Thursday, 31 March 2016

When We Collided by Emery Lord

When We Collided
Emery Lord
Bloomsbury USA Children's
[April 5, 2016]
ARC from a friend/egalley from Netgalley

Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.

Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.

I've loved Emery Lord's books for a long time and with a burning passion. Emery is an amazing feminist who is really connected to what it's like to be a teen and female relationships and mental illness and because she gets all of these things so well, it shines through in her writing. I always feel really connected to her books, but When We Collided was a whole new level of connection. I read most of this while commuting to and from school and had to close the book several times or risk crying. 

Most of that is because I saw so much of me in both Vivi and Jonah. Like Vivi, I've been dealing with mental illness for a long time and she's so open with herself about it, though not with others. So many of my ups and downs and descriptions of how it feels were reflected in Vivi's narrative and it was an incredible, validating experience. So few YA books really capture what it's like in the head of someone with a mental illness and getting to read this was like being seen and realizing my thoughts aren't normal, but they aren't uncommon either. Jonah, on the other hand, has to take on a parental role in his family. I didn't lose a parent, but I think I've mentioned before that I did end up taking a very parental role for my younger brother. My mom couldn't be around a lot and my dad isn't the best at being a dad, so while in middle and high school, I was often the one who enforced rules and made sure things got done and fed my brother dinner. And because I was around, even now that I'm not, I still have a really close bond with my brother, despite the ups and downs, and Emery really captured those experiences with Jonah. Taking on responsibility you're not prepared for and trying to balance family and life and the weirdness of a sibling-but-parent relationship. I've seen it a few times in YA, but it always draws me in.

Vivi and Jonah were so fundamentally different but they worked together so well, despite everything. They were vivid, full characters and I want to talk more about them and their relationship and how it all works, but I don't want to spoil anything. Just trust me on this, it makes sense.

Emery is also just so good at balancing a variety of relationships within a novel. Jonah has a lot of siblings and each relationship with them was distinct, as well as the ones he had with his mom, his dad's old coworker, some neighbors - each one had a weight and a meaning. Similarly, Vivi's take on the world creates a lot of relationships for her and some of them are more difficult than others, but you can still feel the emotion in them. When We Collided does not have a small cast of characters, but even the minor ones had distinct personalities and relationships with the main characters.

Emery's writing is also just so fluid and beautiful. She really gets into the heads of her characters and brings their voices to life and it's just such a joy to read, even when it hurts. There's so much passion and emotion and realness in every line, with her feminism and her love of women woven throughout. 

I really want to be able to approach this review as an unbiased reader, but it's just not possible. I loved this book so much that it physically hurt me to read at times because it understood me in a way so few books have. This book could be a garbage fire, but because of my personal connections to Vivi and Jonah - which inherently has to include how well Emery portrays them - I would love it anyway. It took me maybe 10 pages to realize there was no way I would not be a complete fangirl for this book. Maybe there's a flaw in this book somewhere, but I might try to fight you if you point it out to me. Emery is an autobuy author and kind of my role model and if you need me, I'm gonna be buying 5,000 copies and editions of this book and pre-ordering every other book she writes.

Basically, you need to read it and join my fangirling club and if you choose not to, we probably shouldn't talk anymore.

--Julie

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

You Were Here
by Cori McCarthy


Summary: Grief turned Jaycee into a daredevil, but can she dare to deal with her past?

On the anniversary of her daredevil brother's death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake's favorite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother's exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn't bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.
Well then. My love for this book totally took me by surprise. Some reviewers I normally agree with said they weren't into it, so I lowered my expectations thinking that the stuff that bothered them would bother me too -- but it was totally unnecessary. I loved it, really loved it.

I loved the writing style -- it's one of those books that has little lines or passages that make you go "Yes, that! That's exactly how that feels!" when it's talking about things like grief or anxiety or love or growing up. It really got the balance right between the serious stuff and the humour. It made me laugh and made my heart ache and left me smiling at the end.

I really adored the creative way Bishop and Mik's POV's were done. Mik's were told in a sort of comic strip format and Bishop's were his short poems/art work, and it was just a really interesting way of showing their parts of the story and it suited their characters perfectly.

The characters in general really made the story. I loved them all, cared about them all, and I really liked the dynamics of their relationships with each other.

Basically, I just really loved this book. I read it on my Kindle, but it's one I will be buying a physical copy of because I need it on my shelves. It is definitely one of my favourites of 2016 so far, and I'm looking forward to reading whatever Cori McCarthy writes next.

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

Later.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Consent by Nancy Ohlin

Consent
by Nancy Ohlin


Summary: In this sexy and intriguing novel, an intense—and passionate—bond between a high school senior and her music teacher becomes a public scandal that threatens the reputation of both.

Bea has a secret.

Actually, she has more than one. There’s her dream for the future that she can’t tell anyone—not her father and not even her best friend, Plum.

And now there’s Dane Rossi. Dane is hot, he shares Bea’s love of piano, and he believes in her.

He’s also Bea’s teacher.

When their passion for music crosses into passion for each other, Bea finds herself falling completely for Dane. She’s never felt so wanted, so understood, so known to her core. But the risk of discovery carries unexpected surprises that could shake Bea entirely. Bea must piece together what is and isn’t true about Dane, herself, and the most intense relationship she’s ever experienced.
I read this book while it was one of the free reads on Riveted, but it had been on my radar for a while before that... and I'm kind of glad I hadn't invested in a hard copy of the book, because it was kind of disappointing.

It wasn't a bad book necessarily, I just found the writing style a bit dry (although it improved nearer the end) and had some other issues with it. 

I didn't particularly like the main character -- she was really dull and her thought process was like watching paint dry half the time. And the music stuff was just... Well, I've read books with main characters who are musicians before and adored them, but this one -- no. Whenever the subject got to music, it was more like reading a textbook, there was no spark or passion to it, only bland facts -- there were only one or two music scenes that made me feel any sort of connection to the character. 

And the teacher/student relationship, I wasn't into the way it was handled in this at all. I've read books that romanticize teacher/student relationships and I've read a couple that highlight what is wrong about those types of relationships (like Me & Mr J)...but this one, it was almost like it couldn't make up its mind what it wanted to be but it didn't do very well at either writing it as a romance or as a story to show the moral implications of teacher/student relationships. 

I didn't like that parts of it made it seem like her age was the only issue, not the skewed power dynamics or the fact that they were at completely different stages in their life (with a title like "Consent" I had hoped it would go into more depth about the complexities of that, rather than just scratching the surface with the legal age of consent thing).

The way it ended, it was maybe realistic in a way? But it was really unsatisfying. It didn't feel like it tackled the subject matter well at all -- it didn't treat it seriously enough, or show the emotional impact (which was frustrating, because there were a few bits near the end where I thought it was heading down that road but it didn't) and all of the piano stuff overshadowed everything else (which wouldn't have been too bad if that aspect of it was done exceptionally well but it wasn't).

Basically, the book just wasn't my cup of tea really -- even if I ignore the issues I had with the way the subject matter was handled, I just found the story to be really bland overall. I'd rate it 2 stars out of 5 (and I hate writing negative reviews, but I have seen plenty of positive ones for this too so it really is just down to personal preference).

Later.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Starflight
by Melissa Landers


Summary: Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She's so desperate to reach the realm that she's willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he's been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe...
I...kind of don't have a whole lot to say about this book to be honest. It's one of those books that I really loved while I was reading it, but then within a few days my feelings had simmered down and then a few days later I almost forgot I read it at all.

That's not to say it wasn't a great book, it totally was and I can't think of anything particularly bad to say about it really -- it just didn't stick with me, my love for it didn't linger.

But anyway... It was a really enjoyable read. The plot could be predictable at times but it wasn't in a bad way and it had quite a few cute and funny moments. The book had a sort of Firefly vibe to it, but in a good way (in the character dynamics and some of the plot things -- although, I haven't read enough stories set in space to pick up on any tropes of the genre so it may just have been down to that).

The characters were my favourite part though, I really liked them and the relationships they had. And the romance in the book was one of my favourite kinds, where they start out hating each other then there's a slow burn that morphs grudging respect into friendship into something more. I am really looking forward to the next book and seeing the friendships and romances develop more.

Overall, I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5. Definitely worth checking out.

Later.

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber
by Angela Carter
Summary: From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.
I had such high hopes for this book after seeing it recommended and spoken of so highly by some people whose opinion I trust. So many people were saying they were great retelling's, that they were well written and feminist and just -- all these good things. But, alas, it was a total let down.

It didn't deliver any of the positive things at all really. I mean, with the feminist thing, it's more that nothing stood out to me as being overtly or inherently feminist about it in comparison to other fairytale retelling's so I didn't get why it would be described that way.

I should probably preface this by saying that short story collections are among my least favourite forms of literature. Novels are my favourite, plays and poetry are very hit and miss but there are some that I absolutely love, novellas are okay...but short stories. I've only found a couple that I really loved and I was hoping this would change that...but it didn't.

I guess, my point is, maybe this is a genuinely good collection of fairytale retelling's but because I'm not a fan of short stories to begin with my dislike may just be because of that.

But this wasn't good enough to change my opinion, is what I'm trying to say.

I'll start with The Bloody Chamber, the longest of the stories in the book. Now, this is one of the ones where I'm not too familiar with the original story that it is retelling so I was going into it without comparisons -- it had a total clean slate with me and, well, I found it to be quite boring. Actually, quite is an understatement -- it quite literally put me to sleep. More than once.

The writing didn't impress me, which was a disappointment because I was really expecting it to after the things I'd heard about Angela's works. I like writing that is lovely and poetic, writing that flows well...and if it can't be that, then I like it to just not get in the way of my enjoyment of the story. The writing of this wasn't lovely or poetic and it definitely got in the way of the story, it was much too long and too wordy, and at times it would drone on about things that were so dull that I would zone out and have to go back and reread parts of it (not something you want to be feeling reading a short story).

It's just frustrating when reading a short story to feel like the author wasted words on things that didn't matter, things that added nothing to the story but dullness, when they could've fleshed out the characters more or added more to the plot or something.

The story itself, beyond the writing, was quite bland. I quite liked the climax of the story (more who got to be the hero than anything else because it was a bit - abrupt?). All of the stories in the book were quite bland really. The best of the bunch were just okay, most were forgettable, some I just hated entirely.

I'd rate this collection 1.5 stars out of 5. If short stories (particularly dark fairytale retelling's) are your kind of thing then you will probably enjoy it way more than I did...but as I said, short stories aren't usually my cup of tea in general. There will be other exceptions to that rule, I don't doubt, but this collection was not amongst them.

Later.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Sneak Peek Reviews: The Forbidden Wish, Glittering Court & Wink Poppy Midnight

I never used to bother much with pre-release sneak previews of books, mostly I just found them frustrating if I enjoyed the book then had to wait for the rest. But recently, because there are so many books I want to read, I've been reading more of the previews to help me decide if I want to invest my time in books I'm on the fence about.

So yeah... These will be mini-reviews of the most recent Netgalley sneak peeks I've read -- I'll just be giving my opinion of what I read and whether it made me want to read the whole book.

The Forbidden Wish 
by Jessica Khoury

Release Date: Already out
Length of preview: 8 chapters (out of 30 something? I think?)

My thoughts: This one had me totally hooked from the very first page. The characters are wonderfully complex and seem to walk the lines between good and bad, and they are fierce and likeable in spite of their flaws. And the story -- it's a story that so many of us know and love but it's told in a new and exciting way and I can't wait to read the rest of it, I've been pining for it since I read the preview.

I can already tell that this one will probably make my 2016 favourites list.

Overall: Skip it//Hardcover//Wait for paperback

The Glittering Court 
by Richelle Mead


Release Date: April 5th 2016
Length of preview: About a third of the book, I think? (11 chapters and I think there's about 30 in the whole book?)


My thoughts: I almost gave up on this one, because it bored me for the first few chapters and it didn't really demand my attention the way Richelle's Vampire Academy series did but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did because I actually really started to enjoy it. By the time the preview ended, I realised it had eventually managed to hook me. 

I loved the female friendships, those were maybe my favourite part of the book (Richelle tends to write female relationships really well in general). I wasn't fond of the setting/world (kind of alternate history? But with different names for countries and the religions changed up a bit?), but I have a feeling I'm going to really enjoy the rest of the book and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Overall: Skip it//Hardcover//Wait for paperback (i.e. I'm not sure yet)

Wink Poppy Midnight 
by April Genevieve Tucholke

Release Date: March 22nd 2016
Length of preview: I'm not entirely sure? It was a lot shorter than the others, maybe only a few chapters? (I read some more on the Amazon preview because the Netgalley formatting was missing the PoV headers).

My Thoughts: Initially, I didn't like this because the characters were really awful (in the hard to like sense, not poorly written) and it seemed to be trying too hard to be whimsical and deep. But when I stopped being annoyed by it not being what I expected, I started enjoying it. I loved the writing and I loved that the characters were wonderfully weird and unique -- it definitely left me wanting more and it's one of the most interesting books I've read (or rather, partially read) in a while.

It has all the makings of a new edition to my favourites shelf, so long as the rest of the book goes as well as the preview did.

Overall: Skip it//Hardcover//Wait for paperback

And that's all, I guess. Are you looking forward to any of these ones/have you read any of them?

Later.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Top Ten Books I Haven't Talked About Enough

I really like this weeks topic (Ten Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven't Talked About Enough/In A While), it reminds me of the #QuietYA thing Julie started. Plus, it gives me an excuse to explore my old favourites shelves.

There are so many books I adore that I probably talk about way too much, but I have so many favourites that I don't rec so much and I'm not sure why. I'm going to try to choose older/ones I don't hear much on twitter/blogs/tumblr in general. In no particular order:


You Wish by Mandy Hubbard:

This book is really adorable. The main characters birthday wishes start coming true on her 16th birthday -- it's just a really cute and fun and funny book (and Raggedy Ann and Ken are brought to life and become characters in the story, so there's that).



I don't remember much about the specifics of the plot, but I remember loving this book so much. It was different from all of the other vampire/paranormal romance type stories floating around at that time and it was so good.

Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

I see Code Name Verity and even Rose Under Fire recommended a lot  and I recommend them a lot -- and rightly so, because they're fantastic. But this other book of her is fantastic too and I adored it. It's a historical novel set during a war in Ethiopia and it's about home and siblings and soulmates and what it means to be family and race, and it's beautiful.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

This is the book of hers I see talked about the least, but I loved it. It was a really great book and it made me feel so 90's/early 00's nostalgic when I read it. It's set in 1999/2000 and it's about a guy who falls for a girl while reading her email conversations with her friend (which is part of his job). I loved the friendship between the female characters and the romance was really cute (which surprised me, because it should have felt more creepy than it was). 

Red Leaves by Paullina Simons

A lot of people disliked this book. Some, because they went into it wanting it to be like The Bronze Horseman -- it wasn't, not at all. But I adored it. The story revolves around this kind of incestuous screwed up group of friends at college in the time leading up to/the aftermath of the murder of one of them.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Really underrated contemporary. Fun cast of characters, lovely writing, adorable story.

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

I loved this one so much when it first came out. Well written, time travel, the cutest of romances and a main character I really liked. There was some buzz when it first came out, but I rarely see it mentioned now except by Julie sometimes.


Magical realism, beautiful story. I adore this book so much and I wish more people had read it. And yet I forget to recommend it a lot.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

This was recommended by one of my favourite authors, Melina Marchetta, and it's so good. It's a really short high fantasy type story and it was so good -- I need to binge the rest of the series sometime soon.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

An old but good one. I remember loving how the werewolf thing was done in this -- the story has very few things in common with the movie adaptation, the book is way less cliche and puts a lot of emphasis on the animal side of being a werewolf, which not many werewolf stories do (from what I've read/seen), they tend to be all about the ways they're


Have you read any of these ones? What'd you think of them? Or what are some of the books you don't talk about as much as you should?

Later.


Monday, 21 March 2016

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

The Deal
by Elle Kennedy


Summary: She's about to make a deal with the college bad boy...

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she's carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush's attention, she'll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice...even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.


...and it's going to be oh so good.

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he's worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he's all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn't take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn't going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.
Quite a few of my friends on Goodreads loved this book and spoke really highly of it. In spite of that, I wasn't convinced it would live up to that hype (few New Adult books do for me) but, thankfully, I agree with all the positive sentiments. I really enjoyed this book -- way more than I thought I was going to.

In the beginning, I actually thought I wasn't going to like it. It had dual narration (pet peeve), the male main character was a bit grating initially because his thought process could be a bit sleazy and he was kind of flippant about certain things that irritated me (e.g. I vaguely recall a scene where he makes a comment about how he has sex with girls who are sober and willing while his team mates find tipsy girls to have sex with which probably wasn't meant to come across as being dismissive of date rape but it did a bit), and it was also one of those NA stories that had rape be part of the female main characters back story.

But -- well, it surprised me. I stuck with it and found myself really loving the story. I enjoyed the dual narration after a while and Garrett totally grew on me.

And the rape thing... I guess I was just tired of seeing that used as a plot device, like sexual assault is the go to thing to give female characters a tragic back story, so I was a bit apprehensive that this was going to turn into one of those stories that doesn't handle that topic with the sensitivity and respect it deserves. I'm so happy to say I was wrong, because it handled it really well.

More than that, it handled it differently than most of the other rape survivor narratives I've read (not that this one is any more valid--people cope with trauma in their own ways and that's totally okay--it was just refreshing to see a character coping in a different way than the ones I'm used to seeing). It acknowledged that this awful thing happened, that it did have an impact on her, but it showed that she's working on moving past it and she was refusing to let it rule her life, that it didn't destroy her. It was a part of her story, but it wasn't her whole story.

Anyway... Yeah, I liked the way it handled that aspect of the story.

The story was well written and I loved the characters -- they weren't perfect (there was a few scenes that annoyed me a bit because they came off as a bit mysogynistic but that just made them seem flawed and more realistic), but I loved them and I loved them together. It was one of those romances where the characters had great chemistry and it's totally addictive and leaves you with a goofy smile on your face (well, it did with me).

Overall, I'd rate the book 4.5 stars out of 5. I'll definitely be checking out the next books in the series -- Elle Kennedy has made it onto my short list of self-published authors that I'll read without hesitation.

Later.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Giveaway: Girl at War by Sara Nović

Girl at War
by Sara Nović

Summary: Growing up in Zagreb in the summer of 1991, 10-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy; she runs the streets with her best friend, Luka, helps take care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But when civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, football games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills.

The brutal ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnians tragically changes Ana's life, and she is lost to a world of genocide and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later she returns to Croatia, a young woman struggling to belong to either country, forced to confront the trauma of her past and rediscover the place that was once her home.

Girl at War was one of my top books of 2015 (and just one of my favourite books in general) -- it was one of those books that got under my skin and made itself at home, made my heart ache in the best and worst of ways. It shows a gruesome part of our recent history that isn't talked about much, at least not amongst my generation or younger but it's one of those stories that should be told and should be remembered.

I really loved it, is what I'm trying to say. And I want more people to read it, so to celebrate the release of the UK paperback edition (released on the 24th of March), I'll be doing a giveaway of the new paperback edition.


The giveaway is international (so long as The Book Depository ships to you) and will be open until the 31st of March and the winner will have until the 3rd of April to get back to me with the address they'd like the book sent to.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Kindred Spirits
by Rainbow Rowell


Summary: 'Everybody likes everything these days. The whole world is a nerd.'
'Are you mad because other people like Star Wars? Are you mad because people like me like Star Wars?'
'Maybe.'


If you broke Elena's heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she's expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does. What she's not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectible Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels.

Kindred Spirits is an engaging short story by Rainbow Rowell, author of the bestselling Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and Carry On, and is part of a handful of selected short reads specially produced for World Book Day.
I don't normally review short stories on here, but it's so rare for me to find one that I like that I wanted to talk about this one. Plus, it was one published for World Book Day (is that just a UK thing?).

But yes... I loved this story so much. It was so cute (I was smiling nearly the whole time I was reading) and funny (quite a few laugh out loud moments) and it was just dfjghldkfhjg. It was perfect.

Normally I find short stories to be lacking. Like they're too short to flesh out the characters enough, too short to have a plot I give a damn about, and too short to make me really care...but this one, this one got it right. The characters felt real and I adored them and I actually cared about how it turned out (and I love that a minor character from her novel Attachments is in this!).

Then when it was finished, it ended perfectly. It ended just right, and it left me wanting more but in a good way -- not because it felt like the story wasn't enough as it is, but because it was so good that I couldn't help but want to read more about these characters.

So, basically, it turns out that I do actually like short stories, it's just a case of finding the right ones. Rainbow Rowell has yet to write a book that I don't adore and this little one was no exception. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5, and I'm kind of hoping that Rainbow will decide someday soon that she needs to write a whole novel about Elena and Gabe.

Later.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca

Last Year's Mistake
by Gina Ciocca


Summary: Before:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey's parents decided to move away, she couldn't wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...

After:
Now it's senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David's family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey's second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.
So. This book was one of the free reads on Riveted last month and I sort of read it by accident?

I mean, I'd heard a lot of mixed things about it. Some people loved it and quite a few people whose opinions I trust kind of hated it but I wanted to check it out for myself and make up my own mind. And, well, I agree with most of the criticisms of it...but I liked the book anyway.

I only intended to flip through a chapter or two, just to give it a chance but I ended up reading it in one sitting because it hooked me. The worst thing a book can be for me is boring, and this one didn't bore me.

The book was really predictable in so many ways, the characters and their relationships were cliche, the angst in the story was mostly really contrived and at times the portrayal of girls in the book really irritated me (you know those female antagonists who are written really stereotypically and they're so catty and one dimensional? most of the female characters were like that -- there was only one female friendship in the book that felt done alright).

And the romance...it frustrated me a lot. David was so contrary -- in the flashbacks, he seems to want her to change, to hang out with a certain crowd...but then in the present chapters, he criticizes her for doing just that. And he acts like he was the victim of a situation where he was actually mostly at fault and it's just so annoying. And he would say one thing to her but then his actions would totally contradict it (he did that a lot). Most of the angst and stuff that kept them apart was totally ridiculous and I just wanted to yell at the characters to use their words.

Plus, it's one of those stories that has a love-square type situation but it's done in that really tropey way (plenty of people like that though). It has the main characters boyfriend be really bland (so it seems like there's so much more spark with David) but nice to her for the most part (so her indecision can be drawn out) but then has him do something really awful so we won't have to think less of the main character for treating him poorly. And David's girlfriend is horribly cliche, she's really one dimensional and it made no sense for him to be with her and it's just...why?

I didn't like the overly drawn out secrets. Probably more because the flashback scenes were so anticlimactic -- I'm cool with build up to a reveal if the reveal is actually worth the wait but it just wasn't in this case.

Basically...there was a lot about the book that I didn't like. But, I didn't want to stop reading. It held my attention and kept me entertained and sometimes for me that matters more than the negatives. It amused me for a few hours and I liked it for that reason. Not every book has to be a literary masterpiece or be original or bring something new to the table, it's okay for a book to just be fun.

I'd rate the book 3 stars out of 5. There is a lot to dislike about it, but I found it quite easy to overlook that while reading and I would be interested in checking out more of Gina's books in future.

Later.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Bittersweet
by Sarah Ockler


Summary: Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...
This book has been on my radar for ages and I've heard good things about it and yet I still kept waffling for ages over whether I should read it. But, seeing as it was one of the free reads on Riveted Lit, I finally decided to give it a chance. And I read it in one sitting (considering I started reading at about midnight and was reading on my laptop, that's a testament to how much it hooked me).

It wasn't the most amazing story I've ever read, and I did have some issues with it, but it was really cute and I loved the pace and the fluffy, mostly angst-free romance that was present without dominating the story. I loved that her relationships with her family (particularly her little brother) played as big a part of the story as the romance did too. And the skating stuff, particularly the hockey parts, I adored those bits so much...that stuff is what made the book for me really.

The issues I had were mostly to do with the characters and choices they made. The characters weren't really developed much...I mean, they were far from being badly written, but it's one of those books where I finished the last page and didn't really feel like I knew much about the characters beyond basic stuff (e.g. I could rattle off a few facts we learn about their families, but couldn't tell you much about their personalities or what Hogwarts house they'd be in or much that was really specific).

Plus, I'm on of those people that gets really bad second hand embarrassment, so Hudson's narration was a bit cringey for me at times and her daydreamy tangents in the middle of scenes were not my kind of thing but overall, I liked her.

The dialogue could be a bit off at times, like it really felt like an older person trying to write howthey think teenagers/kids talk instead of how they actually talk. Although, I am Scottish, so perhaps it is accurate of American teens/teens from that part of American? But yeah, some of it just registered as clumsy/dated to me while reading though.

As for the thing about characters choices -- my expectations for the story may have been part of the problem with that but it's still something that bothered me. I went into it expecting it to be a certain type of story and it was, up to a point, then it kind of goes down a totally different track towards the end but the way it was done, it felt a little off.

It's very difficult to explain without spoilers, but it was like the main character was being made to feel guilty and ashamed for things even though there wasn't anything wrong with her wanting the things she wanted, while characters like her mum or her best friend were treating her poorly a lot of the time...and it felt like it not all of that was really acknowledged or resolved (only the best friend stuff). I'm fine with the story not going in the direction I thought it was going to (actually, I appreciated that it wasn't predictable in that area), my issue was more with the way it happened rather than what happened.

This review is a bit on the contrary side. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really enjoyed the book, it was really cute and fun and I devoured it easily in one sitting with no regrets...but at the same time, it was lacking that spark of something to really make me love it.

Overall, I'd rate the story 3.5 stars out of 5. And now I'm going to go and watch some cheesy figure skating movies because the book has put me in the mood for that.

Later.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - Review & Movie Comparison

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum


Summary: When young Dorothy and her dog Toto are caught in a cyclone, their Kansas farmhouse is carried off to the magical Land of Oz. Upon being told that the only way back is to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, home to the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy embarks on an extraordinary but perilous quest, in which the Wicked Witch of the West is constantly lurking around the corner.

With its unforgettable cast of now iconic characters such as the Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was an instant hit when it was published over a century ago, inspiring numerous adaptations and sequels.
The edition: I've gushed about my love of Alma Books children's classics before, and this one was just as lovely as the others that I have. The cover design and the chapter illustrations are great. And I really love that the books include extra little things at the end -- in this one, it had a glossary and information about the characters and author and that sort of thing, which makes these ones ideal gifts for children (I'll be giving my niece this one now that I've read it).

Book to movie review/comparison: The Wizard of Oz, in spite of my ridiculous fear of the wicked witch (seriously, I still get genuinely freaked out by her), has always been one of my favourite movies but I hadn't read the book until recently. And, well, I liked the book...but it is one of those rare cases where the movie is so much better.

The story was cute and it was fast paced (although, it had a surprising amount of flippant killing in the story considering it was a children's book) but it did read very much like a short fairytale though. There's not much depth to the characters or character development and the world building only scrapes the surface... Maybe that's why it lends itself so well to all these retelling's.

It's the kind of story I wish I'd read as a child because I think I would have loved it whereas now it just feels a little bit lacking in spark and depth but it was a fun read.

The writing didn't impress me like I thought it would, because it turns out nearly all of my favourite things about The Wizard of Oz came from the mind of the movie's script writer... Most of the iconic lines weren't present in the book, or they were there but written differently (e.g. "There's no place like home." = only in the movie).

Basically, the movie is just better in general. It changes things, but in a good way -- it used elements of the book as building blocks then built it up into something greater. It cut things too, but when I read those scenes in the book I never found myself wishing they'd been in the movie because the story flowed better without them.

Overall ratings:

This edition: 5/5 stars
The story itself 3/5 stars
The movie: 5/5 stars

Later.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl From Everywhere
by Heidi Heilig
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times - although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix's father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix's existence rather dangerously in question...

Nix has grown used to her father's obsession, but only because she's convinced it can't work. But then a map falls into her father's lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it's that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.
I'm not sure what to say about this book really, because I liked it...but it felt like I should have loved it and I can't quite pin point why I didn't. I can definitely see why other people would love it (Julie rated it 5 stars) and there were parts of it I did love but something about it just didn't work for me overall.

The story was really original and I loved that, I loved how the time travel thing was handled in the book (especially the way it mixed it with mythology). Time travel in books is very hit and miss for me (and can be a bit headache-y) but it was definitely a hit in this case.

And the characters -- I loved them and their relationships (mostly). Especially Kashmir. His character was my favourite and I really loved his relationship with Nix (as friends or more -- both were adorable). Their scenes together, and just his character in general, totally stole the show and that was the thing about the book that I loved most.

But the plot itself (beyond any Nix/Kash stuff)...I found it really difficult to care about it most of the time and never really felt invested in it until maybe the last chapter or two. I think part of the problem was that, because Nix is the main character, the reader knows that certain things won't happen...so it was difficult to get swept up in the build up when you know how it'll turn out anyway. Not the specifics of it, but in general, you know how one big part of Nix's story will end up and I found it hard to care about the journey knowing the destination.

Plus, I really did not like the love triangle set up. I was rolling my eyes as soon as Blake showed up. Maybe it's because of the originality in other areas of the book, it was just exasperating/disappointing when it seemed to be going down the same road as 90% of the other YA novels out there. I'm not even one of those people that hates love triangles, I just only like them if they're done well and most of the time they're not -- although I did appreciate that romance didn't overshadow the plot in this one.

Blake is the exception to my loving the characters and relationships comment -- he wasn't a bad character necessarily, just very bland. Given his talents, I can see he could have purpose in the sequel and maybe his character will grow on me in the next book but for now, I'm just hoping that his part in the story isn't just to be the predictable third point to a love triangle that really isn't needed.

Basically, this was a really good book. It was original and fun and I know that most people that read it will probably adore it, but something about it just held me back from really losing myself in the story.

I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5, it's definitely one worth checking out. I can't fault the book itself, any issues I had really were just down to personal preference.

Later.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Unpopular Character Opinions

I've not done a TTT for a while, but the topic for this week ("Ten Characters Everyone Loves But I Just Don't Get or Ten Characters I LOVE But Others Seem To Dislike") interested me, so...

Characters I Dislike
(but everyone else seems to love):

1. Severus Snape from Harry Potter

Now, about this one... I don't actually dislike him. I sort of love his character because he's interesting and complex and I appreciate that -- I just don't love his character in the way a lot of fans seem to. So many fans think some of his good deeds make him a good person, when they don't (especially considering the motivation for him). And they romanticize his character and his feelings for Lily when actually, his feelings for her were quite unhealthy, basically obsession. So yes, I don't get the way some fans love him.

2 & 3. Anastasia & Christian from Fifty Shades of Gray

Grouping these two together. And it might be cheating a bit to include them because a lot of people do hate them...but a lot of people love them too, so I'm including them. Basically, Christian is an abusive asshat and Ana is ridiculously bland and incredibly annoying (with the whole inner goddess nonsense and her constant misuse of the word subconscious). They're poorly written characters and their relationship romanticizes such harmful behaviours, and yet so many people love them both individually and together and I'm just here like "????"...

4 & 5. Ezra and Cassidy from Severed Heads, Broken Hearts (a.k.a. The Beginning of Everything)

I just didn't like these characters much at all, but so many people loved them and loved the book, which is fair enough but I just... No. I didn't like them because of reasons.

6. Nyx from Cruel Beauty

This book wasn't my cup of tea in general, but Nyx was a big part of the reason why. There were moments when I liked her, but in general I found her quite annoying? She was very fickle, which wasn't fun to read. But my issue was mostly with the way she was written, I'm fine with characters being hard to like because interesting is a higher priority for me than likeable (I did not find her interesting) and I'm fine with them being contrary or self-deprecating because that can be realistic but something about the way she was written just irritated me. I'm definitely in the minority though.

Characters I Love
(but everyone else seems to dislike):

7. Aelin from Throne of Glass

Her character gets a lot of love, but also a lot of hate, especially after people read past book two. I don't mind critique of the character, it's just that a lot of people seem to trash her character for anger over the Chaol or Dorian thing, and it roots back to shipper stuff. One of the things I adore about Throne of Glass is that it shows that people can get together, that they can love each other, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be forever. So I don't get it when people hate her character for changing, or for her priorities and feelings evolving with her.

8. Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones

I haven't actually finished the book, so this will be based more on the show...but yeah, I love Sansa. I didn't always love her, because of some choices she made in the beginning, but she quickly became one of my favourites. One of the things I like about Game of Thrones is that it shows female strength in different ways... Sansa isn't physically strong, she is the polar opposite of her sister, and she's not a born leader in the way characters like Dany are -- she loves pretty dresses and she'd rather dance at a ball than learn to use a sword and that's 100% okay. She's been through hell, she's survived in a toxic environment that so many people didn't, because she's smart and she's strong and she's fierce. So yeah, Sansa is awesome. And I'm annoyed at certain choices the show writers made for her.

9. Katniss from The Hunger Games

Again, she's one of the ones who gets a lot of love as well as hate. A lot of people dislike her because she's very introverted and she's not the typical heroine of a story like this. Normally, the hero is easy to like, normally they have a fire in them and they're burning for change...but Katniss, she was content with her life, so long as her sister was safe, she accepted things as they were. She made change happen, but that was never what she set out to do, she just got swept up into something bigger than herself -- but her sister was always her priority. Some people see her as selfish for that reason, but I liked her for that reason. I liked that she was a reluctant hero.

10. Charlie from Perks of Being a Wallflower

I actually didn't realise he was a character a lot of people disliked until I saw him on some lists then looked on Goodreads. Personally, I loved his character. He does some stupid things (as many people do when they're young) but his character was so realistic to me -- his experiences, his emotions, his mental illness... I could relate so much to it. It's one of the first books I read and I was like "Yes, that, that's exactly how that feels -- those exact words!" I think maybe to some people who haven't had similar experiences or issues in their life (or even if they had but it manifested differently for them) it might be harder to like him.

...And that's all. It's completely fine if you disagree with me on any of these (I'd love to know why? If you dislike characters for reasons other than reasons I've said, or if you like characters I dislike?). 

Later.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

Map of Fates
Maggie Hall
Putnam Juvenile
[March 8, 2016]
ARC from publisher

Two weeks. 



That’s how long it took for Avery West’s ordinary life to change forever: In two weeks, she discovered she was heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle, learned her mother was taken hostage by the Circle’s enemies, and fell for a boy she’s not allowed to love, just as she found out another was her unwelcome destiny. 



Now, Avery crosses oceans in private jets to hunt for clues that will uncover the truth about the Circle, setting her mom and herself free before it’s too late. By her side are both the boys: Jack—steady, loyal, and determined to help her even at the expense of his own duty—and Stellan, whose connection to Avery grows stronger by the day despite her best intentions, making her question what she believes at every turn.



But at the end of a desperate hunt from the islands of Greece to the red carpet at Cannes comes a discovery that not only changes everything, but could bring the whole world to its knees. And now Avery is forced to face the truth: in the world of the Circle, no one is what they seem.

I really enjoyed The Conspiracy of Us last year and, upon more reflection and face palming for thinking it was a different genre, it actually did become a favorite book. So I was THRILLED when this showed up in my mailbox several weeks ago and jumped at the chance to read it as soon as possible. And boy did this book live up to all my expectations.

As much as Avery's life took some weird twists in the first book, in Map of Fates, the twists get SO much more intense and terrifying. She was juggling so many things and it was so complex I couldn't help but worry about her. And so many of those twists were SO unexpected and amazing to read. I also loved seeing all of the places Avery went to. I'm missing traveling so it was nice.

I loved watching Avery change as a person as she had these new experiences. She learned so much from the beginning of book one to the beginning of book two and then throughout book two. Her relationships changed and how she approached situations changed and it felt so realistic to watch her develop the way she did.

Maggie Hall also deserves a round of applause for how she's handling love triangles. So many writers handle love triangles in this really one sided way that under estimates their main characters, but that's not what Maggie does. Instead she respects that Avery is a person who changes and that means the guy she's interested can change too. It means the guys change. It means that situations come up that change the relationships Avery has and who she is and what she needs, so there's always a logic to where her feelings are that are totally understandable. It's hard to have a team for either guy because I want her to be with whoever's best for her at that moment. And that changes because that's life. It's just. So masterful. So perfect. One of those rare times where I'm 10000% behind the love triangle in a book.

Basically, Map of Fates is the kind of sequel that is equal to the first book, if not better. Which, doesn't happen all that often with sequels. It was fun, fast paced, action packed with the perfect romantic balance. I admire Avery so much and I don't know how I'm gonna wait to see where Maggie takes us in book three.

--Julie

Friday, 4 March 2016

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury + Giveaway

The Forbidden Wish
Jessica Khoury
Razorbill
[February 23, 2016]
ARC from Publisher


She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years -- a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.


I've always loved Aladdin and I read all the retellings I can find, so I was so excited when I was offered up this one. And it lived up to my expectations in so many ways.

I'd never read one of Jessica Khoury's books before and her writing is so gorgeous. She paints some beautiful, luxurious scenes and the clothes she describes take my breath away. I was totally drawn in from page one.

The story itself is amazing. Changing the genie from a guy to a girl totally flips the scripts and the dynamics that exist in the Aladdin movie we all know and love. There are some aspects of it that are held over and Khoury plays with those bits she holds over in fascinating ways. And the way having Zahra as the genie alters how the whole story plays out was incredible. Having Zahra and Aladdin's relationship change to accommodate the female genie is so inventive and beautiful to read



One of my favorite things is how Khoury changed up the story to make it more feminist. Zhara might be a genie under all kinds of rules, but it never feels like she lacks agency. The princess Aladdin wants to marry is a badass on her own and has her own girl group of fellow badasses. Maybe it's my classes creeping into my fun reading, but it feels a lot like a story of female friendship and women struggling to gain power and equal footing from men after hundreds of years of being put down. 

Basically, I love this book. It's beautiful and creative and full of women and friendships and a wonderful romance and it just brought me so much joy. It's a quick read and it's fun but it's also got all these layers I've been reading into it that make it even more interesting read. I SO recommend picking up this book when you can. And to help in the process, Penguin has been so kind as to offer up a copy of The Forbidden Wish for one of you! You can enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Good luck!
--Julie

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