Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Gimme Gimme - 2014 Releases I Just Can't Wait For

About a month ago, I was chatting with the children’s librarian at the library where I work, telling her a bit about my blog and how I mostly focus on YA titles, though I like to venture out into other areas from time to time. After mentioning how excited I was for the late-2015 release of Winter by Marissa Meyer (the much-anticipated fourth book in The Lunar Chronicles), we got to talking about upcoming 2014 releases. And I could not think of a single book that I was anxiously awaiting. Which is just plain wrong. So I’ve since compiled a (short) list of books released in the second half of 2014 that I am looking forward to getting my hands on.

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)

Isla and the Happily Ever After
Stephanie Perkins
Released August 14

This one is a pretty obvious choice. It seems like everyone is dying for a copy of this book. I’ll admit that I’m typically not a huge fan of fluffy contemporary YA, but Stephanie Perkins has it down to an art form. She writes some damn good fluffy contemporary books, and I’m so ready for Isla to come into my life.

I'll Give You the Sun

Jandy Nelson
Released September 16

I loved Jandy Nelson’s first book, so this one was a no brainer. Also, Jamie from The Perpetual Pageturner approves, so there we go. ‘Nuff said. (No but really, this book looks/sounds glorious)

Symbiont (Parasitology, #2)

Mira Grant
Released November 25

I didn’t love Parasite as much as I did Mira Grant’s Feed (speaking of which, I really need to finish/continue with that series!), but I’m definitely excited to see where this series is going. I love how insanely thorough Mira Grant’s research is – everything that happens in her books sounds completely plausible.

Dreamer's Pool (Blackthorn and Grim, #1)

Juliet Marillier
Released November 4

I wear extremely rose-tinted goggles when it comes to Juliet Marillier’s books. Yes, I know that they aren’t technically perfect BUT THEY ARE TO ME. She is one of my all-time favourite authors and I will read absolutely anything she writes. I do have quite a few of her previous titles to get through as well, but this one sounds fascinating.

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

A.S. King
Released October 4

I’ve only read one of A.S. King’s other books (Ask the Passengers, which I loved), but I knew that I had to read this one the moment I saw the word feminism in the description. Also the whole idea of a teenage girl having visions of a terrifying future is right up my alley. This is definitely a Rose book, and I’ll be on the lookout for it come October.

Are you as excited to read these books as I am? What other 2014 titles are you looking forward to? Have you read any of these? What would you recommend I add to my list?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

TTT - Authors I Own the Most Books From

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From/By

This is a hard one because I don't actually own many books at all. I get nearly all of my books from the library. I do have 2 1/2 shelves of books that I actually own, though, so I should be able to get some semblance of a list.
Jacqueline Carey
I own all nine of her Kushiel's Legacy books. They take up an entire shelf of my bookcase. I love them and want to pick up the rest of her books to add to my collection. Yes, I accidentally bought two copies of Kushiel's Mercy. No, I don't know where Kushiel's Justice or Kushiel's Chosen are.

Juliet Marillier
I own only a small portion of her books, but this lady has written a LOT of books! I have the first five Sevenwaters books, and I plan to buy her YA series as well (I've read the first one, but I got it from the library). Only Heir to Sevenwaters is actually on my bookshelf though. I think most of them are packed up in the basement though, as I've not seen them in a long time!

Libba Bray
I have Beauty Queens, Going Bovine, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and The Sweet Far Thing. No, I don't have Rebel Angels. Yes, I need to rectify this. I also don't have The Diviners, which I want! Unfortunately, I can't seem to find my copies of The Sweet Far Thing and Going Bovine, and my mum has A Great and Terrible Beauty.

J.K. Rowling
Obviously, I have all of the Harry Potter books. I don't own The Casual Vacancy, nor did I buy the book(s?) she wrote under a pseudonym. I also can't find most of my Harry Potter books - Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Goblet of Fire, and Order of the Phoenix are all missing. I think they're packed away in a box in my mum's basement, sadly. Either that or my brother stole them.

Deanna Raybourn
I was really into her books in high school, especially the Lady Julia books. I own Dark Road to Darjeeling, The Dark Enquiry, and The Dead Travel Fast.

Holly Black
I only have two of Holly Black's books, though I've read many more of them. I have White Cat and Valiant.

Suzanne Collins
I don't own The Hunger Games, but I have Catching Fire and Mockingjay

Scott Westerfeld
Again, I don't have the first book in the series... I have Pretties and Specials, but not Uglies. I don't think I even finished Specials, though.

Alison Croggon
I never finished this series (though I'd still like to!) but I own The Naming and The Riddle from her The Books of Pellinor series.

And I don't have a tenth author because those are literally all of the authors by whom I own two or more books. How pathetic is that? So many amazing authors whose books do not live in my home... I have all of Morgan Matson, Melina Marchetta, Laini Taylor, and Nina LaCour's books on my Amazon wishlist, but I'm the worst when it comes to purchasing books. They're so expensive! And I'm so poor! I covet a lot more books than I could ever dream of affording.

Who are your most owned authors? Are you as ashamed of your measly book collection as I am, or are you a book hoarder? Do you own more books that you could ever imagine reading?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Review - World After by Susan Ee

World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)
World After by Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & the End of Days #2
Published by Skyscape on November 19 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Paranormal
Pages: 314
Rating: 4/5 stars
In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what's left of the modern world. 
When a group of people capture Penryn's sister Paige, thinking she's a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken. 
Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels' secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go. 
Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can't rejoin the angels, can't take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?
I’ll admit that I went into World After with very high expectations that I really didn't think it could meet. I honestly didn’t remember much of what happened in Angelfall (c’mon, I read it almost two years ago give me a break), but I knew that it was a book that had impressed me and I couldn’t bear for book 2 to let me down. As second books often do.

Much to my dismay, World After held its own against my extreme demands. It didn’t really do anything to help me readjust to Penryn’s world, which was both a positive and a negative. I’m not a fan of books that rehash everything that happened in the previous book because I think it’s tacky, but I do think that World After could have used a little bit more reference to the events of Angelfall, simply because the beginning of the book left me very confused. I didn’t know what was going on a lot of the time, and I felt like I was supposed to.

I really missed Raffe in this book. He was such a huge part of Angelfall, and his presence was sorely missed in a large portion of World After, by both Penryn (though she tried to deny it) and by me as the reader. I found myself wishing for a bit of banter to break up the extreme tension throughout the novel. Penryn is dealing with a lot, and I think that just a tiny bit of humour would have gone a long way. Of course, I imagine we’ll be seeing more of Raffe in the third book in the series.

That said, I was quite impressed by Penryn. She’s a stubborn young lady, but she’s not stupid about it. Generally speaking, she makes good decisions. And she has a lot of tough choices to make. One of the aspects that I love so much about this series is that it puts such a focus on family. Despite the fact that her mother is completely off her rocker and that her sister has been turned into a flesh eating monster, Penryn’s first priority is still her family. There’s a moment between Penryn and Paige towards the end of the book that I found truly moving. Their relationship, strange as it may be, really works for me.

On the whole, I thought that the pacing was pretty good. I’d give it a high B. It wasn’t as speedy as Angelfall the beginning dragged quite a bit, but as soon as Penryn leaves the compound things really start to heat up and they stay hot right until the end. I really admire the way that Susan Ee can write such action-packed books that can still pack a very emotional punch. I must say, I never thought I’d be enthralled by a series about angels that take over Earth and kill humans like vermin. It’s unexpected and I like it. A lot.

All it all, this was a really solid book. I’m still really enjoying this series, and I’m not-so-patiently awaiting book three. There were a few things that could have been tweaked and tightened up here and there, but I was definitely happy with the final product.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Review - Also Known As by Robin Benway

Also Known As (Also Known As, #1)
Also Known As by Robin Benway
Series: Also Known As #1
Published by Walker Books for Young Readers on February 26 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 318
Rating: 3/5 stars
Which is more dangerous: being an international spy... or surviving high school? 
Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world's premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it's three digits, why bother locking it at all?) 
But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she's attending a private school with hundreds of "mean girl" wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school's elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat... all while trying not to blow her cover. 
From the hilarious and poignant author of Audrey, Wait! comes a fast-paced caper that proves that even the world's greatest spies don't have a mission plan for love. 
Just what I need to do – start a new series. I was a big fan of Robin Benway’s first book Audrey, Wait!, which I read in high school, and I’m all about books about teenage spies so this book was a no brainer for me. I mean, it’s kind of like the Teletoon show Totally Spies, but as a book! And featuring only one teenage spy, not three! But I digress.

This book can be described with one word: cute. It’s not particularly hard hitting, or even incredibly memorable, but it was a fun read and I appreciated it for what it was. Let’s be real here, I wasn’t going into it looking for the next Second Chance Summer. I knew what I was signing myself up for with this book, and it didn’t disappoint.

Benway somehow manages to make the premise of the book entirely plausible. She makes everything look completely seamless. Kudos to Robin Benway for crafting not only an incredibly enjoyable book, but a book about teenage spies that nearly always makes sense. She managed to create a truly believable main character in Maggie. Sixteen year old Maggie has lived pretty much everywhere in the world (in fact, her family is not allowed within Luxembourg anymore), yet she’s never gone to high school. She doesn’t have any friends her own age – in fact, her only real friends are her parents and family friend and fellow spy Angelo. In the wrong hands, Maggie could be a very alienating main character. After all, I don’t know anyone who can relate to her life. But what makes Maggie special is that despite her fantastic and strange life, she’s a normal(ish) teenage girl. She is sometimes uncomfortable in her own skin. She’s in unfamiliar territory, and that’s something everyone can relate to.

The romance was incredibly sweet. When we first meet Jesse Oliver, he isn’t particularly impressive. This is mostly because we are introduced to him via a dossier, rather than in person. The first things we learn about Jesse are that he was arrested for shoplifting and that his family is incredibly wealthy. It’s safe to say that I was predisposed to disliking Jesse Oliver. But was I ever wrong. He’s a complete sweetie pie, and best of all there is no insta-love or love triangle to be found in this book! The romance between Maggie and Jesse is based not upon longing gazes but upon a shared sense of humour and common interests. And ice cream. Can’t forget that Cherry Garcia. Hurrah!

Even more impressive that Jesse Oliver is Maggie’s best friend Roux. I want need a Roux in my life. She’s pretty special, though I can’t quite find the words to express why or how. I suppose the best way to describe Roux would be complicated. She’s incredibly lonely and fights that loneliness with a lethal combination of biting humour and expensive wine in large quantities. She was hands down my favourite part of this book.

Another thing of note in Also Known As is the presence of Maggie’s parents. Maggie’s mom, a computer hacker, and her dad, a linguist, are spies like Maggie. Well, I suppose that should be Maggie is a spy like her parents, but alas that is not how I chose to word it. They’re pretty darn cool, but they never cross the line into being irresponsible. Sure, there’s the whole indoctrinating your only daughter into your spy lifestyle thing, but that’s beside the point. There is some tension between Maggie and her parents that most teenagers can relate to as they all try to adjust to their new roles – Maggie learning to act like a teenager while her parents learn how to be parents instead of friends and mentors. They have to learn how to treat Maggie like their daughter and not like a spy.

There are a lot of really great things in this book. I really enjoyed reading it, but unfortunately wasn’t totally blown away. It was a fun summer read, but it didn’t affect me enough to merit a higher rating. That said, I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for something light and breezy with a super cute romance.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review - The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1)

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Series: The Assassin’s Curse #1
Published by Strange Chemistry on October 2 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 298
Rating: 3/5 stars
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. 
To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks--all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic...and the growing romantic tension between them. 
For a book about pirates and assassins, The Assassin’s Curse was rather dull. The best part of the book is honestly the cover – it’s a very nice cover. Unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. It wasn’t a horrible book, but it wasn’t great either. Perhaps my expectations were high, but I think that they should be. I go into every book with the hopes that it will wow me and leave me yearning for more, but this just didn’t do it.

The characters weren’t bad – kind of predictable YA fantasy tropes, but nothing glaringly offensive. I would have liked to see a more interesting reason for Ananna to run away from her responsibilities. Her reasoning seemed both immature and over-used. Running away from an unwanted marriage is a very familiar scenario, and I don’t think that The Assassin’s Curse offered an interesting spin on it in any way. She was rather naïve for a girl who was raised by pirates, and she lacked the fieriness I expected of her. Naji was slightly more interesting, but he was kind of an asshole most of the time.

I thought it was really refreshing that Ananna and Naji weren’t beautiful people. They weren’t physically spectacular, which is so uncommon in YA. It seems like everyone in YA is a super model, and it gets old. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Ananna was of a heavier/thicker build than the average YA heroine, and that Naji was insecure about the scars on his face (going so far as to hide behind a desert mask, which was pretty cute for such a tough guy).

I did enjoy the setting – you don’t see a lot of fantasy set in Middle Eastern-esque places. I appreciated the way that the setting changed as the book progressed – it never felt stagnant. I also kind of liked the pacing of the romance – there were no declarations of undying love two days after first meeting one another, hurrah! It isn’t until the last few pages of the book that Ananna even recognizes that her feelings for Naji have turned romantic, which was so nice. I can see other readers not being so keen on the slow burn, but that’s the kind of romance I prefer. The only problem I have with the romance is that it just kind of… popped up at the end of the book. There wasn’t really much build up – to friendship, yes, but not to romance.

The ending of this book was really disappointing. It ended very abruptly, with no real climax or resolution. It just… ended. I think it would have made a lot more sense, considering that it’s a two-book series, for the publisher’s to package it as a solitary book. It wasn’t like The Assassin’s Curse was particularly long to begin with, so it could have worked. It would definitely have been more satisfying, considering I don’t feel like I got any kind of closure at the end of this book.

This book was fun, but it wasn’t particularly memorable, nor did it meet the hopes I had for it. I may or may not read the sequel, but I found the poor pacing and stereotypical characters trying. It was a quick read, but it didn’t grab my heart. I have no emotional attachment to Ananna and Naji whatsoever, and that’s a big disappointment. I simply don’t much care what happens to them.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

TTT - Top Ten Favourite TV Shows

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish
Each week a new topic is given and weeks topic is:

Top Ten Favourite TV Shows

As you probably know, I watch a lot of TV. I was so excited to see that last week's Top Ten Tuesday was all about stories in other formats, allowing me to showcase some of my favourite TV programs. I wrote out my list last Monday, but fell asleep before finishing the post and simply didn't have time to get it up on Tuesday. So, I decided to simply shift it back a week, and post two lists on the same day.

I briefly pondered making a list of movies, but the truth is that I just don't watch very many movies. I certainly don't find them nearly as memorable as TV shows. So despite the fact that I'm a week late with this list, I needed to post this nonetheless.
I featured Shameless on my last TV Spotlight Thursday, so it's no surprise that it's showing up on this list. It's probably my absolute favourite TV show. There's honestly something for everyone on this show. Any description I could provide couldn't possibly do it justice. Just go watch it. Don't even bother reading the rest of this list, just go watch Shameless. Now.
Black Sails
Truly horrible promo photo aside, this is an awesome show. It's so much fun. I mean, it's about PIRATES! And one of the main characters, the dude with long hair in the middle there, was actually on Shameless for a while funnily enough. Anyway, Black Sails is a prequel to Treasure Island, though I'll admit that the only thing I knew about it when I started watching was that the two gorgeous ladies are in love with one another and it gets messy. Very messy. 
Faking It
Have you noticed a theme yet? I was really hesitant to watch this show because of the shock-value premise, but it's actually really good. I'll admit to crying during the season one finale. Poor baby Amy. ILU Amy Raudenfeld!
Orphan Black
This show has become huge, and for good reason. I was actually turned on to it when I happened to catch a commercial last summer, halfway through season one. I planned to watch the pilot before bed to see what it was about, as I had no idea. I ended up binging the five episodes that had yet been released. I was hooked. I never know what's going to happen next on this show. Every time I think I know where it's headed, it completely changes direction. It's incredible. Also, Tatiana Maslany plays like twelve characters. And she does is so freaking well that you forget that they're all the same actress. It's seamless.
Orange is the New Black
This show has been such a hit, especially season two. It seems like everybody is watching it (as they should be). It's a very special show about a woman, Piper Chapman, who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison for assisting the drug smuggling ring her ex-girlfriend was a part of. Piper is uprooted from her cushy life (the woman makes soap for a living. SOAP) and reunited with bad influence (also, super hot) Alex Vause. The big draw of Orange is the New Black isn't Piper, or even Alex. It's the way that it showcases the lives of so many incredible women who have made bad life choices to land them in prison. You feel for every single person on this show. Except Larry. Fuck Larry. And Vee, for that matter.
Parks & Recreation
Everyone should aspire to be like Leslie Knope. She's a little off beat, but she's hands down the best role model on TV. The first season is a little shaky, but it hits its stride in season two. My favourite thing about Parks & Rec is that, unlike most TV comedies, it doesn't get laughs by making fun of people for being passionate about something. Also, April/Andy & Leslie/Ben are the cutest couples ever.
Lost Girl
Okay, this show isn't for everyone. It's kind of (read: a lot) cheesy. It follows Bo, a bisexual succubus who discovers at the beginning of the series that she belongs to a world of Fae that most people don't know exists. She's extra special because, in a strict system of light fae and dark fae, Bo is unaligned. I'll admit, I don't watch Lost Girl for the plot... It gets kind of messy and hard to follow at times, but what always draws me back are Bo's relationships with Lauren, and later, Tamsin. Ugghhhhh Valkubus kills me. Also, Kenzi is the shit.
My Mad Fat Diary

As difficult as this show can be to watch at times, it's still one of my favourites. This is mostly because of how easily I relate to main character Rae Earl. She's something of a misfit, an overweight, depressed teenager who doesn't quite know where she fits into things. I was a lot like Rae when I was young, though I honestly think she's a bit more well-adjusted than I was. Now, I never went to some of the drastic measures that Rae did, but I was (and still sometimes am) the queen of self-sabotage. I certainly didn't have anyone like The Gang to help me through my teenage rough patch. I was as alone as Rae feels.
The Walking Dead
Okay, this show is a total clusterfuck and I don't give a shit about anything that happens because they keep killing off my favourite characters and letting fucking CARL live, but it started out pretty good. It keeps my interest and I end up watching every episode as it airs, so it must be doing something right. I just really really hate Rick Grimes. He's a hypocrite.
Broad City
This show is brilliant. Created by, written by, and starring in Broad City are real life close friends Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. The show follows the (fictionalized) lives of best friends Ilana and Abbi, and even the most mundane events become absolutely hilarious. Set against the vibrant backdrop of New York City, Broad City has drawn a lot of comparisons to Girls. This makes sense, but the two shows are wildly different in tone (Broad City is way better, btw). The third episode is titled "Pussy Weed". Does that tell you enough? Also, Amy Poehler is one of the executive producers (and guest stars in an episode!). This show has made a humongous impression on me with only one short season and I'm sooooo ready for more. My one complaint is that I don't have a friend like Ilana in my own life (because let's be real, I'm totally an Abbi. I'm not cut out for the Ilana lifestyle!).This show is brilliant. Created by, written by, and starring in Broad City are real life close friends Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. The show follows the (fictionalized) lives of best friends Ilana and Abbi, and even the most mundane events become absolutely hilarious. Set against the vibrant backdrop of New York City, Broad City has drawn a lot of comparisons to Girls. This makes sense, but the two shows are wildly different in tone (Broad City is way better, btw). The third episode is titled "Pussy Weed". Does that tell you enough? Also, Amy Poehler is one of the executive producers (and guest stars in an episode!). This show has made a humongous impression on me with only one short season and I'm sooooo ready for more. My one complaint is that I don't have a friend like Ilana in my own life (because let's be real, I'm totally an Abbi. I'm not cut out for the Ilana lifestyle!).

There are a couple of other shows that almost made this list, but that I just couldn't comfortably call my favourites. Two that first come to mind are Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. Theoretically, I love these shows. In principle, they're great. The execution, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. I really liked Doctor Who until Steven Moffat took the helm as showrunner, and I think he's been quickly running the show right into the ground. I can barely watch it anymore because it's just drowning in misogyny and unnecessary explosions. No thank you. I have some of the same problems with Game of Thrones - I love the source material (the books), but I think that the show has gone in the complete wrong direction. Not to mention some of the poor casting decisions (Daario Naharis, HELLO), I'm getting really sick of the choices the showrunners are making. Do we really need to see naked breasts in every single episode? Are they adding anything to the plot? Do we need attempted rape at every turn? I'm also really pissed off with some of the changes they've made to the narratives, particularly when it comes to Tyrion (whom I honestly don't really like, don't hurt me), Robb, and Catelyn. The main reason I continue watching is because Sophie Turner is an absolute star as Sansa, and Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell is a dream come true. They're everything I could have asked for and more, but they don't come close to cancelling out all of the horrors that I'm subjected to when they're off screen.

Sorry for my rant! Do you watch any of the shows I listed? Have I convinced you to give some of them a go? Are you a passionate TV junkie like me?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Review - Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Series: Standalone
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Younger Readers on May 4 2010
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Road Trip
Pages: 344
Rating: 4/5 stars
Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it's Amy's responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn't ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip - and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar - especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory - but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.
I’m rather embarrassed that I waited four years (FOUR YEARS) to read this book. It isn’t that I didn’t think I’d like it – I know better. It’s a book about a road trip written by Morgan Matson. How could it possibly go wrong? Not to mention that it’s pretty much universally liked (not one of my Goodreads friends has rated it less than three stars, so there). It’s certainly not the best book I’ve ever read, but it was exactly what it claimed to be, what I expected it to be: a sweet, quick summer read.

Though the characterization wasn’t exceptional, it also wasn’t threadbare. I knew the characters motivations and I thought that I got a good glimpse into Amy’s head (and to a certain degree, Roger’s). I still don’t quite get what Roger’s deal was with his ex-girlfriend. He seemed like the kind of guy who wouldn’t get drawn in by her manic pixie dream girl charms. That said, I liked that he had his own reasons for wanting to go on this cross country road trip and that it wasn’t entirely a charitable act. Amy’s grief was also handled well, in my opinion. It was something that was constantly present in her life, but it wasn’t a total angst-fest. I didn’t really understand why she was so adamant that it was her fault, but I can see how grief twists logic into unrecognisable shapes. Reason can’t always overcome guilt.

I also enjoyed the minor characters we meet during the journey from California to Connecticut. (Sidebar: I did not know until this very moment that there were three c’s in Connecticut. I always thought it was Conneticut. What the fuck. I’ve read this word hundreds of times. How did I never notice this. My whole life has been a lie.) The side characters aren’t particularly fleshed out, and the mostly act as props for Amy and Roger, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. I was particularly enthralled by Roger’s college friend Bronwyn, and his ex’s brother. Like I said, these weren’t the most developed characters, but they were sweet. I liked them.

One of my favourite special features of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is Roger’s playlists. They’re pretty fantastic. I mean, he has Ida Maria on the first one. I wish everyone had Roger’s (well, Morgan Matson’s…) taste in music. Because A+.

While there were some things that I didn’t quite love about this book, it left me with an overall favourable impression. I would have liked it to have a more solid ending (possibly a conversation between Amy and her mother, as that was a relationship that I really would have liked to have seen resolved to some extent), but on the whole it was a lovely book. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light but not vapid summer read. It also inspired me to start saving money (in the fall) to do my own cross-Canada road trip next summer. Buuuut I suppose I have to get my driver’s license first! I’ll get right on that!

P.S. The Amelia Earhart part was my favourite part of the entire book. I know, I'm a weirdo.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Review - The Worst Girlfriend in the World by Sarra Manning

The Worst Girlfriend in the World

The Worst Girlfriend in the World by Sarra Manning
Series: Standalone
Published by Atom on May 1 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Rating: 4/5 stars
My best friend was now my deadliest enemy, the one person I'd hate beyond all measure for the rest of my life . . . 
Franny Barker's best friend, Alice, is the worst girlfriend in the world according to the many boys of Merrycliffe-on-Sea. She toys with them, then dumps them. But she'll never dump fashion-obsessed Franny. Nothing and no one can come between them.  
Not even tousle-haired rock god, Louis Allen, who Franny's been crushing on hard. Until Alice, bored with immature boys and jealous of Franny's new college friends, sets her sights on Louis. Suddenly, best friends are bitter rivals. 
Is winning Louis's heart worth more than their friendship? There's only one way for Franny to find out.
Sarra Manning has a gift for writing incredibly relatable characters. I have yet to dislike anything she has written, and I highly doubt I ever will. Because she writes really awesome books. The Worst Girlfriend in the World was no exception. I was so excited to read it, and I loved every moment of doing so.

I had a bad case of one-more-chapter syndrome while reading this. I picked it up around midnight one night and read nearly a quarter of it then and there, despite telling myself I’d read only one chapter or two. I was instantly drawn into Franny’s world and would happily have stayed there much longer.

Though there were moments when I desperately wanted to shake Franny and tell her to open her eyes and stop obsessing over somebody who clearly wasn’t worth her time (Louis), I completely understood her infatuation. I was exactly the same way in high school – idolizing people from afar because they intimidated me and there was nothing I feared more than rejection. For instance, I had a crush on a guy from grade nine to twelve (and beyond!) and I’m pretty sure we exchanged no more than three sentences during all that time. I mean, he was two years older and I didn’t see him as often after tenth grade, but you get the picture. So I totally related to that aspect of Franny’s life. We’re pretty much soul twins – I was obsessed with fashion (wanted to go to school to be a fashion merchandiser, not designer because I can’t draw AT ALL), had a best friend with an overbearing personality with whom I had a major falling out. The only thing I didn’t have in my high school life that Franny was blessed with is a Francis! I’m a big fan of Francis, and of the romance in this book on a whole. It wasn’t overbearing and was perfectly cute and slow burning and delightful.

Another important element of The Worst Girlfriend in the World is the titular character, Franny’s best friend Alice. Now, I can see how people could easily dislike Alice, but I just couldn’t. She was clearly so incredibly insecure and it just broke my heart. She pushed everyone away, with the exception of Franny, and when she felt that she was losing Franny she chose to push her away as well rather than let herself be vulnerable for once. I get that impulse, and I really loved Alice’s character arc. I also liked that we see both sides of Alice – we see the Alice that Franny has been best friends with since infanthood, but we also see the catty morally-unsound girl who is hated by every girl in and around her hometown. Honestly, I see Alice’s point re: other girls’ boyfriends. Maybe she takes it a little far, but her reasoning is logical.

All said, this was a really solid book. It was everything I expect of a Sarra Manning YA title, and I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. Yes, so bits were a bit cheesy and far-fetched (particularly the scene in London), but I’m willing to let that slide in light of the excellent writing, dialogue, and character development. I’m particularly impressed with the way that Manning wrote Louis and Alice, as it would have been too easy to make them clichéd and awful but she chose to make them different and totally plausible.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Writing Positive Reviews is Really Hard!

I'm generally a pretty positive person. I like to look on the bright side of life. But for some reason, this doesn't always seem to extend to blogging. I've been having a bit of a rough patch when it comes to writing reviews. I'm falling farther and farther behind, and I think I know why: I've been reading too many excellent books!
I have a really hard time writing positive reviews. It’s so much more difficult for me to pinpoint the things that make me love a book than it is to point out what makes me hate one. I find that when I read a book that I adored, I put off writing the review for ages and ages. Yet when I read one that I despised, I tend to write the review right away and get all of the nasty thoughts out of my head and onto the metaphorical page (because who writes by hand anymore??). I wish I could better articulate the way I feel about things that I like, because I generally don’t think of myself as a negative person. In life, I’m pretty upbeat and positive and optimistic, but it seems when it comes to reviews I’m a bit of a negative Nancy.
The book that inspired this post is Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, which I finished a few days ago and thought was fantastic, but I have no freaking clue what to write in my review. Maybe it’s because I take more notes on books that I’m not enjoying, whereas if I do like a book I just devour it all as quickly as possible and can’t be bothered to take the time out of my reading to take notes on what in particular is special about it.

How do you feel about this? Do you find writing positive reviews more difficult? Is it harder for you to look at books with a critical eye and pick them apart for a review? Any tips for making positive reviews a little easier for me?!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Novella Review - Natural Selection by Malinda Lo

Natural Selection (Adaptation, #1.5)

Natural Selection by Malinda Lo
Series: Adaptation #1.5
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 3 2013
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Novella, LGBT
Pages: 80
Rating: 3/5 stars
I was born on Earth, not Kurra. I'm not human,even though I try to be. My people, the Imria, think I'm a little unusual because of that. They call me an Earthsider: as if I've crossed a line, chosen a side. Gone native.  
Before she met her girlfriend Reese, before she knew the role she would play in the fate of two worlds, Amber was a fifteen-year-old Imrian torn between two identities. Imrian by blood, Amber was forced to hide her true self to pass as human during the time she spent on earth. And even when she returns to Kurra, her human experiences, including first love and heartache, still separate her from her fellow Imrians. But when Amber undergoes kibila, a traditional Imrian coming-of-age ceremony during which Amber will choose her name and identity for the next fifteen years, she will be forced to either accept her role in both worlds or forge her own path.
Novellas aren’t really my thing. I find they tend not to add anything of importance to the overall story, and I usually feel like they’re kind of a waste of time. That said, this is an example of everything novellas should be.

Natural Selection takes place a few years before the events of Adaptation, and follows my favourite character Amber through two very important events in her adolescent life – a middle school camping trip on Earth and a coming-of-age ritual on Kurra. The chapters alternate between both parts of Amber’s life and tell the story of how she chose the name Amber. I loved the integration of Amber’s human and Imrian identities. As an Imrian born and primarily raised on Earth, there is a constant conflict with Amber’s struggle to fit in, something she is incapable of in both settings. On Earth she is forced to contain herself, has to learn to keep out of the emotions of the people around her. She isn’t allowed to be who she really is, but she also stands out from her Imrian peers. Amber’s storyline on Earth really hit home for me, though I’ve never really experienced anything quite like that. I could definitely relate to the inevitable best friend crush every queer girl experiences. They suck, and Amber’s is particularly rough. It made me really feel for her and the difficulty of having to navigate two completely different societies with different sets of acceptable behaviours.

The Adaptation series is one I think about on a regular basis. It lingers in my mind and is one of the most memorable series I’ve ever read. I loved returning to this universe and learning more about Amber, whose perspective and history we really don’t learn much of in Reese’s books. It was a quick read that was just what I was in the mood for, and it perfectly struck the balance that novellas have to straddle between adding new and important information without being integral to the plot of the primary novels in the series. I’m definitely glad to have read this, if only to extend one of my favourite series. The fact that I’ve been kind of in love with Amber since Adaptation certainly doesn’t hurt it either. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who was craving a bit more from the Adaptation universe.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

DNF Round-Up (1)

I DNF a lot of books. I don't like to waste my time on books that I'm not enjoying, but I also don't feel right with writing full reviews of books that I didn't finish. So! I decided to start writing monthly round-ups of all of the books that I partially read that month and decided not to continue with. Because I like sharing my opinions. I have a lot of them. 

 Breaking Free
Breaking Free by Winter Page
Series: Standalone
Published by Harmony Ink Press on April 10 2014
Genres: LGBT, Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 180
DNF'd at 19%
Raimi Carter is finally a girl, just like she always knew she was meant to be. At a new school where nobody knows she’s had gender reassignment surgery, she hopes to finally live the normal life she’s longed for, happy in her own skin.  
Life is great until she discovers a dangerous bully is blackmailing head cheerleader, Clare Strickland, threatening to reveal her secret: she’s gay. As Raimi fights to free Clare from his clutches, the two girls move beyond friendship. But secrets from their pasts and their own fears of coming out tear them apart—maybe forever. Baring their souls to each other could cost them everything. For two girls trapped and desperately in love, only strength, courage, and trust in each other will help them break free and claim their future. 
I really wanted to like this book. It sounds like something that I would like. I've been wanting to read more about trans men and women, especially since I've been watching a lot of documentaries and interviews with women like Laverne Cox and Janet Mok and Carmen Carrera. When I spotted this on Netgalley, I thought that it would be an excellent introductory book. 

Though the premise wasn't particularly new or exciting, I was expecting this to be much better than it was. The writing just didn't work for me at all. It was very sparse, but not in the good way. It needed a lot of finesse and just felt very amateurish to me. It didn't make me feel anything, nor did I feel any attachment whatsoever to Raimi. There just wasn't anything there for me to enjoy. At nearly 20% through the novel, the only things I know about the main character are that she is a girly girl who likes makeup but can't dress herself, and that she was homeschooled. Unfortunately, there were a lot of things that I didn't like about this book and nothing to redeem them. I began losing my patience with the writing after about three pages, which is never a good sign. This book really needed to go back into the oven for a little while, because what I read is not something that I would consider ready for publication.

Child of a Hidden Sea
Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica
Series: Standalone
Published by Tor Books on June 24 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Adult Fiction
Pages: 336
DNF'd at 42%
One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles. 
The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard. 
Sophie doesn't know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay. 
But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don't know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world . . . or is doomed to exile.
There is nothing glaringly wrong with Child of a Hidden Sea. It started out very strong, and was exactly what I expected it to be, what the synopsis claimed it to be. However, it quickly petered out. I found myself looking for a connection to the characters that simply wasn't there, and I had no desire to pick up the book and continue reading. I didn't feel a pressing need to find out what was happening, what was going to happen, and that is something that I require of a book that markets itself as an adventure story. This was more of a nature trek than an adventure.

Sophie wasn't an awful narrator. She just wasn't particularly wonderful either. I'm left with little impression of any of the characters - I have no strong feelings about anyone, which is not a good thing. I would rather hate them all than feel nothing whatsoever.

This book was also exceptionally slow. I read nearly half of the book and it felt as though nothing had really happened. It really slowed down when Sophie was returned to Earth, and never really picked up again. I think this is partially a problem with the writing, because things did happen. The issue was that the stakes never felt very high, or perhaps it was just because I didn't find myself caring about what happened to the characters. 

I don't know exactly what to place the blame on, but I can say that this book simply did not work for me. I was promised a swashbuckling tale of pirates and adventure and mystery and that is not what I read. 

Life by Committee
Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
Series: Standalone
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 13 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 304
DNF'd at 27%
Some secrets are too good to keep.  
Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.  
Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend. 
Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe. 
Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own. 
But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

I've heard really good things about this book throughout the blogosphere and on Goodreads, but it did not work for me at all. I pretty much just hated everybody. Tabitha was uppity and self-involved, which are things I can forgive. But I can't forgive the whole actively-going-after-someone-else's-boyfriend thing. That's not cool. Not to mention the fact that she attempts to justify her actions by painting Sasha as a monster.

The worst (and best?) thing about this book is the characters. They are all, without exception, awful people. I get that teenagers are brutal (though that was not my experience at all), but this is too much. There is nothing to redeem any of these characters, and I just couldn't see how it could get better without getting much, much worse first. I just couldn't bring myself to read about these characters who I so disliked. The only characters I was mildly interested in were Elise and Tab's parents. They seemed kind of cool.

There was also the fact that I found the whole thing kind of trite and boring. Girls' friends dump her because she gets hot and wears v-necked shirts? What?  That makes no sense to me whatsoever, and I wasn't too interested in continuing. I honestly don't feel like I'm missing out.

Have you read any of these books? Do you think I should go back and give them another shot? Are you a big DNF'er like me or do you like to stick around to the bitter end?