The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby | Sister Review

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby | Sister Review

This review is a combined effort between me and my sister. We read a book and review it by asking each other questions related to the title we are reviewing. The idea is to provide you with two different perspectives: that of an English (Iris) and medicine student (Merel).

This review might contain spoilers, as we may discuss any part of the story (sometimes the questions we ask each other might be general, while other times they might touch upon something specific about the ending, etc). If you have not read the book and do not wish to be spoiled you might want to avoid this post.

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby | Sister ReviewThe Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby
Published by HarperTeen on August 7th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 312
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Goodreads
four-stars

Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

Iris asks Merel:

You never hiked a trail like in The Other Side of Lost, does reading about the John Muir trail make you want to do so?

As you know, we have plans to walk the West Highland Way, but because of conflicting schedules we, unfortunately, haven’t gotten to it. The Other Side of Lost did make me want to speed up the plans! I do believe that hiking a trail, like the one Mari did in The Other Side of Lost, allows you to get to know yourself in a different way. The type of society we live in is so active and I feel that I always have to respond to things immediately. I think taking a break from all that could open your eyes to what is truly important in life.

Did you think The Other Side of Lost needed the romance, or would you rather have read about Mari’s journey without the romance?

Well, I am a sucker for a good romance, but I don’t think the book necessarily ‘needed’ the romance.  I loved the bits where you could see something growing between Mari and the love interest, but the book was about Mari’s growth and her process of overcoming her fears and loss. Had the romance been present even a little bit more than it was it would have bothered me, but as it was in the story I did not mind it one bit. I loved all the romancy-parts!

Mari sets off on her hike without telling her mother (but she does leave her a message). In the book, it is not touched upon what her mother thought of her daughter’s decision. What did you think about that?

Ha, I am happy you asked! In a way I thought the ending was beautiful. Mari learned a lot about herself and I think the ending symbolises that character development. However, I do not think it is very realistic. Even though she faced herself and her actions during her journey, she never truly faced it back in ‘the real world’ where she struggled so hard to appear as the perfect person. Moreover, she never faced the consequences of her actions. Her leaving like that, not saying anything to her mother. I do not think any mom would be okay with that. Facing her mom and aunt, and maybe even the loss of her cousin would have made the story complete for me.

What did you like most about The Other Side of Lost?

Oh, this is a horrible question to ask! How can I choose… There are multiple things I loved about The Other Side of Lost, so I’m going to split this question up!

Favourite character: I could easily choose Mari. She is easy to relate to and very likable. However, I am going for Josh! To me, he represents everything this book is about. He had his own struggles, but always made time for others. I loved how Josh knew who Mari was from the very beginning, yet never judged her or made her explain herself. He respected her for being there and gave her the space to figure things out on her own. Additionally, Mari and he had great chemistry, so that worked in his favour, haha.

Favourite moment: There are quite some moments that made me laugh out loud. (Yet another reason why I really enjoyed this book.) But I think the moment that made me laugh the hardest was after Mari was nearly swept away by the river and all her stuff was wet. When they went to bed she realised that she didn’t have a tent or sleeping bag to sleep and I laughed very hard at how they tried to make sure that Josh would share his sleeping bag with her. Especially when they yelled at them from inside their tents.

Favourite part: I love how Mari came to realise that she was worth more than the amount of likes and comments on Instagram and that only she could decide her own worth. The fact that she met some truly amazing people who liked her for who she was (and how they helped her get to that point) made me fall in love with this story even more. And I don’t just mean the friends she made along the way (who are all individually amazing by the way), but I’m also talking about Bri’s guidance. Bri’s quotes from her travel journey always seemed to fit what Mari was experiencing, and they too helped Mari overcome her difficulties and insecurities. Mari walking and finishing the hike that she and Bri had planned to do as kids represented more to me than just a beautiful ode to her late cousin. It also represented her overcoming her struggles and finding her way back to herself to who she was as a person.

In the book, there is a stark contrast between the protagonist’s reliance on social media and her sudden venture into nature. What are your thoughts on that?

I do think that switch was a bit sudden. However, I think it was balanced out by the various moments where she has to fight the urge to take a picture and how she described the way she could use the light to her best advantage or what pose to make. So even though the change is sudden, it’s not like she immediately forgot about her online habits. If that had been the case it would not have been very realistic. I did like how in the end she took a photo of her/Bri’s boots at every stop!

What did you think of the side characters?

I liked most side characters in The Other Side of Lost. While some of them were a bit flat, it did not bother me. Looking at the storyline, I think this has to do with the fact that they did not need to have a whole lot of depth because the story was first and foremost about Mari. They were fleshed out enough to get a feel of them and that was enough for me. However, that does not mean that I did not enjoy reading about them! I liked Beau’s humour, how Vanessa looked out for Mari and how Bri sometimes made an appearance.

Merel asks Iris:

You, much like Mari, are very active on social media. Have you ever felt the way like Mari did at the beginning of The Other Side of Lost?

The thing about social media is that is it is really easy to lose focus of that matters and why you share your content. I love taking pictures and talking about books, which is why I talk about it on social media and share lots of pictures. However, it is so easy to think that people do not like what you post because they do not comment or like your picture. It is such a fine line and it can sometimes really get to me. I think we all want people to like what we do, and that is exactly what makes it so hard when they do not. Social media makes it so easy to show and see only the happy moments in life. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that EVERYONE has bad days. I have never truly felt like Mari felt at the beginning of the book, but I did come scarily close to it. The way The Other Side of Lost deals with these themes is what makes it a very powerful story.

Did you ever witness/receive a backlash like Mari did after her confession?

I definitely witnessed a lot of negativity and mean comments on social media. That is the thing I perhaps like least about it. I never experienced anything as bad as Mari did, but I have experienced some downright mean comments. You try not to let it get to you, but the truth is that it is hurtful and the mean comments always stick with me more than the positive ones.

Mari’s hiking the John Muir trail practically untrained. As a hiker yourself, did that bother you? Do you think it is realistic and safe for an untrained person to undertake such a hike?

Hiking a trail like that untrained is something I would never ever do. The risk of injury is big, and inexperience can be incredibly dangerous (can even get you killed). I would never undertake something of the sort untrained, however, that does not mean it does not happen. I know it happens because I have even seen it happen more than once. It does bother me, but there is a slight nuance here because Mari does have the proper gear (not taking in account that she would have had SO MANY blisters because her feet are not used to the hiking shoes or the amount of walking she did). She is taught how to properly use it (after she meets Bri’s friend), which made the story much more believable to me. Is it safe? No. Is it unrealistic? A bit, but it happens more than you would think. I think it did not bother me that much because I knew when I started reading the book that Mari was going in untrained.

What did you think about the ending of the book? To me, some things were resolved, yet quite some things still hung in the air.

One one hand, I liked the way The Other Side of Lost ended, because leaving things open like that is realistic. I liked knowing that Mari had changed as a person and it was up to her to continue the change after her hike. However, on the other hand, I would have liked for Mari’s mother and aunt to have made an appearance at the end. I think that was the only thing I truly felt was missing from the story.

The book showed quite some contrast between ‘online life and friends’ and life as it is experienced offline. What are your thoughts about this? Do you think that this is something that our generation needs to think about?

I do not think having online friends is bad. In fact, I made some great friends online and I love meeting people I know from social media in real like. That being said, there is a certain distance involved and sometimes people can make themselves out to be different than they are. Moreover, people being kind online and ‘liking’ your pictures does not mean necessarily they are your friend. You need to be careful. Careful not to live your entire life online, because that can make you feel incredibly isolated. Fact is, you might have very good friends online, but sometimes you just need to spend time with someone in person, be able to call someone and hang out with them.

And I almost forgot to ask the most important thing of all: What did you think about the book?

The Other Side of Lost was an incredibly enjoyable read. I really like the way it portrayed the negative aspects of social media, as they are themes that certainly need to be addressed more. It was a quick read, once I started reading I finished the book in no time. If you are looking for a meaningful and fun read that won’t take too much time to get through, The Other Side of Lost is definitely the book to choose!

four-stars
Edinburgh Independent Bookshop Guide

Edinburgh Independent Bookshop Guide

Moving to a new city (read: new country) comes with the added bonus to discover and explore new bookstores. As I happened to have some spare time in the first few weeks, I explored in excess and happened upon some bookstores that I quickly found myself falling in love with.

The first thing I discovered when I looked up the various bookstores in Edinburgh was that there are a lot of them. The second thing that most of them are independent bookstores. It happens to be that both of those things make me very very happy. I decided on two beautiful, albeit different, independent bookshops that stood out to me (and which I am definitely visiting again).

Golden Hare Books

Golden Hare Books is my number one favorite in the city! It has the most beautiful storefront I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. I went there on #BookshopDay (hence the ‘Books are my Bag’ flags) and slowly browsed my way through the store.

They have a ‘Blind date with a Book’ wall that tempted me mercilessly and have baked treats throughout the store that you can nibble on (their peanut butter brownies are to die for!). The ambiance is incredibly pleasant, with music playing softly in the background and seats to sit down and read. Golden Hare Books is a paradise for book lovers and definitely worth a visit if you’re visiting the city or just find yourself in the neighborhood.

Lighthouse Bookshop

Lighthouse Bookshop is another independent bookshop you don’t want to miss out on. They market themselves as left-leaning and politically engaged, and when you step into the store you can see they truly are. They celebrate diversity, equality and free speech throughout the store and provide marginalized as well as mainstream books. My favorite discovery was the way they described YA books. They have a little sign on their shelves that states: “YA (Young Adult) is a genre melting category full of brilliant, challenging crossover books & authors, check it out.” Isn’t that the best description any YA reader can wish for?

Why you should support your local independent bookstore(s)

I do hope that if you ever find yourself in Edinburgh you’ll take the time to visit these indie stores. Do remember that bookshops like these are cultural assets: they support and promote (local) authors, they champion reading and work with the community. It’s independent bookshops like these that make buying books such fun and the city would certainly be a poorer place without them, so make sure you support them by buying a book (or two, or three).

Furthermore, to put things a bit more in perspective: the number of independent bookstores has halved in the past 11 years. In 2005 there were 1,535 independent bookstores, and in 2017 the number of independent bookshops has gone down to 867 (The Bookseller). So be sure to support yours!

 

 

Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen | Book Review

Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen | Book Review

Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen | Book ReviewReign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen
Series: The Elementae #1
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on January 30th 2018
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 438
Format: Hardcover
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Goodreads
five-stars

Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands.

But she soon learns that her husband, Calix, is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. Even more unsettling are Shalia’s feelings for her husband’s brother, which unleash a power over the earth she never knew she possessed—a power that could get her killed. As rumors of a rebellion against Calix spread, Shalia must choose between the last chance for peace and her own future as an Elementae.

Reign the Earth is such a richly spun tale full of amazingness that I am having trouble forming cohesive sentences about it, let alone write a full review. However, I decided that I am going to try because I want nothing more than to persuade you to read this book as well. I want to see this book on your shelves, your TBRs, and in your lives, period.

Why you need to read Reign the Earth

The main character, Shalia, is fiercely loyal and brave. She is such a selfless individual who, when faced with tough decisions, isn’t above doing everything in her powers to do the right thing. I loved getting to know her and seeing how she tackled the struggles that came her way (and believe me, there are plenty). Her story isn’t always easy to take. Especially her marriage with Callix and their relationship was very hard to read about. There is a very thin line that Shalia is walking and the smallest mishap could destroy all that she’d sacrificed.

The very best thing about Reign the Earth though is its setting and the variety of cultures. The worldbuilding was so well executed and an absolute joy to read about!

And if that isn’t enough, it all builds up to a finale that will give you feels aplenty! It’s devastating, it’s powerful, and it’s everything you want from such a powerhouse of a book.

Reign the Earth is a well-crafted and BEAUTIFUL book! If all things mentioned above won’t sway you to read it, then I have one last trick up my sleeve:  the cover alone is enough reason to pick Reign the Earth up. I am not above saying that if you occasionally fall prey to buying books for the cover, let Reign the Earth be one of them. I promise you that you will not regret it.

five-stars
Epic Love Stories to Turn to in Times of Need

Epic Love Stories to Turn to in Times of Need

If I got paid for every time I get asked ‘what’s up’ with ‘my love life’, I’d surely be a millionaire by now. Whether it be by a meddling aunt, your parents, or by curious friends that particular question always manages to exhaust me. So for everyone that’s still wondering: the ‘love life’ is non-existent. There’s no man (or woman) in my life. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure Prince Charming took a detour in getting here (a serious error in judgment on his end). To everyone who lives through the same, this post is for you!

Most days I am totally fine with my single way of life. But some days, the lack of that epic love story makes me feel a little ‘meh.’ A friend of mine just got married and my god, it was a beautiful day that had me wiping away tears like mad. There’s just something about weddings that make you crave a little slice of that for yourself (you know, for when that detoured Prince Charming finally finds his way out of the woods).

For those ‘meh’ days:

So, for those ‘meh’ days… When your cat, best friend, dog, or sister isn’t enough to keep you company: here is a short list of books (YA and NA) with great epic love stories that I turn to when I need a reminder that my one is (somewhere) out there:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Let’s be honest, Simon vs.the Homo Sapiens Agenda can’t really miss from this list. I only recently read this book (in anticipation of Love, Simon) and LOVED it. It is such a beautiful and meaningful story about falling in love for the first time. This book will make you laugh, cry, and laugh again.

Wait for You by Jennifer Armentrout

The Wait for You series was one of the first NA series I read (I mean, I read EVERYTHING by Jennifer Armentrout) and I wholly recommend not just the first book, but the entire series. It deals with some heavy themes, without becoming too heavy and losing that feelgood vibe. The third book in the series, Stay with Me is my favorite book in the SIX book series.

Havoc by Jamie Shaw

A rockstar romance, need I say more? Havoc is the fourth and last book in this series and my absolute favorite. Although all other books in the Mayhem series are thoroughly enjoyable, this is the one that gives me the most feels. This love story is one that builds slowly and develops beautifully (and the love-interest is so damn sweet).

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout

Hey! Another Jennifer Armentrout book! And this time a YA. This one is a little heavier than her previously mentioned series. A lot heavier actually, but so good! It’s about pushing yourself to go beyond your past, getting to know yourself, and finding love in the process. The Problem with Forever will wreak havoc (see what I did there?) on your emotions, but it can’t miss from this list. Because if this isn’t an epic love story, then what is?

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Whoah, it’s been a while since I read Eleanor & Park… This is not really a simple love story. It’s a story about two star-crossed lovers that aren’t really given a chance. It’s a love story, but at the same time, it’s not (it is so much more). All I can say is that if you haven’t read this book, you’re seriously missing out!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Yup! Two Rainbow Rowell books! Because ‘Rainbow Rowell’ and ‘epic love story’ pretty much go together. Fangirl holds a special place in my heart, as it is the book that helped me greatly when I was seriously anxious about starting university. It’s a wonderful coming of age story with a lovable heroine (who develops greatly throughout the story) and a fun love-interest. This entire book is so relatable!

What epic love stories do you turn to when you need a reminder to believe in love?
The running project!

The running project!

One or two years ago I was still fit enough to run a half marathon. Then my BA thesis happened and ten months of internships happened. The past two years have been awesome, but still, a part of me mourns those hours spent running. Then again, nothing is ever accomplished simply by looking back. If you want to make changes, then the only way to do so is by actually ‘doing’. Which is why I made a promise to myself. No more sporadic runs, instead, I am back to training regularly. I am setting up a schedule and I am setting the goal for myself to pick a running event in Edinburgh.

MY running project

Part of wanting to get back into my routine is that I have a few months before my official moving date. I want to be used to my routine again so I can have some stability, something to focus on when I move. Although I am madly excited about the time to come, I do realize it’s going to be an adjustment to move away from everything I know. As The Meadows is practically going to be in my front yard, I have zero excuses for not going out and running a lap (or two). Running is going to be what I will turn to when I need some common ground.

The first run in my schedule was last Saturday. The next run was on Monday. And the next will be on Wednesday (the day after this post goes live). That’s three runs already, three runs closer to my goal of getting back into that running rhythm that I miss so much (and yet not at all, because let’s be honest, a bad run can be harrowing). That burning feeling in my lungs. That euphoria when you get back from a run and feel like you’re on top of the world.

The fun part about getting back to training was finding out that I hadn’t drifted off as far as I thought I did. On Saturday I ran 3k quite easily. I might be slower than I used to be, but I still had the stamina to run the entire distance.  However, on Monday the distance didn’t quite come as easily as it did two days before (and I believe a slight case of sore muscles might have a hand in that as well). Easy does it. I am not going to force it: I am going to enjoy getting back into the rhythm because what matters is that I am getting back into running again.

I guess what I am trying to say is: it is simple to get lost in what used to be. Try to remember that, no matter how insignificant, every run you go on is progress. And don’t forget to enjoy the process!