Teaser Tuesdays #60 – September 15th: Into The Wild

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TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme originally featured at A Daily Rhythm. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I’ve barely had any time to read last week because of all the last minute vacation preparations, but I’m going to try and finish at least my two current reads. One of these is Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer, a story I have been wanting to read for a while now. I saw the movie the other week and the story is just as impressive so far.

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My teaser (30%):

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

What are you reading right now?

BOOK REVIEW: None Of The Above – by I.W. Gregorio

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Title: None Of The Above
Author: I.W. Gregorio
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: April 7th 2015
Finished reading: September 5th 2015
Pages: 352
Rating 5qqq

“One day I would find my own place. I couldn’t run there, though, because it didn’t exist yet; I had to build it myself, out of forgiveness, truth, and terrifying gestures of friendship.”

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A lot of people have been recommending None Of The Above over and over again ever since it first came out back in April. Now I have finally had the chance to read it, I will definitely join them and start recommending this novel as well. I.W. Gregorio wrote a story that should be read not only because it’s beautifully written but also because it’s one of the first stories (that I know of) that explains more about what it means to have been born intersex. None Of The Above tells the story of Kristin, a teenage girl who has just discovered that she was born intersex and slowly learns to accept and live with her condition. It’s a truly inspiring story and it really helped me understand the situation of those with a similar diagnosis better. The prose is beautiful, the characters are well developed and all in all it is a read I would recommend to anyone who enjoys reading the genre.

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Kristin seems to be just another ordinary teenage girl with a perfect little life; voted homecoming queen, a champion hurdler with a full scholarship and very much in love with her boyfriend. As her first time with her boyfriend didn’t exactly goes as planned, she decides to visit a doctor to see if something is wrong. Kristin then finds out the truth about her symptoms: she was born intersex. Kirstin doesn’t really know how to process all this new information about her condition and when the entire school discovers her secret, things become a whole lot more complicated. People don’t know exactly what being intersex means and her condition is more than misunderstood. Kristin will have to learn to live with the reactions and accept her condition to move on…

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I’m having a hard time to describe how much I enjoyed reading None Of The Above. It’s simply such a beautiful written story that shines a light on a very important topic. I can already say it is without doubt one of my favorite reads this year and I will be keeping an eye out for I.W. Gregorio‘s work in the future. More than recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: Legend – by Marie Lu

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Title: Legend
(Legend #1)
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 29th 2011
Finished reading: September 4th 2015
Pages: 305
Rating 4qqq

“Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.”

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Legend is one of those series I have been wanting to start reading for a long time. I have a copy of all three books and now I’ve read the first I will definitely continue the series very soon. Marie Lu‘s prose is very easy to read and the fast pace helped me finish Legend in no time at all. Sure, some of the scenes are a bit cliche and overall I don’t think the story was mindblowingly good, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Legend is a very entertaining read with quite a few plot twists and a lot of action. I’m not sure I actually like the main characters, but they definitely have bad ass survival skills. I will be looking forward to find out what happens in the sequel! If you like reading YA dystopian series in general, you will probably enjoy Legend as well.

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What was once Western United States is now a new nation called the Republic. They are in constant conflict with its neighbors and there is a huge class difference between the elite and the people living in the slums. June was born into an elite family in one of the wealthiest districts and is one of the brightest teenagers of the Republic. She is being trained to be the next military miracle and has quite a satisfying life… Until her brother was killed. The ones in charge claim it was Day, the country’s most wanted teenage criminal who grew up in the slums; they give June the task to hunt him down. But was it really him? Have they been hiding things from June and the rest of the country? June soon will have to decide who to side with.

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Legend was fast-paced, entertaining and full of action. The prose is enjoyable to read and I will definitely be looking forward to the sequels. That said, I did find some of the scenes a bit cliche and I wasn’t fully convinced by the characters… Not enough to end up disliking this novel, but it still wasn’t as good as I was hoping for. If you like the genre, you will probably enjoy this read though!

BOOK REVIEW: I Was Here – by Gayle Forman

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Title: I Was Here
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: January 27th 2015
Finished reading: September 3rd 2015
Pages: 288
Rating 3,5qqq

“Life can be hard and beautiful and messy, but hopefully, it will be long. If it is, you will see that it’s unpredictable, and that the dark periods comes, but they abate — sometimes with a lot of support — and the tunnel widens, allowing the sun back in. If you’re in the dark, it might feel like you will always be there. Fumbling. Alone. But you won’t — and you’re not.”

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I Was Here was one of my TBR jar picks and it’s also the first time I’ve read anything by Gayle Forman. I know a lot of people love her work, but I have been avoiding her books so far because I was afraid there would be too much romance involved. I’m definitely glad my TBR jar got me to read I Was Here, because I really enjoyed her writing style. It was an interesting read, although I have to admit I’ve read better books with the same suicide theme. That or maybe I’m suffering from a YA contemporary fiction overdose… The main characters are not exactly likeable, but at least they feel real. Meg and her depression, Cody trying to understand why her best friend would do such a thing and Ben who broke Meg’s heart and slowly wins over Cody’s… Each character is without doubt well developed. Not everything about the story is original or completely credible, but overal it’s quite an enjoyable read despite the serious topic. Recommended if you enjoy reading YA contemporary fiction.

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Meg decided she couldn’t stand living any longer and made a plan to end her life; drinking a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room. Her best friend Cody is devastated and simply doesn’t understand why Meg would do such a thing. They were supposed to share everything, but Cody never saw it coming. Where were the warning signs? Meg’s parents ask Cody to travel to her college town to pack up Meg’s things, but when she arrives there Cody discovers something more than just her belongings. Meg had a whole different life in her college town Cody didn’t know anything about, and it looks like Meg was hiding quite a few secrets… What were the real circumstances around Meg’s death?

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I Was Here is without doubt an interesting enough read and I enjoyed Gayle Forman‘s prose. I wasn’t exactly a fan of the main characters, but they help shine a light on a very serious topic: (teen) depression and suicide. Like with Meg, sometimes the signs are not all that clear and forums like the one that visited Meg can push people over the edge. It’s definitely a story that will leave its mark.

BOOK REVIEW: Five Weeks In The Amazon – by Sean Michael Hayes

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Title: Five Weeks In The Amazon
Author: Sean Michael Hayes
Genre: Non Fiction, Travel
First published: December 2nd 2014
Finished reading: September 2nd 2015
Pages: 270
Rating 2,5qqq

“Saying the jungle is amazing is like saying the Sistine Chapel is a masterpiece. In reality, they are both much more than words can describe, and the true essence of both can only be found through experiencing them.”

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Since the departure date of our backpacking adventure is coming closer (next Saturday!), I have been trying to read more travel themed books to really get in the travel mood. I found Five Weeks In The Amazon particularly interesting because I’ve been in Peru twice myself, although I’ve never actually visited the Amazon… It’s easy to say I really enjoyed the setting and it was nice to learn more about the Ayahuasca ritual and Sean Michael Hayes‘ experiences with the drug. It was a fast read as well, although I did have some problems with it. The most important one is the Spanish used in Five Weeks In The Amazon; it’s a real eyesore to a philologist like myself. I can understand crappy Spanish as long as he is trying to portray his own lack of knowledge of the language, but the locals speaking this way? I would actually have prefered reading the English translation of those dialogues. I couldn’t completely agree with his way of life either, but I guess that is something personal… That said, it is still quite an interesting and entertaining read if you want to learn more about the Ayahuasca ritual.

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Five Weeks In The Amazon tells the true story of the author’s adventures in the Amazon jungle. He travels to Peru to try and find the answers on some of his questions about life with the help of the Ayahuasca ritual. He spends various weeks going back and forth between Iquitos and the jungle to experience several Ayahuasca rituals. A local shaman is helping him with his journey and healing process, and we read more about how the drug is affecting both his body and those of the other people who participate.

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This non fiction story is without doubt an interesting read and is more about emotional than physical travel. If you want to learn more about the Ayahuasca ritual, Five Weeks In The Amazon is probably a good choice if you are not too focused on the spiritual journey. I did have some problems with the story and it wasn’t one of my favorite reads this year, but I’m still glad I’ve read it. I’m not sure I would want to have my own experience with Ayahuasca, but I definitely respect those who have been brave enough to try it.

Friday Finds #53 – September 11th

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FRIDAY FINDS is originally featured at A Daily Rhythm and showcases the most interesting books I’ve encountered during the last week and have added to my neverending TBR list on Goodreads. Below a selection of my newest additions; click on the book descriptions to go to its Goodreads page! 😀

My finds:

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BOOK REVIEW: The Goldfinch – by Donna Tartt

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Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: October 22nd 2013
Finished reading: August 31st 2015
Pages: 771
Rating 3qqq

“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”

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I’ve had a copy of The Goldfinch on my TBR shelf pretty much ever since it came out, but somehow I have been a bit hesitant to actually start reading it. It’s quite a big read and although I normally don’t mind those, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the slow pace (especially in the beginning). I will have to agree with those complaints. There is no doubt that The Goldfinch is a very well written novel and I enjoyed Donna Tartt‘s prose in general. But the mere fact that it took me almost two months to actually finish the novel and I was able to finish no less than 44! other novels while I was ‘not’ reading this one says a lot about The Goldfinch… The story itself is very interesting and I liked the idea of the journey of both the main character and the painting, but the pace was so slow that it took me a hard time to stay focused. I have the feeling that I would have liked the novel a lot better if it would have been at least 200 pages shorter. Sure, that way it loses some of its literary value, but it would be way more pleasant to read. Would I recommend this one? If you like literary fiction, love art and don’t mind a big book with a slow pace, The Goldfinch is without doubt an interesting read.

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Theo Decker survives an explosion in a New York museum and a valuable painting comes into his possession. His mother didn’t survive the accident and his father had abandoned them some time before, so Theo finds him without a real home. He is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend and is having difficulties adapting to this new strange life without his mother. The only thing that reminds him of her is the small captivating painting of a goldfinch; a painting the whole world has been looking for ever since the explosion. The goldfinch travels with Theo throughout the years and brings him to different cities, adventures and even countries. As an adult, the painting has become dangerous and is his actions all those years ago came back to haunt him…

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The Goldfinch is without doubt a beautifully written novel and I can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Still, the pace was so slow in the beginning that it is very hard to stay focused and continue reading until the pace finally picks up. The last part set in Amsterdam is without doubt the part with the most action in it, and I really enjoyed the many cultural references. It made me crave some of the local food; boy do I miss zuurkool! The prose is very well written and I found many inspiring quotes while I was reading. That said, I don’t think The Goldfinch is a read for everyone. If you have the time and don’t mind the effort, it can be an interesting read though.