Samstag, 28. Januar 2017

"The Mortal Instruments (Book 1 to 3)" by Cassandra Clare

Hi, there!
Today, we'll be talking about one of my all-time favorite series. Since I got all six books for Christmas (got the best boyfriend in the world ♥), I'm currently re-reading them. I'm also trying to further define why I love them so much. Of course I have a nostalgic connection to them, I've loved these books since I read them when I was 12 (that's 7 years, my friends.) Today I'll tell you a little something 'bout my love for the Mortal Instruments!

Quick summary:
The Mortal Instruments are a 6-book series about Clary Fray, a young girl who finds out that she belongs to this magical and dangerous world of the Shadowhunters. Clary is accompanied by her best friend Simon and the Shadowhunters Jace, Alec and Izzy who help her on her quest all through New York to find her mother, who was kidnapped.

Published in: 2007
Pages: 485

I own the new paperbacks which come in a slipcase. The prequel-series ("The Infernal Devices") is also available in a similar slipcase, whose spines all create a picture together.
I really like these covers better than the old ones, they have a certain kind of magical feel to them. Each of the six books show a different character and I think the way they are presented, it really shows their power and the sorrow they go through. I also think they look less 'cheesy' than the old covers, they have a more adult-y feeling to them. Granted, there is a time difference of about 10 years between the first publication of the two different sets, so the style of YA-fantasy covers has changed a lot.
When read, the covers also tell about the story they contain: it shows a character from the book with a favorite weapon or other important pieces. Of course, the reader only understands after having read the books.

My Opinion:
As said before: I have a deep love for them. I first read the first three books when I was 12, so it was around 2011. Back then, I loved the books so much, I tried to make all my friends read them. In 6th grade we also had a little competition in class: everybody could present a book and the whole class was supposed to chose one for reading together. Of course I presented "City of Bones", but sadly I wasn't very popular and the whole class chose the book presented by a popular boy (it was a good book though, so kudos to him!). 
That means I have to admit one thing: I might be a little biased because of this nostalgic love for the books. Nevertheless I tried to read them with a critical eye as well and so I am able to recognize it's flaws whilst still loving them. 
The first three books of the series were also the first books Cassandra Clare published. That means her writing, her style and the plot are just not as 'perfect' as in the new books, for example 'The Infernal Devices' or the newly started series 'The Dark Artifices'. I still love her writing and I'm proud of how much better it got and how much more love and recognition Cassandra Clare is receiving these days. 
With that being said, I certainly think 'City of Bones' is a really good start into the series. Just like the characters themselves, the plot becomes more adult-like and more complex with each book and I think that progress concerning plot and writing fits to the development in the series. 
I think we all can agree when we say: the best aspect of these books are the characters. For me, Cassandra Clare is one of the few authors who can make me love secondary characters as much as the main characters. Alec, Magnus, Izzy, Simon....they all become so important to you and sometimes I think I love them more even than Clary and Jace - that's how good of a writer Clare is, concerning her characters. 
That doesn't mean the plot is bad or less interesting - definitely not! I just think the focus is on the characters, maybe not intentionally, but that's what stands out the most to the readers. 
About the plot: I just love these little connections from book one to three. There are so many little things that suddenly make sense when finishing the first three books (because first, the series was planned as a trilogy, but I do think the third book showed, that there is room for more). For me that means the plot is well thought out - like a big intertwined tree, where all the branches come back to the root. Of course, since it was a re-read for me, I kind of knew all of the big 'secrets' but that made it even better and heightened the suspense: I was screaming at the characters so they would finally realize what I already knew. The story has a lot of twists and turns, so I did a lot of screaming! ;)
The last thing to mention is that amazing atmosphere of New York City. I'm from Germany, I've never been to a city that big so to me, it feels amazing to read about that urban atmosphere and the seemingly endless possibilities. The books I own even contain a map with pictures of the most important settings - it's amazing!

I said before that I tried to read them with a critical eye, so I have to also mention something negative; or I'll try, at least. I can agree that a lot of typical YA-tropes were used in this book and when one has read a lot of YA-fantasy, the books may seem a bit cheesy and the romance a bit annoying. I do think that may be because of how old these first books actually are (10th anniversary is approaching!). 
I also must say that (and that only applies to the first book) the story was a bit worn out for me, because of the TV-Show and the movie and so on. The first book didn't grip me as much as the second one did and I was afraid that the books had lost their magic. They didn't - I just had read and heard of the first book too often. Starting with the second book, they had me turning page for page again. 

With all of these things said, I give my babies a probably biased rating: 10 out of 10. I love them. *mic dropped*

Next time I'll be talking about 'City of Fallen Angels', which is the fourth book in this series. I thought I would talk about the next three books in this series individually, because they're newer and I have only read each of them once when they came out. Hope to see you next time! ♥

-xoxo Lisa

Mittwoch, 25. Januar 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Underrated Books

Hi there!
Back again with a Top 5 Wednesday and this week's topic is 'Favorite Underrated Books' - my time to shine! I'm in love with a lot of books which don't get enough love from the public. So now I'm here to show you some of my favorite beautiful babies!

1. Starcrossed Series by Josephine Angelini

Seriously, why is nobody talking about this series? It's so amazing and to me it's one of the best YA fantasy trilogies. It contains round and dynamic characters, it is based on Greek mythology and contains lots of romance and fantasy - it has everything you need concerning YA Fantasy.
I'll give you a quick summary:
Helen is a not-so-usual 16-year old girl living in Nantucket and lately, she's been having strange dreams. Then suddenly, there is a new boy at school and her first instinct? To claw his eyes out. She doesn't know where this uncontrollable rage comes from and neither does Lucas, the new boy.
I won't give you more, because you have to find out for yourself what is going on. I'll be re-reading them soon since I bought them a few weeks ago. After that I'll give you guys a thorough review for each book. I hope you're as excited for that as I am.

2. Georgina Kincaid Series by Richelle Mead

I think I haven't heard as much of these because they're not YA Fantasy but Adult Fantasy. It's a 6-book series about Georgina Kincaid, a succubus who actually doesn't want to be one - she just wants to be human, find love and live life to the fullest. She can't have that but then she meets Seth, a human man. With that, the story rolls into amazing-ness.
The most amazing parts are, and that is classic for Miss Mead, the characters. They're round, have their flaws and edges. They're dynamic and develop and grow and it's amazing to read that process.
I read all 6 books in one single night. Without knowing what I'm getting myself into, I started reading the first book at about 8pm in the evening. My journey ended the next day at 12am without a pause. My lightbulb blew up because it had been running that long. THAT'S HOW GOOD THE BOOKS WERE. I can only recommend it to everyone, even if you're not into Adult Fantasy, because it doesn't feel like that at all.

3. The Darkest Powers Series by Kelley Armstrong

This is a series I read around the same time that I've also read The Mortal Instruments and Vampire Academy. I would put it in the same category as those two.
The trilogy is about young Chloe Saunders who suddenly sees ghosts and is put into a group home for teenagers with mental illnesses. It turns out that this group home is not what it seems.
I love this series a lot and only a few months ago I re-read it. I still loved it as much as when I was younger. The best part about it are the characters and the romance (even though that is not the main focus, but I just love the romance plot). So if you're the romantic type and still love a good fantasy story, this one is for you!

4. The Hollows Series by Kim Harrison

The Hollows is a fantasy series consisting of thirteen novels. (13!!!) It tells about Rachel Morgan, a witch bounty hunter who tries to keep her city save from rogue vampires and other otherworldly creatures (Fairies, elfs, trolls, demons....).
This one is one of my favorites because it's so cool. Lots of sarcasm, interesting plot and Rachel Morgan is just the coolest witch ever. I would say the series cannot only be put into the genre of fantasy but it also contains elements of crime or detective novels, since Rachel is a bounty hunter/detective for otherworldly crimes.
It is considered as Adult Fantasy, but well, it's really cool, fun and very interesting.

5. Every Day by David Levithan

I think this was the first novel I read by Levithan and I really loved it. It was so different from what I usually read concerning contemporary, because it contains fantasy elements.
'A' wakes up in a different body and life every day. But 'A' is still in love with the same girl every day. And every day, 'A' wants to be with her. Since 'A' woke up in Justin's body and saw his girlfriend Rhiannon, 'A' has been in love.
That, to me, sounded so very intriguing and back then I had to read it (and I did). It is a beautiful love story and it's not just a boy+girl thing, since 'A' doesn't really have a gender. That is something the story explores really well and I encourage anyone who likes fantasy and contemporary to have a look at this book.

That's it from me. About some of these books I'll be talking a bit more in the future, because I want them to get more attention than they currently do. Anyway, I wish you all a very nice day and I thank you a lot for reading my thoughts ♥


Samstag, 21. Januar 2017

"How To Love" by Katie Cotugno

Hi there!
Today I want to talk about "How to Love" by Katie Cotugno. I found it in the book shop and had a quick read of the first few pages. The story sucked me right in which made me buy the book immediately. 

Let's get into a quick summary:

Serena gets pregnant - from Sawyer. She finds out right before he disappears. That's what happened in the past. In the present she has a little daughter that Sawyer knows nothing about and suddenly, he comes back.

I can't tell you anymore without spoiling it, but if you're interested in a story of progress and coming to terms with the past, this one might be for you. If you like drama, romance and contemporary love stories, this one is also for you.

Published in: 2013
Pages: 389

The cover is very simple and the version I have (a paperback) has a cool neon color which stands out a lot. Another thing that caught my eye was the calligraphy-like writing all over it. It looks very pretty to me, without telling anything about the story itself.

My Opinion:
I don't have a lot of negative things to say, except maybe that the plot in it's basics is predictable and made of the same principles like most contemporary novels. I don't mind that though, I always enjoy a good novel with these basics if it manifests in a unique way. "How to Love" did that for me and I will tell you why:
It switches between flashbacks from Serena's teenage-years (falling in love with Sawyer and experiencing teenage troubles) to the present in which Serena has a little daughter and is a young adult with different problems. With these two perspectives the reader has a better chance at learning to love the characters, because one simultaneously reads the reasons for their behavior while reading about their actual self in the present, which for me, leads to a better understanding of their choices.

The flashbacks present a very classic love story of a naive young girl falling in love with the classic "bad boy" she is warned about. The present Serena is different and when her love from the past comes back, she show that she is strong woman who stands up for herself. She doesn't let the boy who disappeared on her treat her like that again. With that perspective, I started out with not liking Sawyer and throughout the story, he did change my mind.
Another thing I liked is that it's not just about the romance but also about family and friendship. Serena's family and the family of Sawyer have not fully processed what happened back then. In process of the story these issues unfold and leave a very interesting read about the development of a family and with that, a young mother.
Katie Cotugno's writing has not left any special impression on me. It was very enjoyable to read and she doesn't have a slow or rather boring style of writing, which adds to the fun. Since the story is very character-driven I can only really say that she did a good job of portraying the characters and their differences.

All I can say is that it was a really joyful and quick read, the story is fast-paced and doesn't lack suspense, which makes it easy to get trough quite quickly. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a good contemporary novel. With that said, I give it a solid rating: 7 out of 10 hearts.

Thanks for reading, I hope to may having inspired you to pick this one up! If I did, please let me know in the comments ^^

- xoxo Lisa

Mittwoch, 18. Januar 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Polarizing Books

Hi there!
I decided to join the current trend of making "Top 5 Wednesday" posts or videos: I think they're quite interesting. I'll try to stick to the dates and their assigned topics, but if there is nothing I can say about a certain topic, I might go back to a different topic that was previously talked about. ^^

This week's topic is "Favorite Polarizing Books: Books that you like and are either really loved or really hated". I had a hard time thinking about this, because I'm mostly on the other side of this spectrum: I don't like books that most people love a lot. I was still able to pick five books/series which polarize a lot of opinions.

1. The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer 
I know this one is hated by a lot of people. Seriously, a lot! But I read this series when I was about 13 and back then, I loved it. It got me more into romantic fantasy and it kind of got me to grow up a bit, at least reading-wise. For the first time I was reading about teenagers instead of middlegrade pupils. The Twilight series was also the first thing I've read fanfiction about, and for a long time I was in the fandom.
So for me, the Twilight series is kind of nostalgic and I always will have a special place for it in my heart.

2. The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
Surprisingly, I have read and heard from a lot of people that they think this series is cheesy and just not really good - I cannot at all agree. I love this series and have been a fan from the moment I started the first book. I have also re-read the series a couple of times and will do so again this year. I love the characters, I think the plot and it's twist are so good and I just love how funny and dramatic and romantic it is. It's got a little of everything.

3. The Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkins
This one was also a surprise to me, when I noticed that many found this series to not be good. I loved it a lot. It had it's amazing thriller elements and was able to keep up the suspense until the end. The characters made me fall in love again and I don't have much negative to say. I know especially the last book is hated a lot and I can agree a little bit that it was not the most perfect ending this series could have gotten, but I still thought it was good.

4. The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
I have read this book a long time, before it was made in to a movie. Back then I really liked the story and my memory of it is still positive. Many people read the book after the movie announcement.  After that I saw a lot of hate for this book, which I do not really get. I know the aspect of judging somebody as a "DUFF" is very problematic, but that is what the book portrays. The love story is also a big point of criticism because it's s cliché and
I really liked the movie as well, so I cannot understand all the hate this book and the movie get.

And, the last one...
5. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Liking John Green is, in general, a very polarizing opinion. I do like John Green, I've read every single one of his books and enjoyed them all. The one book which I think gets the most hate is An Abundance of Katherines. The story itself has a rather weird concept and a lot of people think the representation of John Green's classic boy/girl configuration shows problematically in this book, but I don't really understand the stigmata that John Green's books are put under. They're all very enjoyable reads, some more and some less. They're not supposed to be the best thing you've ever read or a perfect representation of every teenager - his stories are just stories in the end.
But I guess that's it: opinions can vary so greatly and book opinions are perfect to show just that.

So that's it from me this week, hope you enjoyed my thoughts on these books. Maybe you agree or totally disagree? Let me know in the comments! :)

- xoxo Lisa

Sonntag, 15. Januar 2017

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer

So I had to read this for my university course about "Literary and Cultural Studies". That was the reason for me to chose this particular class (it's an 8am class, guys!!!); because I expected this book and the discussion about it to be good. Then my teacher turned out to be not so good but I still had this book to look forward to. I do not want to spoil anything for you, so we'll just get into a summary before anything else.

The story consists of two parts which are intertwined. On one hand it tells about little 9-year old Oskar Schell who has lost his father in 9/11. He finds an envelope with a key and the word "Black" written on it which sends him on a hunt through all of New York just to find the fitting lock for that key. The other part mentioned is about his grandparents, how they met and what they endured years before in the bombing of Dresden. 

Published: 2005
Pages: 368

The cover I own, I find very pretty. It's simple and has got nothing to do with the story, but the way the title is composed all over the page, it's interesting and pretty. It would have gotten me to buy it or get it from the library if I didn't have to buy it anyway.

This book has also been made into a movie of the same name, which is on Netflix (at least in Germany and the US). Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and more are to be seen in it. 

Which gets us to my review...

I absolutely hated it. Let's start with the good points though. What I liked were the pages with the pictures and other visual elements (pages just filled with numbers or the lines merging together). On one hand I liked them because they meant I had to read fewer pages and on the other they were interesting (more than the story itself). I think the thought behind them was to include a clever mix of different media to show how 'different' and 'special' Oskar's way of thinking was. 
The other thing I liked was the switch of perspective and the different kind of portraying those perspectives. Oskar's story was told like a report of events, like he is talking to the reader and telling him what he experienced. The grandparent's tell their stories in letters, which I liked better because it built up more of a personal connection, or at least proposed the opportunity for it. 
Sadly, there wasn't more I could possibly talk positively about this book. Let's get to the real talk.
The character of Oskar was absolutely pretentious. He is supposed to be a 9-year old kid and I accept that he is probably autistic and just has a different way of thinking (which is supposed to be really adult-y and extraordinary) but he didn't seem authentic at all. I hated him, I found him to be so annoying. I just couldn't stand it. On top of that, his mother allowed him to run around New York all on his own and she didn't seem to care at all. That just adds to this inauthentic feeling I got.
I did like the grandparents better, but just in comparison to Oskar. In general I found them kind of lacking that special something.
Next up would be the plot in general. It just didn't go anywhere. The author built up this beginning with the search for that lock but the conclusion of that was simply unsatisfying and stupid. There wasn't much more to the plot than that. No character development either. Just a very flat and non-suspenseful story. 
Maybe my opinion stems from my dislike for Foer's writing. It's really pretentious and tries so hard to be deep and meaningful, probably to grab all of those prizes that he got (which I can't understand at all, to be honest!). Some pages just recite encyclopedia entries, simply to fill the pages and probably to show how deep and smart Oskar is thinking. 
The last point I'm getting to is the fact that the book is advertised with being about the happenings of 9/11 or at least dealing with it. In truth, it doesn't really. Yes, Oskar's father died on 9/11 but Oskar does not really deal with his problems concerning his death, he only uses his father's tragic death as an excuse to be the way he is and to treat his mother badly.

All in all, one could say that I hated this book a lot, because of the writing, the boring plot and the inauthentic and badly composed characters. Since I want my ratings to be more precise I decided to do it from a scale from 1 to 10 and this book gets exactly 1 'heart' from me. I only finished it because I had to for university. 

So I didn't enjoy it at all and wouldn't recommend it. And if you ever have the decision between a class reading this book and another class, chose the other one!!!

With that I leave you to enjoy my first ever review on this blog. Here's to hopefully many more of them.

- xoxo Lisa