Showing posts with label Eline's Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eline's Reviews. Show all posts

May 13, 2015

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli



Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon Spier isn’t your typical high school junior. He doesn’t go to parties much, he’d rather have a part in the school musical than be on any of the sports teams, and has an insane obsession with Oreos that should definitely be mentioned.  The fact that the only person Simon has ever told he is gay is someone he has only ever emailed with is nothing compared to that.

Between hanging out with his friends, rehearsing for the school musical Oliver!, going to school, and being forced to watch the Bachelorette with his family, Simon still manages to find time to email with Blue, a boy who attends his school but who he has never met and can’t help but slowly be falling for. Nobody knows about Blue, or both of them being gay, but that is about to change. Not properly logging out of Gmail on a school computer is all it takes for this information to fall into the wrong hands. More exactly, for it to fall into the hands of someone who blackmails Simon with it.

Simon struggles with keeping his sexual orientation hidden, all the while being faced with everyday problems. One of his best friends being in love with the other, but him being completely oblivious to this and being in love with the third best friend, for example. And his family… Don’t even get started on the absurdity of his family. All of these problems, though, are easily overshadowed by the one question that keeps him up at night.
Who is Blue?

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Review by Eline

I heard about this book quite a while ago, and immediately dismissed it as something I’d be interested in reading. My sole reason for this decision was that LGBT books simply weren’t my thing, without ever having read one. This made me think. I am as okay with a man loving a man as I am with a man loving a woman. Then why am I so ready to shoot down a book about a guy who likes guys instead of girls? Not reading a book based on who the protagonist is into, I realized, was idiotic. For the sole purpose of proving this to myself, I added this book to my TBR.
And man, am I happy that I did.

Reading this book was a true journey. As someone who considers herself a straight female, I never have had to deal with coming out and facing discrimination or whatnot. It was fascinating, by lack of better words, to hear about that side of the story. Simply because I never experienced those emotions doesn’t mean I am not allowed to read and care about them, I now realize. Those, however, aren’t the only topics discussed in this book. Next to being into guys, Simon still is a teenager and I related to Simon so much it was actually strange to think this book wasn’t written by someone my age, but by an adult. Simon is trying to find himself and see how he fits in, discover where he belongs, and I don’t think there is a single teenager out there who hasn’t gone through this exact thing.

Next to being really relatable in the way Simon dealt with life, the way the definition of a teenager was approached truly made this book. I can honestly tell you I was sold at the first Harry Potter reference, which is on page 9 of the hardcover if you’re interested, and since then it just kept coming. Way too often, writers think teenagers are still children and therefore act like them, completely forgetting that they were a teenager too one day and what it meant to be one. Being a teenager is an in-between stage, no longer being a kid but not quite being an adult either. And with this different stage comes an entirely different culture. Becky Albertalli didn’t write teenagers like a child or like an adult, but as they truly are. Too big to be small, but too small to be big. The amount of pop culture references made it really believable and true-feeling, and the humor at times made me stop reading because I was laughing too hard. This genuinely felt like a book about teenagers instead of about sixteen year olds acting like they’re twelve, and I appreciated that a lot.

Now, before I say anything else, I have to talk about the plot of this book. My problem with contemporary books is often that there doesn’t seem to be a plot and not a lot is going on. It’s just people. Doing things. Without magic. That was not the case with this one. The book didn’t follow a clear plot as in, the princess gets abducted in the beginning and the hero spends the whole book getting to where the evil lord is keeping her to then rescue her in the end. There still is more plot than usual in the contemporary books I’ve read, though. Next to the constant struggles of a young gay boy, we’ve also got the added mystery of Blue. All we know about him is that he goes to the same school as Simon, and whilst reading you can’t help but think, “Is it you? Is it you? OH MY GOSH IT’S YOU,” whenever a new character is introduced. I was in the dark for quite a while about Blue’s identity, and I felt like it added so much to the story!

What also added much to the story, or better said, what made the story, were the characters. Even if a character was only mentioned once, very briefly, they showed clear personalities. Background characters weren’t present unless they were actually needed for one thing or the other, and the members of the Spier family weren’t just things with a name but actual developed characters. Every single person in this story had a purpose, had a reason for being in the book, and it’s clear a lot of thought went into each and every one of them.

That is what, to me, made this book stand out so much. Not the fact that the protagonist is gay, or because the book happens to be funny. No, what made this book so special was the amount of thought that had gone into every joke and every comment. Every word had a meaning, every word had a reason for being in the story, and whilst it feels really natural when you read it, I can only imagine how many hours went into getting the prose to feel authentic, let alone writing the actual story. I admire that, and it made the book so much better.

This is my first LGBT book ever, and after finishing it I just can’t understand why I had planned on dismissing this book at first. Actually reading a diverse Young Adult novel has made me realize how important it is to not only have diverse YA, but also don’t just write it for the sake of diversity but for the sake of telling a story. Diverse doesn’t have to mean different or weird, and this book portrayed that so well. I swooned like I would in any other book, and I actually squealed with joy at several parts in the story. Not because it was diverse, not because it was different. Simply because it was good.

I only have two problems with this book. One, I now am madly in love with a boy who A) is fictional, and B) is not into girls. Two, I really want to eat Oreos. And I don’t even like Oreos. But because of this book, I intend on eating them again. Because that is how amazing this book simply was.

Apr 20, 2015

Welsh Week: The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats - Review and Giveaway

The Wicked and the Just
By J. Anderson Coats

According to Cecily d’Edgely, life can’t get much worse. Her uncle has returned from the crusades and is now lord of the manor that is rightfully hers, meaning she is stuck in Coventry. She feels like her life is over. That is, until her father tells her they’ll be moving to a town called Caernarvon. In Wales.

Upon arriving in the Welsh town, Cecily soon finds out that town life is very different from what she is used to. Add the fact that Welsh walk around, infidels who are probably ready to murder her at any moment, and you’ve got the new definition of Hell. Gwenhwyfar, Gwinny for the English, is such a Welsh. She works at Cecily’s new house, simply trying to get by.

The story follows both women, one English and one Welsh, as they go about their lives in the 13th century town. There simply couldn’t be a bigger difference between the two kinds of people. The English are privileged, the Welsh are shunned from society. So, this raises a question. Can there ever be true justice in the town of Caernarvon?

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Review by Eline*

When I first read the description of this book I thought two girls, money and drama sounded a bit cliché. Have I ever been so wrong.

Cecily is probably the most arrogant and spoiled character I have read a book about, and yet somehow I didn’t mind at all. Growing up as close to nobility as you can get, she is used to being catered for and getting everything she wants in the blink of an eye. Nobody has ever told her no, simply because nobody ever had to, and this clearly shows in her character. Gwinny is a bit of a mystery. She is sarcastic and witty and refuses to let the brat, as she refers to Cecily, get in her way. It isn’t until later that we start to uncover more about this mysterious girl, both about her personality and her past, and it all starts to make sense. She works hard and earns as much money as she possibly can, simply to be able to pay her taxes and take care of her mother and brother. No matter how much time she spends around the English, though, she remains Welsh and she is proud of it.

The thing I found absolutely fascinating about this book is the way the feud between the English and the Welsh is portrayed. There is a clear hatred between them, and through following characters on both sides, you get some valuable insights into what life must have been like in Wales in the 13th century. The story is historically correct and well researched, making it feel really authentic.

Another thing that truly speaks in favor of this book is the title. When you first look at it, it doesn’t say much. When you start reading, you will think at first that Cecily is the Just and Gwinny is the Wicked. Then we hear Gwinny’s side of the story, and the roles start to reverse. This goes back and forth until both characters start showing signs of being both. Cecily is not completely Just, nor is she completely Wicked, and the same goes for Gwinny. Thinking of the title whilst reading this book truly added another dimension for me, and I’m glad I didn’t just start reading without checking the title first.

The last thing that truly made this book for me were the other characters. A town isn’t a town without people in it, and these people sure know how to make themselves be heard. From the neighbor who just keeps on having kids to the annoyingly sweet daughter of one of the founding families, all the side characters truly had their own personality and purpose. The interaction between them and Cecily brought out the best and the worst in her, and I don’t think we would have seen any of these hidden layers of her personality had there not been such an amazing set of characters for her to interact with. 

All in all, The Wicked and the Just was a fascinating and mesmerizing read. Even I was being able to follow exactly what was going on, and I know literally nothing about Wales or 13th century England. All of it was new to me, and the book felt like a history lesson from that one amazing teacher everybody has had at some point. The story made me fall in love with Wales, which I did not expect to ever happen, and I would definitely classify this as an under-hyped book. I recommend this to anybody who likes history even in the slightest, or anybody who enjoys a book revolving around the term justice and likes to question what it actually means.

*This review has been written by our new reviewer Eline, who's 15 years old and lives in Haarlem (The Netherlands)

Author information

J. Anderson Coats owns 194 books about the middle ages.  This doesn’t seem like very many unless you consider the fact that she’s never had a real job.
Jillian grew up in a houseful of books alongside two cats and an older brother.  Her mother, a librarian, exposed her to the beauty and diversity of the written word.  Her father, a scientist, taught her to question it.  Both of them encouraged her to write, even when her stories were written in crayon and featured nothing but ponies.
At age thirteen, Jillian finished her first novel.  It was pretty bad, but fortunately no one told her that.  By the time she graduated from high school, she’d written six other novels, including one massive 500,000-word doorstop book with a sweeping, complicated plot and way too many characters.  None of these books was very good, but she loved every single one and learned something new with each.
Jillian studied history at Bryn Mawr College, where she graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors.  She also holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Drexel University and a master’s degree in history from the University of Washington.  She loves the smell of old books, and she’d set up camp in the archives if they didn’t keep locking the door at night.
Currently, Jillian lives in the Pacific northwest in a hundred-year-old house with her husband, teenage son, and a cat with thumbs.
 
Giveaway

Enter this giveaway to win a paperback copy of The Wicked and the Just, good luck! 

Mar 27, 2015

Eline's Introduction and Book Haul

Hello everybody!

Before any mishaps can take place, no, you don’t know me yet. I am new to this blog, and to be quite honest, I am new to blogging at all. That doesn’t mean I am not excited though, and I honestly can’t wait to be sharing my love for books with all of you!
My name is Eline, you may call me Ellie if that is easier to pronounce, and I am from the Netherlands. I am very proud to be Dutch and I love my country and language, but I prefer to read the original version of a book. Therefore I tend to read more in English than in Dutch. The fact that English books are way cheaper than Dutch ones play a huge part in that too.
My bookshelves are filled mostly with Young Adult in all shapes and sizes with the occasional Middle Grade thrown into the mix. I do read actual novels from time to time for school, but as I'm only in year 11 (Dutch class 5) and am going to take the Dutch equivalents of A-levels next year, I'm more into the books directed at my age. I am turning 15 in April and before you ask, it is possible to skip grades in this country. I skipped two grades, meaning I am two years younger than my classmates. This has never stopped me from being who I am and reading what I want to read, and I love YA as much as the next teen!
Next to reading I’m into writing, listening to music and watching TV shows. If you know Bastille or Imagine Dragons you immediately score points with me, and NCIS or Supernatural fans are always appreciated. If you dare to spoil me on the latter I shall kill you, like Dean will kill everybody to save Sam once again. That’s harsh but I mean it.
I was browsing twitter some time ago and came across a message requesting someone to guest blog once in a while. I responded, and here I am. Before I get too carried away with this all, I’ll start with the actual post. I hope to be around for some more time to come, so hopefully you’ll hear more about me then.
I have something special to show you for my very first blog post ever. A little while ago I attended a Dutch Book fair (Boekenfestijn) where there are literally millions of books for incredibly low prices. In these enormous quantities I managed to find some gems, and I want to share them with you all.


As you can see, these are the paperbacks of Unearthly by Cynthia Hand and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. Two close friends of mine have been praising Unearthly so much that I basically have to have it now. And it was blurbed by Richelle Mead, who wrote the Vampire Academy series, so that counts for something too. And in the case of City of Glass, I actually own this book already, but then in Dutch. Adored the first one, but disliked the second. I have the feeling though that I was irritated by the translation more than the book itself. That’s why I got the English edition, to see if this is true. I can’t wait to read either one of them. I paid €2,50 for Unearthly and €3,99 for City of Glass.
 

I am super excited for this buy, I found Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor the first time I wandered by the English books section. Roughly two to three hours later, I walked by again to see if I missed something. And can you guess already? I found this beautiful edition of Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor up for grabs. This is a series that I truly have no idea of what it is about. Something with magic and coolness, I suppose? I bought them because I have heard nothing but great things about this series, because the covers are to die for and because they were both super cheap. €3,99 for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, €2,99 for Days of Blood and Starlight.


Now, I’m basically most excited for these two. White Cat by Holly Black, but especially Panic by Lauren Oliver. I found White Cat thanks to dumb luck. I’d seen the Dutch paperback but couldn’t find it anymore so went to ask where it was. Apparently they had the English one too. And when I spotted Panic on the table, the last copy at that, I couldn’t help myself. I dashed to it, grabbed it and didn’t let go for the first five minutes. The synopsis of Panic sounds amazing, and I have been wanting to read a Holly Black book for ages. The fact that I only paid €3,99 for each made the deal even sweeter. 


Now, as you can see, these books are neither Young Adult nor novels. Yet as I walked past and saw Griekse en Romeinse Mythen en Sagen (Greek and Roman myths)  and Monsters, Een bizar Bestiarium (Monsters, a bizarre beastuarium) laying next to each other, I couldn’t help myself. I am a true sucker for mythology, especially Greek and Roman mythology. I own multiple mythology books, and a book about the Trojan war is one of the first books I ever bought myself at the age of seven. There’s something fascinating about reading about people who didn’t understand the world around them and tried to explain it by creating Gods and other creatures. And the word creatures brings me to the Monsters book. I have peeked inside, and it is absolutely beautiful. It basically exists of full-page illustrations and paintings, creating an eery setting. I thought it simply was too cool to leave behind. And for the small price of €0,99 for the Monsters book and €6,75 for the myths book, I think I did pretty well.


This was mostly a cover buy. It’s pretty, hardcover, has silver pages (!!!) and is full of illustrations. This edition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson was only €3,59, so I decided to just go for it. Even though I know about the massive twist already, basically everybody knows about the massive twist, really, it is a classic and I have been wanting to read more classics lately. So maybe I’ll give this a shot any time soon.


So basically, that was it, I paid the huge sum of €32,78 for this pile of beauties, and I couldn’t be happier. My TBR isn’t too happy, though. It may have risen above 70, and my birthday is in less than two weeks. Ehm. Oops?

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed!

~Eline
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