Review: Me Before You By Jojo Moyes

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Me Before You

By Jojo Moyes

Rating: 5/5 Stars

     Louisa Clark has lost her job after working for six years at a local cafe.  Now after leaving or turning down multiple temp jobs and her family beginning to feel the financial strain of losing her income, Lou takes the next available job.  She begins working as a companion for a young man who is a quadriplegic as the result of an accident.

     Will Traynor, no longer recognizes the life he is living, after a tragic accident has forever taken his lavish and adventurous lifestyle away.  He no longer sees the point of living, until Louisa sweeps in and makes it her mission to show him how much he still has to live for.

Review: From watching the trailer for this upcoming movie, it is pitched as mainly a love story, but for me, the love aspect in this book takes a back seat to so many more important themes.  How do we measure someone’s quality of life?  If someone is rendered incapable of ending their own life, is it the duty of those who love them to assist in their efforts? Or disregard their wishes in favor of life and the law?

Even the love story turns traditional portrayals on their head.  In this story Lou’s boyfriend has the qualities most people would say make him ideal.  He is attractive, charming, sociable. However, Lou is drawn to Will, whose body is breaking down and never seeks to make others feel comfortable in his presence.  I think Moyes does a great job of taking a heart felt story and leaving the readers with a lot more than simple entertainment.

I highly recommend reading Me Before You before seeing the movie, and can’t wait to read its sequel and watch how the adaptation plays out.

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Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks

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The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

by E. Lockhart

Rating: 5/5 stars

     Upon entering Sophomore year at a competitive boarding school, Frankie is not the same girl as the previous year.  After pending a summer in the sun and growing into some of her more awkward features, she is the girl that everyone is beginning to notice.  After the year kicks off with her dating a popular senior, Frankie thinks she has high school figured out.  However, she soon realizes that she doesn’t love the way she is treated as a trophy without independent thoughts or that she is excluded from the school’s secret society just because of her gender.

     It doesn’t take Frankie long to come up with a plan to show everyone that she is just as capable as one of the boys.  Leading to an infamy filled school career, Frankie is willing to sacrifice everything to place herself on equal footing with the Boys’ Club at her school.

Review: I love this book that’s filled with all sorts of Girl Power goodness!! I most appreciated how Lockhart chose to take on the more subtle occurrences of sexism and misogyny that girls face.  The frustration that Frankie feels when her words are disregarded simply because they are coming from her, or that they need to be validated by a male in the group in order to be considered valid is written so clearly that the reader becomes equally frustrated.  Even with something as innocent as a male friend “looking out for her” and warning her off certain guys because people think she looks better than last year, Lockhart drives home the point that there is something inherently wrong with that being necessary.

While this book does primarily highlight Frankie’s discontent, I also appreciated the inclusion of other female perspectives on these issues.  It shows that sexism is not a clear girls against boys problem.  There are some girls in this book who are fine with the established norm regardless of the inequality, and their feelings are just as justified as Frankie’s.

I think this is a contemporary book that should be on every school library shelf, and wish it was one I had read when I was in high school.

Before and After: The Girl From Everywhere

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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.

Review: The Prince of the Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

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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!

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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.

Review: Front Lines by Michael Grant

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Front Lines (Soldier Girl, #1)

by Michael Grant

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Front Lines is an alternate history of World War II, exploring what could have happened if women were allowed to fight on the front lines of battle.  This is a multiple perspective book that details the lives of 3 girls who have enlisted for a variety of reasons.  One is a black medic, who must overcome sexism as well as racism in order to serve her country.  Second is a Jewish girl from New York, who works in army intelligence. And the third perspective, is from a girl who is forced to re-examine who she believes she is in order to accept her new talents to further the USA’s goals in Europe.  All three of these girls have very different experiences, and provide the reader with a glimpse into previously unexplored possibilities while still accurately describing the true horrors of war.

Review:  I received this ARC from EpicReads! in exchange for an honest review.  I have mentioned this book previously on my blog and was very excited to finally read it.  Within the first couple of pages, I fell a little bit in love with this story.  It opens with an unknown, almost omniscient, narrator who introduces the characters to the reader.  It gave me chills and reminded me a lot of the narrator used in The Book Thief.  However, I was a little disappointed to discover that this narration occurs for only about 10 pages of the entire novel.

I also would have loved to hear more from the perspective of the soldier working in intelligence throughout part I of the novel, when they are receiving their training.  This was such a unique perspective and I feel like it could have used more fleshing out and attention.

Although the beginning of the novel dragged a bit in some places, I was really impressed with Grant’s writing during the conflict scenes, and started flying through pages once Part II arrived.  Now that the girls have officially transitioned into combat life, I could easily see myself enjoying the next installment of this series.  I found this to be a great start to a very intriguing series.

#TBRtakedown 3.0 challenge

Today marks the beginning of the #TBRtakedown 3.0 reading challenge hosted by Shannon over at Leaning Lights on Booktube!  I’m hoping to start checking books off my to read list pretty early this year, and hopefully this challenge will get me off to a good start.  While my goal is to read as many book that I already own as possible, here is the list of challenges that Shannon has created to get me started:

Monday: read a book from your most recent haul

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 4.09.19 PM  The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

Tuesday: read a book that has been on your TBR for over a year

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.52.08 PM Some Boys by Patty Blount

Wednesday: read a book outside your comfort zone

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.53.13 PM The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Thursday: read the first book in a series

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.54.31 PM The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Friday: complete a series or read the next book in a series

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.55.52 PM The Heir by Kiera Cass

Saturday: read a fire colored book

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 4.08.12 PM Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Sunday: read a non-novel item

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.57.24 PM  Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson

 

So here is my list so far! I will be updating on these books, as well adding any extras that I manage to read along the way!  Best of luck to anybody who is joining in on this reading challenge!