Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Review: Twenty Boy Summer

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Released: 1st June 2009
Rating: 4.5 stars

I debated long and hard whether I should read this.  When I saw my library had it, I decided I may as well go ahead and make the reservation.  But when I got it, I put it off.  For days.  Weeks.  It seemed too fluffy and the idea of reading about two girls who planned to meet twenty boys in the hope of a summer fling just didn’t appeal to me, even with the backstory of the best friend’s dead brother.  Imagine my surprise when I finally opened it and found it to be a story about so much more than that.

Ironically, Frankie and Anna don’t reach twenty boys.  They don’t even reach ten.  Where I assumed I’d see Frankie dragging Anna through a myriad of boys, Anna making loads of mistakes along the way which she then regrets, I instead got something meaningful.  Witty.  Don’t get me wrong, there were mistakes.  But it was less a superficial account and more a journey of losing someone and then learning how to let them go.  We only get to see Matt, Frankie’s brother, for a short time at the beginning, but it was enough to make me feel his absence when he died.  I also felt sorry for Anna, who’d been in love with him.  Unknown to Frankie, the two of them had been together.  Matt planned to tell Frankie when they were on holiday, but death intervened – leaving Anna on her own, holding on to a secret that’s crushing her.

 ‘I never say anything about him.
I just swallow hard.
Nod and smile.
One foot in front of the other.
I’m fine, thanks for not asking.’

Each thing that reminded her of Matt while she was in California, each thing that made her sad, made me sad too.  Anna’s a pretty strong girl.  At the same time as hiding her pain, she has to keep an eye on her best friend and pretty much go with what she wants in order to prevent a breakdown, and also just to see Frankie happy.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t disapprove of her actions sometimes – there were definitely times when she shouldn’t have let Frankie walk all over her, and there was one decision she acted on that she really should have put off for a few years, regardless of the fact that it worked out OK.  But it was moving to see all the emotional turmoil, her fear of forgetting Matt and everything they’d shared.

Sam, the guy Anna ended up falling for in California, didn’t fail to capture a piece of my heart.  He wasn’t one of those guys who only want girls for one thing and then abandon them.  He matched her pace and got her to see things beyond what her eyes allowed; he got her to imagine and really feel.  He stopped her the one time she was in danger of getting too drunk and when he found out about Matt, he didn’t leave.  He stood by her and supported her and gave her some really sensible advice.  Sam was just a really sweet guy.  I think I would have been happier if the two had made arrangements to see each other again afterwards.  But their parting was without drama, it was real and it was a sweet end to the perfect summer romance.  Sarah Ockler has definitely done a great job with her teen characters.  Anna and Frankie each have their own realistic journey and I was glad when they opened up at the end.  Frankie’s parents, however, left a somewhat unresolved issue.  I agreed with her when she said to Anna she wanted them to act on her behaviour, to do something instead of just be wilfully blind.  I would have liked to see them grow, too.

Ockler has created here a perfect blend of light and dark, humour and meaning.  Her writing created moments of thought and reflection, observation and feeling.  I tried to pick a quote as an example but then I realised that it all sort of came together, scenes and sections that merged to create a particular image or tone.  The messages and themes behind the book have been portrayed really well, as have the personal journeys and realistions.  Her writing was so vivid it was like I was right there with Anna.  It was just...beautiful.

Overall, Twenty Boy Summer is not the silly and superficial read I was expecting.  Beyond the title lies the story of a girl who struggles to move on while caught up in the past and afraid of letting go; a girl who forces her best friend to admit that she’s not fine and that she, too, needs to move on.  It made me laugh and it made me sad.  Honest and raw, it was really a sweet read that touched my heart.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Review: The Other Life

Title: The Other Life
Author: Susanne Winnacker
Rating: 3.5 stars

When I saw this, what immediately caught my eye was the protag’s obsession with numbers.  Having read Shatter Me, I couldn’t help but be apprehensive about how far the similarities might go between the two.  Fortunately, that was as far as it went.  The Other Life proved to be a quick read that, while not the most amazing of dystopias, certainly kept me reading.

Sherry has spent just over three years living in an underground bunker with her family.  When a virus started turning people into ravenous zombie-esque creatures, everyone was told to get into a bunker and stay there until the military declared it safe to resurface.  Now, however, Sherry’s family are out of food and it is up to her and her dad to leave the safety of their bunker and search for some.  They very quickly run into trouble, with Sherry’s dad taken by the Weepers.  Distraught, she sets out to find him with the help of the mysterious Joshua.

The Other Life is a pretty easy read.  The plotline was for the most part basic and the pacing neither fast nor slow.  To be honest, I was expecting a bit more action, a bit more intensity.  Having said that, there was definitely enough to keep me engaged.  Susanne Winnacker has a writing style that’s easy to follow and her use of contrast between flashback and present day was something I found worked really well.  The flashbacks highlighted moment that would have been insignificant once upon a time but in light of circumstances now became a dream, remnants of a time too late appreciated.  The fact that they were kept short and sweet emphasised this contrast and gave the memories almost an elusive feel.

Sherry’s voice was a curious one.  To me she sounded older than her fifteen years and even now I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing because it reflects her circumstances, or a bad thing.  Perhaps what would have worked for me is if that older voice had developed with her experience with the Weepers.  Or maybe I’m just being too picky.  There was definitely development in her character so that by the end, she was one tough girl.  She lost any naivety that had been present at the beginning and was just generally really brave for her family.  It wasn’t difficult to sympathise with her.  I was very impressed with the opening, where Winnacker sets the scene in the bunker; the tension was palpable and I felt frustrated at how it was up to Sherry to be the mature one.  I have to say, Grandma’s knitting made me feel crazy too.  I dearly would have loved to snatch those needles from her; I probably would have if I’d been there.  Something I wasn’t too sure about, however, was the likelihood of them all staying in there for three years without venturing once outside, especially with the lack of communication they’d suddenly been experiencing.  It didn’t seem particularly realistic to me.

Joshua, on the other hand, was.  He was tough and brave, and also vulnerable.  I liked seeing those flashes where his inner turmoil was exposed and he became someone more scarred by his experiences than he let on.  He was especially guarded when it came to Sherry but at the same time it was obvious he cared.  I would have liked there to be a bit more focus on him at the beginning.  Sherry hasn’t seen anyone outside of her family for three years and when she does, she doesn’t take a moment to really focus on him?  Actually, I think that was an issue generally.  Winnacker could have made this more detailed, and not just with Sherry – here dad didn’t seem fazed by stepping outside for the first time in three years either.  Somehow, though, the author managed to just about pull it off and it wasn’t a hugely major issue.

The ending I thought was nicely done.  There was no cliffhanger but a very good opening for the sequel.  With enough action to keep me entertained and a big enough plot development to keep me intrigued I was more than satisfied with it.  I was also glad to hear more from Tyler.  He’d caught my interest from the beginning and I was amazed to hear his story.  I look forward to see more from him or about him later on.

Overall, The Other Life is an engaging read with a diverse range of characters – from Tyler, the guy who’s taken the name of his dead twin, to Geoffrey, who freely and randomly admits to his contribution with the virus and its consequences, to Grandpa in the freezer.  No way was I going to write this review without giving him a mention.  Since he’s dead the whole way through, I guess strictly speaking he’s not an actual character, but that’s really a minor detail.  I found the idea of moving him totally hilarious.  For all its flaws, this book definitely deserves its fair share of reads, and I look forward to the sequel.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Review: Birthmarked

Title: Birthmarked (Birthmarked #1)
Author: Caragh O'Brien
Publisher: 30th March 2010
Released: Roaring Book Press
Rating: 4.5 stars

This book should come with a warning: Heartbreak ahead

Birthmarked was a book I had been thinking about since I first knew it existed several months ago, so I was pleased to get hold of a copy. I was even more pleased to find this was a book I enjoyed hugely. Injecting the dystopian genre with some new ideas, it definitely had me glued to the pages.

Society is divided between those who live inside the wall and those who live outside. Those inside enjoy a life of luxury and privilege, while those outside have to fend for themselves. Each month the first three babies born must be delivered to the Enclave, for which their mothers get compensation in return. Gaia Stone has always accepted this way of life until, on the day of her first delivery as midwife, she reaches home to find her parents arrested. Mystified as to why this could be, she becomes determined to reverse this injustice and get her parents back. She becomes doubly resolved when she learns that the quota of babies is to be raised. She breaks into the Enclave only to realise it’s not the perfect world she’s always thought it was, and that rescuing her parents may be more dangerous than it first seemed.

This was another book where I was pulled in right from the beginning. The first chapter immediately acquaints us with the laws of the Enclave and it quickly got an emotional reaction from me. I was pained to see a baby taken away from its mother and each protest from the helpless mother made me wince. What was sadder was that later on, it mentions how one mother Gaia attended was simply passive, knowing that her baby was not hers to keep. It showed that people were accepting of society and without fighting spirit, more a sense of hopelessness and resignation. The bond between mother and child is supposed to be the strongest of them all, yet here were the Enclave destroying that bond before it had even begun.

The idea of a baby quota, however, while painful, is still not one I have ever come across. I like that the book has some original ideas. It has that social division, yes, and that physical division to establish and emphasise it. What O’Brien has done is develop it so that the plotline takes on a scientific edge. Nor is it a far-fetched one. The author details well the consequences of having such a closed-off section of society; I was amused at how the undesirables turned out to be the ones that mattered most. It was interesting to see how, with all our knowledge of DNA now, the 24th century is only just reclaiming it.

You’d think it would be hard to like a character like Gaia Stone – someone who takes away people’s babies, naive in her youth of what she’s doing. But it was relatively easy to see where she was coming from; she, like many others, believed that the babies would have better lives inside the wall. But aside from that, even in the first chapter she had that little voice inside of her head, questioning and doubting. I liked that she was fierce, strong and independent. If she decided something was right or had to be done, she went ahead and did it regardless of the risk. She never gave up, instead bringing hope to others. Reading about her inquisitiveness at a young age made me laugh, but I was also admiring and respectful because it showed her to be perceptive and intelligent. I felt bad for her when she had to deal with reactions to her scar, and the relationship she had with her parents was heart-rendering. When I found out that the story behind her scar perhaps wasn’t what she thought, I immediately guessed the truth and gasped. I grieved with her over her parents. I feel like I’ve read too many books where one or both of the parents don’t live up to their role, so it was a joy to see it was not the case here. Nor were here parents ignorant or conforming – quite the contrary.

I loved how O’Brien created characters who really weren’t what they seemed, or even the Enclave, society inside the wall. Sephie surprised me, and I was particularly frustrated with Mace and Pearl because I didn’t understand why they were helping Gaia when they weren’t prepared to believe reality or act on what was happening. Leon...Leon. What can I say? He starts off as Sergeant Grey. When Gaia first meets him his eyes are hidden by the shadows, but ’she sensed an emptiness there that matched the controlled composure of his other features’. Yet I also sensed an edge to him that suggested he wasn’t so empty as he seemed. Leon is a complex mix of ruthlessness and gentility, coldness and compassion. He is haunted and bitter and in no way does he shy away from sacrifice. Granted, he was a bit foolish at times in his obvious behaviour, but this was a comparatively minor detail. My heart broke for him. For him and for Gaia. And for myself. Because this book does not have a happy ending.

If you like dystopia, this is for you. If you like a strong MC, this is for you. If you like relationships that are slow and subtle, this is definitely for you. Birthmarked has an engaging plotline that signals the problems of having too divided a society and the lengths an authoritative power might go to to maintain that division. Gaia’s journey had me caught alongside her, leaving me with no choice but to feel exactly what she felt and to learn who was reliable and who was not. And now I need to get down to the task of obtaining the second book. In the meantime, excuse me while I go anguish over the ending.        

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#5)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.  And for this week here's mine:
Title: All the Broken Pieces
Author: Cindi Madsen
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Released: 11th December 2012

What if your life wasn’t your own?

Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. Nothing, not even her reflection, seems familiar. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder, insisting she please the popular group while simultaneously despising them. But when Liv starts hanging around with Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe, life feels complete for the first time in, well, as long as she can remember.

Liv knows the details of the car accident that put her in the coma, but as the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. Can Liv rebuild the pieces of her broken past, when it means questioning not just who she is, but
what she is?

I love the cover.  I love the title.  I love the synopsis. I love everything I can see in front of me right now.  I'm intrigued by the idea of voices in her head and can't wait to see what the author has made here.

What about you? Do you like the look of this?  What are you waiting for this week?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Liebster Blog Award!

Hey guys!

So I found out yesterday that I got tagged by the amazing Lauren at The Headless Owl for this blogger award.  It's for new bloggers who have less than 200 followers and to quote Lauren, who quoted another blog (YA Fiction & Whiskey Sours):

Award winners share 11 facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who tagged them, come up with 11 of their own questions and tag 11 more bloggers with the award.
So without further delay, here are my answers to Lauren's questions. :)
If you could meet any living author, who would it be?
Tahereh Mafi.  That's the first name that came to mind as soon as I read this question.  Why?  Because her writing is made of awesome.  She is made of awesome.  Have you met her??  Well, OK, neither have I, but from videos on her blog and her tweets, you know she can't be anything less.
Why Young Adult?
Because I'm a young adult.  But yes, there's more to it.  I used to read more adult books than young adult, crime fiction, thrillers, that sort of thing.  But once the Twilight hype erupted, suddenly I had to read more YA.  It started off as just paranormal/supernatural, then my reading gradually expanded to encompass other genres.  YA today has a huge range of characters and messages which you can easily relate to, especially when it's written well, and it can be challenging.  I like books that make me think and that allow me to easily make a connection with the characters.
What is your favourite bookstore or library and why?
Waterstones, but then that's the nearest bookstore to me.
Rank the last 5 books you read from most enjoyed to least enjoyed.
It just so happens that four of these books are tied: Forgiven by Jana Oliver, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky and Unravelling by Elizabeth Norris.  Please don't ask me to rank them further.  It would be painful.  Coming in at fifth place is Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson.  Yes, I see the shocked faces.

What books made you love reading?
Oh God, this requires me to think back...*tries to remember how long she's loved reading*...forever.  I honestly cannot remember which books got me into being such an addict.  I can, however, give you a few books I remember reading when I was in primary school that I enjoyed.  The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz (I think I've grown out of that now. Sad times.)  Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo.  So emotional, although I haven't read it for years.  And Jane Eyre.  I've loved that since the day I first read it, I think I was about 10?
Why and when did you start blogging?
I started blogging last month.  As to the why, I wanted in.  In to this world of awesomeness that is home to other crazy addicts.  And of course, I love being able to share my thoughts and get different opinions on books.  It's part of what got me trying out different genres and just generally giving certain books a go.
If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and what book would you take?
Australia.  I would take the Book of All My Favourite Reads.  I mean, that's what I'd take if there was such a thing (though it'd be pretty heavy).  Until one's made, I'd probably take Anna and the French Kiss.
Describe your dream book.
A complex and engaging plotline.  A subtle romance.  Relatable characters. And an ending to blow me away.  In a good way.

What's your favourite book cover/s?
Divergent.  The original one, that is, with the Dauntless symbol.  Also For Darkness Shows the Stars.  I haven't read it yet, but I adore the cover.  And lots more that would take too long to name.

What is your favourite food?
Anything super-duper spicy.  I've always loved spicy food - like, LOVED it - but lately my tolerance has grown so what seems spicy to my brothers (who should really be used to even a little bit by now) and even my mum (!!!!!!) is actually pretty average to me.  Sadly my mum has to keep the spices on the low because otherwise my brothers can't/won't eat it. :'(  See the About Me tab for further details.

Are you a city person or a country person?
City.  I like the country, but spending a couple weeks there on holiday always makes me realise that I would never be able to actually live there.

11 Facts About Me
1.       I AM A DIE-HARD DR WHO FAN.  You may already know this.
2.       I have two younger brothers. :/
3.       I can type without looking at the keyboard
4.       My film/TV tastes range from Big Bang Theory to Phantom of the Opera to all things Austen
5.       Apparently I own a cow.  Not in this country.  But after being told this one or two years ago, I never heard about it again.  It could be dead for all I know, or sold.  But whatever.  I need to fill in the gaps, even if it's with randomness.
6.       I love going to the theatre.
7.       I am queen of procrastinators.
8.       I hate sports.
9.       My favourite colour is deep/royal purple.
10.    I prefer silver jewellery to gold jewellery.
11.     I'm a time freak.  I hate being late.  If I say I'm going to leave the house at a certain time, I leave on the dot.

My questions to my nominees:
1.    What is the ideal setting for you to read a book?
2.    Paperback or ebook and why?
3.    If the world was about to end and you had the chance to save one book, what would it be?
4.    If you could enter a book, what would it be and why?
5.    If you could meet one love interest, who would it be?
6.    Early bird or night owl?
7.    Favourite time of the year and why?
8.    One book that you've been dying to read since its release and haven't been able to.
9.    What do you enjoy about blogging?
10.   If a genie granted you three wishes that were book- or author-related, what would they be?
11.   You get to change the colour of the sky.  Do you change it?  If so, what colour would you make

My Nominees!
  1. Mag @ GeekChic
  2. Henrietta @ Leisure Reads
  3. Aneeqah @ MyNot So Real Life
  4. Mariam @ Book-A-Holic
  5. Lauren @ Lauren’s Loquacious Literature
  6. Vanya @ YAStoryteller
  7. Isabelle, Kimberly and Sarah @ Wake Up at Seven
  8. Lexie @ StillWaiting for Books to Come True
  9. Gellie @ Kaleidoscope World
  10. Lauren @ Story Bound
  11. Is out there somewhere but apparently beyond my radar
Thank you so much Lauren for tagging me!  Blogging has been a great experience so far, and I love that I'm always meeting new people who get the book addiction.  I hope you're all having a good week. Don't forget to check out all these amazing blogs! :)

Until next time

Friday, 20 July 2012

On a Side Note

Hey everyone!

So the school year is officially, finally over.  Which means sleep! Lots and lots of it. *Rubs hands in gleeful anticipation*  Of course, this post wouldn't mean as much to you guys unless I also told you that the summer holidays essentially means more TIME.  Not just time to sleep, but also to read, review and blog.  So with any luck, I will hopefully be updating more regularly than I have been.  Did I say time, what time, I have so much stuff to do in only a month! I'm so excited!  I've been looking forward to these holidays for MONTHS!

So with that, I'm gonna go and pick another book to read!

Right after an afternoon nap.

See ya guys.

I couldn't decide which was cuter

Review: Unravelling

Title: Unravelling (Unravelling #1)
Author:  Elizabeth Norris
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Released: 24th April 2012
Rating: 4/5

One ordinary night, Janelle Tenner gets hit by a truck. And then brought back to life. By Ben Michaels, of all people. Her determination to find out why he did it and to learn about everything involving the incident leads her to becoming involved in a case her FBI dad is working on. People have been found dead with severe radiation burns, only no-one can figure out where these people came from or how they got radiation poisoning. Even worse, a device has been found. It's counting down. And it can't be stopped. It's not long before Janelle realises Ben knows more about this than he's letting on.

Something I thought worked really well was the way Elizabeth Norris has set this book out. By using time as a marker instead of chapter numbers, the layout became much more flexible, something which the author used to her advantage. I liked the fact that the 'chapter' lengths were varied, as it helped emphasise certain events or memories, moments in time that were significant for one reason or another and that tugged on my emotions because they were highlighted so. Norris' writing style, too, is very engaging. The action moments were fast-paced, and the more emotional moments were well-crafted. I thought the characters were also fleshed out nicely here; they had layers, and were realistic - although there was something about the dialogue that bothered me. Swearing. Now, I don't mind if a book uses that kind of language. It can add to the realism and really have an effect if used appropriately. The problem arises when it's used unnecessarily. Not every teenager swears. The swearing in here felt quite forced which meant that any impact was lost. It was as though it had been added just for the sake of it, and it didn't work.

That leads me nicely to the characters themselves. I loved Janelle's strength. She was determined to find out what was happening and see it through to the end, all the while taking care of her little brother. It was moving to see how she had to be the parent, with her mother suffering from bipolar and her father barely around. She could have broken and given up a long time ago, yet she was unwilling to do that and bore everything that came her way. She had her best friend Alex to rely on but at the same time remained independent. Alex himself was dependable, and I was glad he stayed by her side. Ben was so sweet. It was actually quite touching to see how he remembered things about Janelle while she had barely noticed him until something big happened. There was so much more to him than it appeared, something she realises. It just goes to show that appearances can be totally unreliable.

The plot twist was brilliant. Now, I'm not a hard-core sci-fi fan, but you're looking (well, OK, not looking, but you get what I mean) at a girl who's in love with Dr Who. Does that give you some clue? Maybe not. A lot of stuff happens in Dr Who. I could give you a list, but that would take forever. Just go watch it. Anyway. This was a totally unexpected, totally gripping turn in the book, and if you're into sci-fi, this is definitely for you. I loved the whole concept of it and thought that it was very well thought out.

And, oh, the ending! Possibly the most emotional part of the whole book. Once more Janelle's strength came into play. That girl knows how not to be selfish. By this point she's lost more than she thought possible, and still she refuses to break. Janelle Tenner, I salute you. And Ben also, for being willing to sacrifice the one thing he's worked towards for years. I love the fact that Norris has created strong characters, easy to sympathise with and relate to.

Overall, this is a gripping read that always has you in suspense. Filled with strong characters, an engaging and complex plotline and a dollop of unpredictability, Unravelling is a book that will leave you wanting more.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#4)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we're desperatley looking forward to.  And mine for this week is:

Title: Boundless
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: 22nd January 2013

Unfortunately this is another one with no official synopsis yet, but it doesn't matter.  I absolutely cannot WAIT for this one!  More Clara-angel awesomeness, not to mention Tucker and Christian.  Especially Tucker *swoons*

Anywaaays.  This cover promises good things to come.  Both of Cynthia Hand's titles so far have had gorgeous covers and the books have more than lived up to them, so we know this one won't be a disappointment.  Please don't say I just jinxed that.

What do you think?  What are you looking forward to this week?

Friday, 13 July 2012

Review: Hunting Lila

Title: Hunting Lila (Lila #1)
Author: Sarah Alderson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Released: 5th August 2011
Rating: 3.5/5

You know how people say they're going to try not to go into a book with high expectations? People like me, that is. Well, it's easier said than done. And it almost always ends in disappointment. Hunting Lila is a perfect example of this. I was so psyched to be holding this after all the high ratings and amazing reviews I'd read, particualrly by some trusted GR friends. Sadly, I found this book lacking.

Lila is a telekinetic. After a mugging reveals the ability she's been trying to hide for years, she flees to California where her brother Jack and his best friend Alex are. Having barely enough time to recover from the mugging, she learns that they have been looking for the people who murdered her mother. More than that, they've found them. And now Lila herself is being hunted. In a series of twists and turns, and a lot of running, she soon discovers that appearances are not always reliable.

Alderson wastes no time in cutting straight to the action, burning an impression on us from the very first page. The thing about that is that you expect it to be consistent, but the opening was impressive nevertheless. Few books get straight to the point so quickly, even fewer do it successfully. Soon after, however, I was instead struck by how the writing didn't seem to flow. I hoped this would improve and to be fair, it did - to an extent. Transitions were another thing I don't think the author was particularly successful at; events, actions, places or pieces of information would suddenly jump from one to another with no bridge between them.

I can't say I felt a huge connection to Lila. When she wasn't thinking about Alex, who she was in love with, she focused on the task at hand, which was definitely a plus point. Granted, she spent a lot of time trying to distance herself from and minimalise her part in situations, but she was determined to find out the truth about what was going on. I liked that persistence; it made her a stronger character. And eventually, she stopped running. She realised that she was a part of this fight and that the best thing she could do was accept that responsibility. I definitely liked seeing that change in her.

But that was the problem - she spent too much time thinking about Alex. Whenever something happened, or something important came up, she was too easily distracted by thoughts of him. Quite frankly, I found it very annoying. She could be quite childish about him, and made some assumptions that were both ridiculous and obviously wrong. Her obsession got in the way of letting the reader know more about her - like what it was like coming back to America and seeing her brother years later; like reflecting on her mother's murder. Important information like that was rushed, which meant we only really got to see one side of her in depth, and therefore hard to connect to. However, the relationship between Lila and Alex was unhurried and sweet; while I wasn't swooning, I liked that he was gentle and respected Lila enough to tell her the truth. His behaviour towards her, and their subsequent relationship, were realistic, making it all the more believable. I loved, too, the bond between Lila and Jack.

One of the great things about this book was how unpredictable it was. As I was reading it, I thought I knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were, and that I had a fairly reasonable grip on what was going on - only to find out that I, like our three main characters, had got it completely wrong. I have to say, the last 60 pages were probably my favourite section of the book. It had action, emotion and surprise, all of which completely drew me in. I loved the tension that was created, and the opening made for the sequel. The ending is where I started to see character development and to feel more of a connection to the characters - all of them.

While I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped I would, it remained an engaging read nevertheless. I felt no great enthusiasm for Lila, but I didn't hate her either. The plot line itself was great, and the fact that it wasn't predictable meant that I was actually kept on the edge of my seat at times. All the elements that I felt were disappointing built up to an end which made me more than happy, and it definitely has me wanting to read the second one.        

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#3)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we're looking foward to.  Mine for this week is:

Title: Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: 5th February 2013

This doesn't have an official synopsis yet, but if you've read Shatter Me, you know it's going to be full of awesome.  And this cover.  Despite the fact that I don't like it sometimes when there's a new cover if I liked the old one, I can't deny this is amazing.  2013 please hurry up and come (aren't there so many brilliant books coming out next year?  It's like the Year of the Book or something)!

What about you?  What are you waiting for this week?  Drop me a link and I'll be sure to stop by. :)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Review: Awaken

Title: Awaken
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: 23rd May 2011
Rating: 3.5/4 out of 5

Awaken had been on my computer for quite some time up until this point. I'd started it two or three times but for one reason or another was never able to go beyond the first couple of paragraphs. I'm glad to say I finally sat down and read this properly. It was definitely worth it, although I'm still not sure what rating this truly deserves.

The year is 2060 and technology has taken over. Hardly anyone goes out anymore. Instead, they go to school, work, the beach, anywhere they want, all from the safety of their own homes. Why wouldn't they, when anything outside can be virtually replicated, able to be experienced without stepping a foot outside the front door? Madeline Freeman, however, wants more. And when online studymate Justin Solvi insists on them meeting face to face, she can hardly believe it. She is shocked when she discovers his motive for seeking her out...not to mention confused when he opens her eyes to the lie her life is, and to everything she's missed out on.

This isn't quite like other dystopias I've read. Generally you have a regimental government exercising total control over society, or a set societal hierarchy in which a particular group is considered an outcast, illegal, inferior. At least, that's what I've come across. In Awaken, Katie Kacvinsky provides a different take on dystopia, focusing more on how technology dominates. While there is a controlling government, it is not as high on the extreme scale. Having said that, dystopia also means a society in which a key problem is causing it to be dysfunctional, and there are certainly problems here. The world Kacvinsky has created is frighteningly possible. Today, each day brings with it a newer, faster, (supposedly) better piece of technology. And with these developments, we become lazier and dependent; we demand instant gratification, and that is exactly what this book points out. Here, people have lost the ability to actually live life. It always strikes me as ironic that, despite these societies being set in the future, they are far more backward in some way than we are today. The author has crafted this well, although I would have liked to see some more world-building: there were times when it felt very current.

I liked Maddie well enough. She was a little self-contradictory - she doesn't like her dad controlling her, yet when offered the chance to make a change, is more comfortable with following a determined path. But at the same time, she is strong. Strong enough to know what was wrong with her life at 15 and act on it; strong enough to step out of her comfort zone and meet Justin two years later. I also couldn't help but share in her sadness. Her dad, inventor of the digital school and consequent millionairre, is the very definition of controlling tyrant. While I understood the distrust he had for his daughter (someone's daughter stealing their secret files and giving them to the opposition is bound to do that to a person), what I couldn't understand was how potent, almost toxic, that distrust was two years on. What father, however unforgiving, bugs his daughter and has her followed? What father checks and triple checks every aspect of his daughter's life, all the way down to the number of people in her study group?

The relationship between Justin and Maddie was incredibly well-paced. I thought Maddie was too quick to let Justin get under her skin, but that was balanced by the distance he put between them. I liked that his character was consistent - it's obvious that he does actually care for Maddie, but he warns her it can't happen between them, and lives by his word. When he eventually gives in, the relationship between them is sweet. I loved how he was always taking the time to give Maddie new experiences. Her reactions to these I particularly enjoyed because it gave me a whole new appreciation for life. Everything we take for granted - from the colours around us, to fire, to to the grass beneath our feet - she appreciates and respects. Even a scratched, creaky wooden floor. As ridiculous as it sounds, what we see as flawed, something beneath our notice except to be annoyed about, she saw as a sign of history. I loved seeing things from a new, fresh perspective.

Overall, Awaken was an engaging read. Even though it perhaps wasn't what I was expecting, I still enjoyed it. There were sizable chunks where perhaps not much happened, yet Kacvinsky managed to pull it off and keep me reading nevertheless. I'm definitely looking forward to the second one.          

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Another Giveaway!

Hey guys!

Can you believe how much stuff is going on in the blogosphere?  It's so active. Which is why I have yet another giveaway for you guys to go check out and indulge in.  This one is hosted by Beverley @ A Reading Daydreamer.  It's international and the winner gets to pick their choice of book, as long as it's under £7 from The Book Depository.  Exciting, right?  So what are you waiting for?  Go!


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Review: Before I Fall

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: 24th October 2011
Rating: 4/5
'...it makes me feel, weirdly, like maybe all of these different possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other memories layered beneath it that look different.'

Lauren Oliver definitely impressed me with Delirium, so of course I went looking to see what else she'd written. I finally got around to reading this and am left impressed once again.

If you only had one day left to live, what would you do? Who would you spend it with?

These are the questions Sam Kingston thinks a little about, but not much. Mostly she thinks about having fun with her friends, spending time with her boyfriend and maintaining her popularity. But then she dies, and everything changes. Because Sam can't die straight away; not just like that. First she must repeat the same day seven times and use those days to figure out what went wrong and how to fix things. One life and her death depend on it.

At the beginning, I didn't warm to Sam. While she wasn't exactly oblivious to what she was doing, she still failed to realise the true seriousness of her actions, and while she knew that she and her friends were acting badly, she failed to stand up to them and try to open their eyes. Very quickly she grew angry with what was happening to her and decided that none of it mattered. She could do anything she wanted, and what would it matter since she would get to relive the same day again tomorrow? I also thought she was being pretty selfish when she knew that someone else's life was at stake, yet decided to interfere only because she thought it might help her. Then, however, she realised what she had to do. I loved seeing her character bloom in the last two or three days; even though she had a few misguided starts, there was at least some progress, and eventually Sam came to be an admirable character.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for her friends, Lindsay, Elody and Ally. There were glimpses for each of them, Lindsay especially, that showed a deeper insight into their characters, but not enough to affect me in any way. I would have liked to have seen more - some change in their characters, too. I would also have like to see some more moments with Sam's family. Even though we see the same day repeating itself throughout the book, there could perhaps have been more insights that happened according to Sam's behaviour. We see a little more depth to Sam's mum, but again, not enough for me to really appreciate it. Having said that, I loved Sam's little sister, Izzy. Despite the age gap, Izzy is in some ways wiser than her sister.

"Do - do the other kids ever make fun of you? For how you talk?"
I feel her stiffen underneath her layers and layers. "Sometimes."
"So why don't you do something about it?" I say. "You could learn to talk differently, you know."
"But this is my voice." She says it quietly but with insistence. "How would you be able to tell when I was talking?"

At this point Sam is starting to pick up on things, but there's so much she still doesn't get. It's moving to see how wise Izzy can be. I loved seeing Sam appreciate her more and wanting to spend time with her; the development of their relationship was really sweet, as was that between Kent and Sam. He's quiet, but intense, present and true. He loves Sam, yet is not afraid to be honest with her. As he says, he sees right through her.

Without a doubt, the best thing about this book is the writing. Lauren Oliver knows exactly which words to use to wrench the emotions out of you, and she knows how to describe things beautifully. I love her ability to pinpoint an exact emotion, thought, moment. Her contrast between Sam's typical teen observations and her more thoughtful realisations made me appreciate the writing even more. It got me thinking about the truth of those realisations and about how well Oliver seems to know about life. We do things every day, perform actions, say words, without thinking about the impact or consequences they may have. And that's really what this book explores.

The pace of this book is gradual. At the beginning, I thought it was just an OK read and nothing more, but then it started building up and Sam's character started developing. The messages and the emotions behind this book are powerful. I realise I've only touched very briefly on the love interest in this, but really, it's about so much more than that. I'm not too sure how I feel about the ending, though, other than it was very moving. If you haven't read this yet, I strongly recommend it.


If you only had one day left to live, what would you do? Who would you spend it with? And what would you change?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


I write bearing news of more exciting events.

Sarah@Saz101 and Lauren@Lauren's Loquacious Literature are hosting Potterthon, which is basically a month-long celebration of all things Harry Potter!  There's been so much hype about it lately, and to bring things to an all-time high, these guys are running a bunch of events for all HP fans to take part in.  The last day, 31st July, is Harry's birthday, and this year, believe it or not, marks fifteen years of Hogwarts wizardry!

Now, I for one haven't read these books in years, so it's a great chance for me to re-read them and catch up on my favourite moments.  Like Hermione's Moment in PoA.  Take that, Malfoy!  And you, basilisk, you think a little venom is going to stop the great Harry Potter?  If Voldemort can't do it, what on Earth makes you think you can?  And as for you, Dudley, as far as I'm concerned, only having a tail is really quite generous.


So, for all you fans-in-hiding out there (or not, as the case may be), head on over to check out these blogs so you don't miss out on all the fun!

Blogger out.

Waiting on Wednesday (#2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we're looking forward to.  Here's mine for this week:

In Clockwork Princess, Tessa and her companions travel all over the world as they race to stop the clockwork army before it's too late. As Jem's health worsens alarmingly and his friends search desperately for a cure, can Tessa choose between the two boys she loves — even if it means never seeing the other one again?

Summary taken from GoodReads

I'm loving Cassandra Clare's work.  All these books on Shadowhunters and yet they're still going strong!  I can't WAIT for this to come out, and am absolutely looking forward to seeing what she comes up with in Dark Artifices as well.

What about you?  Are you a Clare fan?  If you have your own WoWs, feel free to leave a link and I'll check it out. :)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Giveaway to Check Out

Hi everyone!

I have another giveaway for you to check out while I finish reading my book and write a review, which should hopefully be up in the next couple of days.  This one is hosted by the amazing Brodie at Eleusinian Mysteries.  On offer is an ARC of White Lines by Jennifer Banash; the giveaway is international and ends on the 18th July.  You can check it out here.