Thursday, 26 May 2016

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

by Alexandra Bracken

Summary: In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.
This is one of those books that I really, really enjoyed but I don't have a whole lot to say about it -- which is the most frustrating to try and review to be honest.

It wasn't all smooth sailing, I had a bit of a rocky start with the book and had to put it down a bunch of times. It was never because it was particularly bad, it just had a tendency to drag a bit (or at least, it felt like it did because the chapters were really long and sometimes the characters thoughts would drone on a bit) -- so in the beginning, it bored me. Or frustrated me because it always felt like it was on the edge of being great but was taking forever to get there...if that makes sense?

After the first third/half of the book though, it really started to hook me and pick up the pace. I loved Nicholas and Etta and their relationship -- that was probably my favourite part of the book. Especially because I was hooked on both their POV's, both of their characters, normally with dual narration I latch onto just one and then feel like I'm dragging through the other but I loved them both equally in this.

And the plot... Time travel stories are very, very hit or miss for me. This one, I'll say it was mostly a hit. It was like an odd mix of the Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Geir and The Girl From Everywhere -- I loved it as much as I loved the former and I think it was executed much better than the latter.

That's all I have to say about the book really. I enjoyed it a lot (although I was so annoyed by the ending -- WHY with the cliff hangers?! I need the sequel like yesterday). I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Saying Goodbye

In 2009, Lanna and I were friends on the Twilight IMDb board. We spent more time talking about music and books than Twilight itself, and she invited me to join this new project she had. It'd be a bunch of us, just posting reviews of books whenever we felt like it. I posted one or two reviews, but I didn't fully understand the appeal.

By the end of November that year, things had changed. I was about to win NaNoWriMo. I had to leave the Twilight fanfic community I had found because I may have allowed them to believe I was in college instead of the barely-in-high-school age I was. I was lonely and sad and then I found book bloggers while procrastinating writing. I had just turned 15 and here was this whole world of people talking about teen books. The kind of books I devoured faster than I could get new ones. Teens and adults sharing thoughts on books they loved and getting free books in the mail in advance and giving away books and it seemed kind of magical to me. I came to Lanna and asked about making the blog she'd invited me too a bit more professional and she was on board.

In December 2009, we became serious about Bloggers[Heart]Books. It was really just the two of us sharing thoughts on whatever books we could get our hands on. I'd found my people and I didn't have to mislead anyone about anything and I couldn't be happier about it.

A year and a half later, I was 16 and thinking about college. I had to decide where I was going to apply and where I wanted to visit, but the easiest way to figure that out was to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and work from there. But what did I want to do with my life? What did I love? What made me happy?

It took me a couple of days, but suddenly the thought hit me, "If only I could get paid to promote books." Then I realized people do get paid to promote books. I worked with those people. Making and editing and promoting books were real jobs held by real people that had that as a profession. And that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to work in publishing. It was tremendously relieving to have an idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but on the other hand, it put a deadline on how long I could blog; some people make blogging while working in publishing work, but I knew it wasn't going to work for me. I had until I had a real job in publishing to blog.

I went away to college and my life changed. I started meeting the people I'd only spoken to on the computer in real life. I was going out more, being more social, going to book events. I started freelance editing. I got three different internships in publishing. I made more friends. I picked up more and more projects and side pieces like #quietYA and writing at YA Interrobang and planning Blogbound Con. I went abroad for a semester. Blogging made me happy, but not in the same way. I didn't have as much of a drive and when it did, it kind of came and went, depending on what else was going on in my life at the time. If I had lots of down time, or I was trying to procrastinate, blogging seemed great. Otherwise, it seemed like a chore. But I always came back around, so it continued being worth it.

I also carried this fear with me that if I left blogging before I had a position in publishing, I'd lose everything. The friendships I have and the options I have and - I'll admit it because I'm frequently low on funds - the access to books I have. (Libraries are great, but my libraries aren't particularly great when it comes to YA, even when I request.) It felt like there was so much at risk if I left blogging.

Time has given me perspective. My friends probably won't disappear. I have enough books on my TBR to last me at least 2 years. And my resume speaks for itself, far more than blogging does. 

But I kept asking myself over the years, "Why do I blog?" The answers were always similar. For the love of books; to spread the word about the books I want people to read; to make my voice heard. But over the years it's evolved more and more into helping other people. I don't just want my voice out there. I want to get books into the hands of people who need them. I want people to find the book that will change their life. I want people to read the books I love, but selfishly, so that author will get to write more books. My goals for blogging had changed and while blogging still accomplished these things, I have found other ways that are more effective than this blog is for accomplishing those goals.

So a week ago when I came up with an idea for a rec list I wanted to make and my first thought was to pitch it as a YA Interrobang piece, I knew that my love for blogging and posting here wasn't coming back. Originally, I thought I had until I had a job, or at least until I graduated college. But I'm two weeks away from graduation and the idea of acting like I'm still in this gives me so much anxiety. None of this is aided by the issues that seem to be non-stop in the blogging community lately. I can't do it. I couldn't even wait until I could really talk with Lanna or write this post to start casually tossing out there on twitter that I was done. It was time and now that it was time, I needed to let go.

But Bloggers[Heart]Books will continue through Lanna. She's honestly carried this blog so many times, especially during my college years, when I've been in a constant struggle mentally and physically. And I know she's always there for me, even as we've talked less and less now that we don't need collaborate on the blog as much. 

And I will continue being a part of the book community. I will continue to work on #quietYA and the tumblr and ways I can grow that and make it more effective. I will continue to blog for YA Interrobang whenever Nicole will have me. I will continue to be a ranty brat who posts a lot of selfies on twitter. I will continue to Instagram lots of pictures of books (and my cats). I will be job hunting to try and find my spot in publishing. And I will try to pick up other projects - maybe focus more on writing fiction or my freelance editing or maybe something entirely new. But it's time for me to hang up my hat with Bloggers[Heart]Books, over 7 years after I posted my first review.

Thank you all for your love and support and kindness over the years. Thank you for listening to a teen who had no idea what she was doing. Thank you for helping me find what I love. Thank you for being the people I needed but couldn't find in the halls of my schools. 


Thursday, 12 May 2016

Addicted to You by Krista and Becca Ritchie

Addicted to You
by Krista and Becca Ritchie

Summary: No one would suspect shy Lily Calloway’s biggest secret. While everyone is dancing at college bars, Lily stays in the bathroom. To get laid. Her compulsion leads her to one-night stands, steamy hookups and events she shamefully regrets. The only person who knows her secret happens to have one of his own.

Loren Hale’s best friend is his bottle of bourbon. Lily comes at a close second. For three years, they’ve pretended to be in a real relationship, hiding their addictions from their families. They’ve mastered the art of concealing flasks and random guys that filter in and out of their apartment.

But as they sink beneath the weight of their addictions, they cling harder to their destructive relationship and wonder if a life together, for real, is better than a lie. Strangers and family begin to infiltrate their guarded lives, and with new challenges, they realize they may not just be addicted to alcohol and sex.

Their real vice may be each other.
I'm not really sure how I feel about this book to be honest. I was sort of intrigued by the premise for a long time but only decided to read it after seeing people on tumblr gushing about the series and...well, I didn't love it.

I don't know enough about sex addiction to say whether this was an accurate or respectful portrayal or not, but the alcoholism? That I'm more familiar with and I just... I didn't like reading about it the way it was written here.

And it's not even because it's necessarily inaccurate (although, for the majority of alcoholics it definitely is because they don't usually have rich families or trust funds to pay for their habits and they have a lot more to lose financially and personally, and they usually don't have drivers to taxi them around so they won't end up driving drunk)... something about it was just off for me.

Maybe it's because I went into the book wanting to enjoy the romance but I found it so hard to root for them as a couple when it was so tainted by the addiction stuff -- more so from Lily's POV. Seeing someone you love slowly but surely drinking themselves to death? It's really, really difficult but she seemed to care more about not being a hypocrite than she did about his life and health even though their addictions are so different. It seemed at times like she thought it made them equal.

I love angsty romances when they're done well but this just didn't work for me. The romance in this was more toxic than anything else...and it ended before it could show it was anything more than that.

At parts, it felt like it was almost romanticizing their addictions -- not so much the addictions themselves but kind of "look at these two, they're so messed up, they understand each other so well, aren't they perfect for each other?" and I didn't like that...but that might just be how I'm interpreting it (although, based on most of the fan art I've seen, other readers seem to have read it that way too, the only difference is they liked it).

I didn't hate reading it, but I finished the book and felt kind of annoyed with the way it ended because it meant I'd have to read a sequel to find out how it all plays out. I mean, on one hand, yes I do want to know what happens but on the other...I shouldn't be feeling annoyed by the fact I can't just be done with this story and these characters. Normally, if I'm into a book, I want more of the characters.

Maybe it is just down to the fact that there's an alcoholic in my family and I've seen and been affected by the damage it can do, know the pain it can cause. So I couldn't read the book without my messy emotions about that being projected onto the story and I couldn't enjoy a story where that addiction is being used as a plot device (because it never seemed like it was one of those books that sets out to raise awareness or respectfully tackle the subject matter, it really did just feel like it was written because it made for a more interesting story).

I'd rate the book 2 stars out of 5. It wasn't a bad book really, just wasn't for me. Maybe the authors' other books will work more for me without all the addiction stuff.


Monday, 9 May 2016

Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

Chasing the Stars
by Malorie Blackman

Summary: What happens when love brings loss? When love brings lies? When love brings hate?

Olivia and her twin brother Aidan are heading alone back to Earth. following the virus that wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family, in its entirety.

Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction. But on their journey, Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed. Only a few survive.

Their lives unexpectedly collided, Nathan and Olivia are instantly attracted to each other, deeply, head-over-heels – like nothing they have ever experienced. But not everyone is pleased. Surrounded by rumours, deception, even murder, is it possible to live out a happy ever after...?
Gah! My thoughts on this book are so conflicted. By the end? I really liked it, but there was a huge chunk of the book that just didn't do anything for me.

It started out well enough. Awesome girl as the captain of a spaceship and exciting space shenanigans? Yes please! Shakespeare story retelling? Sign me up! Intriguing family secrets? Loving it! But then it started to go downhill as soon as Vee and Nathan's paths crossed -- the romance was the worst part of the book and unfortunately as soon as that came into the picture, it dominated the story.

Vee and Nathan had no spark, they were so boring together most of the time and it was such a bad case of insta-love that I found it really difficult to root for them or care at all about the highs and lows of their relationship. Considering how long the book was, there was more than enough time for their relationship to have formed some sort of foundation before evolving into a romance...instead, we get them making moony eyes at each other right from the start and at the most inappropriate of times. Like, literally minutes after a lot of people died and the survivors had gone through this traumatic thing and these two are lusting after each other?

So yeah, I just wasn't into them as a couple. I really liked Vee as a character on her own, she was interesting and complex and had this back story that had me hooked and I would love to read a story just solely in her POV where she's off having her own adventures. And Nathan...he had his okay moments, but he tended to alternate between being bland and annoying.

Both of them came across as so much younger than they were supposed to be at times too -- in the last third/quarter of the book, Nathan in particular was acting like an immature, colossal idiot and seemed more like a bratty child than someone in his late teens. Which wouldn't have bothered me much really, except it stood out more in contrast to the more mature aspects of the rest of the story.

Anyway, enough ranting about the romance. The best parts of the book were Vee and her brother (really liked his character), I loved that aspect of the story and I loved the Othello retelling aspect of it too (although it did make it a bit predictable -- only one twist of the story, in the last 20 pages, actually surprised me). I loved Vee captaining the ship and everything to do with that (again, totally up for reading more Vee centred space adventures!).

The frustrating thing was, just as the romance was starting to take the back burner and just as the story was starting to thoroughly hook me and it was hinting at this potential bigger plot that could extend beyond just what happened on the ship, the story ended...and it was like the set up for a potentially awesome sequel, except I'm not sure if there's going to be a sequel? I hope there is. I really, really hope there is.

So yes... I had my issues with the book, but I'm taking my desperate need for there to be a sequel as a good sign -- it shows it did win me over in the end, in spite of its faults. I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5.


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted
by Susanna Kaysen

Summary: In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele -- Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor and Ray Charles.
I should preface this by saying I adore the movie adaptation of this story -- it's one of my favourites. So, some of my feelings on the book will be based on the unavoidable comparisons between the two.

Actually, I guess I'll get that bit out of the way first: personally, I think the movie was better and not just because I loved it first. The movie adds more of a plot to the story, a definite beginning, middle, and end to it -- it strings together all these little anecdotes of Susanna's into this cohesive thread and expands on them. The people in the memoir become fully fleshed out characters in the movie (like Lisa and Daisy and Polly and Georgina -- the movie gives more depth to their stories than Susanna was able to capture on the page).

It does change some things too, but not in a way that ruins the story being told or in a way that requires suspension of disbelief. Basically, the movie got under my skin more than the book did, which is rare.

The book itself was quite good but because it's a memoir, it's very limited. She's just telling her truth and it's the story the way Susanna wants it to be seen so the most interesting parts or things the reader might want to know more about, we don't get to because those aren't parts of her story she felt like sharing or felt should be explained more.

And it wasn't told in a very linear way. It would jump back and forth randomly -- like it would mention someone died in one chapter but then that person would pop up again later because it's not chronological. Her medical notes are included, but half of them were like trying to read hieroglyphics.

The writing was decent mostly but towards the end, it got a bit more she was struggling to explain the thing she wanted to say so she'd try to explain it via long-winded metaphors that go on for pages and didn't hold my interest. Parts of it were really well written though, and I could relate to the things she talked about so well.

I'm glad I read the book. As much as I adore the movie, because it's based on a true story to what extent it was true. I don't feel like it educated me about mental illness much really -- which I suppose may be a good thing, because maybe it means I grew up in a generation that was a bit more aware than the time Susanna grew up (at least, I hope it means that).

This review is kind of a hot mess because my thoughts are so jumped given the movie comparisons and the subject matter. I guess it could be summed up as this: the book was a good, uncensored account of a 60's mental hospital. Definitely worth reading, but as memoirs go it wasn't perfect. The movie was better, but different, and relatively faithful to the story.

I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5.


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Top Ten Character's I'd Like to Revisit

Well, the topic for this week is actually this:

Ten Childhood Characters You'd Love To Revisit As Adults (ie a novella or something to see what they grew up to be) -- you could always just pick YA characters you've read recently you wouldn't mind revisiting in 10 years or so. Or you could pick 10 characters and guess what you think they'd be doing in 10 years or 20 years. OR you could go the other way and wish for coming of age stories for adult characters you love.

I couldn't decide, so I'm going to do a mix.

1. Let's start with an obvious one: The Marauder's & Lily in Harry Potter. I think nearly every Harry Potter fan would love a novel about their Hogwarts years. I think I'd love their story almost as much as I loved Harry, Hermione, and Ron's. So yeah, I'd like to see them as teenagers.

2. Again, an obvious one: The next generation of Harry Potter kids. Preferably from the POV of one of the female kids, I'd love a story of them in their later years at Hogwarts.

3. Jamie Stryder from The Host by Stephanie Meyer. Mostly I just want the promised sequels to The Host but he's the younger brother of one of the main characters so it'd be interesting to see him as an adult and see how the world has changed and how growing up in that world changed him.

4. Leah Clearwater from Twilight. One of the reasons I hated Breaking Dawn was the crappy hand Leah's character was dealt (although it's not the only reason). I'd quite like a novella or even a full standalone novel about her in 10 years -- one where she gets the story she deserves.

5. Let's go back to Harry Potter actually, because I'd also quite to read a novella about Molly Weasley or Minerva McGonnagall when they were teenagers.

6. Alice from the play Closer by Patrick Marber. I lovelovelove this play and she's an interesting character, so I'd quite like to read a coming of age novel about her just to see the life she had that made her into the person she was in Closer.

7. All of the Jellicoe Road characters. I'd lovelovelove a novel of them in their 20's, to see how they've changed as people and how their relationships have changed or crumbled or evolved.

8. Winnie from Tuck Everlasting. I'd love a novel about her growing up, about her as an adult -- just how she chose to live her life after what happens in the story.

9. I'm not sure if this one counts, but Elena from Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell. I just want a full novel about her -- Rainbow wrote a short story about her for World Book Day and I loved it. So yeah, gimme a full YA or even college years story about her and I'll be so happy.

10. I don't have a tenth one really, because all of the ones I could think of actually exist already. Peter Pan if he'd chosen to grow up? We got that in Hook (although a novel would be good). The Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz? Got that in Wicked. Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice? There was a mini-series about them post-story (which, I think, was based on a book).

So...yeah. Those are the characters I'd love to see as teenagers/adults. Which characters would you like to check in with again as teens/kids/adults?


Monday, 2 May 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
by E.K. Johnston

Summary: Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She’s been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it’s her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she’ll be a different person. She thinks she’s ready for whatever comes next.

But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:

Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.

Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.
My thoughts on this book are kind of all over the place, but I think they're mostly positive. And I apologize in advance for how long this review will probably be...

Here's what I loved about it:
  • It had parents who are both alive and very much present in the story. Parents who actually, well, parent. Which is kind of annoyingly rare in most of the YA books I read.
  • It has LGBTQ+ characters. One of which has a big role in the story that doesn't revolve entirely around their sexuality because it's just a part of who they are and not their whole story.
  • SO much positive female friendships/relationships. I loved that. On that level, it was exactly the kind of book I've been looking for recently. It didn't turn them into unnecessary rivals or have them be catty, it just had them care about each other fiercely and I love that.
  • It captures that senior year feeling so well. That "this is the end of something, but also the beginning of something and I'm happy and sad and excited and scared" kind of feeling.
  • The way it tackles choices Hermione has to make in the story.
  • I also loved that the rape in the story wasn't being used as a plot device in a romance to give the character a tragic back story. It upsets me so much when it's used that way because it's so disrespectful. I loved that romance barely played a part in the story (and this is coming from someone who loves romances).
Now, here's where it gets more complicated for me. The story is about a rape survivor -- what happened to her, the aftermath of it, how she copes with it and I have kind of mixed feelings on it.

On one hand, I appreciated that it was different to the other stories that tackle this subject matter. It did it in a more...positive way? less angsty way?...I'm not sure the correct way to phrase it. But what I mean is this: so many stories that deal with the issue of rape have victims that are so broken and traumatised by what happened to them and have the characters react in the same sort of ways and have the same handful of coping mechanisms.

And that? That's fine. More often than not, it's realistic. And those stories are so important -- but I appreciated that this one showed the character dealing with it in a different way because I have seen way too many ignorant people say that they think a girl is lying about being raped because she doesn't react or behave the way they think a rape victim should act. They have such a limited view of what rapists should be like, what victims should be like, what does and does not count as rape -- so when someone's story doesn't fit in with that limited view they have, they think it's a lie.

So yeah...I loved that it showed a different reaction to the ones we normally see in fiction, because the truth is people deal with trauma in their own way and there is no wrong way of reacting -- harmful ways, self destructive ways? Yes, but not wrong. Not any that invalidate their experiences.

The only things I didn't love about the book while reading was that the way the beginning of the story plays out comes across as really contrived and the way it portrays the aftermath of rape.

I mean -- I've said all the things I did like about the way the subject matter was handled, but there were aspects of it that I didn't like. It portrays the aftermath in very Lifetime movie sort of way that kind of perpetuates some of the harmful misconceptions about rape (that victims are supported by nearly everyone, that the justice system is totally on their side, etc.).

I think maybe that just bothered me because of some conversations I'd had just before reading the book, with people who were saying a girl was lying about her attack because she didn't go to the police -- and the reason they think that, is because they think the way it's portrayed in this book will be the reality for most victims when it isn't.

The author does acknowledge that not many victims have the support system Hermione does in the book but it's in the author note which not everyone reads. So yeah, I had mixed feelings about the portrayal (but that's a totally subjective thing on my part).

There was so much that I loved about the book really, and I can't quite pinpoint what it was about it that stopped it from wowing me. When I finished the book, my thoughts were mostly positive but the book hadn't gotten under my skin. It hadn't pulled me so thoroughly into the story that I was wrecked by the low points or smiling with the high points. It didn't linger with me, the story didn't haunt me for days--or even hours--after finishing. It's not a favourite, although it feels like it should've been.

I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5, but I can easily see it being a 5 star read for so many people.



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