Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Broadway Books
Release date: August 6th 2011
Genre: Dystopian/Science Fiction
Pages: 372
My rating: 4.5/5

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines--puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win--and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be cool. Although I’m not the biggest fan of videogames I do love the idea of OASIS. It could be like going into your favorite book. I was really intrigued by the world, both the real one and the OASIS one. The real world is a mess, but it’s not a typical dystopian where there is a controlling government. It’s just a mess and no one knows how to solve it. No wonder people escape in OASIS where you can be and do anything. I would. Chances are you would too.
Also, there’s a giant robot battle. If that doesn’t scream cool I don’t know what will.

This book is filled with 80’s references; movies, music, books and most of all video games. I’m a teenager and didn’t live through the 80’s. I’m also not really familiar with anything from the 80’s. If you are, this book is perfect for you. But still, if you’re like me, you won’t be left out of things. Of course, there’s a bunch of references that you’ll miss but anything that is important is explained very well. And when you do recognize something, you’ll feel incredibly proud. Either way, it definitely didn’t take away from how enjoyable this book was.

The characters are very imperfect and because of that realistic. Wade is an overweight teenager who prefers to lock himself in his room than go outside. He’s very good at being a geek and does some very cool stuff inside OASIS, still his life isn’t glorified. Ernest Cline makes it very clear that the way Wade lives his life isn’t a good thing and one of the themes in this book is that real life will always be better than a virtual one. We follow Wade as he grows throughout the story and learns this lesson.
But Wade wasn’t the character I related to the most, strangely enough that was a character that died in the very beginning of the book: James Halliday. He doesn’t appear in the novel himself (because he’s dead, duh) but I did feel as if we got to know him throughout the competition he had set up.
“Jim always wanted everyone to share his obsessions, to love the same things he loved. I think this contest is his way of giving the entire world an incentive to do just that.”
Halliday is the creator of OASIS and is portrayed as a slightly crazy, isolated an obsessive person. But this quote made me realize that he just wanted people to be like him. In a way I’m the same when I want people to read and love the same books as me.

My favorite part about this book was the plot, It was exciting and fast paced. The world is used to its full potential and I finished it in two sittings. My only problem with it is the part after Wade finds the first key and before anyone knows what’s going on with the second one. I know it’s only realistic that it takes them so long to figure it out (after all no one knew anything about the first key for five years). But it still seemed to drag on and the romance between Wade and Art3mis took up a lot of pages, more than needed in my opinion.

All in all I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. If it hadn’t been for that one slow part it would definitely be five stars. I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for an exciting book that will have you turning pages like crazy. And of course to anyone who loves the 80’s. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: The Darkest Minds

Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release date: December 18th 2012
Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 488
My rating: 4/5

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

I am a sucker for any story about superpowers. If I had one wish I would wish to have superpowers. Aside from that I also like dystopian, it might be my favorite genre. So when I heard about a dystopian book in which the main characters have superpowers, I was intrigued. Along with all the hype this book got I was almost setting myself up for disappointment. Surprisingly that didn't happen. 

You are immediately thrown into the world in this book. There is no info dump and you continue to be a little hazy on a lot of the details until later in the book. The children with powers are identified by colors and it is never actually said what each color means. There are, however, enough little hints for you to figure out what each color is. The same goes for what Ruby did to her parents years ago. For half of the book there are speculations so you can get some kind of idea of what happened. But it doesn't take away off the big reveal. I really liked the way Alexandra Bracken doesn't treat the readers like little kids and assumes they are smart enough to figure out the details without them being expressively mentioned. A great example of show, don’t tell.

The characters in this book were so lovable and realistic. Our main character, Ruby, is more scared of herself than of the world around her. As the reader we can see she isn't a monster, but if you think about what she went through and what she saw and did, it isn't too weird she thinks this way. Liam is probably one of the sweetest guys ever and I have a weak spots for guys who want nothing more than to be able to be a hero for other people. 
Another thing I liked about the characters were that the villains were heroes in their own minds. You could understand why they did what they did. I hate it when villains are just evil for the sake of being evil. 

The only bad thing I have to say about this story is that it started out a little slow. It took a while for it to fully grab my attention. But when it had it... I'm really glad I read this when Never Fade was already out and in my possession because there was an open ending. So I will be reading the sequel hopefully soon and finding out what happens to the characters I have grown to care for.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
Release date: February 21st 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 359 
My rating: 5+/5


Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

This book had been on my to be read list for a while, so long that I had kind of forgotten about it. That is until my friend showed me the book he received as a gift. He’s not a huge reader and when I asked if I could borrow it he said of course. I gave it back to him two days later. If it hadn’t been for school I probably would have finished it in one sitting. Instead of doing that I read it during and in between classes.

The characters are definitely the most important part of this story. While I was reading it I really was living Ari’s life with him. I loved getting to know more and more about his life in little bits. Not everything about his past gets dumped on you in the first couple of chapters. We gradually get to know him as he gets to know himself.
Dante was just lovely. We see him grow just as much as Ari even though the story isn’t told from his perspective. Even when he’s not actually with Ari he develops so much through the letters he writes. By the end of the book they are both different, and better, people then they were in the beginning.

In a lot of books that deal with LGBT issues parents are one of the obstacles the character coming out has to face. Whether they are actually unsupportive or the character is just worried they will be. The parents in this story are the opposite and it was so nice to read about it. They knew their children sometimes even better then they knew himself. I don’t think I’ve ever read about better parents. And it’s not like they were perfect either, they had their flaws and struggles. That didn’t stop them from being great parents. 

The writing style in this book is different from most books. It’s so lyrical and beautiful without ever getting pretentious. I am definitely going to reread this book and highlight all the wonderful quotes.
The short chapters makes it feel like you’re getting to see the important moments in Ari’s life, the ones that changed him. I absolutely love short chapters, they make the content feel so much more important. And this author manages to say so much with so little.

Even though I don’t struggle with the same things Ari deals with he was so relatable. Because he isn’t always fighting against the world, although he doesn’t know it, but against himself. And to me that was the big message in this story. Accepting yourself is always so much more important than getting accepted by the world. 

I think it's great that this book exists, because there are a lot of books about gay teens getting bullied about their sexuality already. That doesn't make it easier for teenagers who are scared to come out. This book, on the other hand, is encouraging and shows that it doesn't always have to be difficult and that there will be people to support you too. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Wrap Up/August TBR

Books I've read
This month I've read twelve books in total and I'm very happy with that number. I've never read this many books in a month before and hope this is going to become a habit and doesn't turn out to be a one time thing. A few of these books I read for the BookTubeAThon and The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a reread. 

Books I've reviewed
My blog only exists for a little over a week now so there aren't that many reviews up so far. But so far I've done three. 

August TBR
I don't think I'll read as much in August as I did in July (but I can hope right) because school will start again in late August. So weird... it feels like vacation just started a week ago... Ready Player One is the book for August for the Little Book Club. But anyway these are the book I hope I'll get to in August. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bout of Books!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I don't know exactly what books I'll be reading for this read-a-thon but I plan on starting the His Dark Materials Trilogy because I've had that boxset forever and haven't read it yet.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Children’s Publishing
Release date: September 27th 2011 
Genre: Paranormal 
Pages: 466 
My rating: 2/5
First book in a series 

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.

I'm going to say it right now, I had some major problems with this book. This book has gotten amazing reviews and is praised for its creepy atmosphere and unreliable narrator. These things are true, to a certain extent, but in my opinion in no way good enough to make up for its faults.

What I did like about this book was the premise and the first few chapters. The idea of not being sure whether or not a character is crazy really appealed to me and the most interesting part of this book by far were all the strange things happening to Mara. I also liked the mysterious atmosphere throughout the story although it wasn't as creepy as I hoped it would be.

Now let's talk about the love interest Noah Shaw... Noah is a British, arrogant, rich, hot boy who, according to Jaime (Mara's best friend) has slept with literally every single girl at school. Excuse me if I am not fawning over him. He has treated all of these girls horrible and let's just say I was ready to hate Noah after this:
 "I heard that a senior from Walden tried to commit suicide after he—well. After he got what he came for, pun intended, and didn’t call again."
What... WHAT. How can the author just casually brush over this? A girl tried to kill herself after Noah treated her like crap. I just couldn't wrap my head around it and I lost all respect for Noah, and at a certain point Mara because she didn't seem to care. 

Aside from the fact that Noah doesn't seem to have a conscience, he also doesn't seem like a realistic character. He has litterally everything a typical teenage girl would find attractive. He randomly has a British accent, he is a bad boy who is extremely protective (to the point where it gets controlling) of Mara, he is rich but for some reason hides that and of course he is extremely good looking. He just didn't feel like a real person at all. 

I also had some issues with Mara, although not as much as with Noah. She caught on very slow with what was happening to her and this started getting a little repetitive at a certain point. I did appreciate that she reacted at least semi-appropriate to what was happening to her. A lot of characters in YA seem to have no trouble accepting paranormal things when they have never experienced anything like that. Mara freaked out and in all honesty, that's what most of us would do. 

It is such a shame that this book is what it is because there truly was a lot of potential and I really think it could have been great. I am not sure yet if I want to read the sequel. A part of me is curious because we still don't know what was real and what was Mara being crazy, but I have a feeling things may get worse and it will just frustrate me... I guess time will tell. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #1

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews and it's all about bloggers showing what books they are adding to their collection, whether they're physical copies or e-books. 

These are the books I got over the past couple of weeks. Most of them were welcome back presents from my friends (I'd been gone for ten months) and three of them I bought to add to a series I already owned. Because if I own one book in a series I have to own the rest too. 



By now I've already read seven of these books and pretty much enjoyed all of them. If you've read any of these books let me know what you thought! 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Review: I Am the Messenger

Author: Markus Zusak 
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Borzoi Books  
Release date: May 9 2006
Genre: Mystery/suspense
Pages: 360
My rating: 5/5 stars
Stand Alone 

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?

It has to be said, this book has a great first chapter, one that is both exciting and very funny. You enter the story in the middle of a bankrobbery, hence the excitement. The bankrobber however is not that good at being a bankrobber, and Ed, our main character, and his friends are not very good at being bankrobbery victims. They are incapable of shutting up and end up getting almost shot. But in the end Ed is the one with the gun in his hand and saves the day. 

Stopping the bankrobber is the first notable thing Ed has ever done. He describes himself as less than ordinary and I have to agree with him, although it's not a bad thing. In the beginning of the story, Ed is not a hero, not even close. Even his own mother thinks he's worthless. It isn't until he receives a card in the mail and is almost forced to be a hero. This change isn't abrupt but takes place gradually throughout the novel. It is one of the best cases of character development that I have ever seen. 

Ed is also one of my new favorite characters. He is so down to earth and knows exactly who he is and what he's worth. He doesn't pretend to be anything that he isn't. Although he isn't extroadinary in any way he manages to help people by really looking at them and seeing what they need, being extremely selfless when giving them that. Ed is ordinary yet heroic. And if he can be a hero, everyone can. 
I however couldn't bring myself to like Audrey, the girl Ed is hopelessly in love with. Maybe because I was feeling a little protective of Ed and Audrey just wasn't treating him well. Ed even describes it as her killing him slowly. I did however enjoy their friendship and the way they seamlessly knew each other.  
There were also a lot of side characters that you grow to care off in the few pages that Ed interacts with them. Sophie, the Tatupu family and of course the Doorman (although he appears througout the whole novel) were some of my favorites. 

Markus Zusak has a very unique writing style that I just love. It's lyrical but not pretentious at all. He has a great way of describing certain things that makes them so much more powerful. At one point he describes a bright light to be deafening. In a way it doesn't make sense but yet you know what he means and it conveys a feeling more than a observation and that makes it powerful. 
The book is also divided up in a cool way, every chapter is a card. It starts with the ace of diamonds and makes its way through the suits. I know it's just a small thing but it's so creative and it suits the style of the book. 

There were also a few things that I didn't like about this book. Nothing major, but still. After the first chapter and before Ed takes action there was a part where the book couldn't really keep my attention. Luckily this wasn't a problem anymore after that. 

The ending and the resolution seemed to go really quickly compared to the rest of the book. I won't spoil anything but I still don't think I completely understand how and why everything happened. It wasn't bad, it just seemed a little sloppy and I think it could have been done better. But by that point I was so engrossed in the book and the big themes that started to surface that it couldn't ruin my love for this book. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014 LGBT Reading Challenge

I know I'm starting this challenge a little late, considering more than half of 2014 has already passed, but I still want to participate in this challenge. First of all because challenges motivate me to read and secondly because I enjoy LGBT books a lot. They're usually a lot more interesting than 'normal' love stories. 
The challenge is to read and review at least 3 LGBT books. I've already read Aristotle and Dante discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and loved it, so a review of that will follow. 

Other books I plan to read are Ask the Passengers by A.S. King and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. Hopefully I'll also be able to read Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour, but I don't own that yet. (click on images to go to their Goodreads page)


Quotes #1

One of my favorite things in this world are quotes. I just love how scribbles form letter, letters form words and words form sentences that can make you feel things. Here I will share some of my favorite quotes. Either from books I've read recently or movies, shows or people.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger:
"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz:
"I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone's hand."

"The problem with my life is that it was someone else's idea."

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:
"If they killed him tonight at least he would die alive."

"I have hated the words and I have loved them and I hope I made them right." 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher:
"No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people." 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs
Publisher: Quirk
Release date: June 7 2011
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 352
My rating: 4/5 stars
First book in a series

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

First of all, I went into this book with a very different idea of what this book was going to be about. This is my fault because I didn't realize I'd never actually read a summary of the book. I'd heard so much about it, everything about the pictures of course, and thought I knew what to expect. In my mind this book was a creepy, sort of horror book that was set in the past. This resulted in me being a little confused for the first couple of pages because the books starts out in modern Florida. 

Something that has to be said about this book is that the design is beautiful. I own the paperback version and it's such a sturdy book. The paper feels a lot nicer and is less likely to rip than that of most other books I own. The cover fits the book perfectly and gives it the creepy vibes that attracted me to this book in the first place. Then the book is filled with antique pictures that sometimes give you an image of what a character looks like, and sometimes are just plain creepy. 

There's a lot of different characters in this novel. From Jacob's best, and only, friend who has green hair to his snobby mother to a kid who is invisible. Jacob himself comes over like a real person and react to the situations in a way that's reasonable and realistic. My favorite characters were definitely the peculiar children because of how they really acted like children. They asked lots of question when they weren't supposed to and used their abilities in ways that weren't always responsible. Sadly we didn't get to know most of them that well so I hope we'll learn more about them in the sequel.

Although the main focus of this book is definitely on the plot and the setting it did make me think. These kids are in a loop where they repeat the same day over and over again. Jacob has to decide whether or not he wants to stay. It made me think what I would do in his position. Would I be able to handle going through the same day in the same place again and again, even if I would be happy there?

There were two things I didn't really like about the book. The first one isn't that important, but the chapters are huge. There's 352 pages and only 11 chapters. This way I can't be like: "I'll just read one chapter before doing this or that". The other thing that made me feel a little awkward was the beginning romance between Jacob and Emma. Everything is all fine until you remember that Emma used to be the girlfriend of Jacob's grandfather...

I am pretty sure this book classifies as young adult but to me it felt a lot more like a middle grade book. There's nothing wrong with that because there are tons of middle grade books I love, but if you don't like those kind of books these may not be for you. Because apart from some gruesomely described scenes I don't think there's anything in the book that I would say is too mature for younger readers.

All in all I really enjoyed this book and am really curious about what will happen to Jacob and his friends in Hollow City. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend it. Even if it's just to find out what everyone's been talking about.

Side note: I found a reference to John Green's papertowns.
"Left at the multiethnic roof Santas!" (page 32)