Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (#36) - Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday click here

So here is my list of ten extremely hyped books I still haven't read (aka a list of books I've been meaning to read for AGES)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Release date: May 5, 2015
Author Links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Age group: YA
Pages: 417
Purchase the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Every single time Sarah Dessen publishes something new, I want to have a party. Though I still haven't managed to read every single book this wonderful writers has written, I've read the majority and fell in love with every single word and character. Saint Anything was no different.

In Saint Anything Sarah Dessen introduces us to Sidney. For her whole life, Sidney has been in the shadow of her charismatic, handsome older brother Peyton. When Peyton's reckless and criminal behavior leads to a jail sentence, Sidney gets more and more distanced from her family. Despite the fact that Peyton is not physically present in her every day life, her parents' constant worry and attention towards Peyton does not stop. 

After Peyton's arrest, Sidney decides that she needs to make a change. She leaves her private school where everyone knows about Peyton and enrolls to a public high school where she thinks she can be invisible and start again. There she can be "just Sidney", not "Peyton's little sister Sidney". One day after school she stops at a pizza parlour and meets Mac and Layla Chatman and quickly finds herself with a new set of friends. Layla is loud, funny and honest and able to bring out a side in Sidney she did not know she had. Mac is quiet, strong and protective, and for the first time in a long time Sidney feels like someone sees her just as she is. No longer she's invisible. 

I love the way Sarah Dessen writes YA contemporary. She really takes her time with characterization and the way she writes character growth is spot on! Her novels are not just romances, but also stories about friendship, family and self-discovery. I instantly felt like Sidney was a character I wanted to know more about. For a long time, she has felt like she is invisible and that no one really knows who she really is. She is not quite sure she herself even knows that. Growing up in the shadow of her brother has meant that she has always received less attention than her brother. Now that Peyton is in prison, her parents make stricter rules for Sidney, but still remain occupied with Peyton's life behind the bars. 

The thing I liked most about Sidney is the fact that she seems to be the only one in her family who questions Peyton's actions. The way especially her mother talks about Peyton makes her feel like they don't fully understand what Peyton has done - they almost treat him like a victim, instead of the boy who Peyton hurt. Sidney feels like it is her job to carry the worry about the victim on her shoulders - she cannot stop thinking about the young boy, now in a wheelchair, whose life Peyton destroyed. 

Parents tend to play a huge role in Dessen's novels and what I love about that is the fact that despite the fact that usually there is a drift between the young adult and the parents, Dessen never "demonizes" the parents, but rather allows the reader to understand why the parents act the way they do. Sometimes in YA novels there is a tendency to make the parents seem like the "bad guys" just because they care (rules etc), and I am happy to say that Dessen does not fall in to this trap. Instead, she writes parents that are problematic and sometimes wrong, but who also care and love and want the best for their children. 

In addition to the romance and the family drama, Dessen has added a very interesting, very important storyline to the novel involving the main character Sidney and Ames, a friend of Peyton's. I think the importance of this story line relies on the fact that Sidney is right about the intentions of Ames - right away from the opening of the novel you get the vibe that Ames might be dangerous. The tension to the novel is brought through the exchanges between Sidney and Ames and the fact that Sidney's parents do not seem to see what is going on. I also loved how Sidney's friends trusted Sidney's judgement about Ames and did not question it. Throughout the novel the presence of Ames can be felt - it feels creepy and it feels somewhat hostile, and I think that makes it so real. I appreciate Dessen for tackling such a difficult subject with grace and honesty. 

If you are looking for a book with romance, friendships, family drama and wonderful set of characters, look no further. Saint Dessen was everything and so much more I expected it to be!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) by George R.R. Martin

Release date: November 16, 1998
Info about the author: Goodreads - Website
Publisher: Bantam
Age group: Adult
Pages: 784 (trade paperback)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over an age of enforced peace are dead...victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. 

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard’s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King’s Landing. Robert’s two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers. 

A Clash of Kings transports us into a magnificent, forgotten land of revelry and revenge, wizardry and wartime. It is a tale in which maidens cavort with madmen, brother plots against brother, and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. 

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory may be measured in blood. And the spoils of victory may just go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel...and the coldest hearts. For when rulers clash, all of the land feels the tremors. 

Audacious, inventive, brilliantly imagined, A Clash of Kings is a novel of dazzling beauty and boundless enchantment—a tale of pure excitement you will never forget.

Like with my "review" of the first novel in George R.R. Martin's epic, high fantasy series, this "review" will be more of a discussion post about my reading experience. Due to the extent of his book - its locations, characters etc. - I feel like I cannot provide you with the type of review I usually write, but you should definitely keep on reading if you are interested to know what I thought about this book.

As I mentioned in my review for A Game of Thrones, I decided that I would not continue watching the HBO show before I would read this book. And surprisingly, I was able to keep up with that promise. With the first book, I had seen the season 1 of the show already, and I felt like I continually kept waiting for things to happen that I had seen in the show. And of course the book is much slower than the show, which made the reading experience a bit of a burden at points. With this second book, not knowing what to expect, I found myself wanting to read the book all the time - I wanted to know what would happen to these characters as well as to this fantastical, complex world. I have the third book in queue at my local library in Finland and I am hoping that I will get it as soon as I go back, just so I can read it too. I am not too eager to hurry with watching the show, so I think I'll just keep reading the books and then binge watch the show at some point. I have seen spoilers and know of some of the major events, but I don't really mind that.

When reading A Game of Thrones, I got about 150 pages in before I put it down and forgot about it for like half a year. With this one, I read it in a week during a time I had other stuff to do as well, meaning I was not able to read all the time. I feel like one of the main factors that contributed to the fact that I was much more eager about this book was the fact that I already knew these characters and the world, at least a little bit. A lot more started to happen right away, and I had a constant desire to know what would happen next. Unlike with the first book, I did not almost have to force myself to keep going. 

Like with the first book, the story is narrated through chapters dedicated to different characters. Once again, there were characters I really liked and got excited about, and then characters I just wanted to get over with. Tyrion still remains my favorite character, and Arya, Jon and Daenerys come as good second ones for the most interesting chapters in the novel. I found Bran's chapters a bit repetitive at points with the whole wolf thing (I know it's going to be like a major thing in the storyline, but I just found it annoying). Also Catelyn's and Sansa's chapters did not manage to make me super excited because I just find both of them quite annoying. I am probably in minority by saying this, but I do hope that there would be chapters of Joffrey, just because I feel like he is a really interesting character because he is just complete evil. But I do understand why Martin does not give a "voice" to him because that would probably humanize him in at least some little manner.

I am really excited to see how the story continues and how these characters and this world develops. These books are not the easiest ones to read, but once you get into them, you don't want to stop. I guess it's the same with the show - I did not feel an instant connection with it, but I feel like when I watch it after I have read the books, the connection will be there. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (#32) - The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jean Bennett (November 3, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends)

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

A mysterious graffiti artist, an anatomy-obsessed artist, and a night bus that will bring the two together.

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?

"drawing actual cadavers"

"turns her summer plans upside down"

"charming, wildly attractive..."

"leaves him so wounded"

"skeletons in Beatrix's own family closet"

What are you waiting for this week?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (#35) - Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2015

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday click here

Here are the top ten books I've read so far in this year, in no particular order. Putting this list together was so incredibly hard because I have read so many great books already in this year. I am already now stressed about making a top ten list at the end of this year....

These are in no particular order because that would just be impossible!

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin

Release Date: August 6, 1996
Info about the author: Goodreads - Website
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Age group: Adult
Pages: 835 (Mass Market Paperback)
Buy the Book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

I don't know can I call this a review, because it will probably be just a general rambling of my thoughts about the book. I feel like due to the extent of the novel as well as the fact that everyone is pretty much familiar with it, there is no point for me to write the type of review I usually do... And I don't think I would be able to do it because the story was so extensive to begin with. 

Probably everyone has heard about Game of Thrones one way or another. Some have probably heard about the books themselves, but I would predict that the more people are familiar with the HBO series based on the book series. I had seen stuff about Game of Thrones from Tumblr, so I watched the first season of the series and liked it alright. It is extremely well made and it is clear that the budget for the show is probably enormous. It did not change my life or anything, but I found it entertaining. After seeing the first season of the show, I went and bought the book. I started to read it, but after 150 pages or so, I got stuck. 

After finishing with all of my writing tasks for university, I picked up the book again and after reading probably 50 more pages I really got into it. The beginning was a bit slow, mostly due to the fact that the world and the characters had to be introduced with a lot of detail and at points this got a bit boring. But once the story started to develop, it got more and more interesting and eventually I ended up reading the rest 500 pages or so in just a couple of days. 

The novel is narrated by several different characters and eventually I started to like some more than others. Arya is brilliant, as well as Jon Snow and Tyrion. Sansa annoyed me. Due to the fact that I had seen the first season of the show, I kept thinking that the characters look exactly like they look in the show... This was definitely delightful while reading about Robb Stark. 

After finishing with the book, I decided that I would not continue with the HBO series until I've read the second book. I felt like knowing what is going to happen did not help while reading this book because I kept waiting for different events and then got frustrated when it took so much time to get to them. The television show of course is much faster than the book itself, and especially during the times the book was narrated by characters I did not particularly care for, I kept just hoping that the story would speed up. I am definitely curious to see how the story develops (I've seen spoilers for the show, so I kind of know who is going to die etc. but I feel like those are really difficult to avoid and I don't really mind the awfully, just as long as I don't get to know every single thing that happens). This series is definitely not what I would normally pick up, but I am happy I did so because it really is unique in so many different ways, at least when compared to other books I've read. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis

Release Date: January 11, 2011
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Razorbill
Age group: YA
Pages: 398
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. 

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

This book was so good! I have no idea why I had not read it before despite the fact that I had seen it hyped all over the book blogs/booktube videos etc. 

Amy and her parents are frozen with a hope of waking up 300 later on a new planet. Amy's parents want to be frozen in order to help in building the new planet for its new inhabitants. Amy is frozen because she does not see any other option - she does not want to stay alive without her parents and by being frozen, she has a promise of a future with them in the distant future.

"He sounds like a regular Hitler to me", Amy mutters. I wonder what she means by that. Eldest has always taught me that Hitler was a wise, cultured leader for his people. Maybe that's what she means: Eldest is a strong leader, like Hitler was."

Elder is going to be the new leader, the new Eldest of the Godspeed, a spaceship carrying people towards the new planet. The ship is fashioned to look like earth with artificial rain, sunlight and farming lands. The ship is also divided into three levels, the Feeder level for agriculture and such, the Shipper level for technology and engineering and the Keeper level for Elder and the Elders, the future leader and the current leader. The people of Godspeed are monoethnic, meaning that they all look the same - because they are all the same, they do not fight and cause disturbances. The childbirth is controlled by mating seasons during which one of the generations of the ship mate and have children. It is normal for people not to live over 60 years of age. Elder was born out of the season, meaning that he is the youngest person on the ship... until Amy wakes up.

Amy has been frozen for over 200 years. Everything changes when someone wakes her up 50 years before the designed date. The life as Godspeed is nothing like she is used to, and due to looking and thinking different than the other people at the ship, Eldest wants to get rid of her. People are not used to difference and Eldest is afraid that because of her looks, she might cause disturbances. She definitely causes Elder to focus on other things than his learning. 

Elder is completely fascinated by Amy. He sees her difference as beautiful and he is eager to learn more about Sol-Earth, the Earth we know but which Elder has only read about. But when more and more of the frozen bodies appear outside, either death or almost death, Elder along with Amy and his friend Harley start to investigate the mystery and become faced with things they never would have expected to see. It seems that the ship holds more mysteries than no one could have expected. Who is behind the murders of the frozen people? Does Eldest know more than he is willing to tell Elder?

I did not expect the whole mystery solving element this novel had, but once I really got into the story, I was delighted by it. The story is told through both Amy and Elder, which made it really interesting because you were able to see how the new information affected someone who thought that he knew a lot about the ship, and someone who is completely new to the environment. The way this novel is written is so beautiful, and I especially enjoyed some of the passages from the sections of Amy's narration.

The way the fictional world is created is incredibly detailed, but at the same time there is something new left for the other novels in the series. The characters are extremely likable and the romance between them takes its time, which I really liked. The hierarchical structure of the ship is interesting and well planned, and the way the mysteries are solved is not too fast, but not too slow either. The novel takes its time to explain things to the reader, but at the same time keeps you at the edge for the whole duration of the novel.

I really cannot wait to read the next book in the series, which I have heard is even better than this one.