Book Review: How They Met (and Other Stories) by David Levithan

How They Met, and Other Stories

Title: How They Met (and Other Stories)
Author: David Levithan
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Short Stories
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 256
Rating: 3.5  stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Eighteen stories, all about love, and about all kinds of love.

From the aching for the one you pine for, to standing up and speaking up for the one you love, to pure joy and happiness, these love stories run the gamut of that emotion that at some point has turned every one of us inside out and upside down.

What is love?

With this original story collection David Levithan proves that love is a varied, complicated, addictive, wonderful thing.

My Review: 

As David Levithan says in his introduction, How They Met (and other stories) is a book of stories about love rather than love stories. Each of the eighteen short stories gives a look into different types of love and relationships. With stories about the first sparks of attraction to tales of heartbreak and parental disapproval – this anthology covers a whole range of emotions and situations.

The stories contained in How We Met feature a variety of types of relationships – from two boys falling in love to a girl being heartbroken when her girlfriend moves on and heterosexual couples and their love stories. With many of the stories, the gender of the narrator is a little ambiguous for the first few pages and I liked the vagueness. Whilst sexuality is a theme in these stories, the unclearness of the narrator made it appear that the issues faced and situations the characters are in a universal (for the most part) regardless of sexual orientation.

For me, the sum is greater than the parts. I enjoyed many of the stories but I think the strength lies in how they fit together as a compilation. The variety is fantastic and yet they all manage to come together and feel like they each belong in the same collection.

Favourite Stories: Starbucks Boy, The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes, Princes, A Romantic Inclination. 

Favourite Quotes:

“Every two people cause and intersection.
Every person alters the world.” from Intersection

“Sallie and James had both life and the laws of physics working against them. You see, Sallie Brown and James Helprin were good friends.
Which adds a certain friction to our equation.” from A Romantic Inclination

“You have to believe there are kisses and laughs and risks worth taking”

 

Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: How to Convince a Boy to Kiss You by Tara Eglington

How to Convince a Boy to Kiss You (Aurora Skye #2)

Title: How to Convince a Boy to Kiss You (Aurora Skye #2)
Author: Tara Eglington
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: November 2013
Pages: 446
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
The course of true love never did run smooth. For a girl who shares her name with a princess (a.k.a Aurora from Sleeping Beauty) Aurora Skye’s life seem fathoms away from a fairytale. Sure, she’s landed Hayden Paris, Potential Prince extraordinaire. And she got her wish — one first kiss with all the knee-trembling, butterfly-inducing gloriousness she’d hoped for.
But Aurora’s learning that a kiss is just the beginning of a story.
Instead of being the truly transcendent, utterly epic follow up it should be, her second attempt at kissing has literally landed Hayden Paris in the emergency room. If that’s not mortifying enough, the whole school is now referring to her as ‘Lethal Lips’.
Meanwhile it’s all systems go for her best friend Cassie – she and Potential Prince Scott are totally loved up and can’t stop kissing. Jelena (Jefferson High’s answer to Helen of Troy) has moved on from the heinous betrayal by Bad Boy Alex West and has unleashed her plan to rule the world by running for School Captain. Problem is Alex is running too and Jelena’s pulling out all the stops to prevent him from stealing her rightful place as ruler of Jefferson High – including offering Aurora’s Find a Prince/Princess Program as one of her campaign initiatives.
How is Aurora going to prove her program is foolproof and help Jelena win the election when her matchmaking manoeuvres seem to be throwing all the wrong people together – including the NAD and the hippy-dippy Ms Deforest — and she can’t even convince Hayden to kiss her?

My Review:

Aurora Skye is back and she is finding out that even after you have found your prince charming plenty of things can still go wrong. The magic after her first kiss with nemesis-turned-true-love and boy next door, Hayden Paris, starts to fade after their first date ends with a trip to the emergency room. And Aurora has more to worry about than her own romance. Jelena is running for school captain and she has roped Aurora into launching her Find a Prince/Princess program and finding the perfect match for her classmates. Aurora’s New Age Dad has his own relationship revelations and her flighty mother seems to bring drama wherever she goes. Life has never been busier for the young matchmaker.

This series is adorable. With How To Convince A Boy To Keep Kissing You, Tara Eglington has delivered a lovely read about a teen girl with authentic problems. Okay – so you’re probably not going to find a school in Australia where school captains promise their BFF will find them a prince nor school camps organized (and all permission slips signed and returned) in a day. But Aurora faces issues which are common to many people. Her parents are moving on in their relationships but she’s stuck in the middle of their decisions. Aurora’s friends have their own things going on and despite it all, Aurora is there for them as best as she can. And there’s Hayden. Despite considering herself a love and relationship guru, Aurora is learning that being part of a couple is not quite what she expected.

I like Aurora. She’s not trying to save the world but she is trying to be the best person she can be. With Keats’ “Love is My Religion” as her personal motto, Aurora believes that there is love out there for everyone. She uses the resources at hand to help her friends and family find the person that makes them happy – and somehow manages to keep up to date with school politics too. Her budding romance with Hayden is very sweet however is more in the background of this novel than it was in the first. I missed seeing him around but their scenes together were lovely to read and I love them as a couple.

In this book we get to see more of Aurora’s friends and it was great getting to see how their friendship dynamic evolve as they are all getting older and wiser to the word. Jelena’s plans of total school domination were amusing (if not entirely believable all the time) and I enjoyed how the race for school captain played out. Cassie and Lindsay have nice supporting roles too and I enjoyed reading the new characters that popped up in this novel as well.

Overall, this is a fun book to read. If you’re looking for something that is cute, contemporary with romance as a focus – this series is definitely for you. Although be warned: Reading this book had me reading Keats and watching Bright Star!

Thanks to Harper Collins Australia for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Also by Tara Eglington:

How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You (Aurora Skye #1)

How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You (click here for my review)

Interview and Giveaway: Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney

I’m honoured today to share with you all an interview with the author of Almost Dead, Kaz Delaney. Kaz has generously given her time to answer some of my questions about her book, writing and her life as an author. I had a great time reading Almost Dead and I loved reading Kaz’s answers to my questions. You can find my review for Almost Dead here. I also have a copy of Almost Dead to giveaway to one lucky person so make sure you keep reading to the end of the post for more information on how to win. 

Almost Dead

Interview with author Kaz Delaney!

Macey, the main character in Almost Dead sees ghosts and another character, Zordastramus (that name is brilliant!), has psychic abilities. Do you believe in spirits and supernatural phenomenon?

Thank you for having me here Kate! And yes, I do! I’ve had a few spooky things happen that have been way too specific to be random. Once I awoke to a bright light beside my bed and I yelped. It wasn’t there for long, but in it was the image of a child just hovering beside me (children and young people feature a lot in my experiences) – but it was a child from a long ago time. It seemed to be wrapped in swaddling. Frankly, a bit scary. It disappeared very quickly and suddenly the room seemed very black. Anyway, I finally chalked it up to a dream and tried to get back to sleep. However the next morning, our teenage daughter whose room is adjacent to ours asked if I was okay. She said she’d been woken by a bright light coming from our room and heard me cry out. When the light went out again, she figured everything was okay. When she told me that, I knew I hadn’t been dreaming.

Another time during a reading, a psychic kept reassuring me that a friend (distant) with a very unique name, was going to be okay. She was annoyed because I wasn’t reacting strongly enough to the prediction and so kept repeating it over and over with urgency. It meant little to me, and really? I just wanted her to move on and get back to me! 😉 I mean, this friend wasn’t someone I was very close to. I was glad for her that she was going to be okay, but what more did the psychic want me to say? I went home puzzled. The next day, however, I got a phone call from another friend to ask if I’d heard any news reports. She had – and she’d just heard that our mutual friend (the one mentioned in the reading) had been involved in a serious accident. Wow. That was very sobering. (And yes, I did feel the most horrid remorse for being so cavalier. And yes, the prediction was right – she survived and thrived. Thank goodness.)

These are just two random things I remembered, but there have been many. Too many for me to brush them aside. So yes, I do have an open mind about such things. But all that aside – it’s fabulous, fabulous fun to write about!

As someone who grew up on the Gold Coast – I loved the setting! Was it hard for you to decide on the location for Dead Actually and Almost Dead?

You are so lucky! The Gold Coast is one of my favourite places in the world. I love the colour – and the way the natural light makes everything shinier and brighter. I love the buzz; the energy! The atmosphere. I feel alive when I’m on the Gold Coast and had always wanted to set a book there (and NOT just so I could claim my trips as expenses!!! 🙂 ), so it was a no brainer for me.

When I’m there I spend a lot of time people-watching, hopefully not in a creepy way (!) and some of the ideas came from watching young people just having fun, being themselves. When I created the cast and had the outline for Dead Actually, the first in these loosely connected series, I knew the GC was the perfect setting. And it’s proving to be a great choice. So many people can relate to it – even if they’ve just seen it on the telly! It’s just such a cool place!

Kaz Delaney

Author of Almost Dead, Kaz Delaney

Are there any similarities between you and Macey? 

Oh wow – I’d love to answer with a resounding ‘YES!’. I mean, Macey’s so cool. She’s so strong and feisty and sassy. She’s takes no prisoners and she’s so self possessed! Most of us like to think we can rise above what people think about us – but secretly, we do care. And it makes us vulnerable. Macey is one of those rare beings who really doesn’t care. Not in an ‘I-am-so-cool-and-you’re-not’ way, but just because she doesn’t waste time on that kind of trivia.

So, yes, of course, I’d love to say ‘Yes!’

But truth be told, I’m way more of a doormat. I stress over what people think and so I try hard to make people like me. (By the way – would like a back massage with this interview??? 🙂 ) Actually, I truly just believe in being nice to people – that’s my nature.

But we are alike in two ways: Fashion. O.M.G. – I love it. And it’s such amazing fun to have that as a component of these books. Although, it does require serious sacrifice. I mean, do you know the effort involved in trawling designer sites to see what’s happening and who’s designing what??? And the shoes? I have worn my fingers to the bone researching designer shoes! It’s a tough job but thankfully I could steel myself to do the hard yards. True! Do you doubt me? (Excuse me while I untangle myself. It’s not easy typing with your fingers, toes and fallopian tubes crossed…)

Second likeness? We both have a shut-down button. I am much more tolerant and forgiving than Macey, but neither of us suffers fools lightly. It might take me longer to get there, (a LOT longer) but ultimately, we’ll both roll out the spike strip if you’re speeding headlong into stupid-ville. (The difference is that I’ll probably make you a cuppa and point out the error of your ways. Macey will leave you stranded to work it out for yourself. )

Can I just add here though, that Macey is vulnerable like the rest of us. Her vulnerabilities are just buried deeper and therefore much painful when we reveal them throughout the story.

Many authors are categorized as being either plotters (having plotted their novels out in advance) or pantsers (writing by the seat of their pants). Would you consider yourself to be a plotter, a pantser or a little of both?

Definitely both. I ‘have’ to know where the story is going. That’s my safety net. But how I get there is a journey that takes us on many side roads; the scenic route. So, I’m a good mix.

Did you always know you wanted to write?

Absolutely. I had my first work published in the Sun Herald when I was nine years old. Writing has always been my passion. In fact when I was a kid I used to think it was all I could do well. I’m not sure why, because I was a fairly good student – but writing was always the thing I felt most confident about. I don’t think there was ever a time in my life when I considered that I wouldn’t one day write for a living.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

It’s fairly busy, actually. Number one, naturally, is reading. I read at every opportunity. I teach, so that takes a fair bit of time. I’m a trivia nut, so I play pub trivia once a week in a team that’s been together for hundreds of years. (At least twenty. 🙂 ) To unwind and keep fit(ish) I walk by the lake and just recently I’ve discovered kayaking! So, I’m so thrilled you asked that question because I get to give an answer that makes me sound really fit and sporty! LOL.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished the gorgeous ‘Cinderella Moment’ by Aussie YA author Jennifer Kloester. Loved it, loved it. Such a sweet story with so much heart. But now I’m reading a book I found on the back of my shelves entitled ‘The List of Seven’, by Mark Frost. It fictionalises Arthur Conan Doyle on a quest against the so-called ‘dark arts’ – spiritualism, psychic prediction etc. I’m not far enough into it to pronounce judgement, but I’m sure it’ll be brilliant once I get into my stride with it.

Dead, Actually

Dead, Actually – a companion novel to Almost Dead

I’ve just finished a mid grade novel that was heaps of fun about kids with special abilities, and have gone back to working on another book in this loosely connected series that will shortly head off to my agent and publisher. Can’t say too much just yet, but it features Flick and a country girl who is suffering the whole fish out of water thing. Macey and Willow both have cameos. After that, is a YA that’s completely different and new, that begins in Paris and ends up (ultimately) in Australia.

Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

I’d love to tell the readers that they must never forget how important they are in the scheme of books and publishing. Without readers, we don’t have an audience – we don’t have an industry!
So, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting us and reading our works so that we can continue to write stories that you will (I hope) love.

Almost Dead is a story I love. It’s one of those special books for me that, as an author, I am so proud of, that I want to burst. I sincerely hope you enjoy it as well. I hope you laugh and cry with Macey and Finn. And I wonder if you will solve the mystery before you get to the end? Mwahahah!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Kaz. I enjoyed reading Almost Dead and loved getting to witness Macey’s story!

Thank you Kate! This has been a brilliant interview with loads of fun questions. Clever girl! I am humbled and grateful for this opportunity to talk about ‘Almost Dead’. Thank you, again!

 

 

Giveaway!

 

Thanks to Allen & Unwin

I have

1 print edition of Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney to giveaway

**Open to  Australian Residents only**

Please leave a comment on this post to enter and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

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Book Review: Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney

Almost Dead

Title: Almost Dead
Author: Kaz Delaney
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Ghosts, Paranormal, Mystery, Young Adult
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 400
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Macey’s life has been turned upside down. Her mother has left, her father is absent and her two best friends (her brother Seth and his girlfriend Willow) are MIA. On top of that Macey is being visited by ghosts who need her help to ‘move on’. But as wild as all that sounds, it’s all under Macey’s control until a rakish, good-looking spirit called Nick turns up … in her bedroom!

Nick’s a spirit with spirit who insists he’s not dead, he’s astral travelling and has a message for Macey: someone is out to get her. Macey’s biting wit has got her in trouble before, so she’s not surprised but when the threatening notes start turning up, she’s seriously shaken. Does someone want her dead?

It’s all rather disturbing but she’s finding it hard to focus on who could mean her harm with the annoyingly handsome surf god Finn turning up at the most inopportune times and a father with a rather large surprise of his own.

Is it a case of bad timing? Or are these things somehow connected? And if they are, what on earth should she wear when she’s solving the mystery?

My Review:

Power, love, hate, bad language tears and great shoes. Just another day at RTHS, really…

Macey Pentecost is getting used to seeing ghosts. When the spirit of a cute almost rock star Nick appears in her bedroom, Macey learns that is more than just ghosts out there. Nick isn’t dead. He’s had an accident and is in a coma but feels that he needs to protect Macey from something out there. Threats aside, Macey’s family life is in turmoil. Her mother has abandoned her and her father has some secrets of his own. Lucky for her, Macey meets Finn – surfer god extraordinaire who is willing to help get to the bottom of who is tormenting Macey and just how Nick is connected to it all.

I thought Almost Dead was a fun read. There is mystery, ghosts and romance topped off with plenty of high school drama. Macey is a privileged and feisty seventeen year old (on first impressions, she’s a bit of a mean girl) who has many vulnerabilities deep down. When creepy things start happening to her, she doesn’t run and hide but uses all the resources at her fingertips to try to track down the villain. It took me a while to warm to Macey. She’s blunt and (dare I say) a tad spoilt but after getting into the story and coming to understand her I realized that her frank ways are a defence mechanism. She’s loyal to her friends and (after a while) acts rather maturely in very difficult family circumstances.

The secondary characters are interesting and I liked how they interacted with Macey – I adored how Nick didn’t bow down to Macey and didn’t allow her to dismiss him. Felicity, Finn and Madame Zordastramus all add something extra to the story and I enjoyed getting to know more about them as Macey’s story unfolded. The mystery in this book was great. It’s one that I didn’t see coming till right near the end but once everything was explained it made perfect sense! The supernatural elements of ghosts and spirits was handled with humour and were entertaining to read.

Almost Dead is a companion novel to Dead, Actually (also by Kaz Delaney) and as such shares a setting and many characters but you don’t need to have read Dead, Actually in order to enjoy Almost Dead.

 

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: Suddenly You by Cecilia Gray

Suddenly You (The Jane Austen Academy Series, #4)

Title: Suddenly You (The Jane Austen Academy #4)
Author: Cecilia Gray
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, Retelling
Publisher: Gray Life LLC
Publication Date: November 6th, 2013
Pages: 145
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Fanny doesn’t want to be at The Jane Austen Academy. She intends to lay low until graduation when she can try out for the Olympic track team. She doesn’t need friends or love. She only needs her running.

But The Academy is in danger. In an effort to save it, Fanny joins forces with the friends she never knew she wanted. Suddenly, Fanny finds herself center stage in the middle of the Academy’s biggest love triangle as the lead in the school play…only this track star can’t afford to break a leg.

The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is guys. But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And they’re about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down…

My Review:

Fanny Sato is very competitive – and she has to be if she wants to achieve her dream of becoming an Olympic athlete. With the rumours of the Jane Austen Academy closing down, Fanny and the other girls try everything they can to keep their beloved school open. Even if it means focused Fanny trying out for the main role in the school play. With her once ordered life getting more complicated by the day, Fanny doesn’t need the extra pressure of being an actress. Gaining the attention of the leading man and having unplanned and somewhat perplexing feelings for a gorgeous boy who is more than willing to get up to mischief and mayhem at Fanny’s bequest is not something that happens to people like Fanny. Solitary by nature, Fanny’s starting to be overwhelmed with people and their problems – can she keep her mind on her own goals whilst still being there for her new friends?

With each book in this series, I like the idea more and more. Jane Austen’s heroines all existing in the same school and supporting each other. The characters are great and Suddenly You is my favourite book from the series so far. Fanny is determined and willing to whatever it takes to get where she wants to be. Her relations with her friends and family are somewhat strained as she keeps her secrets to herself so that nothing can get in the way of her dream. And then Tran happened. I loved Tran. He’s the somewhat dangerous bad boy who doesn’t blink an eye at the opportunity for a little break and entering. He brings out the best in Fanny and their journey in this book was a pleasure to read.

I’ve not read Mansfield Park (the Jane Austen novel which Suddenly You is a modern day retelling of) and I think in many ways I enjoyed it more having no idea what was going to happen. There’s a lot of characters popping up again from the previous books in the Jane Austen Academy series and I’m still impressed with just how wonderfully Cecilia Gray makes them fit (although I’m starting to wonder just how much longer she plans on torturing a certain misunderstood movie star!). This series is fun and the books are all quick and easy to read.

Emma’s book is next (Only With You coming out later this year) and I’m looking forward to see just how everything turns out for the fashionista.

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon

Book Review: When I’m With You by Cecilia Gray

When I’m With You (The Jane Austen Academy Series, #3)

Title: When I’m With You (The Jane Austen Academy #3)
Author: Cecilia Gray
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, Retelling
Publisher: Gray Life LLC
Publication Date: December 22nd, 2012
Pages: 147
Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Kat is destined to be a star and her big break has arrived at last! As the assistant to a celebrity classmate on the set of a feature film, she’s going to show everyone she has what it takes. That is, until she discovers pursuing her dreams may mean forfeiting her heart. Unless she can find a way to have both…

The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is guys. But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And they’re about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down…

Dive into the fabulous, fun lives of six Academy girls as their friendships are tested, torn and ultimately triumph.

My Review:

Kat Morley was born to be a star. She’s been the lead in the Jane Austen Academy school plays every spring and fall since she joined and she knows that she has what it takes to be a famous actress. When she’s given the chance to be a personal assistant to a fellow student and get to spend her winter break on a real life film set, Kat jumps at the chance. This might be her opportunity to get her big break. Cute boys, diva starlets and the pesky paparazzi threaten to ruin Kat’s break and Kat is left to wonder if being an actor is all she imagines it to be.

When I’m With You is a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I studied the original text at university as part of a gothic literature class and whilst I never imagined the story on the set of a Californian film, it works surprisingly well. Kat is curious and hard-working. Her single-minded focus towards her goal is admirable yet makes her somewhat unapproachable by the other students. I liked the cast of characters that she met on set. Josh Wickham makes another appearance in this series – and I think it’s terrific how Cecilia Gray has used him as yet another Austen character whilst still maintaining him as believable and consistent with what readers of the Jane Austen Academy series have come to expect from the previous books. Izzy Engel and Henry Trenton are great too, each for their own reasons.

One thing I didn’t particularly enjoy about this book was Kat’s naivety. I didn’t believe it nor did I find it in tune with who I believed her to be as a character. I understand that in the original Jane Austen story, Catherine Morley’s innocent view of the world was how a lot of the plot was driven but due to some of the other differences between these two characters I just didn’t believe Kat to be that trusting. I didn’t quite understand why certain things happened and I feel like those events were just so it would be in tandem with Northanger Abbey.

This book is cute and charming. I like that it can be read without having knowledge of the book it’s based on – and perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I had not been subconsciously comparing the two. The romance is adorable (I loved Henry’s hats!) and despite this book being mostly set away from the Academy, there is still the unspoken camaraderie between the girls – even if Kat doesn’t quite realize it yet. Despite my low rating of this book, I do enjoy the series and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon

Book Review: Covert Assignment by Missy Marciassa

CovertAssignmentTourBanner

Title: Covert AssignmentCovert Assignment
Author: Missy Marciassa
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Suspence
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: December 2013
Pages: 234
Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Covert Assignment is a New Adult, Coming of Age Novel with a strong romantic element. Elle is ready for graduation and full-fledged adulthood: no more living like the leftover of her parent’s divorce. She’s about to graduate with her degree in Information Science (the 21st century term for Library Science) and has a ten-year plan as well-designed as any model for analyzing metadata: earn her JD/MBA, enjoy a couple of years as a single professional, then marry her college sweetheart, Adam, and start her own family.

Yet Elle feels like she returned to an alternate universe her final semester. There are pictures of Adam with a classmate who must be surgically enhanced, but he insists he wants Elle. CIA recruiters show up on campus, and they aren’t just interested in recruiting Elle for future employment: turns out she’s already working for them since they’re funding her thesis. Hot operative Preston Raddick is tasked to work with her. Preston isn’t just hot: he’s hot for Elle, but is he offering happy ever after or happy for right now? A fling with Preston could be the beginning of a new life plan, which is exciting and scary, especially with espionage thrown in. Elle needs a predictive model to tell her which decisions have the greater likelihood for happiness…

My Review:

One semester from leaving her university in her past and preparing for adult life, Elle has it all worked out. Go to her father’s alma mater and double in law and business, marry her college sweetheart Adam and then settle down and start a family by the time Elle and Adam are in their early thirties. Sounds perfect, right? Spanner is thrown into the works when Elle returns from Christmas break to find intimate photos of Adam and someone who very definitely isn’t Elle.

Determined not to let Adam’s cheating ways ruin her final semester, Elle tries to work out if she wants to salvage that relationship whilst still working on her thesis project. A project that – unknown to Elle – is funded by the CIA. Working closely with a field operative, Preston Raddick, Elle manages to somehow prepare for adult life whilst making the most of her time in college.

I love the concept of this novel. It reminded me of the tv show, Chuck – with top-secret agencies cherry picking graduating classes for their newest recruits. Elle is apparently very logical and methodical which would make her a great analyst. However, I didn’t see very much of her analytical nature when it came to dealing with her personal life. Elle came across as incredibly judgemental and (especially with regards to the Adam situation) needed her friends to make her decisions for her. I think her reaction and actions to Adam’s betrayal were slightly hollow with Elle never talking about how she felt about the whole situation. It made me like her less as a character because I perceived her to be more upset about her future plans being ruined rather than having anything to do with feelings or heartbreak.

Spy wise – I like where this book was heading. Elle got a taste of exactly what life as an operative might entail. There’s drama and slight suspense although it only really occurred in the tail end of the book. Elle’s friends were a little over the top but fiercely loyal and Elle definitely needed that. I had some issues with some of the things that occurred in this book (like what was with Elle’s family at the end. That felt so completely out of character) but overall it was an entertaining read and a new adult novel that focused on the bridge between college and adulthood.

 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon

Book Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Young Adult
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: February 2013 (first published March 2005)
Pages: 272
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

My Review:

“If people were rain I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”

Miles Halter seeks to find his “Great Perhaps”. Deciding that he isn’t going to find it in Florida, he makes the decision to leave his family home and go to Culver Creek Boarding School, his dad’s alma mater, in Alabama. It’s there that Miles finds a nickname, a prank master room-mate and a girl named Alaska Young. She’s wonderful and terrible, together and yet falling apart and Miles can’t help but fall in love with her. Before Culver Creek everything was boring and mundane but that was before Alaska.

This is one of those books that I’ve heard a lot about and because of that I was a little intimidated but I quickly found myself engrossed in Miles’ story. I enjoy reading John Green’s style. His characters are quirky and enjoyable. Miles, the narrator, is bland in comparison to his new friends but has some eccentricities of his own. Reading biographies of famous authors but never reading their novels himself – I loved that. I found myself able to relate to him on many levels and liked his commentary about life at Culver Creek.

Alaska Young is a great love interest – especially considering she is not the typical leading lady. She’s bold and impulsive with a boyfriend she’s in love with and wouldn’t cheat on. Her enthusiasm for pranks and getting Miles a girlfriend is contagious. Her relationships with The Colonel, Miles. Takumi and Lara contrasted with each other nicely and by the end of the book I felt like I knew her well and not at all both at the same time.

I love books set in boarding schools and I did like the antics of the Weekday Warriors and other boarders at Culver Creek. Pranks, sports and contraband are all a part of day-to-day life at the school and they were all highlighted in a way that made me feel at home with them and made Miles’ experience at Culver Creek feel authentic.  The pacing was great with each section being preceded with days preceding and after. Taking place over Miles’ junior year of high school, it was spaced out and managed to include all those important American high school things – like midterms and Thanksgiving.

Looking for Alaska is a great read however it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Amazing characters – this is definitely a book that I liked for characters first, plot second and I had a great time living in Miles’ world with him whilst he searched for his “Great Perhaps”.

My Favourite Quotes:

“It always shocked me when I realized that I wasn’t the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things.” 

“Sometimes you lose a battle. But mischief always wins the war” 

“I just did some calculations and I’ve been able to determine that you’re full of shit.” 

“We were kissing.
I thought: This is good.
I thought: I am not bad at this kissing. Not bad at all.
I thought: I am clearly the greatest kisser in the history of the universe.
Suddenly she laughed and pulled away from me. She wiggled a hand out of her sleeping bag and wiped her face. “You slobbered on my nose,” she said, and laughed” 

 

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Book Review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake

Title: Wild Awake
Author: Hilary T. Smith
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Music, Romance, 
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Publication Date: October 1st, 2013
Pages: 375
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy

My Review:

Kiri Byrd is the daughter parents can depend on. To water plants, to practice her piano and not to get into any trouble. And Kiri is fine playing the role because she’s convinced that her perfection is the only way to keep her family together after her older sister, Sukey, died in an accident a few years ago. But a strange phone call one night when her parents are away on a cruise leads to Kiri questioning everything she believes to be true.

“It’s amazing how quickly the things you thought would make you happy seem small once you stumble on something true.” 

This book is both beautiful and bizarre. Kiri is in the midst of discovering things about Sukey, her parents and herself that she never even considered. It’s an emotional story with Kiri falling apart. Her sister may not have been the role model Kiri had on a pedestal and her parents dismissal of all thing Sukey may not have been the most healthy thing to do. Kiri is locked in a world where she lives in denial. Watering the azaleas and perfecting complicated piano pieces is the way she is holding things together. But when she finds out there’s more to Sukey’s death than she ever considered, Kiri is thrown – especially considering her brother and parents knew the truth all along. Kiri tries to hold on to the perfect life she’s living whilst at the same time starts to resent it. She’s beautiful in her confusion and reading her was a pleasure. Her awkwardness regarding love and sex was endearing to read and her passion – albeit slightly fanatical – for music was a joy.

And then there’s Skunk. Have you ever heard a more attractive name for the hero of a story? Probably not. Skunk is one of those characters that I adored from the first time Kiri met him.
“He’s huge. Hagridesque. A bulldozer crossed with a  gorilla.”

Romantic, right? His relationship with Kiri is one based on friendship first and contrasts perfectly with the relationship Kiri has with bandmate Lukas. Both boys couldn’t be more different and they do a great job of representing Kiri’s perfect past and confused present.

I loved the writing in this novel. If I were to underline my favourite lines most of the book would be marked. Kiri’s spiral downwards was oddly wonderful to read – one of those things that feel like they should be entirely uncomfortable were written in a way that made me want to read more and anticipate how Kiri would react to the next bombshell in her life. Her relationships with everyone are declining and it’s awkward yet enticing.

The ending wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I felt it was perfectly fitting for both the plot and the characters. I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did – the recreational drug use on page 1 nearly turned me off but this is so much more than a teenage stoner story. It’s an emotional and lovely debut novel with amazingly flawed characters and some beautiful prose. I adored this book and will definitely be looking out for more books by Hilary T. Smith.

Favourite Quotes:

“His smile is a jar full of fireflies”

“The wired feeling that started when I left my house has grown into a thrumming, crackling, electrical field. I want to kiss Lukas. I want to dance down the street. There’s a reason people get drunk after funerals, and I suddenly know what it is: the flip side of sadness is a dark, devouring joy, a life that demands to be fed.”

“I want to kiss you,” I say, “but I seem to be holding this cat.”
Skunk lifts his hand and touches it to the side of my face. His fingers are warm from carrying the hot skillet to the table. He regards me very seriously, and for a moment I wonder if he’s about to tell me we should Focus on Bicycle Repair. Instead he just looks at me for a very long time.
“You’re beautiful,” says Skunk, “and completely batshit.” 

Thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

Crash Into You

Title: Crash Into You (Pushing the Limits #3)
Author: Katie McGarry 
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: December 2013
Pages: 464
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that’s who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers…and she’s just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can’t get him out of her mind.

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich gira stl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look.

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they’ll go to save each other.

My Review:

NOTE: Whilst this book is part of a series it can also be enjoyed as a standalone.

Isaiah and Rachel couldn’t be more different. He’s struggling to make rent in a budget apartment and is facing getting sent back to his foster parents. She’s the perfect daughter of wealthy parents and wants to please everyone. He’s rough around the edges, covered in tattoos and isn’t unfamiliar with the darker side of life. She feels the need to please everyone even when it’s hazardous to her own health. But they both share a love of cars. When they meet by chance at an illegal street race, they feel a spark. They put aside their preconceived notions of the other get to know each other on a deeper level. But real life gets in the way and tries to tear them apart just as they’re falling in love.

I have to admit – I was annoyed at Katie McGarry. After reading Pushing the Limits, I wanted Isaiah and Beth to be together. Then I read Dare You Too and I started to think maybe the author knew better than I did what was best for her characters… Now, after reading Isaiah and Rachel’s story – I know I was wrong. I adored this novel. From the start I could see that these two brought out the best in each other.

Rachel is fragile. But she surprised me by being tough as nails on the inside. She doesn’t like conflict and does whatever she can to avoid it. She’s living her life in her sister’s shadow and whilst they may not mean to – her parents never let her forget it. But she’s more than the society princess. She’s passionate about cars – and her love of mechanics is heartfelt and believable. Isaiah on the other hand is damaged. Life hasn’t been kind to him and he doesn’t think enough of himself to get him out of the hole that he’s in. Noah, his best friend and the main character from Pushing the Limits, tries to do what he can but he’s got his hands full with college, Echo and his brothers. It’s an interesting time for Isaiah – because as well as Rachel coming into his life he gets a case worker who wants more than just to wash her hands of him.

There’s a lot of excitement in this book – illegal street racing, money hungry bookies and a romance that is absolutely beautiful. I thought McGarry did a brilliant job of melding the different worlds her characters live in whilst at the same time being believable. There are some surprises in this book with some amazing new characters being introduced and some old favourites from the series reappearing. I thought it was great that characters like Beth are still prickly and (dare I say) a little bitchy despite having her happy ending – it felt authentic that she’s the same girl despite the changes her life has been through.

I’m looking forward to the fourth book in this series. I love the characters and can’t wait to see what Katie McGarry come up with next!

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon| Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld