BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds – by Alexandra Bracken

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Title: The Darkest Minds
(The Darkest Minds #1)
Author: Alexandra Bracken

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: December 18th 2012
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: January 21st 2017
Pages: 499
Rating 4qqq

“The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”

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I still can’t believe it took me more than TWO years to finally pick up my copy of The Darkest Minds. I’ve been wanting to start this series for ages, but somehow I always ended up picking up a different title instead. But no longer. Now I’ve finally read the first book of this series Alexandra Bracken has me hooked. No more escape for the sequels, because I will be reading them VERY soon for another dose of my favorite Psi characters. I can definitely undestand what all the hype is about now… Sure, the plot isn’t all that original with its dystopian world where kids and teenagers develop a ‘superbrain’ and special powers. But it WAS written back in 2012 so I definitely kept that in mind. And more importantly, this story was just way too entertaining to worry about  the originality in the first place. I liked the main characters and their development, although little Zu is probably my absolute favorite. Ruby on the other hand can come over as a bit whiney at points, but I guess she did have some complicated memories to deal with… Another great feature of The Darkest Minds is without doubt the writing style and pace. The prose was so enjoyable to read and the story itself reads like a train. All in all a promising start of what has all the signs of being a great series!

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When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed even though she didn’t realize it at first. She found out soon enough when her parents locked her up in the garage and called the police instead of celebrating Ruby’s birthday with her. Instead, she was sent to the Thurmond camp along with all the other children who survived the mysterious disease and showed signs of having the new frightening abilities they could not control… And life at Thurmond is tough. Ruby is now sixteen and one of the dangerous ones. They put her in the wrong group when she arrived, saving her life at first but putting her in danger if the truth comes out. She has to escape, but that will only be possible with help from the inside…

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Like I said before, I feel really bad about not picking up this series earlier. As I already suspected, I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Minds and I will be reading the sequels (or at least the second book) next month without fail. Both the writing style and character are easy to like and even though the plot might not be all that original, I enjoyed diving into this dystopian world anyway. Recommended for YA dystopian fans!


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BOOK REVIEW: A Man Called Ove – by Fredrik Backman

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Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Humor, Contemporary
First published: August 27th 2012
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: November 22nd 2016
Pages: 337
(Originally written in Swedish: “En man som heter Ove”)
Rating 5qqq

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”

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There has been a lot of hype around Fredrik Backman‘s work this year, and I thought it was about time to find out just exactly what everybody was raving about. And boy do I regret not having picked up my copy of A Man Called Ove earlier! This originally Swedish book was in one word BRILLIANT. I fell in love with both the prose and main character from the very first page and it’s been a while since a book has been able to make me laugh and cry at the same time. Ove has managed to win over my heart, grumpiness and all, and he is hands down one of my new favorite characters. He really reminded me of Carl, the grumpy old man from the movie Up! And Ove’s character is just as endearing in his own grumpy way. Apart from the prose itself and the fabulous character, Fredrik Backman is also able to combine heartbreaking and sensitive topics with a humor that is right up my alley. The humor might not be for everyone, but even so I would suggest trying A Man Called Ove if you haven’t already. It’s without doubt one of my favorite reads this year!

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Ove is a grumpy man who finds his solitary world turned upside down when a young family moves in next door. He is the kind of man with strict routines and a short fuse. People around him call him ‘the bitter neighbor from hell’, but is he really bitter just because he doesn’t seem friendly all the time? Behind his cranky exterior is a story and a sadness that will slowly be revealed as random things start happening when the family next door moves in.

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This is not the first time I have been blown away by a Swedish book, and A Man Called Ove has definitely been added to my list of all time favorites. I’m having a hard time writing a coherent review, but what I can say is that I strongly suggest reading this story. It’s just that good! I’m aware the humor I myself loved might be a turn off for some, but even so I would say it is worth the try. I will be looking forward to read his other books soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Secret Letters – by Leah Scheier

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Title: Secret Letters
Author: Leah Scheier

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: June 26th 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: August 21st 2016
Pages: 336
Rating 3qqq

“I really miss the thought of you. I miss the hope that my future could’ve been a brilliant one–that you might have made it so. But I don’t regret the dream even if it’s gone now. And I want to thank you for inspiring it.”

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Secret Letters was actually one of my TBR jar picks even though I have been posponing it for quite some time. I’m not sure why, because I always love Sherlock Holmes retellings and this actually sounded like a very entertaining historical fiction/mystery read. But I guess my instincts were right, because unfortunately this novel by Leah Scheier just didn’t manage to fully convince me. I’m not saying it’s a bad read and the historical setting actually seems to be well done. I’m just not sure if the story itself (and Dora being Sherlock Holmes’ daughter) is all that believable. I know Secret Letters is supposed to be a fictional account, but still… Also, the story had a really slow start and it took me a long time to get a proper feel for it. In fact, I put it on hold various times before I finally decided to finish it. The pace did pick up in the second half of the story as the amount of action increased, and that definitely made it easier to read and more entertaining. I just wish the romance scenes would have been left out. I would still recommend it to those who like the genre though.

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Dora dreams of escaping her protected country life and help solve mysteries in the city alongside Sherlock Holmes. When she finds out the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora uses her cousin’s ransomed love letters to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery. But when she arrives in the city, she finds out that Sherlock Holmes is dead… And Dora is not sure what to do next. A young and attractive detective offers his help, and Dora is left to rely on her wits and the assistance of the detective to save her cousin’s reputation. But that’s not the only case Dora get’s tangled up in, as a heiress seems to have been kidnapped and the detective asks for her help to solve the case.

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I had high hopes for this Sherlock Holmes retelling, but it just didn’t live up to expectations. It’s not necessarily a bad read and the second part is a big improvement, but I had some problems with the credibility of the plot and the romance scenes. The historical settings seems to have been done very well though and all in all Secret Letters is still quite an interesting read.

BOOK REVIEW: Every Day – by David Levithan

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Title: Every Day
(Every Day #1)
Author: David Levithan
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 28th 2012
Finished reading: February 18th 2016
Pages: 322
Rating 4qqq

“There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions. The only way to survive is to let some of them go.”

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up Every Day. It’s the first time I read a novel that has been written solely by David Levithan even though I’ve read some of his work in the past. To be honest I wasn’t fully convinced by either his short story in My True Love Gave To Me or his Dash chapters in Dash & Lily’s Book Of Dares he wrote together with Rachel Cohn, but luckily enough I was able to enjoy this novel a lot better. Every Day is an intriguing story told from the point of view of A, who wakes up in a different body everyday and doesn’t have a fixed gender. The how and why is never explained and brings a little magical realism into this contemporary romance story. Because if you leave out the body-switching and paranormal element, this is basically a simple love story where A asks the Rhiannon to see past the everchanging physical appearance and love A for who ‘he’ is essentially. I wasn’t really a fan of Rhiannon’s character, but I really liked the fact that David Levithan incorporated a lot of glbt-friendly characters in the different bodies A changed into. And this multidimentional character basically is what makes this book so special and combined with a fast pace and easy-to-read prose I would definitely recommend Every Day.

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A has been waking up into a different body every day since ‘he’ can remember. Every day means a different life and it is never the same body twice… Years of practice has shown A it is best to not get involved with the individual lives of the bodies ‘he’ wakes up in. Any mistake A makes can change the life of that particular person in a bad way, and A never wants to get too attached for that to happen again. A knows not to interfere, but that becomes impossible the day ‘he’ wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend. Rhiannon manages to dazzle A and ‘he’ doesn’t want to live by ‘his’ own rules… A no longer wants to make peace with the fact that ‘he’ wakes up in a new body every day, because I finally found someone ‘he’ wants to be with forever. Will A find a way to make this happen? And what does Rhiannon think of A’s situation in the first place?

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I was expecting a sappy romance story and part of it maybe is, but Every Day is so much more. The multidimentional character A is what makes this read into something truly special and I really liked the ‘hidden’ messages in David Levithan‘s prose (about for example equality). It’s a very intriguing read with just the right dose of mystery and romance that I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy the genre.

BOOK REVIEW: Me Before You – by Jojo Moyes

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Title: Me Before You
(Me Before You #1)
Author: Jojo Moyes
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
First published: January 5th 2012
Finished reading: February 15th 2016
Pages: 369
Rating 3,5qqq

“Some mistakes… Just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you. You, Clark, have the choice not to let that happen.”

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It seems like everybody is reading or rereading this book right now! I’ve heard so many great things about it and I know everyone including my neighbor’s cat loves this story, but I guess I am one of those unlucky few who wasn’t blown away with Me Before You. Yes, I do have a heart and I thought the ending was heartbreaking. It is an interesting enough story and I like the general idea of the plot, but that doesn’t take away that I had some minor problems with it. I know part of the disappointment itself comes from the fact that I had really high expectations of this novel by Jojo Moyes before I started it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I thought the main character Lou is annoyingly ignorant at some points in the story. I do like Lou and I can actually relate to her partially (especially the not being afraid to be different than the stereotype), but her expecting to change Will’s mind without asking him if he wants to? And organizing all those outings without thinking it through and asking will first if he likes those things in the first place? I’m sorry to say those facts and other more day-to-day things started to get on my nerves. Will’s character is more complicated to judge and I give him the benefit of the doubt, but Patrick is a man I seriously can’t stand. And yes, I would totally order cheesecake in a bar full of health freaks like Lou did and I’m not afraid to admit it. Another thing that seriously bothered me was the pace, or at least it took me ages to actually finish it. It might just be that the read wasn’t for me, but I just couldn’t understand the hype around it… But Me Before You won’t be the first nor last hyped book that doesn’t live up to my expectations anyway. So if you like the genre, don’t let my slightly negative review discourage you!

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Lou Clark is living a comfortable and predictable life living in a small town with her parents and sister. Lou has been in a relationship with Patrick for years, but somehow they never decided to take the next step. She also loves her job working in The Buttered Bun tea shop… But everything changes as the owner decides to close the shop and Lou is left without a job. She is desperately trying to find another job, especially since her parents and sister count on the money she earns to keep things afloat. She has tried all kinds of jobs already when the opportunity comes up to work as a caretaker for Will Traynor. Will has been in a motorcycle accident that took away his movability and desire to live… His mother wants to hire Lou to show him that his life can be worth living, but what Lou doesn’t know at first is that she has a deadline: if she doesn’t convince Will in six months, his parents will have to assist him in ending his life. Will Lou be able to chance Will’s mind?

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I’m not saying Me Before You is a bad read; it’s a great story even though I had some problems with the characters and pace. I’m not sure if it was just me or if the story reads slow for everyone, but it took me a long time to actually finish it. The fact that Lou’s actions were starting to become annoying at points didn’t help either… And lastly, I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but I felt the story kind of gave the negative impression that it’s easy just to give up on life if something bad happens to you. Still, Me Before You was good enough for me to want to read the sequel some time in the future.

BOOK REVIEW: Confessions Of A Murder Suspect – by James Patterson

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Title: Confessions Of A Murder Suspect
(Confessions #1)
Author: James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 24th 2012
Finished reading: January 8th 2016
Pages: 372
Rating 4qqq

“He was already a sociopath, and he was just out of kinder-garten. I didn’t think much of it at the time. It was the family way.”

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I’m trying to read more mystery/thriller books this year, so I decided to pick up my copy Confessions Of A Murder Suspect. I have read various James Patterson books in the past, but this is the first one meant for a YA public. I simply flew through the pages of this book; as always his stories are more than entertaining. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro use an unreliable narrator to tell the story of the mystery around the double murder of the Angel parents, but do so without it becoming annoying. Sure, the Angel family is without doubt a very eccentric family to say the last and their whole situation is on the border of fantastical, but it IS an entertaining read with a surprising ending. (I really didn’t see it coming until the very end!) I’m not sure I actually liked the main characters, but I really liked the writing style and prose. The pace is superfast with just the right dose of suspense and plot twists… Definitely recommended if you are looking for a quick, slightly disturbing and entertaining read.

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When Malcolm and Maud Angel are found murdered, the only suspects seem to be the persons that were in their house at the time: their four children and their assistant. The mysterious and filthy rich Angel family has a lot of enemies, but there seem to be no signs of a break in… And the police doesn’t look for the killer elsewhere. Tandy Angel is determined to find out who killed her parents and decides to do her own detective work. She knows three things: she was the last person to see her parents alive, she and her three brothers are the only suspects the police focus on and she cannot trust even herself. Having grown up in the Angel’s house with the always present demand for perfection has left its mark on all children. Both the police and Tandy herself have a hard time finding out what really happened that night and who is guilty of what. The Angel family has a lot of secrets… Will Tandy be able to unravel the secret of her parents’ murder before the police will arrest both her and her siblings?

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This is not your average detective story and I personally really enjoyed the unreliable narrator/ eccentric family twist both authors have used in Confessions Of A Murder Suspect. The main characters might not be totally likeable, but they fit perfectly with the image of this almost dysfunctional family. The prose is easy to read and the many plot twists and fast pace make you want to continue reading until you reach the end. I read this book in less than 24 hours and I will definitely try to get a copy of the sequel soon to find out what other secrets the Angel family has. Recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: The Raven Boys – by Maggie Stiefvater

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Title: The Raven Boys
(The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 1st 2012
Finished reading: December 21st 2015
Pages: 416
Rating 4qqq

The fact was, by the time she got to high school, being weird and proud of it was an asset. Suddenly cool, Blue could’ve happily had any number of friends. And she had tried. But the problem with being weird was that everyone else was ‘normal’.

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I have wanted to start The Raven Cycle for a long time now, but after not really enjoying The Wolves Of Mercy Falls I somehow held back. Such a shame, because I actually liked The Raven Boys a lot better! I’m not fangirling all over the place like a lot of people, but I cannot deny it’s a more than solid read and very entertaining. The biggest problem I had would probably be the love triangle, but it seems that those are hard to escape anyway when you want to read a YA novel… But still, whenever they appear it’s quite annoying. The prose was really easy to read though and the characters are quite likeable; my favorite would probably be Blue and not only for her name. I love quirky and strong main characters! And the only reason it took me so long to actually finish this novel by Maggie Stiefvater is that I didn’t really have a lot of free time to read at the time I read it… Because I really enjoyed The Raven Boys and I will definitely try to read the sequel soon. Recommended!

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It is tradition that Blue goes along with her mother to the churchyard every year as the soon-to-be-dead walk past. Blue doesn’t exactly has powers herself, but her clairvoyant mother can see them. This year, things are different though when a boy shows himself to Blue and speaks directly to her…  For years, every paranormally gifted person has predicted that when Blue shares a kiss with her true love, he will die. And now everybody at Blue’s house thinks the poor boy will be her victim. Blue doesn’t believe it, because she would never hang out with a ‘raven boy’, a student at the local private school Aglionby, in the first place because they always mean trouble. But somehow she meets a few raven boys anyway while she is working and things soon start to change… And Blue is suddenly having a hard time keeping up with her promise to stay away from boys.

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I still want to hit my head for not reading this series first, because I liked The Raven Boys a lot better than Shiver and its sequels. The characters are better developed and I liked the overall story better as well. Sure, the love triangle was a minor setback, but the whole mystery/paranormal element really made up for it. It’s a very entertaining read and I will be looking forward to the sequel!