30 April 2013

Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Buy/Pick Up A Book

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

I'm pretty confident in knowing what books I'll like, or what kinds of genres grab my attention, so this was a pretty easy list to come up with - these are words or topics that will automatically have me checking out the book to see exactly what it is about!

Zombies - Yeah, this is obvious, right :)  anything that has my undead friends in the title or synopsis definitely gets a second look!

Apocalypse - I love apocalypses, particularly those books that actually feature an apocalypse, rather than the aftermath of one.  Bring on the end of the world, baby!

Tasmania - It doesn't often happen that I read about a place where I've been, but when it comes to the place I spent the first 25 years of my life and will always call home, I've got an obsessive compulsion to read it.

Dystopian - Although I'm feeling a little dystopian-weary lately, I'll still check out those books.  Particularly if it's a dystopian set after a big apocalyptic disaster.

Road-Trip - Who doesn't love a road trip, seriously?  Well, except the motion sickness sufferers amongst us, but then reading about them is a less nauseaous way to enjoy them!

World War II - This is the historical period I find most fascinating.  Whether it's non-fiction or fiction, I'm absolutely obsessed.

Earthquake - There should be more earthquake-plot books!  Mass destruction, great big cracks in the ground, law and order break down.  No, I'm not a survivalist, but sometimes I appear to be.

Ghost - I love a good ghost book, but they're harder to find than it would seem.  I want to be scared to turn out the lights!

Kidnapping - This is one of my own greatest fears, which sounds a bit odd (I can wrangle spiders, and the dark is comforting to me), but I couldn't imagine anything worse than being held captive.

Netherlands - Now my offically adopted country (although I still can't speak Dutch, the shame), it's a country that has such a varied history and I love it when I see mention of the town where I live, or buildings or places that I know in real life!

What are your 'auto-curious' words?

29 April 2013

Bout of Books 7.0 Sign Ups

Bout of Books

It's that time again - Bout of Books read-a-thon!  

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team.

If you haven't joined Bout of Books before, this is the perfect opportunity to jump right in!  Meet other bloggers, read mountains (ahem, ok, small hills) of books and just have insane amounts of fun!  Sound good?  Go and sign up here!

Book Blogger Confessions: What Do We Owe Authors?


Hosted by For What It's Worth and Midnyte Reader, Book Blogger Confessions is a bi-weekly feature where bloggers confess all about blogging or bookish topics.

What do we owe authors? I read this interesting post the other day. An author had tweeted that if you get all your books from the library it deprives an author of income, another suggested using this fun little graphic to help readers spread the word about a book they love.

What are your thoughts on this? Do they have a point? Do they go too far in expecting readers to only buy their books at indie bookstores, avoid Amazon or expecting readers to go forth and publicize their book after a purchase?


If this wasn't a discussion post, I'd answer with one word - nothing. Expecting readers to only buy books through independent outlets is completely unrealistic, and some of us actually don't have any choice at all.

Where I live, there are very few booksellers who actually sell English language books, and the ones that do either don't sell the books I'm interested in (Karin Slaughter has made a mint selling books in train stations in this country, Sophie Kinsella gives her a run for her money though) or charge the same price for one book that I could use to get three from Amazon.

Yes, Amazon is the devil, tax cheats and bullies and all that shit, but if it wasn't for Amazon, I wouldn't be reading your books. And without Amazon, I wouldn't read a lot of independent authors, because I can't justify spending 18 Euros on a paperback that I may end up hating more than prawns (which I hate a lot, btw).

I did read all the articles, and what really annoyed me was that some authors seem to think libraries are doing them out of a living. Yeah, right. If someone is interested enough to take your book out from the library and read it, they're already doing something to promote that book - someone is carrying it around, talking about with their friends and perhaps even blogging about it. I've bought plenty of books based on reviews where the blogger/reviewer took the book out from the library. And if they hadn't, I probably wouldn't have either.

We're readers, we're not publicity machines.  Yes, some of us blog about books, but not everyone is going to run around Tweeting links, liking posts and telling everyone at the bus stop about that fabulous book they just read.  The book buyers are doing their bit, whether it's a brand new shiny hardcover at that posh bookshop (which scares me a little) or a paperback from discount website, and the readers are showing their love by buying books in second hand bookstores and taking them out from the library.

Yes, book sales are what keeps authors being able to write full-time, but we can't all buy brand new books all the time.  What's better, someone reading your book and loving it even though it's borrowed from the library, or no one reading it?

28 April 2013

Showcase Sunday #35


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.

Hands up who is sick of hearing me complain about Immigration?  Well, you'll be pleased to know the whole saga is done!  I'm now a permanent EU resident, and I have the card to prove it!  Except I can't show you, because I'm too lazy to blur out all the private details, so you'll just have to trust me on that.

My favourite thing in my mailbox this week was this gorgeous card and fabulous bookmark that I received from Karin at My Life.. - thank you so very much Karin xxx


And a pretty quiet week in books, but some really exciting upcoming releases!
A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd (thanks to Delacorte Press)
The Program (The Program #1) by Suzanne Young (thanks to Simon Pulse)
The Sea of Tranquility by Katya Millay (thanks to Atria Books)
What I Didn't Say by Keary Taylor

Have a fabulous week!

27 April 2013

Crunch Time - Reevaluating Who I Am


At the beginning of April, I wrote a post about A Day in the Life Of a Book Blogger, partly because I wanted to see just how much time I dedicate to reading, blogging and social media connected to my blog.  And since that post, I seem to have lost a little bit of my mojo - I'm reading less, posting less and spending far less time than I ever have in visiting other blogs or chatting on Twitter - and it's forced me into a revaluation of everything.

Yes, real life is busier than ever with work, summer is coming and making me want to go out and enjoy the (patchy) sunshine and I'm also trying to plan a massive trip back to Australia, but I've also been actively avoiding the things I'm most passionate about - reading and talking books.

I've realised that I need to reevaluate a lot of things.  When I started blogging I was reading almost exclusively adult zombie and post-apocalyptic books and I loved working with independent authors.  As in life, things changed, and now I'm reading almost exclusively Young Adult books and only those published by 'big' traditional publishing houses.  But then I started thinking about why my tastes have changed so much, and if it even adds to my enjoyment of reading and blogging and I'm now going to put it all out there and say that I'm actually not having as much fun as I used to.

One thing I'm definitely not doing is putting down YA books, or traditional publishing at all.  I've read some books in the last 18 months that I would never have come across without blogging and I honestly can't imagine not having read them.  I just feel like I've lost my way a little bit, and that I'm bowing to a pressure to be one of the 'cool kids' and read what everyone else is reading, even if it's not what I'm really passionate about.

I contemplated an extended hiatus, and even to stop blogging all together, but neither of those are the things that I really want.  So it's time for a change, a spring-clean, a shake up.

The first, and most obvious, thing is a blog redesign.  I loved the purple, I loved the black cat and all the fun icons, but it's not really ME.  I wear a lot of black myself, I love simplistic design in both blogs and life, so this feels a lot more like a reflection of myself.

Secondly, I'm going to stop worrying that I'm not reading what everyone else is.  I don't have to read all the popular up-coming releases to have something important and interesting to say, and even if no one comments it's OK because I'm reading what I want, when I want.

Thirdly, I'm not going to post for the sake of posting.  If I miss a day, or two, or even three, that's just the way it's going to be.

Finally, I'm going to read more independently published authors.  I've discovered amazing independently published books, and I want to find more and give them the exposure they deserve.  I understand that a lot of people don't like independently published books for a myriad of reasons, but I love the thrill of discovering hidden gems.

I really hope all these changes will be for the better, and by being more comfortable in my own skin, I'll be able to get that passion back.

26 April 2013

Review: Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

Published: 11 October 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 323 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Memoir, Humour

Source: Own library

Synopsis


Well hello to you dear browser. Now I have your attention it would be rude if I didn't tell you a little about my literary feast. So, here is the thing: is it just me or does anyone else find that adulthood offers no refuge from the unexpected horrors, peculiar lack of physical coordination and sometimes unexplained nudity, that accompanied childhood and adolescence? 

Does everybody struggle with the hazards that accompany, say, sitting elegantly on a bar stool; using chopsticks; pretending to understand the bank crisis; pedicures - surely it's plain wrong for a stranger to fondle your feet? Or is it just me? 

I am proud to say I have a wealth of awkward experiences - from school days to life as an office temp - and here I offer my 18-year-old self (and I hope you too dear reader) some much needed caution and guidance on how to navigate life's rocky path. 

Because frankly where is the manual? The much needed manual to life. Well, fret not, for this is my attempt at one and let's call it, because it's fun, a Miran-ual. I thank you.

My Thoughts

Although I enjoy the occasional non-fiction book, it's very rare that I read memoirs - I can't even really say why, but perhaps I'm just not that interested in the lives of 'famous' people and I'd just rather throw myself into a made-up world.   Miranda Hart is one of my favourite English comedians, and I've been a huge fan since the first episode of her sitcom, Miranda, and her awkwardness had me snickering and also feeling a sense of camaraderie with her semi-fictional character so I put aside my normal aversion and gave her memoir a try.

I was a little tentative about her book however, as it is essentially a conversation with her eighteen-year-old self in parts, and what I really wanted was just some of her funny observations about life and stories of her funniest life moments.  However, although there are conversations with her younger self, the funny stories and awkward moments were far more prominent and had me smirking and even laughing and reading parts out loud to my boyfriend occasionally   Structured into subjects such as be
auty, dating and weddings, this is one of the rare books that had me smiling almost all the way through.

But I found more than I thought I would as the book progressed - as well as telling the outrageously funny stories of her own social awkwardness, Miranda Hart also talks about how although her life hasn't turned out the way she imagined as a teenager, she is completely comfortable and happy with her life as it is and the things she thought would make her life complete are not the things that she really needed in life.  This was something that I wasn't actually expected to come away with from this book, and it also gave me more respect for Miranda herself.

This is really a book for Miranda Hart fans - I think you'd need to be familiar with her to really understand her sense of humour, because hearing her voice in my head whilst I was reading was what made it really hilarious.  Or just imagine someone in a bit of a posh, yet panickedly-shrill voice reading it aloud to you.

25 April 2013

Review: Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Published: 10 May 2012 by Headline

Pages: 336 (paperback)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Mystery


Source: Own library

Synopsis


They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who shake their heads on the six o’clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don't know. You don't know who I used to be. 

Who I could have been.

Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time. 

My Thoughts

When Archway Young Offenders Institution is closed down, a notebook is found - the notebook of Emily Koll, one of the most notorious inmates, who was all over the news for the offence that landed her in prison - but what exactly is Emily's secret?

I was drawn to this book by the darkness of the synopsis, and also the mystery element.  Being set in a young offenders institution, there is a cast of characters with dark and sad pasts, but the majority of the story is Emily's interaction with her psychiatrist.  During the course of her sessions, her past emerges but Emily really isn't as evil as she seems - her life has thrown her a whole bunch of curve-balls that contributed to her current situation, and for that I felt sympathy for her, as well as a morbid fascination in finding out exactly why she is incarcerated.

Heart-Shaped Bruise is a quick, but compelling read and as Emily's story emerged, I couldn't help but be sucked right into the story and want to know exactly what had happened to her.  There isn't a huge amount of interaction with other characters apart from Emily and her doctor, which is a little bit of a shame as I wanted to know more about the other girls, but in the end it really wasn't a deal-breaker.

As always with mysteries, it's hard not to say too much without giving away the ending, but although it didn't completely take me by surprise because there are a few clues dropped along the way, it was quite eye-opening.  And although part of the story is told in flash-backs, they are pretty seamlessly blended, so it didn't feel like I was being jerked back and forth between story-lines.
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Although it wasn't as shocking as I hoped it would be, Heart-Shaped Bruise was a worthwhile read, and I'll definitely be checking out more of Tanya Byrne's work.

23 April 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like More / Less Than I Did


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

Sometimes my cynical side comes in handy when it comes to books - after all, if you can't build up my expectations, then it's easy to be pleasantly surprised.  On the other hand, I'm probably missing out on loads of great books because I'm a creature of habit.

Pleasant Surprises!

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1) by Veronica Rossi - I was so sure this book was going to be a messy disappointment, particularly after I read the first chapter and almost permanently set it aside.  But something convinced me to give it another chance, and I'm so glad I did.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I'd not long started reading YA novels when TFiOS was released, and I avoided it for a long time, because I couldn't see how a book about teens with cancer could be anything but heartbreakingly sad.   The characters were what I wasn't expecting, I fell in love with Hazel and Augustus right from the start.

Mockingbird by Walter Tevis - Literary science fiction.  Three words guaranteed to strike fear in my heart, particularly in that combination.  And even though it's more than 30 years old, it's one of those books that I'd read again and again and again.

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1) by Julie Kagawa - I'm not usually a fan of vampire novels, but I started this one as I wanted to read a Julie Kagawa book, but I was hooked - I loved the world-building, the dark atmosphere and especially Allie.

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) by Susan Ee - like vampires, I'm just not a huge fan of angel books normally, and I only picked this one because I was looking for an audiobook in a hurry and it was the first one that caught my eye.  So fabulously dark, with a hero that's impossible to ignore.  Mmmmm Raffe!

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion - Zombie perspective?  Ummmm zombies don't think and I don't think so.  I only read it because of the movie release but I was so surprised with both the amazing writing and that a zombie character can be so likable.


WTF Just Happened?

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks - I risk expulsion from every zombie lover group in the world with this one, but I had massive expectations after World War Z and then....I didn't find this funny, interesting or even entertaining in it's crapiness.  I skimmed 80% of it!

Gone (Gone #1) by Michael Grant - I wanted to love this book, I really did - a group of teenagers whose parents disappear and paranormal powers and bullies and smart kids?  Unfortunately I just found it boring.  It took me over a month to read it...

Breathe (Breathe #1) by Sarah Crossan - Three characters, humans living in a dome amid a post-apocalyptic wasteland?  It could have been so good, but I hated all the characters.  With a burning passion.

Far North by Marcel Theroux - It had been on my wishlist for several years, and when it came up for a Book Group Read, I was finally convinced to shell out for it - and promptly fell asleep.

What books surprised you, either pleasantly or not so much?

22 April 2013

Review: Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke

Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke

Published: 25 October 2011

Pages: 276 (paperback)

Genre/s: Horror

Source: Own library

Synopsis


On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity. She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers — a family of cannibalistic lunatics — are closing in.

A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder returns from Iraq to the news that his brother is among the murdered in Elkwood.

In snowbound Detroit, a waitress trapped in an abusive relationship gets an unexpected visit that will lead to bloodshed and send her back on the road to a past she has spent years trying to outrun.

And Claire, the only survivor of the Elkwood Massacre, haunted by her dead friends, dreams of vengeance... a dream which will be realized as grief and rage turn good people into cold-blooded murderers and force alliances among strangers.

It's time to return to Elkwood.

In the spirit of such iconic horror classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance, Kin begins at the end and studies the possible aftermath for the survivors of such traumas upon their return to the real world — the guilt, the grief, the thirst for revenge — and sets them on an unthinkable journey... back into the heart of darkness.

My Thoughts

I'm an unashamed comfort-reader.  When I'm feeling tired and or stressed, I turn to a genre that I know can shock me, entertain me, and make me feel a little nauseous.  Yep, I read horror novels for comfort.  And this is exactly why I picked up Kin - it's about cannibals people, it's going to be shocking, nauseating and hopefully entertaining, right?

But Kin gave me more than I bargained for - it is undoubtedly a horror novel with creepy characters and stomach-churning moments, but it is also an incredibly well-written novel - the language is almost lyrical and incredibly descriptive.   At moments I felt like I was in a literary fiction novel, and others like I was in a slasher-movie - and I loved it.

The characters themselves are not easy to get to know, nor really to like.  Claire is obviously and understandably damaged by her experiences at the hands of the cannibal family living in backwoods Alabama and that is the center of her world - there's very little else of her personality that comes through.    The other 'good' characters play their part in the story, but apart from the young man that rescues Claire, I didn't find any of them particularly memorable.

The cannibal family on the other hand were creepy as fuck - and yes, they are religious nuts to boot.  The only thing I would have liked a little more of would have been to find out more about their pasts and backgrounds, although the mothers' is explained towards the end of the book, I was so curious as to how they met and became nutsoid killers.

I was a little disappointed by the ending of Kin, although it was intense and fitting, it felt a little bit rushed, and I wished there had been more confrontation and revelation (yeah, I just wanted more GORY STUFF!) between Claire, the other characters and the family.

Kin really surprised me in many ways, and if you enjoy intense horror that is excellently written, you should definitely consider picking up a copy.

21 April 2013

Showcase Sunday #34


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.

It's been a very quiet reading week for me, as I've been working ridiculous hours for the last couple of weeks, but of course, my TBR continues to grow - I didn't list all my new books last week, so there's a few extra I 'found' on my Kindle.
For Review
Journey to Disappeared: Discovery by Map Whitman (thanks to the author)
Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda (thanks to Atheneum Books)
After Eden (After Eden #1) by Helen Douglas (thanks to Bloomsbury)
Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexander (thanks to HarperCollins)
Purchased
Kiss of Life (Generation Dead #2) by Daniel Waters
Passing Strange (Generation Dead #3) by Daniel Waters
Meta-horde by Sean T. Page
Existence (Existence #1) by Abbi Glines
The Night Lives On by Walter Lord

What new books are prettying up your shelves this week?

20 April 2013

Review: Arclight by Josin L. McQuein

Arclight by Josin L. McQuein

Expected Publication: 23 April 2013 by Greenwillow Books

Pages: 400 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis


No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be. 

The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.

When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

My Thoughts

The day before I started Arclight, I'd actually written a post about how I was starting to feel a little disenchanted with the YA Dystopian genre.  It's all gotten a bit same-y and predictable, so my expectations for Arclight weren't that high.

But once I started reading, I was more than a little bit hooked.   Having no memory of how she came to be in the Arclight means that Marina's story is quite fragmented, and I found it a little confusing, but not the 'I want to give up' kind of confused, but rather 'I want to find out more!'.  The pacing is fast and there are a lot of action scenes very close together - there's very little of the characters sitting around ruminating or speculating or having personal disasters - the focus is completely on moving the plot along.

One thing that Arclight definitely has in its favour is the Fade - they are caused by something that I've never come across in a YA book before, and only rarely in adult post-apocalyptic fiction.  Their secrets are revealed quite gradually, rather than in one big info dump which I really liked.

Although the Fade are quite well explained, there is an element missing to the world-building that I thought would have been worth including in the first book (yeah, another series guys!).  The whole focus of the story is on Arclight and the area surrounding it, there's very little on how Arclight came to be, or what the effect was on the world.

I didn't form huge attachments to the characters, although Marina is tough and brave, as she didn't have any memories of her past it made it quite difficult for me to connect with her as the leading character.  Likewise her 'friend' (yep, inverted commas) Tobin was a good character on face-value but I continually had this feeling in the back of my mind that he was more interested in Marina for his own purposes rather than liking her as a person.  There's a whole bunch of other characters too, from the slightly skitzy Anne-Marie through to the matriach who rules over the whole compound, and I enjoyed the variety and individuality of them.

It was only the last third or so when my interest started to wane a little.  Rather than things starting to fall into place, for a while I started to get even more confused than I had been in the beginning, but I plugged on and by the end I was left feeling almost completely fulfilled.

Arclight promises to be the start of an interesting new series, and although I had a few niggles with the first book, I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for the second book, because I have a serious case of the whys and hows!

18 April 2013

Because You Are All Awesome Giveaway

I haven't done a giveaway in months, and as today I'm officially (yet) another year older, I thought it was time to share the love!  I haven't had the time to be as creative as I did with my birthday giveaway last year, but I still want to share with someone ;-)

Thanks for being so awesome :-D


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Belonging by Karen Ann Hopkins

Belonging (Temptation #2) by Karen Ann Hopkins

Expected Publication: 30 April 2013 by HarlequinTeen

Pages: 408 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary

Source: Publisher for review

As this is the second book in the series, my review may contain spoilers of the first book.  My review of Temptation.

Synopsis


I left everything I knew behind. 

But it was worth it. He was worth it. 

No one thought an ordinary girl like me would last two minutes living with the Amish, not even me. There are a lot more rules and a lot less freedom, and I miss my family and the life I once had. Worst of all, Noah and I aren't even allowed to see each other. Not until I've proven myself. 

If I can find a way to make it work, we'll be NOAH & ROSE 

together forever. 

But not everybody believes this is where I belong.

My Thoughts

I seem to be developing something of an obsession with the Amish - whether it's the fascination with living without technology, their close knit communities or their intricate rituals I'm not completely sure, but I did enjoy the first book in this series, Temptation in particular as it dealt with what an 'outsider' has to go through to join their community.

Essentially the story of what one teenage girl, Rose, goes through as she tries to become Amish to be with her boyfriend, Noah, Belonging takes the story begun in Temptation and turns up the seriousness and intensity as Rose battles to find her place in a community where she will seemingly always be considered an outsider.

I liked Rose in Temptation, but in retrospect it was mostly because she was a bit of a lost soul in search of her place in life after the death of her mother.  In Belonging, however, I started to develop a strong need to shake some sense into her as I was never completely convinced that a) being Amish nor b) being with Noah was what she really wanted.  In fact, in places she almost admits that what she has with Noah is nothing more than an intense crush, stating that she only felt the attraction to him when she was with him.  As for Noah, I understand that the restrictions of the community meant that he couldn't be with Rose as much as he wanted to be, but even when he was with her, it never felt like genuine love and at one point he practically calls her a slut.  Not cool dude, whatever your background.

There are new characters introduced in Belonging, which was good for the story-line  particularly as there are some darker themes explored through those characters but none of them are extremely memorable.

Told in three perspectives, that of Rose, Noah and Rose's brother Sam, again I liked the family involvement and particularly the banter between Rose and Sam on the rare moments that Rose was actually with her own family.  The one family character that I didn't understand was Tina - sure, she was trying to be supportive of Rose, but a three week 'trial' of living with the Amish rather rapidly turned into four months without any kind of intervention.

And just when I thought the book was heading towards a more palatable conclusion, there is of course the twist and the cliffhanger that I had a suspicion was lurking in the background, just waiting for its opportunity to jump out.

Overall, Belonging was a unique story with a bunch of characters that didn't always go in the direction I expected, but there were also a lot of frustrations, particularly as at several points I really didn't find the characters very logical in their decision making.

17 April 2013

Review: Losing It by Cora Carmack

Losing It (Losing It #1) by Cara Carmack

Published: 26 February 2013 by William Morrow

Pages: 288 (paperback)

Genre/s: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis


Virginity.

Bliss Edwards is about to graduate from college and still has hers. Sick of being the only virgin among her friends, she decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose it as quickly and simply as possible-- a one-night stand. But her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she freaks out and leaves a gorgeous guy alone and naked in her bed with an excuse that no one with half-a-brain would ever believe. And as if that weren't embarrassing enough, when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, she recognizes her new theatre professor. She'd left him naked in her bed about 8 hours earlier.

My Thoughts

I've been actively avoiding the New Adult genre up until now.  Seeing as I only started reading Young Adult books two years ago, I really shouldn't be so genre-snobbish - I mean, surely New Adult books can't ALL be ALL about sex, right?

So I was hesitant to pick up Losing It.  I actually objected to the whole synopsis, right from the beginning.  I'm not going to preach on about how girls should consider their virginity a treasure blah blah, because (and yes this may be TMI!) I didn't.  However, the fact that Bliss is still a virgin and seemingly suddenly decides to find a random guy to 'lose it' to didn't really sit right with me.  And in fact, in the opening scenes of the book, she seems to keen to get it over and done with, I wondered why if it had been bothering her so much she didn't do something about it sooner....

As the story progressed, I came to like Bliss a lot more than I thought after my initial impression.  She's funny, awkward and more than a little confused about exactly what she wants in life, love and her career so she's very easy to relate to.  I did think that Garrick was sweet and a genuinely nice-guy, but I didn't actually feel that character crush moment - perhaps having an English boyfriend myself has made those British accent's a little less enthralling ;).

There was the expected and inevitable drama and misunderstanding, and some turmoil and sneaking around with the whole professor / student relationship which did feel like it wasn't taken all that seriously and some passionate and well written intimate moments (man I feel old calling make-out / sex scenes 'intimate moments!). 

Losing It isn't completely predictable, but it didn't set my world on fire either - it's the kind of book that I enjoy when I don't really want to have to think about what I'm reading or struggle with emotional or moral dilemmas   Overall this was a fun read, and I breezed through it pretty quickly.  By the end I was enjoying the characters and their interaction, and Bliss and Garrick's story is certainly sweet and cute.

16 April 2013

Review: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Published: 9 September 2003 by Knopf

Pages: 185 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Romance, GLBT

Source: Own library

Synopsis


This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. 
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.

My Thoughts

I love David Levithan - he has a fabulous mix of fantasy and characters that are so easy to like, and I've been eagerly awaiting a chance to read his debut YA novel for months now.  And Boy Meets Boy is such a short, sweet story it was a fast, but very memorable read.

The world that David Levithan has created in Boy Meets Boy is a vision of how the world should be - everyone is pretty much accepted for exactly who they are, be they gay, straight, bi-sexual or transgender.  Groups freely mix together and although not every person is as accepting as the next, there is very little ridicule or uncomfortableness, and in fact choices of sexuality are openly discussed.

Paul himself is an interesting character - he has known who he is, both in sexuality and personality from his childhood.  Openly gay, he also encourages his friends to be exactly who they want to be - and in a way this is actually one of his faults, as he doesn't realise to begin with just how lucky he is to know exactly who he himself is.

There's a fabulous bunch of varied characters, from Paul to his love interest Noah, the flamboyant drag-queen Infinite Darlene, his childhood best friend, Joni and his newer friend, Tony, who is forced to hide his homosexuality from his ultra-religious parents.  I loved the interactions of all the characters, they felt real and at times very funny, at other times incredibly moving. 

In between the world and the characters, there is also a very sweet love story between Paul and Noah - David Levithan knows how to make anyone's heart melt, romantic or not.  If someone did the things for me that Paul did for Noah, well....

My only criticisim of this book is that the ending felt a little too rushed, and in fact it felt like everything was resolved in just a handful of pages and I didn't turn the final page feeling fully satisfied.   David Levithan has certainly evolved as a writer, even if he didn't start off half bad to begin with!

15 April 2013

Book Blogger Confessions: Blog Evolution


Hosted by For What It's Worth and Midnyte Reader, Book Blogger Confessions is a bi-weekly feature where bloggers confess all about blogging or bookish topics.

Today's Question:
How long do you see yourself blogging for? Do you think it's ok for a blog to evolve over time? For example: You may have started out as a book review blog but now your interest is in cooking as well. Do you incorporate that or start over?


When I first started my blog, I honestly didn't think it would last more than a few months - I have the attention span of a fly on speed. But being part of a fantastic online community is definitely what keeps me blogging, even if occasionally I have thoughts about chucking it all in and just going back to reading whatever I like and when I like. For now, however, you are definitely stuck with me ;-)

I love knowing the people behind blogs, and although the vast majority of blogs I follow are book blogs, I love when bloggers introduce their other interests. For example, there are lots of bloggers who are into nail art, which I am infinitely fascinated by (but far too clumsy to attempt myself), scrapbooking which I used to be obsessed with years ago, or bloggers that include posts about their real lives and I love getting to know the people behind the blogs.

Blogging is a very personal thing, and everyone should be able to blog about whatever they want to, even if their primary 'interest' is one thing, it certainly doesn't mean another thing can't be introduced. We evolve as people, so there's no reason our blogs can't evolve with us.

14 April 2013

Showcase Sunday #33




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.

In the end I was too lazy to list my e-books because I've been outside enjoying the sun all day - I'll add them next week!



Websites mentioned: Book Gorilla

Books
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
The Line (The Line #1) by Teri Hall
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price
Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margot Lanagan
Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu
Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu
Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
Survive by Alex Morel

13 April 2013

Review: Taken by Erin Bowman

Taken (Taken #1) by Erin Bowman

Expected Publication: 16 April 2013 by HarperTeen

Pages: 352 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Dystopian

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?


My Thoughts

Taken is a book that immediately caught my attention for several reasons:

1) Young adult dystopian - uh, yes please!
2) Pretty cover - want!
3) Male protagonist - YAY! Unusual - gimme!

So I was more than estatic when I got my happy little hands on this one. Along with that happiness was that horrible niggling feeling of worry - in a world awash with dystopians, would this be an awesomely-amazing-fabutastic read, or a bust?

I loved that Taken has a male protagonist, and his is the only POV. I've read very few YA dystopians with a male taking the lead the whole way through, and I really liked the different viewpoint that it gave the story. Although there is something close to insta-love AND a triangle, Grey doesn't descend into that horrible stereotypical love mode and start doing crazy stuff for the girl he's crushing on - in fact he is almost clinical in his realism of the situation, which I actually quite liked. The only downside that the insta-love-triangle had for me was that I didn't quite understand how it happened - at one moment the object of Grey's desire is seemingly pining for someone she cannot have, and the next they are joined at the hip.

The plot itself is intriguing, and has a fair amount of twists and turns that the characters don't see coming, but I found quite obvious - I'm not completely sure whether this is what the author was aiming for or not, but it worked for me in that wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee characters kind of way. The pace moves along pretty consistently, and I found it quite difficult to put Taken down.

There's no huge information dumps on the world and how it came to be this way, instead it's gradually revealed through dialogue and hints and not all the secrets are revealed in this first book, which I really liked - it has me intrigued to go back to the series and find out exactly what is happening and why, and I loved the juxtaposition of an almost utopian society in a world that has been completely changed by yet to-be-revealed events.

Overall I really enjoyed Taken, and it pretty much lived up to my lofty expectations. Character development is occasionally pushed aside for plot and world-building, but personally I choose those two characteristics over characters in dystopian novels.




11 April 2013

Review: Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

Generation Dead (Generation Dead #1) by Daniel Waters

Published: 6 May 2008 by Hyperion

Pages: 392 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Fantasy, Zombies

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Phoebe Kendall is just your typical Goth girl with a crush. He’s strong and silent…and dead.


All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren't staying dead. But when they come back to life, they are no longer the same. Feared and misunderstood, they are doing their best to blend into a society that doesn’t want them. 


The administration at Oakvale High attempts to be more welcoming of the “differently biotic." But the students don’t want to take classes or eat in the cafeteria next to someone who isn’t breathing. And there are no laws that exist to protect the “living impaired” from the people who want them to disappear—for good. 

When Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, the leader of the dead kids, no one can believe it; not her best friend, Margi, and especially not her neighbor, Adam, the star of the football team. Adam has feelings for Phoebe that run much deeper than just friendship; he would do anything for her. But what if protecting Tommy is the one thing that would make her happy?

My Thoughts

It was the cover of Generation Dead that originally caught my eye with it's bright colours and title, but when I read the synopsis, I wasn't 100% sure about the actual book itself.  I'm a zombie purist - I like 'em dead and brainless, and in Generation Dead the teens that come back from the dead, although not breathing, eating or even perfectly mobile, can still talk, go to school and definitely don't eat brains for dinner.

It took me a while to get into the plot as it's fairly slow-moving for the first hundred-odd pages, although the zombies are introduced right the beginning.  Once I got past the slower part however, I found myself enjoying the pace and the plot a lot more, even if it was in the back of my mind that this is everything I don't like in zombie books.

Phoebe is an interesting character, being Gothic and obsessed with some pretty dark music and along with her best friend Margi, is a bit of a social outcast at school.  On the other side of the coin is her childhood friend Adam, who's a football playing jock that lives with his mother and step-father who he nicknames the STD.  All of the characters are unique so they are easily distinguishable from each other, and the living characters are quirky and fun, whereas the undead characters are really quite fascinating.  

It's also great to see the parents having quite a lot of involvement in their childrens' lives, even if it isn't always the most politically correct way of parenting.

One thing that I was really hesitant about was the inevitable ickyness of a potential zombie romance, and although the book starts to veer into love-triangle territory as well, these zombies don't decay, so there's a level of protection from vomit-inducing scenes.

As this is the first book in a series, I didn't expect all my questions about the zombies to be answered so I wasn't overly disappointed to find out that was indeed the case.  The 'zombie-ism' is limited to teenagers, and then not even all teens who pass away come back, and the cause of this 'outbreak' is unknown, although speculation abounds.  

A large part of the plot focuses on the undead and the living learning to get along (for the most part), particularly as the law does not recognise the undead as human beings, and various organisations are springing up around America either in support of, or against establishing basic human rights for the undead.  

Despite a slow start, by the end I actually quite enjoyed Generation Dead, and I'm planning to read the next book in the series, particularly as Mr. Waters writes in a way that I particularly liked, with realistic dialogue and interesting plot ideas (even if zombies shouldn't talk!).

10 April 2013

Review: Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough

Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough

Published: 29 August 2006 by Leisure Books

Pages: 339 (paperback)

Genre/s: Horror

Source: Own library

Synopsis


Life was good for Matt and Chloe. They were in love and looking forward to their new baby. But what Chloe gave birth to isn't a baby. It isn't even human. It s an entirely new species that uses humans only for food and as hosts for their young.

As Matt soon learns, though, he is not alone in his terror. Women all over town have begun to give birth to these hideous creatures, spidery nightmares that live to kill and feed. As the infestation spreads and the countryside is reduced to a series of web-shrouded ghost towns, will the survivors find a way to fight back? Or is it only a matter of time before all of mankind is reduced to a Breeding Ground.

My Thoughts

Breeding Ground has been on my TBR since October 2011 and was on my wishlist for several months before that.  And yes, this is a horror book about spiders - arachnophobes beware.

The story begins with a young couple, Matt and Chloe who discover that, although unplanned, Chloe is expecting their first child.  Their lives are typical of a couple in their early thirties, and although unexpected, both are excited about the prospect of their new arrival.  It's only as Chloe's pregnancy progresses that things start to take a turn for the unusual, as she puts on weight rapidly and becomes moody and unpredictable.

The realisation that things are not normal comes slowly to Matt, and that's the first part of the plot I had an issue with.  I get that he was caught up in his job and Chloe's difficulties, but he doesn't notice that something unusual is happening in his town and indeed around the country until the shit hits the fan late one night and it seemed unrealistic that he hadn't seen anything unusual on the news or even within his town.

In some parts of the story I liked Matt, at others I would have greatly enjoyed slapping him - he moves from woman to woman without much show of emotion (OK, he's a man but do we really need to be so stereotypical?) and he isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer - he misses vital clues when another woman falls pregnant that are exactly the same as Chloe experienced only a short time before.

There's a cast of other survivors, some interesting, some completely annoying and a whole bunch that kind of melt together into one person rather than having individual personalities and I kept getting confused as to who exactly each of these characters were and I couldn't tell you their back stories by the time I reached the end of the book.  It's fine to have unlikable characters, and it's even something I enjoy, but none of them were particularly memorable.

When it comes to the horror level, this is gory and scary - what the spiders do to the humans they capture is truly gruesome and nothing is held back in the descriptions.  Killer spiders were never going to be anything else, and these spiders are particularly horrendous.   

There isn't a full explanation of how the spiders came to mutate and invade, and exactly what their intention is other than nom-nom humans, but there is another book so I assume at least some of those questions are answered.  The premise of Breeding Ground is chilling, but the execution lacks characterisation and enough background for me to have really enjoyed it.

09 April 2013

Top Ten Favorite Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger


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


Sometimes I forget that I read books before I was a blogger - when I just read books without taking notes, not planning when I had to have it read by, or just reading trash because I felt like it.  And a lot of the books I loved before I was a blogger I've re-read so I can tell people all about them, but these are books that I read before I was a blogger, and I've never re-read.  All fresh and new...ish.



The Road by Cormac McCarthy 

This was probably one of the first adult post-apocalyptic books I ever read, and I was instantly hooked.  Yes, I know it's terribly dark and there's very little hope in the story, but hey, it was the end of the world after all.








The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I remember my grandmother gave me a beautiful leather-bound copy of The Secret Garden when I was about 12 years old.  I must have read it a dozen times.






Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables #1) by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables was one of the first books I remember getting out from the library.  And then I pestered my mother to buy them ALL of the series, and I read them back-to-back-to-back.






The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

How many people say this book started their dystopian addiction?  It was also the first YA book I read when I wasn't a YA anymore.








World War Z by Max Brooks

One of my favourite ever zombie books and I think I read it in a single sitting.








Infected (Infected #1) by Scott Sigler

This series....if you love horror, you should definitely track down a copy of Infected.  It made me feel nauseous, the first and only book that I ever had to put down so I could go and get some fresh air.  Perversely, I loved it.






The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Ah this book - I fell instantly in love with Henry.  And then they went and cast Eric Bana in the movie which just made me love him even MORE.



A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

I first read this in high school, and then again a few years later and I loved the mix of historical fiction and strong women who did whatever was necessary to survive.


The Pillars of the Earth (The Pillars of the Earth #1) by Ken Follett

This is a bit of an odd pick for me, because I found the architecture bits nothing more than a good excuse to zone out, but the epicness of scope more than made up for it.  I went straight on to read World Without End.



The Bronze Horseman (Tatiana & Alexander #1) by Paullina Simons

Yeah, don't really need to explain this one, seeing as it comes into my TTT's very regularly.



Room by Emma Donoghue

I have a fascination with 'issues' books, and this was pretty much as issued as it gets - I was totally enthralled by Jack and his way of seeing the world around him.







So, that's my list - I now have an overwhelming urge to go back and read every single one of them because writing about them has made me craaaaaaaaaaave them.

What are your pre-blogging favourites?

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