Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Romance Review: The Beautiful Bastard series by Christina Lauren

We're doing something a little different today. 
  1. I'm reviewing some straight up contemporary romance books. I know I've done this a few times, but full-length-ish review (do we like the name? this may become a thing).
  2. I'm reviewing (almost) all of the series because today the last full length book comes out and I need to share my feels.
  3. There will be spoilers to some degree since they are companions but also kind of sequels. I'll try to avoid specifics, but it's somewhat unavoidable. So if you don't want to be spoiled and have only read some books in the series, they'll be separated out by paragraphs. (On the other hand, these are romance novels, guys. And I'm basically telling you what's on goodreads.)
To start, let's tell you about the first book, Beautiful Bastard.
 
 An ambitious intern.
A perfectionist executive.
And a whole lot of name calling.


Whip-smart, hardworking, and on her way to an MBA, Chloe Mills has only one problem: her boss, Bennett Ryan. He's exacting, blunt, inconsiderate—and completely irresistible. A Beautiful Bastard.

Bennett has returned to Chicago from France to take a vital role in his family's massive media business. He never expected that the assistant who'd been helping him from abroad was the gorgeous, innocently provocative—completely infuriating—creature he now has to see every day. Despite the rumors, he's never been one for a workplace hookup. But Chloe's so tempting he's willing to bend the rules—or outright smash them—if it means he can have her. All over the office.

As their appetites for one another increase to a breaking point, Bennett and Chloe must decide exactly what they're willing to lose in order to win each other.

How did this book come into my life, you may wonder. It's not really my normal read, aka it's not YA or historical romance or a school reading (although, THAT'D be a hell of a class).

Let's go back to, oh, 2008. Maybe 2009. Back when I was (kind of) in the Twilight fandom (it's...hard to explain how that worked) and heavily involved in the fanfiction community. There was this lovely little work called The Office. I wasn't interested at first because it seemed like a fairly normal story, but it was popular and a lot of friends loved it, so I caved. And then I was hooked. I sped through the available chapters and then waited anxiously for updates. I occasionally chatted with the author/let her know I thought she was a genius. I loved the fanfic and was heartbroken to see it end, but excited for the author when she announced she was pulling to publish.

Fast forward to 2012. Christina and Lauren are announced as new clients of Holly Root. As I (believe) I've mentioned before, I ALWAYS love Holly's clients books, so of course I was interested. But there was also something kind of familiar about them, I just couldn't place what it was. But I followed them on twitter, as I do when Holly announces new clients, and moved on.

Then the sale of Beautiful Bastard was announced. And man that sounded familiar. REALLY familiar. Like I'd read it before...

Because I kind of had.

Beautiful Bastard turned out to be a massively revamped version of The Office. Christina and Lauren seemed familiar because Christina was the author and Lauren the beta reader/critique partner of the fanfic. I felt significantly less weird for feeling like I knew them with that revelation.

So, I happily devoured the book when it came out this year, and I was addicted all over again.

Bennett and Chloe have the epitome of a hate/lust relationship, and it changes and grows from there. The characters are stubborn and headstrong and both are natural leaders. Having two leaders in a relationship...comes with difficulties. So there was this fantastic dynamic and it was again a story I'd never really read before because the fanfic was totally different and now this was pretty different from the fanfic. 

And then there's a writing. If this series is crack, then I'm a very happy, needy addict. These girls can write a damn book. I never want them to end because the second they do, I require another but I can't HAVE another because it's not available yet.

But okay, I thought when I finished. What's the big deal? It's not like the next book will top it.

Wrong.

I went on to read Beautiful Bitch before jumping into the next full length book, Beautiful Stranger (the recommended course is to switch this, but I'm a rebel). Beautiful Bitch was this fun exploration of Bennett and Chloe continuing to figure each other and their relationship out. It's a tough balance of two workaholics, trying to be the best of what they do. And now that they've gotten past the initial phase of getting together, they figure out how to maintain their relationship. And oh, it's so incredibly satisfying to continue getting snippets of these characters lives in more than just a way that they relate to the main characters in the full book.

Then I read Beautiful Stranger and holy Max and Sara. The emotional roller coaster of these two. A British lover of women and a shy, somewhat vulnerable woman really come out of their shells and figure out who they are. I mean, Max has a decent idea, but Sara's kind of been in this one, stationary place for years. It's been a long time since she really explored who she was as a person, not as a power couple. Max helps her find that person and the way to self-confidence and soul-searching is clearly sexy times. It also helped that this was the first book set in my city. I'll always have a special fondness for books in my city.

In all seriousness, Beautiful Stranger has this wonderful emotional depth to it that I never saw coming and obviously, these girls could never top it.

Wrong.

The next in the series is Beautiful Bombshell, which is essentially these characters living through The Hangover (or so I'm told. I've yet to see The Hangover). This was another fun glimpse into Chloe and Bennett's lives post-initial figuring it out stage and they're kind of the reason the guys are in Vegas in the first place. This time, we get the added bonus of seeing Sara and Max as a firmly together couple still going strong. And we see a little bit more of the guy for the next full length novel. This was another funny, lovely way to feed my addiction and hold me over until...

Beautiful Player. Which kind of wrecked me. It's a loose (and obviously smutty) retelling of My Fair Lady, which is a storyline I always kind of adore. Or a lot adore. And Hanna is probably the heroine I related to most in this series for reasons. And Will is probably my favorite guy in the series and most like what I would want in a guy out of the three? They're all devastatingly charming and lovely, but there was something about Will that just kind of struck a chord with me. And these two, again, had a pretty emotional ride to go with the physical that I absolutely fell in love with. Suddenly, I had a new favorite booth within this series for the third time  in a series with three full length books.
Much to my dismay, this series is almost over. Beautiful Beginning, the last novella, releases
mid-November, aka the week of my birthday, Catching Fire, and the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special (aka the GREATEST WEEK EVER IN EXISTENCE). I'm already trying to figure out how to cope. No more of my crack stories. No more Christina Lauren writing for a little while. They gave me six separate stories to read in less than a year, and now who knows how long I'll have to wait for my next fix? It's inconceivable. It really is.

And I refuse to be alone in my pain. Hence, why I'm recommending these books to you now. They're somewhat light, quick reads (which is part of their crack-ness. I can read them during the semester and not feel like the added stress will implode my brain). They've got fantastic character dynamics and development and voice. The writing is addicting and forces you to keep turning pages. And each story gets better. So you might as well hop on the Christina Lauren train now, when they're getting close to taking a (hopefully brief) break, so you're ready when they start producing some genius again.

--Julie

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

On the Jellicoe Road Audiobook Review

On the Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta

Summary: Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham 17, finally confronts her past. Hannah, the closest adult she has to family, disappears. Jonah Griggs, moody stares and all, is back in town. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.
I've read Jellicoe Road before (it's actually one of my favourite books) and I've been wanting to reread it for a long time but never got round to it. But then yesterday, I remembered that I got the audiobook from Audible a year or two ago but never actually listened to it (I think I started to but the voice annoyed me).

In this review, I'm not going to review the actual story because I've done that before (the tl;dr version of the review would basically just say the book is amazing and go read it now and go read everyone else Melina has written while you're at it), I just want to review this format of the book because I've never reviewed an audiobook before.

This is the first audiobook I've ever listened to (from start to finish). Anytime I ever tried I would just get irritated by the voice of the narrator or I'd zone out and miss what was being said, so I kind of wrote audiobooks off as not being my kind of thing.

Well, this one totally proved me wrong.

I don't know if it's because it was one of my favourite books or if it's because it's a book I've read before, but once I'd been listening for 10-20 minutes, I started to really enjoy having the story told to me instead of reading it myself. Things that bugged me initially were totally fine once I got used to it, and it was actually easy to properly listen and not get distracted once I got caught up in the story.

Basically, I loved this audiobook and it's actually made me open to trying some more (I think next time, I should probably try a book I haven't read yet, just to see if a book I don't already love can win me over in this format). Also, it's pretty good listening to the audio for sad books because you can just cry along with the story without having to try to read through tear blurred eyes.

If you've never tried an audiobook before, you should give one a chance and maybe it'll surprise you like this one did for me (when I got this, Audible actually had a free trial that let you download one audiobook for free and I'm pretty sure they still let new customers do that--so yeah, if you've never used Audible before, you should try that).

Story rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Audiobook rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Later.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

Seeing Redd
by Frank Beddor

Summary: Alyss of Wonderland's rules has only just begun, and already those who prefer chaos to peace are threatening to destroy everything worth imagining. Trailed by newly appointed royal bodyguard Homburg Molly, Alyss is doing her best to keep pace with the non-stop demands of being queen while attempting to evade Molly for a few private moments with Dodge.

Alyss' life is a challenging mix of duty, love and tough decisions, and then a series of phantom sightings set fire to an urban myth of Her Imperial Viciousness' return and have everyone Seeing Redd.

Has Redd somehow freed herself and her chief assassin, The Cat, from the confides of the Heart Crystal? If not, then who has resurrected Redd's brutal foot soldiers the Glass Eyes and set them loose to attack Wonderland on all sides?
I really enjoyed the first book in the series a lot but while I did still like this book it wasn't as good as the first one.

The main issue I had with this one was the fight scenes. Now, fight scenes are fine, I like fight scenes, but I like them in moderation (especially the kind present in this book). It kind of felt like the majority of the book was made up of drawn out fights and battles that didn't really add anything to the story at all (you could probably skip over 99% of those scenes in this book and still completely understand what is going on in the story).

It wasn't even just the frequency and length of those scenes that bugged me, it was the type of scenes they were. They were really repetetive and it felt like they were just thrown in there in a gratuitous sort of way and were weighed down with so much pointless crap the reader didn't need to know about. Basically, it was like...like how it would feel reading someones transcribed play-by-play of every fight scene the Transformers movies (which is fine to watch, but reading scenes like that can get a bit dull and excessive).

Another issue I had with this book were Redd's chapters. I just found them a chore to get through, they were mind numbingly boring and Redd felt more like a caricature of a villain instead of being a fully fleshed out character and it felt very childish (maybe she was like that in the first book too, I can't remember).

The world was still interesting and creative, the plot entertaining for the most part, and it has quite a few really great characters but it felt like there was too much of the stuff I didn't like and not enough of the best parts of the story.

The world didn't really develop more than in the first book, and while there were character and relationship developments happening they were vastly overshadowed by the stuff that didn't even really matter--it felt like important conversations, conversations it would've been great to read, were skipped over in favour of page after page of fighting that explains in detail the way a bunch of nameless card soldiers were killed by a bunch of nameless enemies who were then killed in the exact same way they were in the last 46643565 fight scenes.

Although this review is pretty negative, I really did still like the book and intend to read the next book in the trilogy. I'd rate this one 2.5 stars out of 5...maybe 3. Let's go with three, because the lower rating is purely because it disappointed me in comparison to the first.

Later.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James

Your Wicked Ways
by Eloisa James

Summary: Helene, the Countess Godwin, knows there is nothing more unbearably tedious than a virtuous woman. After all, she's been one for ten long years while her scoundrel of a husband lives with strumpets and causes scandal after scandal. So she decides it's time for a change -- she styles her hair in the newest, daring mode, puts on a shockingly transparent gown, and goes to a ball like Cinderella, hoping to find a prince charming to sweep her off her feet...and into his bed.

But instead of a prince, she finds only her own volatile, infuriatingly handsome...husband, Rees, the Earl Godwin. They'd eloped to Gretna Green in a fiery passion, but passion can sometimes burn too hot to last.

But now, Rees makes her a brazen offer, and Helene decides to become his wife again...but not in name only. No, this time she decides to be very, very wicked indeed.
I've not really checked out any other regency romance authors yet, so I'm not sure if Eloisa's are some of the best the genre has to offer or not, but theres something about them that I really enjoy and this one was no exception.

The book wasn't my favourite of hers, and there were things about it that infuriated me, but it had me hooked from the start. And I really like how, in spite of the time period holding the women in these types of stories back, Eloisa still manages to write strong female characters (and she's good at writing female relationships too--she doesn't demonize the rivals and she writes good friendships).

The romance in the book was one of the things that pissed me off because Rees was a total ass. He said and did things that clearly left Helene with long lasting insecurities and issues and it made me sad and angry to read that because Helene was pretty awesome, and while Rees does eventually give his reasons and apologies and sees the error of his douchebag ways it just...it doesn't feel like enough. I don't know if that's a weakness in Eloisa's writing or if I just judge too harshly, because it's not the first of her books I've had that issue with.

That's not to say the romance was awful, it wasn't and in the end I did like it.Their relationship made me angry sometimes, but it had its moments of sweetness. I was rooting for them to get together and for him to stop being an idiot, and I really loved the music thing the two of them had going on. Basically, even though I'm not sure he deserved her in the end, they did make sense together.

The only thing about the book that I genuinely kind of hated was the chapters telling Tom's story, because I didn't want to read those. The summary said the book was going to be about Rees and Helene and it was, but it was a pain having to drag through the Tom stuff to get back to those two.

...This review sucks, sorry, but I may or may not have stayed up all night reading the book so my brain is a bit scrambled right now. Anyway, I'd rate the book 3 stars out of 5 (not a particularly high rating, but these books are addictive to read and that's all I really need from them - for them to be quick, entertaining reads).

Later.

p.s. this is part of the duchess quartet, but I'm pretty sure this one is the fourth book so I guess I'll be reading the books out of order. It worked just fine on its own, but after reading the summaries of the other books, I think maybe there's some cameos and things of other characters from the earlier books present in this one, so maybe it would've been a better idea to read them in order.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily
by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Summary: Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.
Peter Pan is one of my favourite stories ever, so I went into this expecting to either love it or hate it. Well, I loved it and I hated it...but the reasons for loving it and the reasons for hating it are the same, so I guess that means I pretty much loved it? (That makes sense, right? Right?)

The story was original and the writing was lovely (seriously, I kept tearing off pieces of the paper I was using as a bookmark to mark pages with quotes I loved). The story didn't quite feel as magical as Peter Pan does, and that's one of the things I loved about the original, but it didn't bother me really because it was written so well and it was different enough that I quickly stopped expecting it to feel like Peter Pan and appreciated it as its own story. There were things that were changed too and I'm not sure if I liked the changes or not, but they worked and made sense.

And the characters, they were great, but they didn't really feel like the ones from the original story...it was like they were these alternate versions of the characters that were inspired by them without actually being them and I ended up loving them in their own right. I adored Tiger Lily, and Pine Sap, and Tik Tok, and Tinker Bell (hated Wendy though and got pretty mad at Peter).

It hurt to read this book--I cried a few times reading it and just...it's one of those books that I love in an achey sort of way and it was lovely and awful and wonderful and terrible and...and I'm probably not making much sense but my feelings are all muddled up and it's difficult to pull them apart and make sense of them to properly review the book.

I'd rate the book 4.5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Book Haul (160)

Lanna:
I think the last time I did a book haul post was mid-September? Maybe? So these are the books I've gotten since then.

For review:

Finding It by Cora Carmack
Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales by Jamila Gavin
Dark Possession by Carol Goodman (I think this one is the third in the Fairwick Chronicles? I think the US title is different too, I haven't read the series so...*shrug*)

I also got these, which obviously aren't my kind of thing but my niece loves them:


Bought:

The Duchess Quartet by Eloisa James
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
The Iron Legends by Julie Kagawa

Later.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl 
by Rainbow Rowell


Summary: Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
So in a book haul, I mentioned I got an e-book of this instead of the hardcover because I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I adored the authors first book (well, the first of hers that I read), Eleanor & Park, but I wasn't expecting to love this one. Well, it totally proved me wrong. I really, really loved it. Probably even more than I loved Eleanor & Park.

I should probably explain the reason I wasn't totally sold on this book from the summary. Sometimes it's good to read a book and be able to relate to the things the characters are going through, but then there are certain things about myself that I hate recognising in characters because instead of feeling comforting, it just makes me cringe.

Cath is very introverted, she's shy, she's socially awkward, and I'm all of those things too and it's bad enough having go through my own life being that way without having to read about characters who are like that too.

Same with the fanfiction thing, sort of, I love fanfiction and I wrote fanfiction for years (my best friend met her husband because I wrote fanfiction), but it makes me uncomfortable reading about characters who are into that. So I normally try to avoid stories where the characters hit a bit too close to home for me in certain ways--it's just uncomfortable to read about.

But, and I don't know how she managed it, Rainbow Rowell managed to write all these things in a way that felt true but didn't bother me. I loved the way she wrote this. Sure, there were little moments when Cath annoyed me, but for the majority of the book I loved her character and she seemed like someone I would happily be friends with and be nerdy with.

And that was a lot of rambling to explain why I wasn't sure I was going to love the book, but the point is, I had a total aversion to things that make up a large chunk of this story and yet I loved the book anyway, and it takes a really damn talented author to pull that off.

The characters in this were fantastic. I loved Cath and her dad (Wren, not so much, although she grew on me in the end). Reagan was great and Levi was just... he was lovely and I'd like to keep him. And I loved the way the story ended--so many books would force the issue with their mum and end up reading like a Lifetime movie, but this one just felt natural and realistic and I loved that.

The romance was ridiculously sweet. Probably even better than the romance in Eleanor & Park. And I lovelovelove the writing too.

Honestly, the only thing about the book I didn't love was the fanfiction thing. Well, I did love it, but there were bits of fanfiction included in the story. And it was really well done (I actually ended up wishing I could read the fanfic, if only it actually existed), it's just that sometimes the excerpts were a bit too long. Like, I'd need to get through a big chunk of fanfic to get to back to Cath and Levi and so it would feel like the fanfic got in the way sometimes and could've been shortened or just...this is one of those times when I'd have been content with being told something instead of shown.

But that wasn't a major issue for me, it's just that while I did like reading those fanfic excerpts, I loved reading about Cath so the longer fanfic sections just had me impatient to get back to the main story (the shorter ones were totally fine, great even).

Anyway, I suppose that's enough rambling for one review. This gets 5 out of 5 stars from me, and I'm so glad that Julie gushed about the book enough for me to give it a chance (+1 to the co-blogger for introducing me to a new favourite).

Later.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Recommendations: World War 2 Books

So I seem to go through phases of being addicted to a certain kind of book, whether it be the genre or the setting or the subject matter. The phase I'm in now? World War 2 books (well, books set during wars in general, WW2 just seems to be the most common one).

The thing I've found recently is that I love seeing sides of the war we don't hear about as often, and I wish there were more YA type books that explored that.

I don't know what it is about books set during wars that I love so much. It might be the historical aspect, it might just be a morbid fascination with the subject matter. Or it might be that I like how it shows the best and worst of humanity and that everything is done to extremes--because war makes thing's life or death, people take things for granted a lot less, they love harder...and I like that. Maybe it's all of those things. Or maybe it can be summed up in a picture:


...Basically. =P

This post is pretty much just to recommend/talk about some books set during wars that I've read in the past year, and some that are in my TBR pile or on my wish list. If you've read any of them or can think of any good ones I haven't mentioned (especially about other wars, like the Vietnam war), let me know in the comments.

As with most books I read, I do like them to have some romance in them but there's exceptions on the lists and even when it's present, I'm cool with it being a very minor subplot.


Books I've Read:


The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons - This is one of my favourites. It's set in Russia during the Seige of Leningrad in World War 2 and it's heartbreaking and it's a side of the war we (or I) don't hear about often.

Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein -  Code Name Verity is fantastic, if you stick with it through the slow start, it's so worth it in the end. Rose Under Fire is the companion novel, and it's good although not quite as wow as Code Name Verity was for me. CNV is set in the UK and France, RUF is set in the UK, Germany, and France a little bit. They both have female pilots and spies.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys - An older one, but one of my favourite books. It's set during World War 2 and is about the Soviet deportations of people from the Baltic states. The main character is a Lithuanian girl.

The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant - This one is set in German occupied France during World War 2, and it wasn't amazing but the ending made me love it. It was really heartbreaking and the story is actually inspired by what happened to a real town.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - This is one I want to reread, and there's not much I need to say about it because most people know who Anne Frank is (also, I'm not sure if the version I originally read was the full version, or the abridged version). If you haven't read her diary yet, I really recommend it.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Another of my favourite books ever. It's set in Germany during WW2 and is narrated by Death and it's so unique and beautiful and heartbreaking and the writing is lovely. It can be a bit slow to get through, but it's so, so worth it in the end and the brilliant writing makes the slowness totally fine.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - Okay, this one is a bit different because it's not set during WW2, but the story goes from the 1960's all the way up to 2003 in Afghanistan so it does have some wars in it. It's another of my favourite books, the love story is just...*melts* and the characters are great and I loved the bond that develops between Mariam and Laila.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - I'm kind of cheating putting this one on the list because I've only read the graphic novel and seen the movie (but I have started reading the novel). Like A Thousand Splendid Suns, it's not set during WW2, but it does have all those war elements because it has stuff like the Soviet military intervention and the Taliban regime and all that.

That Burning Summer by Lydia Syson - This was one I was sent to review recently. It was a good book, not amazing, but worth a read. It's set in England during WW2 and is about a girl and her brother who hide a Polish pilot whose plane crashes where they live.

Books in my TBR pile (ones that I already own):


The Siege by Helen Dunmore - This is one I bought after reading The Bronze Horseman and I was looking for more books set in Russia during World War 2. Pretty sure this is another one set in Leningrad during the seige.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne - I was sent this one to review, and it's not one I would've picked up on my own but it sounds interesting. I think this one is set during the first world war, and it's by the same dude who wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian - I hadn't heard of this one until the publicist who sent me That Burning Summer mentioned it. I think it's a YA love story set during WW2. It's from the same author who wrote Good Night, Mr Tom (which I read in school but don't remember much about--another war book I need to reread at some point).

A World Between Us by Lydia Syson - I think this one is a love story set during the Spanish Civil War. While I didn't love the authors other book (That Burning Summer), I do want to check this one out.

Song for Katya by Kevin Stevens - Love story between an American musician and a Russian woman set in Moscow during the Cold War.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway - Don't know much about this one, except that it's set during the seige of Sarajevo.

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen - I didn't even realise this one was set during a war, I think I bought it based on the title thinking it was a fairytale retelling (I think it might be?), but Julie said it's set during world war 2 (I think it actually is a Sleeping Beauty retelling that is also a Holocaust story?).

Annexed by Sharon Dogar - This one is odd...while Anne Franks diary is true and written by her own hand, this one is a fictionalised version of the same story told from the perspective of Peter (whose family was hidden with Anne's). I'm not sure how I feel about that really, whether I think it's disrespectful or not, but I want to read it anyway (honestly, the only reason I haven't read it yet is because the book is printed on paper that feels chalky and I have a phobia of chalk so touching it makes me want to cry).

Ones I want to read but don't have yet:


Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay - Set in Paris during world war 2. A few youtubers recommended this one and it sounds interesting.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne - I want to read this...and I don't. I'm kind of dreading it because I've seen the movie and know how sad the story is.

Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley - I think this is about an American girl who works as a British spy for the Resistance in France during world war 2? Maybe? And there is romance? Not sure (I think this is one Julie mentioned--I've not properly read up on it yet).

The Devils Arithmetic by Jane Yolen - I think this is a time travel Holocaust story? Not 100% sure. I know there's a movie based on the book though.

Night by Elie Wiesel - I think this is a Holocaust story. I've seen this talked about a lot.

Schindler's List (a.k.a. Schindler's Ark) by Thomas Keneally - The story and the movie are fantastic, so I hope the book is just as good. It's the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German who saved 1200 Jews from concentration camps in Germany and Poland.

And there's a few goodreads lists I want to go through and see if any sound interesting too (particularly this list, because of the romance thing).

If anyone actually read this post, do you go through phases of craving a certain setting/genre/subject matter in books? And are there any books set during wars that you would recommend (mentioned in this post or not)?

Later.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

New Adult on the Block: Drop Everything Now by Alessandra Thomas

Drop Everything Now
Alessandra Thomas
[September 12, 2013]

Andi rushes home from college to Vegas after a serious car wreck leaves her mother severely injured. Unable to stay with her mother and stepfather in their small townhouse, she bunks down in a seedy hotel and meets Ryder Strong - stripper extraordinaire. Liking him - or anyone like him - wasn't in her plans. Will she let him in enough to change them?

Ryder hasn’t had a single genuine thing in his life since he started stripping, teasing and pleasing for a room full of partying girls – even though what he really wants is a real job and a normal life. Could Andi change his fortune?

Things heat up fast between them, until an ill-informed encounter with a penis pump leaves Ryder's sexy ass couch-ridden and jobless for more than a week. The only joystick Andi can use is the one on Ryder's video game controllers. Getting to know Ryder leads to falling in love – and Andi realizes she might actually like being in Vegas for the first time in her life. But her languishing grades back in Philly and her mother's rapidly improving health tell her it's time to go.

When life takes the scariest turn imaginable, can these two turn it into a happy ending - for both of them?

Ryder Strong. Oh Ryder. Man, Ryder's incredible. 

Drop Everything Now is incredible. 

All of Alessandra's books are incredible. 

Alessandra Thomas creates - relatively - realistic situations, especially when compared to other NA novels. The characters are always well rounded; no stereotypical bad boys and sweet, good girls. Drop Everything Now is no different from her other books in that respect. Instead she tosses together two people in difficult situations that could happen to anyone.

Andi's story is heartbreaking to me. Maybe because I'm a college student who's put herself on a strict deadline for graduation and is always worrying about her family needing her. But reading about her worrying over her mom and really wanting to make sure she graduates on time, I could felt her anxiety and her indecision. She was desperate to help and be there, but she also had to try and put herself and her needs first. It's always a tough call and it was portrayed so well in this book.

Then there's Ryder and his super plausible back story. He was a nice guy who had a good job, and then with the economy going bad and all of the consequences of that, he lost his job. He still had responsibilities, so he found another job to make sure he could take care of those responsibilities...he just happened to decide to do that by being a stripper. One of the sweetest strippers I could imagine, really. He has a lot on his shoulders and a two sucky jobs, but he doesn't complain. If anything, he takes on more responsibility. 

The romance? Oh, the romance. Ryder and Andi had a natural chemistry from the start. They were both in tough situations that just seemed to keep getting tougher. They were able to help each other to an extent, but also recognized that some struggles have to be handled as individuals. The relationship wasn't really sugar coated. But there was still plenty of sexy times. It's the best distraction for tough times, really. 

The writing is classically Alessandra - addicting enough that I read it in two sittings when I should've been doing about five thousand other things. The book was fun, but still had a lot of depth. It was well paced and kept the action moving and never felt drawn out or like there was something missing. I worried a bit when I saw the pretty low estimated page count, but it was silly for me to even question it. Besides the fact there's no way for me to even know that it was accurate, Alessandra can always deliver.

Alessandra is truly a master of New Adult books. Depth, sexy times, good writing, character development, and relationship development, wrapped up in a neat little book. I highly recommend her books to all New Adult lovers, especially those looking for more than just a sexy romance.

--Julie

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Kiss Me Again by Rachel Vail

Kiss Me Again
by Rachel Vail


Summary: Charlie Collins doesn't know what to do about Kevin Lazarus, her crush and, awkwardly, her new stepbrother. Things were complicated enough when their parents were only dating and when Kevin was going out with Charlie's best friend, Tess. Now, post-wedding, Charlie and Kevin are crossing paths and crossing lines, and then they have to eat breakfast . . . together.

If only Charlie could get some time away from Kevin and her annoyingly happy and strange stepfamily, she might be able to deal. Yet first she has to make things right with George, her sort-of boyfriend, and Tess, whose trust she broke. But while Charlie struggles to be the perfect friend and daughter, at the end of the day Kevin is the one waiting for her at home. Would it really be so bad if they kissed again?
So I posted a review of the first book yesterday, and I didn't like it much (to sum up: the whole thing just felt too immature in an annoying way, the characters seemed younger than they were while trying to act older), but there were some things left unresolved in the first book so I wanted to give this one a chance to wrap those storylines up.

I liked this one way more than the first. It literally picks up where the first one left off, and yet the characters felt more mature, more realistically their age instead of being like little kids prattling on and on about things they know nothing about--as far as the characters go, it felt like the story picked up a year or two after the first instead of just where it left off.

I liked the characters way more in this one, and the writing, and the relationships--especially the romance. In this one, it actually felt genuine unlike the first (which literally went from I hate him to I'm kissing him to I love him in like a day without any conversations happening between the two characters).

I still wish the ending wrapped up certain storylines better (like the Tess thing) and was more concrete (with the Kevin thing), but I understand why it wasn't and it was a decent ending, way more satisfying than the first book.

I'd rate this one 3.5 stars out of 5. It was a cute, fun read and I'm glad I read the first one just to get to this one.

Later.

Monday, 7 October 2013

If We Kiss by Rachel Vail

If We Kiss
by Rachel Vail

Summary:  What would happen if we kiss?

Kevin led me quickly around the side of the building, then stopped. I managed not to crash into him. I tried to look calm, cool, unperturbed. I told myself not to laugh, especially not a snorting kind of laugh. "Wha . . . what did . . ."

And then he kissed me.

If We Kiss is the story of Charlie, who finds herself falling for a boy who is off-limits. Her best friend is in love with him, and her mother and his father are dating. Still, Charlie can't help but wonder, what would happen if we kiss?
I didn't like this book very much. It's been on my shelf for years, and I went into it kind of expecting it to be like the sweet, fun rom-com books I used to read (you know those cute Simon Pulse ones that used to have awful cartoon covers?), but it didn't quite deliver.

But, I don't think the problem was the book exactly, it was just the timing. If I had read this when I was younger, then maybe I might've liked it more.

Charlie wasn't an awful character, she did have moments when she'd make me laugh, but in general she was just so...immature? And so were her friends, and so much about the story was really painfully immature (and it's not because of the age of the characters, because I've read and enjoyed plenty of books with younger characters, it was just the way they were written).

She is 14 years old and her friends are 14 years old, and yet she calls herself a prude and calls other people sluts...because of kissing? It's just - it's ridiculous. And they keep claiming to be in love. Like the Kevin situation--in the beginning, she says she considers him to be a slut and she doesn't like him, and then he kisses her and she literally starts going on about being in love with him (and talks about how her best friend has been in love with every boy she's kissed).

At 14, my friends and I definitely had our moments of ridiculousness, especially when it came to boys, but we were never like that. At least, I hope we weren't (I don't recall ever throwing around the word love like it was that meaningless). I'm sure Charlie and the other characters are an accurate portrayal of some teenagers, just not the ones I've known.

The book had its moments of sweetness (the Global Kiss thing is pretty cute), but I just couldn't enjoy it...maybe if I were still 13-15, I'd have liked it, but instead I just spent the majority of the book rolling my eyes and sighing at how silly the characters were being.

So...yeah, the book wasn't really my cup of tea. I'd rate it 2 stars out of 5...but I do think that it's just one of those ones that, for a lot of people, has to be read at a certain age to be appreciated.

I'm considering still reading the sequel though, because I do want to know Kevin's justification for the stuff that happened in the story and I'm hoping maybe the characters will be a little older and less cringe-worthy immature.

Later.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Burned
by Ellen Hopkins


Summary: It all started with a dream. Nothing exceptional, just a typical fantasy about a boy, the kind of dream that most teen girls experience. But Pattyn Von Stratten is not like most teen girls. Raised in a religious -- yet abusive -- family, a simple dream may not be exactly a sin, but it could be the first step toward hell and eternal damnation.

This dream is a first step for Pattyn. But is it to hell or to a better life? For the first time Pattyn starts asking questions. Questions seemingly without answers -- about God, a woman's role, sex, love -- mostly love. What is it? Where is it? Will she ever experience it? Is she deserving of it?
 
It's with a real boy that Pattyn gets into real trouble. After Pattyn's father catches her in a compromising position, events spiral out of control until Pattyn ends up suspended from school and sent to live with an aunt she doesn't know.

Pattyn is supposed to find salvation and redemption during her exile to the wilds of rural Nevada. Yet what she finds instead is love and acceptance. And for the first time she feels worthy of both -- until she realizes her old demons will not let her go. Pattyn begins down a path that will lead her to a hell -- a hell that may not be the one she learned about in sacrament meetings, but it is hell all the same.
This is the first of Ellen's books I've ever read. I put off reading them because I didnt think novels written in verse were my kind of thing. This one proved me wrong. In the beginning I was annoyed by the format of it but it didnt take long to get too sucked into the story to notice.

I'm not sure what I thought of the book really. I know that I was addicted from first page to last, and I know that I haven't hated the ending of a book this much in, well, ever really. I knew going into it that it wasn't going to be happy, but I wasn't expecting it to happen the way it did and, unlike other people who were desperate for the sequel after an ending like that, I'm really not sure if I can read the next book (at least not right now--too raw, I'm not in the mood for painful books right now).

The book made me feel...angry, frustrated, claustrophobic, and devastated even imagining Pattyn's situation. There were some sweet moments too, but they were so thoroughly drowned out by the other stuff (and the contrast made the other stuff feel worse).

I guess that's why I'm not sure what I thought of the book--most of what it made me feel was so negative that it feels weird to say I liked/loved the book. But I think that was kind of the point--it's one of those books that are supposed to hurt.

And I'm just kind of rambling, sorry. I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5.

Later.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Poison by Bridget Zinn

Poison
by Bridget Zinn

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Well then, this book was lovely. I really, really enjoyed it...but I don't have much to say about it.

The characters were great (my favourite may or may not have been the pig, Rosie), the romance was sweet, the plot was really good and actually managed to surprise me quite a few times, and the world was awesome--I would've loved to read more stories set there.

It was just a fun, quirky book that made me laugh and made me smile a lot, and it's really, really sad that the author died before she got the chance to write more books (she would've been on my insta-read list after this one).

See, for once, I really meant it when I didn't have a lot to say. I really recommend this one, it had an Ella Enchanted kind of charm to it (light, in spite of having some darker subject matter, funny, cute, etc.). I'd rate it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Later.


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Year of Secret Assignments
(a.k.a. Finding Cassie Crazy)
by Jaclyn Moriarty

Summary: Three female students from Ashbury High write to three male students from rival Brookfield High as part of a pen pal program, leading to romance, humiliation, revenge plots, and war between the schools.
So, I loved this book. Really, really loved it. There aren't really any words good enough to accurately explain just how much I loved this book, but I'll try.

It's written through things like letters and emails and diary entries, and that format would normally bug me but Jaclyn Moriarty somehow manages to make it work. It's a style that seems like it would be shallow or that the story would feel incomplete/lacking because of it, but it wasn't. It was the perfect mix of deep and meaningful, and stuff to make you laugh out loud (which I did quite a lot while reading), and characters I would love to know.

Each of the characters is bursting with personality and I just...I loved it. They're all really distinctive and I loved how she made them really real and unstereotypical.

Like Emma - she's loves shopping and horses and is very girly-girl, and she messes up her grammar and things sometimes and it would be so easy for her character to just be written as a total airhead, but she's smart. English may not be her best subject, but she isn't portrayed as stupid (while so many characters in books with her personality traits and her likes and dislikes are often portrayed as being stupid).

And Lydia, she's quirky and funny and brave. But she's not fearless and I loved the balance there was with her character--that she could have fears and insecurites while still being strong and brave and that those traits aren't mutually exclusive.

Then there's Cassie...she's lovely. I loved the the book wasn't a cliche portrayal of grief, Cassie grieved in her own way and it was heartbreaking and realistic. And she's shy and quiet, but she doesn't come across as weak because of that.

And then there's the boys...they made me laugh and the relationships the girls formed with them were hilarious and realistic.

So many YA books have those True Love relationships but this one wasn't the usual "OMG! I would die for you, die without you, I will love you forever and ever and ever because we're soulmates!" type relationships. As fun as those ones can be to read, it is refreshing to read more realistic portrayals of relationships too--ones that have their moments of sweetness, but aren't perfect, and the characters will argue and get mad at each other every once in a while and that's okay because you don't have to get on with someone 100% of the time and it's okay to be mad at people you care about, because you can forgive each other.

Also has to be mentioned: Emma's dad. Although he's not in the book much, he was hilarious and may actually be my favourite character in the book. He just made me smile a lot. Actually, Jaclyn Moriarty is really good at writing parents (even more impressive considering the format of these books because it would be so easy to have them be like all those other YA books with MIA parents).

And I think that's enough gushing for one review. I'd rate this 5 out of 5, and I desperately want the other two books in the series. Go read this book (and the first book--which is more companion novel than prequel). I especially recommend this if you're into the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty.

Later.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How to Love
by Katie Cotugno

Summary: This is a love story. But it’s not what you think. This is not a first kiss, or a first date. This is not love at first sight. This is a boy and a girl falling in messy, unpredictable, thrilling love. This is the complicated route to happiness that follows.

This is real. This is life. This is how to love.

BEFORE:

Reena has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember. But he’s never noticed her, until one day… he does. They fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town, leaving a devastated – and pregnant – Reena behind.

AFTER:

Three years later and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter Hannah. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again.

After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer again?
My feelings about this book are pretty odd. See, it's supposed to be a love story...and I really liked the book, and yet I spent the majority of the book hating the romance (and I mean really, really hating it).

I had a lot of issues with the male love interest and their relationship in general (more on that in a second), but...well, I liked the book anyway? And I didn't find myself wishing it was different even though it was infuriating to read? And that's unusual for me, because usually if I have issues with a relationship in a book then I want it to be different and it can make me not like a book, but with this one I was kind of...content with being infuriated.

I think maybe it's because it was kind of realistic. We don't get to choose how we feel or who we feel for, we make stupid mistakes sometimes, and relationships aren't perfect...some of them are really, really, really far from being perfect. And this book showed that really well, so I liked it, even though I wanted to knock Reena and Sawyers heads together (him for being an ass, and her for being daft enough to fall for him).

Now...the problem I had with Sawyer and his relationship with Reena was that, for lack of a better term, he was a complete asshat. Seriously, he was such an entitled douchebag the majority of the time. He had a pretty good life, and yet he took it for granted and threw it all away and he's one of those people that don't seem to fully take responsibility for their screw ups. He expects to be able to hurt people that care about him then waltz back in as if he hadn't done something awful--he acts as if trust and forgiveness should be given just because he wants it, without him having to earn it first.

He is awful in the Before chapters, and he's not much better in the After chapters because he never seems to properly apologize, he just acts like people are just toys he can throw away and pick back up again whenever he feels like it. Anything that comes close to an apology from him is mostly just him shifting blame onto Reena instead (and yet she apologized to him most of the time for getting mad at him and saying things he 100% deserved). And Reena...well, I liked her, but I liked her a lot more when she wasn't with him or obsessing over him.

In the last few chapters, I did warm up a bit to their relationship, but I'm not sure whether it's because I had started to like them together (he was good with his kid, but I still maintain he hadn't really made up for being an ass) or if it's just because I like happy endings and even in romances that have couples I don't like, I still find myself rooting for that happy ending.

I don't really have much else to say about the book. Like I said, my feelings about it are odd--this review probably seems more negative than positive, but the thing is, I liked it and I even liked that I didn't like Sawyer...and that probably doesn't make much sense.

I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5 (it would be lower, if I was judging it as a romance novel/love story, because the romance was like...Fifty Shades of Gray on the scale of how much I disliked them as a couple, and Romeo and Juliet on the scale of how unconvinced I was that they were in love not lust). But yeah, it was a really good book--addictive, never bored me.

Later.

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