Nyx Book Reviews

fantasy ♥ paranormal ♥ horror ♥ science-fiction

Review: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
Series: Standalone
Rating: 4 Stars

448 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Greenwillow Books
Review copy received from the publisher

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Although I rarely read contemporary young adult books, I tend to make exceptions for books concerning mental illness. There is something so fascinating about people whose minds work in a different way from a “normal” person’s. Made You Up combines all of the elements I enjoy in this kind of fiction.

Alex has troubles discerning what is real. Are there trackers in her food? Are the Nazi’s coming to get her? Is there really a phoenix flying over the town of Hannibal’s Rest? And is the boy whom she liberated lobsters with when she was seven really standing in front of her?

Alex is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Because of her schizophrenia she cannot know what is real and what isn’t. She tries to make pictures of things she’s unsure about, and she checks them from time to time to see if they changed. Through the course of the book she sees some pretty weird things, and although many of them aren’t real, some of them are.

What makes this book a lot more fun to me is that although Alex is unstable, she is not a black sheep among white ones. At her new school, there are plenty of misfits of one way or another, and in a way, she blends in. It’s not Alex versus the world, but a more complex situation. She finds friends, and even falls in love with a guy, Miles.

Miles is hard to like at first, and Alex doesn’t like him at all. Throughout the story, however, they slowly become closer and closer to each other. Instead of using the boring cop-out of “I hated his guts but damn is he hot”, Ms Zappia gave the characters more time to develop something genuine. If you’re someone who needs their love interests to be perfect nice guys, you probably won’t like the romance in Made You Up. Miles is flawed, just like Alex is, and although their romance is unconventional in many ways, they’re a perfect fit.

Made You Up is a long book, and I think it could have been shorter. Although the added length gives you more time to get into the story and get attached to the characters, it kind of dilutes the emotional punch. Contemporaries tend to be short for a reason. The added padding of Made You Up wasn’t boring in the least, but it stood in the way of the potential it had to be truly emotional.

Although it’s hard for me to judge how the author treats the theme of schizophrenia (since I’m neither a sufferer nor a psychologist), I love how she didn’t make it a clear-cut black and white situation. Medication, the role of parents, the internal struggle of Alex, the possibility of having to go to a mental hospital… All of them are handled in a respectful and meaningful way. It keeps you guessing to the very last page what is real and what isn’t.

Blurb

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Other reviews you might be interested in

Kushiel’s Dart Readalong Week Two

Together with a whole bunch of cool ladies, I’m reading Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. The idea is that we read a few chapters each week, answering questions about those chapters, and working our way through the book like this. This week we read chapter 9 to 18. We’ve just started, so if you’d like to join in, I think you still can! This week’s host is Tethyan Books.

readalongweekone

1. In these chapters, Phèdre finally gets to have her own dedication ceremony. Were you surprised by what they did with the dove? Also, do you think it is fair to ask people to make a life decision about serving Naamah at such a young age?

For me, there were to choices. Either they’d kill the dove or they’d let it fly. Since the temple thing had a hole in the roof, letting it fly seemed the more likely option. Although it’s done before, I enjoyed the symbolism.

Though letting people decide on such an important matter might seem a bit harsh, it’s not much different from what teens have to do in our society. In the Netherlands kids have to choose a school level at twelve, and their “profile” at fifteen. These choices determine your life just as much as serving Naamah does.

2. Sex ed is definitely different in Terre d’Ange. Do you think the Showing was useful for the teenagers? Do you think, at their age, you would have appreciated something like the book-learning they received in the art?

Ha, I kept thinking the Showing was basically like showing kids porn in sex ed class. It must be quite awkward to sit there watching people get at it.

3. Hyacinthe has some neat theories about Delauney’s past. What is your favorite theory?

I don’t really have a theory about Delauney, except that he might have really been in love with that princess lady person. Was she a princess? Queen? I can’t believe I forgot, ha.

4. Phèdre seems to be making a name for herself as an anguissette, known for never giving the signale. Do you think she would ever actually choose to use the signale, even if she were in real danger? Do you think her inability to do so might get her into trouble?

I think she would be too late to give the signale. She wouldn’t recognize the danger before she could no longer do so. I’m sure it’ll go wrong soon enough.

That being said, I liked that the story incorporated a safe word.

5. Do you think Alcuin is enjoying his career as much as Phèdre, or do you think he has a different focus? Do you think their differing appeals and tastes will drive them apart?

Alcuin seems to like it all, but I don’t think he’s really all that into it. He seems more interested in the spying than serving Naamah, while Phedre isn’t all that into the political conniving. When something happens to Delauney, I don’t think they’re going to stick together for long. It’s their common purpose that keeps them together for now.

My thoughts on this week’s reading

Phedre’s first adventure as servant of Naamah (read BDSM sex slave) wasn’t all that exciting. I’m having a hard time truly grasping what the political intrigue is and why we should care. I already finished this week’s reading on Tuesday though, so the pages are turning quite quickly. Onwards!

If you’re reading with us, what did you think of the book so far?

, , , ,

The Sunday Post #28

Sunday PostThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba from The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

I am utterly, completely exhausted. Last week has been crazy in terms of university things. Every day I’m writing around 800-1000 words of academic writing, and it’s just draining all of my energy. Usually I would do about 500 words a day, but this increased pace is necessary to get everything done in time. Monday and Tuesday are deadlines for two projects though, so I’m hoping for some relative calm later next week. I have a presentation on Tuesday and I HATE presentations, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

This week on Nyx Book Reviews

For the month of May and June Nyx Book Reviews is on reduced posting, but I’m still getting some fun stuff in. This week I’m reviewing the science-fiction classic I, Robot, and sharing my answers for this week for the Kushiel’s Dart readalong.

Read this week

I only truly finished one book this week: the first volume of Ms. Marvel, Best of the Best. The I haven’t finished anything in a while is because I’ve been reading in these three big boys! The Dragonbone Chair is a reread – it’s an epic fantasy novel I really enjoyed in my youth, and I’m rediscovering it now. I’m slowly making my way through A Feast for Crows. It’s been fun, but I’m missing a few of my favourite points of view in this book, like Tyrion’s and Jon’s. I’ve barely started Under the Dome, but I’ve loved it so far.

How was your week?

, , ,

Review: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Title: I, Robot
Author: Isaac Asimov
Series: Standalone
Rating: 4 Stars

245 pages
Published June 6th 2013
Bought

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Did you know this science-fiction classic by Isaac Asimov is a collection of short stories? No? Well, neither did I. Colour me surprised when I found out I, Robot is actually nine short stories with an introduction.

Most of these short stories star a recurring cast of characters including robopsychologist Susan Calvin and the comic duo of Powell and Donovan. They have been strung together by the introduction and some text throughout, but they generally stand on their own. The reader is invited to fill in the blanks, and in his own mind follow the development of a world that, ultimately, is completely run by robots.

Generally, I, Robot holds up very well. There are hardly any out-dated references, and in many ways the story feels timeless. What doesn’t feel timeless is the simplistic writing and the juvenile banter of Powell and Donovan. I found the writing to be too one-dimensional; something I would gladly blame on the time period, were it not that I have read some way better written books from the same decade.

An hour later, perhaps, Powell looked at his hand on the metal arm-chair and said with frozen calm, ‘Feel the wall, Mike.’
Donovan did, and said, ‘You can feel it shake, Greg.’

Let’s just keep calling each other by our name in dialogue, that feels so natural!

The content was interesting. Asimov explores, through a sort of ‘case study’ approach, the different ethical and practical consequences of being able to create robots with a conscience. He poses some very interesting points, especially in his later stories. Some of his assumptions haven’t worked out the way he might have expected. Asimov’s robots are able to understand human speech, and can respond in kind, yet scientists are baffled when a robot can do high-level calculations. The way robotics have developed in the last sixty years is the exact opposite – although we have advanced calculating machines, it has proven difficult to equip robots with the ability of natural human speech patterns. At the time Asimov is writing, this was still very unclear. So although robotics such as Asimov envisioned them haven’t happened (yet), I hardly blame the guy for that.

Especially the last few stories gain a complexity not fully explored in the first few, though entertaining they were. There are parallels to slavery and links to events happening in Asimov’s life (many of the stories are written in the aftermath of the Second World War). I really liked that, although he does raise some points worth thinking about, his stories are never as bleak or depressing as many other science-fiction tales are. I, Robot is humoristic and optimistic, with a sharp edge.

Blurb

In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future–a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.

Other reviews you might be interested in

, , , , , , ,

Kushiel’s Dart Readalong – Week One

Together with a whole bunch of cool ladies, I’m reading Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. This book has been on my TBR for ages, so I jumped on this opportunity to read the 1000-page book with other people. Can you believe this is the first real structured readalong I’m participating in? Welp. I guess you can still have firsts after five years of blogging. The idea is that we read a few chapters each week, answering questions about those chapters, and working our way through the book like this.

This week we read the first eight chapters. We’ve just started, so if you’d like to join in, I think you still can! This week’s host is Dab of Darkness.

readalongweekone

1. Here we have the earliest days of Phedre’s life, and we have the story of Elua and his followers. Did you note any similarities between Phedre’s beginning and Elua’s stories? Do you enjoy having these stories upfront or would you rather have had the stories shuffled in later with an adult Phedre looking back?

Though there are some similarities between Phedre and Elua’s stories, I don’t think they’re all that poignant. I liked getting stories about Elua and seeing more of Phedre’s childhood, but I felt there was too much telling and too little showing. We’re told Phedre is part of this house, but I have no idea what life there was truly like. Phedre’s childhood never truly comes to life for me.

2. Hyacinthe has become Phedre’s one true friend. Do you think she is the same for him? The dromonde, or fortune telling, fascinates Phedre. Do you have a fortune telling story?

Though I like Hyacinte as a character, I don’t think we see enough interactions between him and Phedre to make me believe they are really friends. He seems like a decent kid though; what fascinates me most is that we see a hint of him becoming part of something bigger. Will he be a spy master? Because that would be very cool.

I don’t have any fortune telling stories, I’m afraid.

3. The Midwinter Masque on the Longest Night is a long held tradition in Terre D’Ange. What stood out for you? Have you been to such a fete?

The Masque sounded like a cross between my high school prom and the yearly Dutch festival of Carnaval. Fancy costumes + heavy drinking + breaking stuff… yeah, that sounds familiar. On my prom, some people got so drunk they broke down tables at our venue.

4. Anafiel Delaunay has many secrets. How do you think those secrets will shape Alcuin and Phedre?

Hm. That does depend on what those secrets are, no?

5. Delaunay has a saying; All knowledge is worth having. Do you believe this is so?

Maybe. Although I think knowledge is never worthless, I find it hard to believe that all knowledge is all equally worth having. It’s kind of useless to know how many bottles of coke would fit on the moon.

My thoughts on this week’s reading

I completely get why people call this book slow starting. The first hundred pages are an interesting mix of flashbacks, commentary from “old” Phedre, foreshadowing, and worldbuilding. Although I didn’t have much issues reading it, I’m not completely “into it” yet either. We meet many characters, but they’re given very little scene time. I don’t feel like I know any of them yet.

If you’re reading with us, what did you think of the book so far?

, , , ,

The Sunday Post #27 – I’m Back!

Sunday PostThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba from The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Hi guys! It’s been a while since I did a Sunday Post, because I took a break from blogging to focus on university. I’m still not done (I graduate in August), but I feel like I can keep up if I don’t blog too much. So instead of the customary two reviews I’ll only post one review a week until I have more time again, probably in July.

Not blogging for two weeks have been good. I owe a ton of people emails now, but I’m quite refreshed now, and feel happy tackling writing and scheduling posts. In real life nothing much interesting has happened. We went out for dinner with my boyfriend’s grandparents to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, which was nice. I also bought a shiny shiny new tablet to replace my 2012 Nexus 7, and I love it!

This week on Nyx Book Reviews

I’m linking up all post I wrote since my last Sunday Post rather than just what I posted this week. Clash of Iron is a good fantasy set in an alternate Iron Age. Another Little Piece might seem like an ordinary contemporary novel; the blurb doesn’t do justice to its dark magic realism. Then I took a break – and came back to share the ten fantasy books I’m hoping to read this year.

This week on Irresponsible Cactus

Because I was low on energy I decided to do a small status update kind of post, called A Small Intermezzo. Then, this week, I shared a rather personal post – I don’t really have any close friends right now, and it sucks.

Read this week

sundaypost27

Comparable to the posts, this isn’t what I read in one week but rather since my last Sunday Post. I barely read at first in my break, and I needed to break out some favourites to get back in the groove, such as Harry Potter and a J.R. Ward book. Since then I’ve been reading more, even finishing a book for review (Paperweight).

How was your week?

, , ,

The Fantasy Project – 2015 Goals

In 2013 I signed up for The Fantasy Project, a long term reading challenge where you try to read 101 fantasy books spread over 10 years hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict. Now, 101 books are a lot, and I’ve found that the list is simply too long for me to truly be able to read from it in a constructive manner.

Instead, I’ve decided to take a few books from the master list every year, and try to read those. For 2015 I’m going to be aiming for 10 books. Since I’m already participating in many other reading challenges, I don’t want to stretch too far!

2015 Fantasy Project books
  • A Feast for Crows by G.R.R. Martin – I’m slowly making my way through the Song of Ice and Fire series. A Feast for Crows is my night stand book at the moment, which means that I often read one chapter before bed. Since this book is ginormous, it can take me a while to get through
  • The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams – I read the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series when I was around twelve, and I can barely remember anything from it except that I really liked it. I’d love to revisit Tad Williams’ book this year
  • Magic Strikes & Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews – The first book in the Kate Daniels series didn’t completely convince me, but the second did. Can’t wait to continue the series!
  • Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward – Ahhh, I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood novels. This one isn’t going to be a chore at all
  • Reign of Iron by Angus Watson – This is one of the newer fantasy series I’ve been reading lately, and I’d love to finish the trilogy. This book is supposed to be released in September, which should give me enough time to read it this year
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien – Ahh, the most classic of fantasy classics! I read the first two Lord of the Rings books in my youth in Dutch, but I’ve never read them in English. I have the beautiful illustrated edition, which is fantastic to look at but not very easy to take with you anywhere. It’s time to stop looking, and start reading!
  • Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson – Me and Mistborn didn’t work out, but I haven’t given up hope yet that the second book in the series might be more enjoyable for me. And I have the boxed set, so I do want to give Sanderson another shot
  • Royal Assassin & Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb – I read Assassin’s Apprentice years ago, and remember loving it. I might have to reread the first book before I start the rest of the trilogy, because I remember very little apart from the fact that Fitz is incredibly unlucky in life

, , , , , , , , , ,

University Induced Break

Hi guys! If you ever read my Sunday Posts regularly, you probably know that I’m currently in the middle of finishing up my Bachelor degree. For a very long time I’ve been able to keep up with my studies and doing both my blogs on the side, but I’m afraid that at this moment, I can’t. So instead of dumping the few reviews I have still saved up on the blog, I’d rather just take a break for a week or two. I’ll concentrate on getting back on track with my thesis, and maybe build up a buffer again to carry me through the last few months of the academic year.

I hope you all have a lovely few weeks, and I’m sure I’ll see you all again on the 3rd of May. Some time in May when I finish at least a bunch of university stuff

Update: so, those two weeks came and went at a crazy rate. O hai, May. I definitely still need some more time. I’m still wading through a sea of yucky papers. I’m working on four at the same time. FOUR. WHO CAME UP WITH THIS STUFF. Makes me long for the times I simply had exams, those are way less of an effort.

I’ll be back, baby.

, , ,

Review: Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

Title: Another Little Piece
Author: Kate Karyus Quinn
Series: Standalone
Rating: 4 Stars

419 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by HarperTeen
Bought

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Another Little Piece is Kate Karyus Quinn’s debut novel. I read (Don’t You) Forget About Me last year, and it was one of my favourites of 2014. My expectations for Another Little Piece were very high, and I wasn’t disappointed.

They tell her her name is Annaliese. All she remembers is that she woke up five days ago in a shed. They tell her that she has been missing for a year, and there are whispers that she should have been dead. Annaliese tries to find out what has happened in the time leading up to her disappearance, and what happened during the time she was away.

When writing a summary for this book, it all sounds pretty normal. It could have simply been a contemporary novel about a girl that has lived through some pretty traumatic things. What isn’t instantly clear is that Another Little Piece has a kind of creepy magic realism setting. Think cannibalism and human sacrifice. Even though the setting is creepy, I wouldn’t say this book should be categorised as horror. I don’t feel like the intention of the writer is to scare the reader. The most scary scenes in Another Little Piece actually had nothing to do with the supernatural or gore – they were the ones about human evil, about rape and abuse. Ms Quinn really doesn’t keep anything from the reader, and the book is brutally honest.

The story is told through a combination of running narration, dreams, memories, and poems. Usually I’m not a fan of dream sequences because they tend to be too confusing and too crazy, so I liked that in Another Little Piece the dreams are kept short and sensible. I’ve read some complaints that the dreams contained too much plot, but honestly, I was glad for that. And it’s not all that far-fetched. I have dreamt entire book plots in the past; it’s not like every dream is messed up and jumbled. Some of them can seem incredibly credible.

I don’t want to say much about the magical aspect of the book, because that would spoil all the fun. I can only tell you that it’s weird, and it’s gross, and it puts our main character for an impossible dilemma.

If Another Little Piece is to be compared with Stephen King, it should be compared with Lisey’s Story and not The Shining. It deals with themes like identity, conciousness, and as aforementioned, rape and abuse. It has a sweet though slightly dysfunctional romance to lighten the mood. Though Another Little Piece didn’t pack the same emotional punch (Don’t You) Forget About Me did, it’s a great read and a fantastic debut.

Blurb

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese’s fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

Other reviews you might be interested in

Reading Is Like Falling In Love (And Sometimes You Fall Out of Love Again)

A recent reading adventure got me thinking – being a book lover is quite similar to being a lover in general. The book that sparked this thought was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, a novel that had all the hype going for it. Behold, a budding love between a reader and a book.

Phase one: Attraction

You’ll catch a glimpse of in a book store. Just a tiny hint of beautiful cover, the perfect curve of spine. The sight of it makes your heart beat faster. You’ll think about it on the way home. Late at night, you’ll browse Amazon, to learn more. It sounds perfect. You need to have it.

Phase two: Falling in love

The wait is excruciating, but then, at last, a carton box arrives on your doorstep. You can’t open it quickly enough, hands shaking in anticipation. You have it in your hands, and it’s even more beautiful than you remember. Your relationship develops quickly – rights page, title, acknowledgements, and then.. oh my. The words on the page seem to have been written for you, you alone. They sing to you, they touch your heart. Everything is right in the world.

Phase three: Real life interference

All you want to do is spend time with your book, but you can’t. At some point, people around you clamour for your attention, and your boss warns you that you are out of vacation days. Reluctantly, you close the book, and return to your other life. You think of the book while doing chores, you think of it on your commute. Maybe I can read a chapter before bed.

Phase four: Crossroads

You couldn’t read yesterday because of that thing. The instant attraction you felt for the book has weaned. Sure, it’s great, but it can wait a bit, right? Later that evening, you pick it up, stroking to cover, and return to where you were.

Option one: True love

Immediately you are plunged back into the world you unwillingly left. The characters, the setting, the plot – everything is just as amazing as when you just started, and you can’t get enough. You stay up reading the entire night, because it’s just that good.

Option two: It was just a fling

The words don’t fall back into a comfortable rhythm. Were the characters always this annoying? That plot you found so exciting now seems to move at a snail’s pace. After wading through half a chapter, you put it down again with a sigh. You saw this other book in the subway today. Maybe you should look it up on Amazon, see if it’s any good…

*****

In the case of The Miniaturist, it turned out, we only had a fling. I was terribly excited when I started reading it, but somehow I lost that initial interest halfway. It was good, but not as amazing as I was hoping it to be.

Is this familiar to you? Do you fall in love with books?

, , , ,

‹ Previous Posts