Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

 (Note:  I would like to give a huge thank you to Eric Smith of Quirk Books for sending me a copy of this book to review. My opinions on this book were in no way influenced by this fact. I can't help that I loved it; it was simply an amazing novel. ^w^)

Starting where the first book left off, Hollow City is a spectacular adventure right from the beginning. Vintage photographs are once again used throughout the book to illustrate its plot. The story is also enhanced by its strong setting and bit of history, captured through beautiful, realistic descriptions. Even better than the first, this book was a wild adventure with an ending that left me speechless.

In this sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob and his friends go on a grand adventure, a rescue mission to save Miss Peregrine from being stuck in her bird form forever. However, they are being followed by the hollowgast and wights, evil beings that only Jacob can see. Along the way, they are introduced to many other peculiars and common people. Their journey starts on the first page and goes right to the very end, begging for a third book to be written.

Once again the setting was stunning. With the help of the vintage photographs, to give the story a bit of a creepy feel, the entire book was dark and eery. The written descriptions were strong enough to be powerful even without the photographs. As the children traveled, new magnificent settings unfolded. The landscape of the seaside and the forests and the city came to life as I read it. Moving from the little island, to the bomb-threatened city of London, this series has so far held a perfect air of antiquity and oddity.

While Jacob and Emma seem to be the two main characters in the book, the rest of the children don’t simply fall behind as secondary characters- with the exception of two that end up staying behind early on in the story. All of the characters gave off strong personalities, and each of them play an important part in the group’s survival. Even Jacob seemed to grow more in this sequel, as he learned more about his powers. I really liked how each of the children were showcased in this story. They are all so great together, despite not agreeing all the time.

Along with the characters from the first book, we are introduced to a handful of new ones. As the group journeys onward, they meet several other peculiars, and common folk- from the Gypsies to a peculiar girl who didn’t even know she was peculiar. It was really exciting to discover all the peculiars’ powers, as well as the peculiar animals.

The children’s journey unfolds at a perfect, believable rate. Though their amount of running and tiring seemed a bit excessive, overall the story was well-paced. The plot was even more exciting than in the first book, and it was especially enjoyable to read about the peculiar children more.

The ending of this book left me with my eyes wide and mouth hanging open. I could not have predicted it even if I tried. I was so stunned at its sudden plot twist, that I felt like I had been lied to the entire time, which I’m sure is how the children felt, as well. I wasn’t even sure what to feel about it, other than the fact that I wish the third book would come out already.

This book- it’s setting, plot and characters- were absolutely beautiful. Aside from still being iffy about liking Jacob or not, there is nothing else bad I can say about it. It was so much fun learning about the peculiardom, and the people residing in it. This was a perfect second book to a series that I hope is going to be even more fantastic than this story was. I cannot wait for the next book to come out.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I was initially drawn to this book by both its cover and title. I hoped for something creepy and mysterious, which is what this book turned out to be. The inclusion of the old photographs was brilliant, adding a very important mood to the story. It was a very fun adventure, best read on a grey, rainy day or at night.

The main character, Jacob, was a pretty average teenage boy, living in Florida with his semi-rich parents and the strange stories his grandfather has told him all his life. But with the mysterious death of his grandfather, he goes on an adventure to discover that the stories might have been true after all. Accompanied by actual vintage photograph, the story is one with a very strong mood and striking plot.

Jacob’s character was nothing spectacular. He bothered me toward the beginning, being somewhat spoiled and dull. Even throughout the book, as he grew ever so slightly, his personality remained unembellished and rather passive. While that didn’t help me at liking his character, it did make room for the story to grow. Had his personality been too strong, it would have overpowered the story. While his personality was tolerable, one thing I would have changed about him was his age. Throughout the story, I imagined him being a few years younger, 14 perhaps. For going on such an adventure, a slightly younger age seemed appropriate. Nonetheless, his narration told the story really well.

I did not like his parents much, although his dad was at least portrayed as a real person, with faults and such. The children at the school were great. Each had distinct personalities, but they worked great together, which was fun reading about. I thought the relationship between Emma and Jacob was a bit fast and shallow, but I suppose it was portrayed that way on purpose, and I can’t wait to see how it grows in the next book.

Along with the exciting plot, the setting was one of my favorite things about this book. The image of the tiny island and seaside town was so strong. The weather matched perfectly with it, which is why I enjoyed reading this book especially on rainy days. The different times were also explained nicely, making it seem real, and almost normal for Jacob to be going back and forth between the loop. The idea of the loops themselves seemed quite realistic, emphasized through the setting of the island. I also really liked the dialogue of the children, and even of the people of the island in the present day.

The photographs within the book also made it so much more interesting and engaging. I really appreciated how they helped sculpt the story, and the characters. Also, upon reading the third to last page in the book, it is explained that the photographs are in fact real, several with slight alterations, collected by people who search for them and save them in personal archives. I’ve once heard of people doing this, and I find it so inspiring, like collecting memories and histories of people we’ll never know. And the idea of using them in this story is absolutely stunning. Like giving life to something that would otherwise be overlooked.

This story was a great adventure, with a perfect setting and interesting backstory. While the main character lacked depth, the other characters made up for it. The ending was also perfect, a great cliffhanger that makes me excited to read the next book, but also a bit of closure, involving Jacob’s dad. The story was just a bit creepy, with some history thrown in, and a strong mood that emanates from both the story itself and the actual book. I am pumped to see where this story goes, and what adventure the children go on next.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Exraordinary Secrets of April, May & June by Robin Benway

To be honest, I only picked this book up because of its gorgeous cover and clever title. However, based on those two things, along with the short summary on the back, I expected it to be filled with puke-worthy dialogue and cheesy relationships. Instead, I found the dialogue to be its strong point, and overall, for it to be a decent read.

This was a pretty light YA read, something I wouldn’t normally pick up. Though it clearly was no literary masterpiece, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I guess it was what I needed in between reading much heavier books. Also, it reminded me a bit of the show H2O, in which 3 different girls discover they are mermaids, which was nice.

Following three sisters, April, May and June, this story is about how they rediscover the magic powers that they have, and how they deal with them, including the consequences of using them. Even more so, it is about the sisterly bond between the three girls, which, although put to the test, proved to be strong. The three sisters’ personalities varied greatly. They were very stereotypical, but held more depth than I expected. The dialogue between them was quite realistic. Their constant arguing was, at times, annoying, and at others, entertaining. I especially appreciated May’s extensive use of sarcasm.

The overall plot was also very enjoyable. Although it was just the everyday life of teenagers, it felt real and whole, with a strong climax and resolution. The relationships were not instantaneous, but they were pretty predictable. Luckily, the story was not solely about the relationships between May and Henry, and April and Julian. It focused mainly on the relationship between the three girls and how each of them dealt with their powers, as well as the drama in their lives.

While I liked how they rediscovered their powers, instead of just randomly obtaining them, I wished there had been more of an explanation. Their grandmother is mentioned once in regards to it, but there is never any solid evidence given as to why the girls have their powers. The story lacked depth in that way. It could have been a lot deeper and more interesting if they had tried to find the reasoning behind their powers or something. Likewise, the character of Avery confused me greatly. I wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be some sort of ghost or a real person or something else completely. The girls briefly discuss her, but no real answer is given as to who she is.

The biggest downfall of this book was its predictability. Nearly the entire thing was predictable, from the relationships to the climax. It was easy to figure out what would happen next, but at least it was enjoyable finding out how the characters would get to that point.

For those reasons, I can’t give it more than 3 stars. I really enjoyed this book, and I will likely read it again. However, its predictability and the holes in the explanation to the girls powers left me feeling like the story was unresolved. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It is a fantastic end-of-the-world YA story. Told through the diary of a girl name Miranda, the simplistic style of writing is easily translatable to a younger audience. However, that doesn’t take away from it’s highly realistic plot, and believable characters. It thoroughly brings to question what could happen if something like this were to become a reality.

The plot and setting in the book are much more ‘down-to-earth’ than typical YA dystopians. Instead of something astronomically unrealistic happening, something as simple as an astroid hitting the moon occurs. Yet it creates devastating problems when the moon is knocked off its orbit. From that, everything goes downhill. However, instead of the family going on some dangerous adventure, they stay put and have to face the struggles of living without electricity, water, and heat, surrounded by death and illness. The writing makes it easy to imagine the neighborhood as your own neighborhood, and the family as your own family.

Through Miranda, the (mostly) neutral voice in the story, we are shown a variety of different characters and how they handle such a situation. All of the characters are put to the test in this novel, turning stereotypical Mary Janes into real, relatable people. The character growth and development comes so naturally. Each of the characters deals with the situation in their own ways. Some handle it better than others, some take more time, just as in real life. The growth of Miranda in particular is very impressive. Like a real person she struggles with the situations she is faced with. As she progresses through the book, she falls back several times. She has her weaknesses, which hinder her at first, but in the end, help her grow as a person.

Despite the difficult, life-changing problems the characters face in this book, it is not a very deep, dark story. To some, this might be bad thing, but for me, it was perfectly executed from the point of view of an inexperienced teen girl. It touches on many of the things average teen girls face, like prom, and school, and boys, but it isn’t so doused in those things that we lose a sense of character. In this story, family, health, happiness, and survival rule over those stereotypical things, which made Miranda a very believable character.

This story, with it’s simple premise that most end-of-the-world type YA books tend to overkill, was practical and plausible. Its characters were given strong voices and imaginable personalities. The writing was comprehensible and easy, without losing its potency. This was a book that I’ve read before, and will continue to pick up many times in the future. I most definitely recommend it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bout of Books 10.0 Read-a-Thon Wrap Up

The Bout of Books read-a-thon ended last night! After a week of trying to get myself to read more, I am quite sad that it is over. It was my first ever read-a-thon, and it was so much fun! I managed to finish FOUR books this week! That is quite a lot for me, considering I started off the year barely reading four books a month. I am really, really happy with my progress. Since I didn't have a goal, other than to read more and have fun, I think I did very well! Here are the four books I finished this week!






Total pages read: 1118

 Participating in this read-a-thon was great. I did something I've never done before- I interacted with other readers, especially on Twitter. I did some reading sprints with some awesome ladies on there, and I joined in one of the Bout of Books discussions on Twitter, and in their live show.

I also have written reviews for all of these books, which I will be posting here on my blog this week. I really enjoyed all of these books!

I hope everyone had fun with this read-a-thon! I hope you reached your goals if you had any. I would like to thank Amanda and Kelly, who hosted this read-a-thon! It was really fun participating, and I will likely join in the next one (and the ones after that) as well.

Overall, this was a successful first ever read-a-thon! I can't wait to do more. But until then, I'm gonna keep on reading!


Bout of Books Read-a-Thon: Day #7

The read-a-thon is over! The final day I worked really hard and managed to finish my fourth book! Here are yesterday's stats. After this post, I'll post a wrap-up of how I did overall.

Books read & finished today:


Pages read today:  273

Total pages read: 1118

Books finished today: 1

Total # of books finished: 4

I finished Hollow City just at the end of the read-a-thon. It was so, so good. I'll be making a review for it today. Also look out for a wrap post coming later today.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon: Day #6

Though it is now day 7, I was too sleepy to make yesterday's post last night, so I must do it this morning. Day 7 I read only one book, which I didn't get too far on because I was quite busy. However, last night I did two reading sprints on Twitter with some cool ladies, which was super fun, and I got a good bit of reading done then.

Books read today:

Pages read today:  73
Total pages read: 845

Books finished today: 0

Total # of books finished: 3

Today is the last day of the read-a-thon, sadly. It has been so much fun. I'm gonna try to finish Hollow City today, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to. I hope everyone reads a bunch on this final day of the read-a-thon!


Friday, May 16, 2014

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon: Day #5

Today was a 'peculiar' day, spent finishing one book and starting another! Also, it is my highest word count so far in this read-a-thon!

Books read today:

 Books finished today:

Pages read today:  258
Total pages read: 772

Books finished today: 1

Total # of books finished: 3

I'm gonna see if I can finish Hollow City tomorrow, if not, at least before this read-a-thon is over. Only 2 days left, which stinks, 'cause I'm having a lot of fun with it! It's cool keeping track of my progress. Either way,  I'm gonna keep on reading more!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon: Day #4

Today has been my worst reading day so far because I don't only have allergies, but I am also sick, apparently. As a result, I ended up sleeping most of the day, and only got a tiny bit of reading done tonight.

Books read today:

Pages read today:  14
Total pages read: 514

Books finished today: 0

Total # of books finished: 2

Tomorrow I'll hopefully get back on track, but hey, I'm not beating myself up over this since being sick sucks. Yeah, there's not much more I can think so say.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon: Day #3

Today I only read one book, but luckily I did end up finishing it, so that is an accomplishment. I've been putting off Miss Peregrine's and A Clash of Kings for some reason. I think I'll get back into ACoK tomorrow, however. Here are today's stats:

Books read & finished today:

Pages read today:  131

Total pages read: 500

Books finished today: 1

Total # of books finished: 2

I read the second half of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June today. It was a very light YA read, with some super powers thrown in. Though predictable, it was enjoyable, and definitely what I needed since I've been reading some fairly heavy stuff lately. I enjoyed it a lot more than expected, aside from the fact that it's not something I would normally read. I'm gonna write my review for it first thing tomorrow, since I'm super tired right now.

I hope everyone is having fun with this read-a-thon! I definitely am. I'll update you tomorrow!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon: Day #2

Day 2 started off shaky, with minimal book reading. However, it ended strong, when I got through more than half of an entire book! Whoo hoo! My word count it about the same as yesterday. Seven words more, to be exact. Though I didn't finish any books today, I did read several different things.

Books read today: 

Pages read today: 188

Total pages read: 369

Books finished today: 0

Total # of books finished: 1

I started off today with Miss Peregrine's, but couldn't find myself getting into it. It just started to get exciting, but I just wasn't feeling it. I then tried A Clash of Kings, but that was too much for me at the moment, too, unfortunately. After that, I read a chapter of One Piece online, which I'm counting in my word count, but not my book count. Idk, I just decided to do that. Finally, after eyeing it for the first half of the day, I picked up The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June. I bought this the other day, mostly 'cause of it's beautiful cover and neat title.

I read more than half of it today, and I'm surprised how much I like it. It's very light and easy, teen drama but nothing too deep. Either way, it was what I needed. I will be finishing it early tomorrow for sure.

Anyway, that was my day 2! I also watched the Bout of Books Liveshow, which was fun! And the two awesome ladies who run it, Amanda and Kelly answered my question about writing processes. I'm excited for more reading tomorrow!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Bout Of Books Read-a-Thon: Day #1

I made it through day one with a success! I finished Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer! Though technically I only read half of it for the read-a-thon, I'm still pretty happy for getting it finished on the first day. It was a great end-of-the-world story, very realistic and enjoyable! I even already made my review on it, which you can find on my Goodreads!

I've decided since I'll be posting daily through this read-a-thon, that I'll post any book reviews I write on the following week, just so I have them spaced out on here. However, I'll have them posted on my Goodreads once I write them.

Today I also joined in on the Bout of Books discussion on Twitter, which was pretty dang fun. Talking to book people is great!

I also decided to keep track of my progress by writing out my daily stats.

Books read & finished today: 

Pages read today:  181

Total pages read:  181

Total # of books finished:  1

I'm pretty proud of this strong start. Tomorrow I'll be picking up Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which I'll hope to finish. Perhaps I'll continue A Clash of Kings. I'm not sure yet. All I know is that I'll be reading a bunch! I hope everyone is having fun and reading a lot, too!


Bout of Books 10.0 Read-a-Thon!

I decided to join in on my first ever read-a-thon, because, too be honest, I haven't been reading as much as I want to be. (I blame Neopets) I am currently in the middle of 3-4* books, some of which I keep putting off, and then I, consequently, start others. I think this read-a-thon will be a great chance for me to focus on reading! While I eat, while I relax, anytime I would be doing something less productive **cough**neopets** I'm really excited to get some books finished and start some new ones that I bought recently.

So, let me first explain how this goes. The Bout of Books Read-a-Thon starts today, May 12, and ends on May 18. There are no mandatory challenges or goal, which makes it great for beginners like me. In this week, the only requirement is that you try to read more than you normally would. You can make personal challenges for yourself, if you want, too. You can find more information about the Read-a-Thon, and sign up until May 13, on their site!

Now, onto my personal goals and whatnot! I haven't set anything official, but I do like the idea of being able to read a book a day. For me, at the moment, that is probably unrealistic. However, having this goal might motivate me to get more reading done. I will be very happy if I'll be able to finish the 3 books I'm currently reading:
I've been putting this one off because I want to pick up the third book to read directly after. However, that is not happening, so maybe finishing it will be the motivation I need to finally buy the third!
This book I picked up in hopes of reading the series, to inspire me to write my post-apoc story. While I'm loving it (and I've read it before so I know I love it) I'm just not in the mood to keep reading the series right now. So I want to at least finish this baby.
Started this only a few days ago, and it's a fast read that I've been reading slow. I adore it so far! The creepy factor, and the island are so intriguing. It's inspiring me to read other books with a similar setting.

Soooo along with those three that I want to finish, I am going to be reading the manga One Piece online, which I technically can count as a book, even though it's digital. I currently have a huge ass stack of books in my TBR, along with some new additions, and more on the way, so I hope to plow through several of those. I'll really have to see how it goes at this rate, since I've been reading so slowly lately.

Nonetheless, I am excited to participate in this read-a-thon! I thought of making video updates for it, but that would take up too much of my time. Instead, I'll be making daily updates on here, and I'll make frequent Twitter posts, as well. So go follow me there to see what I'm up to!

That's about it! If you're participating, I'd love to know what you're reading and how it's going throughout the week! I'll let you know how my reading went at the end of the day!


*One of them I am reading to my boyfriend so I can't really count it as a book I'm trying to get finished.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Told exclusively through photographs, IMs, postcards, and other ephemera, this sweet and easy read will leave you feeling something in the short amount of time it takes you to read it.

The story follows Glory, who, after the death of her mother, becomes obsessed with music. She later meets Francisco, a boy from Argentina, and they embark on a relationship full of difficult decisions.

The usage of pictures to tell this story was absolutely beautiful. With its rather bleak beginning, the story could have ended in any combination of ways, and I did not expect  it to end the way it did. However, it was so amazing, a bit of closure that made my heart ache. The symbolism in this book was also very sweet, especially the way Chopsticks relates to the relationship between the two main characters.

I was stunned at how powerful a story comprised solely of pictures could be. It took me about an hour to read and absorb the beautiful photography, as well as its various meanings. But I feel like this story will stick with me long after. Not only was this a graciously put together book, but a gorgeous story about love and life. I really adore and recommend it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

(Note:  This a very personal review, and it was necessary to mention certain parts of the story in it. I tried to keep it as spoiler free as possible, but if you know nothing about this book, I suggest you wait until you’ve read it, to read my review.)

To be honest, it took me a long time to pick this book up because I was afraid of how it would affect me. I have read other books dealing with mental illness/love that left me feeling depressed, for various reasons, but usually because the characters were so relatable that I’d start comparing my life to theirs. That is my excuse as to why I avoided this book I’ve heard so many good things about, for so long, why I was literally afraid to read this book.

But I have now read it, and I have a lot of things to say about it.

I finally decided to read this book for some unconscious reason. I was feeling brave, and it seemed to nag me from the shelf. It was somehow what I expected, and not what I expected at the same time. The story, which was fairly simple, was super easy to get into, and I finished it in about three days. The same night I finished it, I started it over again.

I was, once again, blown away by John Green’s writing. It was very fluid and real, like a person’s direct thoughts captured on the page, which is why it was so easy to read. For the most part, I’d say he has an amazing ability to write teenagers. However, the writing was not quite flawless. It’s going great, perfect, until Augustus is introduced. Hazel is instantly captured by him because he’s sooo hot. Because like a stereotypical teenage girl, the first thing she notices about him is whether or not he’s hot. It’s not creepy at all that he’s staring at her, and she justifies this by saying how inappropriate it would be if he were not hot. “But a hot boy...well.” It does not seem very realistic, especially the instant change in writing that takes place while Hazel talks about this hot boy. Luckily, after they become friends and then date, the writing does not break into these unnecessary gushes again.

Now, onto the characters.

As a defiant, outcast teenager, I think I would have appreciated the sarcastic and comically pretentious characters a bit more. They are, essentially, the too-cool-to-like-what’s-cool type of teenagers that I unfortunately once was myself, which can be summed up in this line: “I take quite a lot pride in not knowing what’s cool,” I answered. The dialogue between Hazel and Augustus was entertaining at times, and admirable at others. They spoke unlike average teenagers, and it was clear that while it seemed to come easy to Hazel, I could imagine Augustus spending many years mastering the art of metaphoric speaking. They did not talk like typical teenagers, but then again, they were not typical teenagers. Being surrounded by and faced with death forced them to become wise, despite the fact that they are still kids. Augustus was a little over the top, with his unsmoked cigarettes and soliloquies. It’s difficult to imagine a real boy acting how he does. 

While Hazel grew on me, both her and Augustus being so purposefully pretentious and insensitive was the biggest downfall of this book. At first I couldn’t understand why Hazel fell so quickly for Augustus, after he explained his overwhelming love of metaphors. Hazel seemed to me like the kind of girl who would avoid someone like Augustus; I imagined she’d resist his slightly conceded demeanor. But I soon realized that she was just like him, and the two of them went together well, despite their obvious faults, or even because of their obvious faults. 

Peter Van Houten, the author of Hazel’s favorite book An Imperial Affliction, is sort of an adult version of Augustus and Hazel, but lacking the maturity. In his letters to Hazel and Augustus, he uses highly impressive language, but his fake invitation to them to come to Amsterdam proves that he’s not the amazing person he tries to get people to imagine. He bothered me more than Augustus and Hazel combined.

It was quite refreshing to read about how involved Hazel’s parents were. They weren’t just there or non-important, like in so many YA books. They were present in the story, as strong, believable characters. They were flawed, as people are, but they weren’t cast as annoying or in the way, by Hazel. I enjoyed finding out about how much Hazel’s dad cries, and how strong her mom is. Come to think of it, Hazel’s mom was probably one of the best characters in the story. She was realistic and believable. She went on the trip with Hazel and Augustus, which I can imagine, if written by someone else, she wouldn’t have gone, which would make it more ‘romantic’, but lessen its believability. 

The plot of this book was fairly simple, the flow of a growing romance, with reminders of Hazel’s cancer throughout. It was very enjoyable, though somewhat predictable. One thing I would have liked to see is the connection between Hazel’s affinity to America’s Next Top Model and their trip to Amsterdam. I know this is a trivial addition, but anyone who watches ANTM probably envied the models’ trip to Amsterdam, and I wished that Hazel had mentioned it, if only to make the whole thing more believable. But surely John Green does not watch the show, so…

This was a book that made me feel, but not in such a brutal way that I regret reading it. The relationship between Hazel and Augustus, but specifically Hazel’s loss of him, made me realize how lucky I am to have someone in my life that is as special to me (except more) as Augustus was to Hazel. It made me appreciate that we have the future to look forward to, even though right now things aren’t perfect. It made me feel blessed to have him, and a loving, although far from perfect, family. 

This book made me feel, not not just toward the characters, but translated in my life. It is so powerful when a story can do that, especially one so easy to read. I was again stunned by John Green’s ability to capture such emotions through simple characters and unembellished writing. This was not only an amazing YA novel, but a book anyone can read and understand the message of. Though this book and its characters are not for everyone, those who want to give it a read will be hit hard with lots of emotions that will sink in slowly over time. Which is why, by the time I finished reading it, I wanted to start it again.