30 September 2013

Review: Two Women by Martina Cole

Two Women by Martina Cole

Published: June 2000

Pages: 633 (paperback)

Genre/s: Crime, Thriller

Source: Own library


Danger and violence have always been part of Sue Dalston's East End upbringing. Unloved by her mother, abused by her father, and brutalised throughout her entire marriage, she smashed her husband's skull in a final act of desperation. All that keeps her sane is knowing that she's done it to protect her four children. At last, they are safe from harm. When she is celled up with murderess Matilda Enderby, their fates become inextricably linked. And no one - least of all Sue - could have predicted the consequences..

My Thoughts

Two Women had been on my wishlist for several years and when I found a cheap copy on sale a few weeks ago I thought it was high time I actually read the damn thing.  Although crime-mysteries aren't usually my thing, I've been reading quite a few of them lately, and this one particularly appealled to me as it sounded more like an insight into the lives of women in prison.

Aaaaand this is the bit where I tell you if you have this book on your TBR/wishlist because you think that's what it is, well, it isn't.  The vast majority of two women, and the part I found most riveting was Sue's life before she was convicted of murdering her own husband.

Two Women starts with a prologue which, in hindsight, was probably unnecessary or is perhaps a way to grab the people who are looking for the prison angle when they read the first few pages.  The prologue quickly gives way to Sue's childhood, and is where the book becomes far more drama than mystery.

Whilst not exactly likable, I found it very easy to feel an incredible amount of sympathy towards Sue.  From childhood she was pretty much destined for a life of violence and unhappiness, and for those reasons I really wanted something better to happen to her, but she does evolve over time and through her circumstances to someone who once again is perhaps not very likable, but understandable.  There were times when I felt quite frustrated with her for not trying to change what was happening to her, but I could also see why her circumstances meant that she didn't have the bravery or knowledge to be able to move away from her situation.

Her devotion towards her children and her need for them to have a better life than she has had is admirable, but again circled me back to the question of why she didn't do more to get herself out of such a horrible cycle.

Two Women is violent, ugly and shocking.  Sue's whole family perpetuate a life of misery for themselves and each other, and there's very little comraderie between any of them.  Their emotions and loyalties swing constantly and in that way the characters are very contradictory - just when I thought I had them figured out, they did something completely different that took me by surprise.  Therefore it's a pretty unpredicatable read, and that really had me hooked because I wanted to see what terrible thing happened next or if someone would get bitten in the arse by karma.

The part that I actually found most disappointing about this book was, sadly, the prison aspect.  After all, that is what had me interested in this book in the first place, but it felt rushed and not very tense.  The mystery element didn't shock me, or even surprise me, and this is not a crime-mystery in the traditional sense.

I did enjoy Two Women overall, and probably would have liked it more if I'd gone in with lesser or different expectations. 

29 September 2013

Showcase Sunday #55

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'm still being super-good at not buying books (ignoring the fact that I have orders on their way - they HAVE NOT ARRIVED so they do not count), but I've been really bad at reading and blogging this week.  I blame my man-flu.

I did have a book dream though - I was in a huge discount book store buying new releases for $3 but everyone else was complaining how expensive the books were.....odd!

Anyways, here are the two books I received this week:

Dark Eden (Dark Eden #1) by Patrick Carman (thanks to Katherine Egan books)

Phoenix Island by John Dixon (thanks to Gallery Books)

Well, that's all for me today - what's new on your shelves this week?

28 September 2013

Review: Undead by Kirsty McKay

Undead (Undead #1) by Kirsty McKay

Published: 1 September 2011

Pages: 294 (paperback)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Zombie

Source: Own library


Out of sight, out of their minds: It's a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby. 

The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.

Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back. 

But they've changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they're zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin' fast, because that's the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates' next meal. It's kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late. 

My Thoughts

The first time I saw Undead I knew I wanted to read it - set in the UK, a bunch of teenagers surviving a zombie apocalypse with some black humour thrown in?  Totally my thing.  Plus the cover is pretty cool and has coloured pages which I am a complete sucker for.

Undead begins with two characters, Bobby and Smitty being left on the school bus whilst the rest of the class goes into a roadside restaurant for lunch.  Smitty is the bad boy of the class, and Bobby is the new girl who doesn't quite fit in after spending several years living outside of the UK.

I'm a little torn as to whether I liked the characters or found them too much of a cliche - I liked Smitty and Bobby's snarky interactions and although the characters are completely different to each other, they do find a way to work together and seeing them develop into a team was interesting.  However, the cliched beautiful bimbo and ugly geek did kind of grate on me a little - having their roles reversed would probably have made the characters more appealing and been more fitting with the tone of the book.

For the first 100 pages I was having a lot of fun reading Undead - the black humour and the slightly oddball beginning to the zombie apocalype made it feel different to the usual YA zombie novel.  The characters were unique and the situation was so wierd it was almost funny, but the humour and quirkiness lost its appeal after a while and I started to get bored.  It did pick up again towards the end, but it made the pacing feel very uneven, and unfortunately I found it quite easy to put the book down and difficult to find the motivation to come back to.

I also felt that some parts of the plot didn't fully connect with others, particularly how and why the virus was released and although McKay does try and pick those threads up later in the book, it felt like they were made less of in order to add more quirkiness.

Of course with any zombie book there is some element of gore and horror, but it's pretty minimal in Undead - as a book for readers who don't like the intensity of most zombie books it's going to be a positive, but for me it felt like it was belittling the situation a little and then I just couldn't take it as seriously as I wanted to.

Overall, Undead started as a fun read that lost a little steam along the way.  It's still a book I'd recommend to readers who don't enjoy the dark intensity of many zombie novels, but are looking for something a little more lighthearted and different.

27 September 2013

Review: Fault Line by Christa Desir

Fault Line by Christa Desir

Expected Publication: 12 November 2013 by Simon Pulse

Pages: 240 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Source: Publisher for review


Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

My Thoughts

This is going to be a book that people love, or hate and I think there'll be very few people in between.  A big statement perhaps, but, honestly, I liked it more than I hated it, so I'm almost squarely in the former category.

Although it appears to be marketed as a Young Adult book, I would personally place it far more into the New Adult category - there is explicit language, a lot of sexual scenes and the subject matter is intense and pretty confronting.

I really disliked Ben at the beginning, but that didn't make me dislike the book - it all sounds a bit weird  but I'll try and explain.  Ben is a sex-obsessed, shallow boy - that does change after Ani goes to the party alone, but although I didn't like him, I can't hold it against the book.  Let's be honest, I don't know what the brain of an eighteen-year-old boy is like, but I can give it a pretty good guess -  after all, I did date (and live with, in fact) an eighteen year old boy myself.  And yes, in books we love 'nice' guys that we can go a little gooey over, but this is realistic fiction and real life can be a real eyeopener.

Ben and Ani's relationship is cute, but it's not particularly fireworks and amazing mind-blowing connections and that's probably my only disappointment with Fault Line.  It's a fast read, and although it didn't really feel like insta-love, apart from smart-arse attitudes, it didn't really feel like Ben and Ani had a huge amount in common.

What happens to Ani at the party without Ben is shocking, but even more appalling was the reaction of her schoolmates - I know that kids can be cruel but it reached the point where I was almost physically cringing on Ani's behalf at the nasty comments and actions that were dished out to her.

Fault Line deals with some very confronting issues, and it felt like Ms. Desir's personal experiences really flowed into the story and made the reactions of the characters feel very real and intense.  This is not an easy read, but it's an intense and moving story that really got my emotions going.

25 September 2013

Review: The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Published: 28 August 2012

Pages: 224 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Source: Own library


She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn’t hurt, because she’s not real anymore.

Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.

Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone.

My Thoughts

When I saw The Stone Girl on the sale shelf in a bookshop, I immediately grabbed it.  Although Young Adult contemporary books don't tend to be to my taste, but when it's an issue book, it's a whole different thing.  These are the books that stick in my mind long after I've finished reading, whether it's the emotions, the plot or the characters.

The very first thing that struck me about The Stone Girl was the style of the third-person narration.  I usually prefer third-person narration, but the repeated use of names completely threw me off at first.  Rather than 'he' or 'she', it was 'Sethie this' and 'Sethie that' to the stage that I considered stopping reading because it just STOOD OUT SO MUCH.

After a while I got used to the style and by the end it was probably only that I'd made a note about it early on that prompted me to mention it.

However, The Stone Girl also suffers from 'absent parent syndrome'.  Sethie's mother is seemingly completely oblivious to the fact that her daughter is losing a drastic amount of weight and that her behavious is also spiralling out of control, and although there's an attempt at justification towards the end, it didn't feel realistic.  There are also numerous interactions between Sethie and staff at her school, such as the nurse where she has apparently spent a lot of time, but there is no mention of the nurse trying to raise the alarm.

The characters are average, Sethie didn't really stand out for me, and although I've read a couple of books since, I'm really having trouble thinking of reasons why she would stand out.

This may just be one of those issues books that particularly resonates with readers who have had similar issues as Sethie and just didn't click with me.  It wasn't a bad book by any means, but it just didn't sit right with me.

23 September 2013

Booking By Numbers

In case you aren't aware, I LOVE surveys. So when I saw that Jess at Jess Hearts Books had done this awesome Booking By Numbers Q&A, I knew I had to do it too. Here's the details in Jess' own words:

Put the number of books on your bookshelf (or if like me you have hundreds of books break it down to 50, 70, 100 - however many books you’d like to play with) into a random number generator this could be via Random Org or simply by pulling numbers out of a hat. For each question draw a number and apply that question to the selected book from your shelf (or wherever you like to store your books.) For example if you pulled the number 11 you’d count across your shelf to the 11th book. It’s as simple as that!

I could have done this with ALL my books, but I wanted to do it with my paperbooks (partly so I had an excuse to count how many I have...which is 321 on the shelves.  More languish in boxes. Oops.)

Q1.) Have you read this book? If so what did you think of it?

#117 - The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

I have!  I didn't like it to be honest - great idea, bad execution.  The characters weren't anything special and it was all too nicey-nicey for an apocalypse!

Q2.) Why did you buy this book? Were you recommended it? Was it a random purchase? 

# 276 - Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

After I read This is Not a Test, I was really interested in reading another of Courtney Summers' books as I really liked her writing style and the way that she had me caring rather unlikeable characters.  I think I saw a review of Cracked Up to Be on a blog and decided that would be my next Summers book.

Q3.) Based on what you know about this book which other book blogger would you recommend it to? 

#309 - The Antithesis by Terra Whiteman

Confession time - I had no idea what this book is about - I think I won it when I was just starting blogging, and I think it's a fantasy with a religion-based plot.  So I'm kinda hesitant to recommend it to anyone as religion in books is a pretty personal preference.

Q4.) Who’s this books bookshelf neighbour? 

#303 Partials (Partials Sequence #1) by Dan Wells.

Partials sits next to Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wien.  I wonder what they would talk about....I guess the female characters are both (probably for Rose) kick arse...

Q5.) How many books have you read by this book’s author? 

#101 - Looking for Alaska by John Green

I've read two John Green books - Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars.  I wasn't overwhelmed by Looking for Alaska, sadly :( but I did love The Fault in Our Stars.  I've read 50% of the John Green novels on my shelf - not a bad hit rate considering my TBR!

Q6.) Do you have any special memories attached to this book? 

#91 - Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale.

Not at all. I don't even remember when I bought it - although I have a vague memory it was one of my first Amazon UK orders, when I finally realised that was the best way for me to get English books in the Netherlands.

Q7.) Is this book part of a series? If it is are you up to date with the series? 

#128 - A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

NOT A SERIES!  I'm pretty surprised as I have so many series on my shelf.  More standalones I say!

Q8.) Is this book something you’d typically read or is it out of your comfort zone?

#83 - The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait

The View on the Way Down (I've read this one!) is a family drama set in the UK.  Those are my old bread-and-butter books and I still have a soft spot for them.

Q9.) Have you reviewed this book? If yes then share a link to it. 

#235 - Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine #1) by Ransom Riggs

 Sadly, no, I haven't read it *ashamed face*.  But I only bought it like a month ago!

Q10.) Where did you buy this book from?

#30 - A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

I bought it from Amazon UK - I know, I know, Amazon is the devil and eats babies for breakfast, but they are cheap - I wish I had cool bookstores around me, but I don't.

Q11.) Roughly how long have you owned this book for? 

#95 Gone (Gone #1) by Michael Grant

Since 18 January 2012.  Pretty specific, huh? ;-)

Q12.) Share the first sentence of this book. 

#197 Witch Hunt by Syd Moore

''They told me not to come."

Hmmm, considering it's a horror book about a witch hunt, they were probably right dude!

Q13.) What’s your opinion on this book’s cover?

#199 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I love this cover - shame I didn't love the book as much, but it's that old combination of red, white and black, and the silhouettes that do it for me.

Q14.) In a few sentences describe this book in your own words. 

#48 All the Rivers Run by Nancy Cato

A girl with a talent for art goes to live with distant family after being orphaned.  She meets a river-boat man, ends up marrying him and travelling the rivers of Australia through good times and bad.  One tough chickie!

That was fun!  Thanks so much Jess for allowing me to use your idea.  Make sure you go and check out her list too.

Do you know how many books you have on your shelves, or are you scared to count? ;-)

22 September 2013

Showcase Sunday #54

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.

Only two books this week because I have been incredibly good.  How long this will last is debatable.

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Sampler (thanks to Simon Pulse)

Red Hill by Jamie McGuire (thanks to Atria Books)

In other news, the Goodreads 'thing' happened this week - I'm not leaving Goodreads, but I've been checking out BookLikes and although it hasn't got all the features I want, it's kinda fun.  You can follow me on Booklikes here.

Celine at Nyx Book Reviews also introduced me to FictFact - where you can track series!  I spent hours yesterday adding all my series, so if you are an organisation freak like me, check it out :-D

That's all for this week.  One more week and I'm on vacation, huzzah!

20 September 2013

To Re-Read Or Not, That Is the Question

In the last year or so, I’ve started to do more and more re-reads, both of books I read years ago and have fond memories of, or books that I read shortly before I started blogging and really want to write a review.

Re-reading a favorite book is something I actually find quite scary.  What if my memory has made this book to be more than it actually was?  What if my tastes have changed so much that a book I had on a pedestal is now something I will detest with every fiber of my being?  Is it actually possible that a book could be BETTER than I remembered?

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, there were several books I read over and over again – some of them I even finished the last page and then turned straight back to the first page and read it all over again.  All of those books have a place in my heart – and now that I’ve re-read several of’ those’ books, I can say that although my preferences may have changed for which books I pick up to read in the first instance, those things about the books that I loved years ago are still making me happy as a reader.

One example that immediately springs to mind is the Tomorrow series by John Marsden.  Those books were released when I was a teenager, and being set in Australia they really resonated with me.  I remember anticipating the release of each one, stalking the local bookstore until it was available, running home and reading the WHOLE SERIES AGAIN each time just so I could be sure that I remembered every little detail.  I loved the drama, the romance and the friendships and I must have read the first book at least a dozen times over that period.  (Quite) A few years later someone on Goodreads asked me if I had read the series and all those memories came flooding back.  I started stalking used copies on Amazon, fruitlessly rummaged for e-book versions and more than a year later found out that Quercus was re-releasing the whole series in the UK.  So I bought all the released copies, pre-ordered the upcoming releases and ….. put the books on my shelf.

I was so frightened that I would ruin my teenage memories of those books by reading them again.  They would be dated, the things that appealed to me as a young and rather na├»ve teenager might now be drowned in the sea of my thirty-something-cynicism.  Then the movie came out, I watched it and loved it, I listened to the first book on audio for a different perspective and loved it, and it was time to bite the bullet.

I loved the hell out of those books, and I was stoked to realize that I still loved the hell out of those books, even years later.

There have been disappointments, sure (I’m staring RIGHT AT YOU World War Z), but there have been books that I liked MORE the second time around, particularly now that I write my feelings down on paper (um, screen) and that my preferred genres are so much wider.

I’ve often seen bloggers say they don’t have time to re-read, and I totally get that (hello impossibly huge TBR that will outlive me).  But maybe we SHOULD make more time for those books that we desperately loved and have never had a chance to get back to again?  After all, we all have our comfort zones in other ways, right?  Whether it’s hibernating in bed when life gets icky, or eating ice-cream like it’s going out of fashion whilst watching sappy movies.  So why don’t we get out those teenage/last year/last month favorites and eat ice-cream whilst in bed and devouring those books we love.  Is it time management, fear or something else?

Do you re-read books that you loved, or are you a scaredy cat with far too many other books to read? What's your favorite book to re-read?

19 September 2013

Review: But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

Published: 8 May 20111 by Flux

Pages: 245 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Source: Own library


Sometimes at night, I wake up and stare at the heart for hours. I think of how I collected each piece from the beach, how I glued it all together into one big sculpture. I wonder if Connor realizes what it means, that he'll always have a piece of me no matter what happens. Each piece of glass is another piece of myself that I gave to him.

It's too bad I didn't keep any pieces for myself.

At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved - and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything - and everyone - in its path.

This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.

My Thoughts

I could read issue / realistic-fiction books until the end of time.  I think it's the combination of stories that could possibly be real life situations and the dramatic, shocking things that happen in them, and when they are done well, they can stay with me for weeks or even months afterwards.  And I'd heard some pretty good things about But I Love Him being both realistic and dramatic, plus it's told in reverse chronological order which really had me intrigued.

The first problem I had with this book were the characters.  Ann is artistic and yet doesn't really have much of a personality, which made it difficult for me to like her enough to sympathise with her situation.  And as the story is in reverse chronological order, the worst parts of her relationship with Connor come first, and it just made me angry with her rather than sad for her.  She believes that there is good in Connor, but even by the end of the book, when the first days of their relationship were revealed, I didn't see why they were attracted to each other at all.  Ann herself obviously had some issues, but they didn't seem all that relevant to me as to why she ended up in such a toxic relationship.  Yes, I know that sometimes things just happen, but the pieces just didn't come together for me.

Perhaps I'm coming across as not being sympathetic to stories of abuse, but that's not the case - I've read some books that have moved me greatly, and usually empathising with characters is not something I struggle with.  But I think it's a combination of not really liking Ann, and Grace's sparse writing style that made me feel so disconnected from the book.

But I Love Him does have an important message which does come through the story quite well, it just wasn't a book that worked very well for me.  However, I really enjoyed Grace's writing - a lyrical sparse style is often something that I love, so I will definitely be checking out more of her work.

17 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

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

I can't decide whether I'm sad about summer coming to an end, or excited that the weather will turn grey and rainy and I can have an even more legitimate excuse to stay curled up with a book.  I think I'm going to go with excited, because there are some awesome books I'm planning on reading in the next few months.

Normally my TT TBR posts are full of upcoming releases, but I've been good in not requesting eARCs the past few months, so there are lots of 'because I can' reads in this list!

Pandemic (Infected #3) by Scott Sigler
No Angel by Helen Keeble
All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1) by Cristin Terrill
Golden by Jessi Kirby
Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
When We Wake (When We Wake #1) by Karen Healey
Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1) by Kasie West
Hurt by Tabitha Suzuma
Siege & Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

What's on your Fall TBR?

16 September 2013

Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Expected Publication: 24 September 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books

Pages: 320 (hardcover)

Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic

Source: Publisher for review


Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

My Thoughts

Not a Drop to Drink was one of my most anticipated books of 2013.  I mean, the title and cover were enough to get me salivating, and then the synopsis had me stalking this book like a....well, like a book lover wanting to get their hands on the book that was 'meant for them'.

Lynn and her mother, Lauren, live in near-isolation in their farmhouse, vigilantly guarding their pond - a safe source of water in a world that is suffering extreme water shortage.  Keeping it isolated from others means that they are pretty ruthless when people approach them to ask for help, or try to take what is theirs.  

Lauren is a character that on the surface may appear selfish and hard, but it's also obvious as the story progresses that her one and only priority is keeping Lynn safe - even if it is at the expense of others.  Lynn is also one tough cookie - she is very similar to her mother, but this actually made me like both of them more, rather than less.  It's a strong family bond, and together they are almost impenetrable.

The most surprising, and probably the best thing about Not a Drop to Drink, is that McGinnis takes pretty much every stereotype in a genre that has started to feel cliched and turns it completely upside down:

- There's action, but it takes place over a very small, concentrated area and although the world is obviously up the proverbial creek, the characters are really the crux of the book.

- There's a lot of character development, particularly in Lynn, and gradually she starts to transform into an incredibly diverse character.  By the end of the book I was had nothing but complete admiration for her toughness, her loyalty and her focus.

- The romance is gradual and sweet, without being super-sappy.  When Lynn first meets the boy, Eli, there's not even really a comment on his looks, and only one reference through the book that I remember about the colour of his eyes.

Not a Drop to Drink was so near to perfect, it pains me to say there was only one thing that didn't quite fit to me - and that's the fact that Lauren never really taught Lynn to do in a 'worst case' scenario.  I would have imagined that a character like Lauren would have set Lynn up with a complete contingency plan if anything were to happen to her, but it was never mentioned, and felt strange that someone so intent on survival wouldn't do that.

When it comes to the world-building, there isn't a whole lot of information on what actually happened outside the immediate vicinity of Lynn's home.  However, the only way to do that would be a big info dump that would have felt completely out of place, so I'm more than glad that it was left up to my imagination.  There's no crazy dystopian regime, this is a book about survival, and the lengths that humans will go to to protect their family, their property and their way of life.

I don't want to spoil the book for potential readers, but there's are several events in the story that I would never have thought would happen - they are brave choices, but they make Not a Drop to Drink different from the vast majority of YA apocalyptic/dystopian books I've read in the past few years.  I really really liked this book - it far surpassed my expectations, and also took me by surprise in how very brave it is.

15 September 2013

Showcase Sunday #53 - All the Recommendations

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 was having a grumpy day on Monday, which often gives me the urge to retail shop myself happy.  But I was stuck with exactly WHAT to buy, so as bookish people do, I put out a call on Twitter.

(Please excuse the fact I look, and sound, like a zombie.  And that's how I felt, too!)

Recommended by Debby of Snuggly Oranges (who I shall now crown The Book Pusher)

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Unearthly (Unearthly #1) by Cynthia Hand
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas
Ruby Red (Precious Stone Trilogy #1) by Kerstin Gier

Recommened by Christina of A Reader of Fictions (who knows and reads ALL the books)

A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
Stormdancer (The Lotus War #1) by Jay Kristoff

Audiobooks purchased
Asylum by Madeleine Roux
A Matter of Days by Amber Keizer

What books are new on your shelves this week?

14 September 2013

Review: Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes

Published: 20 August 2013 by Harper

Pages: 416 (paperback)

Genre/s: Psychological, Thriller, Crime

Source: Publisher for review


Human Remains is a deeply disturbing and powerful psychological thriller that will have you checking the locks on your doors and windows.

When Annabel, a police analyst, discovers her neighbour’s decomposing body in the house next door, she’s appalled to think that no one, including herself, noticed that anything was wrong.

Back at work, she feels compelled to investigate, despite her colleagues' lack of interest, and finds data showing that such cases are common – too common – in her home town. As she’s drawn deeper into the mystery and becomes convinced she’s on the trail of a killer, she also must face her own demons and her own mortality. Would anyone notice if she just disappeared?

My Thoughts

After reading Haynes' Into the Darkest Corner, I was eager to read Human Remains.  Into the Darkest Corner was one of those books that I would have called in sick for, and I literally couldn't put it down - even when walking.  

However, I wasn't as sucked into Human Remains as I was with Into the Darkest Corner, and I think it was a combination of several factors that stopped it from being an amazing book for me.  

The idea of the plot was really intriguing - a serial killer who doesn't actually kill his victims isn't really something that comes along that often, and I was interested to see how someone with a police background such as Haynes would tackle these ethical and moral issues.  And for the most part it was an interesting storyline, but there were a few things that just didn't work for me.  Firstly, I didn't mind Annabel as a main character, but I didn't particularly like her all that much either.  I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but the storyline pretty much determines that as a character she can't be particularly engaging.  She also has a weird 'relationship' with someone that she meets during the course of the book, and although it didn't necessarily need to be a relationship, it just felt a bit mismatched.

Secondly, I didn't really feel that there was a lot of tension, except perhaps for the last few chapters.  To me it was more like waiting for something to happen for over 300 pages and then having all the excitement squeezed into the final chapters, which made the pacing unbalanced.

However, despite those issues, the premise is kinda scary - that you can be so isolated from everyone that no one would notice for weeks or months that you have died, and that there are so many fragile and easily influenced people isn't a big stretch of the imagination.

There are also the heavy ethical questions surrounding the moral responsibilities of reporting a death, or a missing person and where, as a society, we draw the lines on what is acceptable and what is actually a crime.   These ideas could have been explored more in Human Remains and that probably would have had me a little bit more interested in what was happening to Annabel as well, however it felt like Haynes missed this opportunity in the most part.

In the end, this is a book that I'd still recommend, particularly to readers who like a unique story line, but I was quite disappointed by the lack of tension and the fact that the main character just didn't click with me.

13 September 2013

Review: Thin Space by Jody Casella

Thin Space by Jody Casella

Published: 10 September 2013 by Simon Pulse

Pages: 256 (paperback)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Paranormal

Source: Publisher for review


Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side. 

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead.

My Thoughts

I was drawn to Thin Space primarily because of the paranormal aspect - the idea of portals between the living and dead world based on ancient mythology sounded like an interesting addition to a book about grief and the way that people react to the loss of a loved one.

As a main character, Marshall is an interesting one - he's completely withdrawn from life after the death of his brother and is completely consumed by the idea of finding a thin space - even going to the lengths of walking around barefoot in the snow because you can only go through a thin space with bare feet.  The first thing that stood out to me however, was that he was allowed to go barefoot at school and it was allowed because of his 'grief', and it wasn't until nearly the end of the book that I realised why it was presented that way.

I did find that the secondary characters, both male and female started to blend together - the boys were stereotypical jocks and the girls stereotypical airheads with very generic names - there was nothing that made them stand out from each other.

There are no moments of humour or light-heartedness in Thin Space - it's very melancholy and rather slow-moving, although it all fits the tone of the story and the style of writing.  It did make me more sympathetic towards Marshall, and I too became consumed in his mission to find a thin space.  

I would have liked there to have been more discussion on the moral and ethical implications of thin spaces, but this book is far more focused on Marshall's personal mission, rather than being something that multiple people are exposed to, but it's definitely food for thought.

Thin Space was a quick, and rather enjoyable read.  I wasn't hugely enamoured with the ending myself, as it felt rather abrupt but if you enjoy contemporary with a touch of paranormal, I would recommend checking out Thin Space.


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