The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Sunday Brunch: The State of Pop Music

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Brunch isn't really a big deal over here but I love the idea of it - and enjoy going to brunch whilst on holiday. Whenever I'm throwing together ideas for a new story, one of my favourite things to do is go Google Maps-ing for all the nice restaurants in the area. As I have dairy intolerance, I often have to watch what I eat at restaurants so it's not always a fun experience. However, the rise of all those Food Network shows and Pinterest and all the great reviews on Yelp and Chowhound allow me to live vicariously through all you gastronauts. 

So, I thought I'd try and start a new feature (although I'm not good at keeping up features so we'll see) where we go for brunch on a Sunday, anywhere in the world, and have a chat. This week we'll be:

Summer Reading: Spies and Time Travel Edition

Thursday, August 28, 2014

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Pilgrim is an agent who got out of the game when the players changed that awful day in 2001. However, he had one last hurrah by writing a book on the unsolved crimes he came across during his time in service under a pseudonym. Flash forward a few years and Pilgrim is at a very familiar feeling crime scene and suddenly he finds himself back in the world he desperately wanted to leave because he was right: the players have changed and this is a whole other ball game. 

ANY GOOD? Woah, what a ride! Perhaps I was so taken with it because it's not like my usual reads? Still, it was well written and most importantly consistently engaging (and mind boggling and a little scary in places)!

Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Publisher: Harlequin (UK) Limited
Format: Paperback 
Rating: 5/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:

For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it's just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it's her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn't be any stricter—but that doesn't seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life. Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the no-nonsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family's past—and the year she sets herself free. Told with unmatched depth and humor, this novel—which swept the pool of Australian literary awards and became a major motion picture—is one to laugh through and cry with, to cherish and remember.
This is why I choose to read YA. Coming of age is often used to describe YA stories but this truly is a coming of age story. Looking For Alibrandi is mature yet full of teenage spirit embodied by protagonist Josie who is constantly waiting for her "one day" to happen.

I thought Francesca from Saving Francesca was my favourite Melina Marchetta character but I just adored Josie. So smart, and honest, and open. Yet she was stubborn and quick tempered too. I also loved that she didn't want to grow up too fast and was quite happy walking to the beat of her own drum. I kind of wish I'd read this when I was a teenager because I'm positive I would've identified with Josie. 

However, this book was more about the Alibrandi women than anything else. Cristina, Josie's mother, was always in the background but not terribly vocal. However, as the story unfolds, more of Cristina's layers are peeled away and we are allowed a glimpse into why she is the way she is. Josie's grandmother Katia on the other hand was an absolute tour de force. Her relationship with Josie was really something special, particularly as I don't often see grandparent-granddaughter relationships in YA (if you know of a good one, let me know!).

As for the leading men, I liked that they were not perfect knights in shining armour yet neither were they horrific bad boys. It's always better to explore the grey area, isn't it?

Race relations and being an ethnic minority played a big part in the story. Like any second generation minority, Josie is torn between her culture and heritage and her nationality. There's also a big discussion on interracial relationships and the difficulties that can crop up. It was really enlightening and sensitively handled. One moment stuck out where Josie's frustration shows as she recounts an episode where schoolmates taunted her - one day telling her she's an Aussie, then when she agrees, they turn and call her a "wog". I don't know much about race relations in Australia but from a black British perspective, we've always been told Australia is quite a racist place - Aussie readers, feel free to weigh in. As a result, even though I love Australian YA, Dance Academy, Home and Away, and the idea of surfing, I've never felt the urge to visit. 

Anyway, returning to Looking For Alibrandi, the pressures of being a teenager is another big theme - whether by school, parents, or peers. There's a real twist (although I should've guessed something similar might happen given Melina Marchetta's work on Dance Academy!).

Overall, I loved Looking For Alibrandi. Twenty-two years later and it still resonates. This is the kind of book I would definitely put into the hands of the young people I know. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet.

After writing my list, I realised it might come across as a bit ranty towards the UK bookshops I frequent (Foyles and Waterstones). I love my bookshops but often only impulse buy from them, which isn't a problem. After all, what is the point of going into a bookshop if you don't browse all the shelves? Anyway, this is because my actual TBR list skews very American and has done ever since I got my first Full House book in Orlando, aged 7. Thought it best to add this disclaimer in case I catch flack from a bookseller!

Played by Liz Fichera - I really liked Hooked so I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series. I hope we get to hear about Fred and Ryan!

#scandal and The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler - I just can't find copies of these in the UK. I think they're on Kindle but sometimes you just want the paperback. I have Fixing Delilah in hardback, and Twenty Boy Summer and Bittersweet in paperback, so I want to round out the collection.

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey - I love a ballet book but again haven't been able to find a paperback in a bookshop. Sure, I can get it from a seller on Amazon or whatever but I don't really like doing that. 

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson - I've had this on my list for a while but just never gotten around to purchasing it. 

For Darkness Shows The Stars by Diana Peterfreund - I WANT THIS SO BADLY! I even considered breaking my Book Depository rule to get it. I'll probably just have to wait until I cross the pond again. 

Quiet by Susan Cain - I'm pretty sure this book has made one of my TTT lists before and I still haven't got it. It's not even expensive anymore, I just always get distracted by the fiction in bookshops, which is terrible. 

We Are Called To Rise by Laura McBride - This was on my summer long list but I haven't even read half of the short list so buying books from the long list isn't an option at the moment. 

Jennifer, Gwyneth, and Me by Rachel Bertsche - I loved MWF Seeking BFF so I really want to read Rachel Bertsche's latest offering. 

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham - Everyone said this is great. I've never seen a copy in my local Waterstones and a quick search tells me the only branch that has a copy is Cardiff. Helpful. 

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally - I NEED the latest instalment in the Hundred Oaks series, obviously. This is actually next in the queue for when I next go Kindle book shopping (I won't hold my breath for the paperback to appear in shops - I don't think I've ever seen a Miranda Kenneally book in Waterstones or Foyles).  

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me I MUST Read

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me I Must Read. I'll have to do this generally because people don't very often recommend books to me - that's usually my job! 

Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness - I've had a copy of The Knife of Letting Go for ages and read the first couple of pages but couldn't get into it. I've been told it gets better but who knows if I'll ever find out.

Butter by Erin Jade Lange - People have been raving about this for ages and for a long time it was on the 'must read' shelf at my local bookshop.

Unsticky by Sarra Manning - I really liked Sarra Manning's books when I was a teenager and my friend said her adult novels are just as good. However, I haven't gotten around to getting a copy yet.

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher - This was a buzz book a few years ago and a couple of real life people (yes real life people!) actually recommended it to me. 

Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys - Same goes for this one. 

The Host by Stephanie Meyer - I haven't seen the film either. One day I'll get to it. 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - I've started it but never finished. I'm not good with terribly sad stories. 

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - Again, I've started it. I can see why my friend and everyone else raves about it but...there's a BBC production due at the end of the year. I might just watch that instead - sacrilege, I know. 

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler - I've had this recommended to me a few times too and finally bought a copy at the beginning of the year. I might read it as the summer winds down (well, judging by our weather at the moment, summer is already OVER in the UK). 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - I believe I have been given two copies of this and look forward to eventually reading it. Actually, it's the kind of book I'm in the mood for now so maybe I'll start it this week.

I'm looking forward to seeing what's on everybody's lists because I'm guessing there won't be as many new releases compared to a list like 'My Winter TBR List'. Since I don't get too many recommendations sent my way (feel free to nominate yourself as my book recommender if you feel up to the challenge) I'm hoping to discover some hidden gems! 

Summer Reading: That's What Friends Are For Edition

Monday, August 18, 2014

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Reagan has had a tough year and finally hits breaking point when her boyfriend turns out to be not so great after all. So, when her best friend, superstar country singer Lilah Montgomery, asks her to come along on her summer tour, Reagan jumps at the chance. However, they are soon joined by Lilah's good friend, and ex-boybander, Matt Finch and Reagan's plans for a summer with her best friend fly out the window. 

ANY GOOD? I liked this book a lot. It was really warm and sweet and relaxing - a proper summer read. I appreciated that there were only a few characters, and it was quite long by YA contemporary standard I think, so you really get a chance to know Reagan, Lilah, and Matt. The friendship theme really held the book together, which helped add to the sweetness. It was a road trip novel I guess but a different take on it considering they were on a music tour. There wasn't any sightseeing or motels, which was refreshing. Don't get me wrong, I love road trip stories, but it was nice to encounter a different kind of road trip. 

Reagan was a great main character - a 'bad girl' but not in a terribly cliched way. I loved her journey and her growth by the end. Dee and Matt helped bring some humanity to the Taylor Swift's and Nick Jonas's of the world. Everyone thinks it would be great to have such a life - freedom, money, fame - but at what expense? Not being able to go into the gas station to pick up snacks? Sacrificing your own happiness to protect the your loved ones? Having the rumours that might ordinarily circulate around your school suddenly available to everyone everywhere via magazines and blogs? The way these issues were tackled added another dimension to the book. 

What really stood out for me was Emery Lord's GORGEOUS writing. The book was, quite simply, really well written. I also loved that there was a proper ending. I much prefer a proper ending that isn't just a few pages tacked on at the end. Oh! I almost forgot to add that I really enjoyed the lyrics to all the songs. Usually I skim lyrics and such like but I could actually hear the songs, which was pretty cool. I'm rubbish at writing lyrics (you should see my GCSE Music song based on Briseis and Achilles, the lyrics of which are remarkably similar to Remember Me from Troy...) but I like to compose so it was another nice addition to this multi layered/multi faceted story. 

Overall, Open Road Summer was a lovely summer read. The cover perfectly depicts the tone of this hazy tale of love and friendship. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you enjoyed Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols or if you like authors such as Sarah Dessen and Sarah Ockler.

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Emily's best friend Sloane has disappeared on her just as summer begins. In her place, Sloane has left Emily a list of tasks to complete in her absence. This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that Emily isn't the outgoing one, that's Sloane's job. Will Emily find the courage to tackle the list?  

ANY GOOD? Since You've Been Gone wasn't what I thought it would be. I don't know if I just hadn't read the blurb properly but for some reason I thought it was another road trip novel. Then again, perhaps I had it confused with Open Road Summer. Overall, I wasn't that taken with it to be honest. It skewed a bit younger than I anticipated. The pacing was quite slow - even though Emily had all the tasks to complete - and the chapters were quite long. Also, the flipping backwards and forwards in time got a little bit confusing. 

I didn't connect with Emily too much but I liked the running scenes best - that's when she really came into her own. I liked Frank too - it was nice to see a 'Nice Guy' rather than 'The Bad Boy' covered in tattoos. Sidenote: What's with the tattoo thing? I thought we'd gotten past the whole tattoos = dangerous type of thinking? I think this mostly applies to NA but I have seen it in YA too. Anyway, back to Since You've Been Gone, I liked Emily's family too. So, basically, the characters were interesting but I just wasn't so keen on the plot. 

Overall, it was okaaaay - especially for a summer read. I was a bit disappointed because I LOVED Amy & Roger's Epic Detour and quite liked Second Chance Summer. Actually, Since You've Been Gone is more similar to Second Chance than Amy & Roger, so if you liked that one perhaps give it a go. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you like scavenger hunt type stories or Jenny Han books.

Summer Reading Check-In

Friday, August 8, 2014

As I said in my What's Occurring? post, I've been working my way through the YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge. I've read some wonderful books this summer and will probably do proper reviews for some of these but in the meantime here's a quick update of where I'm at:

Read a non-YA book Landline by Rainbow Rowell 
I really, really, really liked this one. I feel like it could be described as 'what happened to your favourite YA/NA couple fifteen years down the line'? Rainbow Rowell just has a knack for writing really cool women and Georgie is a prime example of this. As soon as she was introduced, I just imagined Elizabeth Banks. Ok, I'm rambling, which means I'll have to write a full review soon. TBC. 

Read a book with a male protagonist Gone by Michael Grant
I've been meaning to read this for years but never got round to it. I started off quite intrigued but by the time the coyotes started doing their thing I just couldn't get on board. I didn't really like that Under the Dome show so it's no surprise I wasn't particularly taken with this book. 

I forgot how utterly absorbing Harry Potter is to read. I watch the films a lot as there always seems to be one on somewhere but I haven't touched the books for a few years. It really was like meeting up with old friends again - the series was so much a part of growing up for me. I've also re-read Raw Blue (which seemed to resonate even more this time around. Love that book so much) and Jellicoe Road (which I'm using for the Printz winner). 

Read a book by a debut author Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae
This was so cute! I loved the Italian setting and the characters were just really sweet - even the troubled ones - and I couldn't help but almost shed a tear at one point. You know how when you read some books you can just imagine you and the author would be good friends - that the style and you are on the same wavelength? I felt like this whilst reading Wish You Were Italian. 

Read a book that's been on your TBR list for a long time Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Well, it hasn't been that long but I've had a copy on my shelf since my birthday in 2012 so long enough. I liked it. It was a little bit predictable but I liked the setting (both time and place) and Cinder was a cool character. Thumbs up for diversity also. 

Read a classic (YA or otherwise) The Outsiders by S.E Hinton
Another timeless masterpiece. Unfortunately, the subject matter is still all to relevant. Gangs and needless loss of young lives is still a huge problem everywhere. I'm actually surprised we never read this at school. 

Read a Printz winner Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Actually, this one hit me hard on re-reading too - perhaps it's an Australian speciality. I've read Jellicoe Road quite a few times now and it never loses its poignancy. Melina Marchetta also writes really cool well rounded young women. Oh and I couldn't help but picture Ben as Sammy from Dance Academy this time *sniff*.

What have you been reading this summer? It's not too late to join the challenge! 

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Monday, August 4, 2014

Publisher: Harlequin (UK) Limited
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost. Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most. There's HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love. Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way

I kept seeing the cover of Let’s Get Lost popping up all over the blogs I follow – whether on Top Ten Tuesday or Waiting on Wednesday – so when I saw it was available on Netgalley for us UK folk I just had to request and keep my fingers crossed. I will always have a soft spot for road trip novels and Let’s Get Lost certainly didn’t disappoint. 

The opening chapter was absolutely beautiful and hooked me straight away. It’s quite difficult to create an authentic yet instant romantic connection between two characters but Leila and Hudson’s meeting was near enough perfect. It wasn’t too sweet or sappy or unbelievable, which was nice. I always think the litmus test for these kinds of set-ups is: would you want this to happen to you? In this case, I can most certainly answer in the affirmative. 

However, the dreamy romance doesn’t last long as we’re dragged into a high energy Thelma and Louise type section. The subsequent chapters take on different tones as Leila weaves in and out of lives whilst she snakes her way up to Alaska. I really liked the structure with each character having their own self-contained section with Leila (bookended with lovely illustrations and correspondence). With the seemingly never-ending amount of series and sequels and whatnot out there, it was nice to have characters who said ‘goodbye’ to one another because that’s life. More often than not people come in and out of our lives for a short time, sometimes they have a profound effect, sometimes not so much, and Let’s Get Lost portrays this beautifully. 

As for the characters themselves, I loved Leila – the adorable, pocket-sized ball of goodwill and adventure who I couldn’t help but picture as a younger Mila Kunis type. She’s also a ‘fixer’ but not in an annoying way. Yet there was also a great maturity to her character due to circumstances that were slowly – painstakingly – unravelled throughout the story. All of the people she met along the way were memorable but my favourite was Sonia. There was just something so real and heartbreaking but simultaneously uplifting about her character. I would love to read her story. 

Overall, I loved Let’s Get Lost with it’s dreamy, indie like vibe. I couldn’t help but have that Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros ‘Home’ song playing in my head every time Leila set off on her travels. This is certainly not just a summer read – I know I’ll probably re-read it at some point - but if you’re heading off on your own travels soon, I would recommend you take a copy of Let’s Get Lost with you.

What's Occurring?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

So, anyone who pops by here on the regular (thank you!) will have noticed I haven't been around much lately. To cut a long story short, I was very ill but now I'm on the mend. I've done this 'What's Occurring?' post a few times before and thought it would be a good way to ease back into things.

The Pages

  • I read sooooo much whilst I was ill (although for some reason I couldn't read anything whilst actually in hospital). I've also been doing the YA Buccaneers summer reading challenge but I'll have more of an update on that towards the end of the week. 

  • Some highlights: The Outsiders by S.E Hinton (why did I put it off for so long?!); Blue by Lisa Glass; Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae; All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill; and Landline by Rainbow Rowell (meow). Oh and I have to mention Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. Whilst I wasn't blown away by the novel as whole, there was a chapter revolving around a performance of The Nutcracker and the descriptions were amazing. I LOVE The Nutcracker and Maggie Shipstead's writing made it feel like I was actually in the theatre. Brillaint. 
  • I also realised I had read a lot of YA so went on a bit of a spending spree in the Kindle store getting all the adult books. I'm about 150 pages into I Am Pilgrim and just WOW. Have you read it?  

The Soundtrack

  • I missed my concerts :( I was supposed to go to Wireless Festival but perhaps it's just as well I missed Kanye's ranting. I also missed Clean Bandit at Somerset House. Never mind, we have Pharrell in October and hopefully I'll be feeling better by then. 
  • A lot of the time I couldn't sleep so I listened to Classic FM playlists. I've also had the Waltz from Coppellia stuck in my head for the longest while and developed a renewed love for Rhapsody In Blue.
  • I've had The Suburbs by Arcade Fire whizzing around my head too. I can't describe why I love this song so much but there are those songs that on the first listen just bury themselves inside of you. As soon as I heard 'grab your mother's key we're leaving' I was in. Actually, I think Landline might have caused it to surface from the depths of my subconscious.
  • Still listening to Paolo Nutini, particularly One Day and Iron Sky. I also went back to Back to Black. I was sad when Michael Jackson died but Amy Winehouse's death hit me hard! Such a talent...
  • New stuff: Prettiest Ones Fly Highest by Fryars and New Drop, New York by Sbtrkt ft Ezra Koenig. What have you been listening to?

The Words

  • None. Nil. Nada. Zilch. I haven't had the energy.
And The Rest...

  • I haven't watched that much television surprisingly. I've pretty much left the TV on TLC and Lifetime, meaning I think I could now work for Cake Boss and can definitely Say Yes To The Dress. I tried to get into Orange Is The New Black and whilst I enjoyed the four episodes I watched I just couldn't make myself watch anymore. The same goes for The Honourable Woman - watched two episodes (which were EXCELLENT) but couldn't get through anymore. However, I have enjoyed Extant and I started watching Episodes, which is hilarious. My kind of comedy. 
  • There is one show I have become addicted to though...Total Divas! Ok, I didn't go into it blind as I was a big WWE fan during my teen years and then kind of got back into it last year. Still, it's actually a really refreshing take on the reality shows because these ladies have proper jobs- rather than being filmed shopping and eating - and they are truly badass - rather than those wannabes who believe flipping tables and clicking fingers makes them boss ladies. Oh and I really think The Bellas need to guest star on New Girl as Jess's superbad cousins - they sound so much like her!
  • I haven't seen any of the summer blockbusters but hopefully I'll catch Guardians of the Galaxy before it finishes. More importantly, what is this about it not being the right time for a female led Marvel movie? Ridiculous. Saying 'I very much believe in doing it but...' is the reason we are not progressing with regard to equality anywhere. Just get rid of the but and give us the movie! I'll happily wait a few more years for another Cap or Thor film if it means we can get a female superhero on the screens. Give Scarlett her movie, she deserves it. 
  • Soooo Allure called L.C 'basic'? I'm sorry, I know people want to retire 'basic' but I love it. Having said that, I wouldn't describe L.C as 'basic' (and if she's basic then so am I). Kate Middleton (she of the infinite wardrobe of L.K Bennett wedges), Whitney Port, and Olivia Palermo circa The City on the other hand...
  • Sport sport sport - there's been a lot of it this summer. The World Cup started off brilliantly but by the final I was a bit over it (and I love football). Wimbledon was great. The Commonwealth Games have also been a treat to watch.
So, what have you been up to?