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
Published by HarperTeen on August 7th 2018
Source: the Publisher
Buy on Bol.com, Buy on Book Depository
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!
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.Grit by Gillian French
Published by HarperTeen on May 16th 2017
Source: the Publisher
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Book Depository
"His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long"
Raw and moving, this contemporary realistic debut novel will leave readers of E. Lockhart and Gayle Forman breathless as it unflinchingly unfolds the tragic secrets being kept in a small, deceptively idyllic Maine town.
Seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss has long held the title of “town slut.” She knows how to have a good time, sure, but she isn’t doing anything all the guys haven’t done. But when you’re a girl with a reputation, every little thing that happens seems to keep people whispering—especially when your ex-best friend goes missing.
But if anyone were to look closer at Darcy, they’d realize there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Staying out late, hooking up, and telling lies is what Darcy does to forget. Forget about the mysterious disappearance of her friend. Forget about the dark secret she and her cousin Nell share. Forget about that hazy Fourth of July night. So when someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel act only someone with a score to settle would make—all of the things that Darcy wants to keep hidden threaten to erupt in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.
As the title of this post might give away, Grit wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. When I read the synopsis for the first time I expected a mystery or something thriller-ish, and that wasn’t quite what I got. The story was mostly concerned with Darcy, the main character, and the obstacles she has to overcome in the course of the story. Which is fine, just a slight adjustment of expectations, if it wasn’t for the messy plot the first third of the book.
The first third of Grit I felt like tons of things happen, but it doesn’t go anywhere at all. Despite the great writing, beautiful writing even, the first part just fell completely flat for me. This is such a shame because I think it would have been perfect if the plot had been cleaned up a bit. Between the job, the family, the mystery of the Fourth of July night, the pageant, and the budding romance there’s just too much going on to really enjoy the story. The plot felt too busy. All these different aspects just didn’t seem to click for me. I think the story could’ve done without the pageant bit, and instead delve deeper into some other aspects of the plot.
As for the protagonist, Darcy, I really enjoyed the dynamic she had going on with her sister and cousin. I appreciated how important family was to her, and I think she showed a lot of strength and determination with all that’s going on. But (yes there’s a but, I’m sorry) sometimes I just couldn’t connect with her. I felt bad for her because she didn’t deserve all the shit thrown her way just because of something she did in sophomore year (that circulated), but I found myself liking her less and less near the end of the book.
The writing saved this book for me. Gillian French knows how to use similes to her advantage, that’s for sure, and I liked how she portrayed the people inside the town. The second third of the book was done very well, especially the edge between Shea and Darcy. That edge combined with the sisterly love throughout the story made the story more or less enjoyable for me.
I did not know what to do with that ending. It didn’t work for me. I felt like it wasn’t in line with the rest of the story.
I really hate to say it, since I was really really excited about the premise of the book, but Grit was a bit of a disappointment to me. The plot was divided and just too much. I think a bit of cleaning up could turn this book from ‘okay’ possibly into something really good. The writing, the tension, and the sisterly love saved the story in my opinion, and for now, I’ll settle with saying that Grit was an ‘okay’ read.
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.Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Love & Romance
Source: the Publisher
Buy on Bol.com, Buy on Book Depository
From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.
It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.
But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.
It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.
Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.
Fireworks was and wasn’t what I was expecting. Cryptic sentence to open with, I know, but bear with me. Sometimes you just don’t know if the book you’re reading is going to knock your socks off or turn out not to be your thing at all, and such was the case with Fireworks.
So I’m talking about not knowing what I was going to get, but also that this book was and wasn’t what I expected it to be… That’s confusing. Let me break it down for you. What did I expect? I expected clichés. I mean, being discovered as a pop star, fame, a love interest that is destined to be the next big thing, it all screamed cliché to me. Not just cliché, but cliché in a big, bold, flashing neon sign kinda way. And I gotta admit those clichés were present in Fireworks. What didn’t I expect? For Katie Cotugno to work them so flawlessly into the story that I didn’t mind them at all. They were there, but they weren’t the most important aspects of the story.
Friendship and self-discovery were two of the most important aspects in Fireworks. I loved the protagonist, Dana. She was the kind of friend, had the kind of loyalty to her friends, that you can only admire and respect. Especially because as the story progressed it became clearer and clearer that her best friend, Olivia, was holding her back. Dana had to figure out for herself what she wanted to do with her life and she underwent a big transformation throughout the story.
If anything made Fireworks for me, combined with all things I mentioned before, it was that ending. I love how Katie Cotugno blew away all my preconceived notions of how I expected Fireworks to end in a cliché. That ending was anything but cliché and it was the cherry on top of a very enjoyable story.
If you’re looking for a fun and enjoyable contemporary read with a solid message attached, Fireworks is the answer. It’s a very well-written story with a sweet romance that you won’t be able to resist!
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 Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game
Published by Balzer & Bray on May 17th 2016
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Source: the Publisher
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Bol.com
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.
MORE RUSSIAN INSPIRED FANTASY! YAY! I think that was my very first reaction when I heard about The Crown’s Game. It is no secret that I am a huge lover of the Grisha-verse and one of the main reasons I love it so much has a lot to do with the amazingly intriguing setting. So I was most definitely down for any book set in Russia! And boy, this book did not disappoint!
First things first, The Crown’s Game wasn’t what I thought it would be! Which actually didn’t turn out to be a bad thing (yay!), I just had to adjust a bit. When I read the synopsis of the book I pictured glorious battles, fighting, stuff blowing up (aka violent things) and that’s definitely not what The Crown’s Game turned out to be. It became clear pretty early on that it was all about “impressing the Tsar with epic magic skills” rather then bloody fights. This made that the story moved quite slow, and not as fast paced as I expected it to be. However, I didn’t find myself minding it as much as I thought I would’ve.
It was a fun read, because it wasn’t as stressful as a story full of fights would’ve been. Instead it all felt quite magical to me. The Crown’s Game is super atmospheric, with amazing world-building! I don’t know too much about 1825 Russia, but Evelyn Skye definitely did her homework! She intricately weaved history into her story, which made it so very beautiful to read. The setting is so incredibly detailed and written beautifully!
The plot, or rather The Crown’s Game itself, was unpredictable to me. Even though it wasn’t really fast paced, the course of the game thrilled me and kept me on the edge of my seat.
The friendship between Nikolai and Pasha was top-notch. One of my favorite things about The Crown’s Game without a doubt! I love a well-fleshed out friendship in my books, and I got just that from Nikolai and Pasha’s friendship. View Spoiler » It kinda sucks a girl kinda comes between that, but hey, we’ll let that slide fot the story’s sake « Hide Spoiler.
I’m not too sure about the romance though. There’s a love-triangle… which I actually didn’t actually mind it that much. But there was just something a bit off about the romance. It felt a bit underdeveloped to me, as did the characters. Both the romance and the characters could’ve used a little more complexity in my opinion. I think this is what kept me from fully connecting with the characters .
All and all I think The Crown’s Game made for a really solid debut and first instalment in a VERY promising series! Beautiful writing and aboslutely mind-numbingly awesome world-building and SO MUCH MAGIC! I’m really looking forward to seeing how the story will progress and mature in the books to come!
As I am a part of Harper Collin’s The Crown’s Game blog tour I am including a little something extra in this review: a playlist inspired by the book! I handpicked 10 songs that reminded me of certain moments in the story, hope you enjoy!
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.Front Lines by Michael Grant
Series: Soldier Girl #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 26th 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Historical Fiction
Source: the Publisher
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Bol.com
World War II, 1942. A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.
Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans. For the first time they leave behind their homes and families—to go to war.
These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.
Front Lines is the first book by Michael Grant that I’ve read. When I read about the premise for this book I was sold. I mean, it seemed like such an original and intriguing take on World War II. After reading Front Lines I can tell you that it most certainly lived up to my expectations: what a long but incredibly compelling and captivating read!
There is so much detail that has gone into this book
Front Lines starts out quite slow, but this is one of those books that needs slow in the beginning. I don’t think I would have become as invested in the characters as I am now if I hadn’t been there alongside them at bootcamp, traveling from California to Georgia to Oklahoma to New York City and to North Africa on the Queen Mary. You need the background to become invested in these characters and I appreciate all the detail that has gone into this SO MUCH. The background stories, the journey to bootcamp, as well as all the historical details are what make this book so incredibly captivating to read.
Front Lines is such a confrontational and realistic story to read
What I loved most about Front Lines is that Michael Grant didn’t just stop at the imagined army life and conditions of women (and from the POV of three different women) during WWII. He also took in account how race would have factored in the army furing the early 1940s as well. Rio Richlin is a white girl from a small town in California, Frangie Marr is an African-American girl from Oklahoma, and Rainy Shulterman is a Jewish girl from New York City. Not only does Grant tackle gender injustice and sexism, he tackles racism as well, which is something that would be very easy to forget when writing a book like this. The fact that Grant ‘tells it like it is’ and doesn’t shy away from having his characters making racial slurs and sexist comments makes Front Lines an incredibly confrontational and realistic story to read.
Flawed characters with SO MUCH depth
I am, and always have been, a huge fan of character driven stories and Front Lines did in no way let me down in this department. The characters are realisticly portrayed: they’re flawed and have so much depth. Rio, Frangie, and Rainy all have their own distinct personalities, and have their own reasons for enlisting. The secondary characters, too, bring so much to the story.
The whopping amount of 576 pages are an absolute pleasure from beginning to end. It is such a compelling read and I cannot wait for the sequel to Front Lines to hit shelves! (Somehow I didn’t realize this would be a series until I reached the end of the book, imagine the frustration when I realized I coudn’t keep on reading when I wanted to SO BADLY). Seriously people, read this!