real and so honest that I just felt for her and wanted her to find her way. Isla definitely was the most problematic character for me in the book, but I think that's because she reminded me so much of myself. She might seem awkward and shy to those who do not know her, and though she is those things, she is also intelligent, funny, sarcastic and just all kinds of wonderful.



Josh's best friends have all graduated and he has no idea how he will survive one more year at the school that did not end up being the sanctuary he was looking for when he insisted his parents that he wants to move to Paris. He knows what he wants to do after high school and for him it feels like his senior year is just a waste of time, an obstacle on his road toward his dream. Then he connects with Isla, the cool girl who he saw reading his favorite graphic novel years ago, and starts to feel like maybe his time in Paris isn't all waste after all. But as they spend more time together, Josh starts to notice that Isla has problem with trusting the people around her. And that's all because she cannot trust herself. So he does everything he possibly can to make Isla see herself the way he sees her. 

Josh is just SO DREAMY. He's artistic, funny, gentle, romantic.... just what I expected from a Stephanie Perkins male character. He is a perfect match for Isla and it is so wonderful to read about the development of their relationship and the realizations they make about each other while they fall in love. 



Like the previous novels by Perkins, Isla and the Happily Ever After is romantic, well-written and just so incredibly pleasant and easy to read. It made me laugh, gush, giggle and cry. It gave me the feels. It made me think about my magical high school year abroad. It even made me want to turn back time for a short while so I could experience high school again. It is a perfect conclusion to the series of books by Perkins filled with characters old and new for you to fall in love with.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ARC Book Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

(REVIEW COPY FROM EDELWEISS)

Release Date: September 23, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 128
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Every little girl goes through her princess phase, whether she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel. But then we grow up. And life is not a fairy tale.

Christine Heppermann's collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it "a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that's caustic, funny, and heartbreaking."

Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.



MY THOUGHTS:

I used to read a lot of poetry back in high school when it was a part of my English syllabus, but since graduating from HS I've been neglecting poetry. For some reason it has been difficult for me to pick up a book of poetry rather than a novel. I guess I've always found novels easier to get into, easier to understand and easier to read. When I read the synopsis for this collection of poems, I instantly felt like I want to read it since I am very interested in issues of female representation and how it is shaped by media. Also the blurb by E. Lockhart really made me interested about this one.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty is a collection of 50 poems by Christine Heppermann, a poet, writer and a critic, that tackles issues that young girls (and women as well) deal with daily, ranging from issues of body and problems of love. The way the poems discuss the life of modern teenagers from eating disorders to self-abuse is touching, unique and hauntingly beautiful. Heppermann does not shy away from discussing serious issues, but tackles head on into situations that are occasionally scary and occasionally funny. 

Heppermann takes inspiration from fairytales, building the poems around characters like Ariel, Belle and Rapunzel in a modern context. The collection touches upon the society' expectations towards young girls and the problems they face while growing up in a world in which media repeatedly tells girls how they are supposed to look and act in order to see "respectable" and "normal". While some of the poems deal with serious issues like anorexia and self-harm in very serious light, others dealing with issues like fashion magazines and peer pressure have a dark, humoristic flair. 

"How stupid that all I have to do
is grow two squishy lumps and suddenly
I'm man's best friend."

In addition to the poems, the collection includes black and white photographs from a series of artists that brilliantly complement the words within the pages. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty is definitely a book that I'll try to acquire as a physical copy once it's published. It is one of those books I instantly wanted to share with someone, a book that I wanted to talk about with someone. My Kindle probably did not do justice for the photographs and I'm really looking forward to seeing them on print. 

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty is a fast read, but also one that makes you think, one that you will carry with you. It is one of those books you can always go back to and one you can discuss with your friends. A must read for anyone interested in gender representation!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Made for You by Melissa Marr (ARC REVIEW)

Release date: September 16th, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age group: YA
Pages: 368
Pre-order/Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely books Melissa Marr’s first contemporary YA novel is a twisted southern gothic tale of obsession, romance, and murder. A killer is obsessed with Eva Tilling. Can she stop him, or will he claim her?

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling.



MY THOUGHTS:

"One wants to kiss her. 
The other wants to kill her."

Having read only Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr before venturing into this one, I did not quite know what to expect. Wicked Lovely focused on faeries (if I remember right), and though I did not hate it or anything, I did not enjoy it so much that I would have actually decided to continue with the series. I feel like recently I've gotten even more wary about picking up books that are listed as both "paranormal" and "romance", just because I've had some disappointments with books from those categories. But seeing this listed also as "gothic" and "Southern gothic" as well as "mystery" and "thriller" made me curious enough to pick it up. 

Eva Tilling is the sweetheart of Jessup, a little town in North Carolina. As the granddaughter of the rich winery owner as well as town reverend, she has been in the attention of the townsfolk since she was a little kid. She is adored by parents, envied by her class mates and loved by her friends. But in a Southern town where everyone keeps up appearances just to seem polite and pure, Eva does not know who's really on her side. It seems often like her friends are her friends just because of family connections and appearances and that her family is not really as perfect as it seems. When Eva is hit by a car and taken into hospital, everything starts to change in the little Southern town. Eva reconnects with an old crush Nate, finds her family way more attentive towards her than before and quickly learns that something has changed in her. In addition to the bruises, broken leg and the scars on her face and body, Eva realizes that when someone touches her, she can see the way they are going to die. When other girls start to get killed, Eva has to utilize her new skill to keep herself, Nate and her friends safe. 

Made For You is narrated from multiple perspectives which gives the reader a glimpse into events from a broader range. Eva, the main narrator of the novel, has to cope with was has happened to her as well as her newly found power. She also has to come into terms with the newly rekindled relationship with Nate and her feelings towards him. Grace, Eva's best friend, is like a voice of reason, trying to take care of Eva and figure out what is really happening to her. Are her powers real? What can she do to keep Eva safe? Can they trust Nate or their other friends? And then there's the Judge, a person who has known Eva for years and who believes that Eva is destined to spend her life with him. He tries to give Eva messages, in the form of brutality, to make her aware of him, but it seems like Eva does not feel quite the same way he does. 

I really enjoyed the multiple narrators and as morbid as it might sound, I was actually always looking forward to coming across a chapter narrated by Judge. He's cloaked in mystery for most of the novel, though I did have my thoughts about who he might be all the way from the beginning. I am happy Marr had decided to keep Judge as completely human, meaning that there was nothing supernatural in him, because that made him so much more terrifying and creepy. Eva's power is supernatural/paranormal, but it's so subtle that it does not take anything away from the realistic feel of the story. 

I feel like mixing romance and murder is always tricky and I must afraid that this one would focus more on the romance side of things. But I am happy to say that though the romance is there, it does not really take anything away from the mystery plot. It rather gives more fire to it. There's not instalove or ridiculously cheesy romantic scenes here. Eva and Nate have known each other before, they have taken comfort from each other during their childhood and now that they are both going through something difficult, they find each other and their feelings towards each other again. I feel like Marr does not even attempt to make Nate TOO PERFECT because really, this book is not about a dreamy boy who saves a girl. It's about a girl and a boy who save themselves. 

Having not read that many YA thrillers/mysteries, I can't really compare this one with other books. What surprised me was the quite dark nature of the novel and the details into which it goes to with the murders. There are no long descriptions of killing or anything like that, but there are scenes that might not be for the most sensitive readers. I definitely would recommend this to YA readers who are interested about the crime fiction genre, because I feel like this could be a good stepping stone into bit heavier stuff that's often found from the adult crime fiction titles. And even if you're not interested in crime fiction in general, I think you should give this one a chance. 

Made For You is fast paced, mysterious, thrilling and occasionally just plain creepy. A highly entertaining read for fans of crime fiction and mystery stories!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Post (#20)


For more information, click here

Recap:

Coming up:
Review for Made For You by Melissa Marr (ARC)
Review for Poisoned Apples: Poems For You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann (ARC)
Review for Alienated by Melissa Landers

What I read this week:
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Made for You by Melissa Marr
Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

What I watched this week:

Capote: after reading  In Cold Blood I got interested about Truman Capote as well as the murder case the book focuses on. This movie was brilliant; so melancholic and hopeless and sad. 

The Wrestler: For my possible dissertation research (I'm going in with two ideas, the political one is the other)

Neighbors: Shirtless Zac Efron. Enough said.

The Fault in Our Stars: SO SAD. I cried A LOT.

A Long Way Down: I didn't like this one AT ALL. The single thing that made me watch it til the end was the beautiful face of Aaron Paul.

The Fountain: Also for my dissertation research.

From TV shows I watched some Arrested Development, some Friends plus I started watching Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Arrow and My So-Called Life.

In other news:

So bout of books was kind of a fail... AGAIN. I did read two and a half books, but I won't bother with counting the pages or the hours I read because the total would be nowhere near my goal. I won't be too hard on myself about this though because I managed to see some friends this week. I also watched films for my other possible dissertation topic and caught up with some films I've been wanting to see for ages. So all's good.

As you can probably see from my plan for next week, there will be a little less activity at the blog next week, which means that it will also take me a little more time to answer to comments. I only have about three weeks left at home here in in Finland before I have to travel back to university in Scotland and I want to spend as much of that time out of the Internet as possible. I use so much Internet while I'm at uni that I can do all of that then. Staying away from Internet does not mean that I won't watch shows and read books, it just means that I will not update about them so frequently. I will still do my Sunday post next week though!

This week on Instagram:

Finally reading Isla was great because the gap between the second and the final book in the trilogy was SO LONG. The wait was totally worth it though.
My mom brought fresh blueberries from the cabin, so I've been eating a lot of them this week. I always want to eat as much blueberries as I want while I'm Finland because Finnish blueberries are usually gathered from the forest, not from bushes like in UK. 
Capote was AMAZING! I've always held Philip Seymour-Hoffman in high regard , but my admiration for him reached whole new levels now that I've seen this film. 
Once again hanging out in my Ariel leggins.
The collected short stories of Truman Capote - I've been reading some of this so far. I feel like it isn't one of those books you can read on one sitting, just because the stories vary so much, but I really have enjoyed it and can't wait to read more!
Taking advantage of the fresh blueberries by making a blueberry pancake. So yummy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

Release date: September 25th, 2012
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Age group: YA
Pages: 320
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.


MY THOUGHTS:

Mind blow. MIND SERIOUSLY BLOWN.

So, the setting for the novel is the following: Katie, a Plain girl, a child of an Amish community is waiting anxiously for her Rumspringa (Pennsylvanian German noun meaning "running around"), the period of adolescence for (some) members of Amish community during which they can leave the community and join the "outside" world. The Rumspringa is kind of like this rite - most come back and after that they are baptized to the community, and thus give the promise to live according to the Amish rules for the rest of their life. 

Katie has been planning the things she wants to do when she gets out since she was a child with her friend, and possibly also future husband, Elijah. But everything changes when a helicopter drops to the community field and it seems that the authorities of the outside world are not interested. And Katie is pretty sure she saw something inside the helicopter. More and more rumors start to arrive about the unrest outside the community gates and the elders of the community tell the people no one shall enter the gates and no one shall go out. But when Katie, who has always questioned the rules of the community before believing them, finds an injured young man just outside the community fence, she helps him and hides him from the rest of the community. As more and more start to happen, and the outside somehow smuggles its way in, Katie has to start to question the things she has always believed in and the people she is supposed to be able to trust. 

The Hallowed Ones was such a BIG surprise for me. When I read the synopsis, I found the idea interesting, but not really worth a read. I think the whole religious aspect kind of turned me away from it since I am not at all religious person. But since I picked this one up from my TBR jar, I "had" to read it. And wow, I am so happy that I did.

Katie was so likable as a main character. She is fierce and independent, and unlike the other people in the community, she questions the rules and the teachings. But she is not a complete rebel either - she believes in the teachings of the church and the God that she has grown to love, but she also is aware of other religions, other beliefs and other teachings. She dreams about the outside, but also knows that she will probably come back and marry Elijah. When she finds Alex, the injured man, she begs the men of the community who are willing to shoot him, to let God decide whether he lives or not. She thinks that because she is able to help him, she should do so. The way the relationship between Katie and Alex develops is very well established and written. There is also the relationship between Katie and Elijah which also definitely has its changes as the plot develops. 

What I found most interesting about this novel was the way the Amish community was described and explained for the reader. There are rules and regulations, and different people have more saying than others. As the situation gets more intense and the community is eventually closed, some elements of the community leadership really started to remind me of dictatorship; one man's power over people who trust this said man without questions. I would not go as far as saying that the Bishop is a dictator, but he certainly has his hold over the community. Eventually the will of God becomes a question both Katie and Alex, an "outsider" start to question - there is talk about different religions and different beliefs, and there is this awesome part about Greek mythology that I really loved!

The writing really engaged me from the first page onward, and I was hooked all the way to the end. The pacing of the story is very well established - the story takes its time in forming the relationships and the structures of the community, at the same time keeping you turning the pages in excitement. I loved the thriller, almost horror, elements of the story and the creatures from the outside word, the vampires, are very well established, but there was still questions about them left for the sequel.

And hey, when I say vampires, I do not mean like Twilight style brooding, glowing vampires. I mean actual, bloodthirsty, scary vampires. And honestly, if you do not generally like vampire books, do not push this away because of that. Because this does not really focus that much on the vampires - they are just the factor that starts to cause the tensions inside the community.

I highly recommend The Hallowed Ones to everyone, but especially to those who like dystopian fiction. The sequel for the novel is called The Outside.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bout of Books 11: Updates 1


HEY!

I hope you're all good and that those who are participating in Bout of Books are having a lot of fun reading and participating in the challenges.

I am not sure yet whether I'll do an update post every day or not, but while I think of that, here are my stats from the day 1.

Books Read: 

 


100% of Made For You by Melissa Marr + 23% of Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

Pages Read:

445

Time Read:

About 6 hours

Plan for today:

Hopefully finish with Famous in Love. It has been alright so far, just maybe a bit too fluff for what I would like to read at the moment. I might get a book I'm really interested in from the library today, so it might be that I cheat a little with my TBR list and read that next. We'll see. Probably going to watch a film again tonight (like I did last night) just to take a break from the reading. I'm trying to keep the films I watch book related though, so it fits to the theme. Last night I watched Capote and found myself crying in the end because of the hopelessness and melancholy of the film.