book review

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Review

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I've heard the name Neil Gaiman a lot over the past year or so and I had no idea what he wrote or what kind of author he was. All I pretty much knew was that he was the one that had written Stardust. And that's not saying much because I've only seen the movie, not read the book. But the movie was alright, I enjoyed it because of it's magical elements, so I set out this summer to read one of Gaiman's novels (including one of his graphic novels). Miraculously, in my university's library I found The Ocean at the End of the Lane and managed to snatch it before anyone else. I had previously seen the book at Target but it was $12, and for an about 170 page book I could not bring myself to buy it at the moment, especially because like I already mentioned I had no idea what Gaiman's literary style was and if I was going to like it or not.

But let me tell you, I was completely blown away with The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is completely worth the buy. I would definitely recommend having it on your bookshelf, as it's that type of novel that completely absorbs you and teleports you to this strange and mystical older world, a place that seems familiar in dreams and in childhood. I saw Gaiman's Google Talk on Youtube where he read an excerpt from the novel and discussed it. In the video he mentioned how the novel as a whole was not intended to be autobiographical except for the seven-year old boy's persona that was very resonant of a young Gaiman and his personality, the rest was storytelling and make-believe. It's interesting also on that note, that throughout the story we get the names of all the main characters except for the small boy, who is the main protagonist. I'm not sure if this was intentionally done, but looking back it makes sense for him to be nameless as Gaiman said he connected with him more personally.

If you have no clue what the novel is about (like I did) then let me go ahead and explain. The story takes place in Sussex, England in a remote village where a small, seven year-old boy lives. His family is initially described as being moderately well-off but then his parents unfortunately face a financial struggle, where the whole family is forced to sacrifice their old lifestyle to pay the bills. The little boys is forced to give up his room at the top of the stairs in order for it to be rented and move in with his sister. He's described as having no friends, except his kitty, and being an introvert; one of my favorite quotes in the book by him is, "Books were safer than other people anyway." He keeps to himself and spends all his time getting lost in the pages of his adventure or mystery books, while exploring the lands outside his doorstep. Various people come and go from his room, but the arrival of a South African man is one that changes everything. From there on, I can't reveal much except that you get magic and mysticism- and not necessarily the Harry Potter kind but the old-fashioned one. It's borderline mythological, reminding me of stories that adults tell one another and are then passed down to the children. And the best part is, that it's very much adult-based, as several scenes are a bit graphic and almost frightening. It's a goosebumps kind-of tale that will probably remain in your head for a long time.

I would highly recommend picking this up and reading it, I'm upset that I didn't get it sooner. This was the type of book that I love having on my bookshelf and would not be upset to spend money on. I finished it in a day, because it is a short read, but it left me with so many questions! I don't want to give anything away so if you haven't read the book, do NOT read on.
My biggest question now as I'm writing this review is the fact that we never find out the little boy's name. Why is that? I think perhaps that because Gaiman said he was pretty much writing him from the perspective of himself as a young boy, he didn't necessarily need a name. He's almost directly connected to Gaiman, hence we can imagine that to be him, but not quite. For a seven year-old boy, he was pretty smart and I loved that he loved books; his nose was always stuck in the pages of books and he went along with that magical other world that the Hempstock's were a part of without questioning too much. It's easy to go along with things when you're a child, as he keeps pointing out, because children are so much more carefree and full of imagination. I miss that sometimes because you grow up and become full of responsibilities, stress and worriment- and you can't go back, but you can always try to remain as childish as you can.

I loved this book (if I haven't said that already) and if you have read it, let me know what you thought or maybe some of your favorite quotes! I got a few written down. If you haven't read it, then make sure to go and pick it up, I promise you will not regret it!

book review

The Girl of Fire and Thorns Review

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's so refreshing to switch to a different genre (well, sort of, because it's still YA) and get lost in a whole new world *cue Aladdin song*
...and with that I'm here to write about The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

I picked this book out because I saw some other readers I follow on Goodreads rate and review it, and I thought "Why not?" It's got all the themes I love, well honestly I only knew it was fantasy-related and probably edging somewhere near The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones but for YA. And I was right! I thought this was a great, light read that had a really strong and empowering female protagonist- which come on, all the themes I love again.

With that, I'll introduce Lucero-Elisa who is the second (and therefore youngest) daughter of King Orovalle. She's described in the beginning chapters as a stout young woman, just turning 16 on the very day of her marriage to King Alejandro de Vega. All her life she's seen herself as being insufficient and lowly to her older sister, Juana-Alodia, who is the opposite image of her; having a slim figure, high cheekbones and a charming personality Elisa sees everything in her sister that she is not and doesn't foresee herself to be. But what makes Elisa special is a unique blue stone that's embedded to her at birth; referred to as a Godstone, this divine gift is believed to be sent from God to a chosen human to mark them as a special bearer- someone who will prove to be most powerful. But Elisa feels anything but that, as her life's consolation has plainly been to "eat her feelings" alongside her strict devotion to religious texts.

Being married offers her no further support as she doesn't know why she's been matched with King Alejandro and whisked away so quickly from her home. Elisa's low expectations of herself and the Godly power that lies within her make her an unlikely heroine, but then again that's how all great stories start! The Girl of Fire and Thornes is exactly what the title says it is, it's a story following a young woman that is learning to grow into herself and make the decisions that transition you from an adolescent to an adult, with a few mishaps along the way. With so many expecting nothing out of her, or anything highly, Elisa transforms right before your eyes and takes you with her all across the country- through hot, sweltering deserts and steep, rough mountains. Oh, and don't forget to add in all the fantasy elements of this mysterious Godstone and the creatures you encounter later on. Guess you'll have to read to found out...and now on to my thoughts, meaning spoilers so do NOT read on if you have not read the book yet!

The book I ordered off Amazon came with "extras" at the end of the story, including an interview with Rae Carson and a short excerpt that Carson wrote herself on misogyny in the workforce. I loved that I got to read it because it offered a lot more insight into how Carson wanted to form Elisa's character and how she wanted readers to perceive her; not as just some plump princess who miraculously loses weight and then gets admired for it at the end. On the contrary, quoting directly from Carson's short passage Weighing In On Weight, she said "A woman has a right to have and enjoy whatever body her choices of circumstances give her...So, to my fellow women I make this resolution: I will commit to seeing beyond your breasts or fat or beauty to the essence of who you are. And I will vociferously defend your right to have your accomplishments acknowledged and lauded- no matter what you look like."

That is what I got out of Elisa and the whole essence of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I didn't really understand why the author chose to make a princess a bit on the heavier side when I first began reading, but I honestly didn't care and applauded it even when I didn't know the change that was coming. Even though Elisa was seen and even publicly called "fat" at one point, she was so smart and kindhearted that those who looked beyond her outer appearance could really admire her true persona. And even when Elisa loses the weight, those who loved and appreciated her from the beginning (or not quite, aka Cosme) still remained by her side because of her admirable qualities.

Apart from this empowering image of a princess, I liked the incorporation of religion. I think it's definitely different to incorporate so much it in a YA book, but like Carson said, "It seemed to me that deciding what one believes about religion in the face of so many conflicting messages is a much more important part of the coming-of-age experience than is necessarily represented in current teen lit." Even now as I'm getting to turn 23, I still have questions about what I do or don't believe in my religious doctrines. I had them when I was 15 and they never really went away, just grew in terms of being more aware of my surroundings and all the major "worldly" questions; moving away from home for college also didn't help, but made this awkward gap in my religious circle. And this isn't just me, I find that all my other friends and colleagues have gone or are going through the same thing- there's this questioning and a search for this higher power to seek for comfort even with the confusion by everything that's going on around us. So, Elisa trying to discover these things for herself but still holding true to her faith connected with me.

I'm sure these "spoilers" are more like analyzes of the novel, but hey, this girl right here appreciates critical thinking and thank goodness for writing as a medium to get it out of her system. Anyways, enough of my rambling. If any of you have read The Girl of Fire and Thorns or any of these extras by Rae Carson, let me know and maybe if you're feeling up to it discuss with me! I gave the book a 4/5 on Goodreads, as I felt that the ending was a bit rushed and tied up rather well. I mean I got the gist of the Godstone, sure there are questions, but now what? The Invierne seem to be fought off for the moment, so what other imminent threat is out there for Elisa? Also, can we talk about Humberto for a minute? (Humberto's post-death I also thought was a bit rushed and not really given enough thought to) Who is going to be Elisa's true love now?! I guess I'll have to continue on to the second book in the trilogy, The Crown of Embers, to find out.


book review

Anna the French Kiss Review

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Woah. I have to contain myself right now because I just finished reading the best summer read by far. I'm sure a lot of you have heard of this by or now or read it yourselves, but I am so happy I saved it until I was on vacation- where I have time to keep daydreaming about Paris, and escaping to a whole new foreign city. Right, back to the book. If you don't have Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins in your to-read pile, do it now, ASAP. I'm still sighing over it. It's that good!

To give you a little run down, the story centers on Anna, the main character who is whisked away to Paris, France to attend her senior year in high school abroad. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Anna is very relucatant to go away and is ultimately forced by her father- a cheesy, Southern contemporary writer. Leaving behind her mom, her best friend, Bridget, her little brother, Sean, and her crush, Toph, her expectations for Paris seem grim. But as we all learn in high school, ultimately you get something out of it, eventually moving out of the nest and growing up. And that's exactly what happens to Anna in the City of Lights...that and so much more! To learn more about her year abroad and that French kiss mentioned in the title, you would have to pick up the book. Also, there's a really charismatic and handsome boy in the novel, nicknamed St. Claire, and he's another reason why you will fall for this story. Trust me.

Now, if you don't want spoilers do NOT continue reading but if you do or have read the book, then keep reading to see why my heart melted in all the right places and why I'm so bummed I'm not traveling anywhere this summer.

Let's start with the beginning, because that's what instantly hooked me in. Everything Perkins wrote about what Anna knew about Paris and what to expect was spot on. Basically those are the same exact things I know too- "Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge. The Eiffel tower and the Arc de Triomphe..." And as you get to see later on in the novel, all those "touristy" places are also the ones where you get to see the beauty of Paris-what people travel so many miles to look at and marvel. I loved that Anna and St. Claire's special place became the Notre Dame, because even though I've never seen it in person, Perkin's description of them being there and looking up at it, made me want to be there ten million times more.

The cliche storyline has always been to travel across seas and finally meet the person of your dreams, and even though that's what this book entailed, I absolutely loved it. The location of the book just added more of a fantastical feel to it, yes definitely more romantic but also adventurous. Because coming from what's considered the South of America too, it would definitely be a complete change moving to France- especially with the language. I could sympathesize with Anna on being a bit intimidated by learning French, as I'm horrible with learning new languages (taking French I for a semester was enough for me). But when you're young and capable everything seems a bit easier and capable tough to tackle. So even though I only know one other person in "real life" who's had this whole traveling abroad and falling in love thing happen to them, I do believe it's out there and can happen.

Anna and St. Claire's relationship seemed entirely relateable to me and my group of friends- even if we are in our early 20's. And I'm sure it might even relate to people older than that. I liked that they began as friends as first and that throughout the entire story they were each others best friend, because in a relationship you should be each others best friend. That person to lean your head on, know what you're thinking and how you're feeling. At the end of the day, they can be that effortless conversation to have and not think about what to say.

Even though the end was left with Anna and her friend's moving away from each other and going to different universities, it left me satisfied. Because that's what happens when you grow up; moving away but still keeping in contact with good friends is inevitable. And the fact that Anna and St. Claire were left together to be in the same state- yeah, I was absolutely crushed at that point- in a good way!

If you've read this book or any other Stephanie Perkins novels let me know. I'm thinking about picking up Lola and the Boy Next Door! I think everyone needs more books like this in their life and once in a while be able to get lost in another romance. I gave Anna and the French Kiss 5/5 on Goodreads and I think I will definitely be re-reading it sometime later this year!


book review

The Eternity Cure Review

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

 I'm back with the second novel, The Eternity Cure, in Julie Kagawa's trilogy Blood of Eden. I absolutely loved this book, it jumped right back from where The Immortal Rules ended off and gave so much more than expected. Like I mentioned in my Goodreads review, the second books in series' are usually somewhat of a letdown- either they don't give enough or focus too much on one thing and get slow. But The Eternity Cure answered the majority of things I was left questioning in the first book and gave so much more character/world development!

If you don't know what the Blood of Eden trilogy is about then let me introduce you. This is a paranormal, dystopian series where Earth has been ravaged by the Red Lung virus. Humans began getting deadly sick and dying off, with this sickness, vampires came out of the shadows seeing that their food population was dwindling fast. Because of this scientists teamed together to try and find a cure, unfortunately vampires became part of the equation with discovering a cure, and the use of their blood in experiments caused rabids to be created. Rabids became humans who were affected by the virus but instead of outwardly dying human, they came back as disturbing monsters with white pale skin, glassy eyes and a thirst for anything that was alive and beating. They will stop at nothing to get to their prey, and this deadly persistence is seen time and time again throughout the books. Since the height of rabidism, vampires took it upon themselves to establish themselves as a prime species. The world since then can be described as being composed of vampires, humans and rabids.

The main protagonist and narrator of the story is Allison Sekemoto, a human turned vampire who has a lot of spunk and a great sense of independence about her. The rest is up to you as you follow Allison on her journey as first a human and then a vampire, trying to figure everything out and how she will survive as a newly "prime" being. And believe me if you caught up in the whole back story of what the world has become and how vampires got introduced, then you will definitely want to keep reading! There are so questions to be asked, adventures to follow Allison on and characters to meet.

What I enjoy about this series is that it's not the typical vampire/human story, or some sort of Twilight- which a lot of vampire books touch upon nowadays. Sure, there's romance in this series but there's even more than that. Allison's walks through long stretches of solitary road, her persistence in being more than a mere vampire and the complex, but messed up world that surrounds her is described amazingly well. There are scenes of gore and violence and terror, especially in The Eternity Cure. But when you get the chills and still keep reading, that's when you know it's good!

I don't want to give anything away or write down any spoilers for this book because I thought everything was tied up really well. The surprises presented were unexpected but still action-packed. If they were predictable, I wasn't even paying attention because I was so immersed in what the next page would bring. I have a guess as what's going on with Zeke in the last book, and if it encompasses anything of what I have in mind then I can't wait to see how Allison is going to act!

I gave The Eternity Cure a 5/5 on Goodreads and can't wait to see what The Forever Song (the last book in the trilogy) brings- hopefully it will not disappoint. If you've read any of the books above or are going to read them, let me know!

*Also, did anyone enjoy Jackal as much as I did in The Eternity Cure?!


book review

Unravel Me Review

Sunday, June 08, 2014

If you follow me on Goodreads then you will have seen that I just finished reading Tahereh Mafi's, Unravel Me. I wish I could have blogged about finishing Shatter Me to start with the first book in the series, but unfortunately I didn't :(

If you don't know what the series is about then let me introduce you. Shatter Me begins with the main protagonist, Juliette, a teen who has been in a psychiatric ward for the past couple years. You learn that she was put there when she was 14 years old for committing some sort of crime. Her days are lonely and filled with only the thoughts that pass through her head that she's able to transcribe to her small notebook. Mostly she thinks of how horrible a person she is, a white dove that haunts her dreams and how much she's suffered for the majority of her life. Earth has also changed as readers learn through Juliette, in that people began getting sick a couple years ago and dying, birds don't fly and the environment is worse than it has ever been before. Because of this a new government steps in full of hope and promises, called The Reestablishment, to try and repair all the damage that has occurred.

Juliette's horrible crime has to do with the fact that she has a "special" power. Her touch is deathly, literally. When she touches another human being she is able to steal their energy in a sense and cause them insufferable pain that can lead to death. Her parents discovering this when she was younger disowned her and looked down upon her with disgust. Seeing as her parents didn't want to deal with her she's sent to various juvenile detention centers, hospitals and eventually the psychiatric ward to live in isolation, unable to hurt anyone. Juliette is a weak and very torn character in the beginning, as she's had to suffer through being rejected from warmth and love from not only her parents but everyone around her, never having one single friend. But one day another "patient," Adam, is put in her room and this changes everything.

I don't want to go further into detail because it would mean much more explanation and in-depth description that makes the story what it is- meaning you should go and read it if you're interested! Now, if you don't want further spoilers for the second novel in the series, Unravel Me, then I suggest you do NOT read on!

Alright, on to the good stuff! Unravel Me was different in that it was a bit slower than I would have liked compared to everything that progressed in the first book. I know a lot of people are a bit put off by Mafi's writing style but that's actually something that I really really enjoy about this series- especially being that it's YA. When I'm reading I get caught up in all the amazing imagery and analogies that she creates with her sentences and words. If you really read closely you can feel the intensity and the build-up of emotion that she puts into the characters- especially Juliette's. I think that kind of writing is great for the YA population and all the young teens who are reading, it adds a bit more complexity to the storyline and maybe pushes kids to read more closely.

In Unravel Me though I felt as if I knew every single little thing that Juliette was thinking and feeling. It got kind of frustrating at times because I kept thinking, "I get it, ok, you're drowning in emotions. Moving on..." I also realized that from the moment the characters got to Omega Point till the moment they were going out to battle, it had only been about 4 weeks. I'm not sure of the time span in the first book but for this taking place in a month,  I got tons of character thought (meaning only Juliette's) and not enough action. Not until the very end was there any real action, which means everything was just a buildup and I just wanted more!

Also, I got really fed up with Juliette and her indecision's- that girl just doesn't know what she wants and she's messing with everyone's feelings at this point, that's why I loved Kenji's character. Whenever he called her out and set her straight, I was applauding out loud. I loved that there was more of Kenji and Warner in this book as well, you just get to meet and interact with more characters rather than just staying immersed in Juliette and Adam.

I don't know what's going to happen in Ignite Me but Warner's tattoo has to be a foreshadowing for something and a symbol for how everything's going to wrap up (yeah, I'm a big symbolism person). I don't want to get into the whole Adam vs. Warner thing but let me just say that when I found out Anderson was related to Adam I was super shocked! Talk about a curve ball. I did not see that coming at all and it definitely complicated...well everything- another reason why I was so frustrated with Juliette because she pulled that stunt with Warner. Also, there was barely any Adam in this book, it was as though he was nonexistent.  

I gave Unravel Me a 4/5 on Goodreads, kinda leaning towards a 3.5 more, but the writing was awesome for being a YA novel and I was still really immersed in the storyline from the first book! Let me know what your thoughts are on the series, Unravel Me or anything mentioned. I can't wait to read the last book, even if it's kinda bittersweet!




Sunday, June 08, 2014

My name is Alexandra and I'm 22 years old and a full-time college student located in Florida. I decided to start this blog this summer since I have more free time than usual, as opposed to when I'm busy with school and work during the year. I love reading and discussing books and needed an outlet to write down my thoughts and opinions once I'm finished reading, so I thought a blog would be an easy way to do that and connect with other readers out there! I don't focus on specific genres, as I bounce around from science-fiction, YA novels, dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, contemporary, and adult fiction. There's too many books to read and not enough time! I'm also a huge movie buff and watch a couple TV shows, so here and there I will post some of those things as well. Feel free to leave a comment and discuss with me, as well as suggesting new authors and titles- I love diving into new novels or series. Hope you enjoy this blog and my many ramblings!


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