Tuesday, May 5, 2015

april wrap up

I love doing these posts at the end of each month, because it allows me to relive the great stories that I have experienced in the last thirty days. April was a super super busy month for me– I was driving back and forth from university to home, studying for exams, taking the exams and finally moving out of my dorm and back home– so I didn't get as much reading done as I wanted to, but I still managed to get seven books read, which isn't too shabby, considering. I also posted 3 reviews here and a couple on goodreads. All in all, a pretty good month!

1. Vicious by V.E. Schwab ☆☆☆☆☆
A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world. 
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? 
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.'

I absolutely adored this book. It was everything that I hoped it would be and more, complete with morally ambiguous anti-heroes, superpowers, and the question of what is the different between right and wrong. It is a gritty story, one that is bound to suck readers in and not let them go until the end of the twisted action. I really hope that Ms. Schwab decides to write something else in this world, because it was different and thrilling, and I would love to read something else from it. Full review is up here, and this was probably my favorite of the month.

2. Steering the Stars by Autumn Doughton and Erica Cope ☆☆☆☆
Be careful what you wish for…
Aspiring writer Hannah Vaughn worries that she is doomed to live out the rest of her existence in a sleepy Oklahoma town. For as long as she can remember, she’s dreamed of something more – adventure, excitement, intrigue. When her sister invites her to London and she’s accepted to a prestigious writing program at The Warriner School, she jumps at the chance. But will it be epic or an epic fail?
You’ll never know if you don’t try…
Nothing ever happens to straight-A student Caroline McKain and that’s exactly the way she likes it. With her best friend in London and junior year looming on the horizon, all she wants is to remain invisible. So when she is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, she must ask herself: Can an invisible girl really take center stage?
Follow Hannah and Caroline as they navigate the complexities of first love, family and growing up. As their bond is tested, the girls will learn that being apart can ultimately bring you together. Steering the Stars is a fresh, heartfelt young adult story about fate, discovery, and the magic of friendship.

I'll let my goodreads review speak to how much I liked this one: "ok ok so here we go. I did not expect to love this book as much as I did! I picked it up looking for something cutesy that I could just fly through and not really have to think about, but it ended up being so so much more than that. 
above all, before I talk about the romances (which were A++, great job autumn and erica), I want to emphasize that the main theme in this book is the importance of communication, especially as it pertains to friendship. As someone who has, in the past year, left her home and is living apart from her family and best friend, just like Hannah, I can tell you that it really isn't easy. The way that Hannah and Caroline realized that distance means your relationship can change was very real. I loved that, while their friendship was so important to these two, this book did not flinch away from the truth that it is hard to realize that someone who you consider yourself closest to is living a whole life that you know nothing about. It didn't ruin their friendship, obviously, but that is something that lots of people have to deal with, and I appreciated the honesty in these author's portrayal. 
That being said, I loved the characters. All of them. I think Caroline and Henry's story played more on my heartstrings, but that's just because I'm a sucker for "hey we grew up together I think of you as a sister WHOOPS now I'm in love with you" stories. I also loved Joel and I found some of myself in both Hannah and Caroline, which made me attached to both stories. The two romances in this novel were very different, but they were both adorable, and both guys are positively swoon-worthy. The kinds of guys who are just good to the end. I did like how the romances couldn't work out until Hannah and Caroline worked out their own problems, a boy couldn't just come in and solve everything, they had to go through their hardships alone, and come out better for them. 
All in all, this was sweet and absolutely adorable, but it also, instead of feeling silly like some books in this genre can, felt real, and I could lose myself in the story" 
3. The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks ☆☆☆☆
Ira Levinson is in trouble. At ninety-one years old, in poor health and alone in the world, he finds himself stranded on an isolated embankment after a car crash. Suffering multiple injuries, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes and comes into focus beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together – how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can’t possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.
A few miles away, at a local rodeo, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward -- even life and death – loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans -- a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he’s keeping doesn’t destroy it first.
Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.

Here's the thing: I basically can't stand Nicholas Sparks books. I think they're cheesy and overwrought and unnecessary, and I usually tend to stay as far away from them as I can. However! I was dragged into this movie in the beginning of last month and I found myself actually really enjoying it, so I had to come home and immediately begin to read the book. I found it more than tolerable, it was actually pretty good, loathe as I am to admit it. I found the entwined stories enchanting, and I grew attached to the characters as the story went on. Definitely the best Sparks novel that I have read to date. 

4. Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark ☆☆☆
Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.
This was an odd story. I really couldn't tell if I liked it at all, even when I finished it. Some parts of it made me laugh and I actually really enjoyed a good bit of it, but the rest was just weird and I felt very conflicted over it. The relationship seems to spring out of nowhere, the things that happen to Abram and Juliette just feel odd where, in other books, they might be cute. Honestly, I gave it three stars because three is in the middle and I honestly had no idea how to rate this one.

5. Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli ☆☆☆☆☆
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
I have a full review here where I talk about how much I adored this novel, so I'll spare you the gushing and just tell you this: this was something fresh, funny and engaging; and I loved every single word of it. From the tangibility of the characters and their reactions to different situations to the reality of how Albertalli dealt with coming out in high school, it was all mad mad genius. 

6. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven ☆☆☆☆
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

I loved the gritty way this book dealt with mental illness and first love, as things that are wild and unpredictable and incurably so. It was brooding and sad and poignant, and I felt all these things painfully as I read the story. I have a full review up here, and you can see all of my reactions to the various amazing things about this novel there. 

7. 99 Days by Katie Cotugno ☆☆☆
Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.
Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”
Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

If the main character in this novel hadn't bothered me so much, this could've been a four or five star book, and that is saying something, because I normally do not like books that involve two brothers as 2/3rds of a love triangle. I hated how wishy washy the narrator was, and how she couldn't grow a spine and decide what she wanted from the get-go. It made me nervous and angry, and I just couldn't get past it. That being said, I did like how 99 Days valued female friendship and the way it showed that slut shaming and blaming girls for things that take a boy and a girl is real and that is is unfair, so those were some redeeming parts for me. 

How was your April, book wise? 


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