Thursday, 24 April 2014

Review: The Worst Girlfriend in the World by Sarra Manning

Published by: Atom
Release date: 1st May 2014
Series: n/a

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

Alice Jenkins is the worst girlfriend in the world according to the many, many boys who've shimmied up lampposts and shoplifted from New Look to impress her, only to be dumped when she gets bored of them. Alice has a very low boredom threshold.

But she never gets bored with Franny, her best friend since they met at nursery school. Friends are for ever. Ain't nothing going to come between them. Girls rule, boys drool is their motto. Well, it's Alice's motto, Franny doesn't have much time for boys; they're all totes immature and only interested in one thing.

But then there's Louis Allen, lead singer of The Desperadoes, the best band in Merrycliffe-on-sea (though that could be because they're the only band in Merrycliffe-on-sea). He's a tousle-haired, skinny-jeaned, sultry-eyed manchild, the closest thing that Franny's ever seen to the hipsters that she's read about on the internet and she's been crushing on him HARD for the last three years.

She's never worked up the courage to actually speak to him but she's sure on some deeper level that goes beyond mere words, Louis absolutely knows that she's his soulmate. He just doesn't know that he knows it yet. It's why he cops off with so many other girls.

So, when Alice, bored with callow youths, sets her sights on Louis it threatens to tear the girls' friendship apart, even though they're better than fighting over a boy.

They strike a devil's deal - may the best girl win. Best friends become bitter rivals and everything comes to an explosive conclusion on their first trip to London.

Can true friendship conquer all?

My review:
I was so excited when I got the approval to read this arc. I lot of the stuff I read via Netgalley is by either debut authors or authors I've never read before, so when I get a chance to read something by an author I know and love, it's like coming home to a big, warm hug.

Franny B is a spectacular character. Not least because she reminds me a bit of myself at that age. I wasn't any kind of cool, style icon, and luckily I didn't have to deal with a mother like Franny's. But I did leave school to go to college and study art, and I was a shy, naive, barely-been-kissed type. So I found myself identifying with Franny on a number of levels. It always instills a lot more book love in me when I really get the characters.

One thing I didn't have at that age was a best friend, and I envy Franny that. Her relationship with Alice is brilliant in so many ways. She might be the Worst Girlfriend in the World, but I still kind of love her. Us quiet, shy types need a loud, outgoing sidekick to drag us out of ourselves.

Then there's the boys. Oh my, those boys. I love Manning's boy characters so much. Louis is all kinds of wonderful, but not for the reasons you expect. And he's not the only piece of boy brilliance in this book, but I'm keeping shtum on the other boy talent, you'll just have to read for yourself.

Manning writes teenagers SO well. She brings back all the insanely intense stuff I felt at that age. Because when you're growing up and feeling all these things for the first time, it is intense. And you might have mental screaming matches and you might feel incredibly small and immature afterwards, but I'm pretty sure it's something all girls go through, and the way Manning writes it makes it just so real. Also, pretty funny when you're on the outside looking in, with many years of experience to fall back on.

I have to give a nod to the joy of reading good Brit fiction. I mention it a lot when I'm reading British books, but our market is so swamped by US stuff that I have stand up and give Brit brilliance a shout-out when I can.

I'm now left with that bittersweet feeling I get when I've just finished a book I loved. I'm happy because I've found this amazing collection of words, but I'm sad because I've finished reading it for the first time, and no matter that I will love it for years and read it over and over, no subsequent reading quite captures the euphoria of reading and getting to know these characters for the first time.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Review: Storm Shells by G.J. Walker-Smith

Goodreads summary:
The only way to move forward was to go back to the very beginning….
After three miserable weeks without Charli, Adam makes the decision to follow her, desperately hoping to find a way of following through on his promise of a happy ending.
He finds her back in Pipers Cove, healing her broken heart by spending time with the one person who never lets her down.
Both know nothing has changed. They're desperately in love, hopelessly stuck in limbo, and unable to find common ground.
When fate offers them a chance at a different kind of ending, it’s a one-shot deal. Running with it means changing their plans – something neither of them has ever been willing to do before, even for each other.
Just as one begins to find their way, the other completely loses direction – and neither of them realise that time is running out.

My review:
And so my love affair with Gemma Walker-Smith's Wishes series continues. First, there was Saving Wishes. Absolutely sublime. Next came Second Hearts. An emotional rollercoaster of the very best variety. Then there's a little aside in the form of Sand Jewels - a novella telling Gabrielle and Alex's story, which I haven't reviewed, but loved the socks off of. Now, finally, we have Storm Shells. 

I don't know how to talk about this book without revealing spoilers - at least from the first two books. So I'm going to tell you now, if you've not read them, go away now. Read them, love them, then come back to me. So now it's just us, the Wishes fans, and I know that you know who I'm talking about when I say...
Much as I still love Charli, it was Alex, who really made this book for me. Because everything that Charli is, was put together by Alex. I think I might love him. He's a free spirit, someone who is happy in his own skin, content with his small life and big horizons. He has so much love and respect for Charli, that I, having grown up mostly without a father, feel inordinately jealous of Charli for having him. Yeah, I know he's not real, but I'm pretty sure there must be flesh-and-blood dads out there who are equally as awesome. 

Alright, that's my Alex love-fest dealt with, so let's look at Charli and Adam's story - the continuation. Throughout the 3 books, the Wishes series covers a fair period of time, and it's interesting because Charli and Adam are at such impressionable ages, we get to see them change quite a bit in that time. They grow up, they expand their horizons, they become bigger and better (eventually). One thing that never changes through it all though, is their love. Walker-Smith has created the perfect depiction of true love. I know this, because I'm lucky enough to have it myself, and when things are going bad and no-one understands the way Charli feels and berate her for being willing to accept his return into her life, I understand. That kind of pure love might not always be good for you, but there's no denying it. 

Saving Wishes was about fate, Second Hearts was about life, and Storm Shells is about love. 

Loose ends are mostly tied up, with a few surprises along the way. Supporting characters we've come to know and love get to shine (I still desperately want a Ryan spin-off!), and the Charli-and-Adam showboat doesn't let us down. Walker-Smith truly has created something to be proud of in this series. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll never want to leave La La Land. Oh yeah, and I just checked - there's another book in the series still to come, and I've got a rather lovely feeling that this one's Ryan's. Happy dance!