Review: London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

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Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: July 27, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

One girl, 2 boys and a whole lot of hipsters in one crazy 12 hour adventure through the streets of London. Twelve hours, two boys, one girl… and a whole lot of hairspray.

Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill… and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

A fast-paced, darkly funny love letter to London, boys with big hair and the joys of staying up all night.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have been a fan of Sarra Manning’s since I was 12 or 13 years old. Her Diary of a Crush trilogy were probably the first YA books that I read as a pre-teen/early teen and I’ve been following her career ever since I discovered those books. I borrowed, renewed, re-borrowed and renewed that trilogy from my local library over and over until I had enough money to buy my own copies! Let’s Get Lost was one of my favourite books of all time up until I was about 16 or 17, and it still holds a precious place in my heart and my reading history. And Unsticky, her first adult novel, was released around the time when I was transitioning into reading adult fiction and I reread that book countless times too. Needless to say, I was super excited when I heard about her new YA release, London Belongs to Us, which is essentially a love letter to London.

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London Belongs to Us takes place in London within a 12 hour period. We start at 8pm at Crystal Palace and travel all around London with the main character, Sunny, until we reach Alexandra Palace at 8am the next morning. (Disclaimer: I’ve never been to London and I have no idea where all these places are.) The story begins with Sunny making plans to meet up with and have sex with her boyfriend, Mark. But soon after, she receives some very incriminating photos of Mark kissing another girl in a different part of London. Sunny then spends the whole night travelling around London trying to track down a very elusive Mark. Along the way, she meets some crazy characters and new friends, and discovers a whole new side of herself that she’s never been able to let out.

This was such a fun novel and I finished it in one sitting. It was a crazy and exciting adventure around London and Sunny gets up to all sorts of crazy antics, like dancing the Charleston on top of a freezer unit in a convenience store, doing illegal u-turns in a rickshaw pulled by an Australian, and carrying a broom around for the whole night. She went to so many different places around London and I enjoyed going along with her. What I really loved about London Belongs to Us is that each chapter is set in a different place in London and there were a couple of paragraphs about the history of each location and also what is distinctive about each location now. Even though I didn’t really know much about the city, I discovered so much as I read the novel and it was a really great learning experience. For readers who are familiar with London, I think this would be a very relatable book and you’d probably find yourself laughing out loud or agreeing with how these places are portrayed.

But then I think about riding pillion on scooters and seeing off rude boys and dancing the Charleston and I think that Mark has never seen the best of me.

Despite being a short novel, Sarra Manning packs quite a bit of character development into it. Sunny starts off with being a bit of a pushover. She’s afraid to say and do what she wants, and she allows Mark to charm her and walk all over her. She follows her mother’s rules to a tee and always aims to please. But throughout this book, she learns to speak her mind and be herself, while going on a wild adventure that she’d never dream of going on. Sunny is biracial and the book explores what this means for Sunny as well as other people of colour in London. I really loved that this was an issue that was explored in the book and I highly enjoyed the diversity. There were also  LGBTQIA+ side characters and I just loved how this book celebrated diversity. There wasn’t a single side character in the novel that I didn’t like, but of course I especially loved the two cute French boys that accompany Sunny on her all-night adventure around London. I loved the banter and all the bickering between the French boys, as well as the fact that the first thing they do after taking off their scooter helmets is to drown their hair in hairspray to poof it up. It was just all so much fun!

Sarra Manning has never disappointed me and I absolutely loved London Belongs to Us. It was crazy and energetic and just a really great feel-good read that made me laugh a lot.

London Belongs to Us was published by Hot Key Books on July 27, 2016. It is available at Australian retailers for $16.99.

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Review: How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

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Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 14, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 368
Goodreads || Book Depository

A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.

Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Dieting doesn’t work, ignoring the whispers is pointless, and her overbearing mother just makes it worse.

Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. Forced to open up to complete strangers, Sam must get through the program if she wants to attend a crucial ballet intensive later in the summer. It seems hopeless until she starts confiding in a camp counselor who sparks a confidence she was sure she’d never feel again. But when she’s faced with disappointing setbacks, will Sam succumb to the insecurity that imprisons her?

This compelling story from Kathryn Holmes examines one girl’s efforts to overcome her worst enemy: herself.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

How it Feels to Fly is a beautiful coming-of-age, mental health story about overcoming anxiety and other barriers to become the person you want to be. It deals with body image, self-confidence and other anxieties that performers may suffer from.

This was such a relatable story. Our main character, Sam, is a ballerina and wants nothing more than to be a professional dancer. However, in recent years, she’s developed curves and her body is no longer the ideal body of a ballet dancer. This has led her to develop body dysmorphia and she’s unable to stop her inner voice that’s telling her she’s fat and unworthy. She finds herself at a summer therapy camp for performers, where she meets 5 other teens dealing with various anxiety issues. What I enjoyed most about this book was that it wasn’t only about Sam’s problems. The book also dealt with the issues that the other campers had and focused on their treatment and development throughout the book too. And because of the variety of anxiety issues that were explored, it’s impossible not to relate or feel connected to the book because we would have all experienced some of the same uncertainties or anxieties at some point in our lives. I also really liked that the book wasn’t about ballet. It was about Sam’s insecurities and the mental struggles she was having, rather than about ballet or the ballet world itself. The book was set almost entirely at the therapy camp and I loved that about it.

I thought the way Sam’s anxiety and body image issues were represented was very realistic. I felt extremely uneasy at times because her negative thoughts and the way she saw herself was very relatable and believable. Body dissatisfaction is probably something that everybody has dealt with at some point, including me, and it was so upsetting to see Sam taking it so hard and working so hard to get the perfect body. I thought her character development was wonderful and the progress she made was so heartwarming and inspiring. I didn’t always love her as a character but I really enjoyed and appreciated the journey that she took. The author has done a magnificent job at thoroughly addressing all of the issues and factors involved in Sam’s anxiety. I did, however, think that the problems she had with her mother were resolved a little bit too quickly at the end and I wanted it to be a bigger focus of the book.

There were a lot of great side characters in How it Feels to Fly. Even though I didn’t always like Sam’s character, there was always somebody else to latch on to and that made it a very enjoyable reading experience. The relationships between them were also great and there was just such a wonderful group dynamic. The only relationship that I didn’t like was the romance (if you can call it that) in the book between Sam and Andrew. The relationship between them made me feel uncomfortable from the very beginning and it started to go in a slightly “love cures all” direction. I really did not like the idea that you need a guy to tell you that you’re beautiful in order to believe it, and I felt that the book started to go in that direction a little bit. But I really appreciated that the author actually addressed this later in the book and made Sam’s development and progress about herself, rather than Andrew or any other guy.

Overall, I think this was a really emotional and powerful read that a lot of young adults would get a lot out of. There were a couple of things that I thought could have been delved into a little bit further and developed more. But as a whole, I thought it was a wonderful story with lots of relatable characters and issues.

Top Ten Tuesday: Beach Reads

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Welcome back to another Top Ten Tuesday on my blog. I feel like it’s been a while but it’s only really been two weeks… Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is beach reads.

So… I don’t really go to the beach even though Sydney has some of the most beautiful beaches. But I’ve tried to choose ten books that are either set on the beach, set in summer or just a light and quick read that you could probably read in one sitting. And I’ve tried to choose books by a variety of authors so that I’m not putting down every single Huntley Fitzpatrick book, every Morgan Matson book and every Kasie West book (though you should read them all!).

1. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

This amazing book is set in a coastal town and has a very summery feel. It’s also one of my favourite contemporaries and I’ll never stop recommend this book. It’s cute and summery but also packs a punch with its themes.

2. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Another book that is cute and summery but packs a punch, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is a loose retelling of The Little Mermaid. As with all of Sarah Ockler’s other books, it goes beyond being a contemporary romance and delves into some serious issues. The message of this book really carries through and if you’re still not convinced, there are mermaids 😀

3. SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson

All of Morgan Matson’s books are perfect for summer and the beach, but Second Chance Summer is my favourite. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend bringing this one to the beach or reading it in public since it’ll probably make you ugly-cry at some point. But it’s set at the beach and the characters are so relatable!

4. This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

I love Jennifer E. Smith’s books and I wanted to feature one in this list of cute and summery contemporaries. This one is also set in a coastal town and features a cute relationship with a small town girl and her penfriend, who turns out to be a Hollywood actor.

5. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

When it comes to quick and easy summer contemporary reads, Kasie West doesn’t disappoint. This is probably my favourite of her books that I’ve read. It’s got a really cute romance that kept me hooked. I finished the book in one sitting.

6. Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

This is a really recent read. It’s not really set in the summer but it’s a very quick and easy contemporary read by an Aussie author, and it feels super summery. This book is more NA than it is YA so if you a new NA book to read that isn’t completely full of sex scenes, try this one!

7. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

I thought I’d throw in a road trip book since road trips always remind me of summer. This is probably my favourite road trip book, though I do really like The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith too. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is also super quick to read. I think I read this in just one or two sittings.

8. What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Another Huntley Fitzpatrick book that I love love LOVE! I’ve loved every single book that she’s ever written and this one was definitely no exception. It’s also set in a coastal town and feels very beachy. I absolutely loved the story and the characters in the book. Cass, the male love interest is just a super nice guy. Huntley Fitzpatrick is just so good at writing genuine and GOOD guys.

9. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Okay, this book isn’t really summery or beachy. There’s actually a lot of snow in this one… But I felt like I had to include a Stephanie Perkins book when talking about light contemporaries. This is my favourite of Stephanie Perkins’ books. Though I suppose she has a new anthology of short stories out that are summer-themed?

10. The Flywheel by Erin Gough

This is another book that isn’t really set in the summer but has a light, summery feel to it. It’s a really great LGBTQ+ book that’s set in Sydney with some really relatable characters.

Review: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

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Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: February 3, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 388
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If Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing separating Skylar from art school is three months of summer…until Skylar’s mother loses her job, and Skylar realizes her dreams may be slipping out of reach.

Josh had a different escape route: the Marines. But after losing his leg in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.

What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and, soon, something deeper.

Compelling and ultimately hopeful, this is a powerful examination of love, loss, and resilience.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I honestly have no idea why I waited so long to read this book because it was absolutely amazing and is now one of my favourite contemporary YA novels ever. It had a good balance of romance, family and friendship elements, which is a formula for success when it comes to contemporaries for me.

This book is set in a very small town in California. Skylar lives in a trailer with her mother who is an alcoholic and won’t stop drinking, even though her husband died in a car accident while drunk driving. Skylar has just graduated high school and cannot wait for the summer to end, when she can finally go to art school in San Francisco and escape her suffocating small town. But when her mother is fired from the only job she’s ever had, things go downhill and suddenly Skylar’s future is no longer clear. Enter Josh, a previous colleague of Skylar’s at her job at the Paradise motel. He’s back from fighting in Afghanistan, with one less leg than he had when he left…

It was like the whole town was swimming in failure, but no one realized they were drowning.

I was very impressed with how many themes and elements Heather Demetrios managed to explore in this book. And none of these themes were glossed over. Each and every one of them were given enough page-time to be thoroughly explored and I really appreciated how well it was done. I’ll Meet You There explores some very common YA contemporary themes, like alcoholism and small-town-suffocation (I totally made that up, but it’s now a thing), in a completely novel and different way. I never got the sense that I was reading something that I’ve read a million times before. It felt very unique and special and I enjoyed every single page of the story. The novel also explores PTSD, which is something that we’re seeing increasingly often but I have to say that this was one of the best PTSD stories that I’ve ever read. It felt incredibly realistic and even though I don’t know what it’s like to be have PTSD or be in a situation where everyday things could trigger panic attacks or high anxiety, I felt like I knew Josh and I knew how his experiences in Afghanistan have affected him.

I absolutely loved the characters in this book. Skylar was a wonderful protagonist and I couldn’t believe how strong and resilient she was, in the face of everything she was going through. She’s pretty much taking care of her mother, who is on the path to self-destruction. They’re both relying on Skylar’s income from working at the motel and Skylar just wants to make sure that her mother has a job and is able to take care of herself before she moves to San Francisco. Skylar definitely surprised me with how resilient she was. If I had to go through everything she went through in this book, I would’ve broken down much, much earlier. Her mother behaved in ways that I couldn’t imagine any mother behaving and she just didn’t seem to have her daughter’s best interests at heart. The family arc in this book was incredibly hard to read and honestly pretty upsetting at times. I was really proud that Skylar decided to take some time just for herself and put some distance between herself and her mother’s problems. I really admired her maturity when it came to making decisions.

Josh was a character that I also loved. There were short chapters that were written from his point of view and I thought they were really interesting. They allowed me to get to know Josh a little bit more and I loved that we got to see into his head and get a sense of how his experience in Afghanistan had affected and changed him, physically and mentally. I also thought it was interesting that Skylar and Josh knew each other previously and that Josh used to be a bit of a jerk and had a reputation of being a player. It really added a different dimension to his character and transformed him into a really complex character.

The romance was probably my favourite aspect of the book. There was so much to love about this book but I thought the relationship between Skylar and Josh was just so realistic and moving. They become attracted to each other quite early in the book but the romance itself was a bit of a slow burn. It developed at a very natural pace and nothing felt rushed or dragged out. Everything just happened in a really realistic way and it was impossible not to feel connected to Skylar and Josh as they figured out their feelings for each other. I loved how much they relied on each other and supported each other throughout the book. Josh helped Skylar through her issues with her mother and was just there to listen when she needed to talk. And in return, Skylar helped Josh come to terms with his traumatic experience in Afghanistan. She never let him use the war and his experiences as an excuse, which was exactly what Josh needed.

And of course, there were a lot of great friendship elements. Skylar and Josh’s relationship wasn’t just a romantic one. Their relationship was first and foremost a friendship that turned into something more. But this book also explored Skylar’s friendships with her best friends, Chris and Dylan. They were always there for her when she needed a friend and needed advice. I loved their role in the book and I thought their friendships were so heartwarming.

I wanted to have the perfect words to tell him how he’d been family, how I wouldn’t be who I was without him and how my life was a collage of memories and he was in every one.

And finally, I absolutely loved the writing in this book. It was very impactful and I could quote from this book for days and days. Heather Demetrios just writes the most wonderful stories and I’ve enjoyed both her contemporary and fantasy stories because of the beautiful writing and storytelling.

Review: The Haters by Jesse Andrews

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Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: April 5, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 325
RRP: $19.99 AUD
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Wes and Corey are convinced nothing cool can come of their lame summer at jazz camp, when along comes Ash – all blonde hair and brash words – and cracks their world wide open. Finally, something they can’t seem to hate. When Ash convinces them that a great musician is made on the road, the three friends flee camp and begin an epic, hilarious road trip: The Haters 2016 Summer of Hate Tour.

Amid sneaking into seedy bars, evading their parents and the police, and spending every minute together in a makeshift tour bus, romance blossoms and bursts, and hygiene takes a back seat. Wes begins to realise the limitations of hating everything: it keeps you at a convenient distance from something, or someone, you just might love.

When you can find something to hate about every band, how do you make a sound you love?

MY THOUGHTS

2 stars

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy of The Haters. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I think a certain population of people will really love The Haters. I just didn’t happen to fall into that group. I couldn’t really connect with the characters or the humour in the book, and it all became a little bit flat and boring. Having said that, I absolutely hated Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and The Haters was a much better reading experience for me.

This book is about Wes, Corey and Ash who meet at a two-week jazz camp. None of them are actually into jazz and find the camp environment to be a bit stifling. Ash decides that the only way that they can be real musicians and play the music that they want to play is to go on a tour around the country. They have absolutely no plan and are absolutely terrible together as a band. Together, they travel around the country looking for new experiences and opportunities to show off their music. Now, this sounded like an amazing idea for a road trip book. It had the potential to be crazy, funny and exciting, but I found it to be kind of plotless. Almost nothing happens in this book! There’s lots of descriptions of travelling and of music but they hardly played any music at all. I felt like it was just pages and pages of dropping names of bands and talking about how great they were together and not actually that much music playing. I was baffled by the lack of practice and rehearsal. I mean, sure, let’s just go on tour and not practise together at all.

What we did get in this book were pages and pages of descriptions and jokes. Everything was described with unnecessary detail, including a pretty disturbing description of ‘dick harming’. I just felt like the book dragged on forever and at the end of it, I was left with nothing but a deep knowledge of how bad their car smelt and the names of a million bands that I’ve never heard of before. I didn’t understand a lot of the music references, and I’m sure that people who actually know about the things that are mentioned will love the book. But it just wasn’t for me and it came across as pretentious. I also couldn’t really connect with the humour and didn’t find the book to be that funny. People who are able to connect with the humour will absolutely love this novel because the jokes just run on for pages and pages. For those who don’t, there’s just not much to latch on to and it can be a pretty long journey to the end of the book… Having said that, I did find some parts to be funny but those were few and far between. There were lots and lots of dick jokes that I honestly just don’t find amusing at all.

The characters in this book reminded me a lot of the trio in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, with the two male best friends and the addition of a female friend. I did enjoy Wes, our main character, for the most part. Apart from all the dick jokes and him just acting like a ‘dude’, he wasn’t a bad character to read from. I enjoyed all of his insecurities and how he kept the group together, but he also frustrated me at times with some of his actions. The character that I had a huge problem with was Ash. She came across as extremely selfish and inconsiderate, and there wasn’t a single point in the book where I thought she had Wes and Corey’s best interests at heart.

The Haters was quite an easy book to read and was relatively fast-paced, apart from the long jokes and descriptions that I couldn’t care less about. I thought the formatting of the book was a bit odd though. The book switches constantly between normal prose and a script format. I didn’t really understand why the author chose to do this. It came across to me as lazy writing – like the author couldn’t be bothered to write proper sentences with proper punctuation anymore, and decided to just have dialogue in the format of a script. I understood the use of the script in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl since that book was about film-making, but there was really no reason to do it in this novel at all.

Overall, I wasn’t overly impressed with The Haters. It was definitely a step up from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl for me, but there were too many elements that I either didn’t understand or didn’t like to convince me to pick up anything else by Jesse Andrews in the future.

Review: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

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Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release date: May 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 344
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Amy Curry is having a terrible year. Her mother has decided to move across the country and needs Amy to get their car from California to Connecticut. There’s just one small problem. Since her dad died this past spring, Amy hasn’t been able to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger, the nineteen-year-old son of an old family friend, who turns out to be unexpectedly cute… and dealing with some baggage of his own.

Meeting new people and coming to terms with her father’s death were not what Amy had planned on this trip. And traveling the Loneliest Road in America, seeing the Colorado mountains, crossing the Kansas plains, and visiting diners, dingy motels, and Graceland were definitely not on the itinerary. But as they drive, Amy finds that the people you least expected are the ones you may need the most – and that sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour was Morgan Matson’s first novel (the first one that she published as Morgan Matson anyway) and I really, really enjoyed it. It’s my least favourite of her books, but I gave both Second Chance Summer and Since You’ve Been Gone 5 stars and they’re pretty hard to top.

This book follows Amy who lost her father in a car accident. As a result, her family is in a bit of a transition phase as they try to adjust to being a family of 3 rather than a family of 4. Amy’s mother has moved to Connecticut for work and is in desperate need of her car. She assigns Amy the task of driving the car across the country but Amy has sworn off driving since the accident that killed her father. Roger, the son of a family friend, needs to get to Philadelphia and is asked to drive Amy and the car to Connecticut. However, neither of them are very fond of the route and itinerary that Amy’s mother has mapped out for them and they decide to go on an epic detour on their cross-country trip.

And the detour was truly epic. The characters visited so many different and interesting places along the way. What I really loved about their journey was that it was completely impromptu and they went to places that they felt like they needed to go to in order to resolve certain issues that they had in their lives. I really enjoyed every single location that was featured and the descriptions were so vivid that I felt like I was in the car with Amy and Roger the whole way. It was really interesting to see how the states differed from each other and how distinct even neighbouring states could be. The book  was not only fun but a really great learning experience for me. I learnt so many little facts about each place and the kinds of foods that each state was famous for. I discovered landmarks that I had never heard of before, such as the Loneliest Road in America, which is so long and lonely that you could easily run out of gas before reaching the next gas station. It was also really interesting to see how the states differed from each other and how distinct even neighbouring states could be.

The format of the book also really helped make the long journey interesting. Amy keeps a travel journal and the book included lots of notes about each state, as well as playlists for their trip. These little notes kept the book interesting, especially in the first half of the book where there was lots of driving and not much else happening. The book also contained receipts and photos of some of the things that were mentioned and I loved being able to see exactly what was being described. The formatting just really allowed us to be immersed in the story, as well as to get a really good sense of who the characters were. It brought the story to life for me.

I absolutely loved both Amy and Roger as our main characters. I thought they were completely relatable and I really connected with all of their struggles. I loved the way that Amy’s grief was explored and how the loss of her father has left her shut off from the rest of the world. I also connected with Roger’s desperation and persistence in understanding what went wrong in his previous relationship and trying to fix things. The development that both of these characters went through was definitely the most noteworthy aspect of the book. They’re both a little bit closed off and enigmatic in the first half of the book, but we slowly see them opening up and breaking free of all the things that held them back. The pace of the development felt very natural and I loved how the little things they encountered on their journey played a part in their development.

What I loved most about Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is that it’s not just a coming of age story for Amy. The road trip and journey of self-development that they take is just as much for Roger as it is for Amy. Roger’s not just the love interest who tags along and serves as eye candy; we get to see his development and explore his story just as much as Amy’s. I loved how the two of them supported each other and encouraged each other to resolve their respective problems. And, of course, I absolutely loved their friendship and their subsequent romance. I thought the romance developed very naturally and realistically. It wasn’t rushed and it just worked. I would’ve liked to have seen just a little bit more of them together at the end, to satisfy the romantic in me, but I’m incredibly happy with how their relationship played out and the decisions they made.

The relatability of the characters and the character development is the main reason why I love Morgan Matson’s books so much. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour certainly didn’t disappoint on this front. It had a wonderful emotional journey of self-discovery as well as a physical journey that will inspire wanderlust in anybody who reads the book.

Review: How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

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Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release date: January 28, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
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Hattie’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to “find himself” and Kat’s in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum’s wedding.

Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby…

Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one previously knew even existed comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia.

Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery – Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are wiped from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I received a copy of this book from Simon and Schuster Australia. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This is a story about two women from different generations who go through similar experiences of being pregnant at a young age. It is a heartwarming story about family and motherhood and I enjoyed it very much.

In this book, Hattie discovers that she’s pregnant with her best friend’s child and she has no idea how to handle the situation. She spends her time ignoring the situation and when she receives a phone call one day about a crazy great-aunt that she never knew existed, she decides that it’s the perfect distraction. Her great-aunt, Gloria, suffers from dementia and wants to tell Hattie some family secrets that nobody else knows about before her memory fades. Together, they go on a trip to places from Gloria’s past and Hattie discovers some answers to her predicament.

This has two separate storylines. We get Hattie’s story and how she handles the knowledge of her pregnancy, as she travels through England with Gloria. We also get Gloria’s story through flashbacks spread throughout the book. I really enjoyed that both of these storylines were included in the book and, being a lover of historical fiction, I really liked the time period and setting of Gloria’s story. Gloria’s past was like a mystery that was slowly being unravelled throughout the book and I appreciated the little twists that the author placed in the book. I did predict the twist that came at the end of the book, about halfway through the novel, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I also appreciated the dual perspectives that we got, but I did have some issues with it. Hattie and Gloria’s voices were too similar for my liking. I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two perspectives and if there wasn’t a difference in font and formatting in the book, I would’ve been completely confused. Gloria also acted and sounded like a child most of the time, which didn’t help the confusion.

I wasn’t a fan of the writing style in general. There was far too much telling and not enough showing, which made me feel a little bit disconnected from everything that was going on. I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the story and I just wasn’t engaged with what was happening. The book could have been a much more emotional read, if I had been shown what was going on rather than told. Hattie was also a chronic question-asker and I felt like I was even being told what questions I should be having about the plot. There were questions being thrown at me in quick succession, and I couldn’t help but think that they were questions I should be formulating by myself. I also thought that the flow of the book wasn’t very good. A lot of sentences were all mid-length and I think the novel needed a bit more variation in sentence length in order to have better flow.

I really enjoyed the plot of the story (both the main plot and Gloria’s past) but the book was a little bit slow in pace. There was a big section in the middle of the book where nothing really happens and I felt quite disengaged. There were lots and lots of flashbacks in this middle section and I felt like the book wasn’t really progressing. They were pretty much just driving, eating, sleeping and walking around the streets, in the present. We were getting to know Gloria’s story (at an agonisingly slow pace) but not getting to know more about Hattie at the same time. I did highly enjoy the first and last thirds of the book though.

The characters of this book were likeable and relatable for the most part. I loved Hattie and how kind-hearted she was. She was also very mature and put herself and her well-being first when it came to making decisions. I also really liked Gloria’s character but, like I mentioned before, she acted like a child a lot of the time, which was pretty frustrating to read about. I also didn’t think that Gloria’s dementia was handled very well. There were a couple of info-dumps about dementia but I found that it was the same information being dumped over and over. I didn’t think we needed constant reminders about one symptom of dementia. The information was all presented as research from websites that Hattie had done, which made it sound very unreliable. I thought the dementia could have been incorporated and developed a little bit better in the book.

Even though I have quite a lot of criticisms about the book, I still enjoyed it. I thought the story was heartwarming, well-conceptualised and brought out all the emotions in me, but was slightly lacking in its execution.

Review: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

the-year-we-fell-apart

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: January 26, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 320
Goodreads || Book Depository

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year, she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hookup, and officially became the black sheep of the family. But the worst mistake was her first one: destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence between Harper and Declan, Declan is home from boarding school for summer break. Everything about him is different – he’s taller, stronger… handsomer. But Harper has changed too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on with her. But after she betrayed his trust, he’s also the one person she’s lost all right to seek comfort from.

As shared friends and shared histories draw them together, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still possible to fix and which parts they’ll have to live with forever.

MY THOUGHTS

3 stars

The Year We Fell Apart is Emily Martin’s debut novel and I dove straight into this one as soon as my copy arrived in the mail because it reminded me of Second Chance Summer (which I loved), with the second chance romance and the parent struggling with cancer. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this one as much as Second Chance Summer because of a few problems I had with the characters and plot.

For a debut novel, I was quite impressed with the writing in this book. I noticed from the first page how beautiful the prose was but, most importantly, it was easy to read. The words flowed very well and I flew through this book in just one sitting.

What I really struggled with was Harper’s character. She was very frustrating and I didn’t really understand her behaviour and her reasoning behind most of the things she did. I feel like this book had the potential to be a great coming of age story, but Harper really didn’t develop very much and continued to make the same mistakes over and over. She really reminded me of Molly from 99 Days, another character that just continued to make the same mistakes and never grew or learnt anything from her mistakes. Perhaps my biggest problem with Harper was that she was very mopey and her attitude just made her a little bit hard to like. She kept putting herself into situations where she would make the same mistakes she had in the past, but in the aftermath, she would act like it wasn’t her fault at all. I just could not bring myself to feel sorry for her. Having said that, it wasn’t all bad when it came to Harper. She had a few great moments and she was far less annoying than Molly from 99 Days.

“People change. And sometimes that means drifting apart. But other times it just means working harder to find some common ground.”

I thought the events that led to Molly and Declan breaking up a year ago were a little bit overdramatic and weak. I don’t even fully understand why they broke up. And for those events to have caused such a huge change in Harper, it was slightly unrealistic to me. And despite the two of them being together in the same place again, they never really communicated with each other. There were just so many misunderstandings and I just wished they would talk to each other. There were even instances where one character was given the opportunity to explain their actions, and the other just said “nope, you don’t have to explain”. I reached the end of the book feeling very unsatisfied with how everything played out and I don’t think their issues were resolved at all.

The romance between Harper and Declan is definitely at the forefront of the book, but there is a secondary story arc that involves Harper’s mother and her struggles with cancer. In my opinion, this was dealt with so poorly that I have no idea why it was even included in the book. I suppose watching her mother become ill was supposed to snap Harper out of her recklessness, but there was so little development in Harper’s character! In fact, for most of the book, Harper just avoids the issue by lying to her parents and going out and being reckless. There also aren’t very many mentions of Harper’s mother in the whole book so I just thought that story arc was a bit weak. It also felt kind of convenient at times and it seemed like her illness was only mentioned when the plot needed to move forward. There were also a couple of other things that felt convenient, such as the photography summer class Harper attended. It was only brought up a handful of times when the plot needed to develop.

I did like some of the side characters in the book. I appreciated how supportive some of Harper’s friends were and wished that they could have featured a bit more in the book. However, there were also other friends that I was absolutely disgusted by and thought were terrible people. I was a little bit disappointed by how Harper handled these friendships. I just wanted to see her cut ties with them completely but that didn’t really happen. I liked Declan as a love interest but he did some really stupid things that just didn’t make sense to me, so overall I was a little bit underwhelmed by the two leads.

This was a little bit of an underwhelming read for me. I didn’t love Harper as a main character and thought that there were a lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up. The plot felt a bit shaky at times and I just needed it to be better resolved. It had great drama but I thought it was a bit overdramatic, especially since the catalyst was so… not worthy of drama.

Summertime Madness Book Tag

summertime-madness
To celebrate the beginning of spring in Australia, I decided to do the Summertime Madness Book Tag. I was recently tagged by Kelsey @ Don’t You Shush Me, so go check out her post and her blog!


 

SHOW A BOOK WITH A SUMMERY COVER

the-boy-most-likely-toThe Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick is a recent August release. The cover is very summery but the book is also set in the summer months in a coastal town. The characters are always at the beach! I have written a review for this book, which you can check out here.

If you’re looking for contemporary summer reads, I’d recommend all of Huntley Fitzpatrick’s books. They’re all set in or around a coastal town, and they’ve all got great summer romances. I’d highly recommend checking them out!
 


 

PICK ONE FICTIONAL PLACE THAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT DESTINATION FOR A SUMMER VACATION.

Red London from A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab! It seems like such a warm and magical place. I’d love to go there for a vacation (and I’d probably never, ever leave).
 


 

YOU’RE ABOUT TO GO ON A FLIGHT TO YOUR SUMMER VACATION, BUT YOU WANT TO READ A BOOK THAT LASTS FOR THE WHOLE FLIGHT, WHAT NOVELLA DO YOU CHOOSE?

the-assassin's-bladeI’d probably bring The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas with me. It’s a bind-up of 5 Throne of Glass prequel novellas. Since I don’t know how long the flight will be, bringing a bind-up is a great idea because if I finish one novella, I can start the next.

My second option would be to bring Just One Night by Gayle Forman. This is the sequel to the Just One Day duology. The novella is set in the Netherlands and it just seems like a fun book about travelling, love and vacation. I could see myself reading this on the plane to wherever I’m headed.
 


 

YOU HAVE A CASE OF SUMMERTIME SADNESS. WHAT HAPPY BOOK DO YOU PICK UP TO SHINE A SMILE ON YOUR FACE?

finding-audreyFinding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella was a book I read recently that had me laughing out loud. Even though it’s a book about anxiety, it was lighthearted and fun. It didn’t focus on the darker aspects of anxiety, choosing to focus on how supportive and loving Audrey’s family is of her and her recovery.

It was a very hopeful, heartwarming and funny book, with a crazy cast of characters and an adorable romance. This book made me smile like crazy. I don’t remember the last time I smiled and laughed as much while reading a book.
 


 

YOU’RE SITTING AT THE BEACH ALL ALONE… WHICH FICTIONAL CHARACTER WOULD BE YOUR BEACH BABE?

Without a doubt, William Herondale. Can you imagine him shirtless? *_* Abs for days and all those sexy runes… *drools* We’d sit on the beach and he’d read to me *imagination running wild*.

Another option would be Jase from My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. He’s the ultimate good guy. Plus he’s always at the beach so I’m sure we’d run into each other a lot ;D
 


 

TO MATCH YOUR ICE CREAM, YOU WANT AN ICY COOL SIDEKICK. WHICH FICTIONAL SIDEKICK DO YOU PICK?

My sidekick would definitely have to be Iko from The Lunar Chronicles series! She’s so sassy and funny. With her around, I’d never be bored. She’d also be the most loyal best friend and I can trust her to have my back.
 


 

SHARE THE SUMMERTIME HAPPINESS!

I have no idea who has or hasn’t done this tag. Summer is also over in the northern hemisphere, and it’s not quite Summer yet in the southern hemisphere. I guess if you’d like to do this tag, I tag you!

Review: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

the-boy-most-likely-to

Publisher: Dial Books
Release date: August 18, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0803741421
Pages: 425
Goodreads || Book Depository

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To:

  • Find the liquor cabinet blindfolded
  • Need a liver transplant
  • Drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To:

  • Well, not date her little brother’s baggage burdened best friend, for starters

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if “smart” is always right. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to haunt him. He finds himself in a situation that he never could have predicted…but maybe should have. And Alice is caught in the middle.

Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this return to the setting of My Life Next Door is a love story about failing first, trying again, and having to decide whether to risk it all once more.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Huntley Fitzpatrick still hasn’t disappointed me yet. This book was real and raw. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking in the best ways, and reminded me why I love the contemporary genre so much.

The Boy Most Likely To is a companion/sequel to My Life Next Door. I’d definitely recommend reading My Life Next Door first. The Boy Most Likely To contains some spoilers, which might ruin your reading experience of My Life Next Door if you decide to pick it up later. Because nearly all of the characters in The Boy Most Likely To have appeared previously in My Life Next Door, this book lacks a little bit of character building so you won’t get the back stories of each character unless you’ve read My Life Next Door. For those of you who have read My Life Next Door and wanted to see more of Jase and Sam, you’ll get that in this book. You see a lot of Sam and Jase separately but they do appear a couple of times together.

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