Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: Alienated (Alienated #1) by Melissa Landers

Release Date: April 4, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Age group: YA
Pages: 352 (kindle edition)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.



MY THOUGHTS:

Alienated is one of those books that kind of came out of nowhere, at least for me. I had not heard anything about it before it's publication. Then I started seeing it on book blogs, BookTube and Goodreads and the reviews for it were generally quite raving. I acquired a copy of my Kindle, thinking that I will give it a chance once I'm in mood for some science fiction.

Oh well, it did not really fill my graving for science fiction, but it did give me a load of high school drama and cute romance in a form of a quick, entertaining read. 

Two years ago, the aliens made contact with the earth. Sharing nearly identical DNA with the humans, the alien race called L'eirhs are like a cold, more intelligent version of the human race. They have been selectively bred and cloned and thus they are in general superior to a ordinary human being. Cara is the Valedictorian and the queen of the debate team, but her school year does not get quite the beginning she expected when she's told that she has been selected to host of the three L'eirh exchange students sent to earth. Though she is not over the moon about babysitting an alien for a year, the scholarship money the exchange brings seems tempting and eventually makes her say yes.

The moment Cara sees Aelyx, she realizes that she has never seen a guy quite as hot as her new exchange student. But the hotness is dampened by the cold and collective behavior of Aelyx who seems more like a robot than a human for most of the time. But when the paranoia of the general public against the aliens and people associated with them increases, Cara and Aelyx end up forming a bond that eventually could become something more than just a forced friendship.

As I said, this book is very DRAMA heavy. It is the general high school backstabbing drama that is oh so entertaining, but also, oh so unrealistic. Cara is the Valedictorian, but to be honest, she does not seem super intelligent or hard-working. When I hear the word 'Valedictorian' in description for a novel,I expect an awesome, nerdy, a bit socially awkward, hardworking character. Cara is not that. I feel like she spends more time drooling after Aelyx than actually working on school assignments. Aelyx, of course, is super hot, but at first does not seem to have the hots for Cara. But he gets  more human side while spending time with humans and realizes that some humans might actually be not that bad. 

I found Alienated to be very entertaining, fast-paced and occasionally quite funny as well. Surprisingly, the author is able to avoid instalove, which was a definite bonus. I was kind of disappointed about the lack of detail that I usually am able to find from science fiction novels, but very quickly I realized that I should probably just treat this as a high school romance type of book rather than a scifi read. I did not really connect with the characters or the events, but despite that, I did find that Alienated was just what I needed - a bit silly, fast-paced romp for the weekend nights.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen

Release date: March 20th, 2014
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Age group: New Adult
Pages: 268
Buy the book: Amazon

Description (from Goodreads):

The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else.

What now?


She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.

Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.

Also, he’s taken.

Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.

They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.

But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.



MY THOUGHTS:

Corey Callahan loves ice hockey. Since she was child it has been major part of her life - her brother used to play, her father used to coach and she herself also spent all the free time she had on ice. In high school she was the captain of the ice hockey team on her way to college hockey teams. Then she got injured and EVERYTHING changed. She had to switch her skates to a wheelchair and her dreams of playing college hockey went down the toilet. But she's not ready to give up her dreams of going to the school her brother used to go to, Harkness College.

Despite her fussing parents, Corey's college experience starts well. The room that she has at the dorm is big and beautiful and she instantly feels like she has won in the roommate lottery when she meets Dana, a girl who has spent her high school years in Japan. And then she meets Adam Hartley, her neighbor and one of the stars of the college's ice-hockey team, relaying on crutches with a big cast on his leg. Corey and Hartley connect instantly - they both understand how it feels not to be able to do something they love (play hockey). Hartley does not treat Corey like she's a cripple and completely helpless, but rather challenges her in more than one way. They play video games, watch films and confine in each other and very quickly Corey realizes that she is falling for Hartley... Too bad that he has a girlfriend who's doing a foreign exchange in France.

I really liked Corey. She is strong and independent and though she is in a situation she did not expect to find herself in she does not give up. Yes, she might whine occasionally, but who wouldn't? She's also funny and extremely likable, which made it easy to connect with her and to feel for her. I love ice hockey myself and though I've never played competitively, I totally got her love for the sport. Hartley is totally swoon worthy (duh, he's a hockey player) and though there were so things he did that I did not fully understand and support, I did end up liking him.

There's sort of a love triangle in the story, but it is clear right away what the "right" pairing is. Hartley's girlfriend Stacia is snobby, bitchy rich girl who mostly just thinks of herself. She's kind of a cliche and maybe a bit too much Corey's opposite. The author does not really give any humanity to Stacia, which occasionally feels like the easy way out; she makes her so unlikable that there's no way you could think that Hartley should stay with her. But her does, for a way too long and Hartley ends up doing something which I do not accept myself from someone who's in a relationship. Yes, he is with the wrong person, but that does not justify it, at least not in my opinion. 

Also, one little thing that kind of annoyed me was this "hope fairy" Corey keeps talking about. Basically, it is the voice inside her head that keeps telling her that maybe she has a chance with Hartley and that maybe he's as into her as she's to him. At first this did not really bother me, but then this weird "fairy" is mentioned again and again and I kind of started to feel like the author repeats it way too many times. I feel like this might be just me though and in no way did this little glitch take the enjoyment out of the story.

Despite the little issues I had with this book, in general I enjoyed it. It did not change my life, but it was entertaining, fast-paced and cute. The author does not shy away from the seriousness of Corey's incident and its aftermath, but she also doesn't dwell on it either. The likable female protagonist and a hot love interest who's ready to admit his wrongdoings definitely make it worth a read for all fans of new adult fiction. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Release date: January 5, 2012
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Michael Joseph/Penguin
Age group: Adult
Pages: 480 (paperback)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.


MY THOUGHTS:

I had heard A LOT of things about this book before reading it. I actually bought a copy of it already during the spring of this year, thinking that I would read it during the summer. But then someone told me that it is super sad and should not be read during the summer time... So I left it in Edinburgh for summer when I traveled home. Later on, I heard that it is really difficult to put down. I heard that the characters are great and that the expectations for the movie adaptation are super high

From the synopsis to the novel I made my own deductions. I thought Lou is a bit OCD because of the whole "she knows how many steps there are between the bus stop and home." After reference to the motorcycle accident, I knew that Will would somehow be disabled, but I did not expect the level of disablement that actually happens. I read adult "romance" novels so rarely I kind of expected his injury would be more on the mental side (stripping of his pride) and that there would be a really cliche recovery moment that just happens out of the blue. So yes, I was expecting for a cliche, syrupy story. I got something completely different....

At the age of 26/27 (she has her birthday during the timeline of the book), Lou as never left her little hometown. She works in a cafe, still lives with her parents and seems to be stuck in a relationship with a guy who she does not seem to have anything in common with anymore. She dresses differently than the people around her and she is constantly ridiculed by her family (though this is apparently done in a humoristic manner), and when the cafe she has been working in for over 6 years suddenly closes down, she finds herself in a situation she has never faced before - 26, unemployed, expected to be the breadwinner for the whole family. After some failed attempts with jobs given by the job centre, Lou is directed towards a job as a personal carer for a disabled man... That is how she meets Will.

Will used to be a big deal. He lived in London, had a successful job, beautiful women around him, the money to travel around the world. He I lived in a world of luxury and excess. But one faithful morning he is injured in a motorcycle accident and everything changes. He becomes a quadriplegic, meaning that he loses control of most of his limbs and his everyday tasks and actions become dependent on other people. He is put in a wheelchair and wheeled away from London to live with his parents in a small English town that feels very small and claustrophobic to him. He loses all hope and just want to die. And then he meets Lou...

In a cliche Nicholas Sparks type of romance these characters would first hate each other, then suddenly fall in love and in the end Will would either go through a miraculous recovery or he would die, but it would be in this very grand manner after everything they have ever wanted to say to each other. His last words would probably be "I love you" and then Lou, in a 10 years later chapter, would still hold on to him and no one else. But as I said, this was not what I expected. Lou and Will do hate each other first and the process of actually getting to a point that they can stand each other even a little takes time. Will is stubborn, depressed and ready to give up. Lou finds herself in a situation in which her optimism and open personality suddenly do not take effect. As Will realizes that there really is no other option than to try and get through the days with Lou, he starts to open up and gradually they start to realize that they actually like spending time together. Will talks about his life before the accident and Lou talks about her family. They start to take small trips together and Lou starts to spend more time at Will's that was specified in the job agreement. 

Though the two characters find a connection, it feels like there is a quiet time bomb ticking in the background. Lou has been given a 6 month contract to the job and it has been agreed that if the mood of Will does not change, something else has to be tried after that. Lou desperately wants to make Will happy, but as time goes by, she starts to realize there might not be anything that can make this man happy, not after what he has left behind due to the accident. 

The romance in this book is actually pretty toned down. There are no cliche romantic grand gestures (if you are waiting for a proposal in front of a fountain while there are fireworks in the sky... this book is not for you) and it is actually more of a story about a friendship than a fiery romance. The connection between Lou and Will is tangible and the way it develops is totally worth the read! They both become so real on the pages of the novel that in the end you feel like you actually know them... at least that is what happened to me. I wanted good things for them both, I wanted them to be happy. 

Moyes writes well and though the subject matter of this book is pretty heavy, there are incredibly funny bits in this book as well. When starting with it I did not know that it was set in England (for some reason I expected it to be set in US) and for a while I was not quite sure what to feel about the setting, but eventually I did start to like it and maybe actually got some of the very dry British humor from there. I am used to reading romance novels set in US, but this was a nice breath of fresh air and definitely made me more open to other contemporary stories set in UK. 
The novel is told mostly through the point of view of Lou, but the short chapters that occasionally take place from point of view of the characters around Lou and Will give a new perspective to the bond that is forming between them, opening the story up a bit more. In general, Me Before You was a rather quick read (and indeed, difficult to put down), and though it is sad, there is also a very shining glimpse of hope found from there. I cried, but not all the tears were a result of sadness.

The film adaptation of the novel is expected to come out in 2015 with Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as Lou and the gorgeous Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games films) as Will. The main cast sounds amazing on paper, so my expectations for the adaptation are pretty high. I mean, Sam Claflin... COME ON. 


Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Release Date: May 4, 2010
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Age group: YA
Pages: 343 (paperback)
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it's Amy's responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn't ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip - and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar - especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory - but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.



MY THOUGHTS:


I knew that I was right when I decided to save this book for summer because it proved to be the perfect summer book - even though it was read during a cold, rainy day. 

Amy Curry's normal, somewhat boring life ends when her father dies in a car accident  during a normal, boring afternoon. The life she has known - her parents, her brother, he friends and school as well as her home in California - all start to feel very distant suddenly. Her father is gone, her mother does not talk about what happened, her brother is sent to rehab, she does not know how to talk to her friends and on top of everything, her mother decides to sell their house in California and move the family to Connecticut. Amy is too sad and too numb to even complain too much. After a lonely month spent in California, her mother tells her that Amy won't be able to fly to Connecticut after all, but that she would have to drive from there to Connecticut. But since Amy is not ready to drive after the accident, her mother has asked Roger, her friend's son, to drive the car and Amy across the country. So now Amy is not only fatherless and forced to live in a new time, but also forced to take a road trip with a complete stranger. Yay.

Roger has promised to spend the summer at East Coast with his father. But that is not the only reason he wants to hit the road - there is someone he has left things open with, someone he really needs to talk with. When Amy presents him with the detailed plan for the trip, Roger suggests that they take a little detour. Even though Amy is used to being the one who goes by the rules, she agrees. That agreement leads to a wonderful journey filled with important places, several fast food restaurants, the loneliest road in America, new people and most importantly, new friendships and relationships. Both Amy and Roger have something they need to sort out, something they have to go through before they can open up for new possibilities and relationships. 

I loved this book so much. As someone who has also lost her father, I felt such a connection to Amy and what she feels and I honestly found myself crying several times while I was reading this, just because the feelings of Amy where so easy to relate with and they managed to bring up some memories. Amy feels like she hasn't quite been herself since her father died, but as more time goes on and as she opens up for new experiences and possibilities, she sees glimpses of her old self coming back while she is also introduced to a new, better side of herself. Roger is such a sweetheart and I pretty much instantly fell in love with him. Yes, he is hot, but he is so much more than that. He is kind, funny, kind of nerdy, easy to talk with and most importantly, he really seems to care about Amy. The relationship that develops between the two really takes its time, which I really liked, because it makes the story so much more realistic.

I instantly fell in love with Matson's style of writing. She has created characters that are funny and honest, raw and real. The dialogue flows well and you really feel like you're actually there, listening to these people talk. The road trip is well established and the text really takes the reader along on the journey with these characters. I have always wanted to do a road trip in US and it actually almost felt like I was on one, even though in reality I was in my living room in rainy Finland.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel where the little scrapbook segments featuring pictures, shop receipts, playlists etc. These little details add so much to the story and they just are super fun to look at. Also the chapter openings with quotations and song lyrics are really well chosen and fit so well to the story. I actually found the some of the playlists from 8tracks - you can access them for here if you are interested. 

I really don't have anything negative to say about this book. I talked about this with a couple of people who have also read it and they said they would have liked maybe a one more chapter to the end, but for me, the final scrapbook item at the last page felt like the perfect finish. This book definitely became one of my favorites of all time and I'm so happy that I own a copy of it so I can reread it whenever I feel like doing so. A wonderful, honest, romantic and funny summer read I want to recommend for EVERYONE!