Review: The Landing by Susan Johnson

the-landing

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: August 26, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760113933
Pages: 288
Goodreads || Booktopia (RRP: $AU 29.99)

In one swift, blindsiding move, Jonathan Lott’s wife leaves him. What he and his daughters find even more confusing is that she has left him for a woman. How is it possible that Jonathan saw no sign of her unhappiness?

Wondering what he will do now, and knowing a life lived alone is not for him, Jonathan retreats to his beach house at The Landing. Is it true that an about-to-be-divorced man in possession of a good fortune is in need of a new wife? Would Penny Collins do, divorced herself, a school teacher and frustrated artist? What about beautiful, wild Anna, blown in from who knows where, trailing broken marriages behind her?

With passion, family splits and secrets, everyone seems to be looking for something. And Jonathan’s about to find out how much love matters.

Susan Johnson’s stunning new novel, written with her trademark wit and insight, brilliantly observes what it is to be human and to love: the betrayals, the long and the short alliances, the disappointments and the joys. The Landing celebrates it all.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

I received a copy of The Landing from Allen & Unwin. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Landing is a wonderfully written book that explores the different sides of love and humanity, the idea of home and belonging, and appearances vs reality. It is a light and mostly happy novel that delves into some deep and heavy themes.

The book is set in a small coastal town called The Landing, near Brisbane in Australia. Our main character, Jonathan Lott, a 55 year old and almost-divorced construction lawyer, escapes to The Landing for the weekend to get away from his left-over feelings for his estranged wife. But The Landing is anything but relaxing. It’s a place full of gossipers and people who know everything about everybody who reside there. We soon come to realise though, that everybody has something to hide and that we only show a fraction of our true selves to the world.

She knew life was counterfeit and her new self was counterfeit, too. She sometimes felt breathless with an inner recklessness at what she, or anyone, could do. Why, everyone was fake; their public faces put on, every single day.

In this book, we see characters idealise and romanticise love, only to realise that reality is anything but ideal. We see characters dream about greatness and ambition, only to realise that they are no closer to their dreams than they were the day before. We see characters put on masks and acts of confidence in order to hide their own self-doubt. This book explores how each of us are trying to find our own place in the world where we can find a balance between reality and our dreams/appearances, a landing if you will.

There isn’t very much that happens in this novel. It’s an in depth exploration of the character’s lives and the different sides of human nature. There’s not much of a plot, which made me a little bit bored at times. I also had a little bit of a hard time getting into the book. The first 20 or so pages were very slow and I didn’t think I would enjoy the book at all. Thankfully, I really warmed up to the characters and started to enjoy all their stories and disappointments. This book also jumps back and forth in time, as we revisit past events, and I really enjoyed that it was written this way. There were scenes that felt very nostalgic and heartwarming.

The writing in this book was beautiful. Susan Johnson has such a way with words. I ate up every single word. The only problem I had with the writing were the lengthy paragraphs of descriptions of nature and the wind blowing and the flowers blooming and the birds calling. There were so many of these long-winded descriptions in the first 30 pages that I could not engage with the book. As we started to see more of the characters, these descriptions dropped off.

Despite what the blurb of the book may suggest, this is not a book about Jonathan Lott. While he’s one of the key characters in the novel, we see many other characters too. There’s Penny, who was once the most beautiful woman in The Landing, but now a divorced high school art teacher, whose daughter ran away (and then came back) with a man older than her own father. There’s Marie, Penny’s disagreeable mother, who was a refugee from France. There’s little Giselle, who’s neglected by her mother and has to take care of herself. The book is written from the perspectives of all of these characters and more. This was perhaps one of the biggest problems I had with the book. It jumped from one perspective to another too much for my liking. I would have much preferred to read from only two or three perspectives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book but there were times when it felt a little bit draggy. I would probably have enjoyed it more if there was a little bit more action. I did love the pace and the tone of the book, and I really appreciated how much The Landing made me introspect and think about where I stand in the world.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books To Read If You Like…

ten-books-if-you-like

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the team over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a ‘if you like this, read this’ list. Instead of choosing one book/author and giving ten recommendations based on that one book/author, I decided to do ten separate ones instead.


1. IF YOU LIKE SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA…

simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agendaYou might like The Flywheel by Erin Gough.

The Flywheel is an Australian YA novel that has very similar themes to Simon vs by Becky Albertalli. These both contain LGBTQ+ characters and love interests who are hesitant about coming out to their family and friends. The Flywheel is about a lesbian relationship and is set in Sydney, Australia! They’re both light and fun reads!


2. IF YOU LIKE TWILIGHT…

twilightYou might like The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is, in my opinion, a far superior book to Twilight. Don’t get me wrong, my teenage self loved Twilight, but I just think that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a much better vampire story. It’s also a standalone so you don’t need to push through 4 long books. And there’s also no love triangle!


3. IF YOU LIKE THE FAULT IN OUR STARS…

the-fault-in-our-starsYou might like Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider.

The Fault In Our Stars is about two teenagers battling cancer and Extraordinary Means centres on two teenagers who are battling a new strand of tuberculosis. Both novels have really cute romances and are filled with fun and adventure. Also, both of these books made me cry like a baby… for hours and hours.


4. IF YOU LIKE HARRY POTTER…

harry-potter-and-the-philosophers-stoneYou might like The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Harry Potter is a really well-loved series and I don’t think anything can compare to it. But The Iron Trial is a middle-grade series that features a magic school, magic system, and a trio of friends who remind me of Harry, Ron and Hermione. It’s fun and it’s fast-paced and if you try not to compare it to Harry Potter, it’s actually really good!


5. IF YOU LIKE FANGIRL…

fangirlYou might like My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

I think I like My Life Next Door more than I like Fangirl (sorry!). Both books have adorable romances and explore family dynamics. These books both kept me up all night reading, and they left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. The male love interests in these books are some of my favourite contemporary guys ❤


6. IF YOU LIKE ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS…

anna-and-the-french-kissYou might like The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.

These are both really light and fluffy contemporary romances. They’re both set in European countries and feature an American female protagonist and a cute male love interest with a British accent. I love both Etienne and Oliver so, so much!


7. IF YOU LIKE TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE…

to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-beforeYou might like The Distance Between Us by Kasie West.

Again, these are both cute and fluffy contemporary romances. Both of these novels are page-turners and feature some really cute guys ❤ If you were frustrated by the love triangle in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, you’ll be pleased to hear that The Distance Between Us does not have multiple love interests!


8. IF YOU LIKE CINDER…

cinderYou might like Wonderland by Robert McKay.

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favourite series and what I love most about it is that each book is a sci-fi fairytale retelling. Wonderland is a sci-fi Alice in Wonderland retelling and I was surprised by how interesting the characters were, and how exciting and different the plot was to the original Lewis Carroll story.


9. IF YOU LIKE THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER…

the-perks-of-being-a-wallflowerYou might like The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is written in epistolary form, and I almost felt like Charlie was directly telling me his story. I had the same feeling when I read The Shock of the Fall. Both books are so honest and moving. They also both tackle some mental health issues if you’re into that sort of thing.


10. IF YOU LIKE ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE…

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeYou might like The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan.

I had to include All The Light We Cannot See in this post! Both of these books are prize winners. The Narrow Road To The Deep North won the 2014 Man Booker Prize 2014. Both are WWII historical fiction novels, one set in France and Germany and the other in Japanese Prisoner of War camps.


Do you guys have any recommendations based on the 10 books that I’ve featured today? I’m always looking for new books to read (even though my TBR pile is massive) so let me know your thoughts and opinions!

Totally Didn’t… Book Tag

totally-didnt-book-tag

I was tagged by Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks to do the Totally Didn’t… tag. It seems like a really interesting tag and I’ve been wanting to do it for a while now. Check out Aimal’s post and her blog if you haven’t already. She has some great answers! This was originally a Youtube tag and it was created by Chami @ ReadLikeWildFire (go Aussie Booktubers!)

TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED TO HAVE A SEQUEL/SEQUELS:

the-heirthe-siren

Why? WHY?

Okay, I was kind of okay with having one more book – a companion. But when it was announced that instead of having a companion, we were getting a companion duology, I kind of blew up with rage. Imagine Anger from Inside Out. That was me when I found out about The Siren.

[edit]: Turns out The Siren isn’t the title of the last book. It’s a standalone by Kiera Cass. But my point still remains.


TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE POINT OF VIEW:

me-before-you

Me Before You was great. It gave me all the feels and I loved everything about it… except the random perspective changes.

This book is written almost entirely in first person from the point of view of Lou, our main character. But then there would be one random chapter out of nowhere from the perspective of a side character. And everytime this happened, it was a different side character. Why?


TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED TO CHANGE COVER ART THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE SERIES:

the-iron-trialthe-copper-gauntlet

Okay this isn’t really a cover change but a cover problem that Australians are facing with The Magisterium series. Basically what’s available in Australian bookstores is the US cover (tall paperback) for The Iron Trial, and UK cover (mass-market size paperback) for The Copper Gauntlet. If you cant make the covers match, at least make the size match!


TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED A LOVE TRIANGLE:

twilight

Sorry to those of you who are Team Jacob, but this love triangle did not need to exist at all. Jacob had no chance anyway.

New Moon did not have to exist. The whole series could have been half as long if Jacob wasn’t involved.

The series could have been so much better. Why, Jacob Black? Why?


TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED THIS BOOK TO BE INCLUDED IN THE SERIES:

sinner

I could have answered this question with New Moon, but I can’t have that much Twilight in one post… so I choose Sinner.

This is technically a companion and not really part of the series but I thought it was such a pointless book. I liked Cole and Isabel separately in the Shiver trilogy so I thought I would enjoy Sinner. I ended up really disliking the two of them together and the book was just a bit blah.


TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED A CLIFFHANGER:

every-day

I usually marathon series so I don’t really have a big problem with cliffhangers.

Every Day is a standalone contemporary novel so it has more of an open ending than a cliffhanger. But I feel like the book wasn’t fully resolved and there could potentially be a sequel. Of course, there’s Another Day, which is a companion, but that ends in the same spot…


TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED TO HAVE JUST ONE POINT OF VIEW:

I don’t really have an answer for this. I mean, simple is best right?


TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED THAT MUCH HYPE:

dumplin

I enjoyed Dumplin’ but I didn’t think it was amazing. Most reviews I’ve seen have raved about this book but I thought it was just a little bit better than okay. Review here.

There was so much hype surrounding this book months before it was released. It was also picked up by Disney to become a movie so I was kind of expecting amazing things.


TOTALLY DIDN’T… NEED A RELATIVE BOOK REFERENCE:

throne-of-glass

When I first heard about Throne of Glass, it was described as The Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones.

So I’ve never actually read The Hunger Games and I’ve never watched Game of Thrones or read the GRRM books… but I think the Throne of Glass series speaks for itself. I don’t think it needs to be compared to anything else because it’s such an epic series!


TOTALLY DIDN’T… DESERVE MY TIME:

fans-of-the-impossible-life

I had SO many problems with Fans of the Impossible Life. Check out my review to hear all of my thoughts.

There were just so many messages in the book that I thought were problematic and wrong to send out to young readers. The book romanticized mental illness and non-consensual sex, and I just don’t think that’s okay.


I TAG:

Review: Tonight The Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

tonight-the-streets-are-ours

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release date: September 15, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1447284143
Pages: 342
Goodreads || Book Depository

There must be more to love, more than this.

When Arden stumbles upon the online musings of Peter, a young new York City writer, it feels to her that she’s finally found a kindred spirit. His blog gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known to express and she’s convinced that, if they met, he would understand her in a way that no one else does.

So she sets out on a road trip to find him.

During one crazy night in New York – the type of night when anything can happen and nearly everything does – Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was either.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

This book starts off with:

Like all stories, the one you are about to read is a love story.

If it wasn’t, what would be the point?

I’ve been feeling a little bit slumpy lately. I’ve read a string of average books and I just wasn’t excited to read, so I thought what better way to get me out of this hole of blahness than to pick up a cute contemporary? As promised, Tonight The Streets Are Ours is a love story, but it wasn’t the love story that I had expected. It’s a novel about loving yourself, first and foremost, and loving others in a way that brings out the best in them and the best in yourself.

Despite what the blurb of the book says, the road trip and the crazy night in New York City takes up only a small part of the book. For the first 200 pages, we get to see glimpses of Arden’s present and stories about her past. We see the relationships she has forged and the person she is. Arden is the person who is there for everyone. When others need her help, she is there for them. When her best friend, Lindsey, gets into trouble, Arden is there to get her out of the mess even if it means that she is the receiver of all of the negative consequences.

Lindsey would need, and Arden would deliver.

But Arden comes to realise that perhaps the people in her life don’t love her as much as she loves them. That maybe they wouldn’t do for her what she does for them. And worst of all, that maybe they don’t appreciate what she does for them. She turns to the internet to find the answers and stumbles upon Peter’s blog. She connects deeply with his story and becomes obsessed with reading his blog. One day, she throws caution to the wind and decides to take a road trip to NYC to find Peter… only to realise that people aren’t always who they seem to be and that everyone has their own story, including herself.

Just like Arden was obsessed with Peter’s story, I was invested in Arden’s. I loved learning about her past and hearing all her little anecdotes. She became a very important person to me and I wanted to know what happened to her next. The story jumps back and forth in time and I loved that we were able to see how the events in her past have shaped her into the person she is now. Even though the plot doesn’t really start rolling until about 200 pages in, I was never bored and I just wanted to keep reading.

The novel is quite fast-paced despite the fact that nothing much happens until the last third of the book. There are a lot of blog entries, where we get to know more about Peter and his story, and this kept the book interesting for me. I also really loved the chapter titles. They were almost like one-line summaries of the chapter, e.g. ‘Everything Falls Apart’, ‘Arden Gets More Than She Bargained For’, etc. They really kept me hooked and I just could not stop reading because I was so curious about what would happen next. Because I was so invested in Arden’s story, I also loved that this book was completely resolved and does not have an open ending.

The characters are very complex and multi-faceted. Nobody is exactly like who you’d expect them to be and I think this is an important message. What people show you is only a fraction of who they are, and you are more than just one attribute. Arden learns that there’s more to her than kindness and loyalty and that she doesn’t have to be defined by those qualities. She can still be loyal and kind to her friends and family but she doesn’t have to give all of herself to do that.

“Other people matter hugely. But you have to matter to yourself too.”

I didn’t love all of the characters in this book. Some were very dislikable but I think that’s part of why I loved this book. There isn’t just one side to anybody. People can be horrible but they have redeeming qualities too, and I thought Leila Sales did a great job at developing all these characters. Having said that, I really liked Arden and I really connected with her. She’s a romantic at heart and she just wants the best for everyone, and who doesn’t love a character like that?

Even though I had expected and wanted a light, fluffy contemporary romance, I fell in love with this book. It has a great message about doing good things for people but not sacrificing yourself for them. It was a refreshing love story, one not about romance but about taking care of yourself and loving yourself. I highly, highly, highly recommend Tonight The Streets Are Ours!

Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

the-heart-goes-last

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release date: September 24, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN13: 9781408867785
Pages: 306
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to keep afloat in the midst of economic and social collapse. Living in their car, surviving on tips from Charmaine’s job at a dive bar, they’re increasingly vulnerable to roving gangs, and in a desperate state.

So when they see an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of Consilience – a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own – they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for this suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month, swapping their home for a prison cell.

At first, all is well. But slowly, unknown to the other, Stan and Charmaine develop a passionate obsession with their ‘Alternates’, the couple that occupy their home when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire take over, and Positron looks less like an answer to prayer and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

I received an ARC of The Heart Goes Last from Bloomsbury Australia. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I don’t really know how I feel about this book. There were things that I really enjoyed but also some things that turned me off. I liked the concept of the book, and that was what made me want to read it in the first place, but I feel like the whole book was just about how people are obsessed with sex.

The Heart Goes Last takes place in the near-future after the economy has kind of collapsed. Our main characters, Charmaine and Stan, are living in their car and surviving on the very little money Charmaine makes. When they find out about the Positron Project, which seems very much like a utopia, they sign up immediately. This was the first thing that bothered me. They pretty much sign up for this utopian scheme without thinking about it and considering the pros and cons, even though this project is FOR LIFE. Once you enter Consilience, you’re not allowed to leave or have any contact with the outside world. Even though they’ve been warned by people not to enter the project, Charmaine and Stan sign up without any hesitation. That just didn’t seem very believable to me. They don’t even really believe in the ideals of the scheme after they’ve signed up FOR LIFE, though they want to I guess.

Stan has never heard so much bullshit in his life. On the other hand, he sort of wants to believe it.

I wasn’t really into the book until about 100 pages in. The first 70 or so pages felt a little bit boring and slow. I couldn’t really picture the real world they were in that was apparently so anarchic that they had to stay in their car almost 24/7 in case it was stolen. I could picture Consilience and the Positron a little bit better but I just didn’t feel like it was completely believable. I think the story really picked up when we got to about page 120, where there’s a twist. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting it at all and I started to enjoy the book more after that point. The book picks up in pace and we start to see a bit more humour, which I actually found to be quite humorous. I loved the whole scheme to take down Positron from within and how Stan and Charmaine get involved in this plan separately and unknowingly.

My problem with this book were the characters. They were all very dislikable and flawed. It seemed like they were all sex-crazed and it was the only thing they could think about. The book is filled with people obsessing about sex, having sex, watching others have sex. I just wanted a lot less of it. It was like sex as the only thing on their minds. And of course, this being a Margaret Atwood book, feminism is a big theme in the book. Men are portrayed as predators and women their victims. The men wanted to have sex with every woman they came across. A sex-bot business was formed so that men could have a sex doll customised to look and sound like the women they wanted. And men were having sex with chickens when they were separated from the women in the prison. I almost couldn’t deal with the book by this point, but luckily the plot twist came soon after…

I really did not like Charmaine in this book. She was very self-important and put down people who she thought were not as pretty or skilled as her. For most of the book she thinks only about herself and her own goals. When she first becomes obsessed with the ‘Alternates’, she comes up with a plan (in her imagination only) to brutally kill Stan so that she can be with Max, the Alternate. I don’t want to spoil, but there are other instances where she formulates selfish plans in her head to get her out of bad situations. I just thought she was despicable. I liked Stan a little bit more because he seemed to be more level-headed, though he was also obsessed with sex (and at times seemed very pushy with Charmaine about sex). In general, I just thought most of the characters were nasty.

Overall, I did end up enjoying the plot but there were some things that I didn’t find to be very believable. I didn’t connect with or like any of the characters and I wish they had some redeeming qualities. I found some parts of the book to be funny and I enjoyed those parts a lot. I just wish there had been less emphasis on sex because the main message of the story, about freedom and free-will, was lost.

Review: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

the-rest-of-us-just-live-here

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: August 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 1406331163
Pages: 343
Goodreads || Book Depository

Not everyone has to be the chosen one.

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death.

What if you were Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

And what if there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life?

Even if your best friend might be the God of mountain lions…

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

The Rest of Us Just Live Here was my very first Patrick Ness book and I really enjoyed it. It didn’t blow my mind (like I was promised), but I’ve been told that this book is very different from his other books so I’m still looking forward to reading more Patrick Ness.

This novel is about the other kids that appear in YA novels – the ones who aren’t special or have superpowers. They’re the ones who are in the background while the chosen ones or the “indie kids” go and save the world. And they’re the ones with the ordinary names. I really liked the concept of this book and being able to see the ordinary things that go on while the indie kids are battling whatever force is threatening the world. This book reads like a contemporary but has some fantasy/paranormal elements running through it, like zombie deers and the God of cats.

Each chapter opens with a paragraph summary of what is happening to the indie kids, or what the novel would be like if it was written from the perspective of an indie kid. I liked these summaries a lot because we got to compare and contrast what was happening to them to the normality of the rest of the world. We get to see the consequences of what happens in the “indie world” and how it affects all the normal folks. I loved the satire and how the book makes fun of things like the adults being unaware of the strange happenings even though they were teenage, non-indie kids once too. I enjoyed picking out YA tropes and seeing how ridiculous Patrick Ness would make them seem.

This is very much a character-driven book because there isn’t really much of a plot. Our main character, Mikey, just wants to get through the last 4 weeks of school and graduate with his friends. I really liked and connected with Mikey’s character. I thought he was endearing and I liked how ordinary he was. But even though he’s an ordinary guy, he still has his own problems, like the OCD he suffers from. I thought the OCD aspects in this book were handled really well and it felt very realistic. He was a great friend and a great brother – I loved reading about his relationships with the other characters. His relationships with his sisters were my favourite aspect of the whole book.

We share our craziness, our neuroses, our little bit of screwed-up-ness that comes from our family. We share it. And it feels like love.

I loved most of the other characters. Jared was probably my favourite, after Mikey, because he was such an intriguing and unexpected character. Like, come on, he’s the God of cats! He was a really great friend to Mikey, helping him out of his compulsions. There were a couple of things towards the end that I didn’t like about Jared but I still ended up loving his character. I also loved both of Mikey’s sisters. The character that I had reservations about was Henna, the friend Mikey has been in love with since forever. I didn’t really see what was so special about her and what he saw in her. And since a lot of the book is about Mikey and him dealing with his feelings for her, I felt a little bit blah about it.

I think I might have liked the book a little bit more if it had more of a plot. While it was never boring, I didn’t think it stood out in any way (and maybe that was the point, because it’s a book about the ordinary and not chosen). I really enjoyed what I read (enough to give it 4 stars) but I just didn’t think it was particularly exciting.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

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The theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is top ten books on my TBR for fall (which is really spring in Australia, so I’ve changed the title). Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the gang at The Broke and The Bookish.

This top ten list will include books that will be released from September to November, as well as other books I have on my TBR that I hope to get to ASAP! I haven’t included any September releases that I’ve already read. As always, this list is in no particular order.


1. Winter – Marissa Meyer
Winter is probably my most anticipated release of the year. I absolutely love The Lunar Chronicles – it’s one of my favourite series. Cress ended on such a high that I need to know what happens next! Winter will be released on November 10.

2. Ice Like Fire – Sara Raasch
Snow Like Ashes was one of the top ten books I’ve read so far this year (check out last week’s Top Ten Tuesday for my other favourite books of 2015) so I’m really excited to pick up the second book in the trilogy, Ice Like Fire. I can’t wait to see what happens next to Meira and Theron ❤ Ice Like Fire will be released on October 13.

3. Tonight The Streets Are Ours – Leila Sales
This was one of my Goodreads recommendations from a couple months back and it sounded like such a fun contemporary that I had to pre-order it. It seems like a fast-paced book and the main characters are bloggers! It was released on September 15, but my copy only just arrived today. Hopefully I can get to it sometime this week!

4. Illuminae – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
I’m sure this has been on everyone’s wishlist since people started getting beautiful hardcover ARCs a couple months ago. This is another one of my most anticipated reads of the year so I’m excited to get my hands on it. Illuminae will be released on October 20.

5. The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood
I requested this book from the publisher and I received an ARC of it a couple weeks ago. I don’t usually like dystopians but the premise of this book sounded so interesting that I had to see what it was about. It doesn’t have very good ratings so far but hopefully I’ll enjoy it anyway. This book will be released on September 24 in the UK and Australia, and September 29 in the US.

6. Walk on Earth a Stranger – Rae Carson
This book is actually released today! I’ve heard so many good things about Walk on Earth a Stranger on the blogosphere and Booktube that I need to jump on the bandwagon too. I love books with historical elements so I think this will be right up my alley.

7. What We Saw – Aaron Hartzler
This seems like a YA novel with a really important message. I received an ARC of this book from HarperCollins Australia so keep your eyes out for a review! This book is released today in the US but won’t be out in Australia until November 23 (I think?). I’ll have a review up sometime in November!

8. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
I haven’t read the Grisha trilogy yet but I’ve heard only positive reviews for Six of Crows, which can be read even if you haven’t read the Grisha trilogy. If you’ve read the Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows, let me know if you think I should read the trilogy first! Six of Crows will be released on September 29.

9. The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
I’ve had the Raven Cycle books on my shelf for almost a year now and I hope to marathon them some time this year so that I can join the rest of the world in reading the finale, The Raven King.

10. The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness
It’s a little bit embarrassing that I haven’t read a Patrick Ness book yet so I’ve decided to start with The Rest of Us Just Like Here, his most recent release. This is actually my current read so hopefully I’ll be done with it either today or tomorrow.


What are your most anticipated releases for the rest of the year? And what are you currently reading?

How I Read Tag + The TBR Book Tag

I need to catch up on some tags, so I decided to tackle two in the same post today (my efficiency is at an all time high)! I was tagged by Joey @ Thoughts and Afterthoughts to do the How I Read Tag and Alyssa @ Alyssa is Reading tagged me to do the TBR Book Tag. Since these are both related to reading and reading habits, I combined the two in one post!

how-i-read-tag

HOW DO YOU FIND OUT ABOUT NEW BOOKS TO READ?

There are a couple of ways I find out about new books. I flick through publicity catalogues put out by publishers to see what new books are being released in the coming months. I also get a lot of great recommendations by reading Top Ten Tuesday posts and book reviews. I also use the Listopia function on Goodreads and I always check the side bar on Goodreads to see what their recommendations are.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO READING?

I’ve always read a lot from a young age so I don’t really know how I got into reading. I stopped reading when I was doing my undergraduate studies at uni because I was always busy. I got back into reading this past year after discovering Booktube and I now have a more relaxed schedule that allows me to do whatever the heck I want with my time.

HOW HAS YOUR TASTE IN BOOKS CHANGED AS YOU GOT OLDER?

I don’t think my reading tastes have changed that much to be honest. I read a lot of YA contemporary novels when I was in high school and that’s still my preferred genre. I read a lot more literary fiction now and some of my all-time favourite books are literary fiction novels.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU BUY BOOKS?

Um… at least a couple a week. I know, I’m a terrible person. But I don’t feel terrible enough to cancel the book shopping spree that I’ve planned for tomorrow morning 😀

HOW DID YOU GET INTO BOOK REVIEWING?

I’ve been reviewing books on Goodreads for a while now and a couple of months ago I decided, why not start a blog so that I can reach a larger audience and have the opportunity to do book tags too? I also love to write and book reviewing actually helps me with getting my thoughts down onto paper quickly.

HOW DO YOU REACT WHEN YOU DON’T LIKE THE END OF A BOOK?

It depends if the rest of the book was good? I’m usually okay with unsatisfying endings as long as the rest of the book is good. However, if the whole book was bad… I just bitch and rant about it in my review. See my review of Fans of the Impossible Life for a recent example…

HOW OFTEN DO YOU TAKE A SNEAK PEEK AT THE ENDING TO SEE IF THERE IS A HAPPY ENDING?

I used to do this all the time. When I was in high school, I used to read the last couple of pages first before buying a book, to make sure that the ending was satisfying. But now I never look at the ending or even skip ahead when I’m reading.


tbr-book-tag

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TBR PILE?

I try to keep track of it on Goodreads. I only add books to my to-read shelf on Goodreads if I already own the book. I don’t add want-to-read books to that shelf. But I haven’t been adding my new purchases to my to-read shelf lately because I’m lazy and also because I don’t want to know the exact number of books I’ve bought and haven’t read…

I also try to keep my TBR books in a separate pile on my bookshelf so I that I can just grab one from the pile.

IS YOUR TBR MOSTLY PRINT OR EBOOK?

My TBR is mostly print. I don’t read a lot of eBooks, unless they’re eARCs or ones I downloaded for free on iBooks.

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHICH BOOK FROM YOUR TBR TO READ NEXT?

I try to read ARCs as close to their release dates as possible and I usually get those far enough in advance that I can schedule when to read them. So what I choose to fill in the gaps depends on my mood and what I feel like reading.

A BOOK THAT HAS BEEN ON YOUR TBR THE LONGEST

I have no idea. There are books on my shelf that I bought 7-8 years ago when I was in high school… I have a lot of unread classics sitting on my shelf that have been collecting dust there for a long time.

A BOOK THAT YOU RECENTLY ADDED TO YOUR TBR

the-lake-houseI received an ARC of The Lake House by Kate Morton from Allen & Unwin on Friday. I think this is the most recent book that I’ve added to my TBR pile.

I pre-ordered Tonight The Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales a while ago and it should be arriving on my doorstep tomorrow. Plus, like I mentioned above, I’ve planned a book shopping spree for tomorrow morning… so we’ll see what my TBR looks like tomorrow, after I’ve spent like all my savings.

A BOOK THAT’S ON YOUR TBR STRICTLY BECAUSE OF THE COVER

ruby-slippersI bought The Ruby Slippers by Kier Alexander over a year ago because the cover was so pretty! The little red windows are actually shiny and it’s a stunning cover in person. This was definitely a cover-buy but the blurb really interested me too.

Another cover-buy on my TBR is Consolation by Anna Gavalda. It’s got a beautiful red cover with two white doves. (Just so you know, I like other colours too. I don’t just pick up books with red covers, though they are really pretty).

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT YOU NEVER PLAN ON READING

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. To be honest, I don’t know why I bought this. I guess I was planning on reading it before the film came out, but it was just too intimidating. And I probably won’t ever pick it up.

AN UNPUBLISHED BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT YOU ARE EXCITED FOR

the-heart-goes-lastSo… I mentioned above that I only consider books that I already own but have not read as my TBR books. So I guess, I’ll choose a book that I own an ARC of but hasn’t been released yet?

For this, I choose The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. I received an ARC of this from the publisher a few weeks ago and I’m super excited to read it. It sounds like a really interesting dystopian novel. This will be released on September 24 in the UK and Australia, and September 29 is the US release date.

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT EVERYONE HAS READ BUT YOU

divergentDivergent by Veronica Roth. I’m actually not interested in this series at all. But I saw a US hardcover edition for $7 at a bookstore, and that was such a bargain that I had to buy it.

I’ve been told that Insurgent and Allegiant are kind of crap, so I’ll probably only read Divergent (if I can ever motivate myself to pick it up). I’ve also been spoiled for the series so I have no interest in continuing past this first book. Most of the people I’ve talked to recommend only reading Divergent anyway.

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT EVERYONE RECOMMENDS TO YOU

eleanor-and-parkEverybody recommends Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Eleanor and Park was the first Rainbow Rowell book I ever bought and now it’s the only one I haven’t read.

I actually started it when I first bought it but real life got in the way and I had to put it down. I guess I need to pick it back up again soon since everybody recommends it to me! I think it’s also the one that I’ll probably enjoy the most out of all of her books, so I have no idea why I haven’t read it yet.

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT YOU ARE DYING TO READ

the-raven-boysI’m DYING to read The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterEverybody raves about The Raven Cycle and I want to start this series so badly. I’ve read The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy also by Maggie Stiefvater and I enjoyed it. So I’m keen to read something else by her!

I have the three books in The Raven Cycle that have been released so far and I think I’ll marathon them later in the year, in November or December, so that I’ll be ready to read the last book in the series, The Raven King, when it comes out in February 2016.

HOW MANY BOOKS ARE ON YOUR GOODREADS TBR?

[edit: I can’t believe I left out this question!]

I have 117 on my Goodreads to-read shelf, but I have about 30 books that I haven’t shelved yet… so it’s probably closer to 150. It’s shameful. I know.


I TAG:

I’m going to tag a couple of people to do either or both of these tags. Feel free to ignore me (as I’m sure you will even without me telling you) if you’ve already done these tags or have no interest in doing tags.

Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

mosquitoland

Publisher: Headline
Release date: September 8, 2015 (March 3, 2015 in the US)
Format: eARC via NetGalley
ISBN: 1472218906
Pages: 352
Goodreads || Mosquitoland || Booktopia (AUS)

When her parents unexpectedly divorce, Mim Malone is dragged from her beloved home in Ohio to the ‘wastelands’ of Mississippi, where she lives in a haze of medication with her dad and new (almost certainly evil) stepmom.

But when Mim learns her real mother is ill back home, she escapes her new life and embarks on a rescue mission aboard a Greyhound bus, meeting an assortment of quirky characters along the way. And when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

I received an eARC of Mosquitoland from Hachette Australia via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hmm, I had high hopes for this book and, unfortunately, it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be. I still really enjoyed the story and the characters but I had some problems with it that stopped me from giving it a 4+ star rating.

The writing is undeniably beautiful, but I found it to be a little bit purple prose-y. There were passages that were so unnecessarily descriptive and flowery that it was a bit awkward for me to read. I kept finding myself skimming through paragraphs of wordy descriptions and metaphors. At times, the writing was a bit disjointed for me and it made it hard for me to get through the book. It felt like the author was trying too hard to make the book deep and moving. Mosquitoland was not a page-turner for me. It felt a little bit draggy in parts and overall, the pace of the book was a bit too slow for my liking. I expected it to be a faster paced road trip book.

While I did like Mim’s character, I found her voice to be a lot older and mature than her age, which is 16. She was very quirky but she also seemed a little bit pretentious. I got a good sense of who she was through her voice, but I didn’t always believe that she was that person. Having said that, I did enjoy reading from her perspective and I liked that we got to see all of her flaws. Mim also acknowledges all of her flaws and learns from the experiences that she has.

I loved the character development in Mim. On her trip from Jackson, Mississippi to Cleveland, Ohio, she meets a lot of different people and each character she meets affects her in some way. Through her interactions with these people, she is able to reflect on the person she has been and think about the type of person she wants to be. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her grow and use the experiences she’s had to become a better person. I also really liked that Mim starts of alone and not wanting to make friends, but slowly comes to realise that she doesn’t want to be without the people she meets along the way.

Do not underestimate the value of friends.

Mim ends up meeting two people on her journey who become the friends she has never had in her life. One of these two people is a boy who suffers from Down Syndrome and I appreciated that David Arnold included a disabled side character that we rarely see in YA. I ended up really liking these two side characters and I thought their friendship was beautiful. There is a little bit of romance in this book and I think it was just the right amount.

What I didn’t really like in this book were the mental illness elements. Mim at the beginning of the book has psychosis and is suspected of being schizophrenic. Her family has a history of mental illness and this comes up a lot in the book. I didn’t feel like this was completely necessary and I wish the author hadn’t explored mental illness. I think it would have been a much better book if Mim was just a normal girl going on a road trip to be reunited with her mother. The fact that Mim might be psychotic made me really wary as I read the book because I wasn’t sure if she was an unreliable narrator. Having said that, I thought the author did a great job of accurately representing psychosis and schizophrenia, so I applaud him on that.

Overall, I enjoyed the road trip aspect of the book and the character growth. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing, the pace of the book, and the presence of mental illness. But I would still consider picking up a physical copy of the book.

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

dumplin

Publisher: Penguin Australia
Release date: September 15, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0143573403
Pages: 371
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia (AUS)

Willowdean Dickson (Dumplin’, to her mum) has always been at home in her own skin.
Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body?
Really, the criteria is simple.
Do you have a body?
Put a swimsuit on it.

But life as Willow knows it is about to change, and when this happens she suffers an unaccustomed, and unwelcome, attack of self-doubt. In an effort to take back her confidence, she enters into the local Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs and a wildly unforgettable heroine – Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart. And send you out to buy that bikini!

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

This is the September pick for #bookclubaus. There will be a live twitter chat some time at the end of the month.

Dumplin’ is a novel that has received a lot of hype, and I was a little bit underwhelmed by it. I thought it was still a fun and quick read, but I found it a bit lacking.

Let’s discuss the positives first. I really liked that the book was very body-positive. Willowdean is very comfortable in her body and she doesn’t really care about what others think of her, even when they’re calling her names. She embraces her body and doesn’t try to change it, which I really admired. This book does not promote the thin-ideal. It’s not a book about losing weight to please others or ourselves. There were a lot of great messages about body image and fat-shaming. I also really appreciated that the book didn’t make fun of the skinny girls either.

All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on. Fat. Skinny. Short. Tall. It doesn’t matter.

I found it very easy to relate to Willowdean because I too have things that I don’t like about the way I look (as I’m sure most people do). It was very refreshing to see her embrace her own body even when her own mother is embarrassed by how she looks and tries to change her.

I thought the writing in this book was very easy to read and I sped through this book in about two sittings. I thought the narrative style made it very comfortable to read and understand. There were a couple of instances where the plot jumped ahead in time without warning and I was caught a little bit off guard. But that was just a minor problem.

Dumplin’ is marketed as a book about a larger girl who enters a beauty pageant but I found the beauty pageant aspect of it to be very minor in the story. This book begins with Willowdean crushing on a boy named Bo, who works with her at a fast food restaurant. When he starts to express interest in her, she feels self-conscious and doesn’t understand why such an attractive guy could be interested in her. Somehow she ends up joining the beauty pageant.

It’s never really clear to me why she enters the beauty pageant. It says on the blurb of my book that she entered to win her confidence back and I can see that but it was never clear that that was the reason. What prompts Willowdean to enter the pageant is an old pageant application form she finds in her deceased aunt’s bedroom. Her aunt was over 500 pounds and died at a young age from a heart attack. Initially I thought Willowdean entered the pageant to show that even larger girls can enter a beauty pageant, and to fulfil a wish that her aunt never had the guts to fulfil herself. But a couple of chapters later, it seemed to me that Willowdean was entering the pageant to make fun of it. It just really bothered me that I didn’t know what her motivations were.

Also, the idea of entering the beauty pageant didn’t come up until about page 140. Considering that the book is supposed to be about her entering the pageant, I felt that it was introduced too late in the book. We don’t get to see much of the preparation for the pageant and the actual pageant itself only takes up about 20 pages of the book. It felt a little bit anticlimactic and fell short of my expectations. I expected a lot more pageant in this book and I wanted it to be more extravagant or thrilling. Instead, for most of this book, we only get to see Willowdean going to work and school, and I just wanted some more excitement. Because the pageant itself was such a small part of the book, I also wasn’t really sure what Willowdean managed to learn from the experience.

There was a strong focus on the romance, and while I did like Willowdean and Bo together, I wanted less of the romance and more of the pageant and character development in Willowdean. Although she did grow more confident throughout the pageantry process, I thought there was room for her to grow much more. She does learn to develop stronger friendships with those around her and I really enjoyed those friendship elements in the book. But at the same time, I wish that was a little bit more developed as well.

All in all, I feel like there were some very enjoyable aspects and some great messages about body image and bullying. For me, I think the book needed to be longer because there were a lot of things that I felt were unclear or underdeveloped. The pageant section of the book was very rushed and not what I expected going in to the book. However, I did still enjoy the reading experience and I would recommend this, especially if you love Dolly Parton because there is a Dolly reference almost on every page.