30 June 2013

Showcase Sunday #44

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.

Argh this week has been so busy!  Because I'm on vacation this week (Huzzah!!), I spent all of last week working like mad to get everything done, so now it feels like I REALLY need a break!

I did have some books on order, but due to a postal strike they are still sitting in distribution and will probably be delivered sometime next week :(

So just one new book, but I'm really excited about it:

Shudder (Stitch Trilogy #2) by Samantha Durante - my blog tour post will be at the end of the week, and I loved the first book so I'm excited to get into this one!

What's new in your world this week?

29 June 2013

Review: Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

Published: 14 June 2012 by Razorbill

Pages: 272 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Zoe knows she doesn’t belong in a hospital—so why is she in one?

Twin Birch isn’t just any hospital. It’s a strange mansion populated by unnerving staff and glassy-eyed patients. It’s a place for girls with serious problems; skinny, spindly girls who have a penchant for harming themselves.

Zoe isn’t like them. And she can’t figure out why she was sent here. Writing letters to her best friend Elise keep her sane, grounded in the memories of her past—but mired in them, too. Elise never writes back.

Zoe is lost without her, unsure of how to navigate tenuous new friendships and bizarre rules without Elise by her side. But as her letters intertwine with journal entries chronicling her mysterious life at Twin Birch, another narrative unfolds. The hidden story of a complicated friendship; of the choices we make, the truths we tell others, and the lies we tell ourselves. The story of a friendship that has the potential to both save—and damage beyond repair. And Zoe finds she must confront the truth about her past once and for all, before she can finally let go.

My Thoughts

I've read a fair share of YA 'issue' books in the past, but Zoe Letting Go is the first one I've read that deals directly with eating disorders.  And unlike many issues books, eating disorders is something we can all probably relate to a little - that voice inside our heads that tells us we really shouldn't have that second piece of cake, a crash diet before we go on holidays to look better in a swimsuit - food, unfortunately, can have a pretty big grip on our lives at one time or another.

Zoe Letting Go begins with Zoe being admitted to Twin Birch, a treatment centre for eating disorders, without actually knowing that is why she is there, and alternates between letters to her best friend, Elise, and diary entries detailing the treatment, other patients and internal struggles that Zoe goes through without even really realising it.

Although not an outstandingly individual character, Zoe represents a huge chunk of teenage society - she's not popular and not a total outcast, she has one very close friend and a few casual acquaintances, and is an average student.  And it is only as her time at Twin Birch progresses that the underlying issues of her life really come to the surface, bit by bit.

Zoe Letting Go is an intense read - although there is very little 'action' as such, the tension Zoe feels between herself, Elise and the other patients makes for a very readable story, and I read the whole book in a single sitting because it was a little like watching a train wreck - I was shocked, but I couldn't look away.

My one and only niggle was that I couldn't really understand the reaction of Zoe's mother to her daughter's obviously escalating problems, and that the only solution that seemed to be tried was admitting her directly to a very exclusive program far from home.

Nora Price's writing style is very easy to read - there is emotion and pain between the lines, and as Zoe spills out her secrets in the pages of her diary I could feel the tension building up to the climax of the story, which completely took me by surprise.

Zoe Letting Go is a book that I'm very glad I read - it's shockingly intimate and compulsive reading.

28 June 2013

Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Published: 14 March 2013 by Doubleday

Pages: 529 (Hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Source: Own library

Synopsis

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

My Thoughts

Many years ago, I read one of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books, and I was rather impressed with her writing style.  However it was only when I saw Life After Life doing the rounds on a few book hauls that I was really intrigued - firstly by the synopsis but also how would Ms. Atkinson create a story out of such an idea?

As the synopsis suggests, Life After Life is the story of Ursula's life - again and again and again.  By the time I had finished reading, I couldn't actually remember how many times Ursula had died, so it's definitely more than a handful of times.  Some lives are short, others last for thirty, or even sixty years, and each one begins in the same circumstances.  She has no memory as such of her previous lives, rather a sense of deja vu that she doesn't quite understand.

Life After Life is one of those books that I had to keep reading - I wanted to know how each of Ursula's lives ended, and more specifically, how the choices she made changed the outcome of her childhood, teenage years or adulthood.   I was a little concerned that reading the same parts about childhood over and over again would become a little tedious, but instead of having the same POV, it alternates between key characters at the time of Ursula's birth, giving a more unique perspective.  And this is also the cleverest part of the book - Atkinson writes it in a way that it's not a verbatim repeat of Ursula's previous life, but in a way that gave me as the reader a sense of deja vu as well as Ursula.

The only part of the book that didn't completely sell me was one of the lengthier and more imaginative lives that Ursula lives - as a work of fiction I can accept it being an imaginative and perhaps slightly embellished plot line, but there was too much of the how missing to make it as believable as the rest of the story.

Life After Life is a very, very clever book that I really enjoyed.  By the end I was very intimately connected with the characters from seeing them in so many different situations and their consistency despite their radically changed circumstances is perfect.  The underlying theme is obviously that one small thing can completely change the course of your life, but there isn't always a 'better' choice.

27 June 2013

Review: The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

Published: 11 June 2013 by HarperCollins

Pages: 224 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

Award-winning author Simon Van Booy tells a harrowing and enchanting story of how one man's act of mercy during World War II changed the lives of a group of strangers, and how they each eventually discover the astonishing truth of their connection.

My Thoughts

I'm always drawn to books about World War II, and over the last few years that has morphed into looking for more unique books about WWII - and the Illusion of Separateness appealed to me as it is about a group of people who are connected without knowing.

I've not read Simon Van Booy before, but the very first thing that struck me about The Illusion of Separateness and continued to entertain me thoughout the book is the writing style.  Stark and poetic, it did take a little getting used to, but it's a very effective way of telling a story without getting bogged down in wordy descriptions or details.  Not surprisingly, seeing as Van Booy has won awards for Poetry, there are dozens of quotable passages that snuck up and grabbed me when I least expected them.

As the plot goes, it's fairly simplistic but extremely clever - none of the characters seem to have any connection to each other, and it's only as the story progresses that the extent of their connection becomes apparent, even across multiple generations.  As far as the characters go, they range from a young blind girl through to war veterans and all of them are very seperate entities.

It's hard to do this book justice without spoiling large parts of the story, but I was incredibly impressed by The Illusion of Separateness - it surprised me, moved me and even shocked me in all the right places.

25 June 2013

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013

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

My reading for the first half of the year has been vastly different to previous years.  I'm finding myself becoming a little bit more stingy with my five star ratings, so these books have worked HARD to make this list!

As a comparison, only 15% of my reads so far this year were five-stars (and three of those were re-reads), whereas in 2012 it was nearly 23%.  Whether I'm becoming more fussy or whether I'm reading more outside my normal zone I'm not quite sure, but it was difficult to pick my Top Ten so far!
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Gemma by Meg Tilly
Croak (Croak #1) by Gina Damico
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Tribulation (Rapture Trilogy #2) by Phillip W. Simpson
Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood
Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2) by Veronica Rossi
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

What are your favourite reads of the year so far?

24 June 2013

Debut-a-Thon - It's On!


The fabulous Amber at Books Of Amber is hosting a Debut-A-Thon!  Seeing as I am a total read-a-thon whore, I just had to sign up!   Adult, Young Adult or Middle Grade are fair game - the only requirement is that the book is a 2013 debut.

Of course, as yet I have NO idea what I'm going to read, but I'll certainly be able to find something.  My updates and wrap up will be listed here.  

If you're a read-a-thon whore or are planning to read some debuts during these days, go sign up now!

23 June 2013

Showcase Sunday #43


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.

Just two new books this week, which is probably a good thing after my little book binge of last week!

Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle (thanks to Simon & Schuster)
Exodus (Extinction Point #2) by Paul Anthony Jones

This time next week I will be on vacation, huzzah!  Only for a week and I'm not going anywhere exciting but I can't wait to just do nothing.

What's new on your shelves this week?

22 June 2013

Review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Boyfriend (Anatomy #1) by Daria Snadowsky

Published: 9 January 2007 by Delacorte

Pages: 272 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction

Source: Author for review

Synopsis

Before this all happened, the closest I'd ever come to getting physical with a guy was playing the board game Operation. Okay, so maybe that sounds pathetic, but it's not like there were any guys at my high school who I cared to share more than three words with, let alone my body.

Then I met Wes, a track star senior from across town. Maybe it was his soulful blue eyes, or maybe my hormones just started raging. Either way, I was hooked. And after a while, he was too. I couldn't believe how intense my feelings became, or the fact that I was seeing—and touching—parts of the body I'd only read about in my Gray's Anatomy textbook. You could say Wes and I experienced a lot of firsts together that spring. It was scary. It was fun. It was love.

And then came the fall.

My Thoughts

When it comes to Young Adult books focusing on first relationships, I'm always a little wary - they can either be fantastically funny and awkward, or completely unrealistic.  But I'd already heard good things about the Anatomy series, so I was looking forward to finding out just how this book worked for me.

Dom is a pretty average teenage girl, who actually already has her future pretty much decided, but has never had a boyfriend and never been kissed.  I liked Dom right from the beginning - her awkwardness felt real and familiar, and when she meets Wes at a track meet, she falls pretty hard for him.  Although I did question a little WHY Dom and Wes got involved with each other as there's not an obvious attraction, it's also understandable - some girls make it through their teenage years without becoming more than a little bit obsessed with a guy, and some don't.  Dom is one of the ones that doesn't.

Although the interaction between Dom and Wes wasn't perfect, head-over-heels romance, it made the book feel more realistic - and it felt more like they were attracted to the idea of each other, which is how a lot of teenage relationships actually develop.  

What I particularly liked about Anatomy of a Boyfriend is how very realistic it is - there's no romanticising first boyfriends, kisses or sexual encounters - Dom and Wes' first relationships, kisses and sexual encounters are fraught with the awkward, uncertain and sometimes downright hilarious screw ups that pretty much everyone would be familiar with.

Some readers might question the level of obsession that Dom seems to sink to when it comes to Wes, but it's also something that isn't that uncommon.  I thought my first boyfriend was the best thing since sliced bread and ended up with me arguing with his mother in a court room.

Funny, sweet and so very realistic, I enjoyed Anatomy of a Boyfriend enormously - it's a book that I wish I'd read when I was sixteen or seventeen.

21 June 2013

Review: Exiled by M.R. Merrick

Exiled (The Protector #1) by M.R. Merrick

Published: 28 June 2011

Pages: 264 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Fantasy

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Chase Williams is a demon hunter in the Circle, or at least he was supposed to be. On his fifteenth birthday, Chase stepped up to the altar to claim his elemental power, but it never came. Elemental magic is passed down to a hunter through the bloodline, but on Chase's birthday, the bloodline stopped. 

Exiled without the Circle's protection, Chase has spent two years trying to survive a world riddled with half-demons and magic. When he has a run in with a frightened and seemingly innocent demon, he learns the Circle's agenda has changed: the Circle plans to unlock a portal and unleash pure-blood demons into the world. Vowing to stop them, and knowing he can't do it alone, Chase forms a reluctant alliance with Rayna — a sexy witch with an attitude and a secret. 

In their attempt to stop them, Chase and Rayna find themselves in the middle of the Circle's plan, leaving one of them to decide what their friendship is worth, and the other's life depending on it.

My Thoughts

Fantasy is not my genre - I love a good zombie and the occassional vampire or werewolf, but demons and warlocks and trolls aren't really my thing.   I'm not sure quite WHY, but we've just never really clicked.  But The Protector series is one that I've heard loads about, and it sounded pretty damn good so once again it was time to step out of the comfort zone and try something different.

Exiled opens with the shocker of Chase being thrown out of the Circle for not having any magic despite his impressive family bloodline, and learning pretty damn quickly to survive in a world where demons are constantly trying to kill him, without the help of magic.

I really liked Chase -  he's stubborn and handy with a dagger, but also shows incredibly loyalty to the people that are important to him, and with a smart-ass attitude he is just the kind of character I enjoy meeting in the pages of a book.  There are a cast of other characters, both goodies and baddies, and all of them are well-rounded, memorable and unique.  And unlike many other fantasy novels, there is something for everyone - vampires, witches and trolls compete and work together throughout the story.

Exiled runs at a pretty fast pace - there are very few periods of downtime, and those scenes that are a little slower are vital to the plot, so it's a fast and furious read.  There are frantic, scary fight scenes and more than a little bit of magic to keep even the most die-hard fantasy fan happy.  

And those trolls and warlocks?  Well I may have to rethink my stance on that - M.R. Merrick has created a fantasy world that isn't overwhelmingly extreme, yet is imaginative, fun and scary all at the same time.  I'm really looking forward to reading more of this series.

20 June 2013

Review: In the After by Demitria Lunetta

In the After by Demitria Lunetta

Expected Publication: 25 June 2013 by HarperTeen

Pages: 400 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Post-Apocalyptic



Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

They hear the most silent of footsteps.

They are faster than anything you've ever seen.

And They won't stop chasing you...until you are dead.

Amy is watching TV when it happens, when the world is attacked by Them. These vile creatures are rapidly devouring mankind. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to escape—and even rescue “Baby,” a toddler left behind in the chaos. Marooned in Amy’s house, the girls do everything they can to survive—and avoid Them at all costs.

After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she’ll lose Baby—and much more.


My Thoughts

I'd been eyeing In the After ever since I saw it in the HarperTeen catalogue. Even the blurb had an air of mystery about it - who are They? And considering They are the catalyst for an apocalypse, I was all over it like a cheap suit (I've always wanted to say that).

In the After jumps straight into the action as Amy finds herself in a world that has been brutally invaded by creatures that no one seems to have any knowledge about. She does get lucky in that her house is heavily protected due to her mother's job, and her hippy father has had a hand in making it almost completely self-sufficient, but otherwise she is pretty much on her own.

I liked Amy quite a bit - from a girl who seemingly should have been alien food from the beginning, she develops into a tough, dedicated girl who will do anything to keep Baby safe and adapts quickly to her changed environment. I loved the relationship she developed with Baby, the way that they depended on each other for survival whilst still providing a close companionship that kept them both safe and sane during the years after the invasion.

It was only when Amy and Baby ended up in the colony of New Hope that things went a little off the rails for me. The remainder of the story is told in flashbacks, which I can normally deal with, but the flashes were so short that I started to feel like I was being yanked back and forth rather than gliding in and out of them. It seems like it was written this way to keep the pacing at the same level, which it does, but for me it could have worked just as well with a bit of a slow-down in the middle.

There are action scenes, relationship-building, a bit of a flirtation and mystery all of which I really enjoyed, and I feel that Ms. Lunetta has put a quite unique spin on the YA apocalyptic genre. The ending is left open for the possibility of another book, and if that book does happen I'd more than happily grab a copy as it feels there is still a lot left to explore.


18 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR


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

I'm terrible at sticking to reading lists, but maybe this will give me a kick in the bum!  This week is a mixture of series I want to finish, series I need to get caught up on and some new releases that I can't wait to read.


Series to Finish
Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver
Survivors (Morningstar Strain #3) by Z.A. Recht & Thom Brennan

Series to Catch Up On
Shadows (Ashes Trilogy #2) by Ilsa J. Bick
Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry
Fragments (Partials Sequence #2) by Dan Wells


New Releases I'm Exited For
The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
Gated by Amy Christine Parker
Not A Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinniss
Blackout (Blackout #1) by Robison Wells
No Angel by Helen Keeble

What's on your summer TBR?

17 June 2013

Book Blogger Confessions: ALA, BEA and all the good stuff


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.

BEA, ALA. Have you ever been before? If you've been before, share your experiences; both pro & con. If you haven't gone before, do you participate in online events like Armchair BEA? Do you hope to go one day? Do you feel too intimidated to go? Are you jealous of the big book hauls and tweets during the events?

I could insert multiple gifs here with people crying their little hearts out, throwing tantrums or just generally getting their strop-on.  No, I've never been to BEA or ALA....

I do participate in Armchair BEA, and it's a great alternative - I've discovered loads of awesome blogs through it, and there are always lots of interesting discussions going on.  Yes, it's not the same as drowning yourself in bookish goodies and people, but I can do it in my pajamas, so that's at least one bonus.

One day I would love to go to BEA, and who knows, maybe it will happen, but if not, I'm not going to get upset and jealous of the people that do.  I can take a train to Paris in less than four hours, fly to London in 45 minutes or be in Amsterdam in less than half an hour - I've got plenty to keep me occupied close to home ;-).  Plus sending all those books home would probably cost more than the flights just to get there....

If I did go, I probably would feel slightly intimidated, at least in the beginning.  I'm not the most outgoing of people and spending three days jammed into a convention center with hundreds of other people would probably leave me pretty physically and mentally exhausted, but probably all the bookish excitement would help me get over that pretty quick!

I can understand that people might feel a bit jealous about the big book hauls and Tweets during events, but I certainly don't.  I LOVE seeing photos from BEA and New York, the book haul posts make me drool and I love hearing what a fabulous time everyone had.  And for the people that don't, just a small tip - don't read the posts and Tweets if it makes you upset :) it's not very nice to make people feel guilty for talking about something they enjoyed.

16 June 2013

Showcase Sunday #42


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.

So I went a little overboard the other week on Amazon......but I read 8 books this week so it's actually just topping up my shelves - right?!

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Originals by Cat Patrick
My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait
The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
Every You, Every Me by David Levithan
Fractured (Slated #2) by Teri Terry
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Follow Me Down by Tanya Byrne
Rise (Eve #3) by Anna Carey
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood
Anatomy of a Boyfriend (Anatomy #1) by Daria Snadowsky
Anatomy of a Single Girl (Anatomy #2) by Daria Snadowsky

Books not shown
Audiobooks
Scorch (Croak #2) by Gina Damico
Icons (Icons #1) by Margaret Stohl
Ebooks
Contaminated by Em Garner (thanks to Egmont USA)
Goat Mountain by David Vann (thanks to Harper Collins)
Believe by Sarah Aronson (thanks to Carolrhoda Books)

What's new on your shelves this week?

15 June 2013

Review: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Published: 7 March 2000 by Random House

Pages: 736 (paperback)

Genre/s: I have no fucking idea


Source: Own library

Synopsis

Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth -- musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies -- the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story -- of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

My Thoughts

If you are interested in seeing what the book looks like, I ramble almost coherently and show it in the video.  What I actually thought of it is in the text below.



I first heard about House of Leaves during a group discussion on Goodreads about 'strange' books.  Someone told me House of Leaves was a freaky wierd book that scared the hell out of her, so I was instantly interested, and ordered a copy a few weeks later.

The first thing that I thought when I opened the mail was 'oh shit, what I have I gotten myself into?' because even though I read my fair share of big books, this one is HUGE.  700+ pages may not sound like that many, but it's the size of a city phone book.  I was tempted just to tuck it into the bookshelves with every intention of reading it 'one day', until peer pressure got to me, so I sat down one Sunday afternoon and started reading.

This book is everything - it's horrible, fantastic, boring, exciting, intriguing and frustrating all at once - there are times that I couldn't stop reading, and times when I wanted to throw it against the wall.  It's disjointed yet coherent, intriguing yet bland and in the end, I enjoyed it much more than I did during some parts of reading it.  And considering that this is Mr. Danielewski's debut novel, it's certainly an epic undertaking that is pretty flawlessly executed.

I didn't find it particularly scary, although some of the things that the characters experience is enough to make you crack out the measuring tape, and the mental health of Johnny Truant who puts together the book itself is more than questionable, it was mostly the range of emotions that I went through when reading it that will really stick with me.

I'm combining my written review with a video review mainly so I can show you what the inside of the book looks like, and also to expand upon the synopsis a little further, but in short I thought that the lay-out and use of font really added an extra dimension to the story - even if I was at serious risk of a sprained wrist.

14 June 2013

Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Published: 13 March 2013 by Delacorte

Pages: 338 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Travel

Source: Own Library

Synopsis

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

My Thoughts

I've always wanted to go backpacking, but I totally lack the guts and ability to sleep in shady dorm rooms.  And travel with a backpack.  And not plan everything to a minute, obsessive detail.  And I'm a hotel snob.  Even glamping is out of my comfort zone.  

 So you'd think that a book about backpacking probably wouldn't do it for me, but that's not true.  It taps into everything that I wish I could be, but I'm pretty much aware that I never will be - reading is the ultimate in vicarious living, and Kirsten Hubbard pretty much had it all for me in Wanderlove.

The only downside was that I didn't particularly like Bria - I found her slightly whingey, and although she's brave enough to shrug off the middle-aged tour group she signed up for and goes backpacking with a couple of strangers, she's still holding onto some pretty intense issues that she couldn't shed with her rolling suitcase.  Yes, there needs to be character growth but the growth was just too slow for me - I wanted to see her blossom more in the middle of the book, rather than just towards the end.

Despite the fact that the character growth felt a little uneven, I really enjoyed Bria and Rowan's stories, and the way that they interacted with each other, and the growth that they both went through as people, Bria using travel as a way to rediscover who she really is, and Rowan to find out who he wants to be.  

But aside from the fact that Bria and I weren't really on the best of terms, I loved the actual story of Wanderlove, the drawings (which I wanted WAY more of), the travel and the overall feel of the book - I just wanted to keep reading and I was a little sad when it ended.

Even if travelling au-natural isn't your cup of tea, I can still definitely recommend Wanderlove - it's a sweet, fun and beautifully written story that was perfect for a sunny afternoon read.

13 June 2013

Review: Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin

Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin

Published: 25 September 2012 by Random House

Pages: 368 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA/Dystopian

Source: Own library

Synopsis

THEN: The formation of the UNA, the high threat of eco-terrorism, the mammoth rates of unemployment and subsequent escape into a world of virtual reality are things any student can read about in their 21st century textbooks and part of the normal background noise to Freya Kallas's life. Until that world starts to crumble.

NOW: It's 1985. Freya Kallas has just moved across the world and into a new life. On the outside, she fits in at her new high school, but Freya feels nothing but removed. Her mother blames it on the grief over her father's death, but how does that explain the headaches and why do her memories feel so foggy? When Freya lays eyes on Garren Lowe, she can't get him out of her head. She's sure that she knows him, despite his insistence that they've never met. As Freya follows her instincts and pushes towards hidden truths, the two of them unveil a strange and dangerous world where their days may be numbered. Unsure who to trust, Freya and Garren go on the run from powerful forces determined to tear them apart and keep them from discovering the truth about their shared pasts (and futures), her visions, and the time and place they really came from.

My Thoughts

I'm going to do this review a little differently by saying at the beginning that I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would, based on it's Goodreads rating.  Currently it sits at 3.34 average which actually surprises me quite a bit, because it's one more the more unique YA dystopians than I've read in a long time.

Yesterday is almost split into two parts, beginning with Freya trying to find her place in a new school with a vaguely unsettled, disconnected feeling.  Whilst I enjoyed this part of the book, it was the second half, when Freya finds out more about who she really is that I liked far more, and it had all the things I like about YA dystopians - a plot that's different to the normal, a romance that doesn't get off to the best start and it could have worked pretty well as a stand alone (don't worry series lovers, apparently it is not!).

I was a little unsure how I felt about Freya in the beginning, but by the end of the book she had gone through so much, with so much courage, that I found it impossible NOT to like her.  I really liked her relationship with Garren and that it grew over the course of the story, rather than falling into the insta-love trap.  Their relationship is rather intense, but their shared experiences understandably bond them together.

There is a rather large info-dump at the halfway point, but I didn't mind it because it was the only way that the book could have retained its individualism, and it made for fascinating and horrifying reading.   There are also parts of the story that I found a little confusing, but as the story progressed more and more of those confusing points were clarified.

Not everything falls easily into place, and not all the questions are answered, but I actually liked that - it left a lot more to the imagination and really had me guessing in the first half, and I wasn't disappointed in the second half either.  The pacing is pretty consistent, and I read this in one sitting because I just HAD to find out what happened next.

With a writing style that felt incredibly comfortable and was so easy to lose myself in, Yesterday is a book that I wish I had read sooner, rather than being put off by the opinions of other readers.  It just goes to show that you should always read a book for yourself and make your own judgements.

11 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Beach Reads


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

I'm definitely not the one reading chick-lit on the beach, and not even necessarily something light either.  From historical fiction to slasher horror, these are my Top Ten Books that I have actually read on a beach.  Or on an airplane to the beach ;)

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
The Bronze Horseman (The Bronze Horseman #1) by Paullina Simons
Morning Glory by LaVryle Spencer
Last Light (Afterlight #1) by Alex Scarrow
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
The Stand by Stephen King
Trapped (Afraid #2) by Jack Kilborn
The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter #2) by Thomas Harris
The Love of My Life by Louise Douglas

What are your favourite beach reads?

10 June 2013

Review: The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait

The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait

Published: 1 April 2013 by Picador

Pages: 320 (hardback)

Genre/s: Contemporary

Source: Own library

Synopsis

This novel will open your eyes and break your heart.

It is the story of Emma’s two brothers – the one who died five years ago and the one who left home on the day of the funeral and has not returned since.

It is the story of her parents – who have been keeping the truth from Emma, and each other.

It is a story you will want to talk about, and one you will never forget.

My Thoughts

I came across The View on the Way Down quite randomly on my Amazon Recommended page, and the cover was the first thing that caught my eye.  Coupled with the slightly sparse synopsis, I was intrigued - and the rest, as they say, is history.

At the beginning of the book, I thought The View On the Way Down would probably be one of those sweet coming-of-age stories - Emma is fourteen years old, her parents are practically divorced but still sleeping in the same bed, and her older brother has disappeared.  Emma is lonely, has self-confidence issues and a dedication to God.   And that's when I started to feel a little uncomfortable - did I pick up a religious book by mistake?    Insert spoiler here because I think it's important for people who don't enjoy religious books - Emma's religion is a plot device only, and gradually plays less and less of a role in her life.

The View on the Way Down is told in multiple POV's and formats, which actually surprised me when it happened - although the synopsis actually suggests otherwise, I went into this book thinking it was told completely from Emma's perspective, but all the family members have their say, and there is also one part told completely in letters which worked extremely well.

The characters are realistic and varied - it was easy to sympathise with Emma, who struggles to make friends and whose family pretty much imploded when she was too young to understand what was happening, and now lives in the fall out without realising why her father isolates himself and her mother throws herself into being the perfect housewife.   None of the characters are perfect, and all have dealt with the death of one of the brothers, Kit, in their own very personal way.

I'm always a little wary of books that say they will break your heart in the synopsis.  I'm a pretty tough nut to crack and although The View on the Way Down didn't have me in floods of tears, it was certainly very touching and in parts, quite emotional to read as the characters deal with grief, guilt, blame and forgiveness, particularly in the final third of the book.

The View on the Way Down isn't a happy ending book - it's a realistic look at family dynamics and grief, and how they effect each person as an individual and as a group.  And although there are parts that are incredibly sad and even difficult to read, there is also an element of hope that made it a satisfying, well-rounded story that was a pleasure to read.

09 June 2013

Showcase Sunday #41

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 did have 'some' physical books arrive this week *ahem* but I'm going to save them and record a vlog for next week, once my lobster tinge has faded (Summer, you've ARRIVED!).  However, I do have some ebooks that I'm so exicted about!

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (thanks to Hyperion)
Fiend by Peter Stenson (thanks to Crown Publishing)
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (thanks to Hyperion)
Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes (thanks to Berkley)

What did you get this week?  Did summer finally arrive for you too?

07 June 2013

Wicked Wildfire Read-A-Thon - aka Killing It In June


WW Read-a-Thon

May sucked, so for June I'm pumping up the motivation, and what better way to do it than with a read-a-thon!  Hosted by April @ My Shelf Confessions and an enormous amounts of fun, I'm ready to kill it.  If you want to participate, it's not too late - go sign up now!

I'm not making a goals list because, honestly, I SUCK at reading to a list, so instead this will be my updates post instead!

Now, time to get off the internet, grab a coffee and a cookie and READ!

Day One:
Books read: Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell, 182 pages.
Books read so far: 1
Pages read so far: 182

Day Two:
Books read: The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait (303 pages) & Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (338 pages)
Books read so far: 3
Pages read so far: 823
Uh, yeah, I read TWO BOOKS IN ONE DAY.  I can't remember the last time this happened!  Oh and I got sunburned, but it was SO worth it!

Day Three:
Books Read: Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin (368 pages) & Exiled (The Protector #1) by M.R. Merrick (264 pages)
Books read so far: 5
Pages read so far: 1455
OK, something is very wrong (or right!) with me, another two book day.  Such a shame I'm not paid to read, I could get through my whole TBR in like, 5 years....

Day Four:
Books Read: Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price (272 pages)
Books in Progress: The Boat by Christine Dougherty (43 pages), Dust & Decay (Benny Imura #2) by Jonathan Maberry (88 pages)
Books read so far: 6 (!)
Pages read so far: 1858
All those times I used work as a reason not to read much?  Yeah, it was a crappy excuse!

Day Five:
Books Read: none
Books in Progress: Dust & Decay (Benny Imura #2) by Jonathan Maberry (64 pages)
Books Read so far: 6
Pages Read so far: 1922
*crash and burn*

Day Six:
Books read: zilch
Books in ProgressDust & Decay (Benny Imura #2) by Jonathan Maberry (143 pages)
Books Read so far: 6
Pages read so far: 2065
I've picked up a little bit from yesterday, just hoping I can finish Dust & Decay and make it 7 books for the week!

Day Seven:
Books Read: Dust & Decay (Benny Imura #2) by Jonathan Maberry (305) pages
Books read in total: 7!
Pages read in total: 2370
Phew, what a week!  I started off with a bang and got a bit slower as the week went on, but it was definitely fun!  And the Twitter chats and challenges were amazing - I can't wait for the next WWRAT!

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