Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: The House of Secrets by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini

The House of Secrets by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini
Published: April 25th, 2013 (HarperCollins Children's)
Pages: 560
Source: for review from publisher
Series: House of Secrets, #1
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

When Brendan, Cordelia and Nell move to Kristoff House they have no idea that they are about to unleash the dark magic locked within.

Now the Walker kids must battle against deadly pirates, bloodthirsty warriors and a bone-crunching giant. If they fail they will never see their parents again and a crazed witch will take over the world.

No pressure then...

Being blurbed by JK Rowling really sets high expectations for this book. While the setup and storyline were interesting, I wasn't blown away.

I love the idea of the magic in this book. The world is built by mister Kristoff, the former owner of the house and I loved that idea and the interpretation of it. It was creative and very imaginative, almost cinematic at certain parts.

While I liked the three main characters, I felt like I was reading about siblings that reminded me an awful lot of Harry, Ron and Hermione. There was a brave kid, a smart kid and a third one who kept them together.. I wish there was a little more originality there. It wasn't necessarily that they looked like the Harry Potter characters, it was more the feel that I got from them. I mean, they are siblings instead of friends the same age, but I couldn't help but feeling this way.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I really liked the rollercoaster ride aspect of it and I loved the fictional world in the book. Having said that, I think the book dragged on too long. At 560 pages, it's a long book, especially if you consider it's the first book in a middlegrade series. I found it dragging in certain parts and I really wish it hadn't. But to compensate that, the ending felt rushed, predictable and an easy way out. It was terribly obvious and I would have thought that after 500+ pages of adventure and mystery and the characters being thrown into situation after situation, the ending could have been more surprising.

I quite enjoyed myself reading House of Secrets. It sure is exciting and interesting -- I just wish it was a little shorter and the main characters were a little more original. The other characters, however, were excellent. I love how they were portrayed and I really enjoyed reading more about them.

I'm not sure how this compares to Vizzini's other work, as I have not read it, but if you're into exciting and adventurous middlegrades, you might want to give House of Secrets a shot.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Published: February 8th, 2005 (Simon Pulse)
Pages: 448
Source: bought
Series: Uglies, #1
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ ½

Tally Youngblood is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait for the operation that turns everyone from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to party. But new friend Shay would rather hoverboard to "the Smoke" and be free. Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The "Special Circumstances" authority Dr Cable offers Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

I’ll just get right into it: this was a major disappointment. Not because it was a bad book, but because it was not what I was expecting it to be. I’ve heard so many good things about this book and the entire series, and I think I’ve been hyping it a bit because of that, only to end in disappointment. While I really liked the premise and the idea behind the whole story, I thoroughly disliked the lack of depth of both the story and the characters.

Let me start off by saying that the synopsis for this book sounds awesome. I had been ogling the series for a while, had the entire series on my shelves for well over a year before I decided to pick the first book up. I loved the idea for a society where people wouldn’t be judged on looks because they were all somewhat the same – when they turn 16, they all get cosmetic surgery to make them pretty. The idea is both intriguing and horrifying and I really liked the whole idea around this. Unfortunately, some of the so-called plot-twists weren't plot-twists at all, because you could see from a mile away that they were about to happen. They were needed to keep the plot going, not to throw the reader off a particular train of thought. It was obvious that their purpose was to keep the story going, especially since I already own three more books, so there needs to be something more than the beginning of the story is letting on.

Secondly, I had problems with the characters. There was no depth at all in any of them, and I had no clue who our main character was supposed to be character wise. A lot of her thoughts are about saving her own hide, constantly trying to talk herself into that what she was doing would work out in the end etc. And of course, everyone with half a brain cell knows that’s just not the case and it annoyed me to no end that she seemed to think that what she was doing was right.

And finally, I thoroughly disliked the ease of how Tally was able to do everything. Everything was so easy, went so smoothly, it was ridiculous. There were no obstacles, not real ones anyway. There wasn’t a single moment where I thought it got exciting because something was going to happen. The story really fell flat and that’s such a shame, because I really liked the idea for the story.

Having said that, the book read really quickly. When I sat down to read it, I went through it in a couple of hours because it just reads nice and smoothly. It’s just.. It didn’t really work for me because I got nothing from the story. I really wish that I could rave about Uglies as much as everyone else, but I just can’t. Since I have the other three books on my shelves, I’ll read them all – I just don’t know when.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Published: April 29th, 2008 (Gollancz)
Pages: 357
Age group: adult
Source: bought
Series: Night Huntress, #2
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Note: this is not the first book in a series, and can therefore contain (minor) spoilers for the previous book(s) in the series. Reading of this review is at your own risk.

You can run from the grave, but you can’t hide…

Half-vampire Cat Crawfield is now Special Agent Cat Crawfield, working for the government to rid the world of the rogue undead. She’s still using everything Bones, her sexy and dangerous ex, taught her, but when Cat is targeted for assassination, the only man who can help her is the vampire she left behind.

Being around Bones awakens all her emotions, from the adrenaline rush of slaying vamps side by side to the reckless passion that consumed them. But a price on her head—wanted: dead or half-alive—means her survival depends on teaming up with Bones. And no matter how hard Cat tries to keep things professional between them, she’ll find that desire lasts forever…and Bones won’t let her get away again. Original.

After reading Halfway to the Grave all the way back in 2011, I knew I *had* to read One Foot in the Grave asap. While it has taken me a while to actually get to it, it didn't take away from my love for the first book, something that I was a bit afraid of. But this sequel is just as easy to read and addicting as the first book.

The chemistry between Bones and Cat is amazing. It's sizzling and realistic -- as far as realistic goes when you're talking about vampire relationships. I loved it. While Bones is a little too controlling in some cases, it doesn't really bother me all that much. It annoys me a bit in places, but because it fits his character, and the story, I don't mind. Bones is a fantastic character and I love him to bits.

The story isn't really that super special, if you ask me. The whole book rests solely on the relationship between Cat and Bones and that works brilliantly. They bicker, they make up.. And they have some steamy scenes between them. I don't usually use gifs in reviews, but this one was so fitting I couldn't pass this opportunity up.

Would I say no to Bones? Hell no.

But enough of that. I really liked the introduction of the new characters in this book, though some of them were pretty bloody annoying. The plot was fast paced and the story itself had plenty of action and I looooooove those kinds of books.

To be honest, there's not much for me to dislike. The only reason it's not getting a 5 star review is because I didn't love it and it didn't blow my socks off. But I will definitely be picking up At Grave's End and I'll even make sure not to wait two years before I do so. Definitely recommended to adult urban fantasy/paranormal romance lovers!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Thank You

Dear reader,

Thank you for staying with me during a year in which I haven't blogged regularly. You could even say it was a period where I didn't blog at all. And although it saddened me, I realise now that I think this was necessary for me to continue to enjoy blogging. When I left for London last year, I scheduled a bunch of things. Those posts never went up, first due to a blogger glitch and then due to the fact that I re-read them and thought I could do better. But I didn't do anything. The blog was empty.

I felt guilty for not putting stuff up, but I also felt empty. I think I may have asked too much of myself during that time, which caused me to become overwhelmed and just give up altogether. So I never edited those posts and I never wrote those reviews -- at least not at that time.

In November, my life started to change: I started looking for a place of my own. And found an apartment that I fell in love with. After that everything went very quickly; reviewing and signing the papers, last checks, and then in January I was suddenly able to call myself a home-owner. Wow. This then resulted in me spending a lot of time getting the house ready to move in, which seriously took away my reading time.

Fast forward to August 2013. I try to get back into blogging. It has taken me a couple of weeks (read: months) to settle into a routine of working full-time, chores, reading and blogging, but it feels like I found my way a bit now. Thankfully, I took notes of the books I read so I now have a massive backlog (the upside is that I have more than enough to post about).

Then I met some amazing Dutch book bloggers online, and we even went out to Boekenfestijn together in September to go bookshopping. I wouldn't have believed I would ever go out with so many amazing people who also love books. Because to be honest, while the book blogging community is like a warm nest, I somehow still felt alone at some times. I'm a big introvert, mainly offline, but I also feel like I'm bothering someone online. Which is the reason I rarely comment on other blogs -- I'm more of a lurker. I guess that's just some sort of chronic brainfarting.. What I'm trying to say is that I find it hard to approach people, both offline and online, so when Amber mentioned a ton of Dutch bloggers one day, I was very excited. And still am! Because we're setting up a book club! YAY!

What I'm trying to say is that I feel less alone in the crowd. I feel like I somehow found a spot that works for me, even though I'm still a bit tentative about stuff, I feel like I'm more comfortable. And that results in me wanting to blog, to comment, to tweet, to interact with people. I realise I've missed that. A lot.

So thank you. Thank you to each and every one of you who talked to me while I wasn't here, everyone who interacted with me on Goodreads, everyone who looked at my blog in the past year. I know there wasn't much to look at, but you still came by. And I cannot put into words how much I appreciate that. I'm thankful, and I want you to know that I like you. A lot.

So thanks.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Published: April 1st, 2011 (Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 291
Source: bought
Series: Summer, #3
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Note: this is not the first book in a series, and can therefore contain (minor) spoilers for the previous book(s) in the series. Reading of this review is at your own risk.

It's been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college-- only, their relationship hasn't exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It's time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever.

This review contains spoilers

Both The Summer I Turned Pretty and It's Not Summer Without You were fantastic books. I loved how they combined the feel of summer and the beach with serious issues like illness, death, family problems. This book feels like a book from a completely different series, even though the characters are the same, at least in name.

While this book is set two years after the second book, I wan't expecting Belly and Jeremiah's urge to "act like grownups". I'm not even taking that seriously, because everyone reading these books can tell it just doesn't feel right. They are rushing their relationship, trying to cover up mishaps and at the same time they're trying to prove to their families and friends that they really are grown up people. Wrong.

My main problem with this book was that it felt like the reader was steered towards a particular idea. I don't like that. I want to make up my own decisions, thank you very much. Jeremiah had gotten a complete personality transplant in this book and I honestly didn't recognise him in this story. Meanwhile, Conrad had also had also had a personality transplant and went from arsehole to saint. What I loved about the two previous books was that even though there was a love triangle, there wasn't any pressure in the story to root for a particular person. In this book, there was. And I hated that. I felt like I was made into disliking characters and liking other characters because their descriptions basically demanded that. When I read on, I started realising that everybody who didn't agree with Belly was made to look like an idiot. I mean, why? I am perfectly capable of making up my own mind about who is an idiot. I don't need to be pushed into a particular direction for that.

One of the reasons I loved the previous books was because I loved the combination of beachy, summery reads with serious issues. This book lost all of the beachy summery stuff and because of that, it felt like it wasn't part of the same series. When I look at the reviews on Goodreads I seem to be one of the few people who feels this way -- but I just can't ignore this bad feeling I took away from reading this book.

The conclusion/climax of We'll Always Have Summer was cheesy and predictable and to be honest, if I add everything up, I have to say that this book completely downgraded the series for me. I loved the first two, but this last installment left me so incredibly frustrated. I couldn't believe what I had read. Was this really the end to a fantastic series, one that I held among my favourites while I was reading them? Why, yes, it appears it was. Needless to say, the Summer series isn't one of my favourites anymore.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On My Wishlist (45)

Back from hiatus! In On My Wishlist I spotlight books that I'm really looking forward to. I know there's a meme Waiting on Wednesday and there even are others, but I'm going to rebel and do it how I want it (hehe). I'll feature the synopsis as posted on Goodreads and put a linkie to the Goodreads page of the book. This week: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas.

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
Publication date: September 17th, 2013

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Goodreads page

Confession: I first wanted to read this book because of the cover. I mean, look at it! I'd probably even buy it if the synopsis sounded awful. But it sounds awesome, and people have been raving about it, and now I'm just banging my head against the wall until my next paycheck comes in and I can finally buy it. Because I needs it. Badly.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Read Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo FREE!

I might have had a minor freakout when I saw this was available, so how can I not share this? Rick Riordan wrote a new Percy Jackson story, which is published in Guys Read: Other Worlds. There are several stories inside, including stories by Neal Shusterman and even Ray Bradbury.

I'd love to share the browse inside widget, but somehow that doesn't work... So I'll just give you guys the linkie instead :)

Read Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo HERE

If you have read it.. What did you think? :)

Top Ten Tuesday -- Books On My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature by The Broke and the Bookish where you post a list of books in the selected theme for that edition. This week: Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List. My TBR is massive and usually changing every other day in terms of which books get priority, but I've started making 'seasonal' TBR lists and found it works pretty well for me. So here are the books I plan to read this fall!

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

Ridiculously excited for this one after reading Pivot Point and hearing a lot of praise for this one.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

So.. I still haven't read this yet, even though I'm pretty sure I had this on preorder. Oops?

Countdown by Michelle Rowen
3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family's murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira's psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan's secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira's only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can't escape.

This one has me very curious. I was lucky enough to get an ARC, so I'll be reading this soon!

More Than This by Patrick Ness
A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this...

YES YES A NEW PATRICK NESS BOOK Y'ALL. There are no words. NO WORDS. I'm so forking excited. Eep!

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety... until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim... and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

I really really enjoyed The Maze Runner, yet I somehow never picked up the sequel, even though it was on my shelf the entire time. Now with the movie coming out in 2014, I feel like I should just get to it and pick it up. I'm curious where it'll lead me :)

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
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.

A Game of Thrones was a magnificent start of the series. It was quite a long road, yes, but I'm very excited to see what will happen in the next book. I've heard that Jaime even gets likeable further into the series, but I'll have to read it to believe it.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

It is possible that Judith is freaking out when she sees this.. She pushed this book on me, but I'm not complaining! It looks awesome and I'm ready for fantasy goodness.

The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter
Love or life.
Henry or their child.
The end of her family or the end of the world.
Kate must choose.

During nine months of captivity, Kate Winters has survived a jealous goddess, a vengeful Titan and a pregnancy she never asked for. Now the Queen of the Gods wants her unborn child, and Kate can't stop her--until Cronus offers a deal.

In exchange for her loyalty and devotion, the King of the Titans will spare humanity and let Kate keep her child. Yet even if Kate agrees, he'll destroy Henry, her mother and the rest of the council. And if she refuses, Cronus will tear the world apart until every last god and mortal is dead.

With the fate of everyone she loves resting on her shoulders, Kate must do the impossible: find a way to defeat the most powerful being in existence, even if it costs her everything.

Even if it costs her eternity.

Okay. So I wasn't the biggest fan of the two first books in the series (this may or not be an understatement), but I kinda sorta really want to know how it ends. Honestly, I think Aimee Carter is a better author than she shows in The Goddess Test, so I'm curious to see what she can do in another fictional world.

Rebel Heart by Moira Young
Saba thought her world would return to normal after they defeated the Tonton and rescued her kidnapped brother Lugh. The family head west for a better life and a longed-for reunion with Jack. But a formidable enemy is on the rise. What is the truth about Jack? And how far will Saba go to get what she wants?

Blood Red Road was one of my favourite releases of 2011 but then they changed the covers, and I was so pissed off I refused to read Rebel Heart. Yes, I'm aware that's a pretty shitty reason, so I'm going to redeem myself and finally read the sequel. I'm pretty stoked!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

One of Amber's recommendations and one I'm overly excited about. I don't like that it's compared to The Hunger Games but oh well.. The synopsis sounds pretty badass and yeah. Excited!

Blackout by Robison Wells
Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.

Jack and Aubrey are high school students.

There was no reason for them to ever meet.

But now, a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible powers. And these four are about to find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger—where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all.

I can't even asdfjkl; One of my most anticipated books of 2013. I'd sell my left kidney to read it early, but it looks like I'll have to wait until publication date. PURE TORTURE, I'M TELLING YOU

So there you have it, my top 10 books to read this fall! It's a nice mixture of new and old books, review books and bought copies. I'm pretty stoked and hope I am able to read at least 7 of these -- but I'm aiming to read ALL of them.

What are your top 10 books to read this fall? Feel free to leave your TTT links in the comments, and I'll check them out :)

ETA: Yes, I cheated. Sue me :P
ETA2: And I STILL managed to forget House of Hades by Rick Riordan *sobbing*

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Am I Being Too Harsh On Books? Or Am I Just Harder To Impress?

Earlier this week, I was thinking aloud on Twitter on me not liking books as much as I used to. I seem to be loving less books and hating more books that everybody else enjoys. So what is up with that? Am I being too harsh or have I read so much that I'm just harder to impress?

Quite frankly, I have no idea. I try to go into each book I pick up with a blank slate. With most of the books I read, I have no clue what they're about except for 'contemporary', 'fantasy' or something like 'time travel'. I read the synopsis of a book once, which is when I add it to my Goodreads shelves, but even after I receive the books, I don't read the blurb or synopsis again. So I really kinda go into every book with no idea what I should expect. Sometimes, when a book is hyped terribly, I decide to wait to read it so I'm not setting the bar sky high. But other times, I don't want to wait and dive in head-first. Most of the time, this is when the book lets me down. In this case, I don't think I was fair to the book -- I projected my expectations on a book, which made it fail miserably, while I may have enjoyed it if my expectations hadn't been so high.

I miss the time when I could pick up a book, seemingly any book, and at least enjoy it. However, lately I find myself wanting to break my Kindle, rip out the pages of a book or punch something when I read a book. Maybe I'm just picking the wrong books, who knows. I just know that it's not really a satisfying reading experience when you've hated so many books, you just kind of sit there with your buttcheeks pinched together, hoping you will actually like this book, for once. And lately, I seem to be hitting more misses than hits. And honestly, I'm starting to get frustrated.

I want to go back to being able to enjoy the books I read. Some of the books I read years ago got a 5 star rating whereas if I would read them now, having read what I have, I think they may get a 3-4 rating, tops. But I loved them at the time. I don't want to hate on books. I want them to entertain me, instead of making me want to rip my hair out. I want to love the good books, instead of thinking 'oh this is good. This is a 4 star book'. I want to go back to wanting to rate a book a solid five stars if it was really good instead of waiting until it's so good it feels like I've been shot into the stars where the unicorns fly and they pee rainbows, if you know what I mean.

Have any of you guys ever experienced this? If so, what did you do about it? I think I could use some tips.. :)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: Hold Your Breath by Caroline Green

Hold Your Breath by Caroline Green
Published: June 27th, 2013 (Picadilly Press)
Pages: 244
Source: for review
Series: NA
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Tara has the power to find missing things and people, but it’s only been a source of trouble for her so far and she’s relieved when her family move house so she can make a fresh start and try to forget about the odd images in her head.

Making friends at her new school hasn’t been easy, especially with mean girls like Melodie Stone running the show. Then Melodie disappears. Tara’s not too sorry, but she starts to see strange images of a captive girl who she gradually realises must be Melodie. Tara tries but fails to ignore the pictures in her head and finally goes in search of Melodie, with the help of Melodie’s attractive half-brother. She finds herself trapped with her former enemy, and Tara and Melodie must work together to get free, with the help of Tara’s gift.

I’ve been staring at the blinking cursor on my blank screen for over 10 minutes now and I really don’t know how to write this review. While I didn’t exactly hate this book, I did severely dislike it. It was lacking in every department; characters, dialogue, plot, writing and realism.

Tara has the gift of being able to find lost things, whether they are keys, mobiles or lost toddlers doesn’t matter. I really liked the idea behind this, but the execution of it was poorly done. While Tara is aware of this gift of hers and she uses it every now and then, she isn’t convinced it really works, even though she can find anything she looks for. On one hand, she’s so used to her talent that she seems to be bored by it, on the other hand she’s terrified by it and doesn’t want to use it at all. This doesn’t help Tara’s character. Tara is a bland teenage girl without any friends – which I found rather sad – and she blends in with any crowd. She doesn’t stand out in any way. She disappears. Quite frankly, I’m having problems remembering her and I’m writing this review two days after finishing the book.

While the story progresses, things happen because of Tara’s intuition. She has a hunch, or a feeling, or she logically realises she shouldn’t really be doing this or saying that but does it anyway because her gut tells her to. This includes taking walks while she is injured, lying to family members of an abducted teenage girl and walking into a trap. It just didn’t make any sense for her to do any of that stuff. Example: she realises the hot guy the disappeared teenager has talked to last, works at the pool so she goes swimming, even though she hates swimming. It results in a strained conversation at the end, which again, felt like it was happening because the plot needed to happen. This was something that really annoyed me. Events should take place to lead to the plot, supporting it, not happening so eventually the plot could unfold. It just felt like more than a few scenes and conversations were put into the story so the plot would work out in the end.

The dialogue was forced, not fluid or realistic at all. It bothered me to no end that characters, who had no chemistry, were awkwardly having a conversation, resulting in another unrealistic event in the book. These conversations didn’t feel true to life. Which leads me to the next problem I had with the book; the writing didn’t feel like it flowed naturally, it felt like it was choppy in some places, scenes put together without really blending them properly. It didn’t read as easily as it should have.

There isn’t really anything positive for me to say about this book, except maybe that I was able to restrain myself from throwing it across the room. I just can’t think of anything that I liked in this book. Which is the same problem as Tara had; it disappeared.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Published: January 6th, 2003 (Harper Voyager, first published in 1996)
Pages: 807
Age group: Adult
Source: bought
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire, #1
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★★☆

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.

Yes, I'm aware just about everyone and their mum have read and reviewed this book, but I'm going to post my thoughts anyway. While it took me a long, looooong time to get through this book (well over a month of on and off reading), I really enjoyed it! Martin made some kind of medieval soap opera that was kind of a marathon to get through, but very entertaining nonetheless.

In all honesty, I thought about my rating for a long time. Because while I did enjoy the book, it's very long, complicated and not easy to read at all. The prose is very descriptive and for someone like me who doesn't read books with this kind of prose, it was, well, hard. BUT I DID IT! It really felt like an accomplishment when I finally read the whole thing.

So what did I think? Well, my hate list is already terribly long. There were a ton of storylines and protagonists, but only a few were interesting imho. I hated Ned's point of view, because he was incredibly boring and I felt a bit disappointed every time I saw his name above the next chapter. Other people I hated were Robert, Lysa (someone needs to slap her with a stick), Cersei, Jaime, Viserys, Littlefinger and of course Joffrey. Holy crap. I don't think I've detested a character as much as I detest Joffrey. *shudders*

However, there were also some characters I kinda sorta liked and one I loved. I enjoyed the chapters from Arya's point of view, as well as Bran's, Tyrion's and I adored Dany's chapters. She's fierce and feisty, and I kinda love her.

Having said that, some of the so-called big reveals at the end completely fell flat because I saw them coming from about 25% of the book in. I was hoping to be surprised more, mainly because everybody is talking about how Martin messes with your head, but hey, with all those sequels there's plenty of time to do just that.

There are about fifty billion characters is Game of Thrones and while half of them get killed off during the book, I had difficulty keeping track of some of the minor characters. Whenever I came across one that didn't seem too important, I tried to skip over trying to figure out who it was. Whoops xD

I really enjoyed this book. It took me a long time to finish, and the sequel will probably take me equally as long, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how shit hits the fan in Clash of Kings. Because I'm pretty sure that will happen.. And I don't mind, at all. Let the kings clash! *grabs popcorn*

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Published: March 26th, 2013 (St. Martin's Griffin)
Pages: 256
Source: bought
Series: NA
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

There’s only one word that can really describe my reading experience with If You Find Me: Wow. Just wow. I can try to describe what I thought of this book, but it is truly a breath-taking debut and I don’t think my words will do it justice.

Carey lives in the woods with her sister, Nessa, since their mom left to get supplies 5 weeks ago. Carey is starting to worry something happened, but they make do with what little they have in the old, crumpled trailer where they live. It is in a desolate place in the woods; nobody ever goes there. Until one day, a man shows up, claiming to be their father. With him is a woman, who explains they have gotten a letter from their mother that she is unable to care for them anymore. What follows is Carey and Nessa trying to fit into a normal life, with their father, stepmom and stepsister. It isn’t as simple as it sounds. Carey has a hard time adjusting and often longs to go back to the woods. But for Nessa, she will try.

Gritty. Heartfelt. Warming. Sad. Harsh. But most of all, the book feels real. When I read it, it was like I was there, holding Carey’s hand while she went on her journey to being a normal teenager. Or at least, trying to be. Because everything is new and different. Carey feels lonely, longs for the familiar feeling of the camper and the woods. But while she makes do in her new life, she sees the beauty in things. The simple things, like having a coat that doesn’t smell like pee, or having clean clothes to put on. Or having food that doesn’t consist at least partly of baked beans. It’s so heart-warming to read about, yet so incredibly heart-breaking at the same time.

While I was reading this, my heart ached. I felt for Carey. The things she has been through are more horrible than I could have ever imagined and the way the book was written made it feel like a true story. Because Carey’s story is so intense and gripping, so raw, that I wondered if she was okay when the book ended. I cried for her. I just wanted her to be okay.

Rarely have I read a book like this that really got to me. There are a few, but none deal with the issues Murdoch addresses. Which leads me to handing out more compliments; it’s brave to write a novel about so many issues, both with abuse and mental illness, bullying and trauma. But it was done right, and done so beautifully that I can truly say I loved this book.

Big thanks to Judith for recommending me this book. It’s the type of book that I wouldn’t even notice, one that would skip my radar altogether, but it really is some sort of hidden gem. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 6, 2013

August 2013 Wrap Up

It’s September, so it’s time for my August Wrap Up post! I had to double check my calendar and yes, August really is over. It feels like it went by so fast! Here’s what happened on the blog..

Books read
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris (audio)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
The Lonesome Young by Lucy Connors

Book of the month

Guys. This book pretty much blew my socks off. It had me on the edge of my seat the whole time and it gave me so many feeeeeels. If you haven't read it yet, run and grab a copy. I'm not even kidding.

Books started but not yet finished
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Running Girl by Simon Mason
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth (audio)

Reviews written
Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead
Imposter by Jill Hathaway
Pivot Point by Kasie West
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan (audio)
Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Other posts written
Book Haul (79)
A-Z Bookish Survey

Andddd because I'm a bit of a dork I'm adding in stats as well! This month I finished 8 books and started 3 more. This equals 2,882 pages which makes a grand total of 16,019 pages read so far in 2013. I'm thinking this won't be the year I read 50,000 pages either.. But 25,000 should be doable :)

That's it for August! Have you read any of the books mentioned?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Published: April 19th, 2011 (Simon Pulse)
Pages: 269
Source: bought
Series: NA
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Noah’s happier than I’ve seen him in months. So I’d be an awful brother to get in the way of that. It’s not like I have some relationship with Melinda. It was just a kiss. Am I going to ruin Noah’s happiness because of a kiss?

Across four sun-kissed, drama-drenched summers at his family’s beach house, Chase is falling in love, falling in lust, and trying to keep his life from falling apart. But some girls are addictive....

Not your typical beach read.

A little bit of backstory: I’ve owned this book for well over two years and during that time, I had absolutely no urge to pick it up and read it. I always find that feeling odd, but this time it feels like my subconscious was trying to tell me to stay away. And I kind of wish I had.

The book covers four summers Chase and his family spend at the beach, together with the Hathaway family, who live next door while they are there on vacation. It’s a coming of age story, of a bunch of kids with no real guidance who try to make something of their lives.

I had several problems with this book. First of all, when I started reading, I wasn’t sure if the main character was a boy or a girl, which lead to some confusing scenes, followed by me flipping the pages back to find out if I had missed something. Chase does not feel like a boy to me. His voice didn’t feel distinctive and I had difficulties imagining him and what he went through during the story. Which leads me to my next problem; even the other members of both families, whether they were male or female, were hard to tell apart. I had no clue how many siblings there were, and how many siblings in the other family, because there were so many and they didn’t feel like real personalities to me, just people to fill the void. Which made trying to make sense of the story really hard. While I understand that these families are intertwined because of their shared (summer) history, I feel like I should be able to tell them apart by something. And I couldn’t. That annoyed me to no end.

There was no parental influence whatsoever. Basically, during the summer months, these kids were like loose cannonballs flying around, while their parents enjoyed a beer and a glass of wine with the other parents. Because they were there, but they didn’t do anything. Now I understand that it’s their vacation as well, but come on, as if you’d let one year-olds and eight year-olds running around on a beach without parental supervision while neither of them could swim. They’d let the older kids supervise, aware that they were busy with other stuff. Not okay. Also completely unbelievable.

My next, and possibly biggest, problem was the way Chase and his brother Noah treated Melinda. They were rude, they used her and on top of that they were being general greedy arseholes. Sure, they were both teenage boys but this was bordering on ridiculousness – if they didn’t already cross it. The whole sharing thing made me want to barf and I failed to see how this was realistic in any way.

For a contemporary novel, this sure does feel like some sort of fantasy. It was unbelievable and unrealistic. It’s one giant mess and it felt like it was up to me to figure the whole thing out. Needless to say, I didn’t want to do any of that. While I read Invincible Summer relatively quickly, I wasn’t enjoying this book and to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I hate it.

Don’t be misled by the ‘not your typical beach read’ tagline. It’s not a beach read. The fact that the story mostly takes place on a beach shouldn’t result in the term beach read. It’s a harsh, gritting story packed into a fluffy beachy looking book. Because if I’m being honest, the latter was what I was expecting from both the cover and the synopsis. Both failed to capture the true feeling of this book, so on top of not enjoying the story, I feel kind of misled.

I wouldn't recommend this book.

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