Currently readingPalo Alto by James Franco
Published:  August 2011 by Faber and Faber
Pages: 224

Palo Alto is the debut of a powerful new literary voice. Written with an immediacy and sense of place Palo Alto traces the lives of an extended group of teenagers as they experiment with vices of all kinds, struggle with their families and one another, and succumb to self-destructive, often heartless nihilism. Franco presents his characters in all their raw humanity, while at the same time providing insight into the teenage mind.

In the classic American tradition of story-cycles such as Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Palo Alto presents a stark, vivid, disturbing, but, above all, compassionate portrait of lives on the rough fringes of youth.
“Everyone pretends to be normal and be your best friend, but underneath, everyone is living some other life you don't know about, and if only we had a camera on us at all times, we could go and watch each other's tapes and find out what each of us was really like.”
When it comes to short stories, I am always a bit hesitant. It could always go in so many directions, because you cannot really expect what you're going to read. After having read the reviews and the blurb on the back, Palo Alto is supposedly a book about American teenagers living their suburban lives. Having lent the book from someone, he told me to not have very high expectations. I am glad I listened, because this book can be described with three key words: dry, vague and weird.

To break down every single story would not be possible, simply because most of them did not have a steady plot. There were some where nothing really happened, and were just fragments taken out of normal teenage lives. It was safe to say that this was the only aspect I liked, as most teenagers are not chosen ones or go on a magical and life-changing adventure. However, I felt like I had read all of them by the time I got to the second half of the book. Generally the same themes are handled in all of the stories, and after a while it just seemed like they kept getting recycled. Despite all this, I did have my favourites, such as American History and Lockheed.

I liked how Franco tried to connect his stories, however with the emphasis on tried. A handful of characters also appeared in other stories, but there was no real connection. In fact, it was more like a familiar name appeared every now and then. A nice try, but after a few stories I wasn't paying attention anymore.

If I had to sum up my biggest Palo Alto pet peeve, I would go straight for Franco's writing. So yes, he is a director and a screenwriter, but this is still his debut novel. As someone who loves flowing writing with some lyrical hints here and there, I did not love this. This book is a collection of short, dry sentences which lacks one of the most important writing rules: show, don't tell. I believe I cannot count on both hands how many times I read: "He was excited", "She was angry", etc. It came across so dry that it made both the stories and the characters very superficial.

The characters are one by one quite flat and one-dimensional. Although Franco is trying to portray the lives of normal American teenagers, I got the feeling they were stereotypical delinquents. The black gangs, the nerd, the slut, the asshole, they were all there. Fortunately, it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would.

In a nutshell: Franco's short stories about American teenage lives wasn't exactly what I pictured it to be. After my encouter with superficial and weird stories, bad writing and one-dimensional characters, I would rather go back to my chosen ones and magical adventures.

24917919Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4) by Marissa Meyer
Published: November 10th 2015 by Feiwel and Friends
Pages: 827

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?
“Her whole body was wound up tight. She was ready to storm the palace herself - an army of one.”
All series must come to an end, which was also the case for Marissa Meyer's Winter. For us readers, it is a natural instinct to be cautious when it comes to the last installment. The expectations are sky-high, the excitement is palpable, which makes possible disappointments unavoidable. After finishing this eight hundred-page book, I wondered why it felt like I didn't encounter any disappointments. Satisfying conclusions are hard to find, and a gem even less. To be honest, I'm currently just grinning of joy and holding the book in my arms like a newborn baby. Winter was truly everything I hoped it would be, making it a very satisfying conclusion to one of my all-time favourite series.

Much to my surprise, this book actually turned out to be eight hundred pages long. I half expected to sometimes struggle my way through, as I normally do with books this long. However, it was quite the surprise when I didn't. It read like any other young-adult novel, regardless of the ridiculous amount of pages. If an author can make you feel like you didn't just spent hours and hours reading, I think it shows just how talented they are.

Meyer's talent didn't just stop there, but was noticeable all the way through. A brilliant example is her use of the original fairy tales. Without having to spoil things, I absolutely adored how she weaved the storylines from Snow White into the main plot. Therefore, there were a lot of unexpected twists and turns I should have seen coming. When I thought I had seen it all, a particular scene at the end of the book came along, and was just lovable to read.

Things were looking up at the end of Cress, but there was still so much yet to happen and so many things that needed to be done. That was why every single page felt absolutely necessary, despite the length of the book. Throughout the story, I couldn't help but notice that Meyer really took her time writing it. There was no rush. Everything was built up slowly, yet at a steady pace, leading up to one of the best climaxes I had the pleasure to read. It was just so well done, and clearly payed off.

That can be seen as another aspect stepped into the picture, one I see far too less in final installments: credibility. There are these kind of books where the whole main crew of characters survive. Where everyone is happy, all the enemies are dead and no one is hurt. Without spoiling anything, I must say this wasn't the case with Winter. Everything that happened was so convincing. Setting up an entire rebellion doesn't happen in one day, and this book made that very clear. There were downfalls, captures, misfortune. It made me frustrated, but it isn't much better either if everything happens too smoothly. It led to palpable tension and nervosity, yet the writing flowed, resulting in long reading sessions because I had no intention of putting the book down.

As soon as Winter began, we were introduced to the fascinating world of Luna: once a simple colony on the moon, now a kingdom suppressed by a ruler with an iron fist. It was enjoyable to explore both Artemisia, the wealthy capital filled with aristocrats, but also the poor and hard-working outer sectors. Doesn't this general idea ring a bell? I, for one, couldn't help but be reminded of The Hunger Games at times. There were so many similarities, especially the way the citizens of Artemisia behaved and how the outer sectors were not able to be touch in with one another. It makes sense that dictatorships in young-adult literature share the same features, but it was a little too similar in my opinion.

Upon looking back at who they were at the beginning of the series, every single character has grown so much. Most of the characterization in this book wasn't very prominent, except for Cinder. She obviously had a lot to go through, but it was portrayed very well. Underneath all her bravery and fierceness, she is still a sixteen-year-old girl who is kind of overwhelmed, and it was actually comforting to see.

Aside from Cinder, I'd like the put all the attention on the two characters who already made their appearance in Cress: the princess and the guard. Just the simple fact that Winter has schizophrenia because she won't use Lunar gift, is awesome, intriguing and scary. I already knew a bit about the disorder because of my education, but seeing it being inserted into a story is a whole other level. An unreliable narrator is the least I would have expected to find in a sci-fi/fantasy series, but I am glad Meyer let it happen. Especially her visions were eerie and made me shiver, but seeing Jacin react to these kind of situations made my heart melt. I would have loved to have seen more of Winter and her relationship with Jacin, although it didn't necessarily felt lacking.

Though I certainly swooned a lot while reading, the romance didn't feel as present as it was in other books, but I am not complaining. It was light, subtle, yet there were enough scenes to make me fall in love with my ships all over again.

After writing all of this, I still feel like a mess and ready to cry because I have to say goodbye to a bunch of my favourite characters. As I still find myself in a state of denial, all I can do now is wait for Stars Above, which is only two months left. I'll survive.

15724396The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1) by Rick Riordan
Published: October 6th 2015 by Disney Hyperion
Pages: 507

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a m
an his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .

“Myths are simply stories about truths we've forgotten.”

The Sword of Summer is the kind of book I hardly new what is was going to be about. Still, upon starting this new series by best-selling author Rick Riordan, I was grinning so much because I was on the verge of starting a whole new adventure. Norse mythology, a beautiful-looking cover, and my all-time favourite author, it could hardly go wrong. Luckily: I wasn't let down, with a few exceptions.

Percy Jackson, Riordan's most famous character who appears in both Percy Jackson & The Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus, is mostly known to the reading world as a troubled kid who is full of witty comments and a lot of sarcasm. In Riordan's previous books, his character always led to dialogues you couldn't help but laugh out loud at. Magnus Chase was no exception. He is a hilarious yet relatable and loving main character who brings along the humour and amusement I get from reading Riordan's books. It's quite obvious that I had my prejudices upon starting The Sword of Summer. For example, I was worried that Magnus Chase was going to be a complete copy of Percy Jackson.

Already from the very beginning, it certainly felt like so. It seemed to me that the author knew his fanbase wasn't able to say their goodbyes to Percy Jackson just yet, and that he used this as an opportunity to create a protagonist who resembles him to a large extent. The similarity did make me wonder just how similar their voices felt. In all honesty, they are as alike as two drops of water. Although it did not bother me as much as I thought it would, I still wished he would have been a little bit different than our favourite Greek hero.

Fortunately, the author's fantasy and originality began to flow after he'd created Magnus Chase. It let to a variety of diverse characters and a very amusing cast of characters who laid the groundwork for the rest of the series. I especially adored Hearthstone's and Samirah's additions to the book. Sign language is not something you come in contact with every other day, nor is the Islam. It is not something you would expect to encounter in a book about Norse myths, but the Riordan likes to surprise.

The plot is the one aspect of the book that leaves a lot to be desired. Even though I came across some fun twists and it contained Norse mythology, it wasn't what I was expecting. I learned a lot about the Norse mythology and I'm very appreciative for it, but on the other hand it was too much to take in at once and I feel like I have already forgotten things I shouldn't. For the rest, a lot of time the plot headed in no specific direction and didn't encourage me to continue. The characters went to different places, without too much of a development in the story. Suddenly the end of the book was near, and yet I hadn't experienced a great of exciting build up. It quickly made me realise how much shorter this story could have been, instead of the five hundred pages it consists of now.

As a best-selling and widely popular author, it can be hard sometimes to start on something completely new and focus on unknown territory. As much as I loved and cherished the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series, I'm still rather critical over The Sword of Summer. I did thoroughly enjoy it, so the only thing I can do is hope that the rest of the series will only get better. Maybe I'm getting a bit too old to read Middle Grade, but it surely won't stop me from reading every single Rick Riordan book in the future.

22328546Red Queen (Red Queen trilogy, #1) by Victoria Aveyard
Published: February 10th 2015 by HarperTeen
Pages: 383

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

"The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind."

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

A day after finishing it, I am still reeling from the shock Red Queen made happen. The wounds of that ultimate betrayal are still fresh and healing, and I feel like I can't even bring my mind to what has happened. Fortunately, there also are a lot of other things that happened in this book, ranging from fantastic characters to an okay world. Despite some issues I may have, Red Queen is a very pleasing and surprisingly enjoyable read.

To start off with a thing I liked less, I am surprised to say that the world has disappointed me here a bit. Contrary to the characters, the world building wasn't very well developed and left some disappointing plot holes here and there. When it comes to its genre, Red Queen sometimes felt like a mash-up of books I had read before or things I had seen before. It did not do anything good for the promising world building, leaving nothing besides the Red and Silver blood that made it stand out.

We still encouter a nation suppressed by a ruler with an iron fist, the class system, the poor being treated as slaves, X-Men-like powers, a spark rebellion, etc. I did feel like rebellion, followed by tension and violence, was much present in this book than it did in other series. The methods of the rebelling group, the Scarlet Guard, lean more towards terrorism than anything else. I very much enjoyed seeing that aspect play out over the course of the story.

The plot itself was put together very thoughtfully, consisting of many interesting storylines that kept me on edge and eventually made me fly through the book. It did start out well yet quickly got boring at times and started to drag, when there was actually a lot going on. After a while the pace got better and better because everything was clearly building up to this big event. There may have been some effort needed in order to keep reading, but it payed off. The closer I came to the end of the book, the faster I was reading. Even though it felt like everything was over, I kept thinking to myself that something still had to happen. When I found out I was right, I was already experiencing the aftershocks of that amazing plot twist.

A rather small issue I encountered in the beginning of Red Queen, was that I felt a bit irritated by Aveyard's writing style. The way she writes is characterised by an endless stream of comparisons, repetitions and metaphors. I did not think it was necessary to repeat over again how cruel or how rich or what kind of monsters the Silvers are, when it was already shown within the first chapters. Aveyard structured the world to have an immense gap between the elite Silvers and the hard-working Reds. As it was shown that way, it didn't need to be repeated as often as it did. Nor did the Reds need to be compared so much to the Silvers. Some comparisons and metaphors were truly beautifully thought of, but after a while I had enough. Fortunately my irritations stopped somewhere halfway through, because by then I was already too invested in the characters and what was still to come.

Now the characters are absolutely the best thing about this book, and therefore my main reason for continuing with the series. Mare was the typical young-adult heroine you could easily sympathise with, but my eye went out to all the other characters in her environment. As much as Evangeline reminded me of The Hunger Games' career tribute Clove, I couldn't help but be fascinated by her. She is that vicious and intriguing character everyone loathes and loves. Evangeline is however one example of many out there. You see the Silvers from Mare's point of view, but it wasn't very difficult to connect with them. They were all well-developed and some even really complex, I cannot wait to see more of them. Sign me up for the sequel

17208924Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Published: May 10th 2012 by Penguin Books Ltd
Pages: 308

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high-school stage.

“You like someone who can't like you back because unrequited love can be survived in a way that once-requited love cannot. ”
Thank you Penguin Books for providing me with a copy for review.

DNF at 50 %

Let's play a game of Never Have I Ever. Never Have I Ever had the chance to read an LGBT novel, which just means a novel that deals with homosexuality. There have been times when I encountered some aspects of it in books I'd read, yet never has it had such a big impact on the story. Will Grayson, Will Grayson therefore felt like a breath of fresh air. Even though it does not matter whether love is between the same sex or not, it was interesting to see the falling in love from a very different perspective. However, this is as far as my praise for this book goes. Yes, it was a disappointing read. It took me two whole months, if not longer, to read the first half of the book. I had plenty of time on my hands to pick the book up and finish it in a couple of hours, but I never felt the need to. The more I did read, the more I wanted to set it down and not continue. Like many, it started off on an interesting note, and then drifted off to nowhere, resulting in a DNF.

When reading a book which is written by two completely different authors, it was hardly impossible to not pay attention - and compare - their writing styles. Unpopular opinion time: John Green isn't my favourite author in the entire world, and I feel like this book has yet again confirmed that he is not the most talented one out there. As with his other books, his chapters of Will Grayson, Will Grayson are full of unnecessary metaphors, combined with a boring male protagonist and a thin plot. I also often found myself being irritated with his writing style in this book and with the way how it came across with little emotion and a lack of depth. It even shone through in his male protagonist, as I liked Will Grayson far less than the other one.

All the reasons above made me lean more towards David Levithan, author of the even chapters and thus the other half of the book. I must admit that it took me a while to settle into his way with words, and the fact that he decided to throw grammar overboard, though it was kind of worth the effort. I liked his chapters just so much more. It was easier to get a grip on the way he portrayed his characters personalities and their vivid thoughts and emotions. Sometimes his writing style did get to a point where it was just annoying, but fortunately it never lasted for long.

Because I clearly preferred Leviathan over Green, the same went for their characters. Specifically when it comes to their protagonists. While Green's Will Grayson is just a replica of all the other male protagonists in his other books, Leviathan's will grayson is the one who had immediately sparked my interest upon starting the book. I had never encountered such a self-centered, pessimistic, not-giving-fucks-to-anyone character before. He was such a struggle, yet a pleasure to read. As with every character in this book, it was also hard for me to really connect with him, despite his words sounding more real to me than anyone else in this book did. The other characters just complained a lot and were overall kind of boring. This brings me to a character who frustrated me so much to the point of wanting to chuck the book at the wall: Tiny Cooper.

It has been pointed out that despite the two Will Graysons, this book should have been called Tiny Cooper, Tiny Cooper, and I completely agree. Whatever was left of the plot after the two Wills met, was filled up with Tiny's musical and Tiny's romance, and so on. I don't know if it was the actual intention to come up with such a stereotypical gay character. It seemed to mock homosexuals more than anything else, because there is so much more to a person than just his sexual orientation. Tiny is described as being not the world's gayest person, and he is not the world's largest person, but I believe he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large. I feel like he should be a funny and adoring character, but it rarely comes across as such.

As far as the story goes, it is not something I would immediately start reading after having read the synopsis. Eventually the hype pushed me towards reading it, and I can't say I'm glad I did. This book feels like a little fragment taken out of two very ordinary teenage lives. It seemed to me like a lot of the book was just a build-up for what's still to come, and dragged a lot of the time. In the end, it led up to this big and life-changing moment where the two Will Graysons would finally meet. I think I expected too much of it, because nothing really happened. As Tiny began to take control over what was left of the book, I quickly decided it was enough. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is overrated, although I know it will please fans of John Green's other books. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

18602341The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die, #2) by Danielle Paige
Published: March 31st 2015 by HarperCollins
Pages: 293

In this dark, high-octane sequel to the New York Times bestselling Dorothy Must Die, Amy Gumm must do everything in her power to kill Dorothy and free Oz.

To make Oz a free land again, Amy Gumm was given a mission: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, take the Lion’s courage, and then Dorothy must die....

But Dorothy still lives. Now the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has vanished, and mysterious Princess Ozma might be Amy’s only ally. As Amy learns the truth about her mission, she realizes that she’s only just scratched the surface of Oz’s past—and that Kansas, the home she couldn't wait to leave behind, may also be in danger. In a place where the line between good and evil shifts with just a strong gust of wind, who can Amy trust—and who is really Wicked?
“She had been both good and wicked and everything in between. She had been both at once, too, until it was hard for her to even tell the difference anymore.”
Because of my wonderful experience with Dorothy Must Die, the first book of the series, I couldn't resist picking up the sequel. The things the author might have done, and whether that makes her a bad person, doesn't influence the fact if I like the content of a book. Unfortunately, that specific content turned out to be quite the disappointment.

The amount of darkness and gore in this book is nothing compared to its predecessor, but it was still there. Especially in Amy's character development, if you ask me. To my surprise, the sweet girl from Kansas showed a certain darkness I wasn't aware of before. It took her to extreme lengths and serious consequences, which was very interesting for me witness. After everything she's been through, it feels believable, like something everyone could do if they were in her shoes. In the end, there was a similarity between her and Dorothy, and I honestly can't wait to see where that will take her in the next book.

A three-star book usually counts several issues I had while reading. One of them was the cast of characters I had to deal with. The plot already created a very different story, but also the characters felt not like themselves. Ozma and other side characters I didn't really feel for were more on the front line while others I absolutely loved, were put in the background. I only started caring about Amy and Nox, which made me fear my life for a possible love triangle. I'm therefore extremely happy with how it turned out to be nothing like that. Throughout the book, I still rooted for the Amy x Nox ship I was already on board with since Dorothy Must Die. The lovely chemistry between the two remained, along with realistic conversations that made me laugh every now and then.

I've come to the conclusion that the Dorothy Must Die trilogy shouldn't have been a trilogy but a duology, for one very simple reason: The Wicked Will Rise is nothing but an unnecessary book to fill up some space between the epic beginning and an awesome conclusion. It did start out amazingly and brought along that same atmosphere I was familiar with from the first book. Afterwards the action and the adventure were still there, but the plot started to drag along immensely and headed in no specific direction. All the characters really did, was travelling to places without any real development in the story. The more I continued reading, the more this felt like a real case of Second Book Syndrome. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it is the issue when you absolutely adored the first book, and then the second book doesn't manage to live up to your high expectations. I was often left wondering what was actually still to come, so colour me surprised when I got the end. After a disappointing climax, I honestly didn't expect anything to happen next, despite the amount of pages I had left. No matted how odd the ending actually was, I still have my hopes for the conclusion to make up for it, and it better will.

The Wicked Will Rise may have been a disappointment, but if it did one thing, it was ending on a very interesting note. There is still a lot to be done, and Amy's story is not finished yet. All I can hope for, is a conclusion that will leave me satisfied after all.

18368525Tangled Webs (Tangled Webs, #1) by Lee Bross
Published: June 23rd by Disney Hyperion
Pages: 304

London, 1725. Everybody has a secret. Lady A will keep yours—for a price. This sumptuous, scandalous YA novel is wickedly addictive.

Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.

But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.

Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?
"Lady A." His voice sounded hoarse, like he'd only just started using it.
 She inclined her head slightly. He took a long swallow from the glass of brandy clutched in his fat fingers. Just like that, she had the power again.
Thank you Disney Hyperion for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

Going into a book with little knowledge about it, nor having many expectations, payed off this time. Tangled Webs is, despite the issues, a surprisingly good novel with some surprising qualities.

It is, for example, one of those books I could get easily lost in. The world is always accompanied by rich and vivid descriptions of the touch class system of the 18th century, but also lots of smaller aspects I will get into later on. It's clear the author has done her homework and therefore it feels like a bonus when she also succeeds in letting the atmosphere of the old city shine through in her own book. Ranging from the docks, the slums, the coffee houses etc. to the middle-class families, everything seemed to be done so well. I loved we got to see so many different aspects of the city. It might have been hard, no doubt about that, yet it was worth it in the end.

I applaud the author for not involving any magical elements and staying focused on the blackmailing and the secrets, even though it wasn't enough to fill the entire book and in order to have a tight and solid plot. It often wandered to places, not particularly finding anything, to then head back to the direction it was supposed to go all along. The more we got to the end, the more predictable it became, although still being a pleasant read. It did start off wonderfully, where we as readers are thrown into the cruel lifestyle of a young girl, and her evolution towards becoming a well-known blackmailer. The flashback did a wonderful job here at creating some depth to Arista's situation, although I would have preferred more I found the plot often to lack in background and depth, especially when I look at Arista's training and how she became Bones' trusted puppet. A companion novel or short story would be interesting to see how it all played out, since I am curious for more.

The vivid descriptions did not only have an influence on the view of the world, but also on smaller aspects such as Arista's background, which was depicted beautifully. She had to endure such cruelties in the beginning of the book. It was nearly impossible for me to not sympathize with her every now and then, even though I could never a grip on her personality and her character in general. Because of her double life, Arista showed many different sides, which made it a bit difficult for me to figure out who she really was. To be honest, I don't think she knew either. On the other hand, that was also something made the book interesting.

We are introduced to the era of the Enlightenment, a setting which isn't favorable for a lot of books. Because of that, it had already sparked my interest from the very first page. Yet when the double life of Arista was introduced, I couldn't help but express my enthusiasm. It was rather original and entertaining at times, but I would have liked to see a little bit more of her occupation. Everyone was so contemptuous towards her and even afraid. The author had no trouble in showing it. After all, secrets hold the power to destroy a man. I still do not get what she actually does, and how she holds the power to make men bow. I feel like I have so many thoughts left to write down, even though that might take little while.

Arista's character was surprisingly enjoyable. It has been a while since I encountered a character who uses words and strategy. Someone is not afraid to show her flaws, a certain lack in physical strength or not knowing how to swim. Because she was more focused on inner strength, it brought out some interesting and fun Lady A scenes. Other characters like Sophie, Becky, Wild, Bones and Nic were a pleasant addition to the book because I felt like they all had their story to tell and their role to play. Grae seems to be a more special case. He just seemed like he was destined to be the perfect love interest for Arista. A courageous and loving young man with a desire to see the word. In other words, a character to swoon for. Who wouldn't fall for that? Exactly, I would too. It's not that his perfect personality bothered me, because he still was a likable character. What did, was how one-dimensional he actually was. He was introduced in the book somewhere halfway through, and ever since we meet him, the romance also jumps in. From then on, it seems like the relationship between the two moves on at a very quick pace. It's definitely not insta-love because there really is a certain development, only that it was left out because of the time jump the book made. Therefore I feel like a little more depth into their relationship and a visible development would have made the love between the two much more believable.

In a nutshell, I would recommend Tangled Webs for those interested in a light novel set in a very interesting time period. When I do not look at its flaws such as some flat characters and a lack of background and depth, it does has the premise of becoming something great. The characters still are lovely, and the plot is intriguing and fast-paced. Unfortunately, I have run out of things to say about this book, but let's keep that a secret. Won't we, Lady A?

25650428Saving London by Taylor Dawn
Published: May 28th 2015 by Booktrope
Pages: 272

The List. That Signified Finality.
The Journey. That Would Span The Globe.
The Sacrifice. That Would Decide The Outcome.
The Choice. That Could Unleash Evil On Earth.
The End Is Only The Beginning...

“You have terminal cancer.”

London Patterson, a seemingly healthy young woman, had her entire life ahead of her. That was until four little words brought everything to a screeching halt. As the shock and grief begin to fade, London decides to map out her last year and embark on an epic journey to complete a bucket list. She wants to do the things she’s been afraid to do in her life, step out of her self-contained box, and see the world. What she didn’t expect was for a mysterious stranger named Adam to breeze into her life like a breath of fresh air.

Adam offers to help London complete her list on one condition…that she sees it through to the end. Agreeing on those terms, the two set out on an adventure of a lifetime. But London soon realizes that Adam isn’t quite…human. Along their journey odd occurrences happen that cause London to question who or what Adam is and why he’s helping her.

Follow London as she checks off her bucket list in this inspiring new Urban Fantasy novel from Taylor Dawn.
"At least I was given a year. To some it might seem like a small amount of time, and truly it is. But when you're given only that long to lve, it can in a way, seem like an eternity. I'll do the things I've wanted to do because in the end... no one can save London Patterson."
Thank you Booktrope for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

DNF at 30 %

Upon starting Saving London, I never would have guessed what kind of a story this book would turn into. It was kind of surprising to find out that a cancer-related story would completely lose its premise and storyline when fantasy-related elements started to roll in. By then my sighs and eye-rolls were more frequent than ever.

The main character of the story, London, describes herself as a twenty-something, but comes across like a sixteen-year-old. Everything she does, ranging from the way she looks at herself, how she communicates with others, etc. screams immature and childish. In other words, she was a really unlikable character from the start, and also my main reason for not continuing this book. I do understand that cancer isn't the most enjoyable thing in life, yet the way she handled her disease is so unrealistic. She just accepts it and then throws it away, moving on with her adventures. I also never had the pleasure to meet such a pessimistic and whiny character as she was. Despite the things she says, it seemed to me that she wasn't even grateful and aware of the fact that a 'stranger' put so much time and effort into a list she made.

Moving onto Adam, he still was a sweet and more likable character than London. I enjoyed this presence, but not enough to cope with London's personality for the rest of the book. When I look at their relationship, it was quite comparable to the story: too fast-paced. They went from complete strangers to friends to something more in the bat of an eye. The way they communicated was also a little too unrealistic for me to believable. At least, seen from London's point of view. She downgraded him too many times to count on my fingers and her humour was so cringe-worthy. It was often more rude than it actually was funny. Still, Adam laughed it away and still acted sweetly. That deserves a round of applause.

Besides the characters, I found myself being irritated by the writing itself. It certainly wasn't my cup of tea, nor did it look like there was time and effort put into it. The entire book is filled up with laughable dialogue and has in my opinion, a serious lack of descriptions. Also thoughts and feelings are written in a very superficial way, so I couldn't settle into the story.

The story itself seemed kind of fun, since I truly am a fan of books with lists, especially bucket-lists. Despite some obvious clichés, I knew it would bring a fast-paced story. Or should I say, a too fast-paced story. Every little thing on her list had to be done, and the author knew it. All the book really was about, was checking off things on her list, until supernatural elements started to fall into place. Nothing ever seemed woven together in order to create a real story, and it rather left me with some loose ends. I couldn't help but feel dissatisfied and therefore, distant from the entire book.

After all, Saving London is a book that is beyond saving.

11701113Shelter (Mickey Bolitar, #1) by Harlan Coben
Published: June 1st 2012 by Orion
Pages: 327

When tragic events tear him away from his parents, fifteen-year-old Mickey Bolitar is sent to live with his estranged uncle, Myron. For a while, it seems his train wreck of a life is finally improving - until his girlfriend, Ashley, goes missing without a trace.

Unwilling to let another person he cares about walk out of his life, Mickey follow Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld, revealing a conspiracy so shocking it will leave him questioning everything the life he thought he knew...

“Its funny how you can let yourself forget for seconds, how even in the heat of the horrible, you can have moments when you fool yourself into thinking it might all be okay”
As our last book to read for English class this school year, I, along with my classmates, was introduced to the thriller genre. I haven't actually read a lot of young-adult books who deal with crime and disappearances, because some of them are a bit predictable. I'm glad to announce that it wasn't actually the case with Shelter. It may have took me a while to finally get into it, yet once I did, it was a fun but cheesy roller coaster straight to the end.

Harlan Coben seems like a master in the thriller genre, when I take a look at how many novels he was already written. Therefore, I did love the amount of action and suspense I encountered. When I first started reading, I honestly did not know what I could expect. The story certainly surprised me along my reading experience, both in a positive and negative way. The twists and turns were very enjoyable and left me craving for more, which turned this book from a slow-starter into a page-turner very quickly. However, some aspects of the plot felt a bit weird to me, as if several elements of other books were thrown together into one. I would be lying if I say I did not love the darkness of the night clubs, the involvement of the Holocaust and some stereotypical high school drama. But a combination of them all still felt a bit weird to me. Above it all, this book contained some very cheesy scenes that could have fitted straight into a typical crime drama. Those scenes when characters suddenly act very strange, say nothing and then leave the main character with even more questions? They are enjoyable and fun, but very cheesy and eye-rolling, too.

A mystery novel is usually that kind of book where the hero solves a big problem with the help of some people. Mickey Bolitar is certainly added up to that 'hero' image, when I finally figured out what a Marty-Stu he was. Everything he seemed to do, was done perfectly. He always got away and always seemed to have a deus ex machina hiding in the bushes. He's beautiful, he's smart, he has talent and together with his tragic past, he should be the kind of character you feel for. After my reality check, I don't. Although he was rarely irritating, it was obvious to me what a special snowflake he actually was.

Moving onto the secondary characters, I found a lot of them to be inspired from the stereotypical environments. For example, you have Mickey's two best friends, the outcasts. Then, the jocks. To complete the picture, there's also the hot girl everyone's in love with. Even the characters we meet later on seemed very flat and one-dimensional to me. However, I liked how these characters made the book a lot lighter. It's fun to sometimes read a story with undeveloped characters, despite my dislike for them. After all, if every one of them was so complex and difficult, I don't think I would have continued reading.

Shelter is, to my surprise, a book I very much enjoyed and the kind I needed to read during my reading slump. I may consider reading the books that follow, because no matter how strange and stereotypical this book might have been, it still was a lot of fun to read.

20560137An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Published: April 28th 2015 by Razorbill
Pages: 453

An Ember in the Ashes is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”
― Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes
Actual rating: 2.5 stars

An Ember in the Ashes is most likely one of those books I don't even know if I liked them or not. The sneak-peak has a lot to do with how I first imagined the book, namely Legend meets The Winner's Curse. Despite my wild enthusiasm, the full-length novel turned into my biggest disappointment of the year so far. Oh, how deceiving sneak-peaks can be. I am not lying when I say I was blown away by the little amount of pages, but I wish I would have stayed with the sneak-peak itself. This is not the action-packed novel I so desperately wanted it to be.

The book opened on a compelling scene and an even more interesting story-line. It quickly left me craving for more and the need to devour the everything at once. Overall, a book I really could finish in one sitting. Turns out, I was so wrong. No matter what the synopsis promises, I did not think it was that thrilling, even less action-packed. What could you expect from a book, set in a fantasy/dystopian world, complete with influences from the Roman and the Spartan empire? Action.I needed it to be fast-paced in order to finish it in one sitting and be out of breath just by amazing it was. Again, I don't think I will ever have the words to express how disappointed I am.

Quickly after the amazing first chapter, the plot took a surprising turn I wasn't really rooting for. Even more surprising was that it kept going down that road all the way through, resulting in constant frustrations. Furthermore, there wasn't really anything special about it and I encountered lots of recycled material from other hyped-up young-adult series. The story was also very predictable from beginning to end. There was a little exception at the end, but even that didn't felt like a real twist to me anymore. The lack of action remained my biggest struggle throughout my reading experience. It seemed like a lot of the total action calibre was already shown in the first chapter, which led to a very little amount in the rest of the book. Honestly, it was so boring. Even the scenes that were supposed to contain action, did not at all feel like it. In my opinion, there was an overuse of thoughts and feelings because I just couldn't find the thrill to keep reading. It wasn't until the very end I grew interested again in what was happening.

Skimming or even DNF'ing then seemed like a very good idea, but for some reason I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Action and thrill aren't the only aspects that make a novel good. Unfortunately for me, that is where my struggles come in and also the reason as to why I find it so difficult to write about this book. There were so many, other thing which were just amazing and outstanding. None of them seemed dominant enough to make me forget about the rest, but if they were one thing, they were good.

A little bit of research about this book has led me to one fact I applaud the author for: it took her six years to write this thing, partly because of the world-building. It was clear for me from the very start how well-developed the world truly was and how much research there was put into it. I absolutely loved the input of Arabian folklore because it blended in so well with the Greek/Roman culture. Especially the Spartan influences came across to me, and how. This world was so violent, and I feel kind of bad for declaring how much I adored that. Never had I read a book where the battle between two nations and the immense discrimination felt so real. I also might have read books about slaves before, but also none of those really capture the pain of living a life like one. An Ember in the Ashes seriously succeeded in doing so. Even when I wasn't comfortable with some things happening, I don't think anyone could have done it better than Tahir.

During my long reading sessions, I got to encounter a bunch of characters along the way. Some were still as amazing as when they first appeared, like Elias and Helene. Despite both of them sharing an identical and cruel education at Blackcliff academy, they both turned into completely different people. One who will always be loyal to the Empire, and one who isn't very likely to. I found it to be so interesting to have their voices in this story. It feels like even the bad guys get to tell their story, not just the good girl, Laia. She went through some excellent character development and I did like her presence every now and then, but that's where my love for her ends. Being the same age as I am and considering her dark past, I can't believe how naive she was. Throughout the story she constantly made the most stupid decisions a girl can make, without even thinking of consequences. A reckless character can be fun, but not in this case. I even found several side characters to be more fascinating than her.

Having written most of my feelings regarding An Ember in the Ashes down, there is still one bad part left: the romance. As if I didn't have a dislike for love triangles already, the author introduced the love square: a complicated and tangled web of emotions, (forced) romance, hints of insta-love and the friend-zone. It simply filled me with frustration. Before even starting the book, you get a hint of who the two love birds of the book might be. Turns out, both of them already have a "lover" of their own before their first meeting. A smart choice? I don't think so, because now it feels like the author couldn't make up her mind about the romance and expected her readers to go with it. Even though I was quite irritated by this kind of romance, the ending brought along a sense of satisfaction and relief I cannot be thankful enough for.

In the end, I still can't make up my mind about An Ember in the Ashes. There were several bad parts with some good things inbetween. There was a boring and predictable plot, good characters and an amazing world. What I do know for sure, is that it's my disappointment of the year so far.

9460487Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1) by Ransom Riggs
Published: June 7th 2011 by Quirk
Pages: 352

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

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.
“We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.”
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is the kind of book I have been wanting to read for a lifetime, even when I didn't know what it was actually about. I could make my assumptions based on the memorable cover or the eerie premise. Unfortunately, my high expectations were let down when this book turned out to be something I wasn't interested in reading.

So despite the fact that Miss Peregrine's is quite a let-down, the plot was the only thing which made me want to continue reading. It was so different and unlike anything I'd read before, though not gripping enough. There still were so many little things that could made me like it. I loved the creepy setting and the mystery. Especially the photographs that gave this book its final touch and suited its overall tone just perfectly. However, they were not enough to forget about all the other trouble I had while reading. The pacing for example, was not that great in my opinion. It took far too long for things to start happening and secrets to start unraveling. By the time they did, my interest was long gone I didn't bother to search for it again.

The characters themselves were dark and contained the same mysterious tone that drifted along the book. Their peculiarity caused them to have abilities, some common and used before, but others completely unique and interesting to read about. When it comes to their personalities, there was not much to be found. It surprised me, because you would expect that these children all have an intriguing story to tell. As the book continued, I began to lose track of who was who and which ability belonged to which child. In the end, they were all a jumble of abilities instead of developed characters.

Was there really a romance to be found in this novel? Because the relationship between Emma and Jacob was too weird for me to call it one. They realised it was bizarre from the start, but fell in love anyway for no particular reason. I sensed even more chemistry between Emma and her former lover than she and Jacob had. As the book progressed, I still found it weird and it didn't come across as believable or a well-developed romance.

I spent to two weeks reading this book, even though it feels like a whole month. I was hoping to find something towards the end so I could like Miss Peregrine's after all. When I did not find what I'd been looking for, I realised I couldn't force myself to like a book that has been praised by many, and frankly, I don't mind. I wasn't invested in the story, the characters or the odd romance. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a book you either love or you don't.

20345202The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight, #1) by Melissa Grey
Expected publication: April 28th 2015 by Delacorte Press
Pages: 368

For readers of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.
"She had gone to the library in search for hope, but what she'd found instead was a child. It would take her many years to realize that the two were not so different after all."
Thank you Delacorte Press for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

How to start a review of a book one loved so much? I was already convinced of Melissa Grey's writing and talent after I read the magical and haunting prologue. I knew this book was going to be different from other young-adult novels I'd already read, and I was right. The Girl at Midnight is highly entertaining, highly original and is worth all the hype surrounding it.

I felt like it was love at first sight with literally everything in this book. Starting off with the world, I applaud the author for creating such an enchanting and mysterious world. As I was already sold from the very beginning, it didn't take long before I completely lost myself in the world and the epic battle between two ancient races. Everything was wonderfully done, especially the two races themselves. I have a weak spot to discover entirely new beings. Vampires, werewolves and zombies are currently too overused and I longed for something unique to become obsessed with. That was done when the Avicen and the Drakharin were introduced. Two human-like races, one with feathers and the other with scales. I couldn't help myself to not be fascinated by this idea that was delivered just perfectly.

Because of the plot revolving around this mysterious legend of the firebird, it suited the world and the overall tone of the book just perfectly. The beginning immediately left me craving for more. I flew through the pages in order to know more, and I wasn't disappointed. Page by page, bits and pieces of information were revealed which led to long reading sessions. The story itself was build up very nicely. Through Grey's beautiful writing style, it gave me a clear and vivid imagine of everything, it also left a lot of space to fill in with my imagination. I did have a bit of a struggle with the plot around two hundred pages in. By then I'd already seen a lot of the world, but the characters themselves didn't do anything in order for the story to continue. They traveled to places without anything really happening. It made it easy for me at times to set the book down. However, the more I got to the climax of the book, the more things started to fall back into place. Action jumped in at times when it was needed, combined with a smart twist at the end.

There's no denying my love for almost every single character in this book. Apart from characters you're supposed to dislike, I found myself a protagonist, a love interest, side characters and a villain I couldn't help but love. Starting off with the main character, she's that kind of young-adult character that kicks ass. Being a pickpocket, she's used to danger which makes her a bit reckless, but also a very fearless and brave character. Throughout the story she makes smart decisions and doesn't back down for a journey. What I adored about her character was the ordinary things she does. Despite the world she's used to, she's just a normal teenage girl who tries to maintain a rather normal life.

Despite my fondness for the first love interest, I fell head over heels for the one who came next. This might feel a bit like a love triangle, but it is nothing like that. Both myself and the main character forgot the current boyfriend very easily when the Dragon Prince stepped into the picture. Being the "immortal" being he is, he was such a complex yet a fascinating character. Every character in this book is, really. As soon as they set off on their journey, some romances and friendships start to develop. I'm guilty to again falling in love with every one of them. Because everyone was so complex and different, it therefore made their relationships also truly interesting to read about. Even the villain herself, who felt to me like a vicious and twisted version of Daenerys Targaryen.

The Girl at Midnight is the start to a series I cannot imagine where it would head to next. All I know for now is that I'm in.

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop, hosted by Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. The purpose of this is to eventually gain more followers, but to also meet your fellow bloggers and to have fun. This week, however, I've been chosen as a featured blogger! Honestly, I feel like I cannot put my happiness into words. Just, thank you.

How to participate?
1. Follow both Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.
2. Follow the two featured bloggers of the week.
3. Leave your name on the original #FF post via linky tools
4. Create an #FF post on your own blog.
5. Visit as many blogs as you can.
6. Say hi or leave something else in their comments.
7. You follow them, they follow back.

This week's question:
Have you ever read a book you thought you'd hate but loved? Or vice versa?
- Suggested by A Great Read

I have so many books that turned out to be huge disappointments for me. Allegiant by Veronica Roth tops my list, but also Summer & The City by Candace Bushnell after loving the first installment, The Carrie Diaries. Other books on that same list are All Fall Down  by Ally Carter, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Panic by Lauren Oliver and Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas.

Fortunately, my reading life doesn't only exist of bad books and disappointments. There were moments when I really wasn't in the mood to read a particular book, and I just forced myself into reading it. Books like The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma and The Luthier's Apprentice by Mayra Calvani surprised me in a very good way. Also, after reading Shatter Me, I hadn't expected anything good of the sequel, Unravel Me. In the end, it turned out to be amazing and was my absolute surprise of 2013.

GFC bloglovin

Preferably both, but choose as you like.
I don't have a comment section, but I'll follow back as soon as I see it!

18052136In Time (The Darkest Minds, #1.5) by Alexandra Bracken
Published: Disney Publishing Worldwide
Pages: 89

Don't miss this exciting short story that connects The Darkest Minds to its much-anticipated sequel, Never Fade.

Gabe's life has been devastated in the wake of the economic crash. The only option left for someone like him to escape his tragic past is to leave his small town behind and to attempt to become a skiptracer. This already almost impossible task is made all the more difficult by his first score, a young girl who won't speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine.
“Because she knows what it's like to live in a world of black, and black, and the tiny bit of white, but when she escaped it, she didn't find the rainbow of colors, the dresses, the singing, the dancing. She only found ugliness.”
Upon starting In Time, I already found the point of view to be very well-chosen. It was so interesting and even fascinating to see the whole situation from a "normal" person's point of view. Although my love for him wasn't great at first, it was easy to sympathise with him in a way. Gabe is someone who just so happened to be the victim of the whole situation. He had no control about what was happening in the world, and that's what made him stand out. He wasn't the kid with special powers being hunted down, but the one who hunts.

Some excellent character development and a very unlikely friendship were my two highlights of the novella. The change in his character was brought so well, which redeemed the dragging plot. This development was slow, but by paying attention you could see all the way through how much he softened because of the "freak". It eventually made my heart melt, though it may have had something to do with this adorable little girl I already loved from The Darkest Minds.

The ending left me in an absolute state of shock. I still don't know what happened. It just ripped my heart open and left me me with tears in my eyes. Yes, it hit me right in the feels, but that's what I love in a good novella. Yes, it does not have the best plot of pace, but In Time remains highly-recommended for every fan of The Darkest Minds out there.

10576365The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1) by Alexandra Bracken
Published: December 18th 2012 by Disney Hyperion
Pages: 488

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.
“The Darkest Minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

When I finally decided to start reading The Darkest Minds, it was already three years after it first had been published. In most cases, it doesn't affect my opinion on a book. However, when a book is being surrounded by so much hype ever since it came out, it surprisingly does. This wasn't the amazing action-packed dystopian I needed it to be.

Despite my several issues with this book, there were still some very good things that made me rate it three stars. For example, there is no denying my love for the haunting world. Author Alexandra Bracken made it fit perfectly into the dystopian genre by using common elements such as diseases, evil governments and mysterious abilities. I thought I'd grown tired of these kind of books a long time ago, but Bracken proves me wrong. Although it took a while for me to finally settle into the world, it came across as believable. I love that about a dystopian. They are, after all, books where the world is an absolute focus and must be done right.

Unfortunately, there's always two sides to a coin. Even if my issues with the world are very limited. Starting off, I had quite some trouble with figuring out what each colour meant and what they exactly did. Call me retarded, but I did not think it was a smart choice to name abilities after colours, as I kept struggling with them until halfway through. Another personal matter, was the rehabilitation camp. This close relative of the concentration camps was by far something that added some darkness and serious topics into the book. It was simply captivating, but also controversial at the same time. I may have had some trouble with it just because it was so unexpected, to say the least. Let's say I'd seen enough to get a perfectly clear image of Ruby's tortured past.

I never expected to dislike Ruby as a character, even if I do. Because all the hype surrounding the book, I thought loving her would be easy because of her bold attitude and strong personality. Nothing like that happened. Ruby turned out to be nothing but a weak and whiny character. I hold no grudges against weak characters, since they are most likely the ones who surprise you in the end. I hope she will fit into this category, as I was mostly irritated with her in this book. She kept complaining and getting hurt, and believing she's the biggest "monster" of them all. After discovering bits and pieces of her past, I get where she is coming from, however it still does not qualify as an excuse for whining all the way through the five hundred pages.

The other characters started out quite meh for me. They were kind of thrown in there like I simply had to deal with them for the rest of the series. As the story progressed, my opinion changed very quickly. All the layers of their personality started to show, revealing who they really were underneath. In the end, they are just scared kids on the run, looking for a future together. It was really a journey for me that paid off. All the others, ranging from side characters to love interests, surprised me in a pleasant way. Depth was brought to their characters through backstories I loved. In the end, I couldn't help but fall for the characters they really were. I adored the dynamics between the trio. Bracken made it really believable and showed me many times how much they cared for each other. Their strong friendship was the light touch to this book I absolutely needed. Clancey, on the other hand, was a real twist to this book. Without giving away too much, I'd suggest you keep your eyes out for this character. He's intriguing, mysterious, and a pleasant surprise.

The overall pace and plot of this book, weren't all too great to be honest. Instead of the action-packed book I'd expected it to be, it was nothing but a bunch of kids who traveled around and didn't do much. It wasn't until the second half that things started happening. Though some of the action-scenes were still a bit on the annoying side, a lot of my issues regarding the plot and pace faded away. No one was still doing anything, yet it didn't feel like that anymore. Tension started to build up slowly but steady, and I found myself more and more interest in what would happen next. The ending left me open-mouthed, which is my main reason for continuing the series. It holds some strong potential, and I have to find out myself if it is really worth it in the end. For now, I do think so.

An Ember in the Ashes (Sneak Peak) by Sabaa Tahir
Published: March 23rd Penguin Young Readers Group

I will tell you the same thing I tell every slave.

The resistance has tried to penetrate this school countless times. I have discovered it every time.

If you are working with he resistance, if you contact them, if you think of contacting them, I will know.

Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

Elias is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.
"The field of battle is my temple. I mentally chant a saying my grandfather taught me the day he met me, when I was six. He insists it sharpens the mind the way a whetstone sharpens a blade. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release."
Thank you Penguin Young Readers Group for providing me with a sneak peak for review.

Legend meets The Winner's Curse in a breath-taking novel. Or at least, that's what I have gathered from the sneak peak. Honestly, I'm surprised with how much I loved this shortened version of An Ember in the Ashes. I'd never imagined to rate a sneak peak five stars, but my unbelief doesn't stop there. It was so action-packed I could barely wrap my head around it. This was only the beginning of a story about the clash in an ancient Rome-like empire, yet it didn't hold author Sabaa Tahir back from anything. There was action. There was such a heart-wrenching scene. There were wonderful characters I now care for.

There's no questioning Tahir's talent, as I could gather so many different aspects of the book, just by reading one chapter. Despite the fact that the world belongs to the fantasy genre and thus requires a lot of world building, it drew me in very quickly and didn't let me go. Without having to deal with info dumps, there's a lot of information brought to the reader in a smart and insightful way, combined with some excellent and just gorgeous writing. In my case, it only left me hungry for more.

In a nutshell, I absolutely loved loved loved the sneak peak of An Ember In The Ashes. For now I can only cross my fingers and hope for the rest of the book to be this good.  After all, if my hopes turn into reality, there is no denying my excitement.

18664167Mind Games by Teri Terry
Published: March 5th 2015 by Orchard Books
Pages: 448

Luna is a no-hoper with a secret: in a world of illusion, she can see what is real. But can she see the truth before it is too late?

Luna has always been able to exist in virtual and real worlds at the same time, a secret she is warned to keep. She hides her ability by being a Refuser: excluded by choice from the virtual spheres others inhabit. But when she is singled out for testing, she can’t hide any longer.

The safest thing to do would be to fail, to go back to a dead-end life, no future. But Luna is starting to hope for something better, and hope is a dangerous thing...
"Five minutes of Realtime, and it is nearly two hours before I stop being sick. That's a pretty good reason to be a Refuser, isn't it?"
Thank you Orchard Books for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

DNF at 50 %

I wonder if I was fooled by the gorgeous cover, or the premise of Mind Games. As with so many books these days, a synopsis can be either exactly what you think it is, or turn out to be something entirely different. It's sad to say that Teri Terry's novel falls into the last category.

Throughout my reading experience, it was required to read this book with all the attention and focus I could get. Most of the times it's not necessarily a bad thing, but I didn't like how Mind Games played with my mind. I had to read every single word with care and attention, in order to follow along and understand both the story and the world building. Nonetheless, I still got very confused along the way. Mind you, I don't hold a single grudge against being thrown into the world of a book without any explanations. It's mostly a lot of fun because I have to figure out what is going on all on my own, but not in this case.

There was an overload of unknown terms, combined with such little explanation. The only choice I had was to continue anyway and hope that I would be less confused as I go on. None of that happened. Once I started to get a hold of the story, so many other aspects turned my knowledge into chaos. A lot of that had to do with Terry's futuristic world full of technology. This is where a certain aspect I adored jumps in: the virtual reality. It was my ultimate main reason for requesting the book in the first place, and also what made the book so fascinating. It was so different from any other dystopian I've read before. How could I not be excited about that? However, things started to take a turn when I that aspect fell flat. In my opinion, there wasn't much world building to be found. I felt like a lot was just thrown in my face, and I had to deal with it. I couldn't connect to anything and because of the lack of world building, I never understood how it all worked or how some things were even possible.

The vague plot dragged immensely, and at some point I had no desire whatsoever in picking it up again, ultimately resulting in a DNF. As sad as I am to admit it, Mind Games was all in all, a boring read which could have been so much more.

7624Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Published: October 1st 1999 by Penguin Books
Pages: 182

Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature.

William Golding's compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behaviour collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories—and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible.Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.
“The thing is - fear can't hurt you any more than a dream.”
The premise of Lord of the Flies had always intrigued me, to say the least. Then again, I never thought my first classic would be a story about a group of civilized boys, turning into wild animals. I wanted to understand what the world has been talking about since 1954. When I finally picked up a copy, it didn't take long before I was drawn into the world of these savage school boys.

I feel like this book is in the end, all about the hidden meaning and the symbolism. According to the author, no one can survive without any civilization. The savagery of boys like Jack is much stronger than intelligence or knowing the difference between right and wrong, resulting into a remarkable and well-executed evolution. Honestly, the development of going from preppy school boys to bloodthirsty animals is the best part of the entire book. Unbelievable or not, I was still kind of fascinated when events started to take a turn. After all, scared kids aren't the same as adult leaders. They tried to find their way towards responsibility and obedience, as it was clear how they tried to solve their problems. One way or another, their fear took over.

Blood was spilled more quickly than I imagined and the weirdness factor began to increase at an alarming amount. The vivid writing style helped a lot in adding that touch of gore to a book I already found to be disturbing. In the end, it wasn't as horrific as I expected it to be. Also some parts felt unnecessary and a bit confusing for me, and others were just hard to follow.

I didn't particularly feel much attachment to any of the characters besides Piggy. It was obvious he was going to be the loser from the moment he and Ralph met. I can't help but secretly love an underdog. Though he too stood for a specific value, he felt more developed and real to me than any other character in this book. Apart from all the other ones whose personalities looked so alike, there were only a few I could properly distinguish.

Lord of the Flies was a very slow read for me, despite the fact that is was a thin novel. There no doubt about the excellent symbolism and development to savages, but unfortunately, I look for more in a book than just those two aspects. Not my cup of tea.

17904985Gates of Thread and Stone (Gates of Thread and Stone, #1) by Lori M. Lee
Published: August 5th 2014 by Skyscape
Pages: 335

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power. 

“My nails clawed against the smooth tiles as I pushed up onto my hands and knees. I rose unsteadily to my feet.
Speed is my ally. Breathe. In and out. Focus. Time is my power.”

Thank you Skyscape for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

My overall reaction with Gates of Thread and Stone has a lot to do with my disappointment. I expected to receive an epic fantasy about a girl who can weave the threads of time, unraveling the mystery behind her brother's disappearance. It certainly had those aspects, as it started out great and also ended on a high note. I can't shake off the feeling of discontent. I wanted so much more.

In the beginning of the book, I found it to be well-paced. The mystery jumped in from the start and made my interest grow with every page I read. Somewhere along the thrilling ride, that very interest suddenly disappeared. Although I was already two hundred pages in, I felt like there was nothing happening anymore. The more the book progressed, the less I knew what was actually going on. The characters were heading back and forth and no one seemed to have a plan anymore. The several actions scenes didn't even feel as action scenes anymore. They were rather scenes to fill up the pages. They weren't enough to make me want to continue, which resulted into a reading slump that carried on for far too long.

It wasn't until the book was nearing its climax that I grew interested again. The dull storyline picked up very quickly, and from then on the thrilling chapters kept coming. Even though the ending was a bit weird and rushed, it certainly left me wanting more. Something that didn't improve, was my lack of care. The characters themselves, for example, were okay. They didn't stand out, but there was nothing that made them bad or underdeveloped. I still felt no attachment to any of them.

The best thing out of the entire book would have to be Lori M. Lee's world. Ninurta is simply put, fascinating. I have always had a thing for a world where the chasm between the rich and the poor is remarkable, and has a huge effect on the population. As Kai has always lived in the Labyrinth, she knows how to survive on her own and doesn't act impulsive. The story puts her into unknown territory, yet she manages to play the game. Even if it takes her to unexpected losses and victories.

All in all, Gates of Thread and Stone is the kind of trilogy that could have been fitted easily into one or two books. I could have been so much more than what it is now. Despite it not being as good as I first expected, I do think this series still holds some potential. I may be hesitant towards the sequels, but I wonder where this might be heading.

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