Those Who Save Us

Those-Who-Save-UsI love historical novels. The fact that the stories are based on events that have actually happened, in my opinion, makes the novels a bit more special. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum is a perfect example of such a story.

 
Those Who Save Us brings us in Germany in the 1940’s –WWII. Anna Schelmmer a young, German woman who falls in love with a Jewish doctor. When the life of her lover is threatened, she decides to hide him in her father’s home. However, her father, a Nazi supporter, discovers her secret and turns the young doctor over to the Gestapo.

 
Shortly after, Anna leaves her father’s house and gives birth to a little girl, Trudy. Anna is left alone to provide and care for her daughter in spite of poor living conditions brought on by the war. She does whatever it takes to give Trudy the best life in the poor circumstances and sacrifices so much for her daughter’s life as well as her own.

 
Jenna Blum took a risk to write a Holocaust story from a German perspective. However, I believe it was very well executed. Her writing is beautiful and the story is a moving one.

 
To all the history buffs out there as well as anyone looking for a great read, add this one to the list.

-Athena

“Life is so often unfair and painful and love is hard to find and you have to take it whenever and wherever you can get it, no matter how brief it is or how it ends.”
― Jenna Blum, Those Who Save Us

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Wave

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Once in a while, I love to pick up non-fiction books. Whether it’s a biography, a memoir or a simple textbook, I always feel as though I always gain something out of reading a non-fiction book. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala wasn’t an exception to this rule.

Wave is a memoir about Sonali Deraniyagala’s miraculous survival when a tsunami hit the southern coast of Sri Lanka while she and her family were on vacation. While she was lucky to have survived, she also lost most of her family, including her two sons and husband.

This story is not only about Sonali’s survival from the tsunami but also her learning to live without the people she loved most afterward. During the course of the book, we see her struggle through different grieving stages.

I found this book extremely eye-opening. As someone who has not had many great losses in her life, I sometimes have trouble understanding exactly how much grief and pain people go through. This has been a big challenge when I first started Wave. Though it’s hard for me to relate to what Sonali has been through, I was able to experience a bit of it through her eyes which, in turn, has helped me become a bit more compassionate.

It took me over a month to finish Wave and at less than 300 pages, it’s not because it was a long read but because it’s a very heavy and draining one. I needed to take time off from it because at times I felt so emotionally drained and needed to think of other things. Sonali’s story is not an easy one to read, and it’s not supposed to. Having lost her family, you can be sure her voice is very negative throughout a good part of the book which was something that turned me off for a while, that is, until I started imagining how I’d react in her position. I’d probably have very similar thoughts.

If you’re looking for a story that will make you think and feel until you have no more energy left; If you’re looking for a book that is not embellished and tells it like it is; If you’re not intimidated by very dark and real stories, may I suggest giving Wave a try?

-Athena

“Their promise, my children’s possibilities, still linger in our home.”
― Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

15749186For a few months, all I’ve heard was how amazing this book was. It was described as “genius” or “the best book ever”. Naturally, I wanted to see what the big deal was, so I made my way onto Amazon and purchased this book that had everyone so excited.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han is the story of a young girl; Lara Jean, who, to get over her crushes, writes them love letters spilling all of her thoughts into them. However, those letters are never sent. They are hidden away in a hat box Lara Jean keeps in her closet… that was the plan, anyway. One day, Lara realizes her letters have all been sent to her former crushes when they suddenly approach her asking for an explanation.

After reading the synopsis, I was excited to read the book. This story sounded so much fun. I was wondering how Lara Jean would keep things together, what she’d come up with and exactly what would come out of her predicament. Alas, I was disappointed with the outcome.

First of all, I’m not a fan of Lara Jean as a character. Though I understand that she’s only 16-years-old, I don’t remember myself, or any other 16-year-old, to have her mindset. She has such a childish, whiny voice, I kept imagining she was 13. She seems to have little experience in pretty much every aspect of her life which brings me to ask myself “what has she been doing for 16 years?”. This girl should be getting ready for college in merely 2 years and she doesn’t seem even close to being able to live on her own.

The plot isn’t much better either. Though I thought it might be an interesting one, pretty much nothing significant happens throughout the book and what does happen is a result of Lara Jean’s lack of backbone and maturity. Instead of sucking up and telling the truth to one of the boys who asks to explain the letter and tell him that she had feelings for him and might still have them, she decides to put together a story that snowballs and gets her into a surrealistic situation.  I understand that a shy 16-year-old might not have the guts to reveal her feelings to her crush, but she goes through so much trouble to avoid a bit of grief which I have a hard time understanding.

Though I admit, a few of the scenes were adorable, I felt most of the story was unnecessary . A normal teen wouldn’t have reacted the way Lara Jean has.

I know this is a book that has been loved by many but it was seriously not my cup of tea. If you think this is a book you’d like, I encourage you to read it and let me know your thoughts on it.  :)

-Athena

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“You only like guys you don’t have a chance with, because you’re scared.”
― Jenny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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The Fault In Our Stars

The_Fault_in_Our_StarsSince the film is now out in theatres, I thought it was about time I read the book that had everyone so excited. And so, another book was added to my already too-full bookshelf.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is a contemporary YA  following our main character, Hazel as she tries to live her life as a normal teen despite having cancer. During one of her many painfully dull trips at the cancer support group, a gorgeous boy catches her eye. She doesn’t know it yet, but Augustus Waters will change her life.

What I am going to say next will probably earn me an inbox full of hate mail but here goes: This book disappointed me.

Not to say that it wasn’t good. I actually quite enjoyed it but hearing about it and seeing the numerous TFIOS decorated tissue boxes everyone was putting together to go see the film, I thought I was going to read something that would change my life.

In my opinion, I would have enjoyed the novel much more if the premiss would have been less about the book they read, An Imperial Affliction. AIA had its place in TFIOS. I understand it was a big part of Hazel and it was a book she felt she could relate to but I felt as though the story focused a bit too much on it.

Though it wasn’t life-changing read I thought it would be, I can’t deny that John Green is an amazing writer. I loved how he portrayed his characters. They both main characters were fun, quirky, witty, and normal teens. Too often do I read cancer-related novels where the characters are defined by their illness. This wasn’t one of them. Obviously, cancer affects pretty much every aspect of their lives but Green has done a great job in making sure his characters also had a personality of their own and were ones I could relate to.

I also loved the relationships between the characters. Whether it was Hazel and her parents, Gus and Hazel with their friend Isaac, or Hazel and Augustus, they all felt genuine and natural to me. I’m also happy to say that there was no insta-love (which is something that is very recurrent in YA).

Despite TFIOS not living up to its hype in my eyes, I felt as though it was a great read. However, I believe I would have enjoyed it even more had I not expected so much from it and I do think it’s a wonderful book to add to your collection. Okay? Okay.

- Athena

My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations -The Fault In Our Stars, John Green

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Dangerous Creatures

Dangerous Creatures 2I am a little bit embarrassed to admit that I did not see this book coming. I read all of the Beautiful Creatures series. The way it ended felt pretty finite but Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl pulled a trick on me. I was utterly unaware that they were releasing another book in the series. Needless to say, I was both shocked and excited.

Garcia and Stohl’s Dangerous Creatures is a spin off series that follows Ridley Duchannes, Lena Duchannes’ cousin, and her on again off again boyfriend, Link, who happens to be Ethan Wate’s best friend. Now if you haven’t read the four books + 2 ebooks prior to this, I would recommend doing so for obvious reasons. Even though I want to talk about this book in detail, I’ll refrain from mentioning major plot twists from the series.

This was a great surprise and I was ecstatic to start reading it as soon as possible. I do this thing where I tend obsess over secondary or supporting characters in a book or a series. Ridley happened to be my favourite in the series, so you can imagine my excitement.

In this book, we get Ridley’s view on things. If you’ve read the books prior to this one, it isn’t an easy feat. As a both a Dark caster and a Siren, it was very interesting to see her train of thought and what she hides underneath that bad girl façade that she always bluntly displays to the world. We get a glimpse into her inner battles. We get underneath her skin as the Beautiful Creatures series continues with issues that I thought were resolved but let’s be honest, the ending was a little bit glossed over.

This was a really great book, I am biased because they are my favourite people in the series but I am sure any Beautiful Creatures fan would find appreciation with it nevertheless. A book like this can go both ways. Some fans can be sad to see a series end while others are relieved by it. I am the former. I love series and I never want them to end.

This book definitely revived the series for me and I don’t want to give anything away but I will say this, I believe we will be seeing more of Ridley and Link in the future. Which I think is great.

- wickedsparks

“When it came to relationships, the truth never set anyone free. The truth only set things on fire.”

- Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Dangerous Creatures.

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Wither

wither1I am guilty of judging books by their cover. If the artwork or lettering is appealing to me, I take the time to open it up and look at the summary. Titles influence my fascination as well. As for Wither by Lauren Destefano, the cover page was aesthetically pleasing to my eyes and it grabbed my attention. The artwork is gorgeous but a title such as Wither confused me, that it until I read it.

It is set in a kind of dystopian future, as with a lot of YA novels but this one felt different to me. Orphaned at twelve, Rhine and her twin brother Rowan, barricade themselves in their family home and slave away everyday at demanding jobs in order to survive. The world is corrupted. Obviously.

It follows Rhine, who is only sixteen years old when she is kidnapped and brought to a remote location to become one of three brides of Linden, a twenty-two year old also known as the Governor. Sick and twisted right? It gets worse.

Mankind is at a disadvantage in this story because no girl lives past the age of twenty and boys die at the ripe old age of twenty-five. Yikes.

Scientists played with genetics in order to prolong the human lifespan and fix any underlying diseases such as cancer. Needless to say it had a devastating effect. The first generation flourished with these modifications and have an extended lifespan, their offspring however, are subjected to consequences and death in their early twenties.

Rhine befriends Gabriel, one of the mansion’s servants, and together they seek to escape the confines of the estate. This is a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I could not put this book down and I read it in no time at all. Although, there are times where things are not explained and you are left wondering but it is part of the Chemical Garden trilogy and I am so glad that there are more to come.

- wickedsparks

The man in white says, “What fate has brought together, let no man tear asunder.” Fate, I think, is a thief.

- Lauren Destefano, Wither.

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What Came First

11684995-what-came-first-by-carol-snowAfter my fun and … interesting read of Bad Taste In Boys, my craving for a contemporary/chick lit was still in full effect (since the last book I read was far from contemporary).  So I decided to grab What Came First by Carol Snow. Because I don’t seem to learn to never choose a book based on the cover, I deduced that this book was what I wanted. The chick hanging out in baby socks kind of screamed chick lit, I thought. And this time, I was right.

What Came First by Carol Snow is an adult fiction that includes everything from engagements to kids to insane jealous girlfriends. It’s a very entertaining read that had me simultaneously wanting and dreading to have children. Seriously, this book played with my head.

The story follows three women. Vanessa, who is 29 and whose only wish is to receive an engagement ring from her longtime boyfriend, Eric so they can get married, settle down and start a family. Eric, on the other hand doesn’t think that’s the kind of life he wants to have.

Wendy and her husband, Darren have two children; twins who were conceived with the help of a sperm donor since they couldn’t have children the old fashion way. However, Wendy never imagined herself having two out of control kids while her husband does nothing more than play computer games all day.

Then there’s Laura, a career-driven woman who desperately wanted a child and knew she could have one with or without the help of a man. Her son, Ian was also born thanks to the help of a sperm donor. She’ll do anything for Ian, give him anything he wants. What he wants is a sibling.

Having no children, I didn’t feel I was able to identify with these women. Though I could try to imagine what my reaction would be in their position, I know it’s easier said than done. But even though I haven’t lived anything remotely close to their situation, I still enjoyed the book and seeing the comparison between the three women and their thought process.

I would consider this a great summer read. It’s light and very easy to read. It’ll make you giggle, frown and even think a little. It might also leave you wanting pet chickens.

-Athena

Angie’s kids get pizza rolls, french fries, and some orange drink that supposedly contains vitamin C and calcium. Angie says “If you deprive kids, they’ll end up craving stuff.” Which makes her sound better than “I’m too lazy to cook real food.” – What Came First, Carol Snow

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Bad Taste In Boys

best coversBad Taste in Boys_Harris high defI had this one completely wrong. Tonight I felt in a contemporary mood. So when I looked on my bookshelf and saw Bad Taste In Boys by Carrie Harris, I thought it would be perfect. Not only is it SUPER short, but judging by the cover, something I should really learn NOT to do, It looked like just the book I needed tonight. Not quite.

Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I did. It just wasn’t at all the type of book I thought I had chosen.

Bad Taste In Boys follows super-intelligent Kate Grable, a high school junior who aspires to get into college and become MD. She’s intelligent and funny, but a bit socially awkward. She describes herself as a string bean who looks like she belongs in a library doing research on weird medical mysteries – a “nerd”. To improve her college application, Kate volunteers as the school’s football team paramedic and that’s where things get …strange.

Kate finds out that the football coach has been giving the team some sort of drug. She has no clue was is in the drug but some of the boys start acting very weird -sort of…zombie-like.

Though this was not the kind of story I expected to be reading tonight, it was an enjoyable one. This book had me confused, cringing and giggling all at once and the dark humour just tied in everything nicely.

Don’t pick this book up thinking you’ve got a profound read that will change how you see the world, but if you’re looking for a quick, easy and entertaining read, I’d suggest giving Bad Taste In Boys a try!

-Athena

“I stumbled into a clearing. In the springtime, it was probably the kind of place you’d like to hang out with sparkly vampires. But it was slightly less attractive in the rain.”― Carrie HarrisBad Taste in Boys

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One Kick

One KickI’ve been so lucky these past few months and won so many great books from Goodreads. One Kick by Chelsea Cain was one of them and probably my favourite so far.

This story follows Kick Lannigan who was kidnapped when she was only six and found a few years later. It’s obvious that the kidnapping has changed a lot in different aspects of her life. As a result, she has grown to become a tough woman who I would not want to mess with. She has learned how to defend herself  by mastering different sports such as boxing and Tae kwon do as well as knowing a thing or two about weapons.

Kick is surprised by a visit from John Bishop, a wealthy former weapons dealer asking for help. He is determined to find two local kids who have gone missing in the past month and thinks Kick would be of some help. Though she’s not too fond of him, after much considerations, she agrees to team up.

To be honest, I thought I had it all figured out after the first few chapters. I thought I knew exactly how the story would unfold and though I did get some elements right, for the most part it wasn’t quite as predictable as I thought.

There isn’t much I didn’t enjoy about this book. The only negative thing I can come up with, and this may only be because my head was elsewhere when I started the novel, is that it took me a while to see the characters’ personalities. Kick didn’t come to life for me until the second half of the book. After the second half though, she kicked ass!

I’m so happy I received this book. I hadn’t read anything by Chelsea Cain before One Kick and now that I have, I want more. I love her writing style, her stories and that she’s not afraid to add a little gore to them.

I’m not sure whether this book is a part of a series but the ending made me want to know so much more!

One Kick will be released in August 2014, just in time to finish your summer reading with a bang.

 -Athena

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Tic Tac Tome

20140520_131233This morning I opened the door and found this little package on my front step from Quirk Books. This is such and unusual little book that is actually quite addicting.

The way to use Tic Tac Tome by Willy Yonkers is actually very simple. You play tic tac toe against this little book by turning the pages. Let me warn you though, chances are you won’t win. There’s only one way to beat it so be sure to ponder every move.

This is the perfect thing to bring on a trip. Small and compact, it can fit nearly anywhere and will entertain you for hours on end (as I said, it IS addicting).

Before starting your game, be sure to read the introduction as well as the FAQs which are hilarious.

Will you be the victor? Or will you let a mere book make a fool of you? 

-Athena

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