Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Finding Audrey by Sophie KinsellaFinding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
on June 9th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Illness, Family
Pages: 288
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An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

There are two things I think we can all agree on when it comes to books dealing with mental health:
1) We want more of them because it is such an important issue and isn’t talked about enough
2) Mental health books will ALWAYS be polarizing
There are two reasons for the second point:
a) A book deals with the heavy issue in a very serious manner and appears to be quite “dark”
b) The author decides to take a more humorous approach and pairs a heavy topic such as mental health with a writing style and story that is more fluffy
Which of these you prefer completely depends on your personal interpretation of a book and your experience with the topic that the story is dealing with. In my opinion, both choices are equally valid, as long as the author stays respectful.
In Finding AudreySophie Kinsella chose to take route b and for me personally this worked very well. I found the novel to be heartfelt and charming, at times funny, at others poignant and always honest. It is a feel-good novel that will make you laugh out loud; certainly fluffy and light but never offensive.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose ClarkeThe Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1) by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Published by Strange Chemistry on October 2nd 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 298
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Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.
To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks--all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic...and the growing romantic tension between them.

So, I finally tried the much-recommended The Assassin’s Curse after all this time. I recently tried Clarke’s adult novel – Our Lady of the Ice – and found it painfully slow, but I wanted to see how her YA book compared.
The Assassin’s Curse was not as slow as Our Lady of the Ice and I was able to finish it, however, I am a little surprised by all the hype. There were some parts that I had to push myself through and I can say I have no desire to read The Pirate’s Wish.
Firstly, there is no world-building. Occasionally, I can forgive this when the scope of the novel is small. Like Death Sworn, which takes place within a cave. However, this book moves from the seas, through towns, through desert and swamp, back to the seas and to the dark “Isles of the Sky” and I have no idea what’s going on in this world at all.
I’ve learned nothing about the system of magic, nothing about the laws and ruling system, very little about the geography, very little about the pirates and their ways/customs… very little about anybody or anything.
The story begins with Ananna running away from her parents and her life as a pirate to avoid marrying into another pirate clan. This is a very emotionless undertaking – how does Ananna feel about leaving her parents? How does she feel about their desire to marry her off? Because, honestly, she seems unaffected. She simply runs away.
The pirate clan then decide to send an assassin after her. But, in a bizarre twist of fate, Ananna accidentally saves the assassin’s life and triggers a curse – one which forces the assassin (Naji) to become Ananna’s protector. Neither of them is particularly happy about this, so they set out to break the curse.
I’m starting to realize that I am not fond of journey books. The kind where the major plot points happen at the start and end of the book and the in between is one long-ass journey between the two. I think it also weakened Walk on Earth a Stranger, though it weakened this book more.
The long journey between triggering the curse and getting to the person who can help them find a cure is so slow. Of course, it’s peppered with random bits of action, fights and chases, but it all feels like filler to pad out the book. I had to force myself not to skim read.
Also, I think this type of plot structure *might* work better if the characters were more interesting and had more chemistry. Not necessarily romantic chemistry, but at least some spark of something between them, because pretty much the whole book is made up of interactions between Ananna and Naji, and damn, they are so dull together.
Ananna is more likable if you enjoy cardboard cutout “strong heroines”, but Naji is just cold and boring. I never felt any emotion for him.
Clearly, Clarke is just not an author for me, but I am glad I finally checked this out for myself. I do wonder if I would have enjoyed this book three years ago when it was first released; back when strong heroines and broody assassins were not quite so overdone and would have been right up my alley. Oh well.

One StarOne StarHalf a Star

Perdition by Ann Aguirre

Perdition by Ann AguirrePerdition (Dred Chronicles, #1) by Ann Aguirre
Published by Ace on August 27th 2013
Genres: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Pages: 337

The prison ship Perdition, a floating city where the Conglomerate’s most dangerous criminals are confined for life, orbits endlessly around a barren asteroid.
Life inside is even more bleak. Hailed as the Dread Queen, inmate Dresdemona “Dred” Devos controls one of Perdition’s six territories, bordered on both sides by would-be kings eager to challenge her claim. Keeping them at bay requires constant vigilance, as well as a steady influx of new recruits to replace the fallen. Survival is a constant battle, and death is the only escape.
Of the newest convicts, only one is worth Dred’s attention. The mercenary Jael, with his deadly gaze and attitude, may be the most dangerous criminal onboard. His combat skill could give her the edge she needs, if he doesn’t betray her first.
Unfortunately, that’s what he does best. Winning Jael’s allegiance will be a challenge, but failure could be worse than death…

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Ms. Aguirre, your writing slays me. It always has.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth FlynnFirsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 5th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 336
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Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time-the kind Mercedes never had herself.
Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy - so far. Her mother isn't home nearly enough to know about Mercedes' extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won't even say the word "sex" until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn't bank on Angela's boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn - or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.
When Mercedes' perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her own reputation -and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn's Firsts is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

Let me just say first: I enjoyed this book a lot. I thought it was compelling, awful in parts, with an unconventional narrator who, against the odds, evokes sympathy. It also succeeds where many other YA books have failed: portraying a realistic criticism of and challenge to slut-shaming and double standards.
What would you think of someone who deliberately slept with other girls’ boyfriends? I know a lot of my friends here are sex-positive and open-minded, but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s one thing to have sex with loads of guys, it’s one thing to wear short skirts and enjoy flirting and dancing provocatively, but it’s another thing entirely to seek out guys who have girlfriends, isn’t it? Especially when the person knows some of their girlfriends and are trusted by them. Could you like a person like that? Could you learn to understand them and feel sympathy for them? Before reading this book, I would have said no.
It takes an author skilled with characterization to take such a person and make them not only understandable, but likable. To honestly convince the reader that they are worthy of sympathy. To make the reader sad and angry for them. Firsts does that.
Flynn is fantastic at drawing on underlying pain and making you understand how it affects someone. She also creates fascinating characters and relationships. This book shows the complex relationships Mercedes has with her mom who wishes she was younger, her absent dad, her religious best friend, her “Wednesday friend” who might be something more, the guys whose virginity she takes, and the girlfriends they all have.
It’s such an interesting book with lots of hidden depth. It explores the way Mercedes uses sex to regain control and how she justifies her actions to herself. Mercedes’ inner narrative is so convincing that it’s hard not to completely “get” her.
I think the book portrays a respect for choice above all else. Pointing out the double standards sexually active girls face in high school, whilst also respecting Angela’s desire to wait until marriage. It also does a great job of looking at the virginity double standards that put pressure on teen boys:

“Virginity is supposed to be something a girl gives up only when she is ready and feels comfortable, something a girl discusses at length with her friends and flip-flops over a million times in her mind before actually doing it. A guy is expected to be born ready.
But what I realised after Tommy is that they’re not. They’re just as scared as their girlfriends, maybe even more so because the onus is on them to be gentle, make it last, make it memorable.”

My only criticism is that sometimes the messages get a little mixed because of the author’s decision to write about this particular character. Unlike some of Siobhan Vivian‘s books or Mlynowski’s Ten Things We Did, I still felt like I knew exactly where this author stood and what she wanted to portray, but it was risky trying to write a sex-positive, anti slut-shaming book about a character who has an unhealthy sex life.
The plot demanded that Mercedes’ actions be questioned and addressed, at the same time as the “message” was one about the freedom for teen girls to enjoy sex. But, overall, it was engaging and well-written enough to work just fine. And, I should warn you, it packs an emotional punch and could be a trigger to those sensitive to rape/attempted rape.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything by Sarah DessenSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Published by Penguin on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 432
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New York Times bestseller
"Saint Anything is a poignant, honest story about how we might suffer the misfortune of someone else's bad choices, how people who love us can become family when we desperately need it, and how starting over might - miraculously - mean taking a solid leap forward." —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling novelist of Leaving Time and My Sister’s Keeper Sydney has always felt invisible. She's grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.
Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.
Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen’s deepest and most psychologically probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself.
From the Hardcover edition.

Saint Anything is my first Sarah Dessen book, which may have been a mistake, but all I know is that this book is a perfect example of how to write great, natural dialogue, fleshed-out characters and relationships, and never once make me feel a single emotion.
Despite reading praise after praise about Sarah Dessen, I admit I’ve avoided her work because her stories just do not sound very compelling. But I finally decided to cast aside my reservations and try this – a great writer can make any story interesting, right?
Um, I’m not so sure. I’m rating up on this one because it’s hard to deny that Dessen is a competent writer. The narrative flows smoothly and the everyday dialogue feels realistic – she captures the “voice” of teenage girls very well. Every character is complex and developed, complete with likes, dislikes, aspirations, hopes and quirks that make them uniquely themselves. Very few authors manage this to the extent that Dessen does.
But where is the hook? Where is the drive to keep turning pages to find out what will happen to Sydney? To Peyton? To Mac and Layla? It’s so so tame. Saint Anything needs a good shot of drama, angst, tragedy or something in order to be more than an exercise in good character writing.
Perhaps it will appeal more to readers who genuinely enjoy quiet stories about everyday people. But I just didn’t feel much concern for Sydney or Peyton. Maybe it’s because I’ve recently read books about people who are starving, discriminated against, consumed by grief, but I found it hard to be worried what would happen to a pretty, wealthy girl with loving parents and good friends.
The story begins with Sydney’s brother – Peyton – being sent to jail for crippling a boy while drunk-driving. Then the camera turns to Sydney, who has to deal with the subsequent horror of overprotective parents and concerned friends. It was honestly quite hard to pity her and I had to roll my eyes when the legal stuff put strain on funds and they had to sell the beach house they never used anyway (boo freaking hoo).
The most interesting thing about this book (in my opinion) was the way Sydney was treated by her parents after Peyton’s conviction. I thought it was realistic and unfair that her parents would suddenly put restrictions on Sydney to avoid the same thing happening again. Which, I suppose, is ultimately what this book is about – how someone can get caught up in and be affected by another person’s actions.
The romance was sweet, but forgettable. As I already mentioned, Mac was well-developed and fleshed-out, yet lacking any real spark of personality to make their romance one I would remember.
In fact, what I think I will remember most about this book is the FOOD. Pizza and french fries and yum! If it made me feel one thing, then that was HUNGER.

One StarOne StarHalf a Star

Radiance (Wraith Kings #1) by Grace Draven

Radiance (Wraith Kings #1) by Grace DravenRadiance (Wraith Kings, #1) by Grace Draven
Published by Self-Published on January 13th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Love & Romance, Paranormal Romance
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Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.
Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.
Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

Well let me just get comfortable over here in my island – population three – who doesn’t think this book is AHAMZING. Come, come, grab a moss-covered rock to sit on and try not to worry about how dark and lonely it is while I tell you my thoughts.

One StarOne Star

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015


Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about our new favourite authors we’ve read for the first time this year. Unfortunately, Aimee is swamped with work this time around (why haven’t people yet understood that book lovers should get an exemption slip from real life??) so I’ll be taking over for her this week.

In no particular order…

*Links will lead to the authors GR page and the photos to that respective book’s page.

Upcoming Titles We're Excited About – December 2015

December already. What the heck? For me, it’s just Foodvember Part Deux, but whatever December means for you, I hope it’s grand. Now on to the titles, of which there are few this month. Sigh.

Jenny’s Pick



Aimee’s Picks



Brandi’s Pick


And that’s it for December 2015. If there any December titles you can’t wait for, tell us in the comments below. Until next year, dolls. Read and be merry. ^_^

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
on October 20th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
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Her story begins on a train.
The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, they host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The prize? An audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball in Tokyo.
Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele's twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and stay true to her mission?
From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Crucible Zero (House Immortal, #3) by Devon Monk

Crucible Zero (House Immortal, #3) by Devon MonkCrucible Zero (House Immortal, #3) by Devon Monk
Published by Roc on September 1st 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 356
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The national bestselling author of Infinity Bell returns to her “fresh and unique”* world where the truce between the ruling Houses has shattered and chaos now reigns. Only one woman has the power to save the world—but she could also destroy it...
Matilda Case never thought of herself as a hero. But because she is galvanized—and nearly immortal in her stitched, endlessly healing body—she doesn’t have much of a choice. Even if she doesn’t want to save the world, she’s the only one capable of traveling in time to do so.
But her rescue attempt hasn’t gone as planned. She’s stuck in an alternate universe, and her world is in danger of disappearing. Worst of all, an unfathomably powerful man who can also travel through history doesn’t want her to put things to rights. He’s willing to wage bloody war to stop Matilda, unless she surrenders control of time to him.
Now, with the minutes ticking, Matilda must make impossible decisions, knowing that one wrong choice will destroy her—and any chance of saving everything she loves...
*A Book Obsession

Well, hell.
As most of you know I’m a diehard Devon Monk fan, and though I liked these last two books the least of any of hers – with this one being the very least, I’m still flying my fan flag high. I just happened to not connect with this particular story that much.
For me this book was a little too boring, a little too neatly finished, not enough oomph with the characters, and a hefty dose of off-ness that I couldn’t shake.

One StarOne Star