Exploring by Starlight

The Shining

The Shining - Stephen King DNF at page 183

NOTHING IS HAPPENING.

Open Road Summer

Open Road Summer - Emery Lord I will admit that I am the kind of person who will pick up a hyped book just to see what the fuss is about. I hadn't read many reviews about Open Road Summer, but I was seeing it being recommended many times, so I got myself a copy figuring it would be the perfect book to end the summer with. But, oh boy, I really fell for the hype with this one, and I was left feeling a bit... bleh.

Open Road Summer is the story of Reagan O'Neill (who I originally thought had the same name as the kid from The Exorcist, but doesn't), who is accompanying her country superstar best friend, Dee, on her country-wide tour. However, a media scandal breaks out and Dee's management decides to bring comeback kid Matt Finch onto the tour to quiet down any rumours. My main problem with Open Road Summer's story is that I wasn't expecting this to be a full-blown romance story. I originally read the blurb and thought 'great, a story about two best friends', but then got a big shock when I could hardly get any friendship vibes. I would have much rather read about Reagan's relationship with Dee than the weird one she has with Matt. And that's another thing: I thought the romance was strange. Reagan and Matt go from awkward one-sided flirting, to flirting with each other, to bickering, and then being with each other but not using the words 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend'. I'm not an expert on relationships, but if someone kissed me while I was arguing with them, I'd punch them. If Dee had more of a presence, I probably would have enjoyed the story more. Probably.

My biggest issue with Open Road Summer is definitely Reagan. I haven't disliked a main character so much in a long time. Reagan is written as a stereotypical 'bad girl': her mum ran away when she was a kid, her dad's a recovering alcoholic, and she has a criminal record at the age of seventeen. This is mentioned so many time that every time she started talking about her past, Everclear's Volvo Driving Soccer Mom started playing in my head. It got to the point that I just didn't care anymore. Not only that, but Reagan has a sucky personality. She's paranoid, she'd kind of arrogant, she's ridiculously jealous, and to me, she seemed like a bit of a slut shamer. Every time there are girls are Matt's sets, or even just talking to him, she comments on their appearances, i.e. their clothes and how Matt can probably see down their shirts. Now, there's something to bear in mind: Reagan's wardrobe consists of tight clothes, short skirts, push-up bras, and high heels. so I have no idea where she gets the nerve to judge other girls based on their clothing choices, when she regularly dresses in her 'bad girl' attire. If I ever met this girl, I would easily out-bitch her because she is just so petty. I know I said I would prefer there to be more of Dee, but she really is a bit bland. All I got of her is that she's wholesome and polite (kind of like early Taylor Swift without the slut shaming), but that's pretty much it. She really needed to be fleshed out more because she's just as important as Reagan and Matt.

Open Road Summer is written in Reagan's point of view, and I honestly would have preferred a third person narration here. The fact that I didn't like her as a character made reading this feel long and tedious; I was even flicking through pages to see how much I had left to go. I managed to finish this book in three days, but that's mainly because I almost had to force myself to get through it; it wasn't at DNF level, but reading was still a pretty tedious task.

I was really disappointed by Open Road Summer. I wasn't too blown away by the plot, and I couldn't stand Reagan and her constant reminding of the fact that she's a changed person. I might have liked this book when I was younger, but with the mindset I have now, it's just not doing anything for me.

Isla and the happily ever after

Isla and the happily ever after - Stephanie Perkins It's here! And I finally read it! I had a preorder out on Isla and the Happily Ever After since April, and once the release date actually came around, I was obsessively checking my emails every day for my copy to be dispatched. I absolutely adored both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, so to say that I had high expectations of Isla, is a bit of an understatement. And while I did love this book, and there are plenty of things that I love about it, I didn't love it as much as the previous two books in the series.

As with all of Stephanie Perkins' books, Isla's story is incredibly sweet, fluffy, and romantic, which is definitely my favourite kind of romance; however, I got a more mature feeling in this book, compared to Anna and Lola, and I absolutely loved that. Josh and Isla have a pretty harsh reality to deal with, which is that there's always going to be something that could separate them, as much as we all want them to be together forever. That just doesn't happen in reality, and I'm really glad that was a big part of the story as it made Isla and Josh's situation seem just that more real. The reason why I've marked Isla down by one star is because at the beginning, to me the romance gave off a bit of an insta-love vibe, and I felt like things were moving a little bit too fast. And by 'too fast' I mean we're already on first dates, kissing, and 'I love you's before the book is half over. However, as I continued reading, I did think that maybe the romance moved that fast to make way for the more heavy stuff, but I still had a very faint taste of insta-love in my mouth, and that's thanks to the fact that Isla has had a crush on Josh for years before the book even begins.

Yay for awesome characters! I think that Isla is another great MC, and I loved her. Initially my biggest fear was that all the way through she would only be concerned with Josh and her relationship with him, and while that is kind of true, she does grow a lot as the book progresses. She learns a lot about how to treat other people, which I think is incredibly important because I've seen a lot of people abandon their friends who they've been joined at the hip with for years in favour of their new boyfriend or girlfriend, which just isn't cool. I love it when MCs grow as their story continues, and the way that Isla grows is one of my favourite things about this book. The main thing about Isla's narrative that I like is that she is a total romantic, but she's not the kind of "my boyfriend is totally infallible and there isn't a single thing wrong with him" kind of romantic. She has her insecurities, and while they do get in her way sometimes, she ultimately doesn't let them immobilise her. As for Josh, I really liked him, but he hasn't taken Cricket's place as my book boyfriend (I love Cricket too much for someone else to take his place). I'm not usually one for the brooding kind because in my experience, they usually focus on themselves, but Josh isn't like that. You can definitely see that he really does care for Isla, and almost manages to forget about everything going on with himself when he's with her. That's the main thing I liked about him: for the most part he's totally selfless, even to the point of risking his own future for Isla. However, one thing that I didn't like about Josh is that when he and Isla are planning their future together, to me it felt like Josh was the one deciding everything, and Isla just blindly went along with it. A relationship is a team: you can't always do what only one person wants to do. Another character related point that I love is that we get to see characters from the previous two books, yay! Being able to see so many characters again made me feel so nostalgic, and also seeing some stories come to conclusions was one of the best parts of the story.

The main thing that I absolutely love about Stephanie Perkins' books is that her work isn't just about romance. Yes, the romance is a big part of her stories, but there are other important themes there too that you just can't ignore. In Isla, I got a big theme of friendship and family, mainly with the message that you can't abandon the people that you've always loved, just because you've gained a romantic interest in someone. Seeing this nestled inbetween the romance and even a bit of angst in the third quarter of the book just reminded me so much why I love Stephanie Perkins' writing. Inbetween all your sweetness and fluff, you can still have a heaping dose of reality to make you think, and she does it so well that I can't help but admire her writing. I love it so much!

Although I didn't love Isla as much as I loved Anna and Lola, I did still really enjoy this book and would definitely read the whole series again. And again. And again. I liked how Isla's story felt more mature in comparison, once I'd gotten over the initial insta-love taste that I had at the beginning, and I was pretty much glued for this book. All that waiting was definitely worth it, because this was an awesome light read.

These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars - Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner I'm not ashamed to admit that I first wanted to read this book out of pure cover lust. I mean, just look at that cover, it's gorgeous! But once I read the blurb, that sealed the deal. Although, I will admit that the whole Titanic in space thing made me a little bit nervous (it's no secret that I hate Titanic more than any other film I've seen), but those nerves were completely calmed down once I actually picked up the book and read it. And despite a few little problems that I can easily shove aside, I really enjoyed These Broken Stars!

These Broken Stars follows Major Tarver Merendsen, a decorated soldier, and Lilac LaRoux, daughter of the richest man in the universe, who have been marooned on a deserted planet after the luxury starship they were on, the Icarus, was pulled out of hyperspace (basically the book's version of Warp Drive) too early and crashed, leaving Tarver and Lilac as the only survivors. The pacing of These Broken Stars is pretty steady; once the story gets going properly, everything goes at just the right pace, speeding up when something exciting happens, and getting incredibly tense when it's leading up to something particularly revealing. One thing that I'm incredibly happy about is that I felt like even though Lilac and Tarver are stranded on this planet with only basic essentials, the science fiction aspect isn't ignored at all. As for the romance part of the story, I'm glad that it was eased into rather than being total insta-love, and it also didn't force the science fiction part to take the back seat, which was such a huge relief. My only issue with the book's story is that it took a while for me to fully get into it, and I think after the ship crashes right at the beginning of the book, the pace is just a bit too slow. Thankfully, it does pick up the pace and gets more exciting. My reading experience with These Broken Stars is probably the best that I've had with a YA book in a short while. Once I'd gotten past the slower parts, I became really engrossed with the story, even having to stop and reflect on what had happened at times because I just had to take in what I'd just read. Plus, I'd started reading this will I was having a good book hangover, so I guess this book pulled me out of that and maybe into another one, although a minor one.

For a book that technically only has two characters, These Broken Stars pulls it off incredibly well by telling the story from both Tarver and Lilac's points of view. I'm sometimes a little particular about dual POVs, but I liked how it was done in These Broken Stars because the two POVs never really seemed the same to me, which is a problem that I sometimes have. The fact that Tarver and Lilac are our only two characters for the vast majority of the book really didn't bother me at all, because I liked them so much. Out of the two, I think I liked Lilac the most because of how much she grows as the story progresses. We see her go from being a spoilt rich kid who is way too concerned about what her father will think if he finds her with this soldier, to being a strong young woman who is able to do things for herself and gains the ability to take care of both herself and Tarver. Another thing that I liked about Lilac is that even while she is still the rich kid, she is incredibly smart and has the skills necessary to get their escape pod away from the dying ship, which just threw the bratty heiress stereotype not only out of the window but into a black hole. As for Tarver, I liked him but at a glance he seemed like a bit of a bland character. However, I grew to like him more and more as the story moved on as he became more and more devoted to keeping Lilac safe (even though she was then able to take care of herself).

As for the setting and world-building, I liked the setting but I do think that the world-building was a bit lacking. The setting of an uninhabited planet isn't exactly groundbreaking, but it did feel different to me in the sense that this planet has been terraformed - altered so that humans are able to live there - but there isn't a soul around. I think it gave off a more dangerous atmosphere rather than if it was just some random planet that they'd crashed into (of course, because they'd be dead as soon as they got out of the escape pod), because it looks seemingly safe but it's unknown what exactly is out there. As for the world-building, I don't think there was enough of it. We know that Lilac's father is the richest man in the universe and has made an empire out of terraforming planets and building luxury starships, but when did this start? When in the future is this world set? What exactly is the terraforming process and how exactly do all of these technologies work? For a sci-fi story, I don't think that there was enough world-building, which was on the wrong side of mysterious, and if those questions that I've posed above were answered, then the world-building would probably be a bit better.

Overall, I really enjoyed These Broken Stars; it was well written, exciting and even shocked me at times. I liked the characters, and the romance aspect, as well as the fact that it didn't completely force the sci-fi aspect out of the way. Although there were issues in world-building and the beginning of the book being a bit slow, I really enjoy reading this book. And I'm definitely looking forward to reading the novella This Dark So Night, and the full sequel This Shattered World later on in the year!

Fangirl

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell For a little while, I'd been a little hesitant about reading Fangirl because everybody appeared to be totally fawning over it and let's face it, nobody wants to be the black sheep and be part of the few that don't like something. Plus, I'd read Eleanor & Park before I read this book, and wasn't too keen on it, which made me a little nervous. And the on top of that I had about five people telling me that it's boring, so that didn't help too much either. Thankfully, I managed to breeze through Fangirl, and ended up really liking it (good thing I ignored all of the people who told me the book was boring)!

Fangirl is the story of Cath, a college freshman who is on her own for the first time, after her twin sister Wren wants to be her own person and not a twin anymore. Rather than going out partying all the time, like Wren wants to do, Cath wants to stay in her room and write her popular Simon Snow (an incredibly thinly-veiled Harry Potter parody) fanfiction, which has suited her just fine throughout school. I liked how light and easy-going Fangirl's story was, which suited me just perfectly considering that I've been in the mood for light contemporaries very recently. As I'd said above, a few people were telling me that the book is 'boring, and I can't help but disagree with them. Just because there's not any action in the dictionary definition, that doesn't make it boring. I think that Fangirl moves at just the right pace, and is exciting in its own unique way that maybe some people just don't get, and that's totally fine. Moving on to the romance of Fangirl, it was so cute and fluffy that I just couldn't handle it. I loved both Cath and Levi and actually being able to see their relationship develop from being friends, to dating, and then being in love, which is where Eleanor & Park failed for me. The plot took its time with it, so when it got to the point where Cath and Levi were expressing feelings for each other, it was incredibly satisfying and I wasn't let down at all.

My favourite part of Fangirl (and also why I liked this book more than Eleanor & Park) is definitely the characters. I love how complex they are and how I didn't simply like them all the time. There were times where I liked them, others where I was frustrated by them, and even some times where I wanted to slap some sense into them (especially Cath, with her aversion to writing original fiction). These days, I'm really enjoying reading characters who are so complex that I go through a full spectrum of emotions, rather than just liking them from page one, especially in contemporary fiction because it just makes the characters seem more realistic. Let's face it, we've all been annoyed by our own friends at one point. I loved Cath as a protagonist, but at times she reminded me of myself so much that it was actually kind of scary. There have been plenty of times in my first year of uni that I just wanted to stay in my room on my laptop rather than going out and socialising, and eve more times that I've been too shy to talk to people. And also, like Cath, writing is a huge part of my course, but I'm not a fanfiction writer. Cath's aversion to writing original fiction actually got on my nerves and everything that her fiction writing professor says to her about it is completely true. When you write original fiction, nobody expects you to create an entirely new world, because everybody writes different things (I mainly write crime/thriller stories that take place in the 20th century; no need to create a new world because it's already there), and the feeling of falling is the whole point; none of us know what we're doing. As for Levi, the way I felt about him is a little strange. I didn't really have an opinion about him at first, but as the story progressed I definitely started to like just how sweet and caring he is. I loved how much he cared for Cath, it was just so adorable.

One of the things that surprised me the most about Fangirl is that it's more than just a college love story. Not only do we get romance, we also get themes of growing up, family, and mental illness, which I think made the story richer than if the story was simply just about Cath and Levi's relationship. When it comes to the plot involving Cath's dad and his mental illness, I thought that this was particularly important because mental illness is something that is still misunderstood in modern society, and is close to me because both of my parents have depression (my dad once took time off from work for four months and ended up having to take anti-depressants, while my mum has had depression since I was born), and sometimes it's hard to understand what people go through, especially when they try their hardest to not show that things aren't right. Another thing that I loved about Fangirl is that I think that it took kind of a neutral stance on the subject of changing who you are. Wren isn't exactly condemned for changing who she is in order to impress other people, but Cath isn't really praised for being the same person she was in school. People can change if they want to, it's their life and nobody has the right to tell you who you should be and the life you should be living.

I'm so glad that I liked Fangirl. I loved the story, the characters, and I still can't get over how satisfyingly cute Cath and Levi's relationship is. I'm not usually the kind for re-reading books, but I may be giving Fangirl a re-read sometime in the future, and I will definitely be reading more of Rainbow Rowell's books!

The 100

The 100  - Kass Morgan DNF

Yeah, no. In the parts that I read, there wasn't really any worldbuilding and nothing was happening. But there was a lot of flashbacks though (yay).

Anatomy of a Single Girl

Anatomy of a Single Girl - Daria Snadowsky I really enjoyed Anatomy of a Boyfriend, and was eager to get myself a copy of Anatomy of a Single Girl and find out what the rest of Dom's story is. And after the amount of sexual content that is in the first book, I was actually kind of curious to see which direction the sequel would take, and I liked reading every moment of not only this book, but the series as a whole.

Anatomy of a Single Girl takes place several months after the end of Anatomy of a Boyfriend and Dom is no longer with her boyfriend, Wes, from the first book. Now, Dom has some weird feelings for her friend Calvin, but isn't too eager to get back into the dating game just yet. Then when she goes home and takes on an internship at the hospital, she meets cutie Guy and starts having a no-strings 'relationship' with him over the summer, while her best friend Amy, on the other hand, is the one with the boyfriend this time. I loved the story of Anatomy of a Single Girl because we get to see Dom grow and learn from her experiences, and even find out new things about herself. One thing about the way the story moves that I found interesting is that the actual sex scenes are towards the end of the book, whereas in Anatomy of a Boyfriend, they appear about halfway through. I liked this because it kind of shows a change in Dom's character, which is that she wants to be sure of herself, rather than thinking that she's sure and pretty much just rushing into things like she did in her first relationship with Wes, who, by the way, isn't mentioned by name.

As I'd said in my review of Anatomy of a Boyfriend,I think that the best part of this series is the characters. These are the kind of characters that are so complex, that it doesn't matter whether you like them or not because they have been written so realistically. Real people make mistakes, and rush into things without thinking, and get into fights over trivial little things such as what the other person plans to do in the future, and so do the characters. I think I like Dom more in this book because she has matured since the first book and doesn't really do things that get on my nerves anymore. But at the same time, she was still the same old Dom who was paranoid about getting STDs to the point that she makes boys get tested before they have sex and has her love for human biology. As for Guy, I would want him for a summer boyfriend. Or even a regular boyfriend. Either way, I want this dude for myself. He was funny, charming, and sweet, and shares my views on children, which is always a plus in my book. Well, he does have a pretty cynical view on marriage, but I still want him for myself.

While Boyfriend had the theme of first relationships and first times, I got more of a 'casual sex' theme in Single Girl, which I kind of liked because even in other YA books that deal with sex, I manage to get a pretty careful message of 'wait until you're with someone you wouldn't regret having sex with', which is kind of true but can be overbearing because there's nothing wrong with having casual sex with different people at all. It's how people learn about what they like and whether it's going to work out with people, and I think that's more of what I got here, which I'm very glad about. Because sometimes depending on where in the world you are, teens can get bombarded with lessons about abstinence and horror stories about STDs, but not about the real side of enjoying sex because a lot of the time, it does get associated with love rather than just enjoying yourself.

Normally at the end of a series that I really like, I would say that I would want to see more and what happens to the characters next, but I think that Anatomy of a Single Girl finishes off the series in such a good way that I'm satisfied with the series coming to a close. I think that I may give the Anatomy series a reread some time in the future, just to relive it all over again.

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up - Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman DNF

I just can't. Second-person narrative that has sentences that just go on and on and switch topic right in the middle and then go back.

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green For a long time I've been intimidated by The Fault in Our Stars for the most obvious of reasons: its popularity. This book is so popular that for a while I was a little put off and felt like I wasn't quite ready to read it yet. Now, cancer has made its unwelcome appearances in my family, but it hasn't been close enough to me to personally affect me (my grandmother died of lung cancer, but this was before I was born) but close enough to know that it is a serious illness that nobody wants to get. And now that the film has been released, I was determined to get it read as soon as possible and my expectations were sky high. And while I didn't cry, I did enjoy this book.

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel, who is living with terminal lung cancer, and Augustus, who has been clear of cancer for a while but lost a leg from his ordeal, and the relationship that they develop after they meet at a cancer support group for teens. At the beginning of the book, I had a bit of trouble getting into the story and didn't really start to enjoy it until about half-way through when things started to move forward at a better pace. And also get more heartbreaking, but I'll move onto that in a bit. I guess I just wasn't a fan of long chapters that are pretty much Gus and Hazel talking about their illnesses in metaphors and being pretentious. Don't get me wrong, I like me some good metaphors, but when they're inserted into character dialogue and then become an important part of that character's personality, I start to get sick of them pretty quickly. Now let's talk about the sad stuff. I knew that this book was going to be sad, I mean this is a book about teenagers living with cancer. What I didn't expect was how quickly all the happy was going to come crashing down. I'm not a crier at all, but this the fall in this book did leave me with a bit of a lump in my throat. I've only experienced a relative having cancer once in my life (my mum's uncle died of cancer a couple of years ago and my nana died of cancer before I was born) and my experience was nothing compared to this book. I didn't get to see that person suffering and seeing it in this book made me glad that I didn't see that in my life. And I think that's what makes books about terminal illnesses (not just cancer) like this important for young people, we're able to see the pain that people go through even if we don't experience it for ourselves in reality and I think it helps us to understand.

I had a bit of a mixed reaction to the characters and I'm not sure about whether that's a good thing or not. At the beginning, I liked Hazel and didn't like Gus, whereas at the end, my sympathies got projected onto Gus and I got annoyed by Hazel. I think this is one of the very few times that this has happened when reading a book, but I guess it shows how well-rounded they are as characters as they don't stay having the same personality all the way through the story. I didn't like Gus at first because of how pretentious he is, which is one of my biggest pet peeves not only with fictional characters, but with real people. Every time he started speaking in his silly metaphors, I was rolling my eyes so hard because it was just too much. And then we get to the end and my reaction to him was completely turned on his head because I felt a huge amount of sympathy for him. As for Hazel, I really liked her at first. She was snarky and just the right amount of cynical. However, her snark and cynicism just went overboard for me at the end of the book. Like, I realise that you're angry, Hazel, but you should let everyone else be sad in their own way and express their sorrows how they want to and feels best. Just because people aren't doing things the way you do them, doesn't mean that they're wrong. Apart from Hazel and Gus, I liked all of the characters in this book. There were very few characters I didn't like at all that I wasn't supposed to dislike, and there were very few that I felt indifferent towards either.

Reading about cancer or terminal illnesses can be incredibly difficult for a lot of people because the disease takes far too many lives and it hits incredibly close to home for some people. As I'd said above, there have only been two cancer deaths in my family that I know of and they were both elderly people (if 64 counts as elderly that is), so books about young people living with the disease can be important because even though it is devastating for a person of any age to get it, we always see it as more tragic for people who are barely even adults to have no choice to live with cancer or even have their lives cut short by it. I think that books like The Fault in Our Stars are important because there are people who are have not had cancer affect their family, and books like this can help up to understand not only what people who live with the disease are going to, but people who are grieving too. Another thing I feel like I have taken from this is that cancer patients and people living with chronic illnesses don't always want our sympathy and that not everyone is hopeful about life as people on TV are. This is something that I'm definitely keeping in mind in the future.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, despite its couple of issues that I had with it. The story was both heart-warming and heartbreaking, with its cast of lively and well-rounded characters that help to tell an important message and I think may stay with me for a while. I'm not sure if I'll read any more of John Green's books in the future; we'll just have to wait and see about that.

Origin

Origin - Jennifer L. Armentrout Guess when I bought this book? When it was released last year. When did I finally get around to reading it? Last week. Yep, I am definitely tardy to the party with this one. And I don't really feel too good about it because Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux series is easily one of my favourite YA series. So far, I've been impressed by every single book in the series and I went into Origin just knowing that JLA wouldn't fail me at all. And although I did enjoy this book, it took me too long to finish and there were a couple of things that I had mixed feelings on (that I will try to keep vague for the sake of spoilers).

Origin is told in a dual point of view from both Katy and Daemon, which was a little jarring at first but I very quickly got used to the format. The story picks up after the events at Mount Weather at the end of Opal, with Katy and Daemon having been separated and Daemon being determined to get her back. I liked how the story is told from both of their points of view, as we get to see what is happening with both of them, because if Origin was in only Katy's point of view, like the first three books are, it would be pretty stale seeing her doing the same things all the time, or even nothing at some times, so Daemon's POV definitely brought action to the story. And speaking of action, Origin is definitely more action-packed than the previous books. In fact, it feels like the romance had been shoved out of the way to make way for all of this action that really amps up towards the end of the book. Katy and Daemon are still mad for each other, and I wanted to see so much more of that because I don't feel like I got enough swoons here. While I'm on the topic of the end of the book, I have a few mixed feelings about it. I don't necessarily agree with the actions of a few characters (I'm not saying who!) because I thought things were moving just a little bit too fast, even though this is the penultimate book in the series. But, it's already happened and I'll just have to deal with it and slightly hold my tongue.

I definitely think that the best part of this whole series is the characters, who are just so awesome and lively and I can't help but love them (well, bar one but I don't have to worry about that character anymore). Although I will admit that at times I kind of forgot about Katy, I still like her. She couldn't exactly do anything about the situation she was in, but she wasn't sitting around on her butt waiting for Daemon to save her either, which I was so relieved about. In fact, there were times where she thought more of herself than of Daemon, which I would kind of do too if I was stuck somewhere. As usual, her narration has an awesome voice that is so much fun to read in and is both humorous and emotional. Ah, I just love it so much! Daemon, as per usual, is just amazing. I loved being able to read from his point of view, which has such an authentic voice. He sounded very different to Katy, so if it wasn't made clear who was narrating, I still wouldn't have known who it was. Daemon is still the same old asshole that we know and love, but this time he became a bit more fearsome. We already knew already that he can be dangerous, but now it's really emphasised just how powerful and relentless he is in his search for Katy. And while I did say that I would have liked more swoons, the swoons that I did get from Daemon were definitely the best, so that kind of makes up for it. Seriously, this guy just won't stop being to desirable. And that's definitely a good thing.

Origin barely takes place in the series usual setting of Petersburg, which I kind of liked but felt a bit apprehensive about at first. It felt weird not being in school anymore, or even seeing Katy's mum, but I quickly got used to this and started to like it because I guess the characters had to branch out and go to other places sometime soon. I liked being able to see inside of Daedalus, and how all the secret stuff was going down. I always like it when characters are thrust into a setting that is totally alien to them (see what I did there?), because it really stretches who they are, and that really happened with Katy as I feel like I saw her at her strongest, and also with Daemon, as his pursuit really brought out how much he feels for Katy.

Overall, I did enjoy Origin and I'm still looking forward to the final book in the series, but I'm a bit conflicted on how things have happened at the end of the book. I liked the way that the majority of the story played out and the characters were as awesome as they ever were. I'll definitely be reading the final book, but my one big hope is that the series doesn't do a huge 180 and end on a bad note, like The Hunger Games did for me *crosses fingers*.

Openly Straight

Openly Straight - Bill Konigsberg I'd came across Openly Straight a while back, and kind of forgot about it (like I usually do). But once I'd seen its cover again while looking for books to review for LGBT month, I decided to go for it after reminding myself of what the book is about, which I found to be pretty interesting and different, compared to other books I've read this month. While I did enjoy reading Openly Straight, I felt that it could have been just that bit better.

Openly Straight is about Rafe, an openly gay guy who transfers to an all-boys boarding school and decides to keep his sexuality a secret after being tired of being known only as "the gay kid". The book's plot is definitely what attracted me to it in the first place because it seemed like such an interesting idea that is pretty plausible at the same time. I could totally understand why Rafe did what he did, but at the same time he really shouldn't have done it because he was not only being dishonest with his peers, but he was being dishonest with himself too. Openly Straight is told from Rafe's point of view, which I really enjoyed reading. He was funny, witty, and even kind of sassy at times, which made the narrative feel like natural speech. My main problem with the story is that I thought it took just a little bit too long for the shit to hit the fan. I knew something was going to happen, but it was just a matter of waiting for it and I thought that I waited just a little bit too long.

I loved the characters of Openly Straight and thought that they were definitely the best part of the book. Rafe was a great main character, and I could find very few faults with him. His character was very natural and didn't seem forced at any point; he was just a regular guy and there wasn't really anything out of the ordinary about him, which really showed that gay people are just normal people who are getting on with their lives. Even though he had kooky hippie parents who made an unnecessarily big deal about his sexuality, he just saw it as something he couldn't control because that's just nature. As for Ben, though, I had mixed feelings about him. For the vast majority of the book he was a likeable guy and seemed like a genuinely good friend, but towards the end he did a complete 180 and went cold all of a sudden, and this just rubbed me the wrong way. In fact, this turn-around made me like Rafe even more, which is a little odd.

I managed to get two messages from Openly Straight, both of them addressing LGBT issues. The first I got is that people who are out should be proud to be out, despite all of the stereotypes that there are about gay people and the fact that some people are unfortunately only known for their sexuality. This was the second message: we shouldn't define people by who they like. It's a natural thing that people shouldn't make such a big deal about. I understand that it's a very brave thing to come out but there are people who fuss over it way too much and treat them as only the gay kid, or the lesbian, or the transperson, which just isn't fair. There are many more things about a person that could possibly define them than something completely natural.

Overall, I liked Openly Straight, but it could have been more, if that makes sense. It took a little bit too long for things to go sour, and then once it did I got just a little bit lost to the point that I couldn't really remember what had happened. But, apart from that, I liked Rafe and his narration, which made reading this book pretty fun.

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next Door  - Stephanie Perkins I am totally in love with Stephanie Perkins's work. For reals. I loved Anna and the French Kiss so much that I had absolutely zero doubts that I would love Lola and the Boy Next Door too. And you know what? This book was left sitting on my shelf for far too long. I don't know why I didn't read it sooner (well, actually I do know why. i just like saying that) because this book is just so gosh darn adorable! Stephanie Perkins is quickly being cemented as one of my favourite YA authors because I just couldn't get enough of this book.

Lola is the story of Lola Nolan, an aspiring costume designer who lives in San Francisco with her two dads and has an older hot rocker boyfriend, who her parents aren't particularly fond of. And then one day, her old neighbours from when she was a kid, Cricket and Calliope, move back next door and screw things up for Lola. Compared to Anna and the French Kiss, this story is just a little more of an everyday circumstance, but it isn't any less wonderful or magical. Lola's story made me feel everything: I laughed, I felt bad for people, and I definitely got that magical-ness that was also in Anna. I don't know if I would call this a first love story because Lola already has a boyfriend at the beginning of the book, but it definitely felt that way. There was only one thing in the entire book that I didn't like and that was the numerous descriptions of Lola's outfits. Bad fanfiction has taught my to just not care about what a character is wearing because most of the time it's not necessary. But since Lola is a costume designer, I kind of expected this to be an ongoing thing since the first description. That doesn't mean I have to like it though.

As with Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door has a cast of awesome characters. I loved every single one of them! Our main character, Lola is incredibly quirky but she's not the kind of quirky where a person is so out there that it makes them a little hard to like. No, she's not like that at all. Lola is very unique compared to other quirky YA girls. She's an artsy person, but she can still be relatable depending on the reader. I felt like I could somewhat relate to Lola because at one point (I hope this isn't a spoiler!) she is told by another character that she doesn't exactly know who she is, and the way she dresses reflects that. And while that's not necessarily true, I could definitely relate to that because throughout my teenage years, which are slowly coming to an uneventful end, I went through about three different phases and I'm still not entire sure of who exactly I am (although I'm too lazy and insecure to experiment with things). But despite that, I love Lola's bubbly personality and loyalty to her friends, which made her a completely loveable MC. As for Cricket, he is definitely my new book boyfriend and I want him all for myself. This dude is pretty much the guy of my dreams: he's kind, sweet, thoughtful, smart, and dresses really well. And while I initially thought that I shouldn't like him from little hints that were dropped in the narration, I couldn't help but love him and every time he appeared, I felt like a dog when it sees its owner.

Apart from the romance aspect of the book, which is obviously the most important element, Lola is also about growing to become a better person and making hard decisions that sting at first but will ultimately make things better. I liked that this was also an important part of the story because it shows that romance isn't everything in life. It's nice to have someone (says the girl who's never had a boyfriend), but it's very important to do things that will better your life, even if it involves breaking off ties with people who are unhealthy to you and unintentionally hurting people. That's just how we grow.

Lola and the Boy Next Door is told in a similar narrative style to Anna and the French Kiss, which is a first-person narrative from Lola's point of view and in the present tense with PLENTY OF CAPS, which in one of the many reasons as to why I love Stephanie Perkins's writing style. She manages to perfectly capture her characters' voices in the narrative, which is both humorous and emotional, and makes reading the books just that more fun and even makes me love her characters even more.

I absolutely loved Lola and the Boy Next Door; it's so cute! I loved reading every single word of this book, I just couldn't get enough and didn't want it to end. I loved the story, the romance, and the characters, especially Cricket. If I could magically make Cricket real and have him all to myself, I would be an incredibly happy bunny. Once again, Stephanie Perkins hasn't let me down and I've already pre-ordered my copy of Isla and the Happily Ever After!

Divergent

Divergent  - Veronica Roth I'd seen the Divergent series floating around the blogosphere quite some time back, but I never really payed much attention to it until it became hyped up recently, due to the film being released. Naturally, I had to see what all the fuss was about and got myself a copy of the first book in the series. I actually DNF-ed Divergent at first, but promised myself that I would come back to it later. And while I'm glad that I did pick the book back up and continued reading, I wasn't exactly wowed, like I expected to be.

Divergent is set in a world where every person is sorted into a 'faction' based on their personality traits, for reasons that were so vague I can barely remember. These factions dictate how an individual dresses, acts, and even thinks in order to fit in with each other, and any person who does not fit into any faction is 'divergent', which is incredibly dangerous for someone to be. Tris, our heroine, chooses to leave the faction she was born into and transfers to another, which is a stark contrast to the routine life that she lived before. Although I did enjoy the book's story, I found it incredibly difficult to get into. The first quarter of the book moves at a near snail's pace, which is what caused me to put it down. However, when I came back I soldiered on through the more boring parts of the book and things definitely got a lot more exciting. As for the end, however, I'm very on the fence about it because it just came out of absolutely nowhere. There were little clues leading up to it happening, but I just didn't expect it at all (it was almost like Mockingjay all over again).

Divergent's characters were what I liked the most about the book, especially Tris. Most of the dystopian heroines I've seen usually start out being a little bit on the tough side and grow to be even tougher. Tris, on the other hand, started off being more complacent due to the way her faction raised to be, and grew to being stronger and stronger, thanks to all of the bullshit she has to put up with from other people in her new faction. And I don't like to use this word too much, but she was definitely a strong MC. As for the other characters, I either liked them, or wanted bad things to happen to them. That can definitely be said for Peter, who was probably the biggest scumbag I have ever seen in a YA book. If I'd ever met the guy in real life, I would definitely act out violently towards him.As for Four, I liked him, but I feel like I'll probably like him more as the series continues. I realise that he is supposed to be a mysterious person at first, but he constantly went from hot to cold so much that at times I didn't know what to think of him.

While I did find the world of Divergent to be quite interesting, I thought that the world building was quite poor. We're just dropped into this society of factions and rules that these factions have to adhere to and the choosing ceremony, with little to no explanation of why the world is this way. I was told by a couple of friends of mine that we're not told because the point is that apparently the characters don't even know. Even if it is intentional, that doesn't mean that I have to like it, and I didn't. I'm pretty sure that introducing the world and why it's so shitty is a highly important component of the first book of a dystopian series. At times I was left feeling confused and asking far too many questions.

As much as I like Tris, and this is going to sound a little strange, I liked her more in the dialogue than when she was narrating. There were times when I was relieved to see dialogue because the narration had a tendency to get bland at times, especially when there was something not particularly significant going on. I think this is what led me to DNF Divergent the first time; the lack of things going on, being confused, and then a not particularly engaging narration made me skim read at times, but thankfully it got better the more I read. I liked the way that dreams and simulations were described, as they really gave a vivid image of what Tris could see was happening. I know I've pretty much contradicted myself, but this is the best way that I can say how I felt.

Overall, I liked Divergent, but I think that I could have been better. Although the characters and story were great once I'd managed to fully get into the book, the world building was quite poor and almost non-existent. There were far too many questions that I wanted to be answered, which I don't think is a good thing for the first book in a series. Hopefully things will be explained further on into the series, which I will be continuing on with.

Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan DNF at 31%

Since it's LGBT month, I just had to read at least one of David Levithan's books, because he was technically the only author of YA LGBT that I knew of before doing some searching of my own. I'd heard mostly nothing but praise for Leviathan's books, so I decided to give Boy Meets Boy a go. Unfortunately, the book did next to nothing for me and I didn't finish it.

Boy Meets Boy is about Paul, an openly gay boy who lives in a town where everyone is accepting of the LGBT community and meets Noah, the guy he is sure is the one for him. And that's pretty much as far as I got to. Not even halfway. I was just so freaking bored by the clich├ęd storyline that takes place in an unbelievable utopia inhabited by bland and sometimes annoying characters. I did try to give this book a chance a couple of times, but I just wasn't getting anyway with it to the point that I just gave up completely.

One of the biggest problems I had with this book was its setting. While the idea of an all-accepting town/school is a wonderful idea, I didn't like the way that it was pulled off. It just seemed far-fetched to me. I was incredibly confused as to why Infinite Darlene was still the quarterback on the football team, since she now identifies as female. Surely she wouldn't be able to play for the team anymore, which would be exclusively male. And here's another thing: Paul's kindergarten teacher wrote on his report card "definitely gay". A student's sexuality is none of the teacher's business. And a kindergarten teacher should definitely not be figuring out the sexuality of five-year-olds. I'm pretty sure that goes against child protection guidelines or something like that. Basically, the book's world felt like that gif where a stick person is puking a rainbow onto another person's face. It would be nice to have a world like this, but seriously, be realistic about it and calm the crap down.

Although I didn't really get to any real romance, I couldn't feel any chemistry between Paul and Noah at all. There was neither any spice or fluff. I didn't even feel any of the feelings associated with falling in love, mainly because I was so blinded by boredom and the figurative chunks of rainbow puke in my eyes. I do kind of understand the point that you can replace either Paul or Noah with a female character and it would feel exactly the same, but the whole utopian concept made it just boring and stale, it was just like something I'd seen plenty of times before.

I just couldn't make it through Boy Meets Boy. I couldn't take any more of being bored and slightly annoyed by the baffling utopia that the book is set in. It's possible that if I managed to push through, the story might have gotten better, but I can't really see that happening. I might return to this some day, but for now I'm marking it as DNF.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky For quite a long time, I'd been putting off reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I just remember that when the film was released, a lot of people went totally nuts in both directions. There were people who raved about it and constantly quoted that one same quote (you know which one I mean), which kind of threw me off a bit. I had no idea of what the book was about and at the time had no intention to, and it wasn't until recently that I was kind of prompted to give it a shot. I definitely wasn't expecting this book to be as powerful as it was.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told in the epistolary form by Charlie, our protagonist, who is a freshman in high school and incredibly shy. He's gone from having only one friend in middle school, to having none in high school because his only friend committed suicide in middle school. Then he meets Sam and Patrick, who introduce him to the experiences of teenage life.

Throughout the novel, I had a huge hunch that there was something not right with Charlie's mental health but I didn't know exactly what was up until I read the Wikipedia article to refresh my memory a bit (my memory sucks btw). It felt pretty ambiguous to me, and whether that was the point or me just being totally oblivious, I don't really know. It's probably the latter since the Wikipedia told me what was up and my reaction was pretty much "No. Way. Oh my God." Charlie himself is a pretty complex character. Like most people who suffer from mental health issues (please note that I'm not speaking from personal experience, but from what I've managed to observe from people I know personally), the smallest things can cause him to cry, and sometimes nothing at all will make him cry. At the beginning of the book, I kind of felt like being stern towards him, but then I remembered that I don't like it when people do it to me and I felt bad for him during these moments where he was down. I can't fully identify with Charlie's experiences. Hell, I probably can't at all because I've never really been in any of the situations he's been in.

The LGBT themes in this novel come in the character of Patrick, who is gay and has a secret relationship with Brad, a closeted football player. While the novel mainly focuses on Charlie, I felt like the plotline about Patrick and Bad was particularly important because it shows that people shouldn't be afraid or ashamed of how they really are and that they shouldn't hide how they identify as a person. I understand that this wasn't the main part of the book's story, but it is still very important and I think it could have been developed a bit more.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told in the epistolary form, which means that the story is told through a series of letters to an unknown person, who is simply referred to as "friend". Reading in this form was a little jarring and Charlie's narration felt a bit monotonous at first, but I did get used to the writing as I continued to read. I'm personally a fan of epistolary forms because they have a very intimate feeling, and this book was probably the most intimate I've ever read. It felt as if Charlie really was talking to me, and that made me feel for him even more.

This book made me feel nearly every single feeling that there is to feel. Both good and bad. I loved the complexity of Charlie, but sometimes his realness made it difficult to like him and I think that the LGBT themes in the book could have been explored more, as the idea of being open with who you are is an important aspect, even in today's society. I would definitely recommend The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I would advise people to acknowledge that this book can be quite difficult to read, depending on an individual's circumstances.

M or F?

M or F? - Lisa Papademetriou, Christopher Tebbetts When I was looking for books read for this month, I originally thought that M or F? was about gender identity. So when I read the book's summary I was pleasantly surprised to find that that wasn't the case at all (not that I have anything against books that deal with transgender issues; I still have yet to read any) and decided to give it a go, since it sounded pretty interesting. Boy, am I glad that I gave this a go because I really, really, really enjoyed this book. Like, a lot.

M or F? is the story of best friends Marcus and Frannie. Frannie has developed a crush on Jeffrey and wants to get his attention, but is too shy to talk to him, so Marcus (who is gay) helps her out by talking to Jeffrey online for her. However, this plan works a little too well, and it looks like Jeffrey is falling for Marcus, who has been pretending to be Frannie all this time. I really loved M or F?'s story; it's light-hearted, funny, and pretty quirky at times. I don't think I've ever read a book with a story like this. My only issue, that isn't really an issue, is that I wish this story was a little bit longer. At only sixteen chapters, this felt kind of short. However, I felt that it ended at the right place, and if anything was added onto the end, it would feel kind of drawn out. I enjoyed reading M or F? so much that I didn't want it to end!

M or F? is told from the point of views of both Marcus and Frannie, which I'm usually fussy about, but I loved the way that it was done here. I loved both Marcus and Frannie equally, because they both had great voices that were so much fun to read in. There were plenty of asides, some sarcastic comments were thrown into there and I could definitely tell who was speaking (even though there were little male and female symbols at the top of the page at each chapter) thanks to this awesome concoction. Along with Marcus and Frannie, I liked all of the characters in M or F?; they were all unique in their own ways and I could really get that through the book's dialogue, which felt so natural and believable that I could hear their voices crystal clearly.

While I haven't read many LGBT YA romances, what makes M or F? different to other books that I had looked at, is that this is more about friendship than romance and I think that's why I liked this so much. Sure, Frannie's crush on Jeffrey is a major part of the story, but this is really all about her friendship with Marcus and how their plan to set Frannie up with Jeffrey changes their friendship. I think that this is what made the book so light-hearted and even humorous because Frannie is comfortable with being so open with her best friend, while she's shy when it comes to Jeffrey. If she was trying to talk to him all by herself, it would probably feel awkward and I would cringe for her so badly.

Overall, I really liked M or F?. I liked the story, the characters were great, and I just loved how light-hearted and fun this book was. It's totally not what I expected from a contemporary romance, and I definitely think that's a good thing.

Currently reading

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld