Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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Genre: Romance, General Fiction
Pages: 369
Series: Me Before You #1 (can be read as a Standalone)
Release Date: December 31, 2012

5 Stars

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Before I started reading this novel, I’d heard from many people, that it left them an emotional wreck; that they still, after weeks or months, haven’t gotten over it. That didn’t happen with me. But it’s not a bad thing.

One of the protagonists of the novel, Will, is a quadriplegic, meaning he’s paralyzed from the chest down and only has movement in his face and neck, and very little in his hands. Before the accident that caused him to be confined to a wheelchair, he was someone who loved life and often participated in extreme sports. And to go from that to the way he is in the novel… it’s very difficult, to say the least. He doesn’t want this life. And I understood that.

I understood not wanted to be dependant on other people for everything, not wanting to constantly be in pain, not wanting to be hospitalized every few months for one or the other ailment, not wanting to live a life without purpose. I wouldn’t want that life either. And I know some people might object to me saying that, but it’s not really up to them, is it?

And that’s what a lot of the novel is about: life, choices and acceptance. For me, understanding and accepting Will’s predicament was something that made the book just… click, with me. I’m not sure I would have liked it nearly as much if the author hadn’t done such a wonderful job of trying to explain and flesh out the characters.

Let’s take Louisa, for example. She’s the other protagonist and most of the book is from her perspective. She’s a play-it-safe kind of girl. Initially, I found her to be too meek and boring. She didn’t seem to have any aspirations or plans. And, being an INTJ, if there’s one thing you must know about us, we make a lot of plans. So it was difficult for me to connect with her. But again, the author fleshed her out really well and she grew on me, albeit slowly. Her and Will’s interactions were definitely the highlight of the novel.

Me Before You is all about the characters. And they’re all so normal. Honestly, most of them are the kind of people you’d easily meet in your neighbourhood. It was very refreshing to read.

I truly loved the story, the theme, the people and the tone of the novel. There were parts that had me impatient, and this isn’t an example of beautiful prose. But it’s a beautiful story and I really think you should give it a read. It’s thought-provoking and sweet. It’s kind of wonderful, really.

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 536
Series: Six of Crows #2 (Duology), Grishaverse #5
Release Date: September 27, 2016

4 Stars

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This is the highly anticipated sequel (and by “highly anticipated”, I mean that I had to wait four whole days to read it and they were very difficult days) to Six of Crows and is also the conclusion to the series.

In the end of the first installment, Van Eck (the bastard) cheated our fabulous crew out of their hard-earned money and kidnapped Inej. Obviously, Kaz was unimpressed and has now sworn to get Inej back and to annihilate Van Eck, after which he will focus on slowly annihilating Pekka Rollins (Kaz clearly doesn’t have many hobbies).

The novel starts with out crew in hiding. They’re making plans while also trying not to die, or to lose the precious cargo they freed from the Ice Court.

Now, there are many reasons to love this book. And they’re not surprising reasons because I loved the first book as well and this one is quite similar, so I’m just gonna go through them.

The biggest reason is the characters. All six of our protagonist are so awesome and likable in their own ways. Each person has his/her own arc and they’re all handled together brilliantly. My two faves are, to no one’s surprise, Kaz and Inej. Kaz because he’s so freaking smart and complex, and Inej because she’s wise, badass and all-around freaking amazing. I love all the characters so much that, even though I love duologies the most, I wish there were more books in the series because I’m in no way ready to say goodbye to them.

The other reasons for loving the book are the story, the relentless pace, the Grishaverse, how well it’s written and the perspectives balanced.

But unlike with book one, there are also reasons to not love the book. One of them being something I mentioned above: it’s very similar to Six of Crows. And while that’s not a bad thing, I wish there was something to distinguish it more. For example, I wish it has less moments when the chapter ends on a point that makes us think ‘oh no! the plan is failing!’ and then we find out that no, that was actually part of the plan.

It’s a trick that works the first couple of time, which it did in the previous novel, but afterwards becomes predictable. I feel like the author was trying to prove how smart Kaz is. Except, she doesn’t need to. We know he’s smart. Let’s focus on something else.

Other than that… something happened later on in the novel that should have invoked a lot of emotion (chapter 40, for those who’ve read the book) but it didn’t. I was actually pretty ‘meh’ about it. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it was so anticlimactic and… pointless; it happened just for the sake of happening. Or maybe I felt that things would be fine sooner or later (which bothers me because Hello! that happened!).

Anyway, I’m sorry for the paragraph that didn’t make much sense to those who have yet to read the novel. This is actually a very good read. I don’t have to tell you whether or not I recommend it because if you liked Six of Crows, you’re gonna read this one no matter what I tell you. But still, it’s a good conclusion. I just hope we get to meet these characters again at some point.

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 462
Series: Six of Crows #1 (Duology), Grishaverse
Release Date: September 29, 2015

5 Stars

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Even though I finished reading the novel almost a week ago, it’s taken me this long to finally get to the review because a) I couldn’t seem to come up with anything to write. I loved the book, but I wasn’t sure how much, and b) I couldn’t think about it without also thinking about how much I wanted to read the sequel.

Now, I’ve read the sequel and it was, as usual, a terrible idea (not because the sequel was bad). You never read the sequel before writing the review, I know that. It creates the ultimate bias. But what’s done is done. And now I’m gonna keep things short.

Six of Crows is set in the Grishaverse (the world of The Grisha Trilogy) but follows a different cast and is set in a different nation. There are six main characters, all thieves or criminals and basically dregs. Kaz Brekker is one of them and he’s approached by a very rich merchant to perform and impossible heist. In order to get the job done, he needs the right crew. And that’s where the other characters come in, forming a band of misfits who are likely to kill each other before they even start the job because they seriously do not get along.

Some of the characters know each other already while others are close to strangers. All have their strengths, weaknesses and agendas. And since this is, hands down, my favourite trope, I was really freaking excited. I love the ‘band of misfits’ thing. And in this case, it was done really well.

For one, Leigh Bardugo, is a very good writer. The Grisha world is hella awesome and this new cast is the best. Kaz Brekker is a self-proclaimed monster and he is just so brilliant in his schemes… Smart people are my weakness and he’s very smart. Inej is strong, highly skilled and awesome. Jesper is the fun sharpshooter who’s also addicted to gambling and prone to losing. Nina and Matthias have a history and very different personalities while Wylan is basically the odd one out; he’s cute, all innocence and blushing. Overall, an interesting team.

The main plot regarding the heist keeps you on your toes, the pace is fast, and the story gripping enough that the book is very difficult to put down.

This was a great addition to the Grishaverse and I highly recommend it. I’d say I can’t wait for the second book, but I’ve already read it so… you get the picture. Read this book, if not for the story then, for the cast.

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

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Genre: Young-Adult, Science-Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 374
Series: Under the Never Sky #1 (Trilogy)
Release Date: December 1, 2011

3.5 Stars

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Under the Never Sky is a novel set in a dystopian world which is divided into the inside and the outside. After a series of Aether storms made the outside world unfit fit survival, a large part of the population went to live in domes carved into, and under, mountains, while the other part braved the outside world. Why those people didn’t go into domes as well, we don’t know. The people inside have since had a lot of technological advancement and spend most of their time in highly realistic virtual worlds. The people on the outside have regressed to move primitive times.

The protagonist, Aria, is from a dome and has never been outside. But due to a complicated situation, she’s kicked out and now has to find her mother, who she hasn’t heard from in weeks, to know what happened to her and to get her life back. She makes a deal with an outsider, Peregrine, who is looking for someone himself.

And they both team up in a very convenient way. Convenient because the situations that led to the team up felt very planned and exaggerated. The “evil government” was evil for no reason than to be evil. It was almost like a parody at first; like the author had an idea as to what she wanted to happen so she made it happen. Thankfully, near the end, a lot of the events that happened in the beginning were given valid enough reasons. They really saved the book.

And the characters did. I liked both Perry and Aria. At first, Aria came off as whiny and incompetent, but that could be chalked up to the fact that the life she lived didn’t actually require her to do anything. She really grew as a character as the book progressed and I started to like her. Perry, too, didn’t have the best first impression but, by the end, I really cared about him.

The story was interesting. I liked the world that the author created, even if she didn’t elaborate much on things. The tech, to me, seemed too advanced. Like something out of a comic book or cartoon. And the Aether wasn’t explained at all; we have no idea where it even came from. It’s in the sky and to me, it looks like an Obscurus (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) but one that attacks like a lightning storm.

The pace of the novel was really good, even when they were travelling. The writing was okay in the beginning and only got better. I got more and more invested in the story and, despite the rocky start I had, ended up liking it. It felt too planned at times but that got better toward the end as well. It’s a book worth checking out and I’m curious to see what will happen next in the series.

Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 288
Series: No
Release Date: March 9, 2010

3 Stars

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If it weren’t for the fact that I adored I’ll Give You the Sun, I probably wouldn’t have gone close to this book. It follows a girl, Lennie, who is very sad and very lonely, mourning the recent death of her sister, and who somehow finds herself involved with two guys, Toby and Joe; the former being her sister’s boyfriend.

So not only does the novel require me to sit through another love-triangle (seriously writers, can we please be done with those already?), this time, it’s a very messed up love triangle because she’s got the hots for her dead sister’s boyfriend, who’s got the hots for her in return.

But, I  would’ve let it slide. Because things were less about Lennie being interested in Toby (or vice versa) and more about the fact that she felt lonely in her grief and thought that he was the only one who understood. Her pain just manifested itself in a different way; even though there were other people who felt the same way and Lennie was simply being a self-absorbed twit; it happens. Grief is complicated, and I think the novel did a good joy of portraying it.

What I wasn’t okay with? Her complete betrayal of Joe. That pissed me off.

Speaking of Joe. He was… interesting. At first, I liked him. He was a joyful guy and an entertaining presence. But he was too joyful. His personality felt exaggerated. Like a wanna-be John Green character. His and Lennie’s romance was overblown and happened way too fast. There were cute moments, sure. But not enough real ones. Len and Joe were practically floating in their gushy feelings. Who needs a deep connection when you can just gaze at each other dreamily and make out, right?

I read that the author initially wanted to write the book in verse, and maybe it would have been better that way. Poetry is made for exaggerated moments.

Overall, this wasn’t exactly my kind of book. I liked some parts, the pace was good, and the prose was pretty. But it could have used some more… authenticity in the feeling department. As for recommending it, that’s entirely up to you.

Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

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Genre: Young-Adult, Science-fiction, Time-Travel
Pages: 532
Series: Passenger #2 (Duology)
Release Date: January 3, 2017

Disclaimer: This review will contain spoiler for the first book, Passenger.

3 Stars

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The pace of this book was so slow, it could give The Kiss of Deception a run for its money. But at least that book had a straight-forward plot which simply moved too slow. The plot here was a convoluted mess with an endless amount of pointless tangents.

Wayfarer started off with Nicholas and Sophia trying to find a way to get to Etta, and Etta waking up, injured and lost, to find herself face to face with Julian Ironwood. So basically, both pairs are trying to find each other as well as the astrolabe, before Cyrus gets his hands on it.

At least, that’s the plot we’re told to expect. What we’re not told is that halfway through the book, we’re going to be introduced to witches and magical, evil villains that are very out-of-place in the world that we’ve been introduced to. We’re also not told that most of the novel will be spent not actually following the plot at all. Instead, Etta and Nicholas will be travelling from one place to another every chapter and will be nowhere near find each other the entire time.

On top of that, while they’re travelling, we’re subjected to the description of every fucking thing they see, a history of the places they visit, as well that every single thought that crosses their head!

You know, if someone were to write down everything that goes inside my hyperactive, won’t-even-let-me-sleep mind… there’s not enough paper in the world. That’s why no one does it. Just because someone thinks about something, doesn’t mean everyone needs to read it. Especially if we already know it or if it has absolutely no relevance to the plot.

But does Alexandra Bracken get that. No, she doesn’t. So she decided that we needed to read every internal monologue and debate inside Etta and Nicholas’s head as well as Etta’s moping about her mom or Alice or her violin, and Nicholas having another of his moral conflicts. But I don’t blame the characters. People think, that what they do. No, I blame the person who decided that she needed to write all of that shit down.

I swear to God, I was so fucking tired to read endless paragraphs of history, descriptions and basically all the shit that did nothing but bury the actual plot in pointlessnessUgh!

Between all of that, I had to look for the main storyline because I genuinely felt like the book was only written so that the author could explore different events in history and tell us about them. The sheer amount of scenes that has no fucking reason to be in the book! It was all: go to new time, descriptions, history lesson, internal ponderings, danger, go to another time; rinse, repeat. I didn’t even know that I actually possessed the amount on patience that I needed to get through this novel.

But… And yes, of course there’s a ‘but’. I didn’t give it 3 years just for inspiring a rant, you know. So yeah, But… there were things that helped make the tedious journey bearable.

For one, I still like both Etta and Nicholas. Etta is a badass chick and Nicholas has the kind of honour that you just don’t find these days. He’s a really good guy and very adamant about doing the right thing. I was rooting for the two of them to be united. I also liked Sophia. Not at first, but she grew on me. And seeing her relationship with Nicholas develop was a highlight of the read. Julian was good too, but we didn’t really get to know him all that much, what with the pages full of nothing-important.

Other than that, I was happy with the ending. There were still things in the world and the series that weren’t elaborated much, but the ending was really good. It felt right for the series and it gave a little validation to The Moral Dilemmas of Nicholas Carter.

Overall, this series, and especially this book, was an exercise in patience. But I loved the concept behind it, I liked the characters, and I’m noat-all disappointed by the way things ended. If you were bothered by the pace in Passenger, I’d recommend avoiding this one because it’s so much worse and the plot is barely comprehensible. But if you’re okay with very slow burns, go for it. I’m just glad it’s over and might never pick up a book by Alexandra Bracken again.

Review: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

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Genre: Childrens/Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 192
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #2 (series of 12)
Release Date: August 30, 1999

3 Stars

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The Reptile Room, like the first book, The Bad Beginning, starts off with a letter in which the narrator warns the reader that this is a book which is not-at-all cheerful, and in which bad things happens to the three main characters, the Baudelaire children.

The format of the novel is very similar to that of the first book. The kids find themselves in some unfortunate situation, the stupid adults don’t pay any heed to their concerns, so the kids try to use their cleverness to work things out, with mixed results. The narrative is, same as before, a blend of humour and the way one would talk to a kid while telling him a bedtime story.

Where the book differs from The Bad Beginning is it’s darker theme. I know the narrator warned us, but that was in a I’m-using-reverse-psychology-to-make-you-want-to-read-te-book-even-more way.

Where the first book usually deals with insinuations of evil deeds, this one’s got straight-up murder. But, you know, children can be quite resilient; so I went and asked my mom if she would give a seven or eight-year-old a book in which someone is murdered. Her answer was along the lines of “No way in hell”. And so we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum.

One one hand, the darker theme would be great for middle-graders. But on the other hand, they would probably find the narrative to be condescending. And this is a childrens book. So while I personally liked the book fine, I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. Probably teenagers and adults who also enjoy reading younger narratives.

If you’ve read this book, I would really like to know what you think.