30 November 2013

November Wrap Up

November has been a pretty normal reading month for me.  I didn't go wild and crazy like I did in October, but I did keep up with my page target - just over 4000 pages to go and I'll read 60000 pages this year!

Books Read
Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz & Ron Bass
The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman
Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor
The Outside (The Hallowed Ones #2) by Laura Bickle
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Flesh & Bone (Benny Imura #3) by Jonathan Maberry
Fire & Ash (Benny Imura #4) by Jonathan Maberry
Above by Isla Morley
Parallel by Lauren Miller
The Third Day, the Frost (Tomorrow #3) by John Marsden
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Horns by Joe Hill

DNF's


The Line (The Line #1) by Teri Hall

Too slow moving for my tastes - I've been dystopian-ed out the last few months so I decided to move on.  It's an intriguing storyline but just didn't work for me.






Argh, I can't believe tomorrow is December already!!!

29 November 2013

Review: Perfect People by Peter James


Perfect People by Peter James

Published: 2011

Pages: 564 (paperback)

Genre/s: Thriller

Source: Own library

Synopsis

John and Naomi are grieving the death of their four-year-old son from a rare genetic disorder. They desperately want another child, but they realize the odds of their next child contracting the same disease are high.

Then they hear about geneticist Dr Leo Dettore. He has methods that can spare them the heartache of ever losing another child to any disease.

At his clinic is where their nightmare begins.

They should have realized something was wrong when they saw the list. Choices of eye colour, hair, sporting abilities. They can literally design their child. Now it's too late to turn back. Naomi is pregnant and already something is badly wrong . . 

My Thoughts

Perfect People begins on a perfectly creepy note.  John and Naomi are transported by helicopter to a boat moored outside American waters, in the middle of the night.  They see no one other than the staff, even though the boat supposedly carries quite a few passengers who have paid a tonne of money to use the services of geneticist Dr Dettore.  Now, for anyone that wasn't consumed by grief and a desperation for a child, this would be too freaky for words, but John and Naomi are both - and they choose to undergo fertility treatment under the care of Dr Dettore.  

The plot is pretty much an examination of morals - John and Naomi lost their young son to a genetic disease, and although they are desperate for a child, they don't want to risk having another ill child.  There are so many debates that I'm not touching with a ten foot pole, but in some ways I do find their logic understandable, even if I didn't completely agree.

Along with the narrative, the book is sprinkled with diary entries made by Naomi - and I was really conflicted whether I liked those entries or not - at times they made me feel quite sympathetic towards her, at others they made me actually dislike her.  Overall I actually found both Naomi and John difficult to like and sympathise with, even though there were parts of the story where I felt incredibly sad for both of them.

A lot of the first part of the book is Naomi and John struggling with the decisions they make, which is interesting in a way, but didn't really grab my attention.  I was almost desperately reading to see what would happen when Naomi gave birth, and at first I was on tenterhooks....and then a little bored....and then a little ambivalent....and when 'something' finally happened it was creepy but not - evil.

What I really didn't like about Perfect People was the final part of the book - for me it was completely unnecessary and not particularly well thought-out.  Perhaps my expectations led to bigger disappointment than if I had gone into this one blind, but it just felt all wrong.

However, I did like how it ended - although there wasn't really much of an alternative, nor did it surprise me in the least.  Overall, Perfect People had a lot of great ideas, a lot of potential, but was lacking in execution.


28 November 2013

Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red (Ruby Red Trilogy #1) by Kerstin Gier

Published: 2009

Pages: 324 (paperback)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Fantasy


Source: Own library

Synopsis

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

My Thoughts

Although I've seen Ruby Red mentioned several times on other blogs, I'd honestly never really thought about reading it.  Until, that is, I found out it is about TIME TRAVEL.  These are flashbulb words for me - the combination of modern and historical settings means that I get a little of all the things I love in one book - what more could I want?

The very first thing that struck me about Ruby Red was Gwen - I loved her right from the beginning, and she is a perfect combination of brave, curious and funny.  She has her own distinct personality, has very specific ideas and speaks her mind when she should, without being overbearing.  There is a lot of internal dialogue with herself which I really liked - it made it a lot of fun getting to know her better.

Ruby Red is a fast read - there's a lot going on, and an intriguing back story, however what I really wanted more of is what attracted me to it in the first place - time travel.  Understandably Gier builds up to the initial time travel moment, but at times in between I felt that the plot slowed a little, and more was put into building the back story than actually moving forward with the plot.  All of this is actually very contradictory to what I usually enjoy in a book - world building is usually top of my list, but the lure of time travel seemed to overpower a lot of my interest in the world building itself.

The back story, however, is important to the plot, and I did find it rather intriguing when I wasn't hanging out desperately for more time travel, and I think Gier showed a lot of thought and imagination in creating it.
I did have trouble remembering the cast of characters as it's quite substantial, and many of them are introduced by other characters talking about them rather than appearing in their own right in the first instance, and this contributed to my confusion.  If only I had known there is a character list at the end of the book - at the front I would have found it when I needed it!

But I had a lot of fun reading this book - I found it incredibly engaging, fun and as I said earlier, I absolutely adored Gwen.  Although I didn't feel I got to know Gideon well enough in this book, I can see that there is a lot of potential for them to develop an interesting romance later on in the series.

A fun read, with a great female lead character, I really enjoyed Ruby Red, and I'm curious to see where the series goes next.

25 November 2013

Review: Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass


Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass

Published: 2 October 2012 by Razorbill

Pages: 343 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Source: Own library

Synopsis

What if you could dream your way into a different life? What if you could choose to live that life forever?

Sloane and Maggie have never met. Sloane is a straight-A student with a big and loving family. Maggie lives a glamorously independent life as an up-and-coming actress in New York. The two girls couldn't be more different--except for one thing. They share a secret that they can't tell a soul. At night, they dream that they're each other.

The deeper they're pulled into the promise of their own lives, the more their worlds begin to blur dangerously together. Before long, Sloane and Maggie can no longer tell which life is real and which is just a dream. They realize that eventually they will have to choose one life to wake up to, or risk spiraling into insanity. But that means giving up one world, one love, and one self, forever.

My Thoughts 

It's hard to classify exactly what kind of book Lucid is - it's kind of paranormal, kind of fantasy, a lot of romance and although not exactly a Sliding-Doors 'what if' story, it does have a lot of similar characteristics.  

Sloane and Maggie are two different girls, with very different lives, that dream about each other and yet their lives don't cross over.  It's an interesting idea and both become, understandably, pretty attached to each other.  Both are very different personalities and have totally different lives and priorities, and I enjoyed both perspectives, and although I found Maggie a little more interesting, Sloane's story was more compelling, so it was a good balance.  Despite the differences however, there are parallels in their lives which tie the stories together.

Maggie is far more outgoing and unconventional and has strong ties to her younger sister Jade who was one of the best sibling characters I've read in a long time and I loved the closeness of their relationship.   Sloane is a little less remarkable and unfortunately falls a little into the small-town-average girl cliche, but she's not offensive and I enjoyed her strong friendships.

I did find that the plot slowed down in the middle part of the story, and although I liked getting to know Sloane and Maggie more intimately, their paths don't really cross until the last 80 pages or so and I wished they had more connection throughout the whole story as at times it felt like I was reading two contemporary YA romances at the same time, although it's not easy to confuse the two perspectives.

There is a strong romantic element as both characters try to figure out their relationships and feelings, although at times it was a little bit of overkill and I just wanted them to figure their shit out and get on with the story.  It was perhaps that I wasn't expecting such a large romance element that I got a little frustrated with it, because it was actually quite well done - both male characters were very likable and memorable.

However, when the plot does get going, it's intense, frantic reading and the ending was unpredictable and attention grabbing.  Lucid is hard to classify, easy to get sucked into, and despite some pacing issues I enjoyed the characters and the unique story-line.

24 November 2013

Showcase Sunday #63


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.

Hmm so remember that vlog I did two weeks ago when I said I wouldn't buy any more books this year.  Well, I LIED.  I blame my employer.  Usually I work in an office that has absolutely no shops anywhere nearby, but on Monday I had to work at our other office, which is right in the centre of Amsterdam and therefore surrounded by temptation.  And I gave into the lure of bookstores.


Noughts and Crosses (Noughts & Crosses #1) by Malorie Blackman - I've heard so many good things about this series, and then I saw it and it accidentally fell into my hand and onto the counter and somehow was paid for and then in my handbag.  Terrible.

Under the Dome by Stephen King - I have read this one several years ago, but I have a grand plan to use it as my plane reading on the way to Australia.  Because if 1000+ pages can't keep me occupied, nothing can.

Emerald Green (Ruby Red Trilogy #3) by Kerstin Gier - from my lovely friend Karin at Life of Karin.  Thank you sweetie! 

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson - because it was on sale and it looks good, even though the reviews are pretty iffy.  And I've realised the other books are set in the same world, but are not a series, which makes me a little more open to it because I'm done with accumulating series.
World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2) by Susan Ee - eeeeeeeep!  It's FINALLY here.  And I managed to pre-order both a physical copy and an e-book.  Oh well!

I've also realised I need some more audiobooks for my massively long flight to and from Australia (for when I've finished Under the Dome of course) - so if you have listened to any awesome audios, let me know!

Have an awesome week!

23 November 2013

Get Your Pages On - #Novemberthon!


I have a total addiction to read-a-thons (because no one can argue that I'm reading 'too much' when it's for an actual event and because I'm super competitive like that), so when I saw that Amber from Books of Amber is having an impromptu read-a-thon from Nov 24 until Dec 1 I was all over it.

As with all my read-a-thons of late, I'm not going to make lists because I'm terrible at sticking to a reading list, so I'm just going to list things as I go along.  

If you want to join in, be awesome and sign up at Books of Amber

22 November 2013

Review: The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg


The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

Published: 21 February 2012 by Penguin

Pages: 375 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Paranormal

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.... Welcome to forever. 

BRIE'S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally. 

But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after. 

With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

My Thoughts

When The Catastrophic History of You and Me was coming up to its release date and all the reviews were coming in, I was completely hooked on the idea of this book and immediately put it on my wishlist.  Although I'm not the hugest fan of paranormal stories, books that deal with the afterlife are something I find infinitely fascinating.  But it took me over a year to actually buy a copy because it kind of got bumped down the list a little.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me doesn't wait to get straight into the story - Brie's death happens pretty quickly and then combines flashbacks with the current day storyline.  The flashbacks are not that frequent, and are used to give context to the current storyline, but for me it was the right balance - too many flashbacks probably would have had me a little bored. 

Whilst I loved Brie's snarky, smart-arse personality, I didn't immediately feel a lot of affinity with her, or sympathy for her situation.  I like my female characters with a bit of baggage, and Brie's 'life' was a little too charmed for me - with a great family and three BFF's, without the quick plunge into the afterlife I honestly would have found her a little irritating.  However, Rothenberg does a good job of getting the action going early on and that made me feel more sympathetic towards Brie.

The relationship between Brie and Patrick is incredibly sweet without being overwhelming - they bounce off each other with a natural ease and although Patrick is quite protective of Brie, it's not overwhelming.  

There is also an emphasis on Brie's growth which I particularly liked - at the beginning she comes across as a little overly-dramatic, but as she comes to terms with her own death, she also realises some things about her 'previous' life, and how she had actually interpreteded things a little immaturely, and tries to make amends for that.

The afterlife that Rothenberg creates is an interesting one - based on the idea of a personal heaven, with the option to 'zoom' back into the real world and see what is happening to her family and friends is a pull that Brie, understandably, cannot resist.  But I did find it became a little too complicated later in the story, and I actually got a little lost and frustrated with this book for a while because it felt like things were made far more complicated than necessary, without a great deal of explanation why.

If I was asked to describe The Catastrophic History of You and Me in three words, I'd say Fun, Cute, Sweet.  It's not a book that had me gasping in shock, feeling a little misty eyed or swooning over the romance, but it was a fun read, and one that I would definitely recommend if you need something light and entertaining.

21 November 2013

Review: Survive by Alex Morel


Survive by Alex Morel

Published: 2 August 2012 by Razorbill

Pages: 259 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Survival

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Jane is on a plane on her way home to Montclair, New Jersey, from a mental hospital. She is about to kill herself. Just before she can swallow a lethal dose of pills, the plane hits turbulence and everything goes black. Jane wakes up amidst piles of wreckage and charred bodies on a snowy mountaintop. There is only one other survivor: a boy named Paul, who inspires Jane to want to fight for her life for the first time.

Jane and Paul scale icy slopes and huddle together for warmth at night, forging an intense emotional bond. But the wilderness is a vast and lethal force, and only one of them will survive.

My Thoughts

Dear Survive,

Although it's not my usual style to write a review in letter format, somehow this feels like it is the right way to express how you made me feel.

When I first saw you and read your synopsis, I fell a little bit in love.  Survival stories are like a magnet to me - the tension, the fear, and the strength that the characters need to make it through a terrible ordeal just sing to me.   Immediately I knew I had to have you and read you intensely and without any intention of interrupting our relationship for anything less than a life-threatening emergency.  It was all so promising.

But reality can be far different from dreams - and as soon as you started wheeling out the coincidences I started to feel a little hesitant.  Jane finds herself on a plane full of mountain climbers - a lucky break perhaps.  The only other survivor also happens to have mountain climbing experience and has (although how he smuggled this through security is a miracle) a knife and a box of matches.  However,  sometimes are coincidences are necessary for the plot, so I was prepared to forgive and move on.

And then you go and have the survivors sleep in an airplane toilet. Comfortably.  Without complaint about being cramped or having the toilet bowl in the way, which would certainly be problem, maybe ONLY if the toilet is upside down but this is not possible as one of your characters USES the toilet.  So it can only be upright.  Have you ever BEEN in an airplane toilet, Survive?  Can you foresee how ONE person, let alone two can actually lay down on a toilet floor?  Even long haul fourteen hour flights don't have a toilet that big, let alone domestic flights or I have been flying on the wrong fucking airlines.

OK, so this is all details.  Maybe the characters could be the redemption here - strong boy, tough girl, fighting the elements and surviving on their wits and scavenging skills.  And yet, your characters don't even TRY to find a mobile phone until their second day, which they then dismiss immediately as being useless for having no signal.  Now, first of all, the FIRST thing I would do is tear the place apart looking for a phone.  Secondly, I wouldn't just ditch it because I couldn't get a signal in one spot, I'd at least TRY it in another location before giving up.

The final insult, and the end of any possible redemption came on day four.  Declarations of love between two teenagers after four days?  How the fuck can they be 1) thinking about love when they are trying not to freeze/starve/stupid themselves to death and 2) BE IN LOVE AFTER FOUR DAYS?

Survive, you tried to redeem yourself with a poignant, emotional ending.  But by that stage I was just so disappointed I couldn't bring myself to actually care about the characters.  So although you kept me entertained, it really wasn't in the way I imagined this relationship would be.  

Disappointedly yours,
Kat

19 November 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Would Recommend to Almost Any Reader

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

I decided NOT to be lazy and just make a zombie book list this week.  Instead it's books that I think would appeal to (almost) anyone - although it ended up being quite heavy on the horror side, all of them have multiple reasons why I'd recommend them.


The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman
It's dark, it's intense and I loved it!  Definitely one for anyone that likes a good horror story, a bit of mystery and more than a bit of action.

Margot by Jillian Cantor 
I know historical fiction isn't everyone's cup of tea, but this book had such great characterisation and emotion that the historical element kind of fades into the background.  Plus Cantor has such a good imagination in bringing this story to life.

Every Day by David Levithan 
Quotable, thought-provoking, sad, happy and so unique, I will push this book until the end of time.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I cried while reading this one.  Not just misty eyes or the occassional tear but sobbing cried, and yet I smiled at the end.  And hugged the book quite a lot.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Before the literary world went a little bit (ok a lot of bit) dystopian crazy, Battle Royale introduced the kids fighting to survive thing to a whole other level - and it's gory to boot!


Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry 
Definitely one of my favourite adult zombie novels, I loved that the main character was so broken yet managed to kick some serious zombie arse.

Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Epic apocalyptic horror.  It's big, and intense and one of my favourite books ever.

Meat by Joseph D'Lacey
More horror!  With a twisted ecological message - if I wasn't such a steak-lover, this book could have seriously turned me vegetarian.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
I find it really difficult to find a good, haunting ghost story.  With the additional bonus of taking place during an arctic winter, this one is chilling (yeah, lame puns ahoy!)

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Probably the book I'm most proud of reading - it's absolutely insane - boring, exciting, creepy and totally mind-bending.   And it's visually awesome to flick through.

18 November 2013

Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Published: 31 July 2012 by Scribner

Pages: 343 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. 

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss. 

My Thoughts

Although The Light Between Oceans was the Goodreads Choice Awards Historical Fiction winner in 2012, I hadn't actually heard of this book until it came up as a Group Read in one of my Goodreads groups.  This may show just how little attention I've paid to adult historical fiction over the past couple of years, as usually this kind of book would have immediately been on my radar.

Tom meets Isabel whilst on a temporary posting to Janus, in Western Australia and they have a whirlwind 1920's romance, quickly ending up living permanently on Janus, where they only return to the mainland very rarely.  Living in isolation is something that obviously appeals greatly to Tom, who is trying to escape the horrors of World War I, and Isabel seemingly embraces the isolated beauty of Janus.  I didn't quite understand why Isabel was so attracted to Tom, not that he isn't an intriguing character, but it didn't seem to really fit with her outgoing personality, especially living so far from everyone.

The arrival of the unknown baby suddenly pitches their morality into the ocean and they find themselves immediately in conflict - Isabel believes the baby was meant to find them, and Tom is eaten up by the guilt that the child is missing from another family.  There are interesting moral debates here, and my opinion swung regularly back and forth between Tom and Isabel as they both presented compelling arguments as to why their decision was the right one.

There is a great deal of atmosphere in The Light Between Oceans - the isolation of Janus is obvious, but it's also the beauty that Stedman brings out through descriptions of the lighthouse and the island itself, coupled with how haunted Tom feels by his experiences in the war.

The Light Between Oceans is undoubtedly emotional - it's hard not to side with a particular character, but I actually found myself torn for both Isabel and Tom as they are forced to make decisions about how to move forward with their lives.  The ending itself is a strange mixture of being too fast-paced and yet all the open plot lines are tied up satisfyingly.

The Light Between Oceans definitely poses a lot of moral questions, but although I enjoyed it, I didn't find it to be as heart-wrenching as I thought it may be - in parts it was quite emotional but there was something about Isabel that stopped me from feeling completely sympathetic towards her.

It's good historical fiction that does more than just tell a story - I'm glad I read and enjoyed it, but I did find the ending a little disappointing.

17 November 2013

Showcase Sunday #62

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

It's been such a quiet week!  Well, apart from the whole work thing.  

I watched World War Z last Sunday (I KNOW!), and although it isn't true to the book at all, after my disatrous re-read, I'm kinda glad.  And I enjoyed it, even if my movie buddy (my beloved BF), sat and told me how unrealistic the whole thing was.  Pah, cynical bugger.

Just a couple of books this week!


Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin (audiobook)
In Too Deep by Amanda Grace
Unbreathable (Unbreathable #1) by Hafsah Laziaf

How was your week?

15 November 2013

Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch


If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Published: 26 March 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin

Pages: 256 (hardback)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Source: Own Library

Synopsis

There are some things you can’t leave behind…

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

My Thoughts

If You Find Me had been on my wishlist for months when I heard Judith at PaperRiot talking about it.  She was so enthusiastic that I just had to buy a copy immediately and pushed it right to the top of my reading pile.  Book Pushers rule!

For the first couple of pages, I was a little unsure whether I would actually enjoy reading this book - the main character, Carey, speaks in what could almost be called dialect, although it's more likely caused by a lack of exposure to people other than her mother and younger sister.  By page ten however, I had completely forgotten about it and had the feeling this book was going to be amazing.

Carey has practically brought up her sister, Janessa, single-handed, not just emotionally but also physically - their mother is absent far more than she is present, and Carey has to make sure both she and Janessa have enough to eat, drink and keep warm in their un-powered trailer.  The sisterly bond is therefore incredibly strong, and it remains that way throughout the whole book - I love books that focus on sibling relationships so strongly rather than romance.

Watching Carey and her sister experience parts of life that they had never been exposed to before, from simple things like hamburgers and television, was shocking and yet quite moving, as their reactions felt so very realistic.  

The characters are one of the strongest parts of the book in my opinion - watching Carey adapt to a life that is very alien to what she knows, and coming to terms with her childhood and relationships with her family is so incredibly touching, and she handled it with so much class and determination that I was absolutely in awe of her adaptability and how she came to terms with everything.  

I'm quite sad I can't tell you all the amazing things about this book because it would spoil it for anyone who has not yet read it, but it's one of those books that I would recommend to almost everybody - although it's confronting and shocking in places it has so many other positives that work so well to make this a well-rounded story with characters that were so very strong and realistic.

If You Find Me is everything I wanted it to be and much more - it was gripping, sad, hopeful and so very well written - Emily Murdoch has written one of my favourite books of 2013 and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

14 November 2013

Review: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers


Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Published: 5 January 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin

Pages: 246 (paperback)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard—falling from it is even harder.  Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around.  Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge.  If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day.  She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully.  Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of Cracked Up To Be.

My Thoughts

This is my third Courtney Summer's book - although I loved This is Not a Test, it was Cracked Up To Be that really got me interested in reading more of her writing - she has a talent for making me feel sympathetic to the most unlikable of characters, particularly those I would have absolutely despised myself as a teenager, and would really irritate me even now.

Some Girls Are is pretty much the ultimate story of how bitchy and nasty some teenage girls can be.  Regina is best friends with the Queen Bee of her school, Anna, and finds herself in a horrible situation right at the beginning of the story, and it's obvious that things are going to very wrong for Regina.

What Anna and her friends do to Regina are pretty horrendous, but at the same time there are hints that Regina had already done some nasty things herself, particularly to one of her former friends, although Some Girls Are doesn't go into a great deal of detail about it which I found slightly disappointing.  Having said that, perhaps doing that would have made it completely impossible to feel sympathetic towards Regina so it may have been intentional to not revisit it.

If I thought girls were horrible when I was at school, Some Girls Are takes things to a whole new level of bitchy cruelty, but Regina actually takes all of the abuse with a fight-back kind of attitude which I actually admired.  It would have been easier for her to just take everything that was dished out, but she finds her own way to get back at her former friends.  I did find the lack of attention paid by the school staff and her parents a little disturbing, particularly the fact there are only a handful of scenes with Regina and her very distant mother.

The ending was quite abrupt, however it's all forgivable for a book that had my attention completely, and yet there were times it was so intense I wanted to put it down and physically step away.  Shocking and frighteningly easy to imagine it's real, Some Girls Are is another Summers book that I really enjoyed, despite the fact I wanted to slap those horrible girls into next week.

12 November 2013

Review: Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes


Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

Published: 20 June 2013 by Century

Pages: 416 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Mystery, Thriller

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

You're alone. You're vulnerable. And you have something that someone else wants. At any cost...

Claudia seems to have the perfect life.
She's heavily pregnant with a much-wanted baby, she has a loving husband, and a beautiful home.
And then Zoe steps into her life. Zoe has come to help Claudia when her baby arrives.
But there's something about Zoe that Claudia doesn't like. Or trust.
And when she finds Zoe in her bedroom, Claudia's anxiety turns to real fear...

My Thoughts

When I read the synopsis of Until You're Mine, I was immediately curious.  Although not a mother myself, it struck me that a story about a pregnant woman with creepy nanny could be one of those edge-of-my-seat kind of books because the stakes are so very high.  

Until You're Mine is told through three perspectives - Claudia who is finally pregnant with her first child after years of trying and heartbreak, Zoe the nanny who seems too good to be true and Lorraine, the police office investigating a rash of deaths amongst pregnant women in the local area.  Lorraine's perspective was a real surprise, for although she is the investigating officer, she is also having problems in her marriage to Adam, who is also a cop working the same cases as Lorraine.

Unfortunately, Lorraine's perspective, although interesting, actually distracted me from the storyline of Zoe and Claudia and I didn't really see why it was relevant to the story.  It almost felt like it was thrown in as a filler to make the story longer (and at 400 pages it's not exactly a quick read) and it also made it difficult for me to connect with Lorraine because I just wasn't invested in her story.

As for the plot between Claudia and Zoe, that was certainly more what I was looking for - there was definitely an element of mystery and as the story progressed it became more and more captivating as more about Claudia and Zoe's pasts were revealed and the story climaxed in a way I wasn't really expecting.  I didn't see the clues that led up to the ending, although looking back they were there but just cleverly concealed.

Until You're Mine is a good, if slightly predictable in places, thriller, with a lot of mystery and some very clever characterisation.  However, I found the extra perspective irritating rather than adding any value and the ending was a little bit too quick, without the kind of resolution I really needed.

11 November 2013

Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein


Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Published: 10 September 2013 by Disney Hyperion

Pages: 368 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

My Thoughts

When I finished Code Name Verity I knew I'd fallen in love with Elizabeth Wein's style, characterisation and sense of history.  Although I had some small issues with Code Name Verity, I loved the strength of the characters and the depths of their relationships so I was very excited to see how Wein could take another aspect of World War II and turn it into a story of friendship, bravery and strength, and I can say right now that Rose Under Fire didn't disappoint.

Unlike Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire begins at the beginning of Rose's story.  There are also some connections to characters and situations in Code Name Verity, however Rose Under Fire is definitely a traditional companion novel in that it can be read as a standalone.  It could definitely be read and enjoyed without reading Code Name Verity first, but I'm glad I did as it does give extra meaning to some of the secondary characters' stories.

As in Verity, there are quite a lot of references to airplanes and flying in the first part of the book but they disappear once Rose is captured by the Nazis and it's only at the end that it comes back into play, so if you don't enjoy those aspects it's not as full-on as Code Name Verity in that respect.  I also read Rose Under Fire much faster than I read Code Name Verity because I found it a little less heavy, although not any less intense or emotional.  

I'm going to stop comparing the two books for now, but I wanted to talk about some of the aspects that I can imagine some people may have found frustrating in Code Name Verity and hopefully convince people that Rose Under Fire is quite different from Code Name Verity in some ways.

It did take me a while to fully connect with Rose - at first I found her quite aloof and a little lacking in personality, but once she is in Ravensbrück her actions really brought her character alive and by the end I was once again completely blown away by Wein's characterisation.  Rose dreams of being a poet, and there is quite a bit of poetry throughout the story - it's not something I normally enjoy (read - I normally skim poetry) but I found it quite interesting in Rose and actually appreciated the way it made Rose seem even more realistic.  

The secondary characters that Rose meets whilst a prisoner of the Nazi's were simultaneously heart breaking and uplifting - they are all unique, strong and passionate, and although it would be impossible to NOT feel sympathic towards them, I was completely sucked into their story.  Wein does a good job of bringing a feeling of fear and authenticity to Rose's experiences, and the ending brings the story full circle and left me feeling hopeful and uplifted despite the terrible things that Rose and her companions endured.

One final comparison to Code Name Verity - both books focus strongly on friendship, particularly the friendships between women, and in the case of Rose Under Fire, the way that friendships work under huge amounts of pressure and stress.   And this is the main reason that I enjoyed both books so very much, particularly Rose Under Fire - I loved that these books could evoke so much emotion without having romance as the catalyst.

Rose Under Fire is a novel with strong female characters, an atmospheric historical perspective and it was everything I'd hoped for - sad, shocking and ultimately uplifting.  

10 November 2013

Showcase Sunday #61

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.

This week I went to see Bad Grandpa at the cinema - although it was funny, I'd just recommend watching the trailer to be honest - the trailer has all the best bits covered!

Otherwise it was just the normal work, eat, sleep stuff but - 42 days until Australia!



Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Hemlock (Hemlock #1) by Kathleen Peacock
Exit Kingdom (Reapers #2) by Alden Bell
The Outside (The Hallowed Ones #2) by Laura Bickle
172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
Horde (Razorland #3) by Ann Aguirre
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Bonkers: My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders
The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf
The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman
The Abominable by Dan Simmons

Ebooks for review

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman (thanks to HarperTeen)
Tease by Amanda Maciel (thanks to Balzer + Bray)
Life by Committee by Corey Ann Hadyn (thanks to Katherine Tegen Books)
The Taking (The Taking #1) by Kimberly Derting (thanks to HarperTeen)
Exile by Kevin Emerson (thanks to Katherine Tegen Books)
The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor (thanks to William Morrow)

How was your week?  See any good movies?  I need some recommendations!

08 November 2013

Review: The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford


The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford

Published: 30 July 2013 by Scholastic

Pages: 256 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Romance

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia--a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she's been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?

As June approaches--when Laura must return to the United States--Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She's only nineteen and doesn't think she's ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn't she take it?


My Thoughts

The Boy on the Bridge is listed as Historical Fiction on some websites, which kind of made me laugh in an I'm-so-not-offended way because I was born in 1982.  Although I don't particularly agree that is IS historical fiction, it does focus on an interesting time and place in history - Russia during the cold war.

Beginning with Laura meeting a local boy, Alexei, after he rescues her from some intense beggars on the bridge near her foreign-student accommodation.  Laura herself isn't really a character I connected with - her naivety and blindness to some pretty obvious issues grated on me a little bit, and there's not a lot of delving into her personality, likes and dislikes, interests etc.   

Going back to her naivety, there are a lot of situations that she finds herself in with Alexei that should at least have her questioining his motives but she blindly accepts them which didn't sit very well with me.

There is a whole bunch of secondary characters - Laura's friends and roomates, Alexei's friends and although Standiford attempts to make them interesting and a key part of the storyline, it all fell a little flat for me - the best friend doesn't really seem to question the relationship and the actual safety of Laura considering they are living in a secured compound and are being monitored quite closely by the staff.

I also didn't feel the connection between them as a couple - there is very little that they have in common and it felt like Laura was just looking for a boyfriend and Alexei was looking for a nice American girlfriend.  Maybe that's the point of the story, but it really started to irritate me because I didn't understand why Laura was doing the things she was.

On a positive note, there is an underlying feeling of paranoia and suspicion as certain events unfold and if Laura hadn't been so blinded by her feelings for Alexei, it would have been interesting to see how she reacted.  There's also several scenes that go into detail about how both foreigners and locals are treated very differently and their reactions to that treatment which were interesting but unfortunately a little to few and far betweeen.

The Boy on the Bridge is an interesting story from a historical (ahem) perspective and not something that is often written about in Young Adult literature, so there's bonus points for that, but the characters and their motiviations were just too glossed-over for me to really enjoy it.

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