Book Review | BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys

Greetings, readers!

I’m back today to share my thoughts and opinions on Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, my first ever historical fiction and definitely not the last.


Title: Between Shades of Gray

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Pages: 352 pages

Publications: April 3rd 2012 by Speak (first published March 22nd 2011)

Genre: Historical Fiction, World war 2, YA


“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

Set in World War 2, across Russia and to the North Pole, during the course of 12 years of imprisonment, we follow a sixteen-year-old Lithuanian girl, Lina, who was hauled from her house with her mother and brother and thrown into a cattle car en route to Siberia. Separated from her father, Lina secretly passes along clues in the form of drawings, hoping they will reach his prison camp.

It was a tragically and deeply moving true story, pointless wars that only results in innocent people suffering.

“We’d been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean.”

I honestly have no clue as to how I would write a review that could convince you to read this amazingly written book.

The characters, Lina, her family, the people on the car she was with, the people at camp were all so real to me. I loved them, I hate them at times, they are flawed, they are selfish, they are caring, they are scared, they are humans.

“Andrius, I’m…scared.”

He stopped and turned to me. “No. Don’t be scared. Don’t give them anything Lina, not even your fear.”

The plot was heart- wrenching and, of course, well-researched. The Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia lost more than a third of their population during the Soviet annihilation, and not many people know about it. Lina and the other passengers on the car were imprisoned in the North Pole, freezing for 11 years, and before that a year of traveling, being separated from loved ones. I mean, me? I wouldn’t even survive a month. It was a beautiful story about love and survival. Lina is a very strong and beautiful protagonist- a heroine- and I will remember this story-her story- forever.

“Sometimes kindness can be delivered in a clumsy way.”

The writing was beautiful, I wanted more, I couldn’t put it down, it was just engrossing.

I had absolutely no problem with this book, yes, it was flawless.

5 to infinity stars.

I want everyone to read this book.

I’ll definitely be picking more by Ruta Sepetys, and more historical fictions, it’s a genre I would love to be invested in!

“What was life asking of me? How could I respond when I didn’t know the question?”


Thank you for reading! Please go read the book if you haven’t already. If you have, what did you think of it?

Until next time,

Kimsiang @ Stories + Brushes

Book Review | SIMON VS. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Hello, bibliophiles!

I have a book review here today of, as the title suggest, Simon VS. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, one of my favorite contemporary romances this year.


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Title: Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli
Pages: 303
Publication: April 7th 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Genre: YA, Contemporary romance, LGBTQ+


“White shouldn’t be the default any more than straight should be the default. There shouldn’t even be a default.”
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier was being blackmailed when he forgot to log out out of his email on his school library’s computer. Simon is not so afraid about everyone knowing he’s gay but what worries him most is what that would cause to his connection with the mysteriously cute boy he’s been emailing with: Blue.
“He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to.”
I loved this book. I loved Simon. First of all, I immediately connected with Simon and clicked with the writing style. Becky writes like how I think and talk, really. It made it so easy for me to relate to Simon. Moreover, Simon’s personality was just so similar to my best friend and that made Simon very real to me, it was like my best friend was telling me his story. The writing style was funny and witty, I loved the casual writing style of Becky that made the book so easy to read and I flew through it in a day! A plus for the writing style.
The characters were all so cute. We had Simon and his group of friends, their silliness and their drama. We went through the roller coaster, ups and downs of their friendship, I felt like I was also in their squad. Honestly, it was like this book was written about me or someone close to me, as Simon and I are the same age, I could relate to a lot of the things that he went through. Also, Simon’s family was so cute and quirky at times. There are of course times that are prolematic. But, overall, they were very supportive and just awesome!
“It feels like we’re the last survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Wonder Woman and a gay dementor. It doesn’t bode well for the survival of the species.”
And then, of course, Blue, who Simon had been emailing secretly with for a while. Blue and Simon go to the same school but they don’t know each other’s real identity yet. Again, relatable. Said best friend at the top and I are pen pal for a long while before we got to meet too!
“The closest thing I’ve ever had to a journal is probably you.”
However, the only problem I have with the book was that I wasn’t exactly convinced of Simon and Blue’s deep connection via emailing. It actually came as a surprise when the emails got more and more flirtatious but it was still good as it caused all the jittery butterflies exploded inside me.
On top of all that, there was the quest of guessing who Blue was. I didn’t guess he was who he was at all! Though I am glad it was him, they were perfect together. I mean the revealing part got me rolling all over my bed for minutes to calm myself down. I just can’tttttttt. They are so cute together omg.
Overall, I gave this book a 4.5/5 star.
It was honestly the cutest LGBTQ book I’ve ever read yet. I can’t find a reason why anyone wouldn’t love Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Would I recommend it? Heck yes!
“People really are like house with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.”

Thank you so much for reading! What did you think of this book? Did you love it? I would love to know your feelings and thoughts!

Happy Reading (Signing off),
Kimsiang @ Stories + Brushes

Bookshelf Tour #2 [2016 Edition]

Helloooooo, friends!

Here’s part #2 of my bookshelf tour! (you can see the first part here)

Overview

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Part 2

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My favorite part about this shelf is the red section, despite my only funko pop of Harry Potter of course, but, yes, I love the vibrancy of the red.

On this shelf, there are:

Firstly, my Harry Potter box set which is my love and my life. (You can see in the overview)

And then, starting from yellow:


That’s part 2 of my bookshelf! Thank you for reading! Hope you enjoyed it!

Love,

Kimsaing @Stories + Brushes

Portrait [Watercolor Painting]

Hi, friends!

I’m back again today with a sort of watercolor demonstration or just a painting process of a side profile painting I did recently. I have mentioned that I want to share art posts once in a while instead of books, too! So here it is! It’s a portrait of @bykahlil over on IG, he’s both talented and good-looking. Okay, imma stop. Let’s just get into it!

First off, materials:

  • Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolor 45 half pans set
  • Renaissance #4 brush
  • White Gel Pen
  • A5 200 GSM watercolor paper
  • Pencils & eraser – duh
  • Colors I used: Cadmium Yellow, Indian Red, Burnt Umber, Rose Madder, Permanent Rose, Vandyke Brown, Sepia, Ivory Black, Turquoise.
  • Duration: 3h

My reference picture:

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I, of course, started out with a sketch.

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I used a 2B pencil for this sketch. I tried to sketch as light as possible but I still had to erase some of the lines to make lighter before painting in. The most challenging part, I think, was his eye. I erased it quiet a few million times. I just wanted to capture the feelings the eye gave me like in the picture.

After that, colors!

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So this is my first time painting a guy, honestly I just find the hair really challenging. I’ve also been told he looks very feminine in my painting. I dont know, haha. Anyways, then I painted his skin. It was super fun, outlining the shadows and lights, trying to balance everything, it was probably my favorite part of the whole process. I mixed Rose Madder and Cadmium Yellow and a teeny tiny bit of Indian Red for the skin tone.

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And, the hair of course took the longest. I literally used all the variations of browns I have to try to get the same lighting like in the reference picture because it looked so polish and cool. I didn’t succeed tho. Painting the beard was also fun, I didn’t expect to get the effect that fast, honestly. I was so scared of ruining the piece because I’m so bad with hair. I also added some colors to his suit, I used Turquoise and Indigo <3. White gel pen also came into play in this part, I added some in his iris, lips, ear and suit collar. I also tried to keep things interesting with a few splashes-hah.

And Taadaah!

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Usually, my paintings look so different from the original sketch, I guess this one keeps the sketch pretty good. At the end though, I felt like his head was too small, so i added more hair to back, and that’s it! I tried to do realistic portrait but it seems like I keep leaning towards the animation side! But he looks cute all the same- hahh.

Tapes off! The best part! 😀

And that’s it! I would love to know your thoughts, opinions, and critiques! I hope you enjoyed it 😀 Would you want to see more?

Love,

Kimsiang @Stories and Brushes

Bookshelf Tour #1 [2016 Edition]

Greetings, pals!

I thought it’s about time for me to reveal my top secret, I deeply apologize for I have never told or explained to you any of this. The truth is, ugh, it’s just so hard to say out loud (technically alright, I know I’m typing. Stop trying to catch my mistakes.) Just read on and you’ll find out.

Overview

Yup, can you see my failed humor aka the intro to this post? The lameness is so thick I’m choking on it.

Anyways, so here’s where I keep all my babies! This bookshelf or more like a cabinet, is located in the living room of my house because there’s not enough space in my bedroom.

I decided to divide this tour into three parts as there are three floors (or something). I hope you enjoy it!

First things first, we can all take a look at how I should have been awarded a Nobel Prize for being able to cram all those books with that teeny tiny space. My current book population is 101, but if you (even have the time to) count the books in the picture, you’d only see around 95, because obviously this picture was taken a while ago. A month maybe.

I sorted my books by colors (yup, i know, a miserably failed rainbow bookshelf attempt), but in some areas, you might noticed the contrast in colors, thats because I also sort them by authors and/or series.

Part 1

This is the top shelf, which is my favorite shelf. It’s my favorite not in a way that the books stored up there are my favourites (though most of them are) but I love the cool/dark color scheme.

This shelf consists of:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marrisa Meyer – Yes, the rest of the series (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress are behind Winter) + Wolf the stuff animal ;D
  • Both of Me by Jonathan Prieson
  • The Rest of us just lives here by Patrick Ness
  • Unravel Me by Tehereh Mafi
  • Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi
  • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • Armada by Ernest Cline
  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  • City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Illustrated Edition (You can see it in the overview picture)

    And that’s it for the first section. I hope you enjoyed it. Part 2 is coming soon!

What about you? What is your bookshelf like? We can agree mine needs to be expanded. Honestly, if books has claustrophobia, they would really hate me. XD

Thank you so much for your time!

Happy Reading,

Kimsiang

[Book Tag] Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag (2016)

Hello, readers!

This will sound absolutely crazy, but we’re more than half-way through 2016. I feel like I’m wasting my life and I’m literally running out of time. (Dramatic moments lol). I really have a lot I want to acheive and seeing others doing great in their lives just makes me super jealous. As for the bookish side of things, I have only finished 20 books (out of my 80 books reading goal) this year so far, I’m still excited to do this tag and see my answers 😀

Without further ado, let’s get started!

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Best book you’ve read so far in 2016

I had a pretty hard time answering this first question already lol, not because I have too many favourites but it’s the opposite. I haven’t read a book that just blew me away into pieces completely. But The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson is definitely high on the list.

My review here.

img_1353Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2016

I have only read sequels to one series this year and that is The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. I’m currently on book four, City of Fallen Angels. So far, my favourite installment in this epic series is book three, City of Glass. I lurrrrvvvvv that book. Simon is my bae. ❤

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

ACOMAF, The Unexpected Everything, The Crown, Lady Midnight, I really can go on forever 🙂29559052

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I know you expected this, Empire of Storms by Sarah.J.Mass.

I recently uploaded a post dedicated to this topic, give it a check out here.

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Biggest disappointment

The Next Together by Lauren James. I was so excited for this book because everything in the synopsis sounded right up my alley, but sadly, I didn’t really enjoy it.

Full review here.

Biggest surprise

The Rest of Us just Live here by Patrick Ness. I’ve heard a lot of disappointed reviews about this book, and as someone who has never read anything by Patrick Ness, I was pretty nervous getting into it. Who knew, this book actually got me out of my reading slump at the time! I really couldn’t get into this book in the first chapter but it gets better chapters by chapters. I love the simplicity of Patrick Ness’s writings and the characters are amazing.

Favorite new author (Debut or new to you)

This author is probably only new to me hah, my new favorite author is Cassandra Clare, the author of The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices, Lady Midnight,…

Newest fictional crush

Simon Lewis from TMI. Simon is bae. He just is.

Newest favorite character

Isabelle Lightwood from TMI as well. Isabelle is so badass and sweet and I just love her 🙂

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Book that made you cry

None. I mean I’m not a crying reader. But right after I read Me before You by JoJo Moyes, I was feeling pretty bad already so I went and watched the movie trailer and I almost cried, like I could feel it rush up a bit lol.

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Book that made you happy

November 9 by Colleen Hoover. You’d know how much I loved this book if you read my review here lol.

Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year.

I have only seen Me Before You, which I didn’t really like. Honestly, I felt nothing watching the movie, when the book is like one of my top contemporary reads.

Favorite review you’ve written this year. 

The shame is now here. I’ve been absent from my blog 70% of the time and obviously I haven’t written that many reviews. But let me see…

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

I really want to finish The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices, and Lady Midnight, basically the whole saga 😀


And that’s the tag! If you want to do this tag too, please don’t hesitate to consider yourself tagged by me!

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you have a nice day!

Happy Reading,Kimsiang @ Stories + Brushes

[Book Review] MAYBE SOMEDAY by Colleen Hoover

“Sometimes in life, we need a few bad days in order to keep the good ones in perspective.”

Guys, I finished Maybe Someday on my phone.

Yes, I just finished an ebook. Like, this is only the 5th ebook I actually finished in Kimsiang’s history of ebooks. Reading through the electronic screen has just been very hard for me. The main reason is that my eyesight is not that healthy and I’m severely short-sighted, therefore my eyes get tired easily and just can’t focus on the texts for hours on end, anyways, that’s not the point. Let’s get to what I think about this book!

Maybe Someday was the few exceptions that I just couldn’t help but kept scrolling because it was a very entertaining read.

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Title: Maybe Someday

Author: Colleen Hoover

Pages: 385 

Publication: March 18th 2014 by Atria Books

Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary

|GoodReads|


Maybe Someday was about Sydney whom her boyfriend was cheating on with her best friend, resulting her with swollen hands because she punched them both and nowhere to stay for the night. Her deaf guitarist neighbor, Ridge, was kind enough to let her be his roommate as long as she helps him with his writer’s block.

“We try so hard to hide everything we’re really feeling from those who probably need to know our true feelings the most.”

 

First off, the characters are amazing. They are so realistic and down-to-earth yet very witty with their sarcasm, sass and the right on point humor. Plus, I love that Colleen Hoover writes about characters with disabilities, it’s very eye opening.

However, the characters are way too emotional, in my opinion, especially Sydney, she basically cries whenever her heart races a little more quickly than usual. One more thing, I didn’t like Ridge towards the end of the book, it was almost like he changed into another person ,and I don’t think I liked that ‘growth’. Also, I don’t feel like I know the characters all that much, yes, we were given background stories but it wasn’t enough, though that didn’t lessen how entertaining this book was.

Don’t even talk about the chemistry between the characters and the romance, I couldn’t take my eyes of the words. [Spoilers or maybe not, but read at your own risk]- [I still don’t quiet get how you can love someone and then fall hopelessly in love with another and are still sure you love the first person. Maybe because I haven’t experienced that sort of romance, but I don’t know, to me, I can’t even think of myself with anyone else other than the person I’m with.]

“There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we could be perfect for each others life, Sydney. It’s our lives that aren’t perfect for us.”

As for the writing style, it didn’t click with me at first, I don’t know why. It grew on me later and I flew through this book in a day nonetheless. I like her recent release, November 9 much more, writing style-wise.

The ending was amazing, just swoooooon.

Anddddd, the fact that this book focuses a lot on making music and stuffs, and that they actually recorded soundtracks for it is just nandhaiuwheija life and everything.

Maybe Someday – Griffin Peterson

“I failed miserably at trying not to fall in love with you.

I failed first.”

Overall, I gave this book a 4/5 stars. It was a quick romantic read and I definitely recommend it!

Signing off,

Kimsiang @ Stories + Brushes

“A life of mediocrity is a waste of a life.”