Monday, 29 July 2013

New Adult Monday: Castles on the Sand/Love in Darkness by E.M. Tippetts

I'm reviewing this pair of books together, because they belong together, and because I was lucky enough to be given ARCs of both by the author at the same time.

When I applied to get read & review copies, I saw that the first book, Castles on the Sand, is classed as Young Adult, while Love in Darkness is New Adult. At the time, this confused me. Why would someone write a YA book and follow it up with a NA book? Doesn't that alienate a whole host of readers who like YA but feel they aren't yet ready for NA? After reading both, I'm still not sure that I totally agree with doing this, but I can completely see why it turned out like that. Hopefully after reading my reviews you'll see it too.

Castles on the Sand, when taken by itself, is a very interesting book. It deals with a lot of different topics, and I think it deals with them well. When looked at in conjunction with follow-up Love in Darkness, it could be seen as a prelude. An exercise in really getting to know the characters who matter so much in the second book.

There's a lot going on in Madison Lukas' tiny town. Not on the surface - there it's just like any other small town. But then you see that three of the main characters in the book have major family problems, of varying types, and that's a lot to take on. It's probably not unusual in any town, but to read about them all at once takes a bit of commitment. Castles on the Sand isn't an easy read, but it's a really good read.

There are aspects of Madison that annoyed/confused me. She takes that whole 'she's gorgeous but she doesn't know it' thing a bit too far. You can accept her kind of low self-esteem up to a point, particularly when taken in conjunction with her home life, but can she really not know how popular she apparently is at school? You'd think she'd notice something like that. Then the way she reacts to her long-lost brother turning up baffled me a little. She goes from deeply suspicious to 'I love you' remarkably quickly. But with a mother who literally doesn't care and a best friend who has a very odd way of showing it if she does care, Madison is clearly starved of affection. The unconditional love that her religious brother offers must just about bowl her over.

I have to mention the religion, as it features pretty heavily. A lot of the characters in the book are Mormon, although Madison herself isn't. Speaking as an agnostic, the religious aspect intrigued me actually. Mormonism isn't a religion I know much about, and I really liked how both the blind belief, and the skeptic outsider viewpoints are both explored.

Despite the aspects that annoyed or baffled me, I do like Madison. After all, what real person is completely likeable? We acknowledge and accept the faults of our friends, and the same goes for our favourite characters. There is another character who I liked even more, but I'm not going to reveal who... yet.

And from here on I guess you could say this review gets a little spoilery - in that by discussing book two, you get a feel for how book one goes. I won't reveal anything major that isn't in the Goodreads summaries, but if you'd rather not know anything then you probably need to go away and read Castles on the Sand before reading the rest of the review.

Castles on the Sand is Madison's story, and Love in Darkness is Alex's story. I'm so happy about that. I was hooked on Alex from the moment we met him in CitS, and to hear his story told his way is a gift. Not that it's an easy story to read. I thought CitS was a tough read, but LiD is another thing altogether. I really wasn't expecting a tale of mental disability, but that's what I got and it blew me away.

There's a chunk of time, two years, missing from between the two books, but it's not important to either story. It's time when Alex and Madison are apart, each working on their missions. We come across Alex at the end of his mission, and an attack of psychosis.

Because of his schizophrenic mother, Alex thinks he has an advantage. He knows what to expect, knows the signs to look out for. Really though, it puts him at a disadvantage, because it means he expects the worst and won't accept that he might not ever be that bad. Advances in science and treatment techniques mean that his story will be different from his mother's, but for various reasons Alex finds that hard to accept.

I thought Madison had low self-esteem, but Alex is like the poster-boy for it. He's hot, but he doesn't know it. He's been dealt a bad hand in life, but he doesn't see it that way. He won't see himself as a victim of circumstance - instead the people around him are victims of his problems and the ways in which he's dealt with them. His main problem is his complete and utter belief that he doesn't deserve Madison. We know otherwise, though. Despite, or maybe because of his problems, Alex is sort-of wonderful.

Tippetts' writing hits the perfect blend of telling us what we need to know, and making us feel what she wants us to feel. Her characters are brilliantly, heart-wrenchingly real, and both Madison's and Alex's tales each comes across with a very different persona. She's got their personalities spot on, and she makes us want to know them intimately. Tippetts must either have first hand experience of a schizophrenic, or she's really done her homework. Her portrayal of the condition is sympathetic yet realistic, and the voices which Alex hears make for weird but moving reading. I will definitely be looking up her other work now, hoping that her other stories will be just as beautiful and touching as this one.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Review: Soulmates by Holly Bourne

Published by: Usbourne
Release date:
1st September 2013
I got it from:
ARC from publisher via GR giveaway

Goodreads summary:
Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect matches for each other. Soulmates. But while the odds of this happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning, when these people do meet and fall in love…thunderstorms, lightning strikes and lashings of rain are only the beginning of their problems.

Enter Poppy, the 17-year-old cynic with a serious addiction to banana milk, and Noah, the heart-throb guitarist; residents of mediocre Middletown, sometime students, and…soulmates.

After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them, a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, (and a looming psychology coursework deadline), they are left with an impossible choice between the end of the world, or a life without love…

My review:
I don't do spoilers. But I've never wanted to so much! I feel like this book should come with some kind of warning. At some point, you will cry. That's all I'll say.  

Bourne is the writer I've been waiting for. Finally I get to read an amazing YA story and it's British! I read so much US YA that I forget how nice it is to have Brit references that I actually recognise and relate to. Please publish more stuff like this! Poppy and Noah are the perfect couple. Reading about their love blossoming was so sweet, but not in a sickly saccharine way. They're both wonderful characters, and you want them to have everything. 

The paranormal element turns a sappy love story into something else entirely. Anita and Rain are like baddies trying to save the world, and they're brilliant. Poppy is so strong, so much her own person, even when falling in love, she makes a perfect female protagonist. Noah is so flipping gorgeous and wonderful. Best boyfriend ever.

This has to be the world's vaguest review - there's so much I want to say, but can't! Bourne's writing is so good. You feel everything Poppy feels. Her friends are brilliant supporting characters. It's all so real, so true and then there's an injection of the paranormal that takes your breath away. This can't be happening, but it is... 

If you've read my reviews before, you'll know I have a thing about endings. Very few live up to my requirements. I can't decide if I love the end of Soulmates, or hate it. I think it has to be a bit of both. It's very very brave. 

I've just re-read what I've written and it's oh-so disjointed. That's how I feel after reading the book though. If I'd started writing this half-way through reading it, you would have had a paragraph (at least) about the power of true love and stuff like that, but I don't think I can do that now. Poppy and Noah's romance is incredible, wonderful and beautiful to read. But. There is a But. I just can't say what it is. Sorry. Read it if you're feeling brave, and love it for its beauty. I'll definitely read whatever Bourne has to offer next, but if it's too much like Soulmates I will probably want to pour a banana milkshake over her head. Also, banana? bleugh.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Review: Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Published by: Random House Chilren's
Release date:
6th August 2013
I got it from:

Goodreads summary:
Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.

Will is her Intended.

The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound's underground fortress--the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she'd rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.

My review:
This book kind of blew me away. It's different to anything I've ever read before. It's deep, it's chilling, it makes me question things, and it's a bit amazing. That said, I really don't know how to write about it. 

It's written in the first person, present tense. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. This time it does - it really, really works. We are there with Lyla, every step of the way. We feel what she feels, because Parker gives us the little clues and details that are essential to us in order to share Lyla's thoughts. 

Lyla is a girl who is on the cusp of becomming who she is meant to be. Many kids go through childhood an their teen years being that kid, the one that everyone thinks they are, just doing what's expected of them. And then there's a point, maybe not even a significant one, maybe just an ordinary day, when things start to change. That's exactly where Lyla's at. She's been Little Owl, the quiet, meek one who watches, forever. Then one day she starts to think that maybe that isn't who she really is. Because of the kind of life she has, changing and blossoming into her own person means a lot more than it would for any teen in a normal situation. Thinking for herself is a dangerous thing for Lyla. 

Cody is the catalyst to Lyla's change. If she hadn't met him, talked to him, I'm not sure how things would have gone. He's an incredibly important character, but he don't actually see very much of him. He's pivotal to the story going a certain way, but we never really get to know him. Even so, he, like all of the characters, feels very real. 

The community that Parker has built feels very solid and real. I'm sure she's done a lot of research into cults, and she made it easy to see how people can be drawn in. Pioneer, the leader, was a scary character. Very charismatic, with the talent for saying things in such a way that people want to hear them and will believe them. I'm sure it takes a certain kind of person, in a certain situation, to be taken in by what seems like a completely unbelievable yarn, and the way Parker presented Lyla's family, lost after the disappearance of Lyla's sister, made me able to believe that yes, weak people or people who have lost their strength for whatever reason, are easily preyed upon and persuaded. I had the feeling that Lyla's father was never completely on-board, but for the sake of his wife he went along with it. 

There are lots of twists and turns, but they're subtle enough not to scream at you. Parker is a seriously talented writer. She has that rare talent for getting inside your head and making you look at things in a certain way. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Review: Slumber by Tamara Blake

Published by: Diversion Books
Release date:
16th July 2013
I got it from:

Goodreads summary:
Once upon a time, Ruby believed in magic…

When Ruby volunteers to take her mother's housecleaning shift at the gothic Cottingley Heights mansion, she thinks it's going to be business as usual. Clean out the fridge, scrub toilets, nothing too unusual. But nothing could prepare her for the decadent squalor she finds within. Rich people with more money than sense trashing their beautiful clothes and home just because they can. After the handsome Tam discovers her cleaning up after him and his rich friends, Ruby has never felt more like a character from her sister’s book of fairy tales.

Tam sees beyond Ruby’s job and ratty clothes, and sweeps her off her feet, treating her like a real princess, but Ruby is sure this beautiful boy is too good to be true. And as one tragedy after another befalls Ruby and her family, Ruby painfully learns that magic is all too real, and it always comes with a price.

My review:
Ooh, what a delightful little find. This is why I love Netgalley. Because in amongst a load of good books (and a few not-so-good), now and then I come across a real gem that I probably would never have read otherwise. And now it's my job to convince you that you want to read it too!

The mesh between urban life and magic is perfect here. Ruby is as real as it gets - reduced to sorry circumstances, living in a trailer park with her mum and little sister, her grades at school slipping because she has to work and look after her sister too much. Then there's Tam. I'm not going to reveal what Tam is, because it's not mentioned in the summary and I don't want to drop a spoiler. He's, shall we say, different. In a non-spoilery way he's too gorgeous for words, rich, and surprisingly gentle. His friends are all spoiled brats just looking for the next high, but Tam is different. Blake leaves us plenty of clues as to just how different he is, scattered like a sparkling trail of glitter, so I'm fairly confident that you'll figure it out - at least before Ruby does. You can't blame her though - I would have found the truth hard to swallow too. 

There's a delicious darkness to Slumber. Like the best, oldest fairy tales, all is not sweetness and light in Ruby's experience. From the moment she steps into Cottingley something shifts, and we take a walk on the dark side. Blake's descriptive talent brings her world alive with flair and passion. The sights, sounds and smells sink into your brain and make you feel like you're right there with Ruby. Sour champagne and rotten flours fill the air, glitter snd broken glass grind under your feet, and the swathe of destruction is something to behold. Then the inhabitants of Cottingley start to appear, and it becomes clear that this is the aftermath of no ordinary party. 

Ruby herself is a brilliant protagonist. She has a wonderful sense of irony, a wry wit and a willingness to plunge ahead where others fear to tread. She cares so deeply about her family that she will do literally anything for them. Many people say that, not expecting it to be put to the test. Not so for Ruby. The relationship between Ruby and her little sister is so sweet, and I mean that in a real way rather than a saccharine way. I'm no fan of kids, so when I like a child character it means something. 

I now want to read everything Tamara Blake has ever written, which is disappointing as Slumber is her debut. I hope beyond hope that she is currently writing a sequel, because I really need to know what happens to Ruby. Blake has a way of getting into your head and making the unreal seem real, and I want more of it!

Monday, 8 July 2013

New Adult Monday: Second Hearts by G J Walker-Smith

Published by: G. J. Walker-Smith
Release date:
4th April 2013
Wishes Series #2
I got it from:
ARC from author
Goodreads summary:

Charli Blake's high tolerance for risk doesn't always work in her favour.
After a year of living out her dream of travelling the world, the sunny West African village of Kaimte would be her last stop.
She's bound for New York, in search of the boy she'd let go of long ago.
For Charli, nothing has changed. She's travelled thousands of miles but hasn't moved an inch. Adam Décarie still means everything to her.
But reality soon hits hard.
For Adam, everything has changed.
Memories of the best love she's ever known is all she has left, until Charli makes a shocking discovery. None of it had ever been real in the first place.

My review:
Oh, boy. Someone please tell me that the next book is out very soon, because I need it!

I was totally hooked by the end of Saving Wishes (see my review), and now I've been sucked in even further. Second Hearts has a different kind of feel to it, but I expected that. Saving Wishes was about the magical beginning of a relationship, while Second Hearts is about what happens next. There are still hints of magic here and there - when Charli arrives in New York she's full of hope and her usual impulsive self. Fate isn't going to let her have it easy though, and it's not too long before she starts to lose sight of La La land.

Oh no! Charli can't lose it. La La land is my favourite place to be. I adore Charli's tales of random fairies and nonsensical folk-lore. But when everything you believed has been torn apart and you're in a strange city, it's difficult to maintain your optimism. I feel like I'm speaking in riddles a little here, but I'm loathe to give anything away. You have to want to read it yourself.

Then there's that moment. That part in the book where everything is as happy as can be, and you just want things to stay like that forever. Unfortunately, at this point there's still a couple of hundred pages to go, and you now deep down that it's not going to be plain-sailing.

In a way, what happens is an echo of the story of Saving Wishes, but it's on Adam's territory this time and that makes a big difference. Can he make Charli want to stay, or can she make him want to leave with her? It seems cruel of fate to bind two people so tightly when they have such different dreams and goals. Are either of them weak enough to give in? Weak, I hear you ask? Is it weakness to give up your dreams to be with the one you love? Yes it is, because no matter how deeply in love you are, if you're not where you want to be, doing what you want to do, you're never going to be completely happy and that can turn love sour.

I fell in love with Charli all over again. She can be evil, bolshy and whimsical, and she drives most people nuts, but she's all kinds of amazing. We get to see a different side of Adam too, one that I'm not loving, but one that's more realistic. When Adam met Charli, he was on holiday - from himself as well as his life. Seeing him on home turf, back in his own habitat, of course he's going to be different. Some other great characters are introduced too, to replace the ones Charli left behind in Tasmania. Adam's brother Ryan has to be my favourite. He's the archetypal man-whore with a secret romantic heart. I would love to see a spin-off of his story. Fiona, Adam and Ryan's mother, is another great character. She's so aloof and proper most of the time, but then she lets go occasionally surprising bitchiness! Even dim Whit is an interesting addition to the cast.

If you haven't read Saving Wishes, I implore you to go and do so. If you have, what are you waiting for? Get Second Hearts right now and prepare yourself - there will be tears, and you will be mad at Walker-Smith's audacity in leaving us on our knees, begging for more!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Review: The Vampire Underground by Brian Rowe

Published by: Brian Rowe
Release date:
3rd April 2013
Grisly High #1
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:

16-year-old Brin Skar hates everything to do with the supernatural, so the obsessive film geek isn't happy when she discovers that her junior year Film class at Grisly High is devoted to the horror genre. She's even more disconcerted when she learns that six groups in the class will be writing and directing their very own horror movies.

Brin and five classmates travel to Bodie Ghost Town in California to shoot their creepy film, but they soon find themselves fighting a real terrifying threat when a clan of mean, bloodthirsty vampires emerge from beneath the surface and start attacking the group. The teens, headed by Brin and the egotistical director Anaya Frost, have no help from the outside and become outnumbered by the vampires a hundred to one.

But when Brin meets Paul, a helpful and smoldering vampire outcast who's had enough of his shameful life, she realizes he might be the only key to her survival.

My review:
A lot of the time this book feels like an antidote to Twilight. The film-buff kids even ridicule poor Bella and Edward's story, favouring instead classics such as Nosferatu. Little do they realise they're going to end up in their own vampire horror film. 

Much of the book reads like a teen horror film. It would, indeed, make a great film. A bunch of kids go to an abandoned ghost town (down a road that's been closed, no less) to make a short movie for their film class, and get a whole lot more horror than they bargained for. In between there's the kooky tale of two best friends, and a fledgling romance that's not too far away from the Twilight the kids have such derision for. What's not to love?

Brin is your bog-standard protagonist, a girl who isn't the most popular, but she's pretty, smart and has her best boy friend Ash to rely on. Ash has two gay dads, but is most definitely into girls. Not Brin though - the pair have known each other forever and are more like brother and sister. They get split up in film class, assigned to different groups in the film-making project. Brin has to put up with poster-boy Chase, girly Lavender, and Anaya, a big, fat bitch (not my words). Her saving grace is Dylan, one person she can actually stand to be around. 

Anaya goes a little loco with the film project, taking over and giving it way more importance than it warrants. To the point of forcing her group to drive through thick snow and ice to a spooky ghost town to make the film. There's a lot of arguing and bickering, and then the proverbial hits the fan. 

Rowe's vampires are suitably scary. They are monsters who act in hunger, without remorse. They have eyes that cast a terrifying red glow, and they can make the ground open up and swallow you. At this point the book gets scary in the style of the best horror films. There's a freaky underground lair, there's vampires dressed as clowns (even more freaky!), there's blood, gore and death.

The book ends with the culmination of a very big, unwanted and horrifying adventure for Brin, but it's clear that there's so much more to come. Bring on book two!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dorky Reviews: Life in Outer Space and Adorkable

The universe likes synchonicity. You wake up with a song in your head, and it's the first thing you hear on the radio. Something bothersome happens to you one day, and that night the same thing happens to a character in your favourite TV show. You request a random book on Netgalley, and the next day a book you forgot you ordered from the library arrives, and it turns out they're both about the same thing. And neither of them are American. And it's not even a vague thing, like romance or vampires - it's way more niche than that, because really, how many books about dorks are there out there? So it happens that I have both Adorkable by Sarra Manning, and Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil in my possession. So I figured I should do some kind of comparison review, or possibly just two reviews in one post. I'll start writing and see what occurs...

Adorkable by Sarra Manning

Goodreads says:
Jeane Smith's a blogger, a dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand, and has half a million followers on Twitter. Michael Lee's a star of school, stage, and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie. They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can't they stop making out? This novel is about an unlikely relationship, but it's also about roller derby, dogs on skateboards, dogs on surfboards, dogs doing any form of extreme sport, old skool hip hop, riding your bike downhill really fast, riot grrrl, those boys you want to kiss but punch in the face at the same time, dyeing your hair ridiculous colors just because you can, stitch 'n' bitch, the songs that make you dance, the songs that make you cry, being a bad ass, cake, love, death, and everything in between.

My review:
I read Adorkable first because I'm in the midst of a love affair with Sarra Manning (see my review of Let's Get Lost), and I couldn't wait. I advise reading Guitar Girl before Adorkable, not because it's necessary, but because you get to see a character or two further along the road and it's nice to catch up with them again. 

I loved Adorkable. I loved Jeane, and I especially loved Michael. I think I might be a bit of a dork myself. 

Most young dorks keep quiet about it. They feel different, separated from the 'in' crowd and often alone. Jeane is a different breed of dork though - dork and proud! She stands up for dorks the world over. Her blog and twitter feed offers friendship and hope to lonely dorks everywhere. She is wise beyond her years, speaking out about politics, the environment, fashion and cute puppies, tracking and announcing trends before anyone else has noticed them. She lives like an emancipated minor, alone since her sister got a residency in America, so she spends the time when she's not doing her A-levels working on her brand, watching videos of cute dogs and training her boyfriend to be who she wants him to be. She is still a 17 year-old girl though, so her flat is a pigsty and she lives on Haribos and coffee. 

Michael has a good home life. His parents love one another and him, they encourage him in everything he does, and he is perfectly happy. He is also perfectly perfect in just about every way. He is popular, clever, sporty and hot, and going out with the lovely Scarlett. But all is not well in that relationship - Scarlett is more interested in Jeane's boyfriend Barney than she is in her own boyfriend. So, we are left with a pretty conundrum. Michael is aware of Scarlett's straying eyes, but when he tries to do the decent thing and let Jeane know he ends up with a face full of verbal abuse. This sets the tone for the not-relationship between these two. Every time they try to talk, they end up in a shouting match. Jeane is the first person not to accept Michael's perfection, and he is the first person to try and get beyond her prickly exterior. All that negative energy has to go somewhere though, and somehow they end up kissing. 

There are so many things to love about Adorkable. There's the teenagers who, for the most part, actually act and talk like teenagers. There's the fact that Jeane is not pretty, or even secretly attractive in any way, yet Michael is still drawn to her. There are the brilliant arguments and undeniable chemistry between Michael and Jeane, which is, quite frankly, making both their lives an awkward sort of hell.  There is the fact that Michael is mixed-race gorgeous, because there are not enough mixed-race characters out there. There are the little pockets of sadness and honesty which make this story rise above the usual cute contemporary teen life. There are all manner of references to life as a teen in the UK, which I can actually get and identify with because I'm a Brit reading a brilliant Brit book, and that doesn't happen often! 

It's funny and sweet and all of those cutesy, awkward things, and it's heart-rending and big and real. J'adork!

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Goodreads says:
Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, he doesn’t have to worry about girls.

Then Sam meets Camilla. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his life. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a life of her own – and she’s decided that he’s going to be part of it.

Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies ... but now it looks like he’s been watching the wrong ones.

My review:
When I started reading this, I thought Sam and his little band of misfits were the dorks. And they are, but then I realised that they're not the only ones - Camilla is another dork queen. Sam is actually a geek, but I think he's a dork too. I need to sort out my terminology - dork, geek, nerd - who can give me proper definitions? Anyway, so there's Sam and his friends. They spend most of their time avoiding Justin Zigoni and the A-list kids, who have a habit of using Sam & pals for fun when they're bored. Then Camilla turns up. She's not like anyone else Sam has ever known. She has the power to reverse the universe and make things different. 

Camilla is uber-cool. Her dad is huge in the music business, she's lived all over the place, she's met tons of famous people, been to awards ceremonies and she has an English accent. Camilla wears whatever she feel like wearing, regardless of fashion. She doesn't get ridiculed for it, she gets revered. She's the kind of girl who can join the chess club, the volleyball team and the spring dance committee. Somehow she crosses the divide between the geeks, the dorks and the masses. She is guaranteed a position at the top of the school, being fawned over by a posse of acolytes. So why is she insisting on hanging out with Sam? Because she plays WoW, and while she's gotten used to starting over at new places and hanging out with whoever will have her, Sam and his friends are the ones she actually wants to talk to.

Life in Outer Space is funny. Sam's observances are hilarious as well as sweet and awkward. It's unusual to read a book solely told from the boy's point of view, but Sam is a great boy to read. He's at that oh-so-awkward stage in life - sweet 16 and never been kissed, but he's such a shy dork that he doesn't see his own potential. Just the fact that Camilla appears to want to be friends with him is astounding enough - the thought of anything more than friends is so far beyond his frame of reference that he doesn't even consider it. 

Littered with film references, LIOS is such an entertaining read. It's not particularly original as stories go, but it's done really well and is so enjoyable. It's a chunk of a normal boy's life. His best friend is being weird and secretive, his parents may well be splitting up, his screenplay isn't working, and this amazing girl is somehow insinuating herself into his life. It's fun, kooky, sweet, endearing and adorable. Oh, and it's Australian, which is another example of that synchronicity, because I rarely get Aussie books to read, and I just finished, loved and reviewed Saving Wishes by G J Walker-Smith.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Review: Autumn by Sierra Dean

Published by: Sierra Dean
Release date:
17th June 2013
Dog Days #1
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:

Cooper Reynolds’s life is going to the dogs… literally.

As if being a high school senior in a small Texas town wasn’t hard enough, Cooper has bigger things to worry about than who he’ll take to prom and whether or not the Poisonfoot Padres will win homecoming. He has less than a year before his eighteenth birthday, when a curse placed on his family will doom him to live in coyote form forever.

The last thing he needs to complicate his already messed-up life is a girl, but fate has other plans in mind for him when it brings Eloise “Lou” Whittaker to Poisonfoot. She’s grouchy, sarcastic and has no love for her new Texas home, but she might be exactly the right person to help Cooper break the curse.

The clock is ticking, and Cooper will have to decide if he’s willing to let Lou in on his dirty little secret before it’s too late.

My review:
I don't like to compare books to other books all the time - they all should be seen in their own light - but I just have to mention that Autumn made me think of a mash-up between Twilight and Shiver my Maggie Stiefvater. To me, this is pretty high praise. Say what you like about Twilight, it's damned successful. And Ms Stiefvater is my author hero. So, Autumn is more than good, even if it does remind me of other books.

It's only the opening scenes of the book that are a bit Twilighty - Lou moves to a small town far away from everything she knows, starts a new school and becomes fascinated by the boy who everyone tells her to stay away from. So I found the beginning a little weak, like it needed to define itself better, but it didn't take long after that to get me hooked and speeding through the pages.

I liked Lou. She has a couple of annoying teenagerish lines, but seeing as she's a teenager I'm going to forgive her that. She's snarky and funny though, which I love about her, and she's not all hung up on appearance. I thought she would be more wrapped up in her grief as her father died so recently, but we all react differently and she did have time to come to terms with it as he was ill for a while. She has diabetes, which gives her an interesting edge - I'm not saying that you need to give a character a health issue to make them interesting, just that it's a condition that rules your life, and can change a person, make them more cautious and wary. Cooper makes her feel different though - braver and wilder.

Cooper is adorable. He's a little self-absorbed at times, but considering his fate I'll let him off. And he does realise it himself eventually. He progresses well as a character - from his detached description of his life as an outcast, to a boy who decides to be selfish and let the cute girl who's trying to get to know him get closer, to the boy who finally decides it's time to try and do something about the curse that plagues him.

What I like best about Autumn is the way Dean plays the supernatural card. Ghosts, dreams, curses and magic are all introduced in such a way that it seems perfectly believable. I don't know how she does it, it's just really well written, and woven into the story in such a way that the events unfold naturally.

My main gripe with Autumn is that it's too short and has a hell of a cliff-hanger ending. I can't wait to read Winter now!

Monday, 1 July 2013

New Adult Monday: Saving Wishes by G J Walker-Smith

Published by: G. J. Walker-Smith
Release date:
8th June 2013
Wishes Series #1
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:

For Charli Blake, being seventeen is a tough gig.

She's been branded a troublemaker, her reputation is in tatters and she's stuck in Pipers Cove, a speck of a town on the coast of Tasmania.

Thankfully, it's temporary. Her lifelong dream of travelling the world is just months away from becoming reality. All she has to do is ride out the last few months of high school, which is easier said than done thanks to a trio of mean girls known as The Beautifuls.

When Adam Décarie arrives in town, all the way from New York, life takes an unexpected turn. His arrival sets off a chain of events that alters her life forever, convincing her of one thing. Fate brought him to her.

Saving Wishes is the story of a girl who doesn't quite fit the life she's living, and the boy who helps her realise why.

My review:
This is a book about fate, and I think you need to believe in it at least a little bit to really enjoy it. Luckily, I do believe, and I did enjoy - a lot!

I see a bit of my younger self in Charli, though I wasn't quite as impulsive as her. I did give up a potential career, change uni course and move half-way across the country to be with my true love. I would have moved half-way around the world if that's what it took. 18 years later we're still together, still in love and still happy. I got my happy ever after. Unfortunately I don't yet know whether Charli got hers, because this is book one of a series.

Charli is an utterly charming protagonist. We should all spend some time in La-La-Land. It's good for the soul. She can be evil sometimes, but is there a 17 year-old girl on earth who isn't? She's also brave (though not always), smart, funny, I already mentioned impulsive, and she sees the world in a wonderful way. She takes photos of time. Charli explains this much better than I ever could, so you'll just have to read the book if you want to get it.

Adam  is a guy who finds what he wasn't looking for. He travels to Tasmania because of fate. He doesn't even really realise it until he gets here. He goes on a whim, something he's never done before. Until that point, his life was ordered and completely under control. Charli turns him upside-down the moment they meet. In turn, his utter belief and trust in Charli amplifies everything she is.

Charli is too big for the small town she lives in. She's just biding time until she can finish school, escape and follow her dreams. She loses sight of those dreams for a while though when she falls in love with Adam. Adam is only in town for two months, before he goes back to America and starts law school. Neither of them planned on falling for someone that winter, and as much as Charli tries to resist her feelings and Adam tries to bury his head in the sand about the future, eventually they're going to have to face up to it...

I took a chance on Saving Wishes - there was no summary on Netgalley, and I didn't look for one anywhere else. You could say fate chose for me, and I'm so glad I did. This is an amazing self-published first novel, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series!