Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Book Review)

Publisher: Penguin
Page Count
: 358

CW: anxiety, depression, suicide

If you are like me and you struggle to connect with musicals (even if I do occasionally adore some of them *cough* Hamilton *cough*), you will be happy to hear that there is a novel based on the hit show that is Dear Evan Hansen. I say this like it’s big news, but really, the book has been out for a year already. And I do even know and like some of the songs from the show, but I am not among the fortunate few who might get to experience it live and just listening to the songs gives me limited amount of joy, so I was really happy to dive into this in a more traditional book-format.

In all seriousness though, I was prepared to sob my way through this book from all I had heard, but I didn’t actually cry until very close to the end. It’s not that there isn’t inherent sadness to it all, but something about the way it was written and told just made it a very fast-paced and easy read for me. I don’t remember the last time I devoured a book in less than two days … Nonetheless, that didn’t keep me from connecting with the book on an emotional level too!

“If the pain is in you, it’s in you. It follows you everywhere. Can’t outrun it. Can’t erase it. Can’t push it away; it only comes back. The way I’ve been thinking, after all that’s happened, maybe there’s only one way to survive it. You have to let it in. Let it hurt you. And don’t wait. It’ll reach you eventually. Might as well be now.”

Evan Hansen is, at least to me, a deeply relatable character. He suffers from severe anxiety, feels lonely and like he doesn’t fit in. Although he has a very loving parent in his life, he feels expectations of what he should be and how he should act weighing him down and ultimately it leads to him making some really, really bad decisions out of fear. I cannot say that I have done anything nearly as terrible as what Evan did, but I like that the book did not try to make excuses for him. Not once did I feel as if this was a redemption storyline, but rather a plea to own up to your mistake, clearly communicate with the people you care about and maybe, just maybe, there is always someone in a similar situation as yourself, so don’t give up.

“I wish that everything was different. I wish that I was a part of something. I wish that anything I said mattered, to anyone. I mean, let’s face it: would anybody even notice if I disappeared tomorrow?”

If I had to criticize one part of it all, it would probably be the love story. I get that everyone handles grief differently, but the way this was told felt a bit off. But then again, so many of the decisions made were beyond questionable, so I don’t even know if you could consider that specific part strange. My head just wasn’t really in it, because all I really wanted was for Evan and Connor to have gotten the chance to be friends for real.

I obviously can’t attest to any of the differences between the musical and the book, however, from what I gathered from others, the book definitely expands on the story and the inner thoughts of the characters (which is neither good nor bad, but just a thing that comes with it being a different format that allows more content than a musical). As someone who did not know all the songs and all the details of what Dear Evan Hansen would be about, I can say that it’s a book you can definitely pick up if you haven’t had anything to do with the musical! 

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A heartfelt and relatable story about mistakes, loss, grief, family and much more!

Have you heard of the musical? Have you read the book? Do you want to? Let’s chat!

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (eArc Review)

animators

Publisher: Random House
Page Count
: 384
Release Date: Jan 31, 2017

**I was provided with an eArc by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

I haven’t read any kind of general adult fiction for what seems like an eternity. I mostly dabble in Young Adult Fantasy and/or Contemporaries, but this book (still can’t believe it’s Whitaker’s debut) has reminded me as to why I shouldn’t forget about adult fiction any time soon!

It is not a story I immediately fell in love with. The writing flowed nicely, but there were a lot of references to old time cartoons that I did not get and felt like I would miss out on the full experience. The language is crude and foul sometimes, but always very direct. There’s an excessive use of alcohol and drugs and very few inhibitions when it comes to sex. Sharon and Mel aren’t exactly likable people at all times. They are loud, brash, unhinged, talented, selfish, messed up, brilliant; in simple terms – flawed but very real. That is exactly what made them work so well!

Their relationship is just as complex as they are as individuals. They push each other to extremes, drive each other crazy, but are always there when it counts. While Mel may date half the women in New York and Sharon remains hung up on the first boy she ever loved, it still comes down to them and their all encompassing bond in the end. They weren’t just a team at work, they were a team in life as well.

aquote1

I am trying to find a way to express my feelings about this book. I don’t see the point of talking about the plot, that is something each and everyone should discover on their own. However, this book treated a lot of topics and very dark ones at that, which in turn made me feel an unexpectedly large amount of feelings that I simply didn’t see coming. There are themes of loss – quite literal loss of a person you love but also the loss of innocence. Family – the one you choose and the one you don’t. Love – the pure, platonic and romantic kind. The Animators makes you aware that the world isn’t rainbows and sunshine, there are dark alleys and predators. Amidst all of that gloom, it still never lets you forget that there is always someone, even if it’s someone unexpected, who will be there to help you through it.

aquote2

The book is “only” 380 pages long, but somehow it felt like three times as much. It’s almost as if you are accompanying Sharon, who narrates the whole story in her unique voice, for an entire lifetime. She grew on me so much and I felt with her whenever life threw her another curveball. It’s such an ingenious debut, so very well crafted, however, I don’t think this is really for everyone. At times, it felt like going into a really deep, really warped and disturbed rabbit hole. It makes sense in hindsight, a necessary journey for the characters to go through, but even I felt like it was too much for me and too crass in some parts and I watch the weirdest stuff on TV. Still, it didn’t keep me from enjoying the story and I doubt that it will leave me anytime soon!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A stunning debut about partnership and adulthood and all the struggles coming with it!

4stars

Could you see yourself enjoying this book? Can you sometimes find joy in really messed up stories too?

Writing Insights #6: NaNoWriMo

nano

It’s been a while since I have posted a Writing Insight, but November is the perfect month to dive into a little bit of NaNoWriMo. It’s the third year I am participating and for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s quite the international venture though, with people from all over the world trying to write 50,000 words for the first draft of their novel in 30 days. Of course you can rebel and edit a previous work, choose your own word count or don’t write a comprehensive story at all. The spirit of the event is to write, no matter how you do it!

When I first tried, I “won” immediately, the second time around I honestly didn’t even try as hard (but I am still proud of getting to 25,000 words) and this year? Well, I am semi-nanowrimo-ing. My current WIP is called Arcadia, as I’ve mentioned several times before, and I don’t just want to rush it. However, I do try to write something every day. (If you haven’t seen it yet, you can read the Prologue + 6 Chapters right here!) So, there’s something that just really makes me want to participate, even when I don’t have the time or brain cells to be full in and here’s why:

  • I know that NaNoWriMo is a pressure of sorts, but it is also a lot of motivation. I am a competitive person, so when I get a task with a specific goal, such as reaching a certain word target each day, I WANT to do it. Also, you can earn badges and I just want to have them aaaaall!
  • If you sign up on the official NaNoWriMo website, you can connect with fellow writers online by adding them as writing buddies (my handle is Kat_Impossible if you want to add me!) BUT you can also come together with people from your region. This isn’t happening everywhere, but many places try to organise kick-off events, write-ins and planning sessions. It’s a fun way to meet new people who have similar interests to you and to find people who will hold you accountable during the month!
  • Whatever you write, know that it is not supposed to be perfect. The whole point of this venture is to get you to creative freedom. Write away, leave all the plotholes in the world in it and at the end of the month, you will have a first rough draft of your story and it’s the most glorious feeling! I am holding back this year, because I am sharing my story as I write it. That’s a scary thing in itself, but I at least try to make sense with it nonetheless. I am not saying that it won’t need a lot of work and time to edit Arcadia in the end, but it might be the tiniest bit easier than it would be if I didn’t care at all.

In the end, there’s no right or wrong way to do NaNoWriMo. I kept this post intentionally short, because I was wondering if you had specific quesitons about that topic? Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? Did you like the experience or not? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Writing Insights #5: Lacking Energy

lackenergy

Writing is great! It’s a way to express yourself, to tell your story. However, that doesn’t always mean we have the time or energy to actually write. What can one do in such a case? This question was asked by Chrissie @Bloggin’ and Writing and it’s such a good topic, so I am going to center this whole post around it. (Which is also a reminder that if you ever have questions or want me to talk about a certain topic, just say so in the comments or shoot me a mail! I am very open to ideas!)

I’d say there are two reasons of why we aren’t writing when we want to. One is that life is simply getting in the way and we actually don’t have one free minute to do what we would like to do. And the second is that there is something blocking our writing chi, and that’s always extremely difficult to pin down, and then we end up in an endless loop in procrastination station. Well, fear not! I have some tips for you (but without guarantee, because all writers are unique unicorns and the same methods don’t work for us all)!

  • If you are just hurrying from one appointment to the other, how about you take a little notebook with you? And I am not talking massive, heavy thing that will just weigh down your purse/backpack/whatever-you-use-to-carry-things. I am talking about something that’s maybe an A6-format notebook with about 30-40 pages. It’s thin and very easy to take with you. I have about a gazillion of them, because they cost approximately 1 Euro each at the art supply store. They are filled in no time, because unlike with super pretty notebooks, I am not afraid to write in them or to mess up and scratch things. Since I suggest you use them on public transport, lunch break or while you are waiting for an appointment, it’s not even meant to be filled with full sentences, but notes that you can get back to later on. As long as you can read the handwriting, you WILL be able to transcribe it later on.
    Side note: they are also super handy for sketches and observations!

So, that advice was obviously for people who don’t have much time, but what if you are like me and YouTube, Tumblr or Pinterest swallows all your free time? Deep down, you know that there’s a story just waiting to be written down, but … cute kittens can be so distracting! Well, here are some ways to channel that procrastination power:

  • YouTube and Spotify can be a hole that’s difficult to get out of. But if you hear a song that really speaks to you, start making a playlist for your story. Maybe one of the songs seems like the perfect theme song for your character or it inspires you to write a certain scene. It may seem unimportant in that moment, but it might just trigger a great writing session later on!
  • Not all of us are artistically inclined people, but some of you out there can draw and paint things that give me serious heart-eye-emoji! So, why not get inspired by your own work? Even if you aren’t a painting wiz or super tech savvy, there are a lot of things you can do. How about a map for your world? I once had a story set in the real world, but I printed out different Google maps images, rearranged them and added in parts with pencil. It was so much fun. Or how about character aesthetics? I just made one for a new character in the story called Findlay. Finding pictures that I thought would be fitting for him took a long time, but it also gave me a clearer picture of who I wanted him to be. Even if I changed my mind afterwards, it was a sort of character study.

findlay3

Obviously nothing t I just said is fool proof! But it is a way to get to know yourself, the story and characters a little better, so that even when you aren’t writing actual chapters, you don’t forget about your WIP altogether. That’s already worth something in my book.

Finally, I have updated Arcadia on wattpad again! You can read the whole story as well as the new chapter here. Since I wasn’t able to post much last week, I might treat you to a second chapter and maybe even Writing Insights post this week!

How do you feel about my advice? Do you have helpful tips to add?

With Malice by Eileen Cook (Book Review)

maliceEighteen-year-old Jill Charron’s senior trip to Italy was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. And then the accident happened. Waking up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher:
HMH Books
Page Count: 320 

**I was provided with an eArc from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I am not much of a thriller-reader, however, something about this book intrigued me and it wasn’t just my love for the cover. It was advertised as a mix between We Were Liars and The Girl on the Train, but I would actually call it something of a teen-version of Gone Girl.

Now you may wonder why I say that, right? Well, one of the biggest parts of Gone Girl was how the media twisted the public image of the MC and therefore branded him a murderer without actual proof. Well, Jill has to face a similar fate. Enhanced through her amnesia, it is truly a thrill to not know what is going to be thrown at her next. Some twists I could predict, others I didn’t have on my radar at all and I am glad for it!

Jill’s voice was really authentic. At first, I wasn’t sure I really liked her, she seemed a bit superficial at first, but as we got to know her, I found more and more similarities between us – it freaked me out! She’s the unassuming, quiet girl. The bookworm who is more interested in art and culture than boys. The one who is fiercely loyal to her friend and who backs down and apologizes, even if she knows it wasn’t her fault. Heck, she even has a blog (about feminism though, so that’s definitely not a topic I address on my blog). But something changed on the trip to Italy and she has no idea what happened. She doesn’t know who she is anymore and that scares her, especially since the people who should believe in her most start to crumble in their faith.

“Don’t you get it? Who we are is what comes out when shit goes bad. You can’t tell anything about a person when things are great. If you want to really know someone, be there when everything goes to hell.”

The ending wasn’t exactly what I would call satisfying, but it fit perfectly with the theme and vibe of the book. It is not so much about motive and execution of a possible crime, it’s about friendship and what drives people together or apart.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! If you want a book where you constantly wonder what is true and what possibly happened – this is the read for you!

4stars

Are you interested in reading this book? Are psychological thrillers your jam?

How Many Letters Are In Goodbye by Yvonne Cassidy (Book Review)

hmlaigIt’s been almost eleven years since Rhea Farrell last wrote to her mother.
It was a Friday night ritual – until Rhea’s father decided it was stupid to write letters to a dead person. That was the summer before the accident. The summer before Rhea began to keep her first secret.
Now about to turn eighteen, Rhea finds herself alone on the streets of New York with nobody to talk to about the future, or the past. So, just like she used to do as a little girl, she begins a letter with the words ‘Dear Mum’ and tells her mother the things she can’t tell anyone else.
In the city where Allison Farrell was born, her daughter begins to delve into her past. And as she uncovers more about who her mother truly was, Rhea starts to figure out exactly who she herself wants to be. And that sometimes it takes longer than you think to say goodbye…

Publisher: Flux
Release Date: 
March 8, 2016

I was provided with an eArc from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After finishing the story, the first thing I asked myself was, how am I feeling? Mad, Glad, Sad, Lonely or Scared? While reading the book I definitely went through all of these emotions, but I would lie if I said it didn’t take me a while until I really got into it.

The book is mostly written in letters and lists, two things I absolutely love, but unfortunately it was extremely difficult for me to empathize with Rhea. The problem is that Rhea has some serious trust issues, which makes it so difficult to really like her. You can feel her hostility ooze off the page sometimes. No matter who is trying to be nice to her, she takes it the wrong way and closes off. I get that her walls are there for a reason. She got hurt by people in the past, in a bad way, but somehow she was in denial about so many things. That was the reason why I had such difficulties connecting to her, really sympathizing with her.

However, after about a 100 pages, I was into the story and it all got a lot more intense in the second half. I wanted to know what happens to Rhea and if she will get her life together again. I wanted her to be able to trust people and let them into her life. Her transformation was great and the messages that came with it as well. Silence can be deadly, especially when it comes to traumatic experiences and you need people in your life who care enough about you to tell the truth.

Another thing I liked was that Rhea is a really diverse main character. She is a young Irish lesbian girl with a disability being homeless in America – that’s not a person you read about every other day. The thing is that none of those things felt like they were pushed on you to make you like her more. They were all just casual parts of her life, something that made her her.

To get back to the question in the beginning, I am glad that I read this book. It gave me an interesting perspective on a unique character (but she could have used the phrase “fifty kinds of crazy” a little less).

3stars

Fazit: 3.2/5 stars! I had a lot of difficulties connecting with Rhea, but by the end I really cared about her destiny.

Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty (Book Review)

lockIn modern-day London, two brilliant high school students—one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James “Mori” Moriarty—meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.
Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more…

FACT: Someone has been murdered in London’s Regent’s Park. The police have no leads.
FACT: Miss James “Mori” Moriarty and Sherlock “Lock” Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.
FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.
FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock’s one rule—they must share every clue with each other—Mori is keeping secrets.
OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can’t trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Page Count: 256

Everyone knows that I have taken quite the fancy to contemporary Sherlock stories. So, upon hearing that there was a new YA trilogy with the characters as teens in present day London – they definitely had my attention. I was a little surprised by how thin the book actually was, but I have no doubt that it would have been a quick read either way.

Lock & Mori, despite having both names in it, is written from James “Mori” Moriarty’s POV. I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, but since Mori is a girl here, I was sure that it wouldn’t be a strict mystery novel. I think that the balance between the romance and the rest of the story was handled pretty well. Maybe there could have been a couple more deduction scenes or general research and case-related talk, because that isn’t entirely resolved yet, but then again, it is a trilogy and I think that the case will be important for the remaining books as well. It was a little predictable in that department at times, but what can you do?

What I was most fascinated by was the fact that there was so much that reminded me of the Sherlock stories I knew, yet it had it’s completely own take on the story. After all, they are still teens in the book and that means they sometimes react more emotionally or silly than their grown-up versions might have, despite the style of writing not reflecting the young age all that much. So, I didn’t agree with some of the choices Lock or Mori made, but I loved getting to know Mori and seeing how circumstances changed her life and her relationships to other people. She is an extremely smart and strong character and it was extremely intriguing to see the hints of who she might become one day!

I don’t want to give anything away anymore, but I just want to add that my fear of it being too fluffy was not justified at all. It was surprisingly intense and my inner Sherlockian fangirl squealed every time someone I knew was mentioned. The blurb can be pretty misleading in some department though, because I don’t feel like it is the real representation of the story that is told. But in the end I am only sad that it wasn’t longer and that I now have to wait for the next book …

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! It could have done with a couple more deductions every now and then, but I am hooked! I will surely devour the rest of the series!

5stars

Did Lock & Mori grab your attention as well? What was your favourite Sherlock portrayal so far? I’m going to go and continue slaying my TBR!