Monday, January 21, 2019

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Published October 9, 2018
Summary on Goodreads

Buy Links:
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Review:
This was definitely a fun fluff novel and I really enjoyed the romance between Ben and Arthur – it was very cute. Now that we got the positives out of the way, let’s talk about the aspects that I didn’t find so positive. 

So the characters. Am I the only one who didn’t actually enjoy either character? I found Ben to be way too laidback for my taste and for the entire time, there were definitely a lack of interest on Ben’s part when it came to the relationship. I felt that due to what had happened with his previous relationship, it was honestly way too early for him to jump into another one. So for most of the book, I thought that Ben considered Arthur to be more of a rebound. 

As for Arthur, he was way too desperate for me. His puppy excitement was too much and he practically exuded his desperation in finding a boyfriend as well as his lack of experience in anything. Not just that but when they were finally going on dates and trying to see if it worked, his nosiness and lack of confidence in himself was very prominent. He was definitely inexperienced in the dating world and it really showed. At the same time though, I do have to admit that I’m also reviewing this book in my mid/late 20s and so, my experience in dating is vastly different from his. However, even then, when I first started dating as a teenager, I did not do all of the “don’ts” that he did. 

So I know it’s weird that I didn’t enjoy the characters but enjoyed the romance itself. This is probably because while I didn’t enjoy who the romance was directed to but at the same time, I liked where the romance ultimately lead to. Hope that makes sense. 

There was also one scene that really stood out to me and that was the train scene in NYC. I have not faced the exact same thing (my circumstances are different) but I have faced something very similar due to my ethnic identity so reading that and being able to relate with that really touched me. And not only have I experienced that directly and personally, I have also seen so many news articles and videos about the same thing in NYC subway. 

Overall, there were definitely aspects of this book that I really enjoyed – having it set in NYC and being able to relate with some of the situations, the romance and the overall fluffiness of the book. At the same time, there were also aspects to it that I didn’t enjoy so much but ultimately did not take me away from enjoying the book.
Rating:
🌟🌟🌟

LET'S CHAT! WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE ROMANCE IN THIS BOOK?  THE CHARACTERS?  DID THIS BOOK EXCEED OR LIVE UP TO ITS HYPE? LET ME KNOW πŸ’•- Stephanie

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published September 20, 2011
Summary on Goodreads

Buy Links:
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Review:
I went into this book expecting great things and left feeling a little disappointed. I still enjoyed this book mainly because of the Greek mythology – it has always been something that I find absolutely fascinating. However, I think that this book wouldn’t hit home for others who isn’t as big of a fan for Greek mythology as I am. 

I picked up this book during my LGBTQ+ rep reading vlog because this book focused on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles which I found really interesting. I never imagined a take on that relationship so it was very intriguing for me to read more about the dynamic of that particular relationship. 

The one thing that I really enjoyed about this book was how faithful it was to the original Greek mythology pertaining Achilles and the Trojan War. I haven’t read any of the original stories in a long time so after reading the book, I went to do some research to find out more information on Achilles himself and what happened during the war. I was pleased to find that a lot of what happened in the original text was reflected in this book as well. 

P.S. I also did some research in terms of how historically accurate the Trojan War was and apparently there is historical evidence as well as archaeological evidence that the war did, in fact, take place. Perhaps not with the involvement of the Greek gods but how cool is that? 

Other than the plot itself, I really enjoyed reading about Patroclus and his relationship with Achilles. At this point, I think Achilles is very well-known for his accomplishments and whatnot but for Patroclus, I believe him to be a relatively minor character so it was very interesting for me to read more about his perspective and the romantic development between him and Achilles. I also liked the fact that he was the calm to Achilles’ intensity. They balanced each other well. A lot of other reviewers commented that this was primarily a love story but I didn’t read it as such. While their love for each other was passionate, there were a lot of other stuff going on that I didn’t get the impression that the love story was the main focus of the book. 

Anyways, the one thing that I didn’t enjoy so much was how slow the book was. I felt like it took a very long time for things to come together. The book started off really strong but around halfway through, it started to peter out. I think it was partly because of where the book was at that time – the Trojan War which took place over a course of many years and so, I think the pacing of the book really reflected that slowness. 

Overall, I enjoyed the prose, the characters and, of course, the Greek mythology. However, because of how slow the book was especially in that second half, I ended up struggling a little to continue and focus on the book.
Rating:
🌟🌟🌟1/2

LET'S CHAT! ARE YOU A FAN OF GREEK MYTHOLOGY? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF ACHILLES IN THE ORIGINAL STORY VERSUS THE ONE DEPICTED IN THIS BOOK? LET ME KNOW πŸ’•- Stephanie

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SΓ‘enz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Published February 21, 2012
Summary on Goodreads

Buy Links:
Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Audiobooks
Review:
This book was a struggle read for me until the last third or so of the book. Prior to that, I couldn’t relate with any of the characters, I didn’t like any of the characters and I honestly couldn’t care too much about what they were going through. I had really high expectations going in because so many people simply adored this book but I couldn’t really understand until the last 100 pages or so when things finally started to come together. 

When I first went into this book, I somehow expected the book to be written in two POVs – Dante and Ari due to the premise of the book. However, that wasn’t really the case and the book was written only in Ari’s perspective which was fine but I personally enjoyed Dante’s personality and character more. So with that, it was even harder for me to relate and understand a character that I liked less than the other one. 

I also did not go into this book realizing that it was set in the late 1980s and thought that the premise did not do a good job in depicting this historical element as well. I’m pretty sure that if I had realized prior that this was a historical fiction, my perspective of it would have been different. In fact, the book is labeled as “contemporary” despite the fact that 1980s was 30ish years ago. The historical element would have also been important to know prior because this book dealt with learning to identify with one’s own ethnic background as well as being dealing with one’s own sexuality that wasn’t heterosexual. During that time period, the LGBT+ community was not at all accepted as it is nowadays and I would have found this element to be very crucial to shaping both Ari and Dante’s characters. 

However, despite everything that I said above, once things started to come together (last third part of the book), I realized why this book was so beloved by almost everyone. The character, Ari, really started to shine at that point. He had a lot of revelations that happened at the end and the journey that he went through to come to that was very beautifully written. He was also extremely complex and was definitely dealing with a lot of issues from all over the place so once things started to come together, I was able to understand him a lot more. 

The one thing that I can say that I liked for the entire book was the writing. I found the book to be beautifully written and I liked how the author did a fantastic job depicting the characters. So overall, while I did find the first part of the book to be very meh, the ending more than made up for it. At the same time though, to expect a reader to trudge through the first 200 or so pages isn’t great and if it wasn’t for the fact that I had so many people telling me how great this book was, I would have DNF’d it really early on.
Rating:
🌟🌟🌟

LET'S CHAT! IF YOU HAVE READ THIS BOOK, WHAT WAS YOUR THOUGHT ON THE DEPICTION OF ARI AND DANTE?  WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THEIR FRIENDSHIP AS IT GREW THROUGHOUT THE BOOK? LET ME KNOW πŸ’•- Stephanie

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Weekly Author Fridays featuring Astrid Scholte - Author Interview

TGIF and for today, I'm pleased to feature Astrid Scholte, author of Four Dead Queens, a book that I am highly anticipating!



About Astrid
Raised on a diet of Spielberg, Lucas and Disney, Astrid knew she wanted to be surrounded by all things fantastical from a young age. She’s spent the last 10 years working in film, animation and television as both an artist and manager. Career highlights include working on James Cameron's Avatar, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tin Tin and Happy Feet 2 by George Miller. She’s a visual writer and aims to capture the vivid stories that play like movies in her head. When she’s not writing, she’s painting her favorite fictional characters and obliging her furry overlords, Lilo and Mickey.

FOUR DEAD QUEENS (Putnam, 26th of February 2019/Allen & Unwin, 4th of March) is her debut novel.

About Four Dead Queens
Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

Interview
What made you start writing? 
I've loved writing and telling stories for as long as I can remember, penning my first "novel" at age 5. I still have it, although can't understand of word! I'm a daydreamer and writing puts this activity to good use.

How did you get the idea for writing Four Dead Queens? Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing? 
This might sound cliche, but I had a dream where I was sitting in a horse-drawn carriage when a sleek silver car flew past. I wondered what world would exist with such contrasting technologies and built the setting from there. I also had this image of four queens sitting back-to-back, ruling from the same court. And I've always loved murder mysteries, so I decided to combine the ideas. Luckily, there was little real life inspiration in my dangerous, twisty tale of murder, deadly secrets and deceit! 

Who is your favorite character in the book and why? Or, which character was the most fun to write and why? 
I love all the queens, but one character that stands out as the most fun to write is Mackiel. He's theatrical, charming, intelligent and a whole lot devious. I think readers will love to hate him!

If you could meet any characters in your book, who would it be and why? 
Definitely not Mackiel! He'd outwit and outplay me for sure! I have a soft spot for Queen Corra, who's often misunderstood. I'd like to meet her and see what's really going on behind her carefully controlled mask. Or Varin, because, he's well, Varin. :)

What scene from Four Dead Queens are you most excited for readers to experience? 
Ohhhh! Great question! There are a few twists and turns in the book, so I'm excited to hear what people think when they read them.

How long did it take for you to finish writing the book? 
I wrote the first draft in around 4 months and entered PitchWars 2016 with only 57K words. During PitchWars, I fleshed out the book for 2 months before the agent round. A week after the agent round, I received an offer from my agent, Hillary Jacobson at ICM Partners. From there, I revised with my agent for two weeks and then went out on submission in January 2017. Penguin Random House offered a two-book deal less than two weeks later. The final book is 102K words.

Overall, it was quite a short process! I'd written two other YA fantasy manuscripts before Four Dead Queens and they took much longer to complete, but I didn't have any luck finding an agent with those. Four Dead Queens came out fairly easily in comparison and was a joy to write.

What was the hardest part of writing? 
The hardest part was not knowing who the killer was! I'm a pantser, so I don't plot my books. I'd written about a 1/3 of the first draft when I figured out who did it. I then went back and put in clues so the reader can uncover the killer along the way.

What do you do in your free time? 
I enjoy capturing fictional characters on canvas. I've painted the main characters for Four Dead Queens: https://www.astridscholte.com/thequeens and will be giving them away as character cards for my pre-order campaign. I also love anything Disney, especially the theme parks and animated movies.

Why did you choose to write YA novels? 
YA is my favorite category to read and write. I love YA because the books are plot driven with kick-ass characters. YA takes risks, blends genres and pushes boundaries. Restrictions and rules are made to be broken in YA. The stories zip along at a break-neck speeds, are thrilling and un-put-downable. 

Any advice for future authors? 
I think it's very common for writers to be analytical and self-critical because that's the way that you write. You're always trying to make something better, or wondering if a section of the story or character is working, etc. It's difficult to turn that off. As long as you believe in what you're working on and do your best, then that will shine through to readers. People say it all the time, but write what you want to read!

Also, first drafts are supposed to be bad. Just get it out on paper. When you come back to it, revise and revise and revise some more to really make it shine.

LET'S CHAT! WHO ELSE IS PUMPED ABOUT THIS BOOK? WHICH BOOKS ARE YOU EXCITED FOR IN 2019?  LET ME KNOW! πŸ’•- Stephanie

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published January 10, 2017
Summary on Goodreads

Buy Links:
Amazon | AudibleBook Depository | Audiobooks
Review:
I had extremely high hopes for this one because the premise of this book sounded really similar to Spinning Silver (absolutely adored this book) with its focus on Russian folklore and legends. Plus, the writing style seemed to also be beautiful and lyrical. However, there were three things that this book lacked, or I had slight issues with, and why I ultimately didn’t enjoy it as much as I wish I did. 

The first part was definitely the action and pacing. I knew going in that the book was going to start off slow or at least I suspected due to other people’s reviews about the writing style/pace. So that wasn’t an issue for me because I suspected that the author wanted to spend some time building up the world and introducing all of the characters. Unfortunately though, that slowness continued for the entire book. There was never that feeling of all of the elements coming together cohesively and I never felt this urge, this desire, to read the rest of the book. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it but that it just took me a long time to finish the book. 

Secondly, the subplots in the book weren’t that important to me. I have come to realize that I’m okay with the slow pacing of books if there were subplots that captured my attention (i.e. Spinning Silver and the slow-burning romances between multiple characters). For this book though, that wasn’t the case. I think that the author was trying to elude to a romantic subplot between these two characters but never really drove that idea home for me. And so, with that compounded with the slowness of the book, it took me an even longer time to really want to sit down and finish it. 

And finally, and I think that this is merely an issue for myself and those who are unfamiliar with how Russian names work, I was constantly confused with the names of the characters. I believe that the characters had at least two separate names and so in the beginning, I was constantly confused with who they were referring to because the names/nicknames weren’t that similar with each other but at the same time, similar enough that I suspected but never got it confirmed. At the end, I just went with it so to be honest, I’m still not 100% sure if those were nicknames or if they were different characters entirely. I think the issue was that the author wrote this book thinking that people would automatically know the cultural references when it comes to Russian names. However, that isn’t the case and it really took away from my experience with this book. 

Overall, I still really enjoyed the Russian folklore that the author introduced me to but with the slowness and some of the confusion that I felt, this book did not shine for me. I’m still interested in seeing how the rest of the trilogy will play out mainly because I’m hoping for that subplot to finally (hopefully) be confirmed. But I can definitely see why this book fell flat for a lot of other readers to the point that they DNF’d it.
Rating:
🌟🌟🌟

LET'S CHAT! WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON RUSSIAN FOLKLORE?  IF YOU HAVE READ THIS BOOK, DID YOU AGREE WITH WHAT I MENTIONED ABOVE?  LET ME KNOW πŸ’•- Stephanie

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