Book Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction, Cancer, Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 26th March 2014
Pages: 335
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Written from the perspectives of both Harvey and Alice, in Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy weaves a compelling story of friendship, relationships and love, with a little bit of death thrown in for good measure; at least for a while.

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs. So she convinces her best friend Harvey, who’s loved her forever, to help with compiling a crazy just-dying-to-do bucket list, that’s as much about revenge as it is about redemption. But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission. Now she must face the consequences of all she’s said and done and discover just what happens when we say our ‘final’ words, only to find that life isn’t through with us yet.

Sharp, witty and poignant – this is a book written for all ages.

My Review:

Alice has been battling leukaemia for over a year but she’s getting weaker all the time. She’s sure that her time is coming to an end and as a result enlists her oldest friend, Harvey, to help her complete her unfinished business.  But this is a bucket list with a difference. Alice wants to get revenge on those who have wronged her before it’s too late. Harvey knows that what Alice is doing is wrong but he’s loved her since before he knew what love was and can deny her nothing. When Alice gets the news that she is in remission it should be a happy time but now she has to deal with the fall out of her actions.

I loved reading this debut novel by Julie Murphy. I started reading it thinking that I’d read a few chapters before bed and before I knew it – I was finished the book and only a few hours until I was supposed to wake up.

Alice isn’t like a lot of characters I’ve read before. She’s angry and mean but I felt like she was a very honest character. Life has wronged her and she wants to get her own back. She’s bitter what life has thrown at her. Having cancer hasn’t changed her – she hasn’t all of a sudden become a better person. I loved reading about her. There were times when I wanted to shout at her (What are you doing Alice?!) but as much as her actions didn’t always make sense to me – it made sense for her. They felt authentic for the girl I had gotten to know over the course of this novel.

Harvey is Alice’s partner in crime as she completes her revenge list. He was a character I wasn’t a fan of for a huge part of the novel. He’s a bit of a doormat and whilst that is good for Alice’s plan – I wanted him to stand up for himself. For him to be worthy of loving and to stand up and be someone Alice couldn’t walk over and ignore. That said, he did grow and change over the course of the book and by the end he started to be a character I enjoyed reading.

This is a book about life. About being hurt and surviving. Alice has a lot going on in her life. There is parents drama, the fickleness of friendship, relationship problems and her medical crisis. And whilst I don’t approve of how she dealt with it all – she did manage to cope and come though it all. Her actions all had consequences and no matter what she had been though – she didn’t get an easy out. I admire how Julie Murphy handled the situations she put her characters though and loved this different view of a teenage cancer story.

Side Effects May Vary was one of my most anticipated reads of this year and it did not disappoint. It’s not just a romance but a touching and compelling story about a girl coming to grips with what life throws at her – and the consequences of getting even.

Thanks to Penguin Australia and NetGalley for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Unbreakable ( The Legion #1), Kami Garcia

Title: Unbreakable (The Legion #1)
Author: Kami Garcia
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Ghosts, Young Adult
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: October 2013
Pages: 320
Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Kennedy Waters didn’t believe in ghosts, until one tried to kill her.

When Kennedy finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that evil forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into her house and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon – a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon – battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures novels

My Review:

Kennedy lives in her safe little world with her mother, her best friend, her cat named Elvis and a room full of art supplies. But one day after her cat runs away, Kennedy finds herself in a graveyard and everything changes. Her mother dies mysteriously and Kennedy sees things that shouldn’t be there – ghostly things. When brothers, Jared and Lukas Lockhart show up, Kennedy is drawn into a world of paranormal spirits and the Legion – a group of five seemingly unconnected individuals with ghost hunting skills being passed down from generation to generation.

Kennedy isn’t the most likely person to become a ghost hunter. She’s content with her life. Her mother loves her and makes her pancakes. Her best friend Elle takes care of Kennedy’s social life organizing group outings and double dates. Her dad might be out of the picture and her boyfriend may have recently broken her heart but over all – things are good for Kennedy Waters. And then a ghost tries to kill her and her mother is murdered by a demon. In many ways this book feels like it’s trying to pick up the Supernatural TV show vibe but it misses the mark with me.

Unbreakable reads a little young at times. Kennedy is seventeen but someone could be forgiven for thinking she’s several years younger for most of the book. But she does grow up – somewhere between first meeting the girl in the white dress and joining the Legion – and the story gets more enjoyable.

The rest of the characters are fun to read. There are the Lockhart twins, Lucas and Jared, both with an interest in Kennedy, the technological genius Priest, and Alara – the privileged goth girl who bankrolls the adolescent ghost hunters. Each come with their own unique set of skills and interesting back stories for the reader to discover as the novel unfolds. There’s interesting plot that develops but at times it felt unplanned and hurried. The way the teens find each piece of the puzzle often felt bizarre and almost accidental. The love triangle felt convenient and not a situation where I cared which way Kennedy decided.

Overall this is an interesting read but I won’t be continuing with the series. I didn’t feel emotionally involved with what will happen next nor with the characters themselves. In many ways I felt like this book was trying to imitate the first season of Supernatural the TV show but fell a little short.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster and The Reading Room for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Endless Knight by Kresley Cole

Endless Knight (The Arcana Chronicles, #2)

Title: Endless Knight (The Arcana Chronicles #2)
Author: Kresley Cole
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure, Dystopian, 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: October 2013
Pages: 336
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Evie has fully come into her powers as the Tarot Empress, and Jack was there to see it all. She now knows that the teens who’ve been reincarnated as the Tarot are in the throes of an epic battle. It’s kill or be killed, and the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

With threats lurking around every corner, Evie is forced to trust her newfound alliance. Together they must fight not only other Arcana, but also Bagmen zombies, post-apocalyptic storms, and cannibals.

When Evie meets Death, things get even more complicated. Though falling for Jack, she’s drawn to the dangerous Endless Knight as well. Somehow the Empress and Death share a history, one that Evie can’t remember—but Death can’t forget.

My Review:

Picking up where Poison Princess left us, Endless Knight starts with a bang! Evie has completely come into her Empress powers and is a force to reckoned with. Can the human cajun, Jackson cope with her supernatural destiny? Evie’s gang of Tarot characters have come to a truce to take out Death – but it’s not going to be easy. Other characters – like the Tower and Strength – come into play and Death is still haunting Evie’s thoughts. 

I loved how Evie has evolved since the first novel. Where she was once a cheerleader and model student, now she’s the Empress – poisoned spurs, magical blood and all. She knows that she has a part to play in the Arcana duel but wants things to end differently this time around. Forming a truce with Selena (The Moon), Matthew (The Fool) and Finn (the Magician), Evie hopes that Jackson will still stay true to his word and lead the misfit group to Evie’s grandmother for more information about past games.

There’s so much action in this book! More than once I was worried that Evie and her friends weren’t going to survive intact as a group. The new ‘cards’ introduced were interesting and I liked to see their take on the game and their roles within it. The highlight for me was Death – he’s so much more than the devious voice in Evie’s head and finding out more about his and his history as a person and within the game was incredible. It really changed the game for me. I was a little surprised at just how ruthless characters are – not just ones you’d expect it from like Death, but Evie is definitely a little more brutal and cruel with the toll of the Flash and Death in her head taking its toll. Jackson is different from the first book and we get to see another side to the Cajun bad boy.

Romance wise this book does have some nice moments. Kresley Cole does write some sizzling male characters and some breathtaking romantic scenes. I fall in love with a new character every book I read of hers. Things advance and regress with her relationships and characters felt more realistic and less flawless because of some events.

I can’t wait for the third book in the Arcana Chronicles – especially after the cliff-hanger Endless Knight left us on!  I’m excited to see which other ‘cards’ are introduced as well as what happens to the characters that I adore like Jackson and Death.

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Title: Slammed (Slammed #1)
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, New Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 2012
Pages: 384
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Layken’s father died suddenly, leaving her to gather every ounce of strength to be a pillar for her family, in order to prevent their world from falling apart. Now her life is taking another unexpected turn…
Layken’s mother gets a job which leads to an unwanted move across country. However, a new home means new neighbours… and Layken’s new neighbour is the very attractive Will Cooper.
Will has an intriguing passion for slam poetry, and a matching passion for life. The two feel an irresistible attraction but are rocked to the core when a shocking revelation brings their romance to a screeching halt.
Layken and Will must find a way to fight the forces that threaten to tear them apart… or learn to live without each other.

My Review:

Lake Cohen never expected to be starting senior in a new state. But she never expected her father to suddenly die from a heart attack. And she certainly never expected to fall for the boy next door after just three days. But from the first moment she met Will, there was chemistry. That is until she finds out that the boy who made moving from Texas to Michigan bearable is actually her new poetry teacher.

I didn’t know what to expect from Slammed and I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the characters and the plot. Lake is eighteen but she acts with the maturity of someone much older. She’s responsible and caring and best of all – she realises that romance isn’t the most important thing in life. Her relationship with Will is beautiful to watch as it develops and stumbles though the obstacles life provides.

The supporting characters in this book are amazing to read too. There are 9 year olds who actually act their age, teens who are not single-minded obsessed with romance and parents who make mistakes but are willing to admit their flaws. I think one of the strengths in this book is the way both Will and Lake are rounded. There is so much more to both of them than just their relationship with each other. The bond they each have with their little brothers is fantastic.

Each chapter is prefaced with some lyrics by the Avett Brothers – a band I’d not heard previously but has since bought two of their albums from iTunes. The way Hoover integrated the music and lyrics into the story was brilliant. They bring the poetry aspect into the novel perfectly.

This book was one of the best that I’ve read this year. It was beautiful and heartbreaking with characters that I cared about – I wanted to know what was going to happen next and how it would affect these people who I grew more and more attached to as the story went on. I can absolutely recommend it for anyone who loves emotional but realistic love stories where the romance is strong but not the entire story.

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher

Title: The S-Word
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Galley Books
Publication Date: May 2013
Pages: 320
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
‘First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.
But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she’s caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie’s own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

Debut author Chelsea Pitcher daringly depicts the harsh reality of modern high schools, where one bad decision can ruin a reputation, and one cruel word can ruin a life. Angie’s quest for the truth behind Lizzie’s suicide is addictive and thrilling, and her razor-sharp wit and fierce sleuthing skills makes her impossible not to root for—even when it becomes clear that both avenging Lizzie and avoiding self-destruction might not be possible.

My Review:

In one of the biggest scandals Verity High has ever seen, the preacher’s daughter is found in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. On prom night. And instantly good girl and “untouchable saint” Lizzie Hart is branded the S-word. People have covered her locker, her notebooks, her book bag – and even her car – with a single word. The S-word. Slut.

A week after Lizzie takes her own life the words “Suicide Slut” start appearing all over the school – in Lizzie’s own distinctive handwriting. Lizzie’s former best friend, Angie, sets out to find out the truth. The truth behind prom night, the graffiti on Lizzie’s possessions and Lizzie’s death.
This is a book about the power of labels. As Angie investigates the circumstances Lizzie we get to meet a cast of colour characters. There’s a boy who wears women’s fashion with a certain flair, borderline alcoholic cheerleaders, the straight A students who would do anything for a glowing reference and slightly creepy computer nerds. But they are all so much more than who they first appear at a glance. They have layers and yet most people never get to see beyond the superficial front.
I liked reading about the characters – Angie is a fantastic lead. She’s trying to repent for the apologies she can never make. Like a dog with a bone she won’t give up the search to find out who’s responsible. The mystery angle was an interesting take to a novel that’s about some rather serious issues. Lizzie – who we never get to see in person – makes an impression from her diary entries and memories Angie shares throughout the novel. I found her harder to relate to – in many ways she felt unrealistic. Her diary entries were awkward in their style and took me out of the story slightly. That said – there were lines and passages in this novel that were beautifully written and really got to me. The ones that make you think about how applicable the message in this book is to real life and situations.
Overall I enjoyed reading the S-Word. I found the characters engaging and dynamic. The plot contained so many of those issues that people don’t talk about for whatever reasons – abuse, neglect, racism, bullying and teen suicide – and I felt like most of these were dealt with in an appropriate way.
The S-Word is a novel that deals with the darker side of high school. I recommend this book for anyone looking for a YA contemporary novel that’s a bit edgier than the usual and doesn’t mind touching on serious issues.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an eARC for me to read and review.

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Title: Walking Disaster (Beautiful #2)
Author: Jamie McGuire
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance, New Adult 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 2013
Pages: 448 
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Finally, the highly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Disaster. Can you love someone too much?
Travis Maddox learned two things from his mother before she died: Love hard. Fight harder.

In Walking Disaster, the life of Travis is full of fast women, underground gambling, and violence. But just when he thinks he is invincible, Abby Abernathy brings him to his knees.

Every story has two sides. In Beautiful Disaster, Abby had her say. Now it’s time to see the story through Travis’s eyes.

My Review:

After reading Beautiful Disaster in 2012, I was rather curious to read Walking Disaster (even if every time I see the name the Babysitter’s Club book Kristy and the Walking Disaster comes to mind).

Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox has a reputation on campus. He’s notorious for bagging chicks and then taking out the garbage as soon as he’s sated. But when he first spots Abby Abernathy from across a crowded bare-knuckle fight, there’s just something about her that’s different from all the other girls at school. She’s not throwing herself at him and there’s something in her eye that reminds him of himself.

Never one to turn down a challenge, Travis sets out to make Abby his friend. His first non-sexual female friend. But as he gets to know her, he finds so much more than a potential buddy. Abby makes him nervous, anxious and agitated. Maybe, just maybe, Travis has met his match – and mate – in the quiet little Kansas pigeon.

I get the appeal of a bad boy. Not the just psychological phenomenon that explains women are attracted to bad boys as a primordial urge to help them procreate and further their race. But also the devastatingly sexual being that is a bad boy.

So I see why so many readers adore Travis Maddox. I’m just not one of them. However – with this companion novel I do see some redeeming qualities that weren’t present in the first book. He’s got some insight to his behaviour – he even goes as far to admit that he knows he’s a terrible person when it comes to his treatment of females.

But his jealousy just irritated me. Not just the depths of it but also the frequency of his outbursts. His violent tendencies stopped being sexy and were just plain scary.

The plot was well done. It was long enough since I read the first book that seeing the same discussions, interactions and actions didn’t feel repetitive but rather a warm feeling of deja vu that you get when you get to mix with characters you find comforting in their familiarity. The extra scenes that we didn’t get to witness last time as Abby wasn’t currently on-screen were fantastic – the ending made reading this whole story worthwhile.

After reading this book, I’m fully on board the Abby + Travis = 4EVA bandwagon. Not just because I think they’re perfect for each other but because I’m not sure I’d wish either one of them upon anyone else…

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the digital ARC.

Amazon / Book Depository 


Book Review: Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

With the world coming to an end tomorrow (or so TV is trying to tell me), I decided it would be appropriate to review an apocalyptic novel – and I’ve chosen Poison Princess written by one of my favourite paranormal authors, Kresley Cole. I love her Immortals After Dark series and have been wanting to read this book for a very long time. I was delighted to see how Ms. Cole tackled a book in the Young Adult genre.

You know how some people have a list of things they adore and love to read about? This ticked just about every one on my list: motorcycles, gorgeous Cajun bad boys, kick-arse heroines and story that kept me hooked well after I finished the last page.

Title: Poison Princess (The Arcadia Chronicles #1)
Author: Kresley Cole
Genre: post-apocalyptic, dystopian, magic, paranormal, romance
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: October 2012
Pages: 384 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
She could save the world—or destroy it.

Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side….

My Review:

Evie is the golden girl – she’s dating the school’s handsome quarterback and together with her three best friends, she’s one-quarter of the most popular clique in school. But when Evie starts having gruesome visions, her mother ships her off for the summer to a house for disturbed teenagers.

With the start of a new school year Evie tries to ignore the oddities around her and concentrate on her friends, her boyfriend, and the fact there’s only two more years till graduation and then college. Just two more years.

That is until the gorgeous bad boy, Jackson Deveraux, comes to town. Complete with his best friends from the Bayou – Lionel, Clotile and Gaston (Okay… not that Gaston) – they’re there to shake things up. Instantly there’s tension between Jack and Evie. He sees her as the pretty little rich girl who never has to work for anything in her life and Evie sees Jack as a perverted thief from the wrong side of the tracks. But personalities aside – there’s plenty of attraction at first sight from both sides.

Evie’s visions and hallucinations keep getting more bizarre, scary and frequent. When Evie figures out that her nightmares are actually warnings and premonitions of the future- it’s too late. The Flash has devastated the world.

With the only like she has ever known is falling apart all around her Evie doesn’t have much option but to trust one of the only allies she has left – Jack. Together the Cajun and the Princess have to try to work together to survive and figure out what Evie’s powers mean.

I couldn’t put this book down. From the start to the final page there was always something happening that intrigued me into wanting to know exactly what was going to happen next.

The highlight was the banter between Evie and Jack. They would constantly bait each other and the resulting conversations were always amusing. I loved the innuendos and playful taunts but also found their more serious interactions just as scintillating. I thought the way Cole wrote Jack’s dialogue was perfect – it was easy to read and get into the vibe of the Cajun lingo. What I liked most about these two is how their relationship developed. It’s not love at first sight – but there is a great deal of lust from their first encounter. And they aren’t perfect – either of them. But they do grow as people and with regards to their relationship with each other. There are misunderstandings and lack of communication skills and whatnot. I loved that things aren’t easy for Evie and Jack.

Evie’s powers fascinated me – I have to admit that I can’t wait to see where she goes in the future. And the journey that she’s on to defeat the Evil players in the game. She may have started the book as a victim but by the end she was a force to be reckoned with! I have no doubt that Evie will be on the winning side of this dangerous battle but I just don’t know if it will be good or evil who will prevail victorious.

The Tarot element in the plot is interesting and unique. I don’t know much about the Major Arcadia (I had to have a bit of a google search to have a look at the cards we’ve met so far) and thought Selena, Finn and Matthew were such contrasting characters with powers that are so different and yet still have a lot of power. With there being so many “cards” not yet introduced – there’s a lot of room for incredible new characters to make appearances later in the series.

Drama, romance, action and magic – this book really does have it all. Without a doubt I can put this down as one of my favourite books of 2012. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Purchase the novel from:

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