Stealing wings and winning hearts

Before I start my review of a book that pleasantly surprised me, I have some fantastic news to share with you all. I’m happy to say that I became an official reviewer for a new publisher: Dutch Venture Publishing. A Dutch publisher that aims to make the young adult genre and its Dutch authors more widely known and popular. Because I really support this goal I wrote an email to Jen Minkman the head of this publishing house telling (or begging just a little bit ūüėČ ) her that I really wanted to be part of her reviewteam. And to my good fortune I was picked as one of her official review members!!! The first book that I got to read in my new capacity ¬†is¬†Tweedehands Vleugels (Secondhand Wings in English) by Vanessa Gerrits and boy what a surprisingly good book! Let me first summarize what the story’s about and then I will tell you what I liked about it.

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Anna-Lucia is a guardian angel tasked to protect her charge Cathyryn, a young woman that’s pregnant for the first time. Due to an accident Cathy is in the hospital fighting for her own life and that of her unborn child. Anna-Lucia, Lucy for short, decides to break angelic rules and goes to the hospital after curfew to help her charge and the innocent, little baby. After a long time of watching over Cathy and her early-born baby boy Lucas, Lucy drags herself out of the hospital to go back to the angelic hive. But things take a wrong turn for Lucy when she steps outside of the hospital.

Max is a crow, a hybrid being: part human and partly engineered out of parts of mythical beings like werewolves. ¬†His stolen angelwings are failing and he needs a new set if he wants to keep flying. Lucky for him, and his friend, a reckless angel is out on the streets past curfew. Stealing body parts from mythical beings has never been a problem for Max, but something about this angelic girl touches his heartstrings and won’t let go. Not even after he cuts her wings off…

Let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The worldbuilding is really surprising. The story takes place in an imaginery world that looks a little bit like a 19th century steampunk Belgium (although the story takes place in an alternative future) mixed with supernatural elements. ¬†Eventhough the author doesn’t give too many details about her world the reader can nevertheless imagine what Lucy’s and Max’s city looks like. Zeppelins, pocketwatches, comics, engineered beings, angels, regular people, mythological creatures are some of the details that make the story world come to life.

The main characters are really well developed. Anna-Lucia is an angel in every way, she’s nice, compassionate, forgives easily and can’t stay mad or hurt people. She is a very likeable character that crawls under your skin from the beginning of the story. Max, on the other hand, is a bit of a rebel, he’s witty, rough around the edges, does what he has to without remorse or apologizing and lives life to the fullest. Max is also a character that sneaks up on you and really gets under your skin. The romantic relationship that develops between the two is really sweet and believable. Both can’t forget each other because of the wing theft. Max because, for the first time in a long time, he feels guilty and Lucy because she’s scared but at the same time curious why someone would steal the wings of another being. When Lucy sees Max again after he stole her wings she’s scared at first, but she learns pretty soon that Max is not a monster and has a big heart. Max learns that Lucy is not some pretty princess on her high horse, but a girl that genuinely cares about humans and someone who is impulsive and friendly. Despite everything they discover that a crow and an angel are not so incompatible as they first believed.

Obstacle to the romance between Max and Lucy is the angel J.J. A friend of Lucy’s who is hopelessly in love with her. When Lucy loses her wings he sweeps in to rescue her and proposes to her. In her fragile state Lucy agrees to marry him, but she regrets this decision soon afterward. I would have liked it if this love triangle would have been resolved a bit sooner, but unfortunately it drags the entire book long. Personally I hate love triangles and would rather see them disappear from YA stories, but alas writers seem to like them very much. Luckily the triangle in this book wasn’t too annoying and Lucy didn’t do the whole ‘Oh my who should I choose’ routine too often or long so that helped a lot.

The pace of this book is at times slow and other times a bit faster, but never really suspenseful. This may sound negative, but that’s not the case. The hook of the book (the first event that sets everything in motion) is fast and really grabs the attention, then the story unfolds slowly, giving the reader the chance to get to know Lucy and Max. Only when the main characters are properly and thoroughly established does the book pick up a bit more pace again and the reader gets to see how the two characters get to know each other and fall for each other. The main focus of the story is the love between Max and Lucy. And this is where one of my problems with this book comes in. I really like the story and love the relationship between the two main characters, but the ending seems unfinished and quite abrupt. Lucy discovers something horrible about her wings and Max feels guilty for putting her through all the ordeals that having no wings pose for Lucy so he decides to give up her wings, but that’s where it ends. We don’t see what happens next. I assume Max and Lucy will stay together, but it’s not clear. It seems as though the author didn’t know how to write the final emotionally charged scene between Lucy and Max and left it out all together, leaving me, the reader, with a bit of an unsatisfied feeling. I want to know how it really ends. Can Max give Lucy her wings back? Can Lucy forgive Max for stealing her wings leaving her without a vital part of herself maybe forever? Can Max forgive himself for the same thing and does he dare to face the love of his life again?

Another problem I had with this book were the faults. There are quite a few sentences that stop in the middle without a proper ending, or sentences that start over in the middle. Words that are put in double, words that are not finished properly, words that don’t exist in the Dutch language, names that are written incorrectly. And I don’t know if it was a flaw in the e-book but instead of comma’s there were small rectangles with x’s in them, which was rather annoying. I always think it’s a bit of a pity when things like that are not filtered out of the story because it pulls me out of the story instead of letting me drift away on the currents of the imagination of the author.

Nevertheless I really loved the story, especially because it had a really original world and characters, and a sweet love story! This is definitely a must-read :).               

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Coverlove Friday #4

It’s friday again. Time for another cover reveal! I was so happy this week, because I ordered Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in the Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classic edition and Herodotus’ Histories in the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition and they are so gorgeous <3.

Hopefully these books will be the first of many in my deluxe classics collection ūüôā because they are just as pretty on the outside as their contents are! Now, if you guys and girls will excuse me I will curl up in my bed and finish reading the Iliad ;). Good weekend to you all and may your days be filled with good books and cups of tea.

Romance and self-discovery in the great outdoors

Most of the time I read fantasy or paranormal novels for young adults as well as adults, but every once in a while I also read contemporary romance novels. However, I never read a book like The distance from me to you (by Marina Gessner) before. A book about a girl that decides to go hiking on her own and discovers her own strengths, as well as a love that almost seems fated. Let me first give you the description of this book and then I will tell you what I thought about this one (little spoiler: it was freaking awesome!)

McKenna Berney is a lucky girl. She has a loving family and has been accepted to college for the fall. But McKenna has a different goal in mind: much to the chagrin of her parents, she defers her college acceptance to hike the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia with her best friend. And when her friend backs out, McKenna is determined to go through with the dangerous trip on her own. While on the Trail, she meets Sam. Having skipped out on an abusive dad and quit school, Sam has found a brief respite on the Trail, where everyone’s a drifter, at least temporarily.

Despite lives headed in opposite directions, McKenna and Sam fall in love on an emotionally charged journey of dizzying highs and devastating lows. When their punch-drunk love leads them off the trail, McKenna has to persevere in a way she never thought possible to beat the odds or risk both their lives.

McKenna is a really well-developed and great character. She’s nice, absolutely fearless, brave, determined and doesn’t give up. Ever since she was in high school she has wanted to walk the Apalachian Trail, a hiking route of some 3000 km from Maine to Georgia that leads through mountains, forests and endless stretches of wild nature. She always planned on going with her best friend, but at the last moment her friend backs out. McKenna decides to hike the Trail on her own and makes her friend promiss to pretend as if she went along on the trip.

The hike is beautifully described. The reader doesn’t get all the details, which was fine by me because otherwise the book would have become a bit longwinded, I think. Instead the reader only experiences the special moments on McKenna’s trip. Her ups and downs and her self-discovery along the way, which makes for a great read.

On her trip McKenna runs into Sam, another hiker. Sam is walking the Trail for entirely different reasons than McKenna. When his father burns Sam with a cigarette for the umpteenth time, Sam snaps and hits his father, discovering that he is stronger than his father for the first time. But this strength doesn’t bring him any joy. Instead Sam wonders what has become of his life. His mother killed herself, his brother left him behind with their abusive father, and he himself has accomplished nothing (according to himself). Without further thought Sam packs a few clothes, an old tent and a sleepingbag and sets out on the Apalachian Trail. When he gets to the end he still doesn’t know what to do with his life and he turns around to walk the Trail again. On this second trip he runs into McKenna, an innocent girl who walks the Trail alone.

The relationship between these two very different characters is really beautiful. McKenna tries to be nice to Sam but he makes it very difficult. Sometimes he’s kind and funny, while other times he’s moody and cruel. But there’s just something about this boy that speaks to McKenna’s heart. Sam can’t seem to figure McKenna out. She seems to have everything in life: she’s got a loving family, friends, enough money and all the opportunities to make something of her life and yet she’s walking this dangerous Trail on her own. However, opposites do attract and Sam and McKenna can’t seem to help falling for eachother.

The ending of this book will leave you with teary eyes and a broken heart, yet at the same time with a hopeful feeling. I won’t spoil what happens. but will suffice to say that for one of the characters the hike will end in a disaster, ripping the two characters apart. However, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel because both characters will find their strengths and joys in life, eventhough they may not end up together at the close of the book.

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Wednesday – Quoteday #5

Jeey, it’s wednesday again! Normally I would post a quote, but today I like to shake things up a little and share a poem with you. This is actually one of my all-time favorite poems by one of my favorite poets. The title is There is no frigate like a book¬†and it’s written by Emily Dickinson.

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot

That bears a human soul! 

Sometimes books do feel like vessels that can take you to different places, don’t you think?

Stepford people and alien invasions – part two

As promised the conclusion to my review about the Last Year serie by Trisha Leigh. If you don’t like spoilers, don’t read this post! First I will give a description of book three in the series, then I’ll tell you about what I thought of this book and second I will do the same for the fourth and final book in the series.

Betrayals in Spring

Althea assumes now that she, Pax, and Lucas are reunited in spring that the next steps are obvious – locate Deshi and prepare to take down the Others once and for all. But she doesn’t expect the subtle changes in Lucas.

After being left alone last season with only his Element father for company, Lucas has started to question whether their rightful place isn’t with the strange alien race as opposed to humanity. When an emergency forces Lucas to aid the Others so they can remain on Earth, Althea worries that she’s lost him once and for all.

The one thing she knows is that Deshi’s the key to any hope of reclaiming the planet. So as the Others gut their already wobbly support system, Althea and Pax gather together the beginnings of a plan – and maybe an army.

Even if she can convince Lucas their side is the right one, the Prime Other holds Deshi captive and shrouds any knowledge about their fourth in clouds of secrecy. What they discover deep underground is a roadblock they didn’t expect – and one that could steal their last hope of saving humanity.

When I gave my review of the second book I mentioned that there was a love triangle I hoped would be resolved in the third book, and my hope was answered! Lucky for me, the love triangle only lasted til half of this book. And I must say that the author did a good job of complicating the relationships between the three Dissidents. Lucas has begun to waver in his commitment to saving humanity since his disappearance, which offers a snag in the plans Pax and Althea came up with. In this book the three also make some interesting new friends with some surprising abilities. But they also lose a few old friends.

Althea remains an interesting character that keeps developing which keeps you sucked in the story. Lucas and Pax also keep getting more mature and discover what they want out of life.

The tension also remains high, with even more at stake and more torture and murder. The ending is particularly good and will leave you with an urge to pick up the last installment in the series right away.  

Even after three books I’m still entertained and intrigued ¬†by this story. The worldbuilding remains well-developed. The characters keep growing and evolving. The antagonist gets more and more clear and defined. The tension remains strong and well dosed. And you just want to find out if the Others can be defeated, if Earth can be saved and if the heroes will get their happily ever after ;).

 

Summer Ruins

A final battle for the survival of Earth is coming. Between the alien Others and the destruction of humanity stand four dissidents.

When the Prime Other banishes them to the Harvest Site to live the remainder of their time on Earth as slaves, the Dissidents use the opportunity to learn more about the substance that keeps the Others alive… and how they might use it to their advantage. But the Others guard their secrets well, and the Prime Other has proven his willingness to do whatever’s necessary to secure a future for his race, no matter what or who is destroyed in the process.

When Althea and the boys realize their lives could be the key to allowing another planet to suffer the same fate as Earth they promise they’ll die before they let that happen. If they can’t figure out how to turn the tables in their favor before the SummerCelebration, they might have to do just that.

The end draws near, and there’s only one question left – are the Dissidents going to save their chosen people, or perish alongside them?

There’s only one word that describes the last book in this series and that is: Wow! The third book ended with a giant cliffhanger leaving Lucas, Pax and Althea captured by the Prime Other and betrayed by Deshi , their fourth Dissident. Now, they are shipped to the Harvest Site, a mining facility on the South Pole. Rather, than letting their current predicament get them down, the three decide to make the best of a bad situation. At the Harvest Site they discover what happens to the Broken humans, they are enslaved and forced to mine something from deep in the ground. Something the Others can’t live without. Teaming up with some old friends and some new ones they make a plan to use this information to their advantage and plan an escape. But, escaping proves to be difficult on a continent made of ice, with temperatures way below zero.

The friendship that develops between Deshi and Althea is really realistic and is a slow process which ensures the story remains suspenseful. Meanwhile the Prime Other and his children go on torturing and killing people to ensure the cooperation of the Dissidents.

I really liked that the plan to overthrow the Others was scientific instead of a big blowout with guns or something. I also liked the fact that the plan to save Earth didn’t go smoothly, ending the plot too soon.

This book is a emotional rollercoaster throwing you from sadness (over the deaths of some really nice and fun characters), to hopeful (that everything will work out), to angry (over the Prime Other and his children that seem to ellude every plan the Dissidents come up with), to sadness again (over more nice and fun characters), to happy (that some things do work out). It’s a worthy ending to a surprisingly good series. I really hope you guys and girls pick these up because the books deserve a lot of readers! This will definitely be one of those series I will re-read multiple times :).

 

Coverlove Friday #3

It’s friday!!! I love fridays. No work, little homework and plenty of time to read and write. Aaaand beautiful covers to reveal ;). This time I chose a cover that’s got to be one of my all-time favorites, namely: the cover of Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell. The cover was made by Manuel Sumberac, whom I hadn’t heard of before I saw this pretty design but I’m going to keep my eye out for more of his work for sure!

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Totally in love with this one! I’m really hoping that the next book in the series gets just as pretty a cover as this one.

Now, for what’s inside…

 

NIcolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.¬†

Then, on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there – and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules – be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

The inside of this book is just as surprising and beautiful as the outside. In this Cinderella-retelling Cinderella isn’t looking for a prince to rescue her. This tale is about a girl who discovers that the key to happines lies within herself and that life is what you make of it. And that sometimes friends can become the family you never had.

This book is for everyone that likes a little bit of steampunk, weird animals that have a mind of their own, a heroine who can handle herself and stands up for herself and her friends, and a prince charming that turns out to be a better friend than a boyfriend.    

Wednesday – Quoteday #4

Pff, I survived last week!!! Now, all my academic blogs (if you want you can check them out on deathinantiquity.wordpress.com and networkedmediterranean.weebly.com) and papers are done ¬†and turned in. That just leaves my thesis to be written, but at least I have some time to read a little more :). Usually I read some 20 books a month, but the last couple of months were so busy that I only read 7 to 12 books a month which seriously messed with my reading routine haha. I don’t know about you guys and girls but I always seem to read a new book or a new series and then pick up one of my older books that I read many times, before I start in another new book or series. I always thought that was just one of my weird quirks, until I found this quote by C.S. Lewis:

“It’s a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”

Do any of you have reading habits like this? Something you think is a bit weird, but could be something that a lot of readers do ūüėČ

Stepford people and alien invasions – part 1

Two weeks ago I promised you girls and guys to post a review about the Last Year serie by Trisha Leigh. Today I’m going to fulfill that promise, at least half of it, by reviewing the first two installments in the series. First, I will give you a short description of the first book, then I will tell you what I thought about it. Second, I will do the same for the second book.

Whispers in Autumn

In 2015, a race of alien Others conquered Earth. They enslaved humanity not by force, but through an aggressive mind control that turned people into contented, unquestioning robots.

Except sixteen-year-old Althea isn’t content at all, and she doesn’t need the mysterious note inside her locket to tell her she’s Something Else. It also warns her to trust no one, so she hides the pieces that make her different, even though it means being alone.

Until the autumn she meets Lucas, when everything changes.

Althea and Lucas are immune to the alien mind control, and together they search for the reason why. What they uncover is a stunning truth the Others never anticipated, one with the potential to free the brainwashed human race.

It’s not who they are that makes them special, but what.

And what they are is a threat. One the Others are determined to eliminate for good.

Let me start by saying that I loved this book! It’s such an original and emotional story. Main character Althea is well-developed. The author lets you see into her heart and her struggles and you can’t help but feel for this lonely girl. Althea knows she’s different. She seems to experience feelings that nobody else does. Sometimes water leaks out of her eyes and other times it’s like her blood is boiling and her temperature sky-rockets. What Althea doesn’t know is that the fire inside her is not a typical human or Other thing. It’s what sets her apart. The only thing that’s a little comforting to Althea is the note inside her locket telling her that there are others like her.

The world-building in this series is really cool. Althea and the others like her travel through seasons and between cities. Not traveling in a normal sense, but more like teleporting. Funny thing about that is, Althea experiences every season except summer. This one season she seems to skip. Because of the traveling Althea has multiple sets of parents, all in a different city and a different season. And none of these seem to miss her when she’s gone. It’s like they forget about her the moment she disappears to a new season. In the meantime the other humans live like unfeeling robots, doing the exact same things at the exact same time, day in day out. Even the classes in school are exactly the same. Talk about boring lectures ;).

Added to this intruiging world is the arrival of two boys: Lucas and Deshi. Lucas is just like Althea. He seems to feel things and when Althea discovers that he has a pet fish (while animals are strictly forbidden to humans) she knows there’s more to Lucas than meets the eye. Besides, Lucas smells like winter, while Althea smells like summer (the very seasons they never seem to experience for themselves). Deshi, on the other hand makes Althea nervous and afraid, eventhough he too smells like a season (spring) and seems to feel things. There is just something about him that makes her skin crawl. The friendship and love that develops between Lucas and Althea is really sweet. It’s so nice to see them find someone that understands how they feel.

Lastly, there is the magic or rather abilities that Lucas and Althea have. Althea can use her bodywarmth to create fire with her hands, while Lucas can do the opposite and uses his cool temperature to freeze things. Then there’s also the mind control the Others use. It’s really cool!

This one is definitely a must-read!

 

 

Winter Omens

In this section there may be some spoilers about the ending of the first book, so, if you really hate spoilers don’t read this part ;).

Althea and Lucas barely escaped the Others’ clutches in the autumn, and were seperated in the process. Alone and on the run from the cruel alien race determined to exterminate her, Althea struggles to adapt and survive in a world she never imagined.

When a boy named Pax appears out of nowhere, he quickly recognizes Althea for what she is – a human/Other hybrid just like him. Althea begs him to help her find Lucas, but Pax refuses, intent on following his own mysterious agenda.

The Others’ presence continues to devour the planet’s resources, and if history is an indication, they won’t leave until Earth is destroyed beyond repair. Althea and Pax sense the only way to save themselves – and maybe their home – is to understand the powers simmering inside them.

Together they push the limits of their capabilities in the quiet Wilds, but are soon confronted with a terrifying fact: no place is safe from the relentless pursuit of the Others.

Least of all their own minds.

The development of Althea’s character throughout these books is really good. In the first book she was a lonely and somewhat scared girl that slowly discovered her strengths, and in this book she gets even stronger. She learns how to survive on her own in the Wilds, the ruined parts of America that have been reclaimed by nature and animals. Although the way Althea meets Pax is a bit too convenient and lacks a bit of subtlety, I really like the addition of another character. Pax is one of those guys that are funny, a little bit arrogant and over confident, but let you be all that you can be by pushing you to your limits. Something that Althea really needs because sometimes she’s a bit scared or reluctant to do the things that are scary or that need to be done. These two characters really complement each other.

I’m a bit sorry to say that this is one of those ya series where the never ending love triangle pops up in. I don’t know what it is, but 9 out of 10 ya books (written by female authors) seem to have one of those and I really, really, really hate them! Don’t get me wrong I love romance and most of the time both boys seem nice and pretty and what not, but what’s the fascination with these triangles? It’s not like every teenage girl on the world miraculously gets two sexy boys running after them when they turn sixteen or something! So, why do girls in ya books have to go through this whole annoying process of ‘woe is me, which boy shall I ever choose. They are both so handsome and sweet. And oh my, those abs! Look at those! Woe is me, how can I say no to one of those two rugged, sexy boys?’ Yeah, that shit gets old really fast and writers seem to enjoy the prolonged torture of their readers by smearing this indecision out across multiple books. Enough already!!!¬†I really hope this triangle will be resolved in the next book.

Luckily, the abilities and the world-building are still really good. Althea discovers that even though the mind control doesn’t seem to work on her and the other Dissidents, this doesn’t mean that she can’t go inside her mind and explore the tunnels that link her mind to the Others’. But, this proves to be very dangerous because the Others can get into her mind just as she can get into theirs. Now she not only has to fight them in the outside world, but also within her mind.

The suspense is turned up a notch in this book and murder and torture fill the pages, making you want to read further and shout ‘no’ at the same time. So, despite the love triangle this book is also a must-read! It’s even better than the first and I really enjoyed and loved that one already :).

Wednesday – Quoteday #3

And it’s wednesday again! I’m still really busy with school, but there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel haha. My exam is done, my first academic blog and paper are done too, so that just leaves one other blog and paper and my thesis! Slowly, but surely things are wrapping up (thank goodness).

I don’t know about you girls and guys, but I love to get lost in books. Love how the words of an author, a person you don’t ¬†know, can transport you across continents, dimensions and even take you to completely imaginary places and still make you feel at home. Like you somehow belong with the characters between the pages. I think that is also the reason why I love paranormal, fantasy, fairytale and science fiction stories, because they bring a little magic and wonder to a world that seems particularly focussed on technology and progress. Every once in a while (or in my case every evening) you just want to slow down and forget about the world. Go someplace new, with new people. And amazingly enough books alow you to do so <3.

The quote I picked out today describes the way I feel about books perfectly. The quote is by Jean Rhys:

“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.”

Absolutely beautiful, isn’t it? And it’s so true.