Review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak |Fiction Friday|

Synopsis

“It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.”(From Goodreads)

Rating: 5/5 Crowns
– Superb writing
– Interesting plot
– Great characters

Comparable Book(s): Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

*In depth review contains spoilers

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Review of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng |Fiction Friday|

 

This review contains spoilers.


Synopsis

““Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.”(From Goodreads)

Rating: 3.75/5 Crowns

Comparable Book(s): Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

The Review

 

Everyone has received some amount of pressure from their parents. I’m fortunate enough to have parents that allow me to choose to live my life how I see fit. They love me and want the best for me, much like how James and Marilyn loved and wanted the best for Lydia. However, the weight of their “love” drove Lydia to suicide.

Everything I Never Told You is about what pushed Lydia to kill herself and how that impacts her family. Lydia is the “favorite” child. The child that gets the goodnight kisses and the last slice of cake. The child that is mentioned first to co-workers and friend. The child who bears the crushing weight of her mother and father’s hopes and dreams. Marilyn and James were so desperate to finally get their life right the put the burden on Lydia.

History has a way of repeating itself and by avoiding our past we often run right into it. Marilyn hated the way her mother pressured her to find a husband. She had, what she considered to be, bigger and better dreams. Marilyn wanted to become a doctor. But life and love had other plans and she married James. Without understanding the full context of what she was doing, Marilyn pressures Lydia much in the same way she was pressured by her mother. Lydia is under constant stress to perform well in school so she can accomplish her mother’s dream of becoming a doctor. Marilyn is too blind to see that Lydia never wanted to be a doctor, she just wanted to make her mother happy.

James was never popular or liked when he was young, being the only Chinese American student in school. Children were cruel and racist, so he never had any friends. He never was able to “fit in”. However, when he had Lydia he was convinced that she could be popular. She could live the life he never had. He even gifts her a book on how to “make people like you”, which only causes her to feel like she’s not good enough.

Lydia’s siblings, Nath and Hannah are left to the wayside. Nath feels like he’s hated by his father and that his mother loves Lydia more than him. Hannah is quiet as a mouse and often forgotten by her family. The pressure from James and Marilyn cause tension and a divide between all three children.

Celeste Ng captures so many important real life topics so well – interracial couples, mixed race families, misguided parents and suicide. I’ve read a couple of different books about teen suicide (Thirteen Reasons Why, Love Letters To The Dead) but they never covered the entire families thoughts, stories and emotions. Everything I Never Told You is unique in it’s complete coverage.

And the title of the book is so appropriate, given how many times I wanted to strangle some of the characters. Communication is the key to any relationship but almost every character in this book just bottled what they were feeling until they snapped.

This book made me sad and frustrated, which is partially why I didn’t give it 4/5 Crowns. There were points when I thought I would never feel a catharsis. I almost gave up reading it because I was tired of the way the Lee family talked (or rather, how they didn’t – and it’s okay, everything does finally get resolved). I also had some trouble following the writing because of the way Ng shifted the point of view from one character to another, without much warning.

However, in the end I believe that this book is one that should be on everyone’s TBR. A perfect snapshot of an imperfect family.

Have you read Everything I Never Told You? If so, I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions.

– Queen Celine

Unpopular Opinions Tag |Fiction Friday|

Firstly, Merry Christmas!

Secondly, I love unpopular opinions because they start so much controversy. I just like knowing what makes people go against the “norm”.
1. A Popular Book or series that you didn’t like.

I tried reading City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and I only got 70 pages in before I suddenly stopped reading. I now realize it’s because I’m not an Urban Fantasy fan. I just prefer traditional Fantasy. 

2. A Popular Book or series that every one else seems to hate but you love.

A lot of the books I read for High School were hated by my classmates but I liked them. A Separate Peace by John Knowles and The Odyssey by Homer, are two that come to mind.

3. A Love Triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with OR an OTP that you don’t like.

It was hard for me to pick an NOTP but  I guess I’m not huge on Wade and Art3mis from Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I just didn’t feel any chemistry.

4. A popular book Genre that you hardly reach for.

Urban Fantasy.

5. A popular or beloved character that you do not like.

Superman (comics count as books!). He’s such a boyscout.

6. A popular author that you can’t seem to get into.

Cassandra Clare. I’ve heard a lot of negative things about her and I’m not a fan of her books.

7. A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing.

Every single YA book being compared to Twilight, Harry Potter, Divergent, The Hunger Games, etc.

Female characters being badass only by virtue of being tough and cool – we should be supporting all kinds of women.

8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading.

Anything in the Shadowhunter universe. And the Shatter Me trilogy.

9. The saying goes “The book is always better than the movie”, but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

If I had to pick I guess I’d say Sherlock Holmes but I haven’t even read any Sherlock Holmes so I have no idea.

Original Tag: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYfgq8HgDc0

Please let me know about all of your unpopular opinions in the comments!

– Queen Celine

Review of Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen |Fiction Friday|

This might be my favorite YA Contemporary book I’ve read this year. Also, 1000 points to anyone who counts how many times I use the word love 😉


 

Synopsis

“Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.”(From Goodreads)

Rating: 5/5 Crowns

Comparable Book(s): I couldn’t think of any

The Review

Did I mention that I loved this book? Because I loved this book. I hope that I can accurately portray how much I freaking loved reading Saint Anything but forgive me if it turns into fangirlish squeals.

Saint Anything is the first book by Sarah Dessen that I have ever read. That’s probably really surprising since she is such a well known YA author but I always thought that her books wouldn’t appeal to me. I have no idea why I thought this, but I just figured that they’d be really shallow or annoying to me. I was sorely mistaken.

One thing that I was blown away by was the writing! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that Dessen’s writing was this great? In my opinion it’s hard to find light contemporary YA with good writing.(Not that Saint Anything very light, I’d say it’s in the middle.) Here are just a couple of gems found in the book.

“With shame, like horseshoes, proximity counts.”

 

“You really only fall apart in front of the people you know can piece you back together.”

 

“I’d done the right thing. I always did. It just would have been nice if someone would have noticed.”

I was also amazed that none of the characters felt flat to me. With any book there are characters that you love or hate but generally there are also characters that are boring and under developed. The only character that may have verged on the side of under developed would be Ames. I didn’t feel like I knew much about him but at the same time I didn’t want to know anything about him. What a creep.

It kind of scared me how much I related to Sydney in this book. I went in this book blind. I knew next to nothing of the plot or characters. I only knew that Saint Anything was a Young Adult Contemporary novel and that, according to the back blurb, it deals with “how we might suffer the misfortune of someone else’s bad choices”. I had no idea that I would find so much in common with Sydney.

I know what it’s like to feel invisible. I know what it’s like to have a trouble maker older brother. I know what it’s like to feel like a “second place child”. My parents love me, much like Sydney’s parents love her, but both of our older brothers demand so much more attention. We get left to the way side.

Until someone else comes along in our life as sees us. For Sydney, that’s the Chatham’s.

Which brings me to another point, I love the Chatham’s. I love each of their characteristics and quirks. I love their relationships with each other. It just made me so happy that they welcomed Sydney with open arms.

Layla was just a little firecracker. I absolutely loved her incredibly fierce loyalty. She is a “take no shit” kind of a girl when it comes to protecting her friends and that’s something I really admire about her.

I also really loved Mrs. Chatham! She had a strong contrast to Julie (Sydney’s) mom. I loved how all of her children took care of her and how they were such a tight knit family.

Something else that’s interesting, for me at least, is that for once I didn’t fall for the love with the main character’s romantic interest. I liked Mac and I loved his relationship with Sydney but I guess he’s not my type. That didn’t really affect the story or experience for me but I just thought it was interesting.

As I mentioned before I really related to Sydney and I think that’s why this book was so amazing for me. It had a huge impact on me and it made me think about how I feel about my relationship with my parents and brother. (Going to get real personal for a sec – I even fought with my mom tonight with how I feel neglected because she’s always handling my brother’s issues. Later we talked about it rationally and now we have a better relationship because of it.)

So maybe if you don’t have these kinds family issues this book won’t be as amazing for you. However, Saint Anything really resonated with me and will be with me forever. That sounds cheesy but I mean it.

Let me know your thoughts and opinions on Saint Anything.

– Queen Celine

Why I Don’t Feel Guilty For Lowering My 2015 Reading Goal |Fiction Friday – Discussion|

Reading Goals can be really encouraging and effective. They can make you read something that would normally be out of your comfort zone — a graphic novel, biography, etc. However they can also put a lot of pressure on readers to focus more on quantity than quality.

In 2014 my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal was to read 15 books. I was just getting back into using Goodreads so I didn’t want to be too ambitious. I don’t know how but I was able to read 31 books! It’s kind of nice to be able to look back and see that I surpassed my goal. I’m very proud of it.

Flash forward to 2015 when I decided that if I was able to 31 books last year then I could definitely read 35 this year. I was wrong. It’s August and I’ve only read 19 books. I’m going off to my first year off college next week (EEEEP!!!) and I know I won’t have much reading time. So, every time I logged onto Goodreads I would be reminded of the fact that I was three books behind schedule or four books behind schedule. How daunting. It was starting to feel like no matter how much I read, I wouldn’t be able to catch up before school starts. I felt like I was failing.

I struggle with anxiety and depression, and reading is one of my coping mechanisms. I just like to run away and read my books. But stupid unnecessary reminders telling my that I’m falling behind make me more anxious and so I read less.

Today, it dawned on me that I could lower my 2015 Reading Challenge goal and it would be an instant relief. So that’s precisely what I’ve done. Now my, much more manageable, goal is 25 books. Some may see it as “quitting” but I’d rather have an easier goal than a crappy reading experience. I believe that as long as your goal still pushed yourself, than you’re not “quitting” or “giving up”.

To those of you who are falling behind on your reading goals, don’t be afraid to lower the number a bit. Everything will be okay, I promise! There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to read. It’s your reading challenge, do what ever you want with it. And remember that just because you read 50 or 100 or 1,000 books last year it doesn’t mean you have to read that many (or more) this year. We all have lives to lead, and sometimes personal stuff takes up reading time. 2015 marked the end of my High School career, so I was far too busy prepping for college and studying for exams to keep up with my reading goals.

How do you guys feel about reading goals? Do you think they can be good, bad or both? Let me know in the comments!

– Queen Celine

Review of The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban |Fiction Friday|

The real tragedy is that I thought tragedy was spelled “tradgedy”…

Synopsis

“Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their love.” (From Goodreads)

Rating: 3.75/5 Crowns

Comparable Book(s): Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Review

Over all, I’m glad I read The Tragedy Paper. It gave me the opportunity to read from the unique perspective of an albino. The book isn’t entirely about Tim’s albinoism but it definitely affects his personality. It turned him into an outcast. It also made me feel more connected to Tim because I just wanted him to feel loved and accepted. That said, I didn’t connect to any other character except Tim. While I didn’t dislike the others, I also didn’t care about them.

The Irving school was also interesting to read about. School is a common setting in contemporary YA but Irving has a lot of tradition tied to it that make it special. For example, the secret compartment in Tim’s room, the senior games and the “treasure” are all apart of it’s history. There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the school as well. The main mystery being what happened during the senior game? And how did it impact Tim, Vanessa and Duncan?

However, once the big “tragedy” is revealed, it’s underwhelming. In my opinion what happened during the senior games wasn’t a tragedy. From that point in the book and forward, I was left with feelings of “Oh, that’s it?”. What happened was unfortunate but, in my humble opinion, not tragic.

I felt mislead because it seemed like Duncan would have a much bigger role in the tragedy. (SPOILER: he didn’t.)

I also think that Vanessa is too “manic pixie dream girl” for my liking. In some ways it seemed like Tim only wants her because she’s the popular girl who would never fall for the albino. Vanessa acts especially “manic pixie” when we first meet her at the airport. What kind of person – notably, a young girl traveling alone – gets a hotel room with a stranger? Maybe I’m paranoid but I think that’s a dangerous idea.

Multiple times Tim says that “the rules don’t apply” to them simply because she stays in the hotel room with him, orders breakfast for dinner, etc. It’s all very “manic pixie”, for lack of a better term.

We also don’t know much about Vanessa. We know that she has siblings and likes snow and wears one bright color every day but that’s it. It’s like she’s there for the sole purpose of giving Tim a romantic interest and changing his life. Her aspirations, hobbies – any part of her personality that doesn’t involve liking Tim – don’t come up.

I know it sounds like I didn’t like the book, but I was going to give it a 4.5/5 up until the reveal of the “tragedy” occurred. I really enjoyed the idea of the plot, but some of the execution fell flat for me. I’d recommend it to those who liked Thirteen Reasons Why and to anyone interested in reading about an albino character.

If you’ve read The Tragedy Paper, let me know what you thought about it!

– Queen Celine

Books I’m Bringing to College |Fiction Friday – Discussion|

My Freshman year of College starts very soon (in about a month) and I’m equal parts excited and nervous. I know I’m going to be busy with adjusting to classes and my roommate and being in an entirely different state, but a girls gotta read amiright? Of course I am!

I’ve split the books into two different categories: books with relatable characters and books with worlds where I can hide. I’m not going to have a ton of space due to the joys of  living in a tiny dorm so I’m doing my best to keep the selection short.

Relatable Characters

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
  • To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • P.S I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Hideaway Worlds

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

I’m going to have to narrow it down but in an ideal world, that’s what I’d take with me. For all of you college bound, or if you’re currently in college or if you’ve finished college, let me know what books you’d bring!

– Queen Celine

Six benefits of Re-reading Books |Fiction Friday – Discussion|

Last year I read We Were Liars by E.Lockhart  and fell in love with the story. I  enjoyed reading it and I was completely surprised by the plot-twist. I gave it 4/5 star rating on goodreads (shameless plug: follow me on goodreads!).

I’m not a big re-reader. I think I’ve re-read a total of two books in my entire life.  But, re-reading We Were Liars changed my thoughts on re-reading. It’s not like I hated re-reading before this but I didn’t see much of a point in it. Therefore, I present to you:

The Benefits of Re-Reading!

  1. Foreshadowing – The first time I read We Were Liars I was completely oblivious to what the “surprise” was. This time I noticed all the small clues and hints scattered throughout the book. I even jotted down everything I didn’t pick up on the first time around. I think it really has helped me form more theories about the characters.
  2. Nostalgia – This one is obvious, but re-reading allows you to experience the story over again. I know a lot of readers who re-read books from their childhood *cough* HARRY POTTER*cough* so that they can relive the magic.
  3. Writing vs. Plot – The first time I read a book I don’t pay much attention to the writing. I tend to focus on the plot because that’s what draws readers in. Re-reading allows you to study the writing of authors you love. See if there’s anything they do that you can gather inspiration from or implement into your own writing. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys writing or wants to make a profession out of it!
  4. Comparing Opinions – Maybe you hated one character the first time you read a book but the next time around they become your favorite. Or perhaps your opinions don’t change at all. For instance, I still gave We Were Liars 4/5 stars after re-reading it.
  5. New Messages – Re-reading a book may give you a different perspective of the story. Reading a book once limits the lessons you can learn from it.
  6. Life Changes – So many things can change from when you first pick up a book to when you re-read it. This requires a bit of self-reflection, but see if any new experiences change your view of a book. Reading Fangirl in high school has a different impact than reading it in college.

I hope that this has given everyone something to think about but let’s take it a step further. Before the year is out I want to re-read at least two more books (Fangirl and another book I haven’t chosen yet.) If you’re not much of a re-reader either, I challenge you to re-read one of your favorites! Comment which book you’re interested in re-reading.

– Queen Celine

Fiction Friday: Relatively Small Book Haul

Hello everyone, I have a haul for you today! It’s only four books since I try not to buy books in large quantities. For my wallet’s sake. Anyway, let’s get started!

1 – Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

First-ish Impressions: I’m almost done reading this book and I’m really enjoying it! I’m not going to even attempt to explain the plot because it is extremely complex but I will say that it has several story lines that interweave. It’s very strange and a bit creepy but If you like that sort of thing, check it out!

2 – Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Art by Maria Kalman

IMG_0275
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Art by Maira Kalman

First Impressions: For those who don’t know Daniel Handler is the same person as Lemony Snicket so being a huge fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events I had to check this out. Why We Broke Up explores the causes of a couples break up. What’s especially awesome about this book is that there’s illustrations of objects from their relationship and the following chapter is about that object. (Or, at least that’s what i’ve come to understand. I haven’t read the book yet ^-^)

3 – Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

First Impressions: I don’t know anything about the plot of this book but I kind of want to keep it that way. I feel like it’s going to be one of those books that are better when you go in blind. But for the sake of a first impression, I will say that I think the cover is really beautiful. Half the reason I bought the book was because of the cover.

4 – Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

First Impressions: Christine (PolandBannanasBooks) loves this book so obviously I had to buy it. I’m having a hard time describing this book on my own so let me just paste the description. “It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list”. I’m excited to read this when I’m in a lighter contemporary mood.

Any suggestions on which I should after I finish Midwinterblood.

– Queen Celine