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Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

April 18, 2016

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan MatsonSince You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books on 6th May 2014
Pages: 449
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
five-stars
It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um...

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait...what?

As I’m away on holiday, I’ve been delving into my drafts pile to see what posts I can put up for you all whilst I’m gone. Much like Eleanor & Park, this review has been sat in the drafts for a long, long time but I can’t not share a review of a book by one of my favourite authors ever!

Something that’s talked about a fair bit in the book blogging world is the worry that you won’t love a favourite author’s new book. And let me tell you, the fear was strong when it came to Since You’ve Been Gone. But, of course, Morgan Matson more than delivered here.

I loved the theme of finding yourself – truly – when your best friend disappears. I’ve been in a similar situation – my friend didn’t disappear but we did grow apart and it was so hard to try and work out who I was as a person without having that person there. So to say I connected with Emily is an understatement. I expected to dislike Sloane for leaving, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. Because despite the fact that Emily was left alone, she still loved Sloane dearly, and wasn’t prepared to just lose her without a fight. I love how she left Emily the list – her way of making sure Emily would be okay without her. The flashback scenes that showed Emily and Sloane’s friendship were excellent to read. And it is so nice to read about a genuine friendship between two girls in YA – there’s no frenemy shit, just two best friends and I LOVED it.

And Frank! Where do I start with Frank?! I loved how his relationship with Emily grew throughout the book – it was so refreshing to read about a really nice guy who has no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive. He’s just super kind to everyone. That’s not to say he’s without flaws – he does have them – but I found him far more enjoyable to read about than the stereotypical ‘bad guy turned good’. Morgan Matson writes some stellar male characters who aren’t douches (Roger, Henry, Frank and Collins) and they are so realistically portrayed. I love nice guys. And I love that Morgan Matson seems to love nice guys too.

No Morgan Matson book is complete without music, so naturally, I nearly squealed when I saw the playlists. I love playlists. Especially  when they’re in books! And I loved how they became a part of Since You’ve Been Gone, they weren’t just thrown in to try and make things interesting – they actually had relevance to the story.

Since You’ve Been Gone was everything I needed and wanted it to be, and it’s easily one of my favourite reads of 2015 so far. Now just to wait for the release of The Unexpected Everything…

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

March 30, 2016

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Orion on 1st February 2013
Pages: 325
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
five-stars
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

Okay, it’s been a YEAR since I read this wonderful book, but I found this review sitting in my drafts folder and Eleanor & Park is too good to not talk about, so here’s my gushy review for this amazing book.

I’ve put off writing this review for a very long time. It’s been nearly 4 months since I read Eleanor & Park, yet I still get a painful feeling in my gut when I think about it. This book is quite simply phenomenal.

But what is there to say about Eleanor & Park that hasn’t already been said? If you haven’t been persuaded to read it now, then I doubt my review will convince you otherwise. But I will say that Eleanor & Park is the first book since Before I Fall to hit me with this much emotion. It’s the first book in a long while that left me desperately willing for a sequel, just so I know that the characters are okay. And it’s the first book in forever to have made such a huge impression on my person. It’s all too easy to let go of characters, but Eleanor and Park have stuck with me and refused to let me go.

And it’s not just Eleanor & Park that won’t leave me. I started off hating Park’s father, but came quite close to bursting into tears when he offered Eleanor solace from her stepfather. The same with Park’s mother, who quite openly disliked Eleanor, but ended up having a total change of heart and tried her best to treat Eleanor like the daughter she didn’t have. (Much to Eleanor’s horror!)

I’ve spoken about this before, but I genuinely didn’t realise how awful Eleanor’s home life was. I was so unprepared for that, and I think that feeling was what made me love Eleanor & Park all the more. It pushed me out of my comfort zone. It made me uncomfortable. But I still kept on reading. And this book tore my heart in two. I finished Eleanor & Park with 30 seconds to spare on my lunch break, and had to somehow compose myself enough to start my afternoon clinic. Didn’t work. I had to blame my puffy eyes on hayfever. I don’t think that worked either.

Eleanor & Park is a book that I love wholeheartedly. It’s been a long time since a book has connected with me like Eleanor & Park did, and I know it’s going to be a book I revisit over and over again. This book genuinely made me love Rainbow Rowell even more, which I honestly didn’t believe to be possible.

Book Review: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

July 30, 2015

Book Review: The Truth About Forever by Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Published by Puffin on 1st May 2008
Pages: 391
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
five-stars
Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She's stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she'll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father's recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother's open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about, the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.

I am so late to the party with this one. So very late. Not that I really care, because hello – this is one of the best contemporaries I have read. Ever.

A lot of people say The Truth About Forever is their favourite Sarah Dessen novel. I can’t pass judgement on that, as I’ve only read Lock & Key  as well, but I will say I can understand why this is such a firm favourite. This book takes so many elements that work well on their own and combines them in a way that’s truly irresistible to read. Dessen’s writing is so fluid and addictive that I couldn’t help but read the entire book in a day which, at the time, was unheard of for me.

Macy is a character who I connected to immediately. It’s so easy to fall into being the person other people want or expect you to be – believe me, I’ve been there, and I could certainly relate to her grief for her father. I hated how her mum shut her out and focused on work instead of grieving with Macy – that’s not fair. If you don’t want to grieve, fine, but don’t act as if grief isn’t allowed by anyone. You cannot be expected to move on if you’re not allowed to grieve, but that’s what her mother seemed to expect and I really, really, didn’t like her for it. Jason was a total idiot, so I’m not even going to mention him.

Wes on the other hand? Wes was exactly was Macy needed. They seem like polar opposites, but they really aren’t and they just worked so well together. It takes a fair amount of time for Wes and Macy to happen, and I found myself internally screaming at them to just get together already! I loved how Macy found herself new friends and stretched her wings in The Truth About Forever, the entire catering team just brought her to life and encouraged her to feel and do what she wants to do for herself. Oh, and the present that her dad left her? I came so close to bawling my eyes out because it was so, so so perfect!

I am so grateful I picked up The Truth About Forever, not only did it put me out of a hideous reading slump, it introduced me to one of the most amazing contemporaries ever. I’m signing myself up to he Sarah Dessen fan club, stat.

Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

June 22, 2015

Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie StiefvaterThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Boys #2
Published by Scholastic on 5th September 2013
Pages: 450
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
five-stars
Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

Immediately after I finished my re-read of The Raven Boys, I dove into The Dream Thieves knowing I needed to get my fix of new Glendower adventures with Blue and her Raven Boys. I honestly didn’t think that it could get better than The Raven Boys, but I was wrong. The Dream Thieves dives deeper into that story, taking us through twists and turns that left my head spinning.

The Dream Thieves takes us further into Ronan’s world, and shows us how dangerous it is for him to be doing what he’s doing. (Vague, but I’m trying to hold back from giving away massive spoilers here!) He’s a very clever person, and The Dream Thieves really highlights that. It also shows an incredibly human side to Ronan, especially in the scenes with The Barns where Ronan grew up. He soon discovers that everything he thought was real, isn’t, and has to deal with that realisation. He finds he’s more like his father than he knew, and he deals with most of this alone, as it Ronan’s way.

Just because this is Ronan’s book doesn’t mean the others aren’t involved. Adam is struggling with what happened at Cabeswater and can’t work out what’s happening to him until Persephone steps in. (Total curveball there, of all the characters I was expecting!) I’m really intrigued to see how Adam’s character grows further in Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I’m expecting big things will be happening to him! And Blue is still Blue. Still being careful. Still helping Gansey trying to find Glendower. There’s a scene between Blue and Noah that literally broke my heart because of the unfairness of it all. Seriously, I was nearly in tears because I just want them both to have happy endings but I don’t think they both will AND I’M NOT OKAY WITH THAT THOUGHT.

The Gray Man was an interesting character. I liked him, even though it feels a little wrong to like a hitman. He’s so complex, and there was way more to him than meets the eye. I was pleased he managed to rid himself from his demons – not that I agree with the way he did it! And I liked his relationship with Maura, it was cute. (Probably the cutest relationship in the book because NO ONE ELSE IS ALLOWED HAPPINESS, CLEARLY. *sobs*)

I honestly didn’t believe I would like The Dream Thieves as much as The Raven Boys, but I honestly did. It helped that I re-read The Raven Boys just prior to reading this one, and I’ll be delving into Blue Lily, Lily Blue very, very soon.

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

April 6, 2015

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie PerkinsIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #2
Published by Usborne Books on 14th August 2014
Pages: 375
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
five-stars
The café is boiling. The atmosphere is clouded with bittersweet coffee.
Three years of desire rip through my body and burst from my lips: “Josh!”
His head jolts up. For a long time, a very long time, he just stares at me.
And then…he blinks. “Isla?”

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on brooding artist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And, after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer break, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to face uncertainty about their futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Set against the stunning backdrops of New York, Paris and Barcelona, this is a gorgeous, heart-wrenching and irresistible story of true love, and the perfect conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

There was one perk to me leaving a stupidly long time between reading Anna and Lola – I didn’t have to wait long for the release of Isla. Which is only a good thing in my eyes, but that said, this book would have been worth the long wait for. I know there’s a few people who didn’t love it as much as its predecessors, but for me, this really showcases Stephanie Perkins at her finest.

Isla takes us back to Paris, and back into the world of Josh, a guy who Isla has had a crush on since freshman year. A guy who is very good friends with this guy called St Clair…remember him? Of course you do. And Isla and the Happily Ever After takes us on a whirlwind romance between Josh and Isla, and I have to say, I think their romance was my favourite of the three that Stephanie Perkins has written. Josh and Isla’s interactions felt so much more real to me, and I just felt totally invested in their relationship throughout the entire book, through all the good and the bad.

I found myself reading Isla and the Happily Ever After so much quicker than I really wanted to, I wanted to be able to take my time, to really immerse myself in the world that Stephanie Perkins has created for us, but that didn’t happen. I literally didn’t stop reading until I had turned that very last page, and I know I say this a lot, but reading Isla and the Happily Ever After was such an experience and I’m actually quite sad I won’t get to read this book in the same way again.

Isla and the Happily Ever After took us on a journey through the good, bad and ugly side of love, and ultimately gave me the happily ever after I truly wanted from this book. To say I adored this book is an understatement, it was one of my favourite books of 2014, and I am incredibly grateful to Stephanie Perkins for creating a series of books that I fell in love with from the very first page.

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

February 18, 2015

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Series: Code Name Verity #1
Published by Egmont Press on 6th February 2012
Pages: 441
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
five-stars
Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

I literally have no clue where to start with this review. No clue. It’s fair to say that I love wartime fiction – I don’t read a lot of it, mind – but Code Name Verity reminded me that war fiction isn’t always about soldiers and trenches, but also friendship and loyalty. And my goodness, loyalty is important in this book.

For me, Code Name Verity was a slow burner, it took a while for me to get totally absorbed in the storyline, but once I did, there really was no going back. It starts with Julie’s confession about the British War Effort to her Nazi captors, but turns into this wonderful tale about her friendship with Maddie. Maddie and Julie’s friendship is probably my most favourite book friendship I’ve read in recent years. In fact, it’s probably second in my all-time favourite book friendships – the first being The Golden Trio from Harry Potter. Loyalty is so important, particularly in friendship, and it’s so excellently portrayed in Code Name Verity – you may not think so straight away, but when you get to the end, you’ll realise just how clever Julie is and how much she values her loyalty to both her country and her friends.

When Julie finishes her confession, we’re immediately switched to Maddie’s point of view. By this time, I felt like I already knew Maddie thanks to Julie, and Code Name Verity really picks up the pace due to Maddie’s sudden involvement with the French Resistance. It all builds up to this incredibly explosive ending which nearly had me in tears and really does highlight how loyal Julie and Maddie were to one another.

Code Name Verity may not be totally historically accurate, but Wein does the most incredible job of transporting you to wherever Maddie and Julie are. It’s impossible to read Code Name Verity without getting emotionally attached to all the characters this book holds. It’s easily a must-read for any fan of young adult.

Book Review: Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

January 26, 2015

Book Review: Rainshadow Road by Lisa KleypasRainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #2
Published by Piatkus Books on 1st January 2012
Pages: 308
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
five-stars
From New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas comes a tale of love and magic...

Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiancé Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy's bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life.

Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy's parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to "romance" Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life—even after being broken—can be made into something new and beautiful.

I adored Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor and I’m absolutely kicking myself that I waited so long to pick up Rainshadow Road, because I was seriously denying myself some excellent storytelling.

I devoured this book in one greedy sitting, once I started reading I literally couldn’t stop. I loved Lucy right from the start, she was constantly second best to her sister, Alice, even losing her boyfriend to her. Kevin was a total jackass. Talk about grass is greener on the other side! Lucy was so much better off without him. Also, who goes to an old friend and asks them to take her out so he didn’t feel bad about leaving her?! Seriously?! Any guy who does that does not deserve a girlfriend until they grow up and grow some balls. I was so pleased Sam was open about Kevin’s proposal with Lucy right from the start – Sam is actually a decent guy! *cheers*

Lucy and Sam’s relationship built up really naturally, it wasn’t forced or rushed and that’s what I loved about it. Kleypas has a way with creating believable relationships, and she definitely delivered here!

Alice was a spoiled brat, and I hated how everyone pandered to her. She so didn’t deserve Lucy’s kindness after everything she’d done to Lucy, and still whined that she was hard done by. She needed a good slap and a kick up the arse. My goodness. I could feel my blood boiling as I was reading about her, which just shows how realistic she was. Gah.

If Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor and Rainshadow Road are anything to go by, it won’t take me long to get caught up on this series and start eagerly awaiting more books from Kleypas.

Book Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

January 19, 2015

Book Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie PerkinsLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #2
Published by Usborne Books on 28th September 2011
Pages: 384
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
five-stars
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion... she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola's past be the love of her future?

I didn’t think it was possible to love a book more than I loved Anna, but I was wrong. So wrong. Lola and the Boy Next Door wove its way into my heart and refused to let me go until I had turned the very last page.

Set in San Francisco, it doesn’t quite have the magic of Parish, but there was never any question on where this book should be set. Lola is more San Fran than Paris, everything about her, from her clothes to her family just fits in with that city.

Lola. Where do I begin? Equal parts crazy to utter design genius, I loved her. There was something about her that just appealed right from the start. She’s far from normal, and that is most definitely not a bad thing. Lola is Lola and that’s that.

Cricket. Oh my. I think every girl secretly wishes they had a Cricket (human, not insect) living next to them at some point in their lives. The way he cared for Lola made my heart ache. Everyone deserves their own Cricket. Unfortunately, Lola and Cricket weren’t as plain sailing as they should’ve been. Max, Lola’s boyfriend, stood in their way. And my gosh, he was a total dick. Literally. I spent the majority of my time willing Lola to get rid of him, the idiotic, egotistical oaf. Compared to Cricket, he stood no chance with Lola. He didn’t love Lola, he just used her as a toy and I hated it.

I honestly thought I would never say this, but I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door more than I loved Anna and the French Kiss. (I actually just typed that. No going back now.) This is probably the most perfect, romantic, contemporary young adult series I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I seriously urge every single one of you to start reading it if you haven’t already.

Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me by Various Authors

December 22, 2014

Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me by Various AuthorsMy True Love Gave To Me by Various Authors
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 9th October 2014
Pages: 355
Source: Bought Physical Copy
Goodreads
four-stars
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ...This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories set during the festive period, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. The stories are filled with the magic of first love and the magic of the holidays.

As soon as this book hit my radar I knew I’d have to get my grubby mitts on a copy. I mean, look at that author line-up! You couldn’t get any better if you tried. Well, I don’t think you could, anyway. There’s some old favourites mixed in with authors whose writing I’m yet to try for myself, and My True Love Gave to Me was the perfect way to be introduced to those authors.

For the most part, My True Love Gave to Me is full of excellent holiday-themed stories. And, much to my surprise, they aren’t all contemporary stories. There’s a few paranormal ones thrown into this anthology too, which I loved. My personal favourites had to be those by Stephanie Perkins, Myra McEntire and Kiersten White. Kiersten White’s story almost had me in tears, dammit. As I said on twitter, nice stepdads get me every time. Every. Single. Time. As with all anthologies, there were a few stories I didn’t enjoy as much. Not because they were bad, but a couple of them confused me so much, I didn’t really have a clue what was going on as I was reading, which was a shame.

On the whole, My True Love Gave to Me is a wonderfully festive read, perfect for that run-up to Christmas. If filling up your belly with warm fuzzy feelings as you read something you enjoy doing, then this is definitely a book for you.