31 May 2013

Armchair BEA Day 4: Ethics



It's never too late to join Armchair BEA - and you can do it in your pajamas, onesie or even naked if you want to ;-)

Ah the heavy topic day - Ethics.  The thing about the internet is that ethics and morals are for the most part self-goverened.  You determine what makes you a 'good blogger' but the world is also watching - whether you are a 'big' blogger or just starting out.

Personally, I'd rather risk looking like a d*ck for asking TOO much than not enough.  And although I've even asked a couple of times if I can 'use' someone's idea (giving credit where it's due of course), I've never actually used that idea in practice.  I don't want to say it's bad to use an idea of someone elses when you have their full blessing, but I also think that perhaps people are being polite when they say 'yeah, sure' and that in their mind they are probably thinking 'yeah, whatever, go get your own idea numbskull'.

And then we have plagiarism.  It's a big deal in the blogging world, and the book blogging world in particular is incredibly sensitive to it.  I'm not going to talk about how it affects the person that has been plagiarised, because there are far more eloquent bloggers than I who have covered that topic in the past, but one thing that really irks me is the effect it has on other bloggers.

Blogging has, at times, unfortunately become a minefield of paranoia about intellectual property and copyright issues that have made me personally quite uncomfortable at times.  Before I started blogging I used to love spending hours and hours reading reviews of books that I really wanted to read, and now, I feel like I CAN'T read a review of something I haven't read incase I retain a certain phrase or idea about that book in my head and later unwittingly use it myself.  And that makes me sad, and angry, that people who have intentionally plagiarised others have us all on a knifes edge, and possibly missing out on great discussions and debates for fear of being accused of later on stealing someone's idea.  And although I'm a bit of a busybody and like to know what's going on and what everyone is gossiping about on Twitter, it also leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Blogging should be fun, we shouldn't need to creep about worrying about what other people might be thinking about us and we should also be honest enough with ourselves to know what is right, what is wrong and how to avoid blurry lines and minefields.

29 May 2013

Armchair BEA Day 2: Genre Fiction

It's never too late to join Armchair BEA - and you can do it in your pajamas, onesie or even naked if you want to ;-)

For years the only genres I read were historical fiction and non-fiction, and the occassional literary fiction.  I still love these genres, and they'll always hold a special place for me, but boy how things have changed.

When I first moved to the Netherlands in 2008 I discovered to my absolute joy that I could now buy from Amazon without having to consider selling my soul to pay the shipping costs!  And then in 2009 I discovered e-readers and suddenly I went from spending up to 35 bucks on a single book to being able to buy 5 or 6 or even 10 books for the same price and not have to worry about my floor collapsing from the weight of all those books on my shelves.

It was then that I discovered post-apocalyptic and zombie books.  At the time, they really weren't all that popular but I fell completely head-over heels for the genre.  Survival, action, romance, drama, blood 'n' guts - pretty much anything goes and everything is always a little bit unique or different.  I love them so much that it was the inspiration for my blog name!  And if you want to try zombies, or find a new zombie book, I even have a recommendation page (look up!).

However, even though I love historical fiction, and zombies, book blogging introduced me to a whole bunch of new genres too, specifically Young Adult.  As a teen I never ever read books aimed at my age group, but it was the 1990s so the market was definitely nothing like it is today.  Now, although I've discovered a new love in YA, I'm still reading adult books, I need the variety otherwise I get in a rut and no one wants that :(

How about you, has something triggered a change in your genre-preferences?  Do you stick to what you love, or mix it up?

Armchair BEA Day Two: Blogger Development

It's never too late to join Armchair BEA - and you can do it in your pajamas, onesie or even naked if you want to ;-)

When I first started book blogging I had no ambition other than to post my reviews - I never believed that anyone would be particularly interested in what I had to say, to ask my advice or to collaborate with me on anything.  And the social part is still what I find the most difficult - I'm not the most outgoing person in 'real life' and to break down those barriers in blogging is still something I find challenging, but I've definitely improved.

Blogging was never going to be a 'job' for me.  Right from the beginning I was determined it would only be a hobby, with as little stress as possible, and although I've sometimes fallen into the pressure trap, I'm getting pretty good at dragging myself out of it and re-evaluating priorties.  I have conciously chosen not to sell advertising space, or even use affiliate links - and I'm not saying that everyone needs to go that way, because if you can make a few extra bucks out of your hard work, more power to you!  It's just not something that I feel I need to do.

Prior to book blogging I've been part of many other online communities, and all of those, including blogging, have changed my personality.  I tend to worry less about what other people think of me, and I'm far more outspoken than I was 10 or 15 years ago.

One thing that has definitely developed is my review style.  I almost cringe when I look back at my early reviews, when I was pretty much regurgitating the synopsis in my own way and saying one or two things I liked or disliked.  I still do feel the pressure occassionally to write longer reviews, but sometimes there just isn't that much to say without either rambling or spoiling the book for others, so I've learnt to be a bit more comfortable with that.

Sadly, I'm never going to be able to quit my job and become a pro-blogger, although that would be awesome!

How has your blog, or how have you developed because of book blogging?

28 May 2013

Armchair BEA Day One - Introductions

Can't go to BEA?  Don't be sad, there is an alternative, and you can participate in your pajamas!  I participated in Armchair BEA in 2012 and had such an awesome time, and met so many wonderful bloggers, I'm super-excited to be participating again.

Day One is all about getting to know our fellow bloggers.  So here is some random stuff about yours truly.

Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I'm Kat, a native Australian and I've been blogging since November 2011.  I'm a little bit addicted to buying shoes, can spend a whole day organising and reoganising my bookshelves and spending far too many hours in my bed.

The main reason I started was to have somewhere that I could record the books I'd read and because I'd been admiring the book blogging community for some months - I wanted to be part of that too!

Where in the world are you blogging from? 

I was born and raised in Australia, specifically in Tasmania, and moved to The Netherlands in 2008 - I've lived here now for more than five years, even though I'd only intended to come for a year initially.  I live in the city of Haarlem, just outside of Amsterdam and I think it's one of the most beautiful places in the country.  This is what is over my back fence:


What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013?

I'm currently reading five different books - which I normally try NOT to do, but I've been having a bit of a tough time sticking with one book lately, and probably the most memorable of the ones I'm currently reading will be The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

My favourite book so far in 2013 is definitely Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  I'm not a person that cries over books but I sobbed my heart out over this one!

If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why? 

Just one?  Oh man.  But I'm going to choose an author because the characters live in their head, so I can kill two birds with one stone.  It would definitely be Jonathan Maberry, because he has such an awesome imagination when it comes to horror and particularly zombies.

What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?

Without a doubt it would have to be the Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht.  It's a bookstore in a converted cathedral in the south of the Netherlands - I just need to find a bookish person to come with me (unfortunately my boyfriend's reading is limited to the news on his phone), I don't care if there aren't even any English books, just look at this place:


So, that's me :).  If you are participating in Armchair BEA, leave me a link to your introduction post!  If you aren't participating, tell me one random thing about yourself!

27 May 2013

Review: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

Published: 2006

Pages: 703 (paperback)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, War

Source: Own library

Synopsis


Fire Support Base Matterhorn: a fortress carved out of the grey-green mountain jungle. Cold monsoon clouds wreath its mile-high summit, concealing a battery of 105-mm howitzers surrounded by deep bunkers, carefully constructed fields of fire and the 180 marines of Bravo Company. Just three kilometres from Laos and two from North Vietnam, there is no more isolated outpost of America's increasingly desperate war in Vietnam. Second Lieutenant Waino Mellas, 21 years old and just a few days into his 13-month tour, has barely arrived at Matterhorn before Bravo Company is ordered to abandon their mountain and sent deep in-country in pursuit of a North Vietnamese Army unit of unknown size. Beyond the relative safety of the perimeter wire, Mellas will face disease, starvation, leeches, tigers and an almost invisible enemy. Beneath the endless jungle canopy, Bravo Company will confront competing ambitions, duplicitous officers and simmering racial tensions. Behind them, always, Matterhorn. The impregnable mountain fortress they built and then abandoned, without a shot, to the North Vietnamese Army.

My Thoughts

I would probably never read Matterhorn if it wasn't for a group on Goodreads that had several members raving about how despite the fact they aren't the biggest fan of war stories, they loved Matterhorn.  And it's not that I don't love war stories, I've just had bad luck in the past with stories that have such a strong military focus - normally I need a bit of romance or home front drama to counteract endless passages about maneuvers and weapons.

But Matterhorn is so much more than a war story - it is an intricate look at one group of marines as they battle their way through jungles, leaches, ironic dehydration and hypothermia and an enemy that no one quite understands.
As with any such book there is a large cast of characters, but Mr. Marlantes obviously put a lot of work into his characterisation, and within just a few short chapters I was no longer struggling to remember who was who, and by the end I was so emotionally invested in all of the characters it was difficult to bid them goodbye.

Waino Mellas is the perfect choice of main character for a book like Matterhorn - he's a bit of a lost soul in the 'real' world and that manifests itself into an almost dangerous insecurity early on in the book and Marlantes isn't afraid to reveal Mellas' real feelings - very much confirming that men at war are first and foremost human beings.

There are alternating POVs, as Mellas' superior plays the political game and plots his strategy, and these are the only parts of the book that really lost me.  Although they were pivotal to the story, these sections are the thing that I was most afraid of - heavy on strategy and political manipulation - and the only thing that I didn't love about Matterhorn.

Being about the Vietnam war, there was a lot more at play than just two countries fighting each other.  Racial tension builds between the black and white soldiers, with some shocking results, and one part in particular towards the end had me gasping out loud.

There are, surprisingly, only a few really intense action scenes which feel very realistic - chaotic and heart-pounding, and a far bigger focus on the relationships formed between Mellas and the men of Bravo Company and between each other.  

At 700 pages, this isn't a book you can sail through in a few hours, but it is incredibly addictive and every time I had to put it down for real life, I couldn't wait to get back to it and find out what would happen to the men of Bravo Company next.   

26 May 2013

Showcase Sunday #39


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 still not buying books - I didn't intend to start a book buying ban but it seems to be turning out that way!  It's been a pretty quiet week otherwise, but today I was up at 6am to take my boyfriend to the airport and managed to get a six-inch long sliver of wood embedded into my foot and cried, said goodbye at the airport and cried again - I'm exhausted and it's not even 10am yet!


Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts (thanks to Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
To Be Perfectly Honest by Sonya Soans (thanks to Simon & Schuster)
Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles (thanks to William Morrow & Company)
Quiet Dell by Jayne Ann Phillips (thanks to Scribner)

How was your week?


25 May 2013

Review: The Night Lives On by Walter Lord

The Night Lives On by Walter Lord

Published: 1986

Pages: 244 (paperback)

Genre/s: Non Fiction, History

Source: Own library

Synopsis


Years after A Night to Remember stoked the fires of public interest in the doomed RMS Titanic, the clamor for details about April 14, 1912, has not abated. As die-hard professional and amateur historians—“rivet counters,” they are called—puzzle over minute details of the ship’s last hours, a wealth of facts and myth have emerged. Revisiting the subject more than thirty years after his first study, Lord dives into this harrowing story, whose power to intrigue has only grown a century after the Titanic’s sinking. Was the ship really christened before setting sail on its maiden voyage? What song did the band play as water spilled over the ship’s bow? How did the ship’s wireless operators fail so badly, and why did the nearby Californian, just ten miles away when the Titanic struck the iceberg, not come to the rescue? Lord answers these questions and more, in a gripping investigation of the night when 1,500 victims were lost to the sea.

My Thoughts

When James Cameron's Titanic was released in 1997 I was 15 years old, and after seeing the movie I became completely obsessed with reading every single book about Titanic that I could get my hands on.  Yes, it was probably helped by the fact that I loved Leonardo di Caprio, but more than that I was infinitely fascinated by the glamour of the ship and the way that so many people died on that dark, freezing night.

Although I read a lot of books about it at that time, it was only last year that I read A Night to Remember, probably one of the most famous books ever written about the Titanic.  Walter Lord won me over with A Night to Remember - it felt like sitting down with someone to talk about it over tea and biscuits rather than being lectured at with cold, hard facts, so when I came across The Night Lives On a few months ago I grabbed a copy.

In The Night Lives On, Lord focuses more on the causes and aftermath of the disaster.  The information gathering was obviously painstaking and thorough, and he works hard to ensure that all potential sides of a story are told without bias - from the explanation on why ship safety was so lax (a lot of ship owners had their fingers in that pie), the actual damage caused by the iceberg, the actions and reactions of the Carpathia and the Californian, through to the salvage attempts from right after the sinking up until the first sightings of the ship in the 1980's.

Although it was published more than 30 years after A Night to Remember, Walter Lord's writing style is still the same - it's not stuffy or dry and in fact it's almost conversational, like someone telling you a story rather than reciting a whole bunch of old facts and figures.

If you have (or had!) an interest in the Titanic, The Night Lives On certainly covers a whole bunch of subjects that aren't often touched on in other Titanic books, and does so in an interesting, readable way.


23 May 2013

Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program (Program #1) by Suzanne Young

Published: 30 April 2013 by Simon Pulse

Pages: 416 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Dystopian, Romance

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis


In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

My Thoughts

I've been so disappointed by YA dystopians lately that I've been purposefully avoiding them.  So often a book sounds amazing and then when I start reading it falls into every single trope and most of them aren't even done well - love triangles, insta-love, poor world building - all things that make me want to cry with frustration.  But The Program was a book that I'd been hoping would prove to me that not all is lost in the YA dystopian genre....

Although The Program is a dystopian, the world itself is quite contemporary and I really liked that blend.  It made the characters much easier to connect to as they had such normal teenage lives for the most part, and although The Program was quite a large shadow over them, everything else felt normal and natural.  And it's not that I don't enjoy a good total dystopian immersion, but it's different from what I've read recently and felt a little more fresh.

One thing I wasn't expecting from The Program is the strong focus on the romance between James and Sloane - and as they are already in a relationship when the book begins, it means that there's no insta-love between them.   I liked Sloane, she's tough, determined, loyal and quick-witted which doesn't make her completely unique but enough to have me cheering her on.  The relationship she has with James is quite passionate and feels pretty realistic, and although there are some points that it becomes a little obsessive and possessive, as a character James pretty much charmed me enough that I didn't dwell on it too much.

The plot itself is a little on the predictable side, but the world-building fits the tone of the book perfectly - I never felt like I was being info-dumped and there's a good balance of disclosure and mystery that will keep me interested in the next book.

I recently read Just Like Fate, which Suzanne Young co-authored with Cat Patrick and I can see some similarities in how the romance was written and it's definitely got me curious about reading more of Ms Young's work as she does a good job with making romances feel realistic.

There's a lot more I could say about The Program but the synopsis is pretty sparse and I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but if you like YA dystopians that are heavier on romance than normal, I can definitely recommend The Program.


22 May 2013

Review: White Horse by Alex Adams

White Horse (White Horse #1) by Alex Adams

Published: 17 April 2012 by Atria

Pages: 306 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Post-apocalyptic

Source: Own library

Synopsis


Thirty-year-old Zoe leads an ordinary life until the end of the world arrives. She is cleaning cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the President of the United States announces that human beings are no longer a viable species. When Zoe realizes that everyone she loves is disappearing, she starts running. Scared and alone in a shockingly changed world, she embarks on a remarkable journey of survival and redemption. Along the way, Zoe comes to see that humans are not defined by their genetic code, but rather by their actions and choices. White Horse offers hope for a broken world, where love can lead to the most unexpected places.

My Thoughts

For quite a few weeks I've been avoiding YA post-apocalyptic and dystopians - I think I've OD'ed a little and they all feel similar - love triangles, mediocre world-building and there is apparently something very wrong about writing stand-alone novels.  So I decided I would turn things on it's head a little and read a (very) adult post-apocalyptic that was originally intended to be a stand-alone.

White Horse is split into Then and Now, which I'm usually comfortable with, as long as the book doesn't lose pace because of it, and I'm happy to say that doesn't happen in White Horse.   The Then is mainly focused on the gradual apocalypse happening on everyone's doorstep but never specifically labelled, and the Now, where Zoe finds herself travelling across Italy and Greece to try and find her boyfriend.

Whilst the shock value is definitely there, there isn't ever a real explanation of what the apocalyptic event is other than what Zoe stumbles upon as the world disintegrates.   Normally this would bug the hell out of me, but in White Horse it works because it is true to the feel of the book itself.  There are a lot of hints at what possibly could be the catalyst, characters that have been affected in very different and disturbing ways, and quite a few mysteries that are either half resolved or just left hanging.  

Zoe's interactions with other characters range from instant bonding to awkward, and she seems lost and confused for quite a lot of the book.  Nevertheless I found her an easy character to connect with because she isn't an instant action hero, helpless bimbo or overly emotional.  There are many other characters, most appearing fleetingly and some dying pretty gruesome deaths, and whilst some are memorable, others are very difficult to like or sympathise with.

When I purchased White Horse, it was listed as a stand-alone, but a sequel is now in the works, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.  Although the ending doesn't resolve everything, it felt like a natural ending to the story and that everything that came after was left up to my imagination, but knowing there is a second book just makes the ending feel far too rushed without making me want to stalk the next book on release day.

I feel like I'm being incredibly negative, but I actually really liked this book - I enjoyed the juxtaposition between the dreamy pace and language and the dirty side of humanity, I liked that the amount of world-building was appropriate to the main characters reactions and level of interest, that the characters don't fall into stereotypes and there wasn't even a sniff of a love triangle.

21 May 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Covers of Books I've Read


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


1) In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
I wasn't 100% sure about this cover when I first saw it, but it's so closely connected to the book that by the end I was more than a little bit in love with it.

2) Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days #1) by Susan Ee
I'm not the biggest fan of faces (or even people for that matter on covers), and nearly every single angel book ever has a person/couple/big fluffy wings on it.  I love that Angelfall has wings and they stand out, but they also look kinda gritty and dark too.

3) The First Days (As the World Dies #1) by Rhiannon Frater
There's several different covers to this book, but I love this one the most - it feels dark without being too intense, and even though there's two women on the cover they aren't too prominent.

4) Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore
I love the use of the highway sign with the blood smear - how zombie is this one?!

5) Swan Song by Robert McCammon
One of my favourite books and favourite covers - I love the colours, the ruined buildings in the background and yet it's quite understated.


6) Afterlight (Last Light #2) by Alex Scarrow
Apart from the dead trees and the polluted stream, I love the faded, distressed effect of this cover - it perfectly fits the story too.

7) Meat by Joseph D'Lacey
It may be 'just' a bloody meat hook, but it's a huge part of the story too.  This is how I like my horror covers!

8) Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1) by Kendare Blake
It was a toss up between the first and second book covers in this series, but in the end the muted colours with the red highlights won me over.

9) Dead of Night (Dead of Night #1) by Jonathan Maberry
More orange!  There's a definite theme here, but I love the creepy hands, the fonts and its one of those covers that FEELS awesome too.

10) The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
*gasp* not a ruined landscape, but instead a lifeboat adrift.  I love the colour and the simplicity.

So, it appears my taste in covers is pretty dark.  And in ten covers there are only three characters with people on them - and not a single facial close up or weird coloured eyes.  I rest my case.

What are your favourite covers?

20 May 2013

Book Blogger Confessions: Extra Reviewers



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.

Have you added or considered adding additional reviewers to your blog? Why or why not? If you have, please share how you found the right match when bringing new people to your established blog. Did you encounter any problems? 

Last year I put out a call for associate reviewers, and I was really lucky to find Ashley from the Bibliophile's Corner.  At the time I was feeling quite stressed out by book blogging and was looking for someone to help me out occasionally with reviews without having a set commitment.  I know a lot of people don't want to collaborate with someone that already has a blog, but it wasn't an issue for me.


It took a lot for me to admit that I needed help and I was really unsure about having an associate reviewer, but one thing that every reader has in common is a love of books and after a while I wondered why I was so worried - as well as relieving a bit of stress it's FUN.


Over time, what we have done together on my blog has evolved, and in the past few months we have focused more on dual reviews - we read the same book and write our individual reviews which are combined in one post.  It's a fun way to see two opinions side by side, especially as sometimes we completely agree and other times we are at completely different ends of the scale.

When Ashley first contacted me and I checked out her blog, I knew we'd be a good match.  Our tastes are somewhat similar but not exactly, so we have common ground but there's a lot of books Ashley reads that I haven't heard of before, or considered reading, and I'm sure it goes both ways.  It was a pure gut feeling, and it's worked out perfectly.


Bout of Books 7.0 Wrap Up


Bout of Books


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.

Well it's all over bar the wrap-ups, but this was definitely one of the best Bout of Books that I've participated in.

Highlights of the week:

Participating in two Twitter chats and meeting loads of awesome bloggers.

Discovering loads of blogs through the daily link ups.

Finishing four books - no mean feat considering I'd been in a huge reading slump.

The Final Stats:

Books read: 4 - Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, The Night Lives On by Walter Lord, OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu & The Program (Program #1) by Suzanne Young

Total pages read: 1685

Next time: I'm going to try starting without a list of books, considering I started this BoB with 7 specific books and only finished one of them!


19 May 2013

Showcase Sunday #38

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.

The restraint continues!  I'm not purposefully trying to not buy books, but my bank account cries every time I even THINK about it.  But fear not, I've still got some awesome sounding books!


Gated by Amy Christine Parker (thanks to Random House Childrens)
Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair (thanks to Simon & Schuster)
Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas (thanks to Crown Publishing)

18 May 2013

Review: September Girls by Bennett Madison

September Girls by Bennett Madison 

Expected Publication: 21 May 2013 by HarperTeen

Pages: 256 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Fantasy

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

When Sam's dad whisks him and his brother off to a remote beach town for the summer, he's all for it-- at first. Sam soon realizes, though, that this place is anything but ordinary. Time seems to slow down around here, and everywhere he looks, there are beautiful blond girls. Girls who seem inexplicably drawn to him.

Then Sam meets DeeDee, one of the Girls, and she's different from the others. Just as he starts to fall for her, she pulls away, leaving him more confused than ever. He knows that if he's going to get her back, he'll have to uncover the secret of this beach and the girls who live here.


My Thoughts


The first thing that attracted me to September Girls was the cover.  Despite the fact that coupled with the synopsis it strongly hinted at a mermaid story, which I have pretty mixed feelings about, it also sounded kinda mysterious too, which was an added drawcard.

The very first thing that struck me about the book was the language.  Not necessarily the swearing (I've got the mouth of a sailor so I can't really be that judgmental , but the mismatch between the dialogue and the story itself.  The language is quite lyrical and literary in parts, but the dialogue just made me think of chavs.  If you don't know what chavs are, you should totally Google them (if nothing else, it's great for a pick-me-up giggle).  And once I noticed that mismatch it really grated on me.

The characters try to be individual  but when it came to Sam and his brother and parents it felt like they were trying all a little bit too hard.  There's something of a mystery about Sam's mother which is never completely explained, and his brother is such a stereotype and goes from best-buddy-brother to almost non-existent, even before there is a good reason behind it.

Sam himself really wasn't very individual or memorable, and I think if I had found him more appealing I would have enjoyed September Girls much more.  After all, he's the main character, and it's his story, yet he almost fades into the background.

There's also a huge lull in the middle, where I was waiting for something to happen for what felt like 200 pages of back and forth, something bordering on insta-love, and a family dynamic that really just didn't mesh.

However, I was totally intrigued about the Girls.   Their POV is a gradual reveal rather than an information dump, and the writing of it is almost poetic.  I also liked that the ending was more open than a happily ever after story.

Overall, I'm completed conflicted about this book.  There were parts that I loved, such as the POV of the Girls themselves, parts that I was completely ambivalent about, such as the interactions between Sam and his family, and parts that frustrated me, such as Sam's plodding personality.  There are flashes of brilliance but there were just too many mismatches for me.


17 May 2013

Review: Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood

Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood

Published: 5 March 2013 by Europa Editions

Pages: 272 (paperback)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction

Source: Own library

Synopsis

March 18, 1925. The day begins as any other rainy, spring day in the small settlement of Marah, Illinois. But the town lies directly in the path of the worst tornado in US history, which will descend without warning midday and leave the community in ruins. By nightfall, hundreds will be homeless and hundreds more will lie in the streets, dead or grievously injured. Only one man, Paul Graves, will still have everything he started the day with –– his family, his home, and his business, all miraculously intact.

Based on the historic Tri-State tornado, Falling to Earth follows Paul Graves and his young family in the year after the storm as they struggle to comprehend their own fate and that of their devastated town, as they watch Marah resurrect itself from the ruins, and as they miscalculate the growing resentment and hostility around them with tragic results.


My Thoughts

I bought this book primarily because of it's plot - a natural disaster in the 1920s is a combination of two kinds of books I love to read so it was logical that I wanted to read it. And although it wasn't exactly what I expected, I was hooked from the first page.

The characters are typical small-town folk - Paul runs the local lumberyard, his wife and mother keep house and his three young children attend the local school.  The family have worked hard all their lives, and are just starting to enjoy the fruits of their labours when the tornado hits and their lives change immediately.

My one and only small issue with the whole book was the characterisation of Paul's wife, Mae.   In the first part of the book I had trouble telling her apart from Paul's mother Lavinia, although to be fair it may have actually been intentional to show the closeness of their relationship, however it did leave me a little confused on a handful of occasions.

If you're looking for an action-packed natural disaster thriller, this is probably not the book for you.  The opener is a real blinder and I couldn't look away, but it wasn't the action and the devastation that had me hooked - it was the sadness, shock and confusion of the townspeople.

In the aftermath, the emotions of the characters were so pitch-perfect it was hard to believe it was fiction - every action and reaction felt so very realistic I could even imagine myself acting in the same way as many of the townspeople - jealousy, resentment and guilt were so palpable that I ended up feeling quite raw from all the emotions that were being so subtly revealed.

Falling to Earth is an intense book that focuses far more on the psychological reactions of the characters than I initially expected, and I have to say again just how impressed I was that Ms. Southwood managed to capture so many emotions and reactions so intensely without being overly-dramatic.  

15 May 2013

Review: Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero (Joe Ledger #1) by Jonathan Maberry

Published: 3 March 2009 by St. Martin's Griffin

Pages: 421 (paperback)

Genre/s: Horror, Zombie, Thriller

Source: Own library

Synopsis


When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there's either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills... and there's nothing wrong with Joe Ledger's skills.  And that's both a good, and a bad thing.  It's good because he's a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can't handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It's bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance....

My Thoughts

I'll tell anyone that will listen that Jonathan Maberry is one of my favourite authors.  In the zombie genre he's something of a legend - after all, his multiple series cover just about every genre - Benny Imura is a YA Zombie series, Dead of Night is adult horror lover, and then there's Joe Ledger who is a dizzy combination of horror, action, thriller and conspiracy all rolled into one.

The whole premise of the Joe Ledger series should actually turn me off completely - I'm not the biggest fan of military ops kinda stuff - weapons and strategy talk bore me senseless, and typically the characters tend to be pretty one dimensional.  But this is the magic of Jonathan Maberry - he can take a story that should only appeal to a certain group of readers, and make it something that any reader could enjoy.

Joe himself is the kind of character that is infinitely fascinating - although tough as nails physically he has his own emotional demons that make him likable and easy to sympathise with, all whilst cheering him on as he kicks baddies in the face and wrestles zombies.

The plot of Patient Zero is not just an endless barrage of violence however.  There are crosses, double-crosses, and some really evil characters that are enormous fun to despise, and a fair few of the twists were not easy to figure out.  This is one action-packed book - there's very little downtime but somehow in the middle of all the zombie slaughter there's more than enough opportunity to get to know Joe and the other characters in-depth.

The actual science behind the zombies varies from Maberry's other books - there is some pretty detailed scientific explanation, and although I'm no expert, it all feels very real and plausible without being overwhelming.

Revisiting Patient Zero was a wild ride, and once again I really enjoyed it.  Now it's time to re-read the next book in the series, The Dragon Factory, and then get onto the ones I haven't read yet!

14 May 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Tough Issue Books


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

Almost every contemporary novel I read is an 'issues' book.  It's not that I don't enjoy happy, fun books, but I find issues books to be so compelling that I just can't step away from them....


1) Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Here I am, flogging this book again! But I loved this book so much, despite it covering not just a tough issue, but a very taboo one - incest.  Suzuma took what could have been a nausea-inducing storyline and managed to make me care very much about the characters, which I didn't think was possible.

2) Gemma by Meg Tilly

This will probably be my most intense book of 2013, due to it's graphic story of child abuse and paedophilia.    But with such a fabulous protagonist in Gemma, I was completely captured by this book.

3) A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

I read this book years ago, but it still sticks with me.  The author's horrific childhood made me so incredibly angry, but his determination to make a better life for himself really had me cheering him on.

4) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I don't often read books about cancer, as it is a topic that strikes very close to home.  However, John Green took something that could have been incredibly difficult and injected the characters with so much life and passion and personality that I couldn't help but love it.

5) Room by Emma Donoghue

I know I mentioned this book recently, but it's definitely a tough issue book that I loved, particularly as it was told through the naive yet sweet perspective of Jack.


6) Life is But A Dream by Brian James

Mental Health is one of those literary issues that I always feel drawn to, and Life Is But a Dream really captivated me and I loved the characters.

7) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I remember reading this book on a summer holiday (yeah, I don't do 'beach reads' the normal way) and I was completely captivated, appalled and saddened.  I really wish I had time to read it again, because despite the darkness of it, it was so beautifully written.

8) Fault Line by Christa Desir

It's not released until November, but this book was so intense, disturbing and different from what I expected.      It really felt like the author knew her stuff with this one.


9) By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters

Probably one of the most intense books about bullying and suicide that I've read.

10) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I debated whether to include this book because it's so much more than an issues book - there's a whole bunch of other happy, uplifting things too, but one of the main characters dealing with his disability.  And because I loved it so damn much.

Does anyone else feel weird when they say the enjoy/like/love 'issues' books?   Not that there's something weird about liking them, but that using those words seems a little 'awkward'? 


13 May 2013

Review: Are We There Yet? by David Levithan

Are We There Yet? by David Levithan

Published:
12 July 2005 by Knopf

Pages: 215 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Contemporary, YA, Travel

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Elijah is completely mellow and his 23-year-old brother Danny is completely not, so it’s no wonder they can barely tolerate one another. So what better way to repair their broken relationship than to trick them into taking a trip to Italy together? Soon, though, their parents’ perfect solution has become Danny and Elijah’s nightmare as they’re forced to spend countless hours together. But then Elijah meets Julia, and soon the brothers aren’t together nearly as much. And then Julia meets Danny and soon all three of them are in a mixed-up, turned-around, never-what-you-expect world of brothers, Italy, and love.

My Thoughts

My David Levithan obsession continues! After reading and adoring Every Day, I went out and bought four more David Levithan books, Are We There Yet? being one that really intrigued me. Much is made of the relationships between sisters, but I've certainly not read many books about the relationships between brothers. And never having been a brother myself (but having three of them), I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

Born seven years apart, Danny and Elijah are complete opposites - Danny is a workaholic advertising guru and Elijah is a high school student who is more interested in chilling out and getting stoned than really being engaged with the world. And their relationship is incredibly strained - they have very little in common and are sent on holiday together by their parents but aren't really interested in spending any time together.

I found both of them frustrating, but Elijah in particular was quite likable, despite his pretty laid-back attitude towards life. I do wish there had been more about Julia's past as I found it quite hard to understand her behaviour, which wasn't really wierd but rather quite random. What I did like though was that there wasn't a huge focus on the relationships between Julie and the brothers, instead it was more of a hint of what could have been.

Although the relationship between the brothers changes during the course of their journey, I found it quite hard to pinpoint exactly when it evolved, which is both a positive and a negative - a positive because there's nothing worse than the blatant 'let's love each other now' moment, and a negative in that I didn't really understand why their relationship changed and they became closer.

The setting of Are We There Yet? immediately grabbed me - Italy is one of those countries that is right up there on my Must Travel list, and through the course of the book Danny and Elijah travel through Venice, Florence and Rome, and their experiences in the three cities are very different but also very similar.

Overall I did enjoy Are We There Yet? - it was a quick, fun read and although I didn't really get everything that I'd hoped for, I loved that it was about the relationship between brothers, and there was more than enough travel references to satisfy my travel bug.

12 May 2013

Bout of Books 7.0: Goals and Updates


Bout of Books


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.



It's time for Bout of Books again!  If you'd like to join in, it's not too late - just click on the picture and go and sign up - it's a huge amount of fun and a great way to meet new bloggers.



Now, time for some goals!  I've got Monday off work so I'm hoping to get started with a bang.


My goals for this week are:

Finish Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes - finished 13/5/13
Finish Meta-Horde by Sean T. Page
Finish The Dragon Factory (Joe Ledger #2) by Jonathan Maberry
Read No Angel by Helen Keeble
Read Once (Eve #2) by Anna Carey
Read Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers
Read Quarantined by Joe McKinney

And below I'll be posting my updates at the end of each day.

Big goals considering how little I've been reading lately, but I'm up for the challenge!

Monday 13/5
Books finishedMatterhorn by Karl Marlantes (294 pages)
Books in progressMeta-Horde by Sean T. Page (31 pages) & The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern (43 pages)
Total read so far: 1 book, 368 pages
Today in summary: I went off-list already!  Overall I'm pretty happy with today, but back to work tomorrow, boo :(

Tuesday 14/5
Books finished: none today :(
Books in progress: Meta-Horde by Sean T. Page (12 pages) & The Night Lives On by Walter Lord (13 pages)
Total read so far: 1 book, 392 pages
Today in summary: Work (ugh) and Eurovision (fun!) meant I read nearly nothing today.  Must squeeze in more pages tomorrow!

Wednesday 14/5
Books finished: another day with nothing completed!
Books in progress: Meta-Horde by Sean T. Page (28 pages), The Night Lives On by Walter Lord (27 pages) & The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern (117 pages)
Total read so far: 1 book, 564 pages
Today in summary: Distracted by the internets (and Candy Crush) again!  This is an early update though, so I'm going to head to bed for another couple of hours of reading!

Thursday 15/5
Books finished: The drought continues, but I'm ramping up for a day of finishing at least two books on Saturday!
Books in progress: Meta-Horde by Sean T. Page (34 pages), The Night Lives On by Walter Lord (117 pages)
Total read so far: 1 book, 715 pages
Today in summary: After working until nearly 8pm it was time for Eurovision again - but this time I multi-tasked and scheduled blog posts up until next Wednesday and commented my little fingers off, so it wasn't wasted time.  More bedtime reading coming up!

Friday 16/5
Books finished: Ok this is more like it - The Night Lives On by Walter Lord (final 107 pages)
Books in progress: OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu (197 pages)
Total read so far: 2 books, 1019 pages
Today in summary: It's the weekend!  Nothing can compare ;)

Saturday 17/5
Books finished: OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu (155 pages)
Books in progress: The Program (Program #1) by Suzanne Young (58 pages)
Total read so far: 3 books, 1232 pages
Today in summary: Participated in today's Twitter chat and met even MORE awesome bloggers!  Won't do much more reading tonight because it's Eurovision night - snacks, wine and trash talk!

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