The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe (Book Review)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Page Count
: 384

I know it’s a silly point to start with, but I love the cover of this book! I love the colors, I love the illustration, I even love the extremely long title and the perfect placement of it. Most of all, I love that, now that I have read the book, I can tell you exactly who is who on that cover and it fits them to the t. Having said all that, my gushing shall continue about the contents of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, because this book was so much fun!

When I was 15 years old, I did an exchange semester in the US. Even to this date, with many a different experience abroad, it is one of the most memorable times of my life. I don’t know why, but for a second I thought this book was about a French-Canadian exchange student (that did happen at my US high school, so it’s not that weird of a concept), but no, Norris’ mum plans to move her son to Texas permanently. In hindsight, that makes so much more sense! Because why else would he absolutely hate the idea of being there, since he would have never if he had chosen to go himself. Nevertheless, most things Norris knew about American high schools, he knew from TV shows (just like myself) and he wasn’t surprised to find a lot of these things actually being true, while then realising that there’s always more to people than what you can see at first glance.

I thought this book was a fresh take on usual high school stories. I especially appreciated how the end wasn’t an end at all, while it still left you at a very satisfactory place. Norris, while being very judgmental to the point that it can get annoying sometimes, is a really funny character. I found myself laughing out loud several times. That’s not to say that there aren’t also deep and personal issues discussed. There’s moving to another country, getting raised by one parent and getting neglected by another, the expectation for children of immigrants to succeed, living with mental health issues, being black in America, selflessness and selfishness and to what degree we need to act upon them. Those weren’t even all topics mentioned, but somehow they were all included in effortless ways that made sense for both the story and character. Really, every character has their own story to tell and layers to uncover. I can always appreciate that! 

Lastly, the only reason that this isn’t a 5-star-read is that I found myself incredibly frustrated with the romantic storyline. Norris early on crushes on someone he himself calls a “manic pixie dream girl”, which should already tell you that she is not who he is meant to be with. Yet, he keeps pining after her even though she is downright mean to him sometimes and stringing him along in the most obvious ways, even when there is the kindest and sweetest girl right in front of him! I know it’s part of the drama and obviously was also needed for the big blow-up in the last act of the story, but I wouldn’t have minded if none of that ever happened. It was quite nice to just have a mostly happy story trickling along, with hick ups along the way, but just people who dealt with it rather than had a massive drama.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A fun and quick read about a very teen experience.

Have you read this book? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it.

A Discovery of Witches: Book vs. TV Show

Every year, there is one of these book vs. TV show comparison posts among the most popular posts. I am so very glad you are enjoying them, because I so very much enjoy writing them. It’s been a while since I talked about this show, but here we go! I hope I remember everything correctly!

General Plot

It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.

Diana Bishop, historian and reluctant witch, doesn’t realise that the book she just requested at the library will change her life forever. The volume has been lost in history, but for her it appears and reawakens magic she never knew she had in her. Now being sought out by the entire magical community, she finds herself enthralled with the supposed enemy, vampire genetecist Matthew Clairmont. As they slowly warm up to each other, it turns out their connection is far deeper than anyone could have foreseen.

TV Show

There was a lot of controversy when the show first aired, because how dare anyone release something in Europe months before it is coming out in the US. I, for one, didn’t think it was such a big deal, because what do you think anyone outside the US has to deal with when it comes to books, TV shows and movies 90% of the time? Anyway, my point is that there was a lot of buzz before it even aired and seen as it wasn’t on any of the traditional networks or streaming services, I feel like that was a good thing.

When I started that first episode, I was immediately enthralled with the show. The cinematography is one of the most beautiful ones out there, the pacing is slow but without making it seem like they are dragging things out and the chemistry between the main leads is just on fire. I will admit that the romance felt cheesy or like it was developing too fast and too intensely, but I just as equally have to say that I didn’t mind? There was a magical connection between them and as you go along with the show (or book for that matter), you’ll notice that Diana and Matthew were inevitable. So, yes, you do have the cliché vampire who stalks the pretty girl, but you also have a fascinating magical system behind it to back it all up. Lastly, I also really enjoyed the way they incorporated science into it all!

Another thing I really liked about the show was the fact that you didn’t just get a glimpse of the main couple and their lives, but all the minor and major characters that surrounded them. It made for a better whole picture and while there are still a lot of unanswered questions, you can see why certain characters did the things they did. Especially the daemons get a whole lot more attention on screen than they did in the books, where it mainly revolved around vampires and witches alone.

The show was renewed for season 2 and 3, which likely means they will film the trilogy as it was in the book, since they also stuck to the storyline of the first volume for the first season. This is good news, because it will mean that there will be a proper ending guaranteed.

Book

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)Contrary to the show, the book is entirely told from Diana’s perspective. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it left the motivation behind certain characters’ actions up to your imagination, while I prefer knowing how things come to be that way. Especially when we are talking bad guys, I like them to be more layered than just plain “I prefer the old way and that’s why you can’t do what you want to do” behaviour.

Still, overall I struggled a little bit with the book. It could stem from me not being used to long and detailed storytelling anymore (it’s a whopping 594 pages filled with different languages and historical accounts as well as architectural observations), but I also found Matthew’s and Diana’s behaviour a little more irritating. In that universe, witches are wild and stubborn, while vampires are territorial predators. It is like that in the show as well, but I feel like they managed to tone it down and made it less aggressive traits of the characters.

The beginning wasn’t adapted to the screen very faithfully, because there definitely wasn’t any vampire yoga class (which I found silly), but the second half of the book felt very accurately represented. There are still some changes that I am intrigued about, because they didn’t seem minor to me, but since the show continues, I am not worried it won’t be addressed. However, there was a certain magical ability, that I don’t want to spoil, featured on the show and I had hoped that I would find it more comprehensive once I read about it, but I still don’t understand it. Seen as they literally described it, I find it frustrating that I wasn’t able to grasp the concept fully. I still have so many questions.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! It took me about a year to finish the book, because some of the descriptions were tiresome and the characters felt a little more irritating to me, but in the end, I was just as intrigued by it all as I was with the show.

Conclusion

In general, I believe the show found a way to bring the book to life in a graceful and comprehensive way. There are a couple of plotholes here and there, but they aren’t limited to the screen adaptation in my eyes. So, I prefer to watch it all unfold beautifully, than to be confused by overly detailed descriptive text.


Have you read or watched A Discovery of Witches? Did you enjoy it? Let’s talk!

My Top 10 Movies of 2019

Here we are! Today is the day that I finally finish all my 2019 rankings. As you should be able to guess from the title of the post, it’s about movies I have watched in 2019. I tried my best to mostly include releases from last year, but let me warn you, it’s not my best list ever. I only watched Parasite in 2020 for example. Also, a lot of movies haven’t been out in my territories yet and yeah … don’t judge me too harshly.

10. Instant Family

I need silly content sometimes and I have an absolute soft spot for adoption/foster home stories, especially the ones with a positive message and happy end. So yeah, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea and maybe you won’t find it funny, but I loved how heartwarming it was.

9. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu 

This movie was by no means perfect, but there was something interesting about it. I really enjoyed seeing the pokémon animated in a real life setting and Ryan Reynolds voicing one of them was just the cherry on top. I think I’d like it if there were sequels to this for sure.

8. The Goldfinch

This movie would have been better served as a limited series, giving every character the time and respect to slowly explore their story. This way it was rushed and confusing at times, but something about it still gripped me. Also, the cinematography was beautiful.

7. The King

When I think of Timothée, I think of a boy. I never expected to watch a scene where he plays a king talking to his men on a battlefield, giving a speech that carries through rows and rows of people and believe his performance, but I did. And it was brilliant! (Most of all, shout out to Joel Edgerton, who was involved in so many parts of the making of this movie though and carried big parts of it.)

6. Long Shot

Maybe not the most obvious choice, but I found this movie funny and poignant? I was really sad that it flopped almost everywhere, because I never like Seth Rogen films, but I liked this one a lot. He works so well with Charlize Theron and it’s a sort of romantic comedy without too much romance and really current jokes.

5. Klaus

If you add any new Christmas movie to your yearly watch list, please, let it be this one. I didn’t just like the animation style, but I absolutely, with all my heart, adored the storyline. I swear, by the end of it, I was in tears and had no regrets.

4. Yesterday

I know that we had Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody and whatnot last year, but … I haven’t actually seen them yet. There is just something that always makes me worry about these biopics not being what I want them to be. Yesterday had it far easier in that department, because while they really dug into the legacy of the Beatles, they made it a whole story of their own. I liked how creative that felt and I really, really liked the cast.

3. The Party’s Just Beginning

This movie is best enjoyed with a lot of trigger warnings concerning graphic scenes of a suicide and warnings about depression. I watched it while I was in a bad place and it didn’t exactly help, but this movie was really great nonetheless. I am so proud of Karen Gillan for pouring her heart into this project and having it set in Scotland none the less!

2. Someone, Somewhere

Yes, I put a French movie in this post! It’s a love story without being a love story at all. It’s about how hard it is for single people in this day and age, especially in a big city. It’s about how you have to have your life in order for you to be able to share it with anyone else. It basically spoke to everything my heart and brain thinks daily.

1. Brittany Runs a Marathon

It’s supposed to be funny, but I cried my way through a lot of parts of this movie. Don’t let the trailer fool you, it’s not about how you have to lose weight in order to become a “better person”. That’s not what happened to Brittany at all, she turned into a bitch as soon as she was skinny if you ask me, but just like the last movie, it’s a lot about how you have to find a way to live with yourself. Also, it’s really motivational. I hate running and I wanted to run for days afterwards.

Honorable Mentions

As you’ve seen these past couple of days, I like to give a shoutout to some movies that haven’t made it in the ranking. Here we go:

  • Shazam!
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Captain Marvel
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home
  • Aladdin
  • Always Be My Maybe
  • Good Boys
  • Last Christmas
  • Someone Great
  • Love at Second Sight
  • Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood
  • Otherhood

Also, because I watched a lot of German content, I also want to specifically mention some movies worth checking out here:

  • Der Junge muss an die frische Luft/All About Me
  • Golden Twenties
  • Cleo
  • Traumfabrik
  • Nirgendwo
  • Trautmann/The Keeper
  • Rate Your Date
  • O Beautiful Night

That’s it! What did you think of that list? Any surprises on it? Let’s chat!

Mini Reviews: The Pisces, Animals

Sometimes, during a spur of poor judgement, I am determined to read a bunch of adult general literature novels. There are a couple where I really ended up loving the stories, but more often than not, it’s a vast disappointment. However, I am super stubborn! I will finish even the most annoying reads, so here we are … with some new mini reviews of books I did not actually like.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

The PiscesHeads up, this book features a lot of sex scenes. You might have been smarter than me and already guessed that based on the cover, but I really didn’t go into it expecting that kind of content at all. I honestly don’t know why though, I am just naive like that.

Anyway, I feel like opinions could be divided on this book. You’re either going to be all in and enjoy this or hate it … like me. Lucy, the main character, makes it really hard to root for her. I understand that her mental state was part of a series of questionable decisions, but she treated people who genuinely cared about her so terribly. Worst of all was, however, the animal abuse and neglect. That woman sedated a dog just because she was horny and wanted to be able to have sex in peace. It made me extremely uncomfortable to read. On a similar note in terms of my comfort with the story, there are also several mentions of suicide and it was brushed off way too casually for my taste.

Lastly, the actual reason I picked up the book – the merman/the magical realism. I think the fantastical elements were integrated in the story quite naturally and I can’t fault the author for that. My problem though is that I didn’t see the point of it all. The way I see it, any other love interest could have been added and the story would have resulted in a similar ending.

Fazit: 1/5 stars! It literally wouldn’t have made a difference if the merman had been replaced with another land-based dude …

Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth

AnimalsI don’t enjoy talking about books badly. In fact, if you go through the various reviews I have written on this blog, most of them are really praises or simply riddled with mediocre but not terrible ratings. But this book, I did not like it at all.

Laura lives with her wild best friend Tyler. They have a co-dependent relationship laced with alcohol and drugs. But Laura is also engaged to Jim, who pictures a more regular life for them now that they are taking on a serious commitment. Obviously, Laura can’t have both, but if you ask me, she doesn’t want both anyway. She wants to spend time and get wrecked with Tyler. She loves being miserable and every chapter was just an endless cycle of hangover induced bad decisions.

Maybe I envisioned something different for this book, but I simply could not see the point of it all. I did not understand why Tyler and Laura were so entangled and willing to destroy their health for … misery? I also did not see the point of dragging out the relationship between Laura and Jim when there wasn’t a single moment of them seeming compatible. Still, someone must have seen the point in it all, since this book was made into a movie.

Fazit: 1/5 stars! No, thank you.

Have you read any of those books? Did you feel differently about them? Let’s chat!

Mini Reviews: The Dire King, Defy Me, Find Me

You won’t believe it, but I have read THREE books THIS WEEK!? It’s been such a long time since I have done this, but it feels like old me. I am not saying I am back to my old form completely, but this is a really good thing. I missed books! (I mean, I love TV shows and movies, but there’s just something about creating a whole world just in your head. Still, because I don’t want a massive hold-back on reviews and I don’t actually have a huge amount to say about each book, I am just going to do mini reviews for them. Here we go:

The Dire King (Jackaby #4) by William Ritter

The Dire King (Jackaby, #4)

The Dire King is the last installment in the Jackaby series, a book series I mainly started due to cover lust, but never really regretted picking up. We are going to ignore the fact that it took me a year to finish this book, because I didn’t want to take it to Berlin with me and only read bits and pieces when I came back to visit, because overall, I really enjoyed this series.

The things I struggled with most, were probably during the crucial “finale battle” scenes. I had a hard time following descriptions of places and couldn’t really picture where characters were at what point during the fight – which is not ideal, to say the least. However, I loved how it all came together in the end! I don’t think this is my favourite part in the entire series, but I liked the thought process behind the end we got, because you could really see how it had all been building up to this.

Also, twains kind of rock!

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Not a bad ending as far as they go!

Defy Me (Shatter Me #5) by Tahereh Mafi

Defy Me (Shatter Me, #5)I may have given the previous installment in the ever growing Shatter Me series a good rating, but in all honesty, I was disappointed with it. The characters were barely recognisable and the writing style had changed drastically, although it had been one of my favourite components of the original trilogy. I struggled, to say the least. However, something brought me back into the fold with Defy Me.

I could see how this part of the series might split people into two camps, because nothing much happens. The events that took place during the 370-something pages could have probably be told in half that, but I am glad Tahereh Mafi took her time. I loved being back deep into the character’s minds. I loved getting all the angst and complexity that didn’t come from silly romance fails but from decades of abuse and the terrifying task of piecing a broken mind back together. It felt dark and like I couldn’t believe all the things that had happened to bring us to where the book is now.

Maybe, just maybe, not everything ties in nicely with the OG trilogy and I am a little sad at that too. But moving forward with these new books, you’ll just have to accept things or maybe don’t pick up the sequels at all. I was definitely much more on board with this than Restore Me (except for the last 3-4 chapters, because they were sappy and there was legit something that made me question if I just read a whole paragraph wrong with someone’s gunshot wound just disappearing from one chapter to the next …).

Fazit: 4/5 stars! My interest for this series is back again.

Find Me (Call Me By Your Name #2) by André Aciman

Find MeFor those of you who have followed me for a while, you know how much I adore the Call Me By Your Name book. I love to quote from it, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and all that despite knowing that it has some issues (nevermind the ones concerning the author himself), so when a sequel was announced, I was on board! BIGGEST. LITERARY. DISAPPOINTMENT. OF. MY. LIFE!

This was definitely marketed as a sequel. The blurb on the book (On Goodreads it does mention the dad in the synopsis, but not on the book!) just talks about Elio and Oliver and their love echoing through time, but you know what? That’s not what this book is about, because in the 260 pages I just read, Elio doesn’t show up until after 100+ pages and Oliver past the 200+ page mark. The time they have actual page time together isn’t even noteworthy. Instead, you get to watch Elio’s now divorced dad catch a bad case of instalove (yes, not just instalust, which I would get with this book) for a woman half his age on the train. And then you get to watch Elio do the same just in reverse at a concert.

Hear me out, I am okay with age differences in consenting adult relationships. You do you! I was, however, bugged by the constant mention of casual cheating, like monogamy is just the worst. I don’t mind people in polyamorous or open relationships, but that’s just not what these characters were in at the time of their story. I don’t even want to get started on the aphobic comments that were made either. It’s just not what I signed up for with this book! I was promised the continuation of an epic love … and I only got a rushed fake happy ending for them. I think I am just going to pretend I never read this …

Fazit: 1/5 stars! I regret getting this book so much.

Have you read any of these books or do you want to? Let’s talk about that!

Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke (Book Review)

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Page Count
: 320

It seems that I am making a habit of not reading book-to-movie adaptations, but rather the other way round, where books were specifically written AFTER their other-media-format successor became popular. Admittedly, it has been a long time since I watched the Pan’s Labyrinth movie, but to me, it makes sense to want to expand on the story a little bit.

To start with, let’s show you the trailer and then I will also talk about the plot a little bit. Usually, I don’t add my own summary in my review, because mostly Goodreads takes care of that and then I just use it in my graphic, but this time I found it too ambiguous. So, here is the trailer for the movie for starters (from a time when trailers still had overly dramatic voice-overs):

As stated in the brief summary above, the book follows the tale of the film, which is about a young girl by the name of Ofelia, whose mother remarried a cruel officer after the father died during the war. They move to a cold and cursed abandoned mill in the Spanish mountains, where rebels are trying to fight for their cause. Things get truly interesting when Ofelia, a girl who is mainly interested in books and still grieving her father, finds a fairy that leads her on dangerous adventures with the promise of becoming the Princess of the Underground world. This truly follows the film quite faithfully, sometimes word for word in terms of dialogue, but it also adds immensely to the world building by including short stories about objects and past events that happened at the very place the people are now.

Ofelia didn’t remind her mother that for her, there was nothing better than a book. Her mother wouldn’t understand. She didn’t make books her shelter or allow them to take her to another world. She could only see this world, and then, Ofelia thought, only sometimes. It was part of her mother’s sadness to be earthbound. Books could have told her so much about this world and about places far away, about animals and plants, about the stars! They could be the windows and doors, paper wings to help her fly away. Maybe her mother had just forgotten how to fly. Ir maybe she’d never learned.

Ofelia’s mother didn’t know it, but she also believed in a fairy tale. Carmen Cardoso believed the most dangerous tale of all: the one of the prince who would save her.

When I was younger, I gobbled up Cornelia Funke’s books like they were magic itself and could take me to foreign places. The Inkworld trilogy and the Thief Lord are still among my all time favourite books, however, I had never read her stories in English before. So, I don’t know how much of it all was Guillermo del Toro and how much of it was her. Either way, they managed to recreate the darkness and fantastic visuals from the movie with simple language and added background story and thoughts.

He abruptly dropped his hand, summoning the mask of confidence that had become his second face, merciless, determined. Death is a lover to be feared and there was only one way to overcome that fear – by being her executioner.

Death sighed. She was used to men begging for another few years or months, sometimes even hours. There was always something unfinished, something undone, unlived. Mortals don’t understand life is not a book you close only after you read the last page. There is no last page in the Book of Life, for thelast one is always the first page of another story.

One thing I am not sure about is the claim that this book is made for readers of all ages. The first chapter/the prologue is literally about a young girl dying by stepping into the world and forgetting who she was before. As I’ve also mentioned a couple times now, it’s quite a dark story and the happy end is debatable (as is tradition with old folklore, if you ask me). So, I could see a child who is dealing with matters such as death and grief themselves to maybe find solace in this book, but I wouldn’t give it to someone who was never exposed to it or gets easily frightened. Just like I definitely wouldn’t show the movie to a kid.

A groan echoed through the floor, the moaning of a hungry bloodstained mouth, and when she stepped back, she felt the Pale Man pushing against the floorboards. The worst fears are always underneath us, hidden, shaking the ground we wish to be firm and safe.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! I really enjoyed this, although I am not sure if it will stay with me forever.

Have you read Pan’s Labyrinth? Have you watched the movie? Let’s chat!

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!