Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Your Top Five Favourite Contemps + Winners!

And so Contemporary Summer comes to an end! Hope you've enjoyed the ride and have found some awesome contemps to read! Cait and I have tallied up all your votes from the launch post (where we asked you all to nominate your favourite contemps - thank you to everyone who filled in our nomination form) and have produced a list of YOUR (well, everyone who voted ;]) Top Five Favourite Contemps (and there are some honourable mentions too due to billions of ties we had). Here we go!

Top Five Favourite YA Contemp Novels:

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green tied with Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
3. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
4. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
5. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith tied with Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Honourable Mentions:

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

So there you have it! These are your favourites. What do you think?

And now it's time to announce the winners!


The winner of the Pushing the Limits proof is...Alex (AlexSarahLouise) 

The winner of Kiss Date Love Hate is...Sharvana (Sharvy)

The two winners of the Julia Green book sets are...Pruedence @ The Library Mouse and Kelly!

The winner of the Keris book set + Graffiti Moon is...Jade @ Ink Scratchers

The winner of Shooting Stars is...Emma

The winner of the Ally Carter book set is...Cicely @ Cicely Loves Books

The winner of the book from The Book Depository is...Kristia

Congrats to all the winners! I hope you enjoy your prizes :).

Thanks to everyone who took part in and contributed to Contemporary Summer, to everyone who read our posts, entered the giveaways and tweeted and commented. We couldn't have done it without you! It's been a great month and I hope you've all enjoyed it as much as I have. Posts will be back to normal tomorrow :). And may the rest of your summer be filled with contemp! :P

Monday, 30 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: What Contemporary Means to Me

I am slightly wary about posting this. I have a feeling it won't make much sense to anyone other than me :P. But I took the time to write it, so here it is. Hope you enjoy it :).
What Contemporary Means to Me

When I was younger, I have to admit that I didn’t read contemp much. I was whisked away by the magic of Harry Potter and fascinated by the worlds in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I had read and enjoyed other contemps before (I grew up reading Jacqueline Wilson), but I never really appreciated them and their characters the way I did with Harry and Lyra. But one day my mum picked me up from school and handed me the first book in Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series. She spotted it in a book shop and bought it for me because it was on sale (only 99p, if you can believe). I had read a few Cabot books before, so decided to give the book a go (I figured it couldn’t be too bad, the film was all right after all). And just like that, I was hooked. I got the rest of the series for Christmas and finished them in less than a week. I remember waiting ages for the release of book nine, and after that the tenth, and final, book. I decided to read more of Meg Cabot’s books (and I own practically her entire YA collection, minus a few) and then I branched out, exploring other contemp authors – Louise Rennison, Amber Deckers, Robin Benway and a few more. But still I didn’t love contemp. After all, what did being a regular teen with regular problems compare to being the Boy Who Lived? What did trivial relationship issues matter when Will and Lyra, who were in love, were forced to part forever in order to save the world? I had fallen into the trap of believing that real life problems were nothing in comparison to the strife that these fantastical characters suffered. 

It got me down for a while. Reading so much fantasy and paranormal and books about saving the world made me feel like my own life was unimportant. I would never save the world, I would never rescue anyone, I would never be special or have powers or be anything other than ordinary. It was unfair, I thought. Unfair that these characters in books would lead so much more interesting lives than I could ever imagine. But I was addicted. These books made me excited and thrilled and I never wanted to stop reading them. Harry Potter, as those who know me will understand, is a big part of my life, has shaped who I am and will always, always, always be my favourite series. So I kept reading these books, ignoring my feelings. As I got older, like many teens, I sometimes had low self-esteem and confidence issues, and reading was always my stand-by, my greatest form of escapism. I continued to read these books which made me feel amazing and yet sad at the same time.

Being such a book lover, I stumbled across the world of blogging and decided to take a chance and start my own blog. It would be great to discuss books with other people, to see how they felt after finishing them and theorise about what would happen next! And book blogging is the reason contemp has become more important to me than it ever was. As I was introduced to more through blogging, and probably as a side effect of getting older, I realised that contemp books were just as amazing and meaningful as fantasy and paranormal. They were not, perhaps, about saving the world. I didn’t get the same thrill of adventure. Instead, I got comfort and guidance and humour and tears and fun. They helped me with my confidence and self-esteem because I realised that I wasn’t alone, that other people felt the same way I did a lot of the time, had gone through the same things I had. Contemp books made me laugh (sometimes out loud), they made me cry and made me realise there are much worse things in the world than being a slightly odd, sometimes quirky, rather sarcastic but otherwise perfectly ordinary Muggle human being. Contemps made me feel all warm and fluffy inside, or made me contemplate serious issues and view things in a new perspective. They even made me feel better about reading fantasy and other genres. Though I still envied the adventures the characters went on, I understood that life could be an adventure of its own. Talking to a new person or starting a relationship or making someone laugh or expressing your opinion or helping someone feel better – though these things may not seem as fun or as dangerous as capturing the Golden Snitch, they were good things in their own right. They could make you happy. And there is a lot to be said about sitting around, thinking about stuff. Contemplating the universe takes a lot out of you, but it also weirdly fulfilling. I wouldn’t be saving the world any time soon, I knew, but I learnt I was no less important than anyone else.

So that is my story, and why I appreciate contemp so much. I will confess that even now, I still prefer fantasy and dystopian. There is something about fighting against the odds and prospering in the face of adversity that fascinates me and always will. I always appreciate people who try hard even when it seems like there’s nothing left worth trying for. But contemp has made me see that it is okay not to be that kind of person. Everyone is different, and that is fine. I would probably die in the first ten pages of a dystopian novel. I am not the person I would enjoy reading about in that type of book. But you know what? I reckon I could star in a contemp. Maybe as that sarcastic best friend who stands by the protagonist. And it might not be leading a war to victory, but it’s enough.
How do you feel about contemp? Do you agree with me, disagree, think I'm loonier than Luna Lovegood? Let me know in the comments!

Visit Cait's blog for her top ten fave contemps since she started blogging.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Blogger Recommendations!

Hello! Today (or tonight, shall I say) I have lots of fab bloggers on the blog who are recommending some of their favourite contemps! Hopefully you'll find a few you like the sound of - enjoy! :)
Hannah from The Girl in a Café Recommends:

Fave Contemp Reads: 

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Anna is probably my favourite contemporary ever, and I only had the pleasure of reading it this year. Anna's hilarious - she was a wonderful character to get to know, I felt like I was on the same level as her (like, she was totally me and I was her - does that mean I was kissing St. Clair as well????). The story was wonderfully written - it wasn't meant to be something deep and thought provoking, but Stephanie managed to weave the story so that you didn't feel like OH GOD when is this book going to end???

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle - A modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, this book was for me gold dust. I loved it - told from the perspective of Rosaline, the girl Romeo claimed to love before meeting Juliet. It was such an emotional read and a beautifully done story. I felt myself cheering for Rosaline all the way through, wanting to kill both Rob and Juliet. But that's how I usually feel when the subject of Romeo and Juliet comes up!

Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard - This is the ultimate book to read if you are feeling down in the dumps and just want some inspiration in your life. Kristen has written such a brilliant novel and incorporated some of the most wonderful places on earth in it. Read it, devour it. Love it!

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jen E Smith - Such a wonderful light read about the joys of air travel and how one meeting can change your world forever! I absolutely love airports, and I love romance, so this is the perfect book. I'm not really a fan of insta-love, but it totally works here.

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols - Nobody does YA contemp like Jennifer. She's like the badass of contemp. I always love her stories, and this one is my ultimate fave!

YA Contemps to Look Out for in 2012!

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols 
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick 
If I Lie by Corinne Jackson

Chloe from YA Booklover Blog Recommends:

Favourite Contemporary Reads:

1) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
2) The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
3) Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley 
4) How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart, and Sarah Mlynowski
5) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Honourable mentions - If I Stay & Where She Went by Gayle Forman, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Basically the books above are just amazing. A lot of them are heart breaking, most of them are funny, and all of them deserve to be read! 

Most Underrated Contemporary Reads:

1) How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart, and Sarah Mlynowski
2) Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
3) The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
4) Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
5) The Boyfriend List series by E. Lockhart

These are contemporary books that I loved and think deserve more recognition. I've seen them mentioned a few times, but more people should read them! 

Most Anticipated/Favourite so far 2012 Contemporary Reads:

1) The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando (anticipated)
2) Just One Day by Gayle Forman (anticipated)
3) My Life Next Door by Huntley Fiztpatrick (anticipated)
4) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (best of 2012 so far)
5) Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley (best of 2012 so far)

I'm really excited for the first three (especially #1), and 4 and 5 are my top contemporary books of 2012 so far.

Celine from Forget Me Not Recommends

Favourite Contemp Books Ever:

Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins! 
Reason: Etienne St. Clair (French, American and British hybrid! :P) Although, you've probably read the book? ;) 

The Summer series by Jenny Han! LOVE THIS SERIES SO MUCH! It's so beautifully written & touching!

Fave/Most Anticipated 2012 Contemp:

Hmmm...this one is hard. 
- Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (I've read this & loved it!)

- My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (Heard great things about this!)
- Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (Got an ARC so hopefully I can read it soon! Although, the summary sounds awesome & I've heard great things about it too!)

These are the only books I can come up with without looking at Goodreads :P

Most Underrated Contemp:

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
The book was quite slow in the beginning but once you get into it, the story was amazing!
Thanks so much to Hannah, Chloe and Celine for taking part! Definitely got lots to look up - heard so many great things about Jellicoe Road, and Graffiti Moon and Going Too Far have been on my TBR for ages!

What do you think of these recs - any you've read? And what would you recommend?

Visit Cait's blog for a guest post with Beverley A Reading Daydreamer.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Review of Debutantes by Cora Harrison

Debutantes by Cora Harrison
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: August 2nd 2012
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away.

Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect Debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country.

But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans—ruin everything—forever.
(from Goodreads)

Debutantes really made me feel like I’d been transported back to the 1920s! I loved the dynamic between the four sisters and all the great descriptions – if you like historical fiction, then this book is for you.

Daisy, Poppy, Violet and Rose were all likeable girls (though Violet could get on my nerves at times) but I think my favourite was Daisy. She wanted to be a famous filmmaker and really didn’t care too much about dances and marriage – though she did worry about her eldest sister Violet, who was determined to marry rich so she could support herself and her sisters. I liked the way Daisy worried about Violet and did her best to help her and make her as happy as she could be. I also loved her enthusiasm for film and photography, and she had a real eye for capturing images that would really grab an audience’s attention. She could also be quite funny too, and even sarcastic at times – I think she and Rose made me laugh the most. However, she could exaggerate a bit sometimes as well – okay, the family weren’t rich anymore and had little money for clothes and outings, but it wasn’t exactly “soul-destroying poverty”. They still had servants! But I guess it was a difficult time for them all and I can understand why the sisters felt trapped and hard done by. Violet especially felt the effects of their poverty because she could remember a time when the family was still wealthy, and was desperate to get out of there and settle down somewhere else. Poppy was probably my second favourite, and I liked the way she spoke her mind and the sweet relationship she had with Baz – she didn’t want to marry for money, but for love and seemed to have a lot of things planned out already. I also liked her relationship with Daisy and how she supported her towards the end when things got difficult.

One thing I really loved about Debutantes was the descriptions and detail – you could tell the author had researched the era thoroughly and it really paid off. I liked the way the dresses were described and how the girls talked about all the latest fashions at the time and how they felt their clothes were outdated and needed to be changed. Violet spent a lot of time altering dresses trying to make them look new and in-style and it all seemed very realistic and really added to the whole 20s atmosphere. I liked the focus on 20s fashion and hairstyles but I think Daisy’s films and photographs were also explained well and described realistically and I could almost picture Daisy with her old-fashioned camera, making her silent films with her black and white images!

Justin, the youngest son of the Earl of Pennington, was the main love interest in the story...and this was my main problem. It’s not that I didn’t like Justin, because I did. He was quite funny, good-looking and just pretty cool for a 20s guy. But the thing is, I couldn’t really work out whose love interest he was. I mean, we find out for certain it was Violet he liked at the end, and I’m sure most people reading the book would know this from the start, but to me it didn’t feel that way at all. He spent most of his time with Daisy, he chatted with Daisy, he told Daisy his plans for the future – I found it extremely odd that it should be Violet that he liked when the most he did was dance with her and have a few awkward conversations. Looking back, I do see all the hints and expressions that explain his feelings for Violet, but I don’t know. I just didn’t feel the connection with them. I felt he got along better with Daisy, and while he and Violet may have had some love-hate thing going on, I just didn’t get any real romantic vibes from them. Still, I enjoyed his parts of the story and I don’t think this really affected the book in a big way. In fact, judging from other reviews, I think I’m the only one that thinks this anyway, so definitely don’t let it put you off reading the book.

The plot was enjoyable, though for me, very predictable. I had guessed the twist at from the start and couldn’t fathom why it took the girls so long to figure it out. I guess people in the 20s weren’t used to such things and it didn’t seem like the obvious option as it would now. However, I did really enjoy the story and felt it was well-paced and easy to read. My favourite part was Daisy’s filming of “Murder in the Dark” – Murder in the Dark was a game I actually used to play when I was younger, so I got quite excited when it was mentioned. I used to love that game, morbid as it was! And I felt Daisy had created a great story to go with it and I sort of wish I could have actually seen her film, since it sounded so good.

Overall, Debutantes was a great historical read and gave me an insight into life in the 20s. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the sisters next! (And isn’t the cover just gorgeous?)
Visit Cait's blog for her review of Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Interview with Cora Harrison, Author of Debutantes!

Hi everyone! Today I have the lovely Cora Harrison on the blog, who will be answering some questions about her new book, Debutantes. I hope you enjoy it - and don't you just love the cover of Debutantes? So pretty!
Debutantes by Cora Harrison
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: August 2nd 2012
Find it on Goodreads

It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away.

Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect Debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country.

But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans—ruin everything—forever.
(from Goodreads)


Hi Cora, thanks for joining us!

It’s lovely to get the opportunity to talk about ‘Debutantes’ – it sounds a funny thing for an author to say, but I just love that book. It gives me a warm feeling every time that I look at the advance copy with its beautiful cover.

Can you tell us a bit about Debutantes?

Debutantes is the story of four sisters, aged between eighteen and fourteen who are the daughters of an earl, a man who has lost most of his money and is now quite poor. Beautiful Violet, the eldest, is desperate to make her debut, and Daisy, the practical one of the sisters, knows that for Violet to marry a rich man is the only way out of poverty for them all. But first Violet has to have some fashionable clothes and that seems an impossibility until the sisters discover the trunk in the attic…

Why did you decide to write for a young adult audience?

I’m somebody who always likes to try something new. I had written about twenty-eight books for children and eight books for adults when I wrote two books for young adults: ‘I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend’ & ‘Jane Austen Stole My Boy Friend’. I enjoyed writing the romance and the details of the lovely sprig muslin dresses so much that I wanted to try another couple of books for that age group.

What inspired you to write about the 1920s?

Well, of course, the 1920s are the supremely romantic time. Who could resist those gorgeous dresses and the evocative tunes? Also, personally, my time for romance was the late nineteen-fifties and to a certain extent this time mirrored the 1920s. Up to about 1957 girls dressed very much like their mothers in boring calf-length unbecoming suits and wore their hair crimped into ‘waves’ by ghastly perms and when they went to dances the music was gentle and low and the dances themselves were very staid. And then came rock & roll and dances turned into fun and noise and parents thought that it was appalling. I spent the summer of 1958 in France which was in the forefront of the fashion then and I turned up the hem on every single garment I possessed and I bought a pair of jeans! When I came back to the university in Cork, in Ireland, that autumn everyone was looking at me, because my skirts were so short! I can empathise easily with the four Derrington girls as they cut out and stitched their short dresses and yearned for bobbed hair and played jazz. 

How much research went into Debutantes and how did you go about doing it? 

A huge amount of research goes into all novels based in a different time and place. I was lucky enough to know, when I was young, a family who inhabited a large and half-empty house which had been once magnificent and I used that as a model for Beech Grove Manor. I have a big collection of books written in the 1920’s and they provided ideas for the clothes – and I re-watched the 1980s ‘House of Elliot’ tv series and the dvd of ‘The Great Gatsby’. The most difficult piece of research was trying to understand how the ciné camera worked. The internet was wonderful for researching into this, but I am not very technically minded and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that eagle-eyed reviewers won’t find things to pour scorn on.

What's the most interesting thing you learnt about the period during research?

I think that the most interesting thing was the figures about the number of people who went to the cinema and the number of new films (silent films, of course) that were coming out all the time. Many people visited the cinema three or four times a week and films were changed at least that number of times. Also how much money you could get for a successful film. One film in 1923, called ‘The Covered Wagon’ grossed eight million dollars and that would be worth about $110,000,000 today. And, of course, these silent films cost very little to make with, often, only a team of three or four people working on them. So there was a great opportunity for Daisy and her ciné camera to make money.

If you could do any job in the world (besides writing), what would it be?

I would love to be an archaeologist. I have an insatiable curiosity about the past. (I have to agree with this, archaeology fascinates me too.)

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Steak, fried mushrooms and a bottle of red Burgundy wine.

Can you tell us about any other projects you have coming up?

Yes, I am continuing the adventures of Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose. It’s now the turn of the twins, Daisy and Poppy, to make their debut and I intend to see that they have a lovely time, despite any problems that may arise from hidden secrets. 

Thanks for answering questions today, it’s been great to have you on the blog!

And thank you for giving me the opportunity to enjoy a re-visit to the fun and heart-break of the four sisters.


Cora Harrison worked as a head teacher before she decided to write her first novel, and she has since published twenty-six children’s historical novels and many books for adults. Cora lives on a farm near the Burren in the west of Ireland.

Thanks so much to Cora and Macmillan for making this interview possible! 

Don't forget to visit Cait's blog for an interview with Ally Carter.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Review of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry + Giveaway

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Publisher: Mira Ink
Released: August 3rd 2012
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.
 (from Goodreads)

Pushing the Limits brought out a lot of emotions in me, and I kept switching from anger to sadness to frustration – it was kind of tiring. There was a lot of drama going on, with Noah and Echo stuck in the middle, each wishing to return to normality but knowing that could never happen. I really enjoyed it, though had a few small issues which is why it has a four star rating.

Echo, one of the two narrators, used to be one of the popular girls – beautiful and social with a lot of friends wherever she went. But then her brother died, and the “incident” happened, and when she came back to school with no memory of how she got the scars on her arms, everyone labelled her a “freak” and her popularity plummeted. Her best friend Lila stuck by her, but Echo didn’t seem to really care much about her popularity. She didn’t want to speak to people, she was withdrawn and quiet, and after what had happened, who could blame her? Her dad was overbearing and her step-mum was self-absorbed and Echo was struggling to find anything in her life that wasn’t a cause of pain or suffering. I really felt for her. She was desperate to remember the night she got her scars, and she was angry and upset and alone, but no-one really understood what she was going through. Her family didn’t know how to treat her and usually just made things worse. Her therapist, Mrs Collins, was the only one that could get through to her, though Echo didn’t seem to want her help at first. And Echo tried so hard to return to the life she knew before – trying to become more social, dating her ex-boyfriend, Luke, again – but nothing worked. It just reminded her of everything she had lost.

Noah, the second narrator, seemed equally determined to “get back to normal”. After his parents died in a fire, he and his brothers were put into the foster care system, but were separated. Noah was adamant about getting custody of his brothers and being a family again, despite Mrs Collins’ assertion that they were happy with their current foster parents. I loved the way he cared about his brothers, and his fierce devotion to them, which perhaps sometimes clouded his judgement. He was known as a “bad boy” at school, into drugs and sleeping around, but he could also be kind and genuinely caring. I loved his chapters because we got to see how he viewed Echo, and how when he got to know her, he couldn’t stop thinking about her and then grew to like her more than he ever thought he would. Echo and Noah were a great fit because they understood each other and knew what it was likely to desperately wish things could go back to how they used to be. However, I have to admit, Noah at times seemed a little...cheesy? I don’t know, some of the things he said were a bit cringey. Plus, every time he called Echo “baby”, which was practically at the end of every sentence, I wanted to kill him. “Baby” was overused so much in this book – I hate that anyway, but the amount of times he said it, my God. I wanted to jump in the book and tape his mouth shut until he agreed never to say it again!

I really liked some of the secondary characters, Mrs Collins especially, because although she was a therapist there to help Noah and Echo, she wasn’t perfect and never tried to be either. She also tried her best to really help Noah and Echo, and you could tell she actually cared about them. I also liked Lila, because she was loyal to Echo and there for her, always sticking by her no matter what. Beth, one of Noah’s friends, was one of the most fascinating characters. She was troubled (they all were really), but I was intrigued by her because of the way she acted and the way she claimed Echo grew on her after initially disliking her – it seemed like there was more to it, and I wanted to know more about her. Luke, however, was one of the characters I hated.  He was an idiot in my opinion, I have no idea why Echo even put up with him! Every time he showed up, he did or said something stupid and I just wanted to hit him.

Plot-wise, I really liked the way Echo was searching for information about what happened that night, putting things together and finally having her memories return to her, piece by piece. There was a sense of mystery throughout the book and I was just as eager as Echo to figure out what happened. Things did get a bit overdramatic at times, especially with Noah and Echo’s relationship, but I liked the way the book ended, I think it was fitting and wrapped everything up.

Overall, I really enjoyed Pushing the Limits and I’m looking forward to companion novel, Dare You To, which tells Beth’s story. A recommended contemp!
Now for the giveaway! I am giving away one proof copy of Pushing the Limits to a reader in the UK. To enter, fill in the form below! Open to the UK only. Must be aged 13 or over. The book will be shipped by me. Giveaway ends July 31st 2012.

This giveaway is now OVER. No more entries will be accepted.

Don't forget to visit Cait's blog, where she will also be reviewing Pushing the Limits!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Review of Kiss Date Love Hate by Luisa Plaja

Kiss Date Love Hate by Luisa Plaja
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Released: February 2nd 2012
My Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

What if you could change your friends' lives and loves through the settings of a computer game...?

Lex Murphy's group of friends have all dated, hated, ignored and lusted after each other for the last few years. If only there was a way of matching people perfectly to avoid all the unrequited love, dumping and drama! Then Lex's friend George is given a mysterious Sims-like game by his software-testing dad which involves building character profiles in the categories of Life, Looks and Love. Lex and George populate the game with avatars for all their mates, making a few 'wishful thinking' adjustments to the settings - and find that the next day these tinkerings have come true! But how long can this new calm, loved-up atmosphere continue?
(from Goodreads)

Kiss Date Love Hate was such a fun read. Though it’d seem fantastic to be able to control real life through a computer game, sadly things are never that easy, as Lex and her friend George found out. I loved how they realised what they truly wanted by the end of the book, and I was left with a really happy feeling at the end – this was definitely a feel good book!

Lex was a very likeable character and I warmed to her immediately. She was very relatable and definitely a friend I’d love to have. I loved her jokes and humour and the nicknames she gave to things such as “Chairs of Doom” and “Sir Trench of Foot” for her teacher.  It was all of these little things that really added to her character and made her so likeable. Though I didn’t always agree with her, I was rooting for her from the start. I could see why she would be attracted to the idea of using the game to get back together with her ex, Matt, but for me, Drew was number one since we first met him. Lex didn’t see him as boyfriend material at first, and kept trying to deny the fact that she liked him. But gradually she learned that Drew was actually a really good guy, and started to realise maybe her relationship with Matt wasn’t as great as she thought. Lex’s relationship with George, however, was awesome. They were sort of brother and sistery (though George would disagree), but much funnier and very close and seemed to really understand each other a lot. They got along so well, it was great to read about!

George was hilarious. Half the time he wasn’t trying to be, and that made him even funnier. He was carrying a torch for his and Lex’s mutual friend Jess, but it was an unrequited love, so he saw the game as a chance to win her over. However, things did not go according to plan, leading to some very funny, very awkward situations. I loved how George interacted with Lex – their friendship was something quite unique that I haven’t really seen in a lot of books before. Plus, George was a The Lord of the Rings fans, so you know. I HAD to love him. Being a fan myself :P. I like how he tried to help Lex along the way, subtly attempting to sway her away from Matt who he thought was bad news. Whether or not it worked, I loved that he tried. He really cared about Lex, despite being besotted with Jess, who he was willing to do crazy things for to get her to notice him.

Drew was so adorable. Even though adorable is probably the last thing he would have wanted to be called. I liked him from the start and I loved how he spoke to Lex, and made her feel better about things when they were having a conversation. I love how he liked her no matter what, and that the revelation towards the end (which added slightly more serious undertones) didn’t change anything. He was also not what he first appeared to be. He was actually really kind and generous, and could even be shy. He didn’t think he was a bad boy, though that’s what most people labelled him. He was also really understanding, and actually had quite a lot in common with Lex. I was already Team Drew before the game really came into play, and was waiting for the moment that Lex would realise that Matt was not for her!

Jess, who I wasn’t sure about at the beginning, turned out to be a great friend. Gemma surprised me and I even started to like good old Sir Trench of Foot by the end. I finished Kiss Date Love Hate in one sitting and I really loved how everything ended. Throughout the book, the students were making short films in small groups, and I loved how it actually linked in and liked how the film aspect was included in the ending.

Overall, Kiss Date Love Hate was cute and funny and definitely deserves a place on your shelf! Recommended to everyone.
Don't forget you can win a copy of Kiss Date Love Hate here! Open internationally!

Visit Cait's blog for a guest post by Kapri from Book Fanatics.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Guest Post with Luisa Plaja + Giveaway!

Hello, everyone! Today I have the lovely Luisa Plaja on the blog (who you may know from the wonderful Chicklish site), who will be talking about "freaky contemp" and romantic comedies! She has also kindly offered to giveaway one copy of her book Kiss Date Love Hate to any reader, worldwide! I hope you enjoy her post :).
What is Freaky Contemp? And One Reason I Love Romantic Comedy...

I love contemporary fiction. I enjoy reading about realistic situations, and I like imagining that the characters are people I could bump into later today. I enjoy the way this type of fiction shines a light on everyday issues.
Of course, I know this is present in fantasy fiction too. In fact, fantasy elements can sometimes stretch the known world in a way that speaks even more clearly to reality.

Many of my favourite stories would probably be classified as contemporary fiction with fantasy elements – the best of both worlds, maybe, for me? A couple of these are Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers, a body swap between a 13-year-old and her mother, and Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, where a girl becomes a fly on the wall of the boys’ changing room at her school. These are fantastic (literally) ways to explore real-life issues of teen identity and finding your place in the world. I find these kinds of themes perennially fascinating, and they lie in the background of some of my own writing: Split by a Kiss, where a girl follows two parallel paths in her life; Swapped by a Kiss, a body swap between female friends; Kiss Date Love Hate, where friends’ personalities and desires can be altered in a computer’s profile settings. 

So are my books ‘fantasy’ or ‘contemporary’? I’d say that, like many stories, they’re a bit of both. Prompted by a Twitter conversation with Sophie of So Many Books, So Little Time, and inspired by Freaky Friday, I sometimes jokingly call this genre ‘Freaky Contemp’. 

One thing’s for sure: my stories are light-hearted, and they could definitely be called ‘romantic comedy’. So I’d also like to say a few words about romantic comedy, as it’s a genre that occasionally gets a bit of a bashing. It’s sometimes described in a derogatory way, with words like ‘fluff’ and ‘froth’. But I’d like to challenge the perception that there’s anything less worthwhile about books that make you laugh, about stories that leave you with a smile on your face. ‘Breezy’, ‘fun’, ‘feelgood’ – these all sound like great attributes!

Jeanette Rallison says on her Goodreads page that she “likes to write romantic comedy because there is enough angst in real life, but there’s a drastic shortage on both humor and romance”. 

Meg Cabot has written more than one post suggesting that people with traumatic lives often crave light relief. Here she is at Booktrust: “My father was an alcoholic, so I was thrust into the parenting role because I had two little brothers. When I wanted to read I didn’t want to read about kids like me; I didn’t want to read about kids with a bad life... I wanted to escape. I wanted to read about kids who had great things happening to them, or just funny books that would take me away from that.” 

I think we all have times in our lives when we struggle to read anything tragic or heart-wrenching, or anything containing more than ‘mild peril’. At these times, or at any time, we could do worse than reach for the books that make us happy. 

Call romantic comedy what you like, maybe, but try not to dismiss it. Being tempted to smile can be as essential as being moved to tears. There’s nothing particularly freaky about that.

Luisa Plaja is the author of several books aimed at teenagers, including Split by a Kiss, Swapped by a Kiss and her latest novel, Kiss Date Love Hate. Find out more at her website, and read her posts about teen fiction at Chicklish.

Now on to the giveaway! For a chance to win a copy of Kiss Date Love Hate, please fill in the form below! Open INTERNATIONALLY. Ages 13 and over. Giveaway ends July 31st 2012. Prize will be shipped by Luisa.

This giveaway is now OVER. No more entries will be accepted.

Don't forget to stop by Cait's blog for a review of Rose by Any Other Name by Maureen McCarthy!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Road Trip Week! Review of Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Mira Ink
Released: June 1st 2012
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Note: I own the US version of this book, but have included information about the UK release.

‘If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’

Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.

When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going, California.

Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.

Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again.
(from Goodreads)

This book was so emotional. I mean, I knew it was going to be beforehand, but I just didn’t expect it to have such...an effect on me. The sign of a good book, for me, is one that makes you think about it long after it’s over and one that makes you feel a lot of emotion. Saving June definitely did that.

I loved Harper. I loved the things she said, and how she struggled with her feelings (how she wanted her family just to try, even if they failed) and how she could be fierce as well (fierce enough to punch someone in the face, anyway). She felt so...real. I mean, everyone grieves differently, of course, but I could understand how she felt. Like she couldn’t really believe what had happened. She couldn’t cry about June, she was actually quite angry. Angry that her sister would leave her alone with no explanation, without even a note to say why she committed suicide. She didn’t want to go to church with her religious aunt, Helen, she didn’t even know if she believed that June was in a “better place”. But still, she loved her. And the whole road trip was for June’s sake, maybe to fulfil her last wishes, maybe to find some closure. Maybe it was fate, like Harper’s friend Laney thought, or maybe it was just a decision Harper chose to make. Whatever it was, it was all about June and trying to figure her out. June was always the perfect sister, and Harper always the family disappointment. So why would June take her own life? It was something that was never fully explained, and I understand why it was written that way, because from the eyes of anyone but June, it would never fully make sense. Harper would never completely understand why her sister did what she did. She would probably always be angry at her in some way. And I felt it was realistic, and I felt like Harper was portrayed as being justified to feel that way. And she was. To paraphrase Harper, emotions aren’t logical. They don’t make much rational sense.

Laney, Harper’s friend, was another character I liked. In fact, I pretty much liked all the main characters (except maybe Aunt Helen). I loved the way Laney, Harper and Jake interacted. The sarcasm, the awkwardness, the conversations about stuff that mattered, and the stuff that didn’t. It felt very believable and very teen. I felt like they could all be real teens you could pull out from somewhere. I loved the way Laney didn’t know really know what to say to Harper all the time, and she didn’t know exactly what to do to make her feel better. What can you say, or do, really? Nobody can be the perfect friend and tell you all the right things and I’m glad Laney wasn’t portrayed as some omniscient BFF that knew the best way to act in every situation.

Jake was...complicated. He knew June and practically forced his way on the road trip. He was a bit of an enigma for the first half. We didn’t know how well he knew June, or what his relationship with her was. We knew nothing about his past. I was just imagining how awkward it must be to have a virtual stranger driving you from Michigan to California. But I pretty much loved him by the end. I loved his music obsession, despite having a pretty different taste. He was just so into it, always giving little background bios about the artists that were playing. I liked his outlook on life and the way he always told the truth. I like how little things held so much meaning for him. I liked how he could make June say what was really on her mind (and the way the romance developed kind of as a result of that. It was raw and real and confusing and sweet, but ultimately, it was just Harper and Jake). I liked how he didn’t really expect anything. Not at the beginning, not at the end. In fact, the end probably surprised him a lot and I’m glad it did. He did act like an idiot sometimes, but I think he was punished enough for it. And you know, he had to deal with June’s death too. He may not have lost a sister, but he lost a friend.

Plot-wise, don’t expect fast-pace and action. This book was not about that. It was about the characters, about learning and finding...not peace, exactly, but maybe the road that leads to it. The road trip wasn’t about fun and games. It was purely to fulfil a purpose (though of course there were some detours along the way that changed a few things). The music was an important part of it too, and while I didn’t really get all of the songs, I could see the significance. And I loved the end. It was a brilliant way to end it all. 

Overall, Saving June was a poignant and well-written read that I will probably be thinking about for a while. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Road Trip Week! Review of Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: 7th July 2011
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Note: I own the US version of this book, but have included information about the UK release.

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself. (from Goodreads)

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour was pretty much everything a road trip book should be. I loved the scrapbook element which included photos and emails and receipts and playlists with doodles on them – it added so much to the whole road trip experience and I wished I could fall into the book and tag along (though that probably would have ruined it for Amy and Roger. But I was jealous of all the awesome things they got to see and all the great food they got to try! :P). This was a brilliant summer read and I don’t know what took me so long to read it!

Amy was a character I found quite easy to connect to. I could understand why she was so reluctant to go on this road trip, and how she was still grieving for her father while the rest of family left her alone to deal with it. I found her character believable – she wasn’t really up to talking with anyone and most conversations at the start were a bit awkward and forced. She was quite reserved and often didn’t know how to react in certain social situations. She and Roger started off not really speaking much to each other, and who could blame her because she was practically being forced to go on this trip with some guy she barely knew and would have to spend four days with. She was struggling with feelings of guilt and depression and felt spending time with some almost stranger wasn’t going to help. However, as she got to know Roger and went on the “detour” with him, she started to open up more, talk and make jokes and got to know some other people. I loved meeting Bronwyn, who was one of Roger’s friends, and felt that was maybe one of the first things that helped Amy. I also really liked Lucien, who Roger and Amy met towards the end, and I hoped things worked out for him!

I liked Roger more and more as the book went on. At first I didn’t really understand what he was doing on the road trip, then when I found out I felt like he handled the whole break-up with his ex very badly. I didn’t get why he was doing what he was doing and wished he would have given up on the whole idea, but it was clear he was really upset and I did want him to get some closure. And as the journey went on, I really started to like him more. I love how he talked to Amy, and the games of twenty questions they played and how they made jokes with each other and generally just talked about lots of random things. I felt like Amy opened up more because of the way he spoke to her – she felt like she could trust him and he was really kind and understanding about everything. I also loved the romance because although it was slow (well, as slow as it can be over a week), it was great to see how they both gradually became more comfortable with each other and there were subtle hints and points of tension throughout that suggested that maybe they felt a bit more for each other than they were letting on.

The actual road trip was awesome. There was always good music playing (I’ve got to check out the music on the playlists they made) and they were constantly stopping off at places to buy snacks (cream soda for Amy, ginger beer for Roger and by the end they had that memorised). They got to see and stay in a lot of different places (coughhoneymoonsuitecough), met a lot of cool people and even drove on The Loneliest Road in America! Like I said before, the scrapbook stuff really helped me imagine everything that was happening, and the last receipt in the book just made me smile so much. I really liked how it all ended – it was a bit open, which I usually don’t like much, but I felt it really worked for Amy and Roger! My only real problem was that there was a small side story about Amy’s friend Julia that seemed quite important and was mentioned several times, but then was never really resolved and seemed to be wrapped up in one line at the end. I would have liked to have seen more about how it worked out and maybe even read a few of the emails involved, but other than that, I really enjoyed the story.

Overall, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour was a fantastic summer read and I’d definitely recommend it too all contemp fans, old or new!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Road Trip Week! Review of How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mlynowski and E. Lockhart

How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mlynowski and E. Lockhart
Publisher: HarperTEEN
Released: April 21st 2009 (first released May 1st 2008)
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Vicks is the wild child whose boyfriend has gone suspiciously quiet since he left for college; Mel is the newcomer desperate to be liked; and Jesse will do anything to avoid a life-altering secret. Each one has her own reason for wanting to get the heck out of their nowheresville town, even just for the weekend. So they climb into Jesse's mom's "borrowed" station wagon and head south.

Hearts will be broken, friendships will be tested, and a ridiculously hot stranger could change the course of everything.
 (from Goodreads)

How to Be Bad was a fun read and really put me in the mood for a road trip despite all the things that went wrong for the characters in the book. I also really want to go to Disney World now! :P

How to Be Bad was told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of three girls – Jesse, Vicks and Mel. Each girl wanted to go on the road trip for a different reason, and while Mel (the newest member of the group) started off as little more than a stranger, they got to know each other during the ride and became friends by the end.

Jesse was probably my least favourite character, because she was just so judgemental at the beginning. She seemed to hate Mel instantly after finding out she was wearing a pair of expensive designer jeans and I felt sorry for Mel who hadn’t even done anything wrong. I understand Jesse couldn’t see Mel the way I could by reading her chapters, but seriously, give the girl a chance! I felt like Jesse was overly harsh to her at the start, and thought it was pretty awful that she was fine with using Mel just for her money. And she was too much of a goody two-shoes and it got on my nerves, especially since was acting like a big hypocrite by preaching to others while she herself had done a lot of things wrong too. I guess I just couldn’t relate to her and how strongly sure of everything she was. She did get better though, and tried to make-up for how she treated Mel. I thought it was really nice the way she tried to make things work out between Mel and Marco. She also learnt that she wasn’t always right about everything and became a bit more open-minded in the end. I liked Jesse a lot more in the second half of the book, especially after learning about her troubles at home, which were perhaps responsible for her previous obnoxious behaviour. I felt like she was trying to go through it all alone and that was making her all stressed and upset, and she really just needed her friends.

Vicks was probably the most fun character and was responsible for taking everyone to the strangest of places, including seeing a stuffed alligator called Old Joe, visiting the world’s smallest police station and picking up Marco and giving him a ride to his friend’s party (though it worked out for them, I still maintain that it’s an extremely bad idea to pick up strangers from the street, no matter how hot they are). She was going through some stuff herself with her boyfriend Brady, who she felt was become more and more distant towards her, and though she did some stupid things while she was drunk and upset, I liked that she could admit her mistakes and try to protect her friendships. She pretty much livened most things up and her detours are what made up the story. I liked how things worked out for her in the end (courtesy of Mel and Jesse, who helped her works things out) and it seems the road trip worked out for her after all.

Mel was the most insecure character, and always felt in the shadow of her sister. She had a bad romantic past (I’ll just say it involved her boyfriend and someone she thought was a friend) and had lost a lot of confidence. She pretty much invited herself to the road trip and I felt sad for her, because she saw the bond that Jesse and Vicks had and just wanted that kind of friendship for herself. She started off a bit of a walkover, but I think she was less of one by the end and maybe had started to feel a bit better about herself. She hit it off with Marco at the beginning but embarrassed herself at the party. However, thanks to Jesse’s help they managed to work things out. I felt like the romance was definitely a bit rushed (they had literally known each other for like, two days and already wanted to be steady couple), but the book was told from three perspectives, so there wasn’t really room to add much depth to the relationship. Plus, it seemed like only a sidestory anyway as the main plot focused on the friendship between the girls. Still, it was too insta-lovey for me.

The road-trip itself seemed to be one disaster after another. Just a few things that happened to the girls include driving through a hurricane, getting lost, fending off an alligator and various other events. They did have a lot of fun too though, and Old Joe seemed to be a big inspiration! There was also some yummy food and lots of music, so I guess that made up for some of it (plus they went to Disney World). And it did make me want to get into a car and drive off to somewhere.

My main problem with the story was that it lacked depth overall. I felt like the characters could have been more fleshed out and easier to connect to. We didn’t really get to know too much about them, and the plot seemed to be more about the trip than the characters themselves. However, I don’t think this was meant to be some deep, emotional book; it was mostly just for fun, so I can understand why it was written that way. I just wanted a little bit more description maybe, not only of the characters, but of the places they visited. I also felt the ending cut off in a weird place, I actually hadn’t realised the book had finished until I turned the page and realised there were no more chapters. I could have done with just a few more pages.

Overall, How to Be Bad was an entertaining read great for summer! If you’re looking for something quite light-hearted, then I’d recommend this book.
Don't forget to visit Cait's blog for a review of Two Way Street!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Road Trip Week! Review of 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope #1) by Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: April 12th 2011 (first published August 23rd 2005)
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn't know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel. (from Goodreads)

13 Little Blue Envelopes was a fun, fast-paced read, but I did have a few problems with it (with the romance and the believability of it, mostly). However, I did enjoy it and I’m intrigued enough to want to read the sequel!

Ginny was the main character, and holder of the thirteen little blue envelopes. I quite liked Ginny and thought she was pretty interesting – to embark on this task her aunt had left her required a certain mindset; I think I would have freaked out and refused to go, but Ginny wanted to fulfil her aunt’s wishes and wasn’t too scared to do it. She trekked from country to country, hoping to discover more about herself and find out what her aunt intended for her. Even when things went wrong, she still tried as hard as he could to follow what was written in the envelopes (to be honest, I would have packed up and gone home by then, envelopes or no envelopes). I think doing this last thing for her aunt was really important to her, and while at times I felt she was a bit stupid and should have maybe just stopped listening to the envelopes, I could understand why she wanted to carry on until the end.

The envelopes, written by her Aunt Peg who had recently died, each contained a mission or task for Ginny and involved travelling the world. This was probably my first problem. Ginny was supposed to go around travelling...on her own. With no mobile or anything she could use to get in touch with her parents (or anyone!) if there was some kind of emergency. I mean, I could understand going alone if she were used to that kind of thing, but she wasn’t AT ALL. Plus, no way to contact anyone? That was just so unnecessarily dangerous. Coming from a family of fairly protective parents, I think they would have laughed in my face if I told them I wanted to go travelling alone with no phone when I was seventeen. And not to just one country – several different ones. Constantly on the move with no idea where you’d even be staying when you arrived. Uhh...no is what I think most parents would say to that idea. It was a bit too unrealistic to just have the parents go along with this but I think as the story wasn’t really about realism, but more about adventure and identity, I could (grudgingly) look past the unbelievable aspects of the story. Plus, I really enjoyed Ginny’s experiences in other countries so I guess it didn’t take much away from the story.

The travelling itself was great to read about and I liked seeing what happened to Ginny in each different country and how she dealt with the problems she encountered. Ginny was pretty much always on the move, so the book was at a constant fast pace. The discovery of Richard, someone from Aunt Peg’s past, was one of my favourite parts and I like how Ginny got to know him and also found out more about her aunt and the life she led before. Richard and Peg’s story was actually really interesting to read about, and I felt like I could understand Ginny more too, and why she was so determined to do this for her aunt.

The romance lacked something for me. I never really warmed up to Keith, who just seemed too irresponsible and unpredictable and...dodgy, to me, and I couldn’t work out if he actually like Ginny or not. I felt like their relationship (well, sort-of relationship thingy) didn’t really have that spark that I look for in a romance and was just weird – to be honest, Keith just rubbed me the wrong way and I would have stayed away from him – I couldn’t understand why Ginny was so interested. And I felt like Ginny trusted Keith too quickly (and too much), especially after the stuff he said – she barely knew anything about him before they went off to places together. I just didn’t really feel it, but I know there’s a sequel, so maybe I’ll change my mind!

The ending (and extract from book two included in this edition) definitely left me intrigued. I did not expect that at all (though maybe I should have) and now I am pretty curious to find out what will happen next (and where Ginny will end up this time). Considering all that happened in this book, I can’t really guess where the storyline will go, so I do want to find out the path the plot will take! And how everything will end up (because I felt this book actually ended things pretty well, so how things will end up in book two is a mystery).

Overall, 13 Little Blue Envelopes was an entertaining, quick read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something adventurous, or to someone perhaps about to go travelling themselves.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Road Trip Week! Review of An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Publisher: Speak
Released: August 14th 2008 (first published September 21st 2006)
My Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. He's also a washedup child prodigy with ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a passion for anagrams, and an overweight, Judge Judy-obsessed best friend. Colin's on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which will predict the future of all relationships, transform him from a fading prodigy into a true genius, and finally win him the girl.

Letting expectations go and allowing love in are at the heart of Colin's hilarious quest to find his missing piece and avenge dumpees everywhere.
(from Goodreads)

An Abundance of Katherines is the reason I am not a John Green fan. Shock and horror, I know. But I didn’t enjoy this book and thus have been put off John Green books in general. The thing is, I love John (and Hank!) Green’s YouTube channel and his awesome videos. His writing, however, is not for me. The reason I haven’t attempted his other books is because I feel like his writing is a certain style that would probably appear in all his books, and I just don’t think that it’s my cup of tea (though I may pick up one of his other books some day just to have another go). So now I have that explanation out of the way, on to my review!

Colin was the main reason I did not like this book. He was just so annoying and whiny and self-absorbed and a crybaby, and I just wanted to shake him and tell him to pull himself together. I understand his life wasn’t working out the way he wanted and that he felt like a “washed up child prodigy”, but he didn’t do anything about it! He just moaned about it, over and over again. It was hard to feel sympathy for him. He didn’t try to change anything – all his failures with the Katherines didn’t surprise me, because he didn’t even attempt to look at what went wrong in a previous relationship and fix it in the present one. He just waltzed into the relationship and hoped it would all be good this time and didn’t try to learn from his mistakes. If I’m honest, I really don’t blame any of those girls for breaking up with him. And it astounds me that he managed to even date nineteen (okay, I know some were from childhood days and that one girl was more than once, but still) Katherines. And not only that, but he was painfully boring. Honestly, his personality was just...dull. His constant anagramming got on my nerves (I didn’t see the point to it. Was it meant to be some kind of quirk? Because all it really did was make me hate anagrams) and while the fact that he was extremely intelligent could have been interesting, he ruined it by always whining that no-one appreciated his intelligence, or he didn’t feel like he could be a genius anymore (he was just a failed prodigy, oh noes!).  He also needed attention and reassurance all the time. I just wanted to tell him to get over himself. And ON TOP OF THAT, he was a total, utter hypocrite. It was like he thought girls didn’t like him because he was too smart, nerdy and not really good looking, and that was just so unfair, why didn’t they appreciate his personality and look past outer beauty? But did he ever look twice at a nerdy smart girl himself? No. All the girls he liked were super hot and pretty. He was so busy whining, probably thinking that it was so unfair how all these pretty girls judged him and only went for hot guys that he didn’t stop to look that he only had this problem because he only EVER liked pretty girls with similar personalities. He judged them for doing the exact same thing he was doing. The hypocrisy! I wanted to slap this boy, I really did.

Hassan was one of the book’s only redeeming characters, because he actually had a sense of humour. I liked some of his scenes and he was probably the best character, though I didn’t understand why he was friends with Colin (or why anyone would be friends with Colin). I felt bad for him at times actually, because Colin could be a really crappy friend and he wasn’t really treated the way a best friend should be treated.

Lindsey was just...uh. I don’t know. I found her pretty cookie-cutter, despite the fact she was meant to be different and quirky. And guess what? She was really pretty. Surprise, surprise, Colin. Honestly, their relationship was just blah. Too fast, boring and I just really, really didn’t care what happened to them. At all. By the end I just wanted the book to finish. Usually I’m rooting for characters to end up together and ride off into the sunset, but at that point I honestly wouldn’t have cared if an alien invasion came and wiped them both out.

Another thing that bothered me was that the book was supposedly a road trip book (hence it being reviewed during “Road Trip” week) but the road trip lasted about five seconds. It was more like a car journey. Nothing really happened during the “road trip” (except Colin moaning, probably) and it ended and then some new stuff happened (though it really was just “stuff”. There wasn’t a real storyline). So yeah...what the hell.

Ahh I feel like this is coming across as overly harsh. I mean, I can see that the book wasn’t badly written and that the concept was intriguing and the mathsy section was pretty unique and clever (though I am terrible at maths, so I cannot vouch for this). But I also found the book a little...pretentious?  Unrealistic teen language, superiority. And it was like it was supposed to be meaningful, that teens were supposed to “get” it and relate to the characters and be all like, “Yeah, that’s so me. This is so awesome and has totally changed my way of thinking. Screw the world, I’m just gonna be me!” And while I always appreciate the message of “being yourself” and not changing your whole personality just so someone will like you and learning your true identify and doing what’s best for yourself etc. etc., I felt like the whole thing was just too much. Like the moral of the story (whatever it really was, because I couldn’t actually tell) was being dangled in front of my face shouting, “See me! I’m so cool! See me!” It was trying too hard to be soo original different and out there and failed, just turning into something annoying and repetitive.

Overall, I just did not enjoy this book. It was trying too hard and I didn’t really like any of the characters. If you’re a huge John Green fan, maybe give it a go, otherwise I can’t recommend it.
Visit Cait's blog for her review of In Honor by Jessi Kirby.