Thursday, 30 April 2015

Review - Loving Helen by Michele Paige Holmes

23430956This is a companion novel to Saving Grace.

Genre: romance, historical fiction
Pages: 227
Rating: 4/5

Eighteen-year-old Helen Thatcher grew up under the protection of her older siblings, Grace and Christopher. Living in their shadows and keeping to herself suited Helen just fine—until she met widower Samuel Preston. Watching Mr. Preston care for his young daughter and seeing his concern extend to her own family, Helen felt her reserve slipping away, as she learned first to trust him and then realized she had fallen in love with him. But instead of returning—or even noticing her affection—Mr. Preston developed his own tender, and unrequited feelings, for Grace.

In the midst of each silently nursing their broken hearts, Helen and Samuel are faced with a daunting task—reuniting Grace with her fiancé, Nicholas Sutherland. Now it is Helen who must look out for her sister and sacrifice her own fragile heart, as she and Samuel pretend to be engaged. Helen finds the role surprisingly easy to play, allowing herself to imagine that Samuel’s loving remarks are sincere. As the time for their charade to end draws near Helen must summon her courage and tell Samuel the truth of her feelings, or risk losing him forever. 

My thoughts
When I read Saving Grace I quite enjoyed the book, but I have to say Helen and Samuel Preston, the main characters of Loving Helen, were my least favorite characters. I was especially a little annoyed with Helen's extreme shyness. This book however, completely changed my view on them and I think I actually ended up liking them more than Grace and Nicholas Sutherland, who are the main characters of Saving Grace. I really enjoyed getting to know Helen better, there was a lot more to her than was apparent in the previous book. She went through a wonderful tranformation throughout this book; she really grew as a person. Now that I got to know Samuel better I also liked him a lot more, his love for both Helen and his daugther Beth was wonderful.
The end of Saving Grace felt a little rushed and it was nice to see some details explained more in this book. I generally really enjoyed seeing the story from another viewpoint. There where a lot of reminders throughout this book of the previous story, but not so much that it became annoying.
I did feel like the ending of this book was again a bit rushed, but all in all I enjoyed this book even more than the previous one!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Review - Saga Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

17131869Read my review for volume 1 here

Genre: comics, fantasy, science fiction
Pages: 144
Rating: 5/5

Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the universe. Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and horrific monsters, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters her strangest adventure yet... grandparents.

My thoughts
I enjoyed this volume just as much as I enjoyed the first one! There was a little bit less action, but more background story. I personally really liked seeing Marko as a child and even more seeing how Marko and Alana met. Marko's parents have shown up and that has resulted in some interesting dynamics. Marko and his father Barr seem very alike and I really enjoyed the interactions Barr and Alana had. Marko's mother looks like she and Alana have a lot in common and it will be interesting to see them interact more. Hopefully in the future volumes we also get to know a little more about Alana's background.
In this volume the storyline of The Will trying to rescue a slave girl continues. The Will is probably my favorite perspective to read from after Alana & Marko's. We didn't get to see Prince Robot IV a lot, but I don't find him the most interesting character yet, so I didn't mind.
I loved how Alana read a book that hugely influenced her view of the war between Wreath & Landfall; as a booklover it is always nice to see the power of a book being acknowledged!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Top 10 - Books I want to reread

When I was younger I used to reread a lot, but these days not so much anymore. There are so many books I want to reread, but these are the books that are highest on my list:

36361. The Giver  by Lois Lowry
I recently went to see Insurgent and ever since I really want to read something dystopian again. The last two dystopian books that I read, Shatter Me and The Maze Runner, were a bit of a let down, but I loved The Giver when I read it for the first time and I'm sure I will still enjoy it. I remember it as being very different from other dystopians.

2. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
2767052Also because I'm in the mood to read dystopians and it is one of my all time favorite series! I have never read this trilogy in English and I really want to read it in the language it was originaly written in.
721933. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
I read this graphic novel only a few months ago, but it's such an amazing book that I can't wait to read it again. (Pretty much after I finished the book I already wanted to read it again)

4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
113436I've recently reread the first book in the series and I really want to read the other books again. I've read the first two books several times, but I don't think I've ever reread the other ones eventhough it is one of my favorite series.

604005. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
I've only ever read the first book in the Inheritance cycle and I really want to read the other books, but I don't remember too much about it, so I should first reread the first book and then continue on.

6. The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
 After Harry Potter this is probably my favorite middle grade series. I've read most of the books at least three times and still enjoyed them. The banter between the main characters Halt, Will and Horance is just hilarious!

2318151579937. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A childhood favorite of mine and it has been way too long since I have read this one. When I was younger I used to read this one over and over again.

8. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I read this book for the first time for my French class in high school. At the time my French was really bad and I really struggled with the book, but eventually it became one of my all time favorite stories. I also own a copy in Spanish and it will probably be the first book I read in Spanish.
9. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Another dystopian! I picked this book up at a second hand store, not knowing too much about it and I was blown away by the story. I think this is the only book I've ever read that really hooked me from page 1.

10. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Just as with Eragon I really want to continue on with this series, but eventhough I really enjoyed it, I don't remember too much about the first book!

What are books you really want to reread?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Review - Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

2999495Genre: graphic novel, short stories, fantasy
Pages: 96
Rating: 4.5/5

Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether it’s discovering that the world really does stop at the end of the city’s map book, or a family’s lesson in tolerance through an alien cultural exchange student, Tan’s deft, sweet social satire brings us face-to-face with the humor and absurdity of modern life.

My thoughts
After having read The Arrival and absolutely loving it I was really excited to read another book by Shaun Tan.The Arrival is still my favorite book of his, but I also really enjoyed this one. The art was gorgeous again. The book features a mixture of brightly coloured paintings, black and white drawings and collages which add a lot to the stories. You can clearly see that a lot of thought went into designing this book, even the table of content is gorgeous to look at. The stories were very diverse and all very imaginative. Some were definitely better than others, but I enjoyed all of them. Tan has a very distinctive art style and I am a huge fan. I can't wait to read other books by him.
I have a hard time saying what age group this book would be for. Some of the deeper layers of the stories may be lost to children, but they would probably still enjoy it. I think this is a book that people of all ages would enjoy!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Review - The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

20743633Genre: teen/young adult, contemporary
Pages: 320
Rating: 4/5
Trigger warning: suicide

And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this . . .

Japanese teenager, Sora, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.

My thoughts
In the bookstore I was instantly drawn to this beautiful cover. I love simple graphic designs like this. I hardly knew anything about this book before I started it, just that is was about a boy who was dying, but I was pleasantly surprised. I often have difficulty connecting with main characters of contemporary books, but this time that was not the case at all. Sora is an introvert and loves reading and along with his polite manners that resonated with me. He had a very good relationship with his mom, which is something hardly any YA books have. Sora also has regular contact with his grandparents and I don't think I've ever read a YA book that has a main character that has that.
I really appreciated that this book was about friends rather than romance. Maybe in the beginning the friendship was a bit rushed, because I would personally probably not meet someone in real life with whom I've only spoken three times on the internet, but later on it really felt like Sora, Mai and Kaito had a very strong connection and it was a great friendship to read about. Both Mai and Kato have a small plotline that is mentioned that does not involve Sora, which made them seem more like real people.
This book does include chat messages and that's personally not something I'm a big fan of (along with emails, etc.) On the other hand, the samurai death poetry that was included was really beautiful and added an extra layer to the story. The fact that suicide is mentioned in the story might make it controversial for some, but I often find those are the best books. Those are the ones that really make you think and this book gave some interesting insights for the debate on end of life choices.

The last leaf falls
But look close and you see
The hidden buds of spring

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Movie Review - Insurgent

Yesterday my friend Suzan and I went to see Insurgent. When I read Insurgent I was quite disappointed with it. I loved Divergent, but the sequel was a letdown. Four and Tris's relationship really bothered me in the book and I also found a big part of the book really boring. I did feel however that the story might work better as a movie and I certainly thought it did! I really enjoyed the movie.
I loved that we finally got to see Amity headquarters. Their place was always the one I was most curious about. Some new characters that were introduces, such as Jack Kang and Evelyn, came across almost exactly as I imagined them to behave in the book. My only problem with this movie was that the Dauntless simulation, one of the first Tris had to go through when she is at Erudite headquarters, was a little too long. It was a lot of action and special effects but it wasn't really interesting.
I really like how the Divergent movies have a quite different vibe to them than the Hunger Games movies do, because before seeing them I wondered if they wouldn't be too much alike.
The drama between Tris and Four was mostly left out of the movie and personally I really appreciated that. It made their relationship seem much more mature and real. In the movie they really seemed to trust each other, wereas in the book this is not the case.
I also really appreciate how Peter is portrayed. He isn't a particularly likeable person, but somehow I can understand why he is the way he is. He is someone who just tries to save themselves and bullies others because he himself feels weak.

Did you see the movie? What did you think of it?

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

March bookhaul

Because it was a stressful month I went a little overboard with buying books...

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead - This is the first book of a spin-off series of the Vampire Academy series that I read last year. I was never a big fan of Sydney Sage, who is the main character of Bloodlines (I believe), but since I enjoyed the other books so much I still want to give this series a go.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Losing It by Cora Carmack - Another attempt at reading New Adult. I already read this one and you can read my review here.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Ciudades de Papel [Paper Towns] by John Green - To improve my Spanish.
Pogingen iets van het leven te maken [Attempts to make something of life] by Hendrik Groen - This is not really a book that would normally pique my interest, the main character is a 83 year old man in a retirement home, but I read an excerpt that was just so funny that I had to pick this one up.
Saga Volume 1 by  Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples - My venture into graphic novels. I already read this one and you can read my review here.
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan - One of my favorite books of last year was The Arrival, so I have been meaning to read another book by Tan for a while. It looks gorgeous and I'm really excited to start it!

The Tiny book of Tiny Stories Volume 1 - I picked this book up because of its interesting concept. You can read more about it in my review.
Persuasion by Jane Austen - I've been wanting to read other books by Jane Austen besides Emma and Pride & Prejudice and these Vintage Classic editions are beautiful!
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Tolkien: A Dictionary by David Day
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Faerie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome
The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Silmarrillion by J.R.R. Tolkien - I want to have all of Tolkien's books and when I saw this beautiful edition of The Silmarillion I could not leave it behind...

I have read 4 of these books and started another two, but I completely broke my rule of reading more in a month that I buy. Oh well, I'll try again in April...

What books did you aquire that you are excited about?