A Castle In The Clouds | A Review

Hey everyone! Today I bring you my review of ‘A Castle In The Clouds’ by Kerstin Gier! Before I get into my review, I just want to add that this is a translated novel! (Translated from German to English.) I can’t wait to read more translated books in the future!

A Castle in the Clouds: Gier, Kerstin, Fursland, Romy: 9781250300195: Books  - Amazon.ca

(Synopsis from goodreads.)

Way up in the Swiss mountains, there’s an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.

Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure–and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart.

First, let’s talk about the plot! The original premise of A Castle In The Clouds was everything I could have ever wanted on a cold winter afternoon. A mystery in an old hotel in the mountains? Sign me up! And can we talk about that stunning cover? The execution however…totally lived up to my expectations! There was mystery, humor, and romance. (Which in case you haven’t noticed already, is one of my favorite combinations.)

The book follows Sophie, a 17 year old high school dropout navigating her life as an intern in the old hotel in the mountains, which is most commonly known as; The Castle In The Clouds. Sophie reminds me a lot of Sophie from the film ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. They’re both charismatic and caring people. However, she didn’t have much character development in the story. Nevertheless I did enjoy the fact that it was a very plot driven story. That intrigued me, as I’m used to reading very character driven books. Tristan and Ben where two other lovable characters. There was even a love triangle between both boys and Sophie! Now, I dislike love triangles, so I disliked that aspect of the book too. Why must it always be your favorite character that ends up heartbroken? I also think the romance felt a bit out of place. Moreover, I absolutely adored Tristan! He was a guest at the hotel, and there was this vibe to him that reminded me so much of Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. He even looked like him! Tristan was honestly such a delight to read about! Ben on the other hand, was alright. Ben was a young adult set to inherit Castle In The Clouds from his father. I found him to be slightly stuck-up at times, but I didn’t dislike him though.

Unfortunately if I reviewed every side character, this review would be 30 paragraphs long. 😆 The hotel staff had some nice and funny characters, but none of them stood out to me all that much. (Except for Old Stucky, he was one heck of a guy.) Another side character that I enjoyed reading about was none other than Don B. Jr, a snarky 7 year old guest at the hotel who had me laughing like crazy. From his rude comments, to his spontaneous actions, Don was certainly a memorable character. Next we have the Ludwigs, who where the sweetest old couple ever, and had a lovely backstory! From sassy Gretchen and her other self absorbed sisters to Amy and little Gracie, these hotel guests where nothing but boring. But my favorite side character was hands down ‘The Thriller Writer.’ The only thing we as readers knew about him was that he writes books…And asked the kitchen staff to send him a raw animal to 💫inspire his writing💫. All in all, each side character had their own personality, and I found that to be one of the best parts of the book! Despite having so many characters, the story never became overwhelming or complicated. So props to Kerstin Gier for executing the story in such a beautiful way!

“Bienvenue. Willkommen. Benvenuto. Welcome to A Castle In The Clouds. Enjoy your stay.”

― Kerstin Gier, A Castle In The Clouds

The dialogue between the characters was immersive, and every line was fresh and fun! The thing with mysteries is that every piece of dialogue matters, so naturally I paid close attention to it…Only to find that all of my assumptions where completely wrong. (Let’s just say I’m not the best detective. 😂)

In case you’re wondering, the entire novel is in Sophie’s perspective. I found Sophie’s narrative to be super entertaining! The writing style was also very descriptive. Typically, I dislike descriptive stories. However, I loved reading the author’s descriptions of the hotel! The author writes in such a way that allows the readers to feel like they themselves are in the hotel and are experiencing the same events as Sophie, and to me that’s something truly special!

The overall enjoyment level was slightly affected by the weird pace fluctuation. I felt that the climax came out of nowhere, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t anticipating a huge plot twist. Unexpectedly though, I found myself breezing through the last 150 pages! It was simply too gripping to put down!

‘A Castle In The Clouds’ was a cozy read, perfect for fans of mysteries and contemporary! I highly recommend you give this novel a go!

Age Rating: 13 and up

TW: Violence, talk of kidnapping and murder, kidnapping, some suspense

Final Rating: 9.5/10 or 4.75 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What is your favorite mystery novel? Let me know in the comments below! Have a fabulous day!

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A Song Below Water | A Review

Hiya! Today I will be reviewing the contemporary fantasy YA novel; A Song Below Water By Bethany C Morrow. Enjoy!

A Song Below Water: A Novel: Amazon.ca: Morrow, Bethany C.: Books

(Synopsis from goodreads)

Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.

Let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded so incredibly bone rattling and revolutionary! The execution however, let me down. The whole story was very confusing, and many of the magical creatures weren’t explained beforehand. As someone who doesn’t know much about magical realism and fantasy, I was extremely confused. I also longed for more social commentary. I felt like there was barely any, which is such a shame as it could have made this book 10 times more enjoyable.

Fortunately though, I liked the main characters. Effy and Tavia had the best relationship! It was just the sweetest. I absolutely loved the talk about black hair! I actually learnt quite a bit about black hair through A Song Below Water. Wallace was another great character. He was kind, charismatic, and charming. At times I felt as though Effy was cold towards Wallace for absolutely no reason whatsoever. For example, he’d try to help her, and she’d snap at him. The fluctuation from I-love-Wallace to I-hate-Wallace was a bit off, and didn’t transition smoothly.

“We should all speak like sirens. Use our voices to make a difference, because all of them matter.”

― Bethany C. Morrow, A Song Below Water

Tavia’s parents were dislikeable, and their actions where discriminatory towards sirens. (Tavia is a siren by the way.) Fortunately, I was very intrigued to see the father-daughter dynamic play out, so that was cool! Moreover, the other side characters such as Naema and Priam were flat out mean. I won’t talk much about the actual actions some characters made as I don’t want to give spoilers. However, it seemed that a lot of their actions were done ‘just because,’ and didn’t have any meaning behind doing so.

The dialogue between Effy and Tavia was the best thing ever! I absolutely adored their late night talks! If you’re looking for a story about sisters, do check out A Song Below Water. I also loved how Tavia and Effy used sign language to communicate when Tavia was not able to speak. Sign language is something hard to find in YA novels, let alone fictional novels! As mentioned previously, I was hoping for more talk about the discrimination that sirens, let alone African Americans, face.

“What we need isn’t dissuading, or discouragement, or consoling. We don’t need to be told we’re all helpless. What we need is action.”

― Bethany C. Morrow, A Song Below Water

For the most part, the writing style felt choppy and hard to follow. I did however, like how I was able to distinguish between Effy and Tavia’s point of views. In many books, it’s hard to tell which character’s head the readers are in, but with A Song Below Water, I was able to distinguished perfectly between the two! They each had their own unique way of thinking, and I’m so glad the author delved into that vigorously! The best thing about the book though, was that there was barely any swearing or cursing! Isn’t that amazing? I don’t know about you, but it left me feeling very happy.

I’m sad to say that the overall enjoyment level of A Song Below Water wasn’t very high. I was way too confused to feel completely immersed in the story. It took me over 200 pages to get into the storyline. Fortunately, the plot was whimsical perfection, so that added to the overall enjoyment of the book!

A Song Below Water was an enlightening read that I recommend to whimsical fiction lovers!

Age Rating: 12 and up

TW: Police brutality, forced outing, colorism, racism, talk of murder, bullying, cyber bullying

Final Rating: 6/10 or 3 stars

⭐⭐⭐

Have you read A Song Below Water? If so, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below! Have a wonderful day!

(PS: If anyone’s curious, I posted a pic of this novel on my bookstagram)

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Ten YA Novels To Read On Valentine’s Day

Hiya! I hope you’re all doing amazing. As we all know, it’s almost Valentine’s Day! So to celebrate this lovely (pun intended) holiday, I compiled 10 YA novels that focus on, but are not limited to; love! I hope you enjoy!

(PS: Press on the cover of a book to add it to goodreads!)

1. Love Is A Revolution

Love Is A Revolution by Renée Watson is a YA contemporary romance. But it’s also about self love. Self love is such an important and underestimated form of love. Therefore, I just had to include this book!

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2. Love From A To Z

If you’ve seen my review for Love From A To Z by S.K Ali, then you’ll know how much I love it! It is 100% a must read for Valentine’s Day!

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3. Together, Apart

Together, Apart is a collection of short stories written by numerous authors. It’s essentially about teens finding love during the pandemic that I’m sure we’re all well acquainted with by now. It is so adorable! I love how it features different authors that I wouldn’t have discovered it if weren’t for this book.

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4. The Quantum Theory Of The Almost-Kiss

The Quantum Theory Of The Almost-Kiss by Amy Parks is the perfect friends to lovers story to read on Valentine’s Day! (PS: Author Interview with Ms. Parks to come sometime next week!)

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5. Super Fake Love Song

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon is a rom-com that involves fake dating and well, music! It’s overall just a super fun and light read!

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6. Here The Whole Time

Here The Whole Time by Vitor Martens is a soft and quick read, perfect for Valentine’s Day! (Light and soft books are a reoccurring theme in this list, in case you didn’t notice. 😆)

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7. More To The Story

More To The Story by Hena Khan is a middle grade retelling of Little Women. I decided to include it because it highlights the love of family in the cutest and most wholesome way possible!

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8. A Cuban Girl’s Guide To Tea And Tomorrow

As a tea enthusiast, I just knew I had to include The Cuban Girl’s Guide To Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey!

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9. I Love You So Mochi

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is filled with delicious sweet treats, and an even sweeter story!

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10. Charming As A Verb

Charming As A Verb by Ben Phillipe is a witty rom-com that’s perfect for those looking for a laugh!

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And that’s a wrap! I hope you all have a wonderful February, and an even more amazing Valentine’s Day! What is your go-to Valentine’s Day read? 💕

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Five Books On My Winter TBR

Hiya everyone! It’s me Saniya, here to share the five books on my winter TBR! For those of you who don’t know, a TBR is a To Be Read list that includes any books you want to read. What counts as winter you may ask? Anywhere till May would be realistic where I live, but I for the sake of you all, winter is anywhere from January to March. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish all these books by then. Unfortunately though, I am not a fast reader. (I know right, what kind of a book blogger isn’t a fast reader.) Anyways, enough rambling, and let’s get into it! (Please note that all book synopsis are from Goodreads. However, I did alter some.)

1. Journey To The Center Of The Earth

Journey To The Center Of The Earth is about an adventurous geology professor who comes across a manuscript in which a 16th-century explorer claims to have found a route to the earth’s core. Professor Lidenbrock can’t resist the opportunity to investigate, and with his nephew Axel, he sets off across Iceland in the company of Hans Bjelke, a native guide. The expedition descends into an extinct volcano toward a sunless sea, where they encounter a subterranean world of luminous rocks, antediluvian forests, and fantastic marine life — a living past that holds the secrets to the origins of human existence.

The story is told through the eyes of the main character Axel. I am currently reading this book, and have been reading it on and off for the past 5 months. It’s incredibly witty, especially for a classical novel. Journey To The Center Of The Earth is definitely a change of pace compared to the young adult fiction I typically read. I find that it’s actually quite refreshing to read classics from time to time. I sure hope I finish this one soon!

2. The Field Guide To The North American Teenager

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager: Amazon.ca: Philippe, Ben:  Books

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

I hate to admit it, but I was close to DNFing this one. The main reason for that is because it started to become predictable at around 100 pages. Yes the main character is witty and snarky, but his humor becomes boring after a while. Furthermore, I can 100% relate to Norris, so that is probably why I decided not to DNF it just yet. I am determined to finish it! In January, I actually plan on reading all the books I haven’t finished from 2020. Hopefully I actually succeed this time!

3. This Train Is Being Held

This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Amiel Williams

When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most. Heartfelt and evocative, this romantic drama will appeal to readers of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen.

This Train Is Being Held was easily my most anticipated read of 2020, and of course being the slow reader that I am, I didn’t get to it yet. I cannot wait to read this one!! I just absolutely the book cover, and the cute plot. The book cover is what initially drew me to the novel. I’ve also never read anything from the author, so I am excited to see what they have in store for their readers!

4. Castle In The Clouds

A Castle in the Clouds Book Cover — Melissa Lee Johnson

I’ve heard that Castle In The Clouds has a very descriptive story, and gives off a cozy feel, which is great for winter!

Way up in the Swiss mountains, there’s an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways. Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure–and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart.

I cannot wait to read this one! (I know I’ve said that about every book, but I am just so excited!) Although storyline and plot are important, I’m really just here for the winter-y feel of the novel.

5. He Must Like You

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Libby’s having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she’s got to pay for college herself, and he’s evicting her when she graduates so he can Airbnb her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused. So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dumping a pitcher of sangria on his head. Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant’s most important customer, and Libby’s mom’s boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment, and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who’ve screwed up her life–and her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her. As timely as it is timeless, He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, and revenge, and the potential we all have to be better people.

Consent is something so incredibly important!! Although I typically read books with lighter topics, I just knew I had to read this one, and I think everyone else should too! Real life is messy. In the YA genre, most characters are depicted as perfect and flawless. However in real life, our lives are complicated. Therefore, I think that He Must Like You will be a powerful story about how hard it is to be an assault survivor. It’s immensely important to share these kinds of stories so that survivors of abuse can have a voice, and listeners can be educated.

Those are all the books on my winter TBR! I hope to finish them by March 15th! Have a fabulous day! What books are on your winter TBR?

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Yes No Maybe So | A Review

Hey everyone! Here’s my take on the YA novel ‘Yes No Maybe So.’ Enjoy!

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Goodreads – Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely. 

What I love about this book is that although Maya and Jamie are in fact seventeen years old and can’t vote yet, they still try to spread awareness for the candidate they want to win. This made the story incredibly inspiring as Becky and Aisha really did do an amazing job at showcasing teen voices in action. I even found myself looking up ways for me to get involved in my area’s upcoming elections!

The story is told through the voices of Jamie and Maya. Personally I thought that was the best decision the authors could have made. Jamie’s little inner monologues really add a quirky and awkward feel to his character. Jamie’s character development throughout the novel certainly wasn’t lacking. The way he was trying to understand Maya’s religion was absolutely adorable! However I did feel that Maya’s character felt a bit bland in the beginning. However, as the story developed, so does Maya! She becomes a very intriguing character as more and more obstacles start to stand in her way.

Although I would 100% file this book under the category ‘politics’, there is a healthy balance between politics and the characters’ personal lives. Going into ‘Yes No Maybe So’ I was worried the whole story would revolve around politics, but it was quite the opposite of that. The ratio of personal life to politics is roughly 60:40.

Overall it was a witty and political read that I totally recommend!

Age Rating: 13 and up

TW: Islamophobia

Total Score: 7.5/10 or 4 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you’ve already read the book, what was your opinion on it? Let me know in the comments down below!