BOOK REVIEW: Room – by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: September 13th 2010
Publisher: Picador
Finished reading: May 9th 2017
Pages: 321

“Just because you’ve never met them doesn’t mean they’re not real. There’s more things on earth than you ever dreamed about.”

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I know for a fact it’s not true, but I feel like I’m about the last person on earth to read this book. I have been hearing so many great things about it over the years, and I still don’t know why I haven’t picked it up before… I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so now though, because Room is without doubt one of the most powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking stories I’ve read this year. The first thing that stands out is the fact that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old boy, which makes the story that much more powerful and unique. Jack’s voice made a huge impact on me and it’s a story that will stay with me for a long time. It actually made me think of The Boy With The Striped Pajamas (another of my all time favorites), which uses a similar technique to narrate a rather shocking story and is just as powerful. Another thing that stood out for me in Room is the excellent execution of Jack’s reactions, emotions and feelings in general to Room and the Outside. In fact, the writing style in general is wonderful; I literally flew through the pages and finished it in less than a day. The character development is also excellent and it’s very intriguing to see how everything that happens to both Jack and his mother affects them. If you haven’t read this little masterpiece yet, I suggest you do! If you like the genre, you won’t be disappointed.

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Jack has been living with his Ma in Room for as long as he can remember, and he is excited about his fifth birthday. Room has a locked door and a skylight, and measures exactly eleven feet by eleven feet. It’s also the whole world for Jack; the rest of it being Outside and nothing what he sees on the TV is truly real. In fact, only him, Ma and the things in Room are… Until the day Ma admits that there is actually a world outside.

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I still can’t believe it took me years to finally pick up my copy of Room, but it is without doubt one of my new all time favorites. The story itself is already both dark, shocking and powerful, but what makes Room even more special is that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old boy. Jack is a truly fascinating and unique character and having the opportunity to follow both him and Ma is a true blessing. This story will definitely stay with me for a long time! As you might have guessed, I can highly recommend this story.


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BOOK REVIEW: Dead To You – by Lisa McMann

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Title: Dead To You
Author: Lisa McMann
Genre: YA, Mystery, Contemporary
First published: February 7th 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Finished reading: August 21st 2016
Pages: 243
Rating 3,5qqq

“Because if you don’t have at least one person believing in you, then there’s not much reason to give a shit about anything.”

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Dead To You was another of the selected Riveted reads in August, and as I was browsing the page the description kind of caught my eye. When I saw I had actually added this novel by Lisa McMann to my wishlist already last year, I decided to take this opportunity to read it for free. Thanks again Riveted! The story itself turned out to be both fast-paced and intriguing, although the ending kind of came out of nowhere. I really would have liked to see a different ending to Dead To You, or at least one that would have felt less like a mayor cliffhanger. The fact that I wasn’t a fan of the insta-like between Cami and Ethan OR the way Blake behaves didn’t really help me connecting to the story either. That said, Dead To You is still a quite entertaining and interesting read, and Gracie’s character is adorable. Not as good as I would have hoped, but still recommended for those who enjoy the genre.

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When Ethan was just seven years old, he was abducted right from his own front yard. Now, at the age of sixteen, a small miracle happened and he has returned to his family. But things aren’t easy. Ethan doesn’t seem to remember his past life with his real family, and his reintroduction to his old life isn’t going well. Tensions are starting to build and the family is starting to tear apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something about his life before, he might be able to put the pieces back together, but there is something that is keeping his memory blocked. And some memories are just better left untouched…

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The story itself is without doubt intriguing and the prose reads easily, but the cliffhanger ending spoiled things slightly for me. I wasn’t able to connect to all the characters and some of their actions started to annoy me. That said, Gracie is simply adorable! In short Dead To You is without doubt an entertaining YA realistic fiction/mystery read with some minor flaws. If you like the genre, you might want to give it a go.

BOOK REVIEW: Rot & Ruin – by Jonathan Maberry

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Title: Rot & Ruin
(Rot & Ruin #1)
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Genre: YA, Horror, Dystopia
First published: September 14th 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: July 25th 2016
Pages: 468
Rating 4qqq

“Often it was the most unlikely people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.”

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Zombie stories are normally not really for me, but I’ve become less prejudiced after I finished and loved The Girl With All The Gifts earlier this month. So when I was browsing Riveted and saw I could read Rot & Ruin for free (until August 1st), I decided to jump right in. Especially since I have had this series by Jonathan Maberry on my wishlist for a long time in the first place. I’m glad I decided to give Rot & Ruin a go, because I ended up really enjoying this story despite my reservations for zombie stories. The dystopian worldbuilding is interesting and I liked the idea of the separation between the relatively safe town and the ‘wild’. The descriptions of both the zombies and the world itself are well done; the zombies are slightly humanised (especially by the older brother Tom) and that was certainly refreshing. There is a lot of action (and shouting!) involved in the story, making it into a fast-paced read and without doubt entertaining. Another bonus: there is almost no romance in Rot & Ruin, which is rare in a YA fantasy/dystopian series. Although I’m having the suspicion there might be more in the sequel… Because there sure were some pretty obvious hints at possible romantic developments and even a love triangle. I’m glad there wasn’t any in the first book though and the ending was quite satisfying (even though the final fighting scenes were not that credible). All in all Rot & Ruin is an interesting, entertaining and fast-paced zombie read that will appeal to fans of the genre.

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Benny Imura grew up in this zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America and doesn’t know any better; his biggest worry being his need to find a job before his time is up and his rations are cut in half. His older brother and zombie hunter Tom does remember the time before the First Night though… As he saw their father turn into a zombie in front of them and had to run with little Benny. Benny still feels Tom is a coward and when Tom offers him to be his apprentice, Benny refuses. But he cannot seem to get another job that interests him, so it seems like he will have no choice but to accept his boring brother’s offer. But when he goes outside for the first time to see how his brother does his job, he encounters a whole different reality. Benny realizes he has been wrong about a whole lot of things in life, including his brother…

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It kind of came as a surprise, but Rot & Ruin turned out to be another exception to the rule and I really enjoyed this zombie and action-packed story. It’s well written and the worldbuilding is interesting, and I liked the fact that the zombies are slightly humanised and the bounty hunters are the actual bad guys. The fact that there is almost no romance involved is a huge bonus as well… At one point I thought this was going to be a repeat experience of The 5th Wave (cheesy romance scenes ruining an excellent story), but I guess I was wrong. If you enjoy reading the genre, I can definitely recommend Rot & Ruin! The sequel is already on my wishlist.

BOOK REVIEW: Out Of My Mind – by Sharon M. Draper

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Title: Out Of My Mind
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Middle Grade
First published: March 4th 2010
Finished reading: April 13th 2016
Pages: 320
Rating 4,5qqq

“Everybody uses words to express themselves. Except me. And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words. But I do. Thoughts need words. Words need a voice.”

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I was not sure what to expect when I first picked up my copy of Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, but I was more than pleasantly surprised with what I found. The main character Melody has spastic bilateral quadriplegia, also known as cerebral palsy, and her story has without doubt an inspiring message and should probably be made into an obligatory middle grade read. Out Of My Mind, not unlike another well known middle grade read with about the same theme Wonder, gives us the valuable lesson that being different or having a disability doesn’t mean that person should be discriminated or treated as a ‘lesser’ being; what really matters is what is on the inside and what that person CAN do. I agree that part of Melody’s story seems a bit farfetched; it’s hard to believe her parents or doctors didn’t think of a better way for her to communicate before with all the technology out there and famous cases like Stephen Hawking (he is even mentioned in the book itself). Still, since this book was ment as a middle grade read, I believe the focus should be on the story itself and the message it is trying to give… And I think Sharon M. Draper did a more than excellent job telling Melody’s story in a way that is both understandable for the age group, easy to read and even emotional at points. Melody’s character development is very well done, although the other characters do lack some dept (especially the ‘bad’ guys). Would I recommend reading this one? A definite yes, although I suggest keeping in mind the age group when you are reading it.

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Eleven-year-old Melody is probably one of the smartest kids in her whole school, absorbing every single fact she has ever heard or seen in her photographic memory. The thing is nobody actually knows it… Melody has spastic bilateral quadriplegia, also known as cerebral palsy, meaning she can’t talk, walk or write down what she wants to say. She is basically stuck inside her head and most people don’t realize what she is actually capable of, including her teachers and doctors… But Melody’s wish to finally speak up for herself may finally come true as she discovers something that will help her to speak for the very first time. Melody finally has a voice, but not everyone will be ready to hear it… Or accept the fact that Melody is a lot smarter than they thought she was.

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If you forget about the sometimes not so credible circumstances around Melody’s situation and lack of development of the characters around her, Out Of My Mind is without doubt an incredible read. The story is easy to read, has an inspiring message and the character development of Melody is very well done. I loved how she reacted in one of the final scenes at school! This story will probably stay with me for a long time and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the genre, especially if you’ve read and enjoyed Wonder  by R.J. Palacio as well.

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Darkness – by Kami Garcia

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Title: Beautiful Darkness
(Caster Chronicles #2)
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: October 12th 2010
Finished reading: March 29th 2016
Pages: 503
Rating 3qqq

“There’s something about sitting alone in the dark that reminds you how big the world really is, and how far apart we all are. The stars look like they’re so close, you could reach out and touch them. But you can’t. Sometimes things look a lot closer than they are.”

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I read Beautiful Creatures, the first book of this series, over a year ago before I had a lot of experience reading YA fantasy and I gave it one of the highest ratings. I’m not sure why I never picked up the sequel before my TBR jar decided it was time for me to read it, but I’m now left wondering if I actually enjoyed it that much back then. Why? First of all, I wasn’t really impressed by Beautiful Darkness. I’m not saying it’s a bad read; it’s without doubt entertaining and easy to read with its fast pace, but I’m missing the spark that would turn it into a 5 star read. It might just be that the sequel isn’t as good as the first book (which isn’t such a strange thing since a lot of YA fantasy series seem to suffer from the exact same syndrom), but I found the main characters and some of their actions actually quite annoying. That and the love triangle definitely were the cause for quite a few raised eyebrows. Both the plot and the whole strong female character idea aren’t exactly original, but if you are looking for some good magical action and an easy read, I guess this series would still be worth reading.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book yet. I’ll keep the summary short but it’s almost impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Ethan Wate used to think Gatlin was just another small sleepy Southern town where things never changed, until he met Lena Duchannes. She was the girl of his dreams, literally… A whole secret world is being revealed to Ethan, one that had always been hidding in plain sight, and even her deceased mother seemed to have been keeping secrets from him. Gatlin has been marked by a curse that affects both Ethan’s and Lena’s family… And impossible, magical events have been happening ever since. Ethan and Lena have been fighting those problems ever since they met , but after what happened recently Lena starts pulling away… And Ethan doesn’t know how to save her or change her mind.

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After I reread my review of Beautiful Creatures before starting Beautiful Darkness, I had really high hopes for the sequel. I think part of the fact why I didn’t enjoy the sequel that much is that I’ve read a lot of YA fantasy series since and the plot and characters don’t sound that original or exciting anymore. Sure, there is a lot of action and I like the worldbuilding of the Caster world, but I can’t say it’s one of my favorite series either. I will probably read the last two books at some point though, just to see if things improve later on. I’m already keeping my fingers crossed the love triangle won’t be playing a big role in Beautiful Chaos

BOOK REVIEW: The Sky Is Everywhere – by Jandy Nelson

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Title: The Sky Is Everywhere
Author: Jandy Nelson
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 9th 2010
Finished reading: December 29th 2015
Pages: 277
Rating 4qqq

“When he plays
All the flowers swap colors
And years and decades and centuries
Of rain pour back into the sky.”

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I have been wanting to read this novel ever since I finished I’ll Give You The Sun last April. Jandy Nelson has a way of writing her books that simply blows your mind: beautiful, creative, emotional, sad, funny… Her prose is a mix of all that and more. The Sky Is Everywhere is just as beautifully written as her other book. It is a terribly sad and emotional story where the main characters try to deal with Bailey’s dead; the musical elements and descriptions make this book into something truly exceptional. Why didn’t I give The Sky Is Everywhere the full five stars? I had one problem with this otherwise brilliant novel: the love triangle. I think I have become allergic to love triangles after reading too many YA novels and the Lennie-Toby-Joe triangle more than bothered me. Sure, grief can make you do unspeakable things, but still… I think I could have lived without that element. That said, if you like YA contemporary romance stories and don’t mind having to use a full box of tissues, make sure you read The Sky Is Everywhere!

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After her older sister Bailey dies suddently, seventeen-year-old Lennie doesn’t know what to do with herself. She is used to be on the background, a bookwork and clarinet player, but now has nobody left to hide behind… She lives with her grandmother and uncle ever since her mother left her daughters behind to wander the world; all three of them now stunned by their grief. Bailey’s boyfriend Toby keeps visiting the family as he tries to live with his loss… And Lennie and Toby both feel they are the only ones that really understand each other’s grief. Lennie tries to continue with her life and still goes to band practice, where she meets the new boy and musical talent Joe. They slowly get to know each other, but Lennie is confused about her feelings… Her grief blinding her from making proper decisions.

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The beautiful prose, musical elements and many descriptions and bits of Lennie’s writing truly make The Sky Is Everywhere into something special. I personally didn’t appreciate the love triangle, but the rest of this story is outstanding. It’s a really sad story that will probably bring tears to your eyes at some point, but this Jandy Nelson novel is without doubt worth reading if you like the genre. Recommended!