Monday, 27 November 2017

Review Round-Up: Top Ten by Katie Cotugno, You Don't Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow & Once and for All by Sarah Dessen.





Ryan and Gabby are total opposites in every way: hockey star Ryan is the life and soul of the party, while Gabby, who suffers from anxiety, would rather stay at home. Despite their differences – or maybe because of them – Ryan and Gabby are firm friends. As is so often the way of such friendships, these two have had a few near misses over the years, though when we meet them, Ryan and Gabby have never crossed the line that can turn friendship into something more than that – or break it altogether. As graduation looms, Ryan and Gabby decide to reminisce, counting down the top ten moments of their friendship from the time they first met. What these guys really need to talk about, though, is what happened on the night of their high school graduation…

99 Days by Katie Cotugno is one of my favourite contemporary reads (super excited for 9 Days and 9 Nights!) and in Top Ten I really loved reading her take on the often complicated world of male-female friendships. I’ve had a few of those in my time and I know how confusing it can be to wonder if you’re both on the same page of the friendship book; I know how messy it can get too when you are both on very different pages! Let’s just say that Ryan and Gabby are not always on the very same page of their very own friendship book. What they are though, is always there for each other, no matter what. And that, in the end, is what friendship is all about.

I enjoyed Top Ten, finding it to be a heartfelt and honest depiction of an intense friendship between a guy and a girl. I also appreciate that Cotugno does not sprinkle her characters with that special YA fairy-dust that makes for guys and girls who are too perfectly perfect to ever exist in the real world. Ryan and Gabby are flawed and, for me, that just makes for well-rounded characters and an overall more interesting read. One thing: I know a few people who didn’t like the non-linear structure of this book – it took me a while to get into too. I promise you, though, that everything makes sense in the end!



Four stars
Published October 3rd 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Received for review


*****





When Audrey Spencer dreams of her future, she sees fun and freedom ahead, a life filled with art, travel and adventures with her musician boyfriend, Julian. An aspiring photographer, Audrey is itching to finish High School so that she can get started on all the fun of real life. A couple of problems: 1 – real life isn’t always so much fun and 2 – following a birth control failure, Audrey is pregnant. How’s that for real life getting in the way of fun?! Now, instead of a future where she gets to live life on her terms, Audrey imagines a life where she’s stuck at home listening to a screaming baby while changing diapers. Is Audrey ready for life with a baby? Uh, that would be a no.

Thankfully, Audrey has a strong support network of people in her life. Audrey’s adoptive mother, Laura, is sympathetic and understanding when Audrey drops her bombshell, while her boyfriend, though slightly shell-shocked by the news, vows to stand by his girlfriend and support whatever decision she makes. Though Audrey has a tight group of friends, she can’t quite bring herself to tell them the news. The truth is Audrey is not sure her friends, especially her best friend a judgemental-at-the-best-of-times girl called Rose, would understand how on earth Audrey could let this happen. There’s also a letter from Audrey’s birth mother who, unable to provide the life she wanted for Audrey at the time of her birth, put her daughter up for adoption so that she could have a better life. And Audrey has a good life. She has a great life. Is she willing to sacrifice that – sacrifice all her hopes and dreams and happiness – for a baby?

Also, while adoption was the right decision for her birth mother, is it the right decision for Audrey? Audrey considers a termination, while also imagining a future with Julian and their baby. It’s a tough call and one that requires a whole lot of soul searching on Audrey’s part.

Ultimately, a choice has to be made and debut author Rebecca Barrow tackles Audrey’s eventual decision with the grace and sensitivity required for such a delicate subject as this. Barrow’s text serves to inform, but never to preach, while her third-person prose is exact to the point of sometimes being almost detached. This serves to emphasise that while Audrey’s situation undoubtedly causes her emotional turmoil, her eventual decision is an entirely rational one. Importantly, while others around her offer advice and support, Audrey’s decision is entirely hers to make.



3.5 stars
Published August 29th 2017 by HarperTeen
Received for review

*****




Louna Barrett doesn’t believe in happily ever afters. As the daughter of a wedding planner, Louna has seen everything from total bridal breakdowns to feet so cold they’re in danger of getting frostbite – and it’s rendered her a cynic. At least that’s what Louna tells anyone who’ll listen, while rolling her eyes as yet another bride breaks down in last-minute tears. Louna wasn’t always so down on love. The truth is that once upon a time, Louna was in love with a boy she met – you guessed it – at a wedding. Trouble is, that boy is no longer around and, unwilling to put her heart on the line once more, Louna has decided to shut up shop when it comes to love. 

OK, I’ll say it: this was not my favourite Dessen novel. Not by a long shot. For one, I felt strangely disconnected to the characters in this one and even found the character development lacking – which is not something I’ve ever felt about a Dessen novel ever. Maybe this was just down to the fact that I really didn’t connect with Louna’s character; this girl is too serious for words to the point of being school marmish. What Louna needs is to lighten up and have some fun. After all, it’s the summer before she starts college and it just so happens that Louna’s mom has employed all-round hottie and serial dater, Ambrose, to help out with the wedding planning. Louna sees Ambrose as more of a hindrance than a help, rolling her eyes practically every time the guy dares opens his mouth. I mean, Ambrose is annoyingly clueless, but apart from dating three girls at once, he’s essentially a nice guy. And he’s into Louna. 

So, what’s Louna’s problem? Well, there’s Ethan. We learn of their relationship through flashbacks and, I’m sorry to say, I found their relationship a little too sickly sweet to stomach. I mean, Ethan has a pet name for Louna and knows her entire school schedule – and she his – down to the minute – after meeting each other just once. It’s a little intense. Actually, it’s a lot intense. And then, when it ends – and how it ends – causes Louna’s whole world to fall apart. When she meets Ambrose, Louna’s pain in still raw; she’s not thinking about dating, much less falling in love. However, Ambrose has different ideas… 

I hate to say it, but this was an average read for me, and I think it’s maybe one for Dessen fan girls only. If you really, really love weddings and squishy forever romances that develop after all of sixty seconds, then you’ll like this too. As for me, from Louna’s character (prickly at the best of times) to Ambrose as a love interest (I think he’s meant to be charming?), this never quite worked for me. Maybe, like Louna at the beginning of this book, I am just too cynical! 


Three stars
Published June 8th 2017 by Puffin
Purchased

*****



Monday, 30 October 2017

A Quick Update!




Hello! Remember me?!  I'm checking in just to let you know that I haven't disappeared off the face of the earth - nor have I decided to quit blogging about books.   Oh no. The reason you haven't seen me round these parts for a while is that my not-so-trusty laptop decided to up and quit on me! Maybe my laptop has had enough of blogging about books?! 

Now, my laptop has been to the repair shop. Oh yes. The guy there charged me quite a hefty sum and promised me my laptop was once again running perfectly. He promised me. And, I'm not saying he lied, but the truth is, my laptop is not running perfectly. In fact, my laptop is not running at all.  Between you and me, I think I picked a dud repair shop. I'm going back there tomorrow, but I have a feeling that these guys are not going to be able to fix my laptop. I mean, if they could fix it, they would have done so the first time, right?

In Google I trust and Google tells me that I might need a new battery. Either that or the motherboard on my laptop is completely fried. I'm really hoping it's the former. If it's the latter, then it's RIP laptop. Boo!

In the meantime - while I figure out if I can salvage my laptop instead of forking out for a new one - I'm blogging to you from my VERY old and Very slow 10+ years old Toshiba.  I might diss it for being old and slow, but unlike my newer laptop, it has never let me down.  

Problem is, this old laptop is running on Windows XP and so it's not very safe or secure to use. That's why I haven't been around here for a while. Well, that and the fact that this thing takes practically all day to start up. Seriously, it is so super slow. I'm hoping the slow start up is just because it's ancient and not due to the fact that it's riddled with viruses. Yikes!

So, anyway, I just wanted to let you know what has been going on with me. Here's hoping I can get my laptop issues sorted and get back to blogging very soon!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

New Books on my Radar!


Just a selection of my most-anticipated upcoming releases!

 Added any must-have books to your wish list lately? 

Let me know in comments!

------

Young Adult Fiction



Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard || Release date: February 2018


When I was wild, you were steady . . .
Now you are wild - what am I? 


Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.


******



This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi || Release date: February 2018


Penny loves her small-town Florida life—including her boyfriend, Logan, whom everyone expects her to marry. And when she lands a scholarship to the prestigious theater camp of her dreams to explore her love of acting, it’s the beginning of a summer that will change her life. But when she arrives at camp, Penny is thrust into a world of competition and self doubt. And as she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that her own dreams may be bigger than she ever imagined. 

Lauren Gibaldi tells the story of a transformative summer for a girl who discovers just how wide the world really is and that maybe the life everyone expects her to lead may not be the one she was meant to have.


*****



Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett || Release date: April 2018


In this romantic dramedy from the author of Alex, Approximately, a teen girl’s way-too-ordinary life is driven off the beaten path when she’s abandoned in the wilderness with her worst adversary—the boy who broke her heart.

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

*****



The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse || Release date: June 2018

Aubrey and Rae have been planning their trip around Europe practically from the moment they became BFFs in primary school. And, now, it ought to be the perfect way to spend their last summer together before university.

But things are more complicated at eighteen than they were at ten. There's Jonah, Aubrey's seemingly perfect boyfriend, and his best friend Gabe, the boy Aubrey may have accidentally kissed. And there's Clara, the friend Rae is crushing on, hard, even though there's no hope because Clara is definitely into guys, not girls.

Five friends. Ten days. Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Florence, Barcelona. And a messy, complicated, can-this-really-be happening love story, or two ... because how could there not be?

*****



Adult Fiction



The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch || Release date: Nov. 2017


From the mega-bestselling author of White Oleander and Paint It Black, a sweeping historical saga of the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of one young woman.

St. Petersburg, New Year's Eve, 1916. Marina Makarova is a young woman of privilege who aches to break free of the constraints of her genteel life, a life about to be violently upended by the vast forces of history. Swept up on these tides, Marina will join the marches for workers' rights, fall in love with a radical young poet, and betray everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn.

As her country goes through almost unimaginable upheaval, Marina's own coming-of-age unfolds, marked by deep passion and devastating loss, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times. This is the epic, mesmerizing story of one indomitable woman's journey through some of the most dramatic events of the last century.


*****


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn || Release date: January 2018


Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times...and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenage son--the perfect family. But when gazing out her window one night, Anna sees something she shouldn’t. Her world begins to crumble, and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.


*****


The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd || Release date: January 2018


A young schoolteacher falls for a man on Death Row whom she believes is falsely accused, only to begin wondering after their marriage – and his release.

Twenty years ago Dennis Danson was arrested for the brutal murder of Holly Michaels in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a Making a Murderer-style true crime documentary that’s taking the world by storm – the filmmakers are whipping up a frenzy of coverage to uncover the truth and free the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.

Samantha may be thousands of miles away in Britain, but she is as invested in Dennis’s case as any of his lawyers. Perhaps even more so, as her letters to the convicted killer grow ever more intimate. Soon she is leaving her life behind to marry Danson and campaign, as his wife, for his release.

But when the campaign is successful, and Dennis is freed, events begin to suggest that he may not be so innocent after all. How many girls went missing in Red River, and what does Dennis really know?
 

*****


The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton || Release date: Feb. 2018


A brilliantly original high concept murder mystery from a fantastic new talent: Gosford Park meets Inception, by way of Agatha Christie

‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...
 

*****

Monday, 2 October 2017

Book Review: There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.




Product details:
Publisher:  Pan Macmillan.
Paperback, 320 pages.
Release date: October 5th 2017.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.


Best known for her dreamy debut Anna and the French Kiss, popular contemporary YA author Stephanie Perkins turns her hand to horror in There’s Someone Inside Your House, with mixed results.  In this book, which sees high school students stalked by a depraved killer, Perkins equates bloody with scary, so while gore scores high, there is little in the way of suspense or tension and not so much as a sniff of a killer twist to catch the reader off guard.  As someone who has read and enjoyed much of Perkins’ previous works and is also a fan of the horror genre, it’s no exaggeration to stay that There’s Someone Inside Your House was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017, but the truth is I found this one tough going at times ---and not only because I prefer a slow-burn thriller to a bloody gore fest. 

Makani Young has been living in rural Nebraska, where football rules and corn is king, for little over a year when the murders begin.  A transfer from Hawaii, Makani moved to live with her grandmother at the height of her parents’ acrimonious divorce. At least that’s the official story.  As for the actual truth behind Makani’s arrival in Nebraska, well that’s something so terrible that Makani is willing to take to her grave: sooner rather than later if the high-school slasher has anything to do with it. 

So, when we meet Makani students are dropping like flies; throats slashed to bits and brains sliced to ribbons. Yum.  Initially, Makani and her snarky group of friends are not too concerned about the murders, preferring to gossip about their dead contemporaries rather than showing any type of genuine concern for the victims or their families. Yeah. I guess you could say that I didn’t really warm to Makani and friends.  Let’s just say if Makani’s so-snarky-it-hurts friend Alex was next up on the killers’ hit list, it really wouldn’t have bothered me at all. As for Makani, well she’s got other things on her mind, important things like her crush on edgy loner Ollie, who wears a lot of black and has hot pink hair. In rural Nebraska, or anywhere else in the world, Ollie stands out from the crowd - and Makani is hot for that.  However, since Ollie is a little different from the rest and has a tragic backstory to boot, Makani’s friends immediately peg him as the serial killer.  See, I told you they were a great bunch!

Ollie serves as a very willing love interest but he’s also a source of information as his older brother is a local cop who regularly leaves his case files lying open on the kitchen table. Cue gruesome descriptions of murder victims as Makani and Ollie decide to sneak a peek in between hook-ups. Whatever turns you on!  Makani and Ollie might be loved up, but let’s not forget there’s a killer on the loose, and he’s moving in on Makani. That’s right, our girl is next up on the killer’s hit list. But why? Does this have to do with Makani’s deep, dark secret? What is the motive behind the killings? That is the question. Unlike the killer reveal, which comes early on in the story, it’s the motive behind the killings that’s meant to keep readers guessing.  The actual motive behind the killings? Well, that was a let-down.  The cornfields were creepy, though.  You just know very bad things are going to happen when cornfields and horror combine.

I really, really, really wanted to like There’s Someone Inside Your House, but overall I have to say it was a miss for me.  If you like gruesome slasher-flicks where gore is everything, then maybe this one is for you.  As for me, I was hoping that the ‘motive reveal’ would save this somewhat lacklustre tale, but on that count, this one really didn’t come through for me.  Some you win, some you lose, I guess. 


P.S: I did think the stop-start romance between Makani and Ollie was cute in a very real and awkward wires-crossed kind of way. I just don’t think that should have been my favourite part of this horror show, y’know?

Friday, 11 August 2017

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager.




Product details:
Publisher:  Ebury Press.
Paperback, 352 pages.
Release date: July 13th 2017.
Rating: 4  out of 5.
Ages: Adult
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead...

They were the victims of separate massacres. Three strangers bound by similar traumas grouped together by the press.

When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same.



 If you’re a horror movie fan, then you’re already familiar with the concept of the “final girl.” Like Laurie Strode in Halloween and Sidney Prescott in Scream, the final girl is the sole survivor of a massacre that sees all her friends –and possibly her love interest- meet a gruesome end. She’s a slasher-flick survivor:  the only person to face the killer and live to tell the tale. Unfortunately for final girls, lightening often strikes twice, and when that killer resurfaces (often rising from the presumed-dead) to kill again, nobody is safe. Just ask Nancy Thompson. Oh wait, you can’t. Freddy Krueger killed her in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.  RIP Nancy. You fought Freddy Krueger and won.  Until you didn’t. 

Quincy Carpenter is a final girl. But you’d never know it to look at her. Ten years on from the cabin-in-the-woods bloodbath that saw a bunch of her college friends die at the hands of a knife-wielding maniac, Quincy has moved on with her life. The owner of a popular baking blog, Quincy lives comfortably on the Upper West Side with her lawyer boyfriend.  How does Quincy carry on as normal after everything that’s happened? Well, there’s Xanax. There’s also the fact that Quincy doesn’t actually remember anything about the worst night of her life. She remembers hanging out with her friends at the cabin, sure. She remembers the aftermath too, when she ran through the woods to safety. But everything that happened in between? Quincy’s got nothing.

Though she doesn’t remember what happened on that night of horror in the woods, Quincy at least knows that the maniac who killed all of her friends, is dead.  She saw him die with her very own eyes.  But when another final girl, Lisa Milner, dies of an apparent suicide, Quincy is spooked. Is there a “final girls” killer on the loose? Fellow final girl, Samantha Boyd, is convinced something is amiss.   After all, Lisa did everything in her power to survive the sorority bloodbath that gave her “final girl” status. So why take her own life? It just doesn’t make sense. There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s sequel time! And this one’s been ten years in the making.

One of the most buzzed about thrillers of 2017, with fans that include none other than Stephen King, Final Girls is a real edge-of-your-seat stuff, a true page-turner that’ll keep you reading late into the night, even though your home alone and almost too scared to read on.  Or maybe that’s just me. Final Girls is also a whole lot of fun; a whole lot of very sick and twisted fun. If you love a good slasher-flick, then you’ll love this.  It kept me guessing all the way through too.    I suspected everyone. Everyone.  I only figured out what was actually going on right before the final reveal. OK, maybe a couple of chapters before the reveal. I’m pretty disappointed with myself on that score.  I mean, I grew up on horror movies. I really should know better.

One thing I loved about Final Girls is that we get to take a step right back in time to Quincy’s night from hell ten years previously. The night she became a “final girl”.  Yeah, we get to see it all. And let me tell you it’s hard to forget. So why doesn’t Quincy remember anything about that night? And what does it mean for her survival now that the past she tried to forget has come back to haunt her? Will this final girl live to see another day? Or does her time end now?



In short: Final Girls is a whole lot of sick and twisted page-turning fun. Read it if you love a good horror flick. On that note, though I haven’t heard of any movie deal, I would love to see this one on the big screen!

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