Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Summary: Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.
This is my fifth Jennifer Lynn Barnes book so far, and I really enjoyed it. She consistently delivers really good books... They're not amazing, all-time-favourites, but they're books I really love reading and have a had time putting them down.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this book really. Because I've read other stories like it before (special kids, recruited by the FBI or some other secret government program), and it was predictable in a lot of ways -- even the character types were predictable (the brooding bad boy, the charmer, the quirky odd one, the outgoing one who is occasionally catty but not all bad who is sort of a rival to the main character, etc.).

But it hooked me, and it never bored me and I loved the characters anyway. I didn't like that it had a love triangle, but found myself a bit caught up in it anyway.

This is one of those books that, when I try to review it, I have a hard time thinking what to write that doesn't seem negative. Which is frustrating, because this review isn't meant to be negative -- it's just... I can't pin point exactly what it was about it that I liked. I don't know why I liked it, only that I did. And I could list many things about the book that should have made me dislike it, but at the end of the day I liked it in spite of those things (or maybe even because of them -- we all have certain clichés that we enjoy reading about, it's how they become cliché in the first place).

The tl;dr version of this craptastic review is this: I really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoy reading all of Jennifer's books (so far). I enjoyed it so much that I was kicking myself for not having the sequel ready to read when I finished this one. I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5 (maybe 4, if we're going by enjoyability and not factoring in unoriginality and predictability).

Later.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad 
by Margaret Atwood


Summary: Now that all the others have run out of air, it's my turn to do a little story-making.

In Homer's account in The Odyssey, Penelope--wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy--is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and--curiously--twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: "What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?" In Atwood's dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality--and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.
So I picked this book up after a booktuber I'm subscribed to mentioned it a few times and I started reading it today on a whim -- I just expected to read a few pages, just to see what the book was like because I wasn't really convinced I'd like it... Well, I couldn't put it down. I read it cover to cover and loved every second of it.

Why why why has it taken me this long to read a Margaret Atwood book? I've had The Handmaids Tale sitting on my shelves for ages, unread, and now I'm kicking myself because her writing is fantastic -- it totally draws you in, its honest and lyrical and humorous at times and just...dfjhldfhj! I cannot fangirl her writing enough, this book has definitely made me a fan of hers.

As for the story itself... it should be noted that I've not actually read The Odyssey yet (I've wanted to read The Odyssey and The Iliad for ages, it's just one of those things that I'm taking ages to get round to doing).

So, I don't want to talk much about the story itself, as I don't know which details are overlapping and which are purely a result of Atwood's own creativity, but I will say that the story stands on its own. You can totally read it and appreciate it with the minimum knowledge of the story it's inspired by (although, I do think I'd appreciate it more had I read The Odyssey first).

Penelope was a great narrator, she was clever and witty and, I'm not sure if Odysseus is as much of a tool in his own story, but seeing it through her perspective he came across as such an arrogant asshat who didn't deserve Penelope. And I loved the chorus chapters from the perspective of the maids with their justified anger and abundance of snark.

That's all I'm going to say about the book (it's hard to review it when I don't want to talk about the plot)... I loved it, it had me completely hooked and enamoured with the writing. I'd rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

Later.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Weekly Wrap Up (36)

On the Blog
These are the posts from the last two weeks.

Wednesday: Lanna liked It's About Love
Thursday: Girl at War is a new favourite of Lanna's
Friday: Lanna reviews the audiobook of Amy Poehler's, Yes Please
Saturday: Julie talks events free, public surrounding BEA (including helpful subway stop info for each event)

Lanna:
I'll just get right onto the new books instead of my usual rambling...


The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood - I've already read this one, review will be up next week.

Savages by Don Winslow - I've been on the fence about reading this one for a few years, then saw it in a shop for 50p so...

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - I've heard such good things about this one, so I can't wait to read it.

Also, I got The Blue Between the Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa for review on Netgalley and it sounds awesome.

What've you all been reading? 

Later.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

BEA: After-Hours

I did this post last year and when I mentioned doing it again, a lot of you were on board, so I'm going for it! Basically, there are a tooooon of events surrounding BEA each year, but what often gets neglected is the public, free events that you don't need a BEA badge for. It gives you all the extra options to find people if you don't go to parties (or to BEA), but want to hang out with people! Plus, the Javitz can be crazy, so these extra events can be really helpful. I'm also including the closest/likely most convenient subway stop for each.

Tuesday

Teen Author Carnival
6:30-9:00 
20+ authors, 4 panels and a signing
Jefferson Market Library
425 Avenue of the Americas
West 4 ABCD Trains Subway Stop

P.S. I Still Love You Launch Party
7:00-9:00
Launch Party for Jenny Han's latest
PowerHouse Arena
37 Main Street, Brooklyn
York St F Train Subway Stop
*RSVP appreciated


Wednesday

Fifth Annual Bookrageous Bash
7:00
Megan Abbott, Jami Attenberg, Christine Heppermann, and Daniel José Older.
Housing Works Bookstore
126 Crosby Street
Prince Street NR Train/Broadway-Lafayette BDFM Train/Bleecker 6 Train Subway Stop

Thursday

Blogger/Author Meet Up
3:00
No set details, but lots of discussion on the page

Tumblr Writers 
7:00 
Katie Coyle, Ashley Ford, Julie Buntin
Housing Works Bookstore
126 Crosby Street
Prince Street NR Train/Broadway-Lafayette BDFM Train/Bleecker 6 Train Subway Stop

Friday

Fantastic Teen Fiction
6:00-8:00
Virginia Boecker, Rae Carson, Melissa Gray, Michael Buckley, Kass Morgan, and Cao Wenxaun
Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
18th St 1 Train Subway Stop


Saturday

YA All Stars
7:00-9:00
Renee Ahdieh, Marie Lu, Richelle Mead, Carrie Ryan & Sabaa Tahir 
McNally Jackson
52 Prince Street
Prince Street NR Train/Broadway-Lafayette BDFM Train/Bleecker 6 Train Subway Stop

Paper Lantern Lit + Release Party
7:00
Celebrate 5 years of Paper Lantern Lit and the release of founder Lexa Hillyer's Proof of Forever
BookCourt
163 Court Street, Brooklyn

Sunday

Fierce Reads YA Spring Fling Party 
6:00-8:00
Courtney Alameda, Anna Banks, Emmy Laybourne, Jennifer Mathieu
McNally Jackson
52 Prince Street
Prince Street NR Train/Broadway-Lafayette BDFM Train/Bleecker 6 Train Subway Stop

So, where will you guys be heading when the day is done at Javitz?

--Julie

Friday, 22 May 2015

Audiobook: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please
by Amy Poehler

Summary: In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.
I want to preface this review by saying that 1) this is not the type of book I normally read -- memoirs just aren't my thing, and 2) I haven't actually seen much of Amy's work (aside from Mean Girls and some clips I've seen here and there of her hosting events or funny sketches).

With that context, you'd think I wouldn't have loved this book. I mean, not being particularly familiar with her shows should've made hearing her talk about them and how she got to where she is should have made it boring to me... But it wasn't, and I did love the book. Really loved it.

I should also clarify though that I think it was listening to the book--as opposed to reading it--that really made me love it. Had I simply read it, I think there are parts I would've struggled through. The book itself was good, with some brilliant moments, but her narration brought it to another level.

I laughed out loud many times reading it (as you'd expect, given who she is), but it also tugged at my heartstrings at a few surprising moments too. It was honest and relatable, and it kept me so hooked that I listened to the entire thing in two days (I have a very short attention span when it comes to listening to audiobooks, so that's quite impressive).

Like I said, memoirs aren't normally my kind of thing, but it was weirdly fascinating to lose myself in someone else's real life thoughts and nostalgia for a few hours -- especially when that someone is Amy Poehler.

I went into this not knowing much about Amy beyond the fact that she's funny, a feminist, stars in that show I never watched and is friends with Tina Fey. By the end, I'd added her shows to my watch list because she's fabulous.

Anyway, that's all I have to say really. The book was awesome and I finished it a little bit in love with Amy Poehler and her humour and honesty. I'd rate the book 5 stars out of 5 (in large part down to her performance of the audiobook).

Later.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Girl at War by Sara Novic

Girl at War
Sara Novic


Summary: Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.

Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost. 
It always feel weird to call a book with such tragic subject matter a favourite, but I don't know a better way to explain just how highly I think of this book and how much it got under my skin. It is now, without a doubt, one of my all time favourite books. I stayed up all night just to read it and it was so beautiful and sad and heartbreakingly honest.

The Yugoslav Wars are something I've always found interesting but I was pretty ignorant about the majority of it and I still am (like most people, my knowledge was pretty limited to stuff relating to the Bosnian war -- I didn't know specifics about what happened in Croatia), but his book opened my eyes to sides of the conflict I hadn't read about before and left me wanting to find out more. A book that can make someone aware of their own ignorance and make them want to educate themselves more on a certain subject is definitely a good one.

As for the story itself... I loved it, in the sense that it had me in tears multiple times and my heart ached for the characters and the knowledge that stories like this aren't just stories -- that there are real people who lived through this stuff.

I really, really loved that the story starts with her as a child. There's something jarring about seeing war through a child's eyes -- the way terrifying things become normalized for them, the way they adapt to having these extreme situations be a part of their day to day lives and how bit-by-bit war chips away at their innocence in ways they don't even realise until years later. I loved that we saw her grown up, too, showing the impact it had on her and it was interesting to see her think back on the things she experienced as a child, and how she understands things that happened in a way she couldn't while they'd been happening.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was the ending. It's one of those endings that leaves so much unresolved and so many questions unanswered. I guess that actually fits really well with the story though, because war is like that too. It just didn't feel like an ending but the fact that it left me wanting more of the story, frustrating as it may be, is a compliment to the book too because I didn't want it to be over.

Anyway, I'd rate the book 5 stars out of 5 and I can't wait until I can buy a physical copy so it can take it's well earned place on my favourites shelf.

Later.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

It's About Love by Steven Camden

It's About Love
by Steven Camden


Summary: He's Luke. She's Leia.

Just like in Star Wars. Just like they’re made for each other. Same film studies course, different backgrounds, different ends of town.

Only this isn't a film. This is real life. This is where monsters from the past come back to take revenge. This is where you are sometimes the monster.

But real life? Sometimes, only sometimes, it turns out just like in the movies…maybe.
This is not the kind of book I would've ever picked up on my own, but I am glad I was sent a copy to review and I'm happy I read it. The book was good -- I didn't love the story, but I did really love the writing. Steven Camden has a great writing style, so I'd definitely check out other books by him thanks to this one.

I don't have a whole lot to say about the book really. I didn't like the main character much -- he had his moments, and his friends made me laugh, but he was pretty annoying a lot of the time too, especially where Leia was concerned.

Actually, that was probably the weakest part of the book for me -- Leia. I don't think she was very fleshed out as a character, it was like she was just there. She was given a story in the book but never given the chance to tell it...we find out her issues through someone else, some insignificant side character that's only in a handful of pages. And Luke...he was ridiculous where she was concerned, way too obsessed, and he was behaving like a jealous (asshat) boyfriend when they'd just met each other. I did like their shared passion for film but beyond that nothing clicked.

I think that's what kept me from liking the book more than I did. I loved the stuff with Luke's older brother, seeing the impact it's had on him and how their relationship changed. His brother was my favourite character after his two best friends.

The only thing I really hated about the book was the fact that characters kept calling him "Lukey" (petty thing to dislike, I'm aware, but my best male friend is called Luke and it's the kind of nickname you'd give a 5 year old, not someone who is 16/17).

The reason I say the book is just good and not great is that, while it did keep me pretty hooked from start to finish, I know it's one of those books I won't remember much about. I'll probably forget the story, forget the characters, but I will remember the writing.

I think that's all I have to say about the book really, I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5. It was a good book -- romance fell a little flat, but the writing and some of the other stuff in the book made up for it.

Later.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Review & Giveaway: The Day of the Wave by Becky Wicks


I'm reviewing the book as part of a blog tour. You can check out the other tour stops by clicking the banner above.

The Day of the Wave
by Becky Wicks

Summary: Isla and Ben were just sixteen when the Boxing Day tsunami tore through their beach resort in Thailand. Just days after forming a life-changing bond, both were missing and presumed dead. Unbeknown to each other and haunted by one of the biggest natural disasters in world history, Isla and Ben are living very different lives, until over a decade later when a chance encounter throws them back together.

Based on real life events, The Day of the Wave is a story of healing, learning to let go, and figuring out when to hold on with everything you have left.
So self-published books aren't normally my kind of thing. They always feel like too much of a risk and I tend to avoid them, with few exceptions, but the subject matter of this one made me take a chance. I went into the book wary, but hesitantly optimistic -- it did not disappoint. I sort of loved it.

The first half of the book was just okay and took me a while to get in to, but the second half? That's when it started to really hook me and get under my skin. My heart ached so much for the characters--and for the real life victims of the Boxing Day tsunami--and the story brought me to tears quite a few times.

Ben and Isla... They were great, frustrating at times, but great and I loved their relationship. They both went through this awful thing that will forever link them together but their connection was deeper than that -- I loved their teasing banter and the fact that they were the best versions of themselves when they were together.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was Kalaya, purely because it bugs me when the "rival" girl is portrayed as catty and gets vilified, as if to make the main character seem better by comparison. Anything nice said about Kalaya was just that -- said, we were never shown any examples of it. But, that's just personal preference.

That's all I have to say about the book really. If you like heartbreaking stories with plenty of cute and funny moments thrown in, I'd really recommend this one. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.

You can find out more about the author on her website, or follow her on twitter or facebook. She has also arranged a giveaway for the tour, you can enter below for a chance to win an Amazon gift voucher and a copy of the e-book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Top Ten Books I Don't Want to Read But Probably Will Anyway

Yes, I'm posting my Top Ten Tuesday on a Monday, but I have a blog tour review to go up tomorrow. We get to choose our own topic this week, so I've gone with books I don't really want to read but I probably will end up reading them anyway.

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but there are times when I'll see a book and it just doesn't appeal to me (e.g. haven't liked authors previous books, or the summary is bad, or it sounds boring, etc.) and yet I end up adding it to my To Read list anyway because I keep seeing other people say it's good.

I mean still don't genuinely want to read the book... but I probably will anyway for no other reason than other people keep saying it's good and I want to see what all the fuss is about.

That's what these books are. I read the summaries, had no desire to read them. And then someone recommended them. Then someone else recommended them. And then someone else... To the point where I was just like, "FINE! I'll read the damn book!"

1. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord 

Why: The summary just did nothing for me. It lost me at the mention of dead boyfriend (zero desire to read those stories). Then it talked about her shutting out the world and how she'd pursue her long time crush but then another guy enters the picture and just... Not one thing about it appealed to me, because we're usually stuck with a character pining after the wrong guy for many a chapter when we know predictably who she'll end up with and it's frustrating. So yeah, did not want. But then, everyone is saying how amazing it is, so now -- sort of want?

2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Why: I have reasons for not wanting to read books by the author, but beyond that, I tend to avoid books set in Scotland as much as I can (unless they're by Scottish authors, but even then...). Authors trying to phonetically write our accents angers me so much, and it's weird reading romance novels that fetishize Scottish men. Plus, the book is ridiculously long, probably way longer and more wordy than necessary. But, the show is good and everyone keeps recommending the books. I don't want to read it, but yeah...

3. Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
Why: This is another one where the dreaded phonetically written accents pet peeve rears its ugly head again (why? why? WHY? I don't get why any author would ever think it's a good idea, it's just beyond irritating). I'm not sure if there were other things that gave me an aversion to reading this beyond that, but I'm not sure I've seen a bad review of it. Actually, the reviews tend to be glowing.

4. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Why: Everyone gushed about the first book, saying it was fantastic, but I found it dull at worst, average at best (movie was better). So it's a mixture of my own opinions of the first book and distrust of the praise this one received...and yet, people say it's better than the first book...so if the first book was average to me, maybe this one will be good? Maybe? Possibly?

5. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Why: This isn't a book I'd choose for myself, it doesn't sound interesting to me and I'm not sure why. But one of my best friends wanted me to read it, because it's his favourite book. And then I saw a 4 star review of it by someone on my goodreads.

6. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Why: I don't even know, I just don't want to read it. But I've seen so many good reviews, some of which are from people whose judgement I trust, and I want to know what the fuss is about.

7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Why: Just didn't appeal to me, I didn't like the Hollywood aspect, or the post-apocalyptic quality the summary seemed to describe (I'm so burned out with that and the dystopia genre)...and yet it has both of those things and combines them with two other things I'm not into -- alternating POV's and jumping between the past and present. But the reviews are so, so good. Gah!

8. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Why: I don't know why, but I've just never seen any of his books and felt the desire to read it. But he passed away not too long ago, and people kept recommending his books and I guess I wanted to see if it was because they felt like they should or because his books really are that good. This was one I saw recommended a few times, it's not one I'd choose to read on my own, but I'll probably read it at some point.

9. Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynn Jones
Why: Basically the same thing as above... only I've seen the movie too and it didn't make me want to read the book, so there's that added layer of reluctance. I own the book though, I've had it for a few years...still not read it. But I will. Probably. Just to see if I agree with the praise.

10. Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuenhert
Why: Books about drug use are on the list of books I avoid (books that happen to have drug use in them? fair enough, but books about it that seem like they might be "issue books"? no). But I've heard only good things about it, so I finally got it. Still going into it reluctantly and with low expectations, and slightly annoyed that I caved.

Am I alone in this? The whole reading books I don't want to read thing, purely because of good reviews?

Later.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Tracked by Jenny Martin

Tracked
Jenny Martin
Dial Books
[May 5, 2015]
egalley via publisher


The Fast and the Furious gets a futuristic twist in this action-packed debut!

On corporately controlled Castra, rally racing is a high-stakes game that seventeen-year-old Phoebe Van Zant knows all too well. Phee’s legendary racer father disappeared mysteriously, but that hasn't stopped her from speeding headlong into trouble. When she and her best friend, Bear, attract the attention of Charles Benroyal, they are blackmailed into racing for Benroyal Corp, a company that represents everything Phee detests. Worse, Phee risks losing Bear as she falls for Cash, her charming new teammate. But when she discovers that Benroyal is controlling more than a corporation, Phee realizes she has a much bigger role in Castra’s future than she could ever have imagined. It's up to Phee to take Benroyal down. But even with the help of her team, can a street-rat destroy an empire?
Oh man guys. This. Freaking. Book.

A friend of mine read this book and absolutely adored it. She insisted I read it ASAP and challenged me to tell her it wasn't amazing. I couldn't do that. It would've been a lie. 

I read TRACKED shortly after my last semester ended. It had been a ROUGH semester on me and reading was a hit or miss activity. Books needed a lot to hold my attention and I couldn't put this one down. I was tearing through the pages. With YA, you generally have a decent grasp of how a story will work out because we all love our happy endings, but I wasn't sure what a happy ending would really mean for Phee and I certainly had no clue how she would get to it. So I couldn't put the book down because it would mean not knowing for a longer amount of time and that was unacceptable.

I loved Phee. She was so genuine and loyal to herself and to those she loved. She was clever and badass. She just had this amazing energy to her that was magnetic for me as a reader. I could read a million stories about Phee - prequels, sequels, alternate universes, I'll read them.

I also loved how skillfully Jenny Martin handled the relationships in this one. You guys know I'm a sucker for characters and relationships and this one had both in abundance. I fell in love with Cash and he had amazing chemistry with Phee, but it was Bear and Phee's relationship that I loved to watch. It was complicated and messy and I was totally enamored with Bear - but kind of the way I was enamored with Gale. I don't wanna say too much more for spoilers, but man was it gorgeously built and Jenny really balanced the two relationships SO well. 

There was also the really intricate world building. It's a futuristic sci-fi, so it's going to inherently require a lot of work. Then Phee is also a race car driver and, let's be real, how many YA readers are car experts? So now Jenny has to teach us about this world and cars. And on top of that, there's a very delicate political balance that comes into play and Phee is completely stuck in this complicated system, but I was never confused. Everything made sense and was well paced. It just really blew my mind how well laid out this very complex world was, especially for a debut novel.

TRACKED hit all the right notes for me. Amazing main character, incredibly well built relationships, fantastic world building, and just the right amount of romance for the main character's personality. This debut was unpredictable, astounding, and has me pretty damn desperate for book 2 and everything else Jenny Martin puts out after.

--Julie

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up (35)

I really should stop calling these "weekly" wrap-ups, because I don't do the post every week. So yeah, this is a wrap up of the last 3 weeks? 4 weeks?

On the Blog:

Lanna's favourite books not set in the UK/US
Ten books Lanna will probably never read

Lanna:

Hey. Hi. S'up?

Once again, I've not been reviewing much. I have been reading a little but I can't post reviews for a few of the books until nearer their release dates, and I've not read much beyond those thanks to a couple of weeks of horrible insomnia (makes it hard to focus when I try to read).

But enough about that...

New Books

There's quite a lot of books here, but these are like a month worth of books not just a week.


For review:

Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker (Netgalley) - Witches, medieval world, sounds awesome.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (Netgalley) - Set in Kenya during the 1920's, that's all I needed to hear.

The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy - This one... I really, really enjoyed the first book in the series but that's the only one I've read (partially read book 2). The problem is this is the 9th in the series, I don't have the other books so it'll probably be a while before I review this one.

Made for You by Melissa Marr - I already reviewed an e-ARC of this.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - I am ridiculously excited for this one.


Bought:

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (also have this on audiobook and love it so far)
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (I blame the mini-series, flawed but entertaining)
Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I think I got a few more of the Penguin Little Black Classics, but I can't remember which ones.

Audiobooks:

Yes Please by Amy Poehler - I had a credit to use up on audible and I am so insanely indecisive when it comes to audiobooks. I went with this one mainly because everyone says it's an awesome book but I can't see it being one I'd ever sit down and read, so listening is a good option (but also partly because she narrates it herself, so she's not one of those narrators with really droning/grating voices).

E-books:

At the Back of the Northwind by George MacDonald - This one is actually a free Kindle book. I realised I haven't read many Scottish classics, so I want to give this one a try (plus, I adore Princess and the Goblin by the same author).

Carter Reed 2 by Tijan - I loved the first book, hopefully this one is just as good.

I may be forgetting some. What've you guys been reading? Have you read any of the ones mentioned?

Later.

Friday, 8 May 2015

New Adult on the Block: All Played Out by Cora Carmack

All Played Out - Tour banner

All Played Out
Cora Carmack
William Morrow & Company
[May 12, 2015]
eGalley received from publicist
All Played Out - coverFirst person in her family to go to college? CHECK. Straight A’s? CHECK. On track to graduate early? CHECK. Social life? …..yeah, about that….

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay… Scratch that. She knows she hasn’t had the full college experience).

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a “to do” list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it’s impossible to get hurt… again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.

Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she’s never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he’s willing to take the chance when it’s more than just a game.

Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.
I love Cora Carmack's books. I love the connection the characters have and how real they are. I love that she's willing to tackle the big issues and doesn't play into some of the stereotypes New Adult often leans on. I love her books and this one wasn't any different.

I adored Nell and Torres. Nell was adorable and so very like me, especially how I was in high school. I understood her and where she was coming from a lot. And I didn't know if I'd love Torres based on what I was reading about him in the other books, but he surprised me. I knew he'd have to be more than I was seeing in those books to be a NA hero, but Cora really brought him to another level I couldn't have imagined.

The romance and the sex scenes Cora rights are always top notch. Loads of chemistry and steaminess on every page, and this book felt especially steamy. I think that was my one major issue with this one - after a certain point, it seemed like the characters weren't really talking or bonding much, but they were having quite a few really sexy encounters. And I don't necessarily have a problem with sex in books, but I'm almost always gonna prefer more plot and relationship building.

But Cora's writing was still stellar. I was totally hooked. I even read in class for a time and then as soon as I got out of my classes, I sat down and read the rest, despite not eating a real meal in many hours. I just had to finish first. Cora always manages to make me giggle and also rip my heart out, which is exactly what I want in my romances. And she manages to really bring in the struggles and realities of being in those years right after college and the choices and difficulties that come with it.

Basically, I'm always going to recommend Cora's books and All Played Out was not an exception to the rule. I'm THRILLED to see where book 4 in the series takes us. But for now, I get to share an excerpt and a giveaway with you guys!


He calls Carson, and that’s when I get the real explanation.
Nell is drunk, and Dylan doesn’t want to leave her home alone. When he hangs up the phone, I can’t hide my shock. “Nell is drunk? The Nell that lives with Dylan?”
“Wasted, apparently.”
“I’m in,” I say, and when we both look at Brookes, he’s watching me. And I can tell by the look he’s giving me that he knows I’ve got something going on with Nell and doesn’t approve. I lift an eyebrow in the most casual so-what? gesture I can offer.
He nods. “Sure. I’ll come.” But the words are said to me not to Silas, and I get the feeling what he actually means is, Sure. I’ll come watch and make sure Torres doesn’t do anything stupid.
We tell Silas to go on ahead, and we’ll come along in a few minutes. But as soon as Brookes is in his room, I jog after Silas, and catch him as he’s getting into his truck. “You mind if I catch a ride with you?” I lie, “Brookes got a call, and he’s gonna be a bit.”
While Silas drives, he has me text Brookes and McClain the address. Brookes wants to know why I left with Silas, but I’m not about to tell him that I didn’t want to spend the car ride with him harping on me to leave Nell alone.
Because I can’t leave her alone. I just can’t.
Silas parks the truck, and I follow him up a metal and concrete staircase to a second-floor apartment. He opens the door without knocking, and that’s when I see Nell standing on the coffee table with some big red-haired dude, singing Spice Girls at the top of her lungs. We step inside just as she’s telling him what to do if he wants to be her lover.
I think of her list. She told me getting drunk was on it, and all of a sudden I’m furious that this guy got to help her check that task off instead of me. “Nell,” I say, before I think better of it. She twists to see me, and her socked feet slide on the coffee table, and then she’s stumbling into the ginger giant, and both of them are going down. I dart forward, but I can’t catch up to her. They hit the ground with a thud, a groan, and Nell’s too-cute giggles. She’s lying right on top of him, and he has his hands on her bare back where her shirt has ridden up from the yoga pants that fit her like a fucking miracle.
She lays her head in the crook of his neck like she’s completely forgotten that I’m here. If I stopped to think, I’d have known how crazy it would look to storm over and tear her off the guy. I would realize what my actions would mean to Silas and Dylan. But I don’t think. I just know I can’t spend one more second watching her snuggled up against this guy without losing my mind. She squeals as I pull her up into my arms, and I don’t think her feet are even touching the ground.
“You okay?” I ask, but all she does is laugh again and lay her head on my chest. I catch a whiff of alcohol, a strong one, and I realize she really is completely smashed. She probably doesn’t have a clue who she’s snuggling up against. Probably can’t even tell the difference between me and whoever the fuck is on the floor.
But even if she doesn’t realize what she’s doing ... it feels damn good to have her wrapped around me again, and for a few seconds it dazes me. Then I look up to find everyone in the room watching us.
Damn.
I lock eyes with Dylan and say, “How did this happen?”
“I’m still working on that. As far as I can tell, she decided she wanted to invent her own cocktail, and she enlisted our friend Matt’s help.” Ah. Matt. He’s one of Dylan’s activist friends. I didn’t realize he was close to Nell, too.  Nell points to him sprawled out on the floor and adds, “This is what happens when you spend all day trying lots of different mixes of alcohol.”
That seems to catch Nell’s attention enough to rouse her, because she pulls back and places both her small hands on my face.
“I figured it out. It took me a long time, but I got it. I call it Newton’s Third Law.”
“Uhh ...”
“Get it? Yours was Bad Decision. And mine... is Newton’s Third Law.” She descends into giggles again, and I scan my minimal science knowledge to try and remember what she’s talking about. I’d taken a physics course last year for my kinesiology major, but I just barely scraped by. Unlike high school, where I was concerned with keeping up to impress Lina, last year I’d been mostly focused on forgetting her.
“Is that the one about actions and reactions?”
“Exactly! Every action has an equal and . . .” She pauses and swallows, and man, she’s so far gone. “Reaction. Equal and opposite reaction. So … action.” She gestures to an empty cup on the bar, then to her own drunken state. “Reaction.”
Then she does this little move that’s halfway between a fist pump and a celebratory dance. She’s so fucking adorable, it actually hurts. Somewhere between my chest and my stomach there’s a knot that twists every time I see her. And I’m starting to enjoy it, the strange pleasure pain of wanting her.

 
Headshot 
About Cora Carmack:
Cora Carmack is a twenty-something New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She now splits her time between Austin, TX and New York City and spends her days writing, traveling, and spending way too much time on the internet. In her books, you can expect to find humor, heart, and a whole lot of awkward. Because let’s face it . . . awkward people need love, too.      

Website ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Author Goodreads ** ALL PLAYED OUT Goodreads

 

 


--Julie 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Ten Books I Will Probably Never Read

The topic this time is ten books I will probably never read. Well, there are many, many, many books I'll never read so I'm going to narrow it down to books that I own but will probably never read (some are ones I actually started reading but won't finish).

1. Ulysses by James Joyce - This is one of those books I got purely because it felt like I should read it, not because I wanted to read it. And since then, I've seen enough reviews of it to think that I won't enjoy it at all.

2. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen - With a lot of classics, I tend to only get the desire to read them after seeing an adaptation or reading a retelling that I loved (not all classics, but a lot). This one? I've disliked all the adaptations that I've seen, I think, so it's one of the Austen stories I have zero desire to read. Am I making a mistake? Probably. It may just be that there are no really good adaptations, or if there are, I've not seen them.

3. The Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith - I'm a fan of the TV show and I really think if I'd read the books when I was a lot younger, I'd have loved them but I've read so much good YA lit that I don't think it could compare. I read The Secret Circle (first book only) by the same author and it was so mediocre...the characters, the writing. Basically, I just think I missed that window of time where I would've enjoyed this book and maybe they work better as TV shows.

4. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver - I did like the first book, Delirium, but it's one of those ones that in the time between reading the first one and the next books coming out, I just lost all interest in the series. And, on top of that, I am thoroughly burned out with the whole dystopia thing.

5. The Symposium by Plato - I actually did start reading this one and I could not get through it. Which is bad, considering how short it is. It's just... Well. It's ridiculously, painfully, pretentious and arrogant and self-congratulatory. Most of all, it didn't feel like I was reading anything profound and I didn't come across any quotes
or ideas that got under my skin and made me think -- perhaps I didn't read far enough. I understand that this was written a long time ago, but understanding the impact this sort of literature has had doesn't make it any less insufferable to read through now. Maybe there was enlightening ideas and discussions in this book, but the style it's written in... No.

6. Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin - Another one I started reading (also a short book), but I just hated what I read of it. I hated the male character and I'm not a fan of alternating POV's. I put it down ages ago and have never felt any desire to pick it up again. 

7. The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler - Daniel Handler is one of those authors that I want to love, and yet I find myself barely liking the books of his I attempt to read (although I've not read enough to know if it's a definitely pattern yet). I started reading this one, couldn't stand the main character (which may have been intentional, but it didn't do much to keep me turning the pages) and I just couldn't bring myself to drag my way to the end of it.

8. A Brighter Fear by Kerry Drewery - This is a book I spent months excited for. A love story? Set during the Iraq war? That's all I needed to know. I couldn't even make it through a three chapters of it, I hated the writing so much. Maybe one day I'll give it another chance, but I doubt it.

9. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - This one is partly due to the dystopia burn out, and partly due to having read spoilers of what happens. The spoilers have me convinced I won't like it -- not because of what happens, but the way it happens. My only problem with the first book was that a plot twist at the end came across as really contrived and it sounds like the big thing in the last book goes down the same way. Of all the ones on the list though, this is the one I'm most likely to change my mind on and give another chance... I just don't see it happening any time soon.

10. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff - I was drawn in by the creepy-pretty US cover for this book, cover lust had me so convinced I had to read it that I settled for the crappy UK cover...then I couldn't even make it a third of the way into the book. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't my kind of thing and I'll never finish it.

Anyone think I should reconsider any of these? 

Later.

Monday, 4 May 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas


A Court of Thorns and Roses
by Sarah J. Maas

Summary: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
This book was... Well, it was one of those books that you finish and you just want to hug it tightly like you've just found a new best friend. I loved it. Really, really, really loved it. Seriously, I love the Throne of Glass series, but this one? This is the one that has earned her a spot on my favourite authors list.

I can't even properly put into words all the things I loved about the book. The plot was one of those ones that kept me thoroughly hooked from start to finish  (my best friends wanted to Skype call, I chose to finish this instead) -- it's definitely my favourite out of all the Beauty and the Beast retelling's I've come across so far. And the writing? The writing was excellent, and the world was crafted so well and I adored it.

What I loved most of all though was the characters and the relationships. They were so complex and just - jkfldjhfd! 

Feyre wasn't perfect, there were a few times in the book I found her frustrating, but she was great -- she wasn't strong in the typical sort of way...she's in a world where, physically, she's really weak in comparison to what she's up against, but she's strong in so many other more subtle ways and she was just awesome. And the romance... It was one of those ones that is messy and a little messed up but it's so entertaining to watch it all play out. 

The side characters were great too, even a few I hated at first ended up becoming some of my favourites (and I have so much respect for any author that can flip my opinion like that). 

I can't wait for the next book in the series to read more about them.

If you haven't read one of Sarah's books yet, I really recommend doing something to change that, because they're awesome and this one is no exception. I'd rate it 5+ stars out of 5.

Later.

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