28 February 2013

February Wrap-Up

February has been an amazing reading month for me - with a week long read-a-thon I had a huge lift and I'm now 8 books ahead of my 2013 goal already, but I think I'm going to need that buffer going into March.

Tribulation (Rapture #2) by Phillip W. Simpson
The Endearment by LaVyrle Spencer
All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Taken (Taken #1) by Erin Bowman
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough 
Jack and Rochelle by Jack Sutin 
Eve (Eve #1) by Anna Carey 
Looking for Alaska by John Green 
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Revived by Cat Patrick 
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion 
Wide Awake by David Levithan 
Are We There Yet? by David Levithan
Gemma by Meg Tilly 
None of the Regular Rules by Erin Downing
Mila 2.0 (Mila 2.0 #1) by Debra Driza 
Autumn (Autumn #1) by David Moody 

Books Read in 2013: 31
Pages Read in 2013: 10,298

How was your month?  How are you going with your 2013 challenges?

27 February 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #21 - When We Wake by Karen Healey

Hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday showcases the books we're lusting after. Get ready to load up your TBR!


When We Wake by Karen Healey

Expected Publication: 5 March 2013 by Little, Brown Books

Synopsis

My name is Tegan Oglietti, and on the last day of my first lifetime, I was so, so happy. 

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027--she's happiest when playing the guitar, she's falling in love for the first time, and she's joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.
But on what should have been the best day of Tegan's life, she dies--and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity--even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn't all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?

Why I'm Waiting

Apart from the amazing science-fiction synopsis, the book is set in Australia *gets all patriotic and waves flags 'n' stuff*.  Plus I've read some reviews that make me think this will be one I will really enjoy.

What are you waiting on this week?

26 February 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists!

I actually found this a really difficult list to write, because I don't necessarily buy everything that an author that I love writes - but I always add them to my wishlist and stalk them (the books, not the authors, 'cos stalking people is creepy)!

And once I had written the list, I didn't know how to express how much I love these authors, other than to make statistics out of it!

David Levithan - Of 11 books, I've got 6 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 55%

Mark Tufo - Of 14 books, I've got 8 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 57%

Tabitha Suzuma - Of 6 books, I've got 4 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 67%

Gayle Forman - Of 6 books, I've got 4 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 67%

Kendare Blake - Of 4 books, I've got 3 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 75%

Jonathan Maberry - Of 18 books, I've got 14 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating 77%

Rhiannon Frater - Of 14 books, I've got 11 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 79%

David Moody - Of 10 books, I've got 9 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 90%

John Green - Of 5 books, I've got 5 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 100%

Gillian Flynn - Of 3 books, I've got 3 either already owned or wish-listed.
Obsession rating: 100%

OK, I know this isn't really a scientific method, but it was fun.


Who are your auto-buy (or obsession!) authors?

25 February 2013

Blog Tour Review and Giveaway: None of the Regular Rules by Erin Downing


None of the Regular Rules by Erin Downing

Publication date: November 20th 2012

Genre: YA Romance/Coming-of-Age

Purchase from Amazon

Synopsis

Sometimes, a few dares can change lives…

The weekend before the start of senior year, Sophie Erickson and her best friends, Ella and Grace, discover a handwritten list of dares tucked away in the glove compartment of Sophie’s beat-up old Toyota. But this isn’t just any list; it’s a dead girl's bucket list.


Sophie's beloved aunt Suzy died as a teenager in a fatal fall, leaving Sophie with an overly cautious family, a few fading photographs, and a bucket of bolts that barely passes for a car. But now, Sophie has Suzy’s list of the things she wanted to do in her last year of high school. Sophie can't help but wonder: What would happen if she tried to fulfill Suzy’s last wishes, to live out the longed-for life of her aunt, her hero?


As Sophie and her friends attempt to knock off the things on Suzy's list of dares, love blossoms in unexpected places and Sophie begins to feel that her life is finally coming together...when in fact, everything is slowly unraveling around her. When the truth about a long-held family secret threatens to shatter everything she believed to be true, Sophie is forced to question everything she knew about the life and people she believed in, and ultimately herself.


My Thoughts


When I first read the synopsis of None of the Regular Rules, it sounded like a cute YA contemporary romance and something that might be a fun, light read.  But None of the Regular Rules is far more than that - it's a story about friendship, self-discovery and growing up.

Sophie is an average girl in her last year of high school - she's dedicated to her two best friends, Ella and Grace, and struggling to decide what she wants to do with her life after school.  It's only when the girls Sophie's dead aunt Suzy's bucket list hidden in her car, they decide to live out Suzy's list for themselves.

I loved that all three different girls had very different personalities, interests and ambitions and yet they were still close friends - Grace is composed and focused, Ella is outspoken and alternative and Sophie is kind and caring.  But what really surprised me was the boy at the center of the romance - he could have been a bit of a wanker but instead he was incredible grounded, kind and very likable, and his relationship didn't feel like it was insta-love or too forced - it just naturally progressed.

The idea of a bucket list is something that appeals to me as a fanatical list writer, but I liked that Erin Downing kept things realistic - there's no outlandish pranks or unrealistic scenarios - it's all completely believable.

The only thing that I found a little difficult to understand was Sophie's relationship with her parents - although she felt they were overprotective, I didn't actually get that feeling myself, and there weren't any obvious conversations where they sat her down and laid out the rules - in fact at times they appeared to be very laid-back.

None of the Regular Rules was a book that I very much enjoyed - I loved being part of Sophie and her friends' journey through Suzy's bucket list, and also seeing them evolve and grow throughout the story, even though things didn't always go to plan.  And the ending was just perfect!

About the Author


Erin Downing has written more than a dozen books for young adults, tweens, and kids. Her guilty pleasures include an unhealthy obsession with reality TV and cheesy romantic dramas (Revenge! Alias!), an addiction to Us Weekly magazine, and cupcakes.

Before turning to writing full time, Erin worked as a book editor, spent a few months as a cookie inventor, and also worked for Nickelodeon. Erin has lived in England, Sweden, and New York City, and now resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and kids. More information about Erin and her books can be found at:www.erindowning.com, on Goodreads, Twitter or Facebook.

The Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway

24 February 2013

Showcase Sunday #26


Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.
I thought it would be pretty quiet for my shelves this week, and then a fabulous person at Harper approved all my requests!



Rush (The Game #1) by Eve Silver
In the After by Demitria Lunetta
Arclight by Josin L. McQuein
September Girls by Bennett Madison
The Ward by Jordana Frankel
Transparent by Natalie Whipple
Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn
Parallel by Lauren Miller
The End Games by T. Michael Martin
Reboot (Reboot #1) by Amy Tintera
The Registry by Shannon Stoker
We Are Water by Wally Lamb

How as your week?  Did you get any fabulous things?  Leave me a link so I can visit :-)

23 February 2013

Review: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Original Publication: 1977

Pages: 743 (paperback)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Romance

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Treasured by readers around the world, this is the sweeping saga of three generations of the Cleary family. Stoic matriarch Fee, her devoted husband, Paddy, and their headstrong daughter, Meggie, experience joy, sadness and magnificent triumph in the cruel Australian outback. With life’s unpredictability, it is love that is their unifying thread, but it is a love shadowed by the anguish of forbidden passions. For Meggie loves Father Ralph de Bricassart, a man who wields enormous power within the Catholic church…

My Thoughts


I seem to be on something of a re-reading binge lately, revisiting books that I loved as a teenager.  I can't put my finger on exactly why, but I have a sneaking suspicion that after a string of almost-great books, I need to read a book I know I've loved in the past, despite the fact that it scares me to do it.

The Thorns Birds is probably the first historical fiction that I ever read.  I remember it was in one of my grandmother's Readers Digest condensed editions - she had shelves full of them, the brown leather covers with the gold lettering and I devoured them all - historical fiction, crime fiction, legal fiction, repeatedly.  I've forgotten many of those books now, but there are still a few that really stand out in my memory, and The Thorn Birds is one of them.

This is one of those epic family sagas - there's birth and death, marriage and affairs, family relationships are strained, broken and bridged, unobtainable love, passion and tears, and once again I loved every moment of it.  

One thing that really stood out for me as a difference between reading now and reading as a teenager is that this time around I could really understand how the characters minds worked.  When I read this more than ten years ago, I really though that Fee was a complete and utter heartless bitch - but this time around it all made far more sense and I can now appreciate why her character was written in such a stoic, almost unfeeling manner.  And some of the parts I skimmed over as a teenager I now found incredibly interesting and relevant to the story.

As with any family saga there's a large cast of characters, but the main focus is definitely Meggie - growing up in a family full of shy, hard-working farmers and falling in love with a man she cannot have, she is really one of those memorable characters that feel incredibly real and alive.

But along with the actual plot, it's the world that Ms. McCullogh builds, the stark beauty of the station and the Australian outback, the fires, floods and backbreaking work of the farmers, tropical Queensland, the rail journeys and the contrast of 1960's Sydney that really struck home for me - it's a landscape that I know and it is beautifully told.  For a native Australian that has done quite a bit of travelling in my own country, it really rang true, and made me more than a little homesick.

The Thorn Birds is touted as modern classic, and it fully deserves that tag - it has all the hallmarks of a true epic - flawed, complicated characters, a plot that is full of hope, love, tragedy and controversy and although the book is fictional, the setting is vivid and real.


22 February 2013

Audiobook Friday #13: Review: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Original Publication: 1928

Pages: 296 (paperback)

Genre/s: War





Audio Version
Published: 5 August 2010 by Hachette Audio UK
Narrated By: Tom Lawrence
Length: 7 hours, 9 minutes

Source: Own Library

Synopsis

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . . if only he can come out of the war alive.


My Thoughts

All Quiet on the Western Front is a classic that I've always wanted to read.  I've read a lot of World War II books, but very few from World War I, and this one had the added interest of being written from the German perspective.  Right from the very beginning, I could see why it is a classic and features prominently on all those 'top books' lists, including 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  

In the beginning, it appears to be just another war narrative - young men plucked straight from school and sent to fight a war that seems like a great adventure - travel and comradeship, something that they never dreamed of as children.  But as the story progresses, through trench warfare, front-line hospitals and home visits that further distance themselves from 'normal' lives, All Quiet On the Western Front becomes gradually more haunting and thought-provoking.

Paul is an average German boy when he enlists to fight in the Great War - having grown up in an average family, he finds himself with his schoolmates, fighting a war that he doesn't particularly believe in.  And although there are funny stories and light-hearted moments, as I listened I became more and more sympathetic as he witnesses some of the greatest horrors World War One had to offer - from long painful deaths to gas attacks and the effect on the German people as a whole.

As the realisation of the effects of war distances him from his family and the generations of people who have never fought in bloody, hand-to-hand combat in trenches, he becomes more and more introspective, and begins to question everything about the war - the futility, the terrible waste of young lives and deals with the death of friends, comrades and strangers.

Although I hate to dictate what people should read, I can honestly say that I think this is a book that everyone should read - it's haunting, disturbing and ultimately reinforces the brutality of war without using over-the-top violence, it is simply the story of one young man who realises just how wasteful and futile war is.

The Audio Version

I really enjoyed the audio version - the narration is very well done (although the English accent is slightly at odds with what I expected), and although I'm not overly fond of classics on audio, this version really adds an extra angle to the story that I very much appreciated.

21 February 2013

Guest Post: How Resident Evil Inspired Stitch by Samantha Durante



I'm so excited to have this awesome guest post from Samantha Durante, author of the Stitch trilogy about how Resident Evil inspired her fantastic book, Stitch.  Although Samantha doesn't know this about me, I'm a HUGE video game addict - and Resident Evil is one of my personal favourites!

How Resident Evil Inspired Stitch by Samantha Durante


Thanks so much to Kat for hosting me today!


I’m not sure how many of you out there had the same experience, but over this past holiday season, the television in my family’s home certainly became what can only be described as a “conflict box.” (And yes, I stole that phrase from the DirecTV ads.)


You see, my family likes to spend time together when we’re all in the same place for a week with nothing to do, which I suppose is a good thing. But instead of creating some “quality” time playing a board game or striking up a conversation (this is reality, after all), what we all want to do is watch something together on the TV. And this is where the problem arises.


Like most families, we can never agree on what to watch. My mom and I can only stomach so many hours of sports, and with the lack of new comedy programming over the holidays, we were faced with a short supply of shows that the whole family could enjoy. So I came up with a solution which I thought solved everyone’s problems – it had an entertaining, high-action storyline with a mild but exciting level of creepiness, it was something completely new we’d never watched before, and it even had interactive elements that we could all work on together. I suggested that the family all watch me play my newest videogame, Resident Evil 6.


Now, perhaps in some households blowing the heads off zombies is not considered a family-friendly pastime, but in my home, it kind of is. Over the years we’ve spent many hours watching one another play all sorts of videogames, and in our experience, as long as the game has an actual storyline and some puzzle-solving elements (sorry, Call of Duty multiplayer fans!), this is actually quite an engaging activity for the whole family to partake of, even if only one person is holding the controller. And in my house, when it comes to whole-family entertainment, one game series holds the prize above all others: Zelda. (Zing! Bet you thought I was going to say Resident Evil, didn’tcha?) And in a close second comes Resident Evil.


Ever since the first Resident Evil came out in 1996 when I was the tender age of 11, my family has been sitting down together to thrash zombies and all the other nightmarish Bio Organic Weapons dreamed up by the geniuses at Capcom in an effort to rid the world of the ravages of the horrific T-/G-/t-Veronica-/X-/etc.-viruses. Initially, this wholesome ritual began as a fun way to pass the time while my older cousin babysat me and my younger brothers. He would play and we would watch and this would often result in all of us running screaming from the room when the game took an unexpectedly scary turn. No, they didn’t have 1080p HD graphics in 1996, but they had clever gameplay and lots of pixelated blood and we had imaginations. I can still remember the good old days when my brothers couldn’t sleep unless the game’s case – with its gruesome zombie-laden cover – was safely tucked out of view.


And as time went on, my brothers and I grew bolder and took the reins ourselves. We would look forward to the new installments of the series that came out every couple years, and whenever possible, we would play it together, unraveling the secrets of the evil, accident-prone Umbrella Corporation and cleaning up whatever mess they left behind this time.


And as the years went by, the games only got better with each release. The graphics improved, the gameplay got more intense, the voice acting went from bad to worse (though finally got pretty decent in this latest one), and the monsters started to look frighteningly real. I remember vividly one time in college when one of my guy friends stopped by while I was playing RE4 and wanted to take a turn. I handed over the controller, and within moments, he – a grown man – had paused the game and stepped out of the room to catch his breath and calm his pounding heart. The game was THAT good. In that moment, I thought to myself, “THAT’S what I want to do with my life – I want to create something that makes people REACT.” I thought maybe one day I might become a game designer myself, and create my own horrifying post-apocalyptic world to frighten the bejesus out of children the Earth over. It would be a dream come true.


And so this year with Christmas behind us and New Years not on the horizon for a few more days, I thought nostalgically, “What better way to bring the family together this holiday season than some good old fashioned zombie slaying fun?” At first my loved ones were enthusiastic, excitedly gathering around the TV to watch as the game began and offering their assistance and praise as I struggled my way through a terrifyingly realistic urban outbreak. Fast forward 30 hours of gameplay later, and, well, let’s just say their enthusiasm had waned.


But as I sat there defiantly pressing on to the final boss – my family rapidly hurling various colorful expletives my direction in an effort to retake control of the TV – it dawned on me. Maybe I never became the videogame designer I’d once dreamed, but I’d found another way to make people react: my writing. That wasn’t my conscious intention when I set out to pen Stitch – I just wanted to write a fun book that I, as a reader, would enjoy – but six months and 100+ reviews later, I realized that that’s just what I’d done. I’d created something that inspired people to react – to ask questions, to rant and rave, to put off their responsibilities to keep reading, to beseech me to “just start writing the next book already!”


And so I’d like to take a moment to say thank you, Resident Evil, for planting that seed inside me. No, not the seed that makes my arm explode into some grotesque mutated form intent on strangling the life out of any creature unfortunate enough to cross my path… (Whew! Glad I avoided that one.) Thank you for planting the seed that made me want to MAKE something, to create something worth reading, worth talking about, worth reacting to. If not for you, Resident Evil, there’s a good chance Stitch would never have made it onto paper. So to all the green herbs and first aid sprays, assault shotguns and explosive barrels, bloodthirsty undead and mutant predators, cheers! I couldn’t have done it without you.

About the Author


Samantha Durante lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband, Sudeep, and her cat, Gio. Formerly an engineer at Microsoft, Samantha left the world of software in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and a lifelong love of writing. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, Samantha is currently working full time for her company Medley Media Associates as a freelance business writer and communications consultant. Stitch is her first novel. Learn more about Samantha atwww.samanthadurante.com.

And if you are interested in my review of Stitch, you can find it here.

Thanks Samantha, you've made me nostalgic for Resident Evil - even those freaky dogs that jump through the window in the (I believe) first game!

20 February 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #20 - The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams


Hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday showcases the books we're lusting after. Get ready to load up your TBR!


The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams

Expected Publication: 9 April 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin

Synopsis

For the teens at The Haven, the outside world, just beyond the towering stone wall that surrounds the premises, is a dangerous unknown. It has always been this way, ever since the hospital was established in the year 2020. But The Haven is more than just a hospital; it is their home. It is all they know. Everything is strictly monitored: education, exercise, food, and rest. The rules must be followed to keep the children healthy, to help control the Disease that has cast them as Terminals, the Disease that claims limbs and lungs—and memories.

But Shiloh is different; she remembers everything. Gideon is different, too. He dreams of a cure, of rebellion against the status quo. What if everything they’ve been told is a lie? What if The Haven is not the safe place it claims to be? And what will happen if Shiloh starts asking dangerous questions?

Why I'm Waiting

Yes, it's another YA dystopian, but I loved Lynch Williams' The Chosen One, about a young girl in a polygamist family so I'm excited to read more of her work.  And the cover is freaky spooky!

What are you waiting on this week?

19 February 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Characters In the Contemporary Genre


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists!

Surprise! A list of my favourite contemporary characters wasn't an easy one for me - after all, I'm not exactly the biggest fan of contemporary fiction, but I thought I would give it a go!

1. Flynn Laukonen from A Note of Madness and A Voice in the Distance by Tabitha Suzuma

I couldn't make this list without mentioning a character from one of Tabitha Suzuma's books, and Flynn is by far my favourite. These are not easy books to read, but I loved Flynn right from the beginning, and my heart nearly broke for him multiple times - he's a character that I couldn't help but fall a little bit in love with.




2. Oliver from The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

British boys are an old favourite of mine, in film, in books and in real life, and his charming, sweet journey with Hadley from the US to London was so cute - why can't I sit next to a guy like that when I fly?!





3. Chelsea from Speechless by Hannah Harrington

I loved Chelseas's journey in Speechless, from a nasty bitchy cliquey girl to mature, kind and understading, Hannah Harrington wrote a fantastic character that really grew through the story.






4. Noah from Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

His dedication to his family. 'Nuff said.








5. Adam from If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Oh Adam, how my heart broke for you. And then you did that *sniff* *sob* thing, and my heart was stomped all over the floor.







6. Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Anyone who has read this book should know what I mean. If you haven't read it, you should! That is all.







7. Hadley from Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday

I loved Hadley because she made me laugh. I'm not a laugh out loud reader, but she had me smiling, smirking and snickering on more than one occassion.







8. Jordan from Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Although I had a few issues with Jordan (my review will be up soon so I won't say more than that), I loved that she was one of the boys, wasn't afraid of using bad language or pigging out - there should be more tom boys in contemporary fiction like Jordan!





9. Parker from Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

I would have listed Sloane from Summers' This is Not a Test, but that's not strictly contemporary, so the next best character is Parker - she's unlikable, abrasive and rude - but I still liked her, which is a true tribute to just how well Courtney Summers can write a character.





10. Amy from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (spoiler alert!)

I know! How can Amy from Gone Girl be a favourite character?! Well the thing is, I love evil characters, and this girl was seriously fucked up. Like, scary psycho nut job fucked up.









What are your favourite characters in contemporary fiction? Any recommendations?

18 February 2013

Review: Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield

Expected Publication: 19 February 2013 by Harlequin MIRA


Pages: 320 (paperback)


Genre/s: Historical Fiction


Source: Publisher for review


Synopsis


In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up-along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans-and taken to the Manzanar prison camp.

Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever...and spur her to sins of her own.



My Thoughts


When I first picked up Garden of Stones, I thought the author's name sounded familiar, and it was only when I was more than halfway through that I realised she is the author of the zombie / post-apocalyptic Aftertime series.  I haven't read Aftertime, but I was impressed at how versatile an author Ms. Littlefield is - after all, zombies and historical fiction are two of my favourite genres but are as pretty much far apart as genre's can be.

Garden of Stones is not an overly sympathetic book.  There are some shocking events within the pages, a mystery and characters that are quite hard to break through the surface of, but Ms. Littlefield maintains an objective view without falling into dramatics.

The story is told in alternating POV's - Lucy's story just before, during and just after her internmet at Manzanar, and Lucy's daughter Patty's POV in the late 1970's.  Both are difficult characters to get to know - Lucy's experiences have made her a closed, secretive character, and although I didn't have a particular issue with Patty, I also didn't find her overly engaging, and it was only very late in the book that I actually liked her as a character.  However, Patty's part in the story is only as a connector, and the vast majority of the book is set in the 1940s.

But I can see what the author was trying to achieve with the characters, in creating an air of mystery it is inevitable that the characters are harder to get to know - it's not really possible to have one without the other.   Especially Lucy, it's not that she's an unlikeable character at all, and in fact is very brave and admirable, but forming a connection with her was difficult.

Overall I really enjoyed Garden of Stones, and reading about a subject that is not often explored in books, and Sophie Littlefield's storytelling matched perfectly with the plot and characters.

17 February 2013

Showcase Sunday #25


Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack - I've been MIA for a large part of this week for a couple of reasons, a few of them being completely boring and no fun (trying to get my residency permit in the Netherlands extended, ugh bureaucracy!) and the other being a week long read-a-thon. But I did put my time to good use and finished ten (!) books this week.

New Books

The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2) by Julie Kagawa (thanks to Harlequin Teen)
The Devil's Metal (Devils #1) by Karina Halle
Open Minds (Mindjack Trilogy #1) by Susan Kaye Quinn
The Torturer's Daughter by Zoe Cannon


What have you been up to this week? 

13 February 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #19 - The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway

Hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday showcases the books we're lusting after. Get ready to load up your TBR!


The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway

Expected Publication: 21 February 2013 by Dutton Juvenile

Synopsis

Adam Strand isn't depressed. He's just bored. Disaffected. So he kills himself—39 times. No matter the method, Adam can't seem to stay dead; he wakes after each suicide alive and physically unharmed, more determined to succeed and undeterred by others' concerns. But when his self-contained, self-absorbed path is diverted, Adam is struck by the reality that life is an ever-expanding web of impact and forged connections, and that nothing—not even death—can sever those bonds.

Why I'm Waiting

This one sounds quite dark but also has the potential for a pretty deep insight into the meaning of life etc. I'm intrigued!

What are YOU waiting for this week?

12 February 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Romances



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists!

There's nothing like a properly-written book romance - it just seems that I choose the sadder ones, rather than the lovely, sweet, uplifting ones!

1. Tatiana and Alexander from The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

There's nothing that pulls on my heart strings more than a couple trying to be together during a war.  Combined with Tatiana's amazing spirit and Alexander's dedication, love and determination this is one of my favourite book romances ever.

2. Cas and Anna from Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas is one of my favourite YA characters ever - snarky, clever and a ghost hunter to boot, he also falls in love with a deliciously scary, yet strangely vulnerable ghost.  Definitely not the most conventional romance but I loved it.

3. Hazel and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Ah this book - my first (and so far only!) John Green, but his characters are so perfectly quirky, and Hazel and Augustus were totally made for each other.

4. A and Rhiannon from Every Day by David Levithan

A sweet romance, but there was so many messages in this book about love, attraction, self-awareness, society and redefining what makes us people, I just couldn't get enough of this book and especially A.

5. Claire and Jamie from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Now this is what I call an epic romance.  With more than a fair share of smexy thrown in for good measure.  Phwoar!

6. Will and Ellie from Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer

One of my teen favourites, I recently re-read this one and just fell in love with both Will and Ellie all over again.  This is the kind of romance I used to dream of when I was a teenager (yeah, it's totally not like that in real life, I know!), and the fact that they help each other overcome their sad pasts....*sob*

7. Jenny and Seth from Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan

Jenny is a character that it's so easy to feel for, and the very adult relationship that she has with Seth has definitely made them one of my favourite paranormal couples.

8. Mia and Adam from If I Stay & Where She Went by Gayle Forman

*sob sob sniff* - I loved the message that Gayle Forman put behind the story and the pull between Mia and Adam, even if they didn't always admit it.

9. Aria and Perry from Under the Never Sky & Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

Major kudos to Veronica Rossi for not making this series another example of insta-love.  I loved how their relationship developed from fear and distrust into a relationship that has (thus far!) stood all the tests that their worlds and pasts have thrown at them.

10. Flynn and Jennah from A Voice in The Distance by Tabitha Suzuma

Their relationship was such an intense, sad, uplifting and melancholy journey for both of them *sigh*

What is your favourite book romance?

10 February 2013

Showcase Sunday #24


Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.


I had some awesome news this week - my brother is getting married in January!  This is also the perfect excuse for me to go home to Australia for Christmas, New Years and the wedding.  It's been more than two years since I last went home so I'm super hugely excited.  Plus my boyfriend will have his first ever summer Christmas!

And now onto the books!
The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy (thanks to Harper)
After the Fear by Rosanne Rivers
Ten Tiny Breaths (Ten Tiny Breaths #1) by K.A. Tucker
Annabel by Kathleen Winter
Trust Me by Lesley Pearse
Never Look Back by Lesley Pearse
Crewel (Crewel World #1) by Gennifer Albin
Tribulation (Rapture Trilogy #2) by Phillip W. Simpson (thanks to the author)

What fabulous things landed in your mailbox this week?

09 February 2013

Review: The Dead of the Night by John Marsden

The Dead of the Night (Tomorrow #2) by John Marsden

Original Publication: 1993
This edition: 5 January 2012 by Quercus

Pages: 288 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, War, Post-Apocalyptic

Source: Own library

Synopsis


Australia has been invaded. Nothing is as it was. Six teenagers are living out their nightmare in the sanctuary of a hidden valley called Hell. Alone, they make their own rules, protect what is theirs, and struggle for courage and hope in a world changed forever. Seeking supplies, allies, and information, the friends make forays into enemy territory, drawing on nerve and resourcefulness they never even knew they had. As the risks become greater, so too do the sacrifices they must make. 

My Thoughts

There's something infinitely scary about re-reading a series that I loved as a teenager.  Did I love them because they enjoyed them at that particular stage of my life, and have my tastes and expectations changed with age and experience?  I felt tense when I re-read the first book in the series a few months ago, and although I loved it just as much as I did ten plus years ago, I felt that same tension when I started reading In the Dead of the Night.  

The story picks up a little after the end of Tomorrow, When the War Began, but not much has really happened.  The main characters have retreated to their sanctuary to refuel and reflect, and to fight some of their personal demons.  As their period of inactivity starts to drive them to distraction, they make a decision to venture out again, although in a different direction than they did the in the first book.

What I love about this series is the reality of it - although the situation is not real, it's easily imaginable, and the character's reactions fit perfectly.  They are, after all, teenagers - resourceful, clever teenagers, but they are just a bunch of kids from a country town, thrown into a scary, dangerous situation which their previous lives haven't really equipped them for.  They have experience with firearms and bush survival, but in this book their vulnerabilities also come through, as they widen the area in which they travel, try to find out more about what has happened to their country, and the bonds that tie them together become even stronger through their shared experiences.

There is as much action as the first book, although there is also a lot of focus on the relationships between some of the characters, and finding out more about them as individuals.

One point I feel I have to make about this book (and in fact the whole series), and it doesn't matter so much to me because I spent the first twenty-five years of my life in Australia, is that there is a fair smattering of Australian slang throughout the book.  It does give the characters and dialogue a very authentic feel, but for someone unfamiliar it may be a little overwhelming.  There is also a few outdated references (e.g. to electronic mail) that feel a bit awkward, but it's also fitting for the time in which the book was written - after all, when I was a teenager, e-mail was only just coming into common usage.

As with all the books in the series, this one does end in a bit of a cliffhanger, but it's the kind that makes you hunger for the next book rather than wanting to throw the book across the room in frustration.  I'm very glad I decided to re-read this series after so many years, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of them very soon.

08 February 2013

Ashley & Kat review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1) by Michelle Hodkin

Published: 27 September 2011 by Simon & Schuster

Pages: 452 (hardcover)

Genres: YA, Romance, Paranormal

Synopsis

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.


Our Thoughts

The Characters
Ashley: Mara is having a hard time adjusting to her new life. Before she woke up from a three day coma, she had a best friend and a boyfriend. Before she woke up, they were still alive. Before she woke up, she didn't hallucinate and she people didn't die around her. I cannot tell you how much I love Mara's character. She is so broken, but so strong. She puts on a great face and fights through all of the crazy that is happening to her.

Noah is a character that I am a bit torn on. On the one hand, he is just like every other YA male character. Sexy, model-esque, funny, but also serious. But on the other hand, there is something special about him that is not discovered until later in the book. I think it's his specialty that makes me overlook the fact that he is just another YA male.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of this book, is how big of a role that Mara's family plays in this book. I love when YA novels actually give the family real traits and real relationships. Mara's brothers are absolutely amazing. They are adorable and both look out for Mara.

Kat: For the most part, I didn't mind Mara - she had a pretty sharp wit, and a good sense of humour, and it was fairly easy for me to sympathise with some of the things she had been through, but she's not going to stick out in my mind as an amazing lead character - there just wasn't enough spark.

I'd have to have been blind, or living in a box not to see all the comments about Noah when UMD was first published. But, honestly, I didn't like him all that much - he was inconsistent, almost creepy and more than a bit dodgy and I got so bored with the constant back and forth between him and Mara, that I wished I could reach through the pages and smack their heads together.

Mara's family plays a big part in the book, which I really liked - her mother in particular was quite interesting, and I loved that as well as there being a big family influence there was also some ethnic diversity. One person I just couldn't figure out, or connect with at all was her brother Daniel - me and perfect characters never get along and this guy is SO perfect. I just wanted to see him screw up so that he stopped being so perfect.

The only character that I really liked was Mara's friend Jamie. His dry and twisted sense of humour really appealed to me, but he faded in and out so inconsistently that it was hard to get to know more about him, and when things really went down he completely disappeared.

Plot
Ashley: This book is crazy intense, guys. I don't even know where to start. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer switches back and forth between post-accident and pre-accident. Each time we go back in time, we see a little bit more of the the truth and what happened the night her friends died.

And as if no memory is hard enough, Mara also has to deal with the attentions of Noah, the sexy, charming boy at her new school. There are also the classic mean girls, family drama, and friend problems thrown into the mix. So many different relationships are explored in this book and that is what made it even more appealing to me.

Kat: When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was completely intrigued. Seeing dead people? Uh, yes, sign me up! And the book starts off really well - a flashback to a seance, followed by Mara waking up in hospital with no memory of what happened - ah ha, here we go!

But there was so little paranormal and so much flirting, lusting, falling out and just generally fobbing about between Mara and Noah that I kept getting bogged down just waiting for something spooky, creepy or even just interesting to happen. Personally, I would have been happier if there had been 50 pages less of back and forth between them.

World-Building
Ashley: I am so impressed with the world that Michelle Hodkin has created in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. It starts off so creepy, thrilling, and serious. But once the paranormal aspects come in it gets even better. I couldn't tell at first how this books was catagorized under Paranormal Romance, but after finishing it, it definitely makes sense. I loved the slow and steady revelations of the accident and suspicious deaths that occur around Mara.

The only part I don't like so far is there is no explanation for any of these special powers. Hopefully that gets explained in the next book. I need some answers, dang it!

Kat: The lack of paranormal activity until the end of the book really left me feeling flat - at times (in fact, most of the time), it felt far more like a contemporary romance - which is not my thing at all.


Final Thoughts
Ashley: My expectations were so high when reading this book and I was not disappointed in the least. I can't wait to get my hands on the second book and see how Mara and Noah handle what's coming next. It is sure to be just as intense and brilliant.

Kat: I didn't have massive expectations for UMB, for which I'm glad because I would have been terribly disappointed otherwise. It's not a bad book, even though as I write this I'm thinking that I sound pretty negative - it's just not to my personal taste. I don't know whether I'll continue with this series, but I'm going to take some convincing before I consider book two.

Ashley's Rating: 5 out of 5

Kat's Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Ashley is the blogger behind The Bibliophile's Corner. You can also find her on Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook.
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