Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Dead Romantic review

Dead Romantic
C J Skuse
7th February 2012
Chicken House

Camille wants to find the perfect boy, with an athlete's body and a poet's brain. But when she's mocked at a college party, she knows there isn't a boy alive who'll ever measure up. Enter Zoe, her brilliant but strange best friend, who takes biology homework to a whole new level. She can create Camille's dream boy, Frankenstein-style. But can she make him love her?

Dead Romantic is a very fun, very funny and very fresh new take on an old, or should I say dead, story (and yes, I will make as many dead jokes as I can in this post. So, sorry about that. I can guarantee you now that they will ALL be terrible.)

I'm not really familiar at all with the story of Frankenstein, though I do know that it's about science and reanimation and that Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster ect, but that's about it so I can't tell you whether or not this is a proper retelling (but I don't *think* it is - don't take my word for it), but it does take the basic premise. It just adds some more hormones, is all. It also does not back down from the grossness, so if you're feeling a bit squeamish, I probably wouldn't go for this book right away. But it's the good sort of gross. The funny sort of gross.

Camille was absolutely adorable. A bit weird, mind, but adorable nevertheless. Her complete lack of fear about death did freak me out a little bit in places, but some people just aren't afraid of death and some people - like me - get totally freaked out at the thought of carrying a decapitated head around with them. To each their own. I was pleasantly surprised at how not annoying I found her. That sounds pretty bad, but when you hear about a girl who's so desperate to have a boyfriend she'll be willing to help build one from dead bodies, she sounds like she'll be a bit annoying. She was really sweet, though, and I couldn't help but like her and even sympathise with her in some cases despite the somewhat extreme circumstances.

Zoe was really interesting, too. Despite her cold exterior, she's actually a warm and caring person who's just had a lot of family issues and doesn't really know how to have friends. Plus, how can anyone not love her after the opening scene in which she's gravedigging. That is some entrance. There were points in the book at which I was a bit concerned about her intentions, shall we say, and I still sort of question the lengths to which she went to do what she did, but again - to each their own.

The boys were also great characters, despite not being too keen about either Louis or Damien at the beginning. Damien was a bit of a lad, who slept around and made crude jokes and drunk a lot of alcohol and was just a bit of a prat, really, but he really does become a way more fun and interesting character than I'd thought he'd be. And Louis started out just being really quiet and I wasn't really sure what he was going to be in the book, but he ended up being lovely, too. Also, they were involved in a couple of rather hilarious escapades near the end which provided lots and lots of entertainment.

Dead Romantic was cute, funny and just a little bit insane - all the things I love about C J Skuse's books. I'm also secretly hoping for a sequel. *crosses fingers*

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Just One Day review

Just One Day
Gayle Forman
January 10th 2013
Random House

A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

I think Gayle Forman is secretly some kind of writerly wizard who manages to pour her characters souls into each and every book that she writes. I have such a writer crush on her because she encapsulates the kind of books that I love to read, but I know that I'll never be able to write, and she does it in such a way that I don't even care. Is this too much fangirling at too early a point in the review? I don't want to hype it up too much because I don't want anyone to read this and be disappointed, because that would just be the worst.

Personally, I enjoyed this book more than I did with If I Stay (I haven't read Where She Went yet - don't kill me.) even though they're both beautiful and amazing books. If I Stay is heart wrenching and tear jerking, whereas Just One Day had a completely different tone. Though it has been about two years since I read If I Stay so my memory of the specifics is a bit fuzzy. 

Just One Day felt a bit like two different books between the two parts: One Day and One Year. I would find myself looking back from the second part to the first and wonder if this was still the same book, if this Allyson was the same person we met at the start. But I don't mean that in a bad characterization way, I mean that in  an awesome characterization and development way. Because every thing important in this book has a cause and effect relationship with Allyson, and you can see how everything effects her and how she changes throughout the course of the book. And there are moments where she was kind of annoying, but even then it's done so well that you completely understand why, and simultaneously think she's being a idiot while sympathizing with her, you know?

The first part of this book, aptly titled One Day is all about the day she spends with Willem, and falling in love with Willem, and waking up realizing that he's gone and that it may have all been a lie. And it is great. Really, it covers pretty much all the bases as far as YA romance is concerned: Paris, Canals, Old People, Young People, French People, Kissing, Travelling, Running Away From Things (of a literal and metaphorical variety), More Kissing, and Heartbreak. And that's all I'm going to say about that before I spoil anything. Willem was great, though. I really liked him. I know that he was a charmer and an actor, but I think that he has his reasons and I'm looking forward to getting his side of the story as well.

The second part of the book I started off enjoying less than the first, possibly because it was all about the recovery, but it quickly became (probably) my favourite (I haven't really got favourites - they're both as beautiful as each other in different ways) because it's more about Allyson finding herself along the way of trying to find Willem. Also, it is where you will meet the best character ever in almost anything: Dee. I won't say much about him here, because I want you all to discover Dee for yourself, but I LOVE HIM. 

I also loved all the Shakespeare in this book. I'm really glad that I read this at around the same time that I'm doing my lit coursework on Twelfth Night because I think I understand it a bit better now. Plus I got to read about a load of plays that I'm not at all familiar with (namely As You Like It) and now want to watch just to help me get this book even better. Also, you know, because Shakespeare. I hear he's pretty great.

Just One Day was great. Just, so great. I don't really feel like I've done it justice, but whatever, as long you pick it up and read it and understand. Even if you feel like it wouldn't be your kind of book, just give it a go. You never know if it'll change your mind.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Letterbox Love #22

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

(Again, apologies for my lack of skill with a crappy laptop camera)

For review:
Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter (SQUEEEE. Reading this now and it is so great. Thank you Orchard Books!)
Unremembered by Jessica Brody (Don't know too much about this, but from what I do know of it, I think I'll like it. Thank you Macmillan!)

World War Z by Max Brooks (a friend lent this to me - like, an actual IRL friend. I know, hard to believe, right? [Thanks Mikhail])

What did you get this week?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Eleanor & Park review.

Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell
April 12th 2012

"Bono met his wife in high school," Park says.
"So did Jerry Lee Lewis," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be," she says, "we’re sixteen."
"What about Romeo and Juliet?"
"Shallow, confused," then dead.
"I love you, Park says.
"Wherefore art thou," Eleanor answers.
"I’m not kidding," he says.
"You should be."

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

Eleanor & Park was a lovely, bittersweet book about first love and domestic abuse and high school and I really enjoyed it even though it was different from the book I thought it was going to be.

I actually really liked Eleanor. Well, I was expecting too, anyway, but I've seen some people who weren't too keen on her. She could be prickly and defensive at times, but she hasn't had the easiest life and she had a lot of stuff going on during the time frame of the book, so don't be too hard on her. Besides, as John Green once said (well, something along the lines of this, anyway) characters aren't always supposed to be liked. Like, liking a character isn't the most important part about a character. Am I making sense? Whatever, I think I kind of got my point across here. I liked that she was tough, but still vulnerable, and I thought that her relationship with her weight was really interesting to read about. This kind of sucks, but I've never read a book with a main character who's overweight apart from this one, I don't think, though I know that there are a few out there. What I especially liked about this, though, was that it was an issue, but that's not what the book was about. It just frustrates me when the only reason we get books about characters who do not fit to society's standards of beauty or who have a different sexuality is because of those things. Again, I don't think I'm making myself clear, but it's the fact that these things mostly occur in main characters in issues books, though that is starting to change.

Park was a great character, too, but I feel like this was more Eleanor's story, and as the book went on I found myself wanting more from Eleanor's side rather than from his. This is no detriment to him, because I think that they kind of balanced each other out in way, but Eleanor is just the bigger (no pun intended. Sorry, was that inappropriate?) character and I feel like Park gets caught up in her, as does the reader. But again, I suppose that that immersion is just, you know, young love. At times I did find their relationship a bit, well, annoying. But that's probably just me. I'm like an old person who always gets annoyed at these young lover types. Nevertheless, I was rooting for them as a couple even though I knew in my gut it was going to be a bittersweet ending.

When I first picked this up, I really wasn't expecting it to be the book that it was. From the blurb and the covers, I was expecting it to be some cute, nostalgic, Nick & Norah type book where most of the story was told through dialogue and music would be sort of the central column of their relationship, but it wasn't like that. Well, it was a bit. If I had been a teen in the 90's, I'm sure it would've been nostalgic and it was cute in places and there was a lot of music in there that was central to the story, but it's so much more than that. It was genuinely touching and sad in places, and I found myself being disgusted and surprised by a lot of the characters (namely Richie, Eleanor's stepfather, caused the former.) I think it was a really, I don't know? Interesting? Enlightening? Honest? portrayal of emotional abuse and physical abuse in the home. And I feel quite annoyed that the more serious aspects of this book aren't really touched on in the blurb, but whatever. It made me pick it up, so I can't really complain.

Eleanor & Park is a really lovely book that I highly recommend if you're into contemp (well, nearly contemp. If the 1980's count as 'contemporary') or are just looking for something cute with a bit of an edge to read.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Letterbox Love #22

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

(Excuse the crappy picture)

Just One Day by Gayle Forman (I'm pretty sure that every person in the world has read this book this weekend - myself included. And yes, it is amazing.)

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (I don't really know that much about this apart from the fact that it's a historical based around ghosts and spirit photography and I'm really curious.)

That's all from me this week! What did you get in your letterbox? :)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Out of Sight, Out of Time review

Out of Sight, Out of Time
Ally Carter
April 5th 2012
Orchard Books 

With more than a million Gallagher Girls books sold, a legion of fans have fallen in love with the "New York Times "best-selling spy-girl series, and the fifth book delivers the most nerve-wracking, high-stakes adventure yet. 

The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family from the Circle of Cavan--an ancient terrorist organization that has been hunting her for over a year. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers that months have passed, she must face the fact that her memory is now a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie's summer vacation are the bruises on her body and the dirt under her nails, and all she wants is to go home.

Once she returns to school, however, Cammie realizes that even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers. Cammie, her friends, and mysterious spy-guy Zach must face their most difficult challenge yet as they travel to the other side of the world, hoping to piece together the clues that Cammie left behind. It's a race against time. The Circle is hot on their trail and willing stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.

I know I only posted a Gallagher Girls review last week, but after that ending how could I NOT go straight on to the fifth book! I really don't know how many more times I can say this, but I LOVE this series. Like, full on Caps Lock, shout from the rooftops LOVE. Seeing as this will be my last Gallagher Girls review until the final (!!!) book comes out this year, I feel like I should thank Cait for running the giveaway where I won, like, every Ally Carter book ever and finally giving me the incentive to actually read these books, so thanks Cait!

Right, I'd thought that the last book had ratcheted up the tension, but this book just turned it all the way up to 11 (Spinal Tap, anyone? No? *tumbleweed*). And this book definitely took a turn for the serious. Of course, there were laughs along the way, but  shit happens in this book and it needed to be more serious. I think it just shows how much the series has grown (and I know I said this last time) since the first book. If I went back and read that now, I'd think it was a different series. Okay, maybe not a completely different series, but it's definitely become a more mature, exciting, complex series since book  1.

I know that I always say this, but Cammie really did prove herself in this book. What she has been through since the end of book 4 is just awful, and I know that she can't remember most of it, but seriously. The Circle NEEDS to be stopped. That is just not okay, on any level. But I also think that everyone has grown a lot since the last book, or at least shown a new side to them. It was nice getting to see more of Zach, especially now that he hasn't really got any secrets left. Don't get me wrong, I liked him all mysterious and not being able to tell if he was going to help Cammie or if he was just having her on, but it's a lot nicer having him like this and getting to see how much he really cared about Cammie. I was a bit worried about Bex at the beginning of this book, because I thought [spoiler redacted], but when that turned out not to be true and her and Cammie made up, that was when we saw Bex shine again. Liz and Macey were in this book more than the others, too, because all five of them (Bex, Cammie, Liz, Macey and Zach, as well as Cammie's mother and Aunt Abby and Agent Townsend) went around the world to try and get Cammie's memory back. I loved seeing Zach actually talking to people that weren't Cammie or Joe as well, and seeing him and Liz and Macey and everyone interact. That was nice. And a brief distraction from the plot, too.

I'm equal parts excited and dreading the next book, because the last series I got this invested in was Vampire Academy that's finished, and I just don't want this series to be over! I know that there's still Heist Society, and she'll write other books, and that there's the novella coming out this month, but still. Oh well, I've got a few months to steel myself up for it yet. I can already tell that someone I love is going to die. 

I'm going to keep this one fairly short because I don't want to spoil anything, and I'll only really be repeating what I said last week, but Out of Sight, Out of Time was great. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Night School: Legacy review

Night School: Legacy
C.J. Daughtery
January 3rd 2013
Atom Books

In the last year, Allie's survived three arrests, two breakups and one family breakdown. The only bright point has been her new life at Cimmeria Academy. It's the one place she's felt she belongs. And the fact that it's brought the dreamy Carter West into her life hasn't hurt...But far from being a safe haven, the cloistered walls of Cimmeria are proving more dangerous than Allie could've imagined. The students, and faculty, are under threat and Allie's family - from her mysterious grandma to her runaway brother - are at the centre of the storm. Allie is going to have to choose between protecting her family and trusting her friends. But secrets have a way of ripping even the strongest relationships apart...

I liked Night School a lot and have been eagerly anticipating this sequel for a few months now. While I had a few issues with some of it, they were all brought up in the book and I enjoyed it a lot despite those things, any way. Besides, this book was a real game changer, and the twists kept on taking me by surprise.

My main issue with it was with the characters. Not all of them obviously, but mainly Carter. Carter was, how should I put it... A bit of dick in this book. I'd always liked him more than Sylvain not just as Allie's love interest but as a person, but oh my god Carter! You don't have to be really overprotective and controlling in a relationship to show that you care about your significant other! The main reason this annoyed me (apart from the obvious, you know. That stuff always annoys me.) was that I was worried that it was just going to be ignored, and that Allie wouldn't even be bothered, because sometimes boys in books behave like that and the girl just takes it and that just completely confuses me (I have said this before, and I'll say it again - NOT a romantic). But thankfully it was addressed and led to some interesting developments for Allie romantically. (And yes, Carter fangirls out there. I know he has issues, and that was fully explained too, but seriously. He's never going to be able to keep a girlfriend if he doesn't work through his trust issues!)

I don't really know how I feel about Allie in this book. Like, I liked her, and I don't disapprove of any of her decisions or anything (disapprove... Jeez, what even. Who disapproves of a fictional characters actions?), but sometimes she grates on me a little bit. I just think that she has a strong personality, and that's not a criticism at all. I've definitely gone about this the wrong way, haven't I? I'm not complaining that she grated on me, I think is what I'm trying to say. I'd rather have a character who has a personality than one who didn't, you know? And I sometimes just get really lost in Allie's voice. This happened in the first book, too. I'd realize every now and again that the book was actually written in 3rd person and not 1st.

The plot was just as great as the first book, too. It follows straight on from the first book, jumping straight into the action. As well as that we get learn a lot more about Allie's legacy (hence the title of the book, I'd imagine) as well as Nathaniel's motivation and a teeny bit of backstory for him, too. There is just always so much drama going on! It's wonderful. I love the way that it balances the drama of what's going on with the school and Nathaniel and the threat that he poses with the drama of being a teenager. There's all the romance stuff, obviously, but there's also a lot of stuff happening with Allie and Jo. Rachel, as always, was my favourite. She's just great, and she's such a good friend to everyone. I really hope nothing bad happens to her (though now that I've said that, I can't help having that terrible feeling that it definitely will.)

So yes, Legacy definitely lived up to my expectations. And if you haven't read Night School yet and are in the mood for a great thriller set in a boarding school (I feel like I should add that - people dig boarding schools) with interesting characters and DRAMA you should really give it a go.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Letterbox Love #21

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

So it's been about 3 months since I last did a Letterbox Love post, but seeing as it's January I thought that I'd start doing them again. New year and all that.

For review: Dead Romantic by C J Skuse (really excited for this, and what's even more exciting is that I got quoted! The back pages of the book are all quotes about Rockoholic and Pretty Bad Things, and I'm there! I feel a bit stupid though, because everyone else's quotes are all really clever and nice and mine is not, but whatever, I'm still VERY happy about it!)

(not pictured) Night School: Legacy by C J Daughtery (read this, and a review should be up by about Tuesday-ish. Really good!)
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (I still haven't read her first book, but I really like the sound of this one. I've heard great things about it.)
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev (Always been curious about this one, and it's Christmas so I thought I'd treat myself.)
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Reading this now and really enjoying it. Very excited about her next book, Fangirl.)
Defiance by C J Redwine (Having a bit of a fantasy thing at the minute. After E&P I don't think I'll be reading a contemp for a while.)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (Again, fantasy! Always liked the look of this one though.)

What did you get this week? :)

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Only the Good Spy Young review

Only the Good Spy Young
Ally Carter
May 1st 2011 
Orchard Books

When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn't know was that the serious, real-life danger would start during her junior year of high school. But that's exactly what happened two months ago when Cammie faced off against an ancient terrorist organization dead set on kidnapping her. 

Now the danger follows her everywhere, and even Cammie "The Chameleon" can't hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most-trusted allies is actually a rogue double-agent, Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers--or even her own heart. 

In this fourth installment of the New York Times best-selling series, the Gallagher Girls must hack, spy, steal, and lie their way to the truth.as they go searching for answers, recognizing that the key to Cammie's future may lie deep in the past.

Holy hell, these books just keep on getting better and better. I still remember the day I picked up the first book and actually read it (because it was only about three months ago, really, and my memory is quite good) and I though it was just going to be some tweeny nonsense (not that I don't like tweeny nonsense, because I do - in moderation) and it really took me by surprise. And then the second book when Spy Boy Extraordinaire/Dreambot entered the scene and had a way bigger impact in ways of love interest and plot than Josh, the lukewarm who had all the charisma and intrigue as someone with neither of those things. Each book just gets more and more intense  and action packed, and I just enjoy them so, so much.

One thing that I really appreciate about these books, and this one in particular, is the great balance between the more lighthearted stuff and the serious things. There are lots of funny parts thanks to the excellent cast of side characters, but when the truly bad things happen they're never treated lightly. I know that that seems fairly obvious, but I just really like that the fun tone is still there from the first book  even while the more serious stuff starts to happen.

Cammie has grown so much since the start of the first book, and I think that having her come across as fairly immature then only emphasizes her growth as a person. She started off being fairly carefree and girlish (not that those are bad things), and has developed over the course of the series into a person who has had bad things happen to her - who is still having bad things happen to her - and who learns and grows from them. And she really has had a lot, and I mean A LOT of crap going on in her life these past two books. Like seriously, give the girl a break! She's just great. I love her. And even with all that stuff going on, she still manages to retain her voice and crack jokes.

The side characters are also what makes these books so great for me. Cammie's roommates, Bex, Liz and Macey are all fabulous and show really great best-friendship throughout the whole thing. They're all so loyal to each other, and I love the fact that they haven't been marginalized at all in the story because of romantic interests (though I do love Zach, of course.) I think that that's one of the best things about having this series set in a girls spy school. Other than it, well, being set in a girls spy school. It means that Bex and Macey and Liz will always be just as important as Zach and Cammie's decisions will effect them just as much. You know how I feel about relationships like friendships and familial things by now, anyway. On that note, I have to talk about Cammie's mother, too. She's just great, and I love how prevalent that is in the story too. When Cammie's been hurt or is in danger, she'll be one of the first people on the scene, and I love seeing that parental concern because I don't see a large amount of strong mother-daughter relationships in the books that I read.

Only the Good Spy Young was probably the best Gallagher Girl book that I've read yet, and I really don't know how I'm going to feel about the end of this series, whenever it comes. It completely took me by surprise as I'd never thought I love it this much. One of my favourite series pretty much ever, I definitely think that you should at least give the first two a try.
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