Category Archives: Book Reviews

Here you can find all my reviews of the books I have read so far.

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: YA – Science Fiction – Dystopia
Series: Across the Universe #1
Publisher: Penguin Books
DOP: 2011
Pages: 398
Rating: 2/5

“If my life on Earth must end, let it end with a promise. Let it end with hope.”

Despite the mixed reviews, I succumbed to buying Across the Universe by Beth Revis due to the spectacular looking book cover and captivating summary. Although all the elements of a promising novel were present – a dystopian mystery set on board a spaceship during the longest space voyage to have ever existed, with a love story added in for good measure – the story never developed into the greatness I expected it to be. I wanted to love this but the repetitiveness of the story in combination with weak characters, ruined it for me.

That will teach me for not listening to my fellow book bloggers.

Synopsis

Following in the footsteps of her parents, Amy leaves behind the life she loves on Earth to be taken to a planet 300 years distance away. Cryogenically frozen in her body, she balances between being conscious and asleep until someone unfreezes her fifty years before she is supposed to be. Amy’s survival of her body’s thawing appears to be a fluke, and as she tries to cope with a society she doesn’t recognize or understand more people are being improperly unfrozen and murdered. There’s a killer on the ship and hiding is impossible. Who can Amy trust amidst the strangers and why did they wake her up?

Review

Across the Universe was one of those stories that put me on a rollercoaster of emotions but not necessarily all in a good way. There were a few things that intrigued me, and then there were parts that caused me to cringe at the amount of daftness our main characters seemed to display. The most surprising element of the story was the description of the technological parts of the cryogenic process and the ship that immediately contributed to the science fiction feeling.

The whole ordeal of becoming frozen was detailed to the point that I experienced a tightness in my chest that can be best described as a sense of panic gripping me. It pressed the right kind of buttons for me to become captivated. The structure of the spaceship was well thought out too. I especially liked how the passengers were able to transport from one level to another. It wasn’t a new idea but I thought it was cool nevertheless.

If the story was solemnly about technology, then yes, the elements were there and detailed and I would be done with my review. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

What was up with the characters?

There weren’t very many of them, and those we did have never burst from the page to become lively, unique characters I would have cared for. So much was left unfinished considering the extreme situation. The antagonist was exposed too quickly, too easily, giving the story the feeling of a failed attempt at a “whodunit”.

Elder’s arrogance and belief that he has a right to know everything immediately, aggravated me. He was disrespectful towards authority and dismissed all the rules. He was portrayed as a spoiled teenager who felt entitled to throw tantrums the minute he didn’t get what he wanted. His rebellion felt more like a teenager defying the rules set by his parents than the responsible character questioning the regime, thinking about the situation and the consequences of his actions that he was supposed to be.

His act of rebellion taught me a different lesson than what the author must have had in mind. The way it was dealt with, taught me it was okay to dismiss all kind of authority when you don’t agree; it taught me it was alright to ignore all the responsibilities and not think of the consequences as long as you get what you want. I understand that Revis tried to show us the problematic society and that the authority was corrupt, her message being to not blindly accept everything you’re being told by your superiors. However, the way Elder was portrayed, his youth and inexperience and the spoiled brat’s attitude, rubbed me in the wrong way. Needless to say he was my least favourite character.

Harley, on the other hand, was much more interesting than the protagonists and it saddened me he wasn’t more present. He seemed like a character with layers and I wanted to get to know him better. He questioned everything society threw at him, acting when he was confident it was the right thing to do. He was a strong character with real emotions, dealing with conflict in a thoughtful manner that it usually rendered me speechless each time his character reappeared. His story was tragic but beautiful all at once.

I’m also very confused about where the ROMANCE came from. Although Revis tried her best to make it reciprocal, it was obvious that she enforced a romance between her protagonists without listening to her characters as she wrote them.

I’m not sure how it started and how it developed but it was suddenly there without any building towards it. On some level, it portrayed the teenagers realistically, running after their hormones without any emotional connection and if that’s how Revis wanted them to come over to her readers, I wouldn’t have minded the “romance” as much. However, it bothered me that she wrote them in a way I had to believe they were “meant to be together”. It didn’t work for me, especially as it was one-sided and was more awkward than cute. If Revis had taken a different approach it could have worked but it felt unnatural in the end.

I haven’t started on how absurd it was they needed an entire book to discover the villain yet!

The way I saw it, there were three to five possibilities and three of them were villains in their own wicked way! The fact the plot took repetitive twists and voiced the same questions over and over again, was tiresome. The story didn’t seem to develop in any way.

I wasn’t much fan of the society either. In a strict sense, it was a proper dystopian novel with an organisation treating the people as a flock. If you disobeyed or showed signs of having a different opinion, you were quietly locked away on the mental ward of the hospital.

What bothered me was the level of “equality” that they strived for to the point it became racist. The people on board of the space ship all had the same physical characterisations: same skin, eye and hair colour: one big, happy family. The ideology: when everyone looks the same, there can’t be any argument so society wouldn’t get disturbed and all is well. Apparently, if we would look all the same, we wouldn’t have to deal with “bad” people such as thieves, murderers, kidnappers, rapists and so on. As if this type of “equality” would make a human’s nature “good”. It expressed a narrow-minded ideology from centuries ago that shows exactly why there are still problems in the world today.

When you take away the differences in a society, I can imagine that there would be less conflict as a result but that doesn’t automatically mean that everyone within said society thinks the same or shares the same opinions. In that way, Across the Universe’s society is a bit naïve as well.

Final Thoughts

Across the Universe ticks off all the boxes when it deals with fancy technological stuff that we expect from a science fiction novel. The mystery of a murderer running loose on a space ship would have been great if the characters had been given more depth and were worked out properly. The plot could have been less see-through and repetitive. All in all, there was a lot of potential with this book but it didn’t fully flourish and that’s a shame.

Did you enjoy Across the Universe? What did you think of the romance in this novel? Did you think the choice of character names was unique?

More books by Beth Revis:

Across the Universe series:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standalone:

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Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Image from Goodreads

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Genre: Classic – Historical
Series: To Kill a Mockingbird #1
Publisher: Arrow Books
DOP: 2010 (First published 1960)
Pages: 309
Rating: 4.5/5
ISBN: 978-0-09-954948-2

Synopsis on the flap:

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

There are so many different aspects that are dealt with in To Kill a Mockingbird, that I find it extremely hard to pick out one and explain what I felt accurately. One of the first things that I must acknowledge, is Harper Lee’s exceptional writing style and the sublime journey she created for our main characters, Scout and Jem Finch, to grow naturally and critically in a story set against the backdrop of Southern America in the 1930s. One way she used to enhance the growing up in a rapidly growing darker background, is by using the viewpoint of a child and then, playing with said viewpoint.

Continue reading Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Cover Image by Goodreads

Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Series: Legend #1
Publisher: Penguin
DOP: 2013 (original 2011)
Pages: 295
Rating: 5/5
ISBN: 978-0-141-33960-3
Twitter: @Marie_Lu

Day is a fugitive the Republic has trouble with catching as he goes against the laws in order to find a way to make it easier for his poor family. June works for the Republic, resolute in finding her brother’s murderer and avenge his death. They have nothing in common. Two different backgrounds, two different opinions and yet, when their paths cross there’s something that intrigues them about the other, forcing them to be faced with the consequences of their own background and the knowledge they have on the Republic.

Marie Lu’s world has been written in such an attention-grabbing way that it was hard to put down the book. With an action packed plot and a very well built world, was Legend the answer to my long lasting reading slump. Told from two perspectives, Day’s and June’s, the plot evolved to a crescendo that kept me turning page after page, something the books I’ve been reading lately lacked.

Continue reading Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Image by Goodreads

Title: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: YA, fantasy –> Fairies
Series: #1 The Iron Fey
Publisher: 
Harlequin Teen
DOP: 2010
Pages: 363
Rating: 3/5 stars
ISBN: 978-0-373-21008-4
Twitter: @JKagawa

On the day Meghan Chase turns sixteen, a Changeling has appeared in her home, replacing her brother Ethan. On a quest to find him, Meghan discovers the Nevernever and all its mythical creatures. Jumping from one adventure into another, Meghan meets Grimalkin and comes eye to eye with the Winter Prince, Ash, who chases after her to capture her for Queen Mab. Then, she’s summoned to King Oberon’s Summer Court and has to obey his demands, taking her further away from finding Ethan. On top of that, another King lurks, poisoning the land of the Faery with iron.

While reading The Iron King, the first book in The Iron Fey series written by Julie Kagawa, it felt like a modern retelling of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Both girls step into an entire new world and are introduced to the fantastical creatures of the Nevernever, creating a likewise magical vibe that’s so known from Alice in Wonderland. Not only did it have a sense of Alice in Wonderland, Kagawa doesn’t hide the fact that a few characters, Puck, King Oberon and Queen Titania, are taken from Shakespeare’s comedy play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Kagawa took from both worlds and created an unique view on the Nevernever, where two faery courts stand opposite of each other for power and a third Iron King is rising to destruct the Nevernever and change it forever. Within this background, Meghan Chase tries to find her younger brother Ethan, who’s been abducted to this foreign land.

Although there’s a hint of comedy with the addition of Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Iron King is not. The fantastical creatures are cruel towards humans, bullying and using them for their own entertainment or as a late afternoon snack. On a few occasions, there is fighting added and here and there curses are thrown along. In the land of the Faery, being in someone’s debt can cause more trouble than preferable and one of the creatures that actively seeks for deals it can make, is Grimalkin, a talking cat who guides Meghan through the Nevernever (and reminding me a lot of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland).

 photo Puck Quote_zpsjntavx8g.jpg
Quote from The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Puck and Grimalkin were my two favourite characters in this book. Grimalkin, mysterious in his ways of knowing almost everything and disappearing when least expected, felt like a trustworthy friend even though it’s clear that one should be extremely careful around him. His blunt, to-the-point remarks gave him a dry sense of humour whereas Puck was the opposite, recognising authority but simultaneously taking the mickey out of them. His humour created light-hearted moments between the serious, and sometimes scary, adventures Meghan undergoes, erupting snorts on more than one occasion.

Nonetheless, there were a few things that bothered me while I read The Iron King. Perhaps I’m getting old, and if I do you may definitely call me so, but I experienced Meghan’s journey as a rapid jumping around from one disaster into another with not one moment to catch my breath and process what’s been happening and who and what everything within this world was or represented.

Kagawa shot one fantastical creature after the other to her readers with a minimum of description and although this reminds me a lot of J.K. Rowling’s “this is my world, accept it without questions” attitude, J.K. Rowling at least had the curtsey of describing her creatures; even if we already knew how a dragon looked, her dragons were distinguished and not just a dragon, giving the reader a moment to picture the image and accept it. I tried to remember all the creatures Meghan came across with but I had to drop my towel into the ring; I lost my sight of them. I was often confused, not able to remember and imagine the fantastical creatures she encountered.

The reason why I’m mentioning this: at some point I had Shrek in my mind when I read about ogres but when I googled it later, the ogre looked a lot scarier! So suddenly, the entire meaning of the act when the ogres appeared changed. Instead of cute greenish monsters that wouldn’t hurt a fly, the image is replaced with vicious beasts! As you can see, the connotation of this scene can vary 180 degrees, depending on your own emotional association with the word “ogre” and if you’re like me, having grown up with Shrek…well…what more do I have to say?

The minimal presence of description of the monsters and the constant jumping from one fight and flight moment to the other, has put me off from giving this book a four star rating. The pacing was fast without fluctuations and thus giving me no time to think and process the new world. Too slow paced is boring but too fast paced can be mind dazzling. A nice mixture of both would have been preferable.

On a different note, have you seen the cover of this book? The colour is cleverly thought of, adding to the belief that fairies live in forests and unconsciously forcing the buyer to the connection. The chapters were introduced with cute twirls (because at first glance, faeries do look beautiful and cute) but when looking closer, the thorns on the twirls added an extra dimension to be careful around faeries: they are deceiving, nasty things! Brilliant!

More books by Julie Kagawa:

The Iron Fey series:

 

 

 

 

 

The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten series:

Blood of Eden series:

Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

Talon series:

This was the first book I read for the June series for the #SummerofSeries challenge. If you want to read more about the challenge and which books and series I’ll be reading during the summer, check out this post.

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

 photo abundance-of-catherines_zpsfowpqm9u.jpgTitle: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Penguin Books
DOP: 2013 (originally published in 2006 by Dutton Books)
Pages: 213
Rating: 3/5
ISBN: 978-0-141-34609-0
Twitter: @johngreen

An Abundance of Katherines tells the story of Colin Singleton, a child prodigy who is desperate to find the one thing that will set him apart from others now that he’s turned into an adult. He’s so engrossed into finding that one special thing when the nineteenth Katherine dumps him. Hassan, his best friend, decides it’s time for a road trip and as they leave, both Colin and Hassan are in for an adventure as they figure out who they are and want to become.

With The Fault in Our Stars having been adapted into a film last year, and Paper Towns coming to our screens in July, John Green has become an international phenomenon and an author you don’t want to ignore in YA. His books have been talked about and loved, which isn’t surprising as Green knows how to capture his audience with heart-breaking plots that turn your tears into smiles and laughs. Nevertheless, An Abundance of Katherines didn’t tick all the boxes I expected from a book written by the talented John Green.

The difference between Green’s other books and An Abundance of Katherines is that they deal with more approachable characters, which makes it more relatable for his readers. This story has a protagonist that’s very intelligent but with intelligence also comes a different style of telling. Prodigies have a different way of thinking and Green jumps from one thing into the other, throwing a few mathematical terms in between that often make you lose sight of what’s being told (unless math is a subject you understand). Thankfully, most things mathematical are explained in a footnote so don’t let this fact alone keep you away from reading the book.

 photo Quote An Abundance_zpstehrcb6p.png
An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

Although Colin is not my most favourite character in book world, his personal drama is more relevant. Obsessed with finding that one thing that will make him unique (aren’t we all?), he neglects the Katherines he’s dating. Each one of them dumps him until the nineteenth Katherine is the final straw. Seeing his best friend wallow in unhappiness, Hassan decides a road trip will help to lift Colin’s spirits. They meet Lindsey, who’s the first person that seems to understand Colin but she is at the same time the opposite of him. While Colin wants to be different, Lindsey changes her behaviour depending on whom she’s speaking to and with this, Green creates strong and diverse characters.

Green isn’t only famous for his heart-breaking stories but his writing style is important too. In An Abundance of Katherines, he uses a mixture of techniques. While Colin reminisces on his past relationships in cleverly intertwined flashbacks, the flashbacks itself are addressed in a nonlinear narrative, demanding its readers to be attentive in order to understand the meaning behind all the Katherines and how they shaped Colin into obsessing about his theorem.

Despite of the writing style and interesting use of vocabulary, the story never captivated me like the others I’ve read before. It didn’t enrich me; it didn’t feel as special. A lot has to do with the mathematics, even though I’ve studied it myself (yeah…I did. Honestly.). It felt distracting and boring and slowed down the reading pace significantly. At some parts I experienced a hard time to pick up the reading from where I had left it and found myself skimming the pages to determine how long it would take me to the end.

John Green is amazing, of that I am sure, but this book is one of those that just didn’t make it to my high standards. It doesn’t mean I won’t read the rest of his books though. He is, like I’ve mentioned before, an author you shouldn’t miss out on and perhaps you like reading about child prodigies, graphics and theorems, who knows?

More books by John Green:

Covers from GoodReads

Review: Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Photo by GoodReads

Title: Bared to You
Author: Sylvia Day
Genre: Contemporary Romance
 – Erotic Adult Romance
Series: Crossfire #1
Publisher: Penguin Books
DOP: 2012
Pages: 375 (ebook)
Rating: 2/5
ISBN: 978-1-40-591024-8
Twitter: @SylDay

Eva has just moved to Manhattan to start her new job. When timing her route to work, she meets Gideon, a mysterious and handsome man. Unconsciously, she’s drawn to Gideon when they meet again. Soon Eva finds herself amidst a tumultuous relationship in which Eva has to confront her past and move forward. However, Gideon has some demons of his own too. Will they be able to leave their dark pasts behind and have a future together, or are they beginning something that’s already set to fail?

Sylvia Day should be a familiar name when you’re a fan of the erotic romance genre whether you’ve read her books or not. Not only is she the #1 New York Times bestselling author, but she’s also #1 bestselling author international. She’s got more than twenty award-wining books and her novels have been translated into 41 languages. Her work has been on top of lists and you can’t walk into a bookstore anymore without bumping into a shelf or two filled with her books.

Bared to You received a lot of attention when it was first published (around the time when Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James was immensely popular and it desperately tried to get the same attention by cloning as much of the FSoG covers as possible). Throw all these facts together and I was convinced I was missing out on something huge if I didn’t start reading this fast. Day has been praised by so many but unfortunately, I’m not one of them. In fact, once I started reading this, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This has been the biggest disappointment since I read Haven of Obedience by Marina Anderson.

Continue reading Review: Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl (Verloren Vrouw)
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Thriller – Mystery – Crime
Publisher: Boekerij
DOP: 2014 (originally published in 2012)
Pages: 444
Rating: 4/5
ISBN: 978-90-225-7204-7
Website: Gillian Flynn

Nick Dunne knows something’s wrong when his neighbour calls to tell his cat is outside and the front door stands wide open. The moment he arrives home, there’s evidence of a struggle in the living room, the kettle is boiling but he can’t find his wife ‘Amazing’ Amy. He immediately contacts the authorities but finds himself in the middle of evidence pointing directly at him. His wife is missing, he’s prime suspect and his marriage isn’t as perfect as he wants people to see. The public is against him and Nick is pushed into a corner but will do anything to find his Amy.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has received a lot of attention lately, having been winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2012 for Best Mystery and Thriller and being released in theatre October 2014. The mystery of Amy’s disappearance is slowly unravelled between alternating point of views: Nick Dunne’s and entries of his wife’s diary. Combined with the cliffhangers and the evidence that has been found, Flynn created one of the best thrillers I’ve recently read, with a psychopath that goes beyond my imagination. It was a story that kept me reading until the early hours of the night.

The story is written in three parts, with the first part beginning rather descriptively in a disgustingly way that immediately plants a seed of doubt of Nick’s true nature. His thoughts and actions make him suspicious and yet, as the plot thickens and we read his wife’s diary, beginning from the moment they met until right before she disappeared seven years later, there’s something that makes you doubt everything. Is Nick telling the truth? Is Amy telling the truth? It’s obvious that their love for each other and their relationship has changed towards the end, revealing cracks in a marriage that Nick is desperate to hide from the media.

These diary entries are cleverly put within the story, connecting seamlessly with the evidence the police find, only enforcing the seed of doubt. Nick’s behaviour while his wife is missing, raises even more questions about his motive and that combined with everything else you already know at that point, it starts messing with your head: is he guilty of murder? Or is something else going on?

Part two deals with the why. Why did Amy disappear? Nick tries everything to get his wife back and if you don’t want to get spoiled, I strongly recommend you skip the next part, pick up the book and read it first before you come back.

Jump towards the next part if you want to avoid spoilers!

MAJOR SPOILER PART. Do NOT READ when you haven’t read the book/seen the film.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

In the second part of the story, everything starts to clear up. Amy’s voice changes, her character shows cracks. At first, I felt uncomfortable with the vulgar vocabulary but the more I became used to Amy’s change of character, the easier I accepted it. With Amy’s personality, that slowly becomes clearer during the story, it only feels natural that her way of thinking is different. If she had been any less vulgar or more cute and perfect, I would have found it hard to believe her as a character and the reason why she’s acted the way she did.

Amy is brilliant, always three steps ahead of everyone else but she’s also sick, obsessive and afraid of not being good enough. She wants and needs everyone to be obsessed about her and the moment she finds out Nick has an affair, is the moment she decides she’d make sure that Nick will pay for his mistake, coming up with the craziest set up I’ve read in a very long time.

Nick has many flaws, not only as a husband but his reactions to his wife’s disappearance are odd. Although he’s got the public against him, he holds it up and keeps strong, seeing through Amy’s actions. He knows she wants to punish him but he comes up with a plan to lure her back; his last hope she’ll buy his lies.

I liked Nick’s character the moment he decided to get back at Amy and tries to show the authorities how twisted she really is. He’s smart too, almost as brilliant as his wife and he continued to amaze me, right until the point when part three arrived.

At this point, Gone Girl changed from being a mystery where the wife disappeared, into an intelligent masterpiece in which husband and wife test each other’s capacities and show how well they know each other. Unfortunately, Amy’s always one step ahead and she tricks Nick into dropping everything he was trying to find to get his wife behind bars. This disappointed me.

Nick promised to become such a strong character but he stopped fighting when she turned out being one step too clever for him. There were people who believed in him, trying to find a way to arrest her and prove her guilt and he threw it all away.

End Spoilers.

Gone Girl was an interesting journey, changing from mystery to a psychological thriller. A husband struggles against the mainstream opinion that he’s always the prime suspect with a disappearance. Flynn created a story with plot twists, suspense and cliff hangers while one clue after the other is slowly revealed.

Although the ending left me disappointed and sad, because Nick turned out not to be the person I thought he was, this was a story that kept me awake during the night, still surprising me until the end. Sometimes, the overdose of cliff hangers caused my eyes to roll (how many can there be in one story??) but it didn’t stop me from reading.

If you liked Gone Girl, you might want to check out her other books too:

Sharp Objects //  Dark Places