Saturday, 23 May 2015

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Title: I Was Here
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: January 27, 2015 
Genre(s): Young Adult (Contemporary)
Source: Own
Format: Finished Copy
Pages: 288
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.
I have to say that the only thing I heard about this book prior to reading it was that it deals with suicide. It was a surprise to me to find out that it wasn't just any kind of suicide but a "planned through support" suicide. These groups do really exist, as I learned, this book is based off a true story. These online groups not only help the victims emotionally (to commit) but also help provide them with the means to go about doing it. That means telling them exactly the steps to take from A to Z to ensure that everything goes according to plan. It's quite horrifying knowing that these kinds of things exist in a place where literally anyone can access the information.
The story of the book focuses on Cody, Meg's best friend, as she deals with the loss of someone close to her. If you've read The Last Time We Say Goodbye, then you'll notice that there are very similar ideas throughout the plot. Cody realized that she simply can't just move on without finding out why this happened. What made her once super happy childhood best friend kill herself? It's through her investigations that the plot starts to develop and we learn the back story of why Meg died and also a lot about the two girls and their friendship. There is a love interest, of course, and although kind of predictable, it was done in a really nice way. You could really see the character development not only for the protagonist but also for the love interest.
My final thoughts about the book are that it wasn't as emotional as I thought it would be. Yes, it's a very very sad story but the writing just wasn't that powerful as some of the other similar books I've read. Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed it and after finishing it I immediately went and searched the girl whom the true story was based about and that's probably what was the saddest thing about the book, it's not just some made up story. It's a quick read so pick it up if you have the chance!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Review: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Title: We Are All Made of Molecules
Author: Susin Nielsen
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication date: May 12, 2015 
Genre(s): Middle Grade (Contemporary)
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless. 
Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.
When I read the synopsis of this book, I knew that it was a book I'll enjoy. Thankfully, that exactly happened. I truly loved and enjoyed this book, despite the fact that it might have been middle grade. We are All Made of Molecules is a book told from dual POV's, Stewart and Ashley. Stewart is a young gifted boy, who by the way happens to have a great sense of humor, and Ashley is about two years older than Stewart, and one might say that she's a mean girl. The thing that brings these two opposite different people is their parents. Stewart's father happens to be in love with Ashley's mother, and the decision to move in together happens. While Stewart, being the cute optimistic bright child he is, is happy to have a sister, Ashley isn't quite thrilled. Ashley is the type of character that seems annoying, and she also happens to be in that bratty teenage stage where nothing matters but her social status. Therefore, when two complete opposites are placed in one household, it was interesting to see how these two distinct character mesh together. 
Personally, I really liked Stewarts voice and personality. He is a very smart kid, and we're reminded that with every sentence that comes out of his mouth. Even when he's not purposely trying, smart sarcastic remarks ooze out of him all the time. Ashley, on the other hand, was this annoying kid I just wanted to shut up. She really was selfish, and was extremely rude to Stewart, his father, and even her own mother. She acted like everyone did this on the sole purpose of making her life miserable (therefore, you can understand how self-centred she is). I don't want to spoil too much, but this book kind of felt like the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours where two opposite families are combined, where the results tend to be very funny, if you ask me. Plot wise, the story was much more than just two kids not enjoying the fact that they have to live in the same household. There is a lot that can be learnt in this book, such as dealing with loss, friends, family, and people in general. Because of that, it was very interesting to see how the characters (especially Ashley), changed to be. Susin definitely created characters that really felt real, and not two dimensional. 
Like I stated before, I honestly do not think this book would be childish to all you young adults out there. I'm nineteen, and I genuinely enjoyed this book from start to end (Also, this book started off in such a hilarious way, I knew I'd end up loving it). We Are All Made of Molecules was just one of those books that I closed with a big grin of my face, happy with how it ended but sad to let the characters go. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Title: Vanishing Girls
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: March 10, 2015 
Genre(s): Young Adult (Contemp/Mystery)
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Pages: 357

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other  
Vanishing Girls is another contemporary novel by Lauren Oliver that I found myself really enjoying. After reading and loving her previous novel Panic, I was excited to see what else she came up with. Vanishing Girls tells a story about two sisters named Nick and Dara (I found this interesting as I have a sister), who were each others best friend. Unfortunately, a tragic accident that led to scarring Dara's face has led their relationship to go down the toilet. Dara blames her sister Nick for the cause of the accident, and the two sisters end up being in a long run argument. Although this might sound like a cliche story of two sisters fighting, it's much more than that. Lauren Oliver's writing really has an affect of gripping people into her stories, and she is somehow always able to turn a simple idea into something very intriguing and interesting. Told from dual POV's, Vanishing Girls is a great contemporary with a touch of mystery. 
Dara and Nick are like the two opposite sisters we hear and read a lot about. Dara is the pretty sophisticated rebellious teenager who lights up any room she's in, while Nick is rather the jeans a shirt type of girl whose first priority  isn't having the perfect outfit or makeup done, Although complete opposites, Dara and Nick share a very close relationship, and consider themselves are best friends. That all changes after the accident that somehow ends up leaving Dara's beautiful face with a scar. What was interesting about this book was the fact that it's told in both girls' POV, and before/after the incident. That way, I was able to get a clear sense of their relationship before the accident, and the difference with how their relationship is now.  There is also the next door boy/best friend who also plays a very interesting part in the book. 
As the story progresses and Dara's disappearance happens (no spoiler here -- it's in the synopsis), everything starts to get a tad bit confusing and messed up. So many questions start to pop up, and I couldn't help keeping one of my eye brows raised throughout the whole time. I will definitely not spoil anything here, but I have to admit, Lauren Oliver really had me shocked. I never expected this major plot twist to occur, and I think I needed time to actually comprehend what was happening indeed. I was kind of mad at first at how things turned out, but I like that it was different and very unexpected. Although Vanishing Girls started out slow for me,  it definitely got very interesting 50 pages in and was a major roller coaster ride. Fans of Lauren Oliver will absolutely enjoy this, and any contemporary / mystery readers out there. Lauren Oliver has become one of my must-read-every-book-that-comes-out author. 

Other books by Lauren Oliver:

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)
Title: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)
Author: Renee Ahdieh
 Penguin Canada
Publication date: May 12, 2015
Genre(s): Young Adult (Retelling/Fantasy)
Source: Publisher
Format: ARC
Pages: 388
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
I've been anticipating The Wrath and the Dawn as soon as I found out it is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, an arabic folk story I'm familiar with. I had high expectations and once I started reading The Wrath and the Dawn, I knew that every one of my expectations will be met... and they were. The story revolves around Shazi, who lives in a land that is ruled by a boy king who marries a girl every night, only to execute her when dawn arrives. Shazi's best friend became a victim to this monstrous king and Shazi's vowed to take revenge. However, nothing is what it appears to be and Shazi is thrust into a foreign royal world and unexpected foreign feelings towards this boy king that could jeapordize her revenge plan. 
I loved how The Wrath and the Dawn wasn't predictable and obvious. It kept you on your nerves wanting to find out which and what direction the author will take with this plot. Also, Shazi is a fantastic main protagonist. I loved her personality as well as defiance that was actually one of the main reasons that Khaled found Shazi so admirable. I loved their interactions together and the internal conflict Shazi was going through as she discovered more of the hidden truth as well as how her heart feels towards this boy that she spends her night with talking and trying to understand. The Wrath and the Dawn has changing POVs, and while Shazi is inside the castle, her childhood sweetheart, is trying to start a revolution while some other questionable characters were trying to their agendas to the front. 
The Wrath and the Dawn has just about everything. A fast paced thrilling plot as well as beautiful descriptions and accurate explanations and use of arabic words. The arabic world seemed very authentic, something that many authors struggle with sometimes (writing about a culture that is different from their own). From the arabic words used to the way the empire was at the time One Thousand and One Nights was written and set at. I loved everything about this book and I am so happy that it is the first in a series, and not a standalone. I can't wait for The Rose and the Dagger and very excited to pick up where we left off (and it was at a very exciting place!) and get back into this diverse and unique world. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Cook Books Review: Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady

Another one of our cook book reviews! This one is about Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady. Have you looked at the cover? it is so eye catching and gorgous. It is definitely a cook book I would stop at just based on that. This turned out to be the focus of the book because Tara O'Brady's book was also inspired by her cook blog where she posts beautiful photos of all the recipes she makes. 

The official title is:

Seven Spoons: My Favorite Recipes for Any and Every Day

It seems that many cooking bloggers are getting their big break in the form of their own published 
books. This makes me happy because usually the photography is beautiful on those blogs to attract 
fanbase. I actually ended up even going on her blog and squeezed at all the gorgeous photos as well 
as recipes that range from breakfast to dinner. Seven Spoons is divided by meal types. From Breads 
& Breakfast to Sweets, treats, and sips. 

The recipe was also fairly simple however, there is a ton of steps in the recipes.. some are over two pages long. I 
like details, but this seemed a bit unnecessary. This wasn't the case in this recipe though. However what's nice is that 
at the beginning of each recipe, the author introduces it and gives a little adjustments depending on your day. For here 
you have options for a "luxe mood" or "lean days". There is also a note section on the sidebar that is helpful for people who 
have never cooked with any difficult ingredient, clams in this case. This recipe contains wine but because we don't drink alcohol, we substituted it with vinegar. It's a good thing my made made this because if it was me and I was faced with this delimma.. I would be online googling and panicking about my recipe not turning out right because the book didn't specify an alternative and what if nothing will make it taste as good?
Who always wants a photo of the finished product of the recipe they're trying out? *puts hand up*.. yup, I always want 
to see what my meal will look like.. I tend to over analyse everything and if I feel that I'm getting some weird color or look.. 
I'll think it's because I did something wrong.. that's why I never try out recipes without a photo.. unfortunately that's one disadvantage of Seven Spoons.. not all the recipes contain photos.. actually almost half don't and that saddens me to no 
end because I know the author probably has photos that correspond to these recipes but it's because each recipe will have 
to take up an extra page of the book, but it's already on the thicker side as it is. I think that was a complaint my mother and 
I (she cooked) had in regards to Seven Spoons. Another thing is the meaning behind the title? we assumed it meant all 
you need is seven spoons to make a recipe, but that wasn't the case. 

Recipe review:
However, reviewing the recipe itself? it was delicious! I couldn't stop eating it and I actually finished that whole bowl. This is a recipe that I will definitely make again because I'm a big seafood fan and I loved the broth made. This book contains many recipes from different countries. There are some greek, indian, arabic, and asian recipes. There are also some simple ones. I will definitely be flipping through it more and focusing on the recipes without photos too.