zondag 27 oktober 2013

Review "Reflection"

Some information

Title: Reflection
Author: Nadia Kim
Pages: 350
Genre: chicklit, paranormal
Published: June 2012
Publisher: Bookbaby
My Scource: the author (thank you!)
My Score on Goodreads: 4 stars (deserves a half more)


Her soul is fragmented; she is but an empty vessel. Jessica Hamid isn’t your average African American/Middle Eastern woman. She’s broken. As if her childhood wasn’t bad enough. Because of all the kids who teased her for having a big butt or being mean to her, hurting her physically and mentally, she chose never to deal with those issues to bury them deep down inside, locking away the key. And now after landing her dream job the insecurities she developed have come back to haunt her in ways no one could imagine. Something is coming for her; she has no idea.

To make matters worse, despite obviously hiring her because of her excellent writing skills her boss at Teen Savvy Magazine hates her style and her coworkers want nothing to do with her. In fact, the only one giving her any attention is the mysterious photographer, Mark, whose charm is more torment than pleasure to Jessica as she struggles to figure out if he is for real or just out for another piece. 

This is a story of a woman who struggles with her own insecurities to break into the person she was meant to be. Will she overcome them and allow love to shine its light through her, or will she become the property of another, more sinister force, never able to reclaim her identity again?

Reflection is a page-turner not like any other. It’s a love story with a twist of fantasy, playing to the moral fibers of a person. The depth of the characters help create a three dimensional world. And the angst experienced by Jessica is felt by the readers on an intimate level, evoking many emotional responses along the way, from hurt and sadness to the funny moments when the ever clumsy Jessica makes a mess of things.

My review

To be honest I didn't know whether I would like this book or not. The title, cover and covertext didn't attract me that much and I hate to say it but for me those things can make me buy books and read them. Now I have discovered once more that you can't judge a book by its cover (or title or covertext) and that's also the message this book tries to give to its readers!

My favorite genre still is chicklit. I love to clear my head and read some love stories without much depth. On the other hand I also like classic novels and stories because their characters seem more real and they really have something to say. Combine those two elements and you have "Reflections" by Nadia Kim. This author wrote a book where she combines a beautiful love story with some paranormal elements. These elements give the book a second layer in which we can learn several things about life. 
In "Reflections" we meet Jess, a young woman who works for a teen magazine and loves her job. The only problem is that Jess is and has always been very insecure and this attitude doesn't really fit the world she lives in for her job. When she was younger she always was the center of ridicule. Most of the girls didn't want to be her friend because she was a little different and this made Jess horrible at finding new friends and truly trust them. When people acted like they liked her, they had other intentions most of the time (like really hurting her afterwards and laughing because she believed they wanted to be friends with her). That's why Jess is very closed and doesn't trust people around her, especially not when they're beautiful and work for a teen magazine.

Of course this makes her life difficult, because she really loves doing her job and is good at it. It becomes even more difficult when she meets the photographer (and owner) of the magazine, Mark. He really seems to like her, but Jess doesn't believe it at all. She already met some men in the past who liked it to trick a girl and make her believe they loved her before dumping her. Jess isn't going to let that happen again and keeps Mark as far away from her as possible. He, on the other hand, persists and makes Jess wonder if he really means it. Just when she starts to like him, he leaves because both of his parents died in an accident. Jess waits for him and hopes he will call her or email her, but she waits in vain and believes she's tricked once again. 
When Mark finally returns to the magazine, it seems like he started a relationship with Jess's boss. At this point Jess really starts feeling depressed. All her hopes are gone and she starts having very strange dreams. 

At the beginning Jess doesn't think much of these dreams. Everybody has strange dreams... But when those dreams start to get more real and frightening, she wants to learn more about them. Jess discovers she's in great danger and is followed by some sort of demons in her dream. Bad thing is these demons are more real then she thought in the beginning. For me these monsters, who try to get a grip on Jess's body, are the bad feelings she remembers from her past. The demons of her past keep following her, especially when she's insecure and hates herself once more. Just when Jess started to leave these monsters behind her because she fell in love with Mark, they started to follow her again because he left her. Just when she started believing somebody could really love her, she was dumped all over again. The demons start to catch up with her and it won't take them long to have her completely under control.
What Jess doesn't realise is that those demons have been there most of her life. They are the bad feelings she dragged along with her untill she met Mark. Can she leave them behind for the rest of her life or is she lost?

I'm not going to spoil the story for you, so if you'd like to discover how it all ends for Jess and Mark, you should really read the story. It's a beautiful one and it will keep you interested until the end (whether you like paranormal elements or not).
Enjoy it!

Interview follows soon!

dinsdag 15 oktober 2013

Review "Villa Honeymoon"

Some information

Title: Villa Honeymoon
Author: Ilse Spall
Pages: 320
Genre: chicklit
Published: January 2012
Publisher: Sijthoff
My Source: Standaard Boekhandel
My Score on Goodreads: 5 stars


Mandy’s lust en leven is Villa Honeymoon, hét hotel voor pasgetrouwde stellen, waar ze als assistent-bedrijfsleider werkt. 

Als de bedrijfsleider ervandoor gaat, de kamermeisjes steeds te laat komen en de tuinman ontslag neemt, besluit de eigenaar het lot van Villa Honeymoon in Mandy’s handen te leggen. Samen met zijn zoon Thomas moet Mandy ervoor zorgen dat de omzet binnen een jaar met 40% stijgt. Daarnaast moet ze erop toezien dat rokkenjager Thomas zich niet met de vrouwen in het hotel inlaat. Als Mandy faalt, verliest ze haar baan, maar als ze slaagt in het plan krijgt ze een bonus én promotie! 

Mandy heeft goede hoop, totdat ze Thomas ontmoet – en als een blok voor hem valt…

My review

Oooh, this book was really welcome. I could use some cheesy chicklit with lots of love and without many depressing parts. A book with an ending you can predict before you start reading it, a book with beautiful main characters who don't really do a lot expect loving each other. I don't say this book was completely brainless! I loved the writing in fact... it made me want to read further. I kept on reading and reading... Conclusion: if you like chicklit and you don't speak Dutch/Flemish, you have to start learning it and read this book. Ilse Spall wrote a very good chicklit book! 

In "Villa Honeymoon" she tells us the story of a beautiful hotel for newlyweds in Drenthe, Holland. Our main character Mandy puts her heart and soul in the hotel, lives there and does everything for her guests. Too bad the manager of the hotel disappeared with a cleaning lady and left the hotel in a poor condition. Mandy tries her best to save the hotel, but needs the help of the big bos. He wants to help her and send her his son, Thomas, to get the hotel out of trouble. One little issue. Mandy has to promise him she won't end up in Thomas' bed and she has to get him to work. Mandy accepts without thinking twice. Like she's ever going to love a womanizer?! Let alone that he would love her with her big scar on her face... Mandy doesn't believe any man will love her ever again because of this scar she has after a terrible car accident. When Thomas' father also promises her a big bonus and promotion if she succeeds in her part of the deal, she immediately says "YES!" to it.
Mandy has high hopes in it untill she meets Thomas and sees how he really is. Beautiful on the outside and the inside... This was a little thing she didn't expect... How about her deal with his father, her bonus, her promotion,...? The hotel was everything she lived for... untill now...

Great read!

woensdag 9 oktober 2013

Review - Interview - Giveaway "The Grotto under the Tree"

Some information

Title: The Grotto under the Tree
Author: John A. Theo Jr.
Pages: 139
Genre: Young Adult
Published: February 2013
Publisher: Astraea Press
My Scource: author and Candace's Book Blog
My score on Goodreads: 4 stars


Sebastian and Sara mistakenly descend into a mystical land where elves, mermaids, gnomes and other mythological creatures live. The two discover they have stumbled into an ancient battle between these fair folk and evil creatures called the Kylo. Their guide on this journey is Capri, an elf lord who is on a quest to find his lost tribe. The Kylo chase the children and Capri in his flying galleon north into the Arctic Circle where they find the most unlikely ally. During the final battle the children learn about sacrifice, love and ultimately forgiveness.

My Review

What a great experience to travel back in time and read the kind of book I used to read when I was younger. As a child/young adult I adored heroes of my own age who discovered the most special places on earth and got to know the most wonderful creatures in that world! 
With "The Grotto under the Tree" John A. Theo Jr. provides us a good read for young and old. A book you can appreciate at every age and no matter what kind of books you normally like to read.

In this book we meet Sara and Sebastian, two young children who are neighbours and go to school together. Outside their school stands a beautiful oak tree who survived many storms and is known by young and old in the neighborhood. Sara and Sebastian too have played under it many times. When the tree is severely damaged in a storm, the two friends discover some strange things around it. Their curiosity leads them towards a very special world with very special creatures in it. Too bad for them their encounter isn't so peaceful because of some bad forces trying to attack the beautiful creatures Sara and Sebastion just met. Both necessity and friendship take the children along in this big battle between good and bad, a battle that must be fought for every living being on earth (and beyond).

What I loved about this book is the fact it can learn the young readers lots of lessons. You have to take care of your friends and you have to keep on believing in the good things even though that's not always easy. Also the fact there were some totally unexpected turns in the book was appreciated here. The author is able to keep the story going and to keep it exciting without making the story long or boring. 

Interview with the author

First we want to get our author a little better. Here's some information!
John Theo Jr. has numerous published articles on arts, culture and sports figures. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA. During the day John serves as Vice President of Operations for Blue Sky Holdings, which owns many commercial fitness clubs. John is also an adjunct professor at Endicott College in Beverly, MA, where he teaches screenwriting. John's Book, The Grotto Under The Tree, has been released by Astraea Press.

Talk about some things in the book that are more personal to you, or some places in the book you've visited, or want to visit.
I wrote a scene where Sebastian finds his mother in the living room during a thunderstorm. He knows she never liked thunderstorms. He tries to comfort her by crawling into her lap like he did as a little boy, but instead she rocks him back to sleep. This was a subconscious homage to my mom who passed away in 1996. My way of sending her a hug.

How you came up with some of the more unique elements?
For Father Christmas' character it was a knee jerk reaction to the charicature of the fat red-suited santa claus our society has portrayed him as. I researched the historical Saint Nicholas and what I found amazed me. Ironically I made him more like the historical person which no one in movies or books has done before. He ends up being more like Gandalf in The Lord of The Rings than a chubby man in a red suit who delivers toys. I think people will really like this version of him.

Can you give some facts about the city or place the book takes place in?
It takes place in a town similar to the one I grew up in. The school and oak tree are based on Great Oak Elementary School where I went in Danvers, MA. I did alter the town to make it a seaside town though.

Can we meet the characters?

(Tell us about your main characters! Looks, personality, some background story, and/or maybe a few quotes from the story?)

Sebastian is the intellectual 5th grader who aces all his tests yet cannot throw a baseball. Sara is the popular athlete who struggles in school.

How do you come up with those special names for the characters? It seems like a difficult part of writing the book.
I keep a journal of names that jump out at me from time to time. When I go to sit down at with a story I can pull from them. It makes it an easy, and fun, part of the writing process for me. With that said, names are a tool that should not be overlooked. I teach my students that names offer another layer and opportunity to "show" rather than "tell". For example, Tolkien is a master of this in his Lord of The Rings trilogy. You have characters like "Wormtongue" and "Treebeard", but he (being a philologist) had almost every name mean something. Names of swords, names of rocks and mountains, etc. It's another layer to the story that, if the reader peels back, offers a reward of discovery. With that said, sometimes you just want to name a character Stu and leave it at that. 

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