Vlog #1: The Beginning of Everything

This week I don’t have the usual post about Switzerland. Sorry about that! Instead, I’ve finished working on my first ever Vlog entry. The title has two meanings, after all it is my first video ever and also, my favorite book of the year.

As this the first time I’ve made a video, I’m very grateful for any kind of feedback, so I can improve my video logs in the near future. It was a lot of fun to plan, film and edit the vlog. I hope you enjoy it!

Have a great start to the week and a merry Christmas to you all!

Sincerely yours,

Albert

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My favorite Books of 2013

As 2013 draws to an end, it is time to look back at the year. So starting today and in the next few weeks, I’ll talk about my favorite books (today), movies (next week) and video games (in two weeks) of the year just before Christmas comes around.

I read a lot of brilliant books this year and not all of them were published in 2013. The majority of this post will cover the 2013 releases, but I’ll also mention some of the great books which I read for the first time this year.

Let’s start with my favorite book of 2013, “The Beginning of Everything” by Robyn Schneider. I wrote a lot about this book in this post and not much has changed since then. The coming-of-age story features a great main character, infinitely relatable problems, a wonderful supporting cast and the very special Cassidy Thorpe.

In the same post linked above I mentioned “Night Film” by Marisha Pessl, which is breathtaking and spectacular. It’s a book that pulls you in and refuses to let you go. The Cordova family and their story is expertly constructed and endlessly fascinating. For any fans of well-written thrillers, this is a must read.

Neil Gaiman and Patrick Ness, who are two of the most imaginative writers out there, both released new novels this year and I immensely enjoyed both of them. “An Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Mr. Gaiman is a fascinating tale about memory and imagination, whereas Mr. Ness creates a suspenseful story centered around reality and second chances in “More Than This” .

And among the many dystopian YA novels coming out on the heels of the Hunger Games trilogy, “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey stood out. Earth has been overrun by an alien race decimating humans in waves. The story is told from the perspective of Cassie, a teenage girl fighting for survival in the ravished world. It’s fast-paced and inventive with sequels sure to follow.

These were just my favorite books that were published in 2013. As I made reading books a priority this year, I was able to read a whole bunch of other outstanding stories this year.

Monsters of Men” and the whole Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, which I wrote about in this post, were probably the books I enjoyed the most this year. The story of Todd and Viola is beautifully told, masterfully constructed and extremely intense.

2013 was also the year I discovered John Green and his excellent “The Fault in Our Stars” is a heartbreaking and beautiful story. It also shows an immense development from his earlier books, which seemed to follow the same formula at times. (I still enjoyed them a lot)

Among fantasy books, “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss was a spectacular read. The main character Kvothe has everything one looks for in a hero: wits, strength and the right touch of arrogance. I’m looking forward to getting to the sequel soon and very excited for the third tome of the Kingkiller Chronicle to arrive next year.

I didn’t read that much Science Fiction this year, but “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline was funny, imaginative and full of pop culture references I adore.

This year I focused a lot on fiction books, so I didn’t get to read that much non-fiction. However, the book I enjoyed most was “My Life”, the extremely long, but ultimately rewarding autobiography of Bill Clinton published in 2004.

All in all 2013 was a fantastic year in reading for me as I had the pleasure to discover the works of Patrick Ness, Neil Gaiman, John Green, Veronica Roth and Suzanne Collins. They all took me on a journey to wonderful sights and allowed me to connect with inspiring characters, fascinating tales and classy writing.

What were your favorite books of the year? Which books are on your Christmas shopping list and what are you looking out for in 2014? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Sincerely yours,

Albert

Autumn Book Recommendations

Even though summer is scheduled to reappear for one weekend and one weekend only, autumn has finally engulfed Switzerland. With the season comes the perfect time to relax at home with a good book. So today, following my posts for summer and August, it’s time for my Autumn book recommendations. The books featured here definitely rank among my top ten for the year, so they’ll probably pop up again on this site come December.

I’ll start off with my favorite book of the year: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider.

2013-10-16 19.17.44The book follows Ezra Faulkner, a cool and popular High School student, who gets his leg shattered in a car accident after his girlfriend cheats on him. Unable to continue as the captain of the tennis team, he feels he doesn’t belong with his old friends among the “jocks” anymore. So he reconnects with his old friend Toby and meets his group of outcasts and misfits. And then there’s Cassidy, the mysterious new girl he can’t help but fall for…

The Beginning of Everything is a wonderfully told coming-of-age story with real characters. Unlike many YA books and series, where characters can be firmly placed among the “jocks” and “nerds”, it’s refreshing to see a character who fits in in both worlds. I liked the description of Ezra’s old tennis friends as superficial and arrogant, but ultimately they’re not bad kids. And it was refreshing to see that there are also mean kids among “nerds”, who are often portrayed as so pure and awesome in books. Cassidy, his love interest, is definitely among the best manic pixie dream girls in YA fiction. She’s intelligent, kind, daring and you never know what exactly is going on with her. I loved every page of this book and couldn’t put it down. I can only recommend it to anyone who loves coming-of-age novels.

My second recommendation comes from a totally different genre: Night Film by Marisha Pessl.

I don’t read many thrillers. In fact, the last thrillers I’ve read were probably the books by Dan Brown and that was before they were made into movies. But Night Film is an unbelievable page-turner.

Ashley Cordova, the daughter of the reclusive horror filmmaker Stanilas Cordova is found dead after an apparent suicide. Investigative reporter Scott McGrath, whose initial foray into the life of the famed director led to him ruining his career, feels there might be more to the death than appears. With the help of Hopper, who met Ashley as a teenager and Nora, one of the many girls living in NYC with dreams of making it big, he begins to uncover the secrets of the Cordova family.

Ms. Pessl has created a superb book. It’s fast-paced, extremely gripping and full of unexpected twists. Unique to Night Film is it’s use of internet webpage screenshots. They’re full of articles about Cordova, which let the reader feel like they’re participating in the hunt for the truth. The characters are easy to root for and extremely multi-dimensional. The most special of them all is Ashley Cordova, whose life is tragic and haunting. Wanting to find out more about her and what role her family played in her suicide, pushes the book forward and makes Night Film a fantastic ride.

The next book I’m recommending is the last book I read: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Harpin

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First off, I don’t think this book is as good as the other books mentioned in this post. I would say, the first two are five-star books, while this one is a typical 3-star for most people, but 4-star for me book.

Justin and Emmy are the new kids at Heartland academy, a reform high school where kids are sent to get better. School in the morning, Therapy in the afternon. In their Anger Management session, they meet a diverse group of teenagers. Together, they just want to find a way to enjoy life again. After all, living takes a lot more guts than giving up.

A Really Awesome Mess is a surprisingly light-hearted and highly sarcastic book, considering the characters’ problems. However, it focuses on giving the teenagers a positive outlook. It does a decent job of showing the struggles the characters are going through. However, for some readers, it might not be enough. I can understand if readers think some of progression feels too easy. But all in all, I think the authors found a balance between their heavier themes and their hilarious ideas.

The book is also full of Harry Potter references, which I obviously enjoyed a lot. My favorite scene was a game they play, talking about which house they’d belong to. Slytherin, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw all get some love, but the seriously underrated House Hufflepuff never gets mentioned (but yeah, for those wondering, I’m still a Gryffindor).

Also highly recommended are the new books from two of the most imaginative authors around. Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of Lane” is a fantastical and quiet book, full of brilliant descriptions and understated action. Patrick Ness’ “More Than This” is a unique blend of afterlife experience, survival scenario and dystopian thriller, which leaves readers wanting for more. I’ll definitely talk about them more in a future post, but I didn’t include them here because I’ve written about them in my recent posts.

On Friday, my post will feature one of the new projects I’m taking part in: collaborative fiction. So stay tuned!

Until then, please like, share and subscribe.

Sincerely yours,
Albert