Before and After: The Girl From Everywhere

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 7.19.01 PM

The Girl From Everywhere

By: Heidi Heilig

Rating: 2.5 stars

   Nix is a 16 year old girl who has had a very unusual upbringing.  Due to her father’s gift of traveling by ship to any time on Earth, in reality or myth, Nix has seen firsthand what many people only read about.  Unfortunately for Nix, her father only uses this skill in an effort to return to a time before Nix was born in order to save her mother from dying in childbirth.  While Nix wishes to see her father happy, she can’t help but fear for her own life and what will happen if events are altered too much so close to her birth.  While life aboard a ship and spending time with her closest friend Kash has helped lift her spirits in the past, Nix spends more time focusing on her mortality as her father’s success seems more imminent.  On top of these issues, Nix is starting to notice a change in her friendship with Kash just as she meets and begins to develop feelings for another boy.

Review: When I first heard about this book, I was really excited for an adventure, almost pirate-esque book that had the unique twist of being able to take place at any point in history.  And that is what I got, in the very beginning and the very end.  Much of the rest of the book was pretty stationary on land and seemed to focus a great deal on the new love triangle in Nix’s life.

The things I loved:  It is very obvious that Heilig put a lot of research into making sure that the time periods and the places she was portraying were accurate, which was greatly appreciated.  I also loved the idea that the ship had the ability to travel into mythic realms as well as reality.  I thought this was really creative and would have loved to see more of that.

Things I didn’t get on board with:  The love triangle.  For me this was a really intriguing story all on its own, and the issues Nix is already facing would have created a great story.  I also felt like one of the love interests didn’t really feel like a character to me so much as a plot device to reveal key information to Nix.

Final Thoughts:  I love the premise of this book, but would have loved to see more traveling and adventures.  At times TGFE almost felt like a prequel for all the traveling Nix could do in future books.  TGFE was an alright read for me, I might pick up future installments, but I’m not in a huge rush to see what happens next.

Advertisements

Review: The Prince of the Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 12.42.37 PM

The Prince of Mist

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Rating: 5/5 stars

    It’s Spain during WWII and 13 year old Max Carver is forced to move with his family to a beach house in order to avoid the conflict from the war.  No one in the family besides Max’s dad is excited about this move, but their lackadaisical attitudes are snapped to attention when strange occurrences begin.  Soon after, Max begins questioning his surroundings he learns that the previous owners had a son who drowned in the ocean, and Max is certain his death is connected to his family’s experiences.  With the help of a native boy named, Roland, Max and his sister set out to find answers.  They soon discover that their is a malicious spirit terrorizing their family, until he collects a debt he was promised many years before.

Review:  To begin with a disclaimer.  Had I read this book, rather than listening to the audiobook, I probably would have been more likely to rate it as a 3-3.5.  But the recording was so well performed, that I sped through this entire book in a single day!  This story was super creepy and I think it is a great Middle Grade book, that anyone could enjoy.  The music and sound effects did wonders in creating a spooky atmosphere and I would love to know if the other audiobooks were recorded in a similar format.

Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 12.17.16 PM

Challenger Deep

by Neal Shusterman

Rating: 3/5 Stars

    Challenger Deep is a truly unique story depicting Caden Bosch and his struggle with mental illness.  Half of the novel takes place aboard a ship that is headed towards Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the ocean.  On this ship Caden is struggling to determine who is his ally and who is using him in order to put forth their own agenda.

     The chapters alternating between those on the ship show Caden’s experiences at school and home, where the people closest to him are starting to notice his odd behavior.  In order to cope with their questions and the threatening looks he is getting from strangers, Caden begins walking for hours everyday after school.

Review:  Shusterman depicts mental illness in such a unique but very personal way within Challenger Deep.  I have never been able to better understand the confusion, fear, fogginess, and frustration, that someone dealing with mental illness experiences than when I was reading this book.  When I was reading about how Caden felt when he was on medication everything became clearer about why someone may not want to take medication despite the fact that it could help them.

Parts of the novel were really confusing, and I had to push to get through them.  But this wasn’t due to poor writing, it was because Caden felt just as confused by his experiences.  This confusion as a reader began to clear up as Caden’s experiences on the ship began to match up with his experiences in the hospital.  Despite half of the novel taking place on a ship in Caden’s mind, this book is a very realistic depiction of mental illness, and makes me appreciate the struggle people experience to overcome this difficulty so much more.

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.53.13 PM

The Bone Season

by Samantha Shannon

Rating: 3/5 Stars

     Set in an alternative future London, The Bone Season follows Paige Mahoney who works for a street lord named Jaxon by discovering other people’s secrets.  Discretion is Paige’s biggest ally, not only for the sake of her job, but also because she commits treason just by existing.  Paige is a clairvoyant, who is able to see into people’s dreams to gain information.  In this world, the government hunts these people down and they disappear from society.  At the start of the novel, Paige is captured and taken to an abandoned part of the city, where she is assigned a Warden.  The Wardens are an alien race who control the human government and enslave those with extra abilities.  Paige must use her training and instinct to learn as much as she can about these people so that she can make her escape.

Review: So I picked up this book when I was participating in TBR Takedown 3.0 and trying to complete my reading outside my comfort zone challenge.  The Bone Season definitely fit into this category.  I’m not even sure what genre this novel fits into, it seems part dystopian, part sci-fi, part something else altogether.  Needless to say, I was very wary, going into it.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised.  While at times I might have gotten lost in the specialized language, for the most part I was engaged and excited to see what happened to Paige next.  Because this book fits into so many different genres for me, it also brought several different experiences to the reader.  There is the mystery of discovering who this alien race is and what their purpose is.  There is a very slow-burning romance that kept my interest when other parts dragged.  The reader gets to see the inner workings of how Paige’s powers work, which was really interesting.

Because it was out of my comfort zone, this was an entertaining read but I don’t feel the need to rush out and read the sequel.  Overall, I do want to keep reading this series, but its one that I will probably read over several years, when I’m looking to read something different than my norm.

Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Settings I Love Reading About

Top Ten Tuesday is a tag created by The Broke and The Bookish! Each week there is a new topic for book bloggers to discuss that features a variety of books.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 4.16.02 PM

I love historical fiction so this was a topic that I am really excited about!!!

Medieval Times- I love reading anything about the Medieval Times, from the political intricacies to the activities of average people during this time. It is just so other from what I am used to that I can’t learn enough about it.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.36.07 AM

The Victorian Era- Austen is probably my favorite classics author to read, so it makes sense that I love reading any kind of historical fiction also taking place during this time period.  The rigidity of society is so complex and stifling.  I love reading about Main characters breaking through these barriers to accomplish their goals.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.07.53 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.08.10 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.08.25 PM

1940s/WWII Era- this was such a tumultuous time that caused such shifting in history, I’m convinced there are an endless amount of history/historical fiction books that can be written set during this time

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.10.41 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.10.57 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.11.12 PM

Trail-walking/Journey-This isn’t historical necessarily, but too many of my favorite books fit into this category that I couldn’t resist throwing it into the mix.  I love when characters decide to test their physical strength and mental fortitude by embarking on a long journey!

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.13.25 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.13.48 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.14.08 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.14.26 PM

The US Frontier-Probably because my favorite series as a kid was Little House, but I can always appreciate a story about settlement in the west.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.17.10 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.31.11 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 7.00.56 PM

Middle Eastern/Persian- I can read these for the description alone! The art and culture of the Middle East is amazing and I love reading stories that are set their.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.18.52 PM

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 2.33.24 PM

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

by Becky Albertalli

Rating: 5/5 Stars

     Simon Spier is a 16 year old boy living in Georgia, who has spent the last school year communicating online with someone from his school whom he has never met.  Simon and Blue stumbled across one another on the internet and began confiding in each other after discovering that they are both gay and have yet to come out to their family and friends.  While they give each other the emotional support needed to take this step and Simon begins to realize that he is falling in love with Blue, Simon makes the mistake of not logging out of his e-mail on a school computer.  This classmate has discovered and printed all of Blue and Simon’s correspondence and uses it as blackmail against Simon.  Now, regardless of Simon’s comfortability with coming out, he is now on a timetable to tell everyone.

Review: I loved so many aspects of this story.  I think it is a unique premise, that is also very realistic.  Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda is hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.  Simon and Blue’s e-mails are funny and the reader can easily see why they get along so well.  Albertalli did a great job of writing interesting side characters.  All of Simon’s friends were unique and distinguishable, but again, very realistic.  I never felt like I was reading a character from a story  who was acting a certain way in order to portray the author’s message.  I can definitely understand why this novel is a Morris Award winner, and can’t wait to see what Albertalli cooks up next.  According to rumors, it is going to be a companion novel to Simon. 🙂

YALSA books added to my TBR

Last week I was able to watch the 2016 YALSA Awards and although I was familiar with a couple of them, there are many that I added to my To-Read pile once they were mentioned.  In my post today I’m just going to mention the ones that really sparked my interest 🙂

 

Alex Awards:  Given to books written for adults that appeal to young adult readers age 12-18.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 2.19.40 PMBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates:  Coates wrote this book to his son about the struggles he will face as a result of being black in America.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 2.22.49 PM Girl at War by Sara Novic: As a college student discovering herself, Ana begins to examine her war torn childhood living through the Balkan Wars in 1991.

Edwards Award: Recognizes an author whose work helps teens understand their role in society and in relationships towards others.

This year the award was given to David Levithan.  Of his work I am most interested in reading:

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 2.28.47 PM Two Boys KissingThis story is about Harry and Craig, two boys who hope to set a new record by entering a 32 hour kissing marathon. What makes this story so unique and intriguing though is that it is narrated and commented on by a previous generation of gay men who were lost to AIDS.

Morris Award: celebrates a debut Young Adult Author and their work.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 2.33.24 PM Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: This was the 2016 Morris Award winner.  Simon is on the verge of coming out, when a classmate begins blackmailing him about his sexual identity and the online relationship he has with a peer.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 2.37.16 PM The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore: This was a nominee that I have had my eyes on for awhile.  This is a Romeo and Juliet themed story about two families of traveling performers.  Amidst the circus setting there also a magical aspect to this story that has me very intrigued.

There were many other awards and books mentioned in the awards that I hope to get to in the future, but these were the ones that caught my interest right away!

Waiting on Wednesday: Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black

Waiting on Wednesday is a topic hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers post about books that they are looking forward to being published in the near future 🙂

New WoW

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 5.57.57 PM

Devil and the Bluebird is described as a YA take on the “Deal with the Devil” folklore.  In this novel, Blue Riley has been struggling to come to terms with her mother’s loss to cancer.  Amidst this struggle she comes across a devil who she makes a deal with, in order to save her sister who has runaway.  After making this deal, Blue strikes out west with the bare necessities, a guitar, and a pair of magical shoes that she hopes will help her find her sister.

From the description and cover of this book I get a bit of an Americana/Appalachian vibe that I am very excited about.  I can’t wait to see how Moson-Black depicts this rare retelling!!

Devil and the Bluebird is published by Amulet Books, and comes out on May 17th, 2016.

 

Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 4.08.12 PM

Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

In an alternate history, where the Axis Powers were the victors of WWII, there are those who still hope to  free Europe from Germania’s clutches.  Yael is one of those underground rebels.

Every year, Germania and Japan host a motorcycle race spanning their empires, in celebration of their WWII victory.  Yael is entered into this race, and assigned the task of winning and assassinating Hitler at the Victory Ball.  Thanks to Nazi experimentation, Yael now has a very special ability that makes her the only candidate that can take on this task for the rebels.  Part historical fiction, part science fiction, this novel makes a history that never happened feel all too real and present.

Review: I don’t know if I can say that I enjoyed reading about a Nazi occupied Europe, but I do commend Graudin for writing this novel.  The research and time that was dedicated to this world is very apparent, and as I was reading it felt as if this truly was the outcome of WWII.  From the experimentation to government protocol, everything that occurred in Wolf by Wolf is grounded in Nazi history.  Yael is a strong, passionate character, who faces many conflicts head on with the intuition of someone who has grown up in a cruel world.  However, Graudin also effectively portrays her as a 17 year old who is their first mission.  Yael stumbles, makes mistakes, and often questions her actions, all the while feeling that her duty is more important than any moral apprehension she has about the actions she takes to achieve her goals.  This is a book full of action, that really is unlike anything I’ve read before.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

Waiting on Wednesday is a topic hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers post about books that they are looking forward to being published in the near future 🙂

New WoW

This week’s WoW book is The Last Boy and Girl in the World!

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 11.37.08 AM

After disaster strikes, Keeley Hewitt seizes the opportunity to finally take the risk on the boy she has always liked.

When a massive storm decimates Keeley’s town, everyone she knows is getting ready to start over far away from each other.  With nothing left to lose, Keeley feels a sense of bravery and decides to finally approach her longtime crush, knowing their will be almost no social blowback or heartbreak with her leaving town so soon.  With so much up in the air already, is adding more uncertainty to her life really what Keeley should be doing though?  Would it be better to just cut all ties with the town, and start anew somewhere else?

This novel reminds me a lot of We All Looked Up, the idea that social embarrassment and rules are negligible when faced with your own mortality and sense of physical security.  It will be interesting to see if Keeley’s bravery will pan out or if it will make any difference with her and the boy she likes having to relocate.  I also wonder if this will be a story where Keeley’s social concerns get pushed aside or put in perspective, with all the destruction caused by the storm.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World comes out April 26th 2016, and is published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.