Monday, 31 August 2015

The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window by Kirsty Moseley

The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window
by Kirsty Moseley


Summary: Amber Walker and her older brother, Jake, have an abusive father. One night her brother's best friend, Liam, sees her crying and climbs through her bedroom window to comfort her. That one action sparks a love/hate relationship that spans over the next eight years. Liam is now a confident, flirty player who has never had a girlfriend before. Amber is still emotionally scarred from the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. Together they make an unlikely pair. Their relationship has always been a rocky one, but what happens when Amber starts to view her brother's best friend a little differently? And how will her brother, who has always been a little overprotective, react when he finds out that the pair are growing closer?
This is one of those books that has been on my Kindle for years (after being recommended by someone on Goodreads then swayed by a lot of positive reviews), and I wanted to love it because it sounded like a cute concept (the window part) and the summary mentioned the love/hate thing which is one of my go-to cliches when I'm in a reading slump.

But... Well, I really didn't like the book. At all. Interesting premise, not very good in the execution.

It started off okay (well, if I ignore the first chapter/prologue written unconvincingly from the POV of Amber when she's 8 years old), but it went downhill quite quickly.

I just -- I wasn't a fan of the writing at all, which is something I can overlook in a book if there are other things I enjoy enough but that wasn't the case here.

The characters were just... I don't know, it's hard to put into words what I didn't like about them. There was just this immaturity about them, and the way they were written, that bugged me. They were really cliche in really annoying ways. Not even just the main characters, but all of them, the side characters were more like caricatures -- especially the ones we're not supposed to like.

And I really, really didn't like the girl hate in the book, or the slut shaming.

The romance was a let down. Like I said, the love/hate thing is a cliche that I enjoy reading -- it's fun and awesome when it's done right, but it was barely even a thing in this book...the "hate" is only really present for a couple of chapters, then it jumps right into being one of those really obnoxious, saccharine relationships that somehow manages to be simultaneously immature and too grown-up to the point where it wasn't believable. There was none of the slow-burn awesomeness that the love/hate cliche normally has.

One of the biggest issues I had with the book was the way the abuse storyline was handled. There are books out there that can write about abuse with the sensitivity it deserves, but it didn't feel like this one did that -- it was just handled really badly and often felt like it was just being used as a plot device.

Basically, I kind of hated the book. Partially because I just didn't like it (writing, characters, plot, etc.), partially because it pushed the "THIS IS VERY PROBLEMATIC!" button a few times too many, and a little bit because it just didn't live up to expectations.

I'd rate it 1.5 stars out of 5. But, like I said at the beginning of the review, I did see a lot of positive reviews so perhaps it will work better for you than it did for me.

Later.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Monsters by Emerald Fennell

Monsters
by Emerald Fennell

UK release date: September 3rd 2015 


Summary: A blackly comic tale about two children you would never want to meet.

Set in the Cornish town of Fowey, all is not as idyllic as the beautiful seaside town might seem. The body of a young woman is discovered in the nets of a fishing boat. It is established that the woman was murdered. Most are shocked and horrified. But there is somebody who is not - a twelve-year-old girl. She is delighted; she loves murders. Soon she is questioning the inhabitants of the town in her own personal investigation. But it is a bit boring on her own. Then Miles Giffard, a similarly odd twelve-year-old boy, arrives in Fowey with his mother, and they start investigating together. Oh, and also playing games that re-enact the murders. Just for fun, you understand...

A book about two twelve-year-olds that is definitely not for kids.
So I didn't actually intend to read this book, but I was bored and thought since I had the book then I may as well just read a couple of pages, just to see... But then I couldn't put it down.

The book, it wasn't at all what I was expecting it to be and whenever I'd think I had it figured out, it would manage to surprise me again a few chapters later -- and I loved that. It reminded me of this bizarre little cabaret I saw at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival* last year, it had all the quirk and charm and dark humour that the show had.


Initially, I thought it was going to be like that the whole way through, but then it introduced more serious things in this really subtle way, and I found myself unexpectedly caring about the main character and found that she had more depth and heart than it initially seemed...and yet it never lost that dark humour or oddness that it had in the beginning.


The plot -- it's one of the least predictable books I've read in a while, especially the ending, and I appreciate it so much more because of that.


Basically, the book surprised me in a good way, it totally shattered all my expectations. It's not a book I would ever have chosen for myself, but I'm glad I read it. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.


Later.


*The show I mentioned? The Twins Macabre, they were hilarious and I really recommend checking out one of their shows if you ever get the chance.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Romance Review: Sustained by Emma Chase

Sustained
Emma Chase
Gallery Books
[August 25, 2015]
ARC provided by publicist


A knight in tarnished armor is still a knight.

When you’re a defense attorney in Washington, DC, you see firsthand how hard life can be, and that sometimes the only way to survive is to be harder. I, Jake Becker, have a reputation for being cold, callous, and intimidating—and that suits me just fine. In fact, it’s necessary when I’m breaking down a witness on the stand.

Complications don’t work for me—I’m a “need-to-know” type of man. If you’re my client, tell me the basic facts. If you’re my date, stick to what will turn you on. I’m not a therapist or Prince Charming—and I don’t pretend to be.

Then Chelsea McQuaid and her six orphaned nieces and nephews came along and complicated the ever-loving hell out of my life. Now I'm going to Mommy & Me classes, One Direction concerts, the emergency room, and arguing cases in the principal's office.

Chelsea’s too sweet, too innocent, and too gorgeous for her own good. She tries to be tough, but she’s not. She needs someone to help her, defend her…and the kids.

And that — that, I know how to do.

It seems like everyone loves Emma Chase. Literally, everyone. I've heard raves about her for years from all over the board. So, when I was offered a copy to review, I couldn't turn it down. But I was really unimpressed.

The first few chapters were just so stereotypical. The entire story is told from Jake's perspective and he was basically a mash up of every douche bag player trope you can imagine. Every chapter oozed arrogant asshole. I was so annoyed, I nearly put it down.

But then Chelsea came into the picture. Chelsea was funny and smart and an aunt and guardian to six kids. I loved Chelsea and how well she took this on. If this book had been told from her perspective, I would've LOVED it so much. Chelsea was different and I love romances that involve kids and how that dynamic plays in. But Jake was such a cookie cutout of dick-romance-characters, I had a hard time dealing with it. Chelsea deserved better. This book deserved better.

The writing was just okay. I think my big issue was that it fell back on a lot of cliches and stereotypes, so it was nothing special. It felt like she's taken from a bunch of other romances and pasted it in. It felt like...fanfic. Unedited fanfic from a slightly better than average writer. Again, I was bored and rarely felt totally sucked in.

Basically, this book was average. I was very meh on it and probably wouldn't have finished it if it wasn't a quick, easy read. The only bright spot in this book was Chelsea, really. Otherwise, it was predictable and the perspective it was told from was irritating because Jake was the worst. I'm in the minority on this, since I know a lot of people who LOVED it, but I barely finished it.

--Julie

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Dear Teen Julie

Sometimes, a review just isn't gonna cut it. Sometimes, I just need to get personal with it. So, occasionally, I'll be writing letters to the Julie that needs it to discuss a book. My review for this book will come closer to release.

Dear Teen Julie,

You're probably uncomfortable in your own clothes right now. You don't wear clothes you love very often and it's the end of summer, which definitely doesn't help. You don't go out much and you worry constantly about somebody else asking you if you're pregnant because of that one douche bag and that other drunk guy.

You, dear, sweet, teenage Julie, are fat. And nobody in your life seems to have this same issue. This constant insecurity. This worry about fitting into tight spaces. There's just this little niggling thought that follows you around with everything you do, reminding you that you're fat. Especially during gym. Even the swimming unit, despite your life of swimming, is a thing to dread because swim suits in front of your classmates? Yuck. Clearly they're all going to stare at you and think about what a disgusting human being you are, right?

Oh younger Julie. Let me tell you now - it's not going to suddenly get easier. You're going to start to feel more comfortable in your skin most days. You're going to discover the magic of selfies and how gorgeous you are. You're going to start to feel confident wedging yourself in that subway seat because honestly, you carry your weight pretty well. You're still going to be fat, but you're going to be in better shape. I promise. It'll still haunt you and niggle at you and try to convince you your worthless. But you're going to learn better.

And younger Julie, you're going to read this amazing book. I wish I could give you this book, but it's just not possible this moment. That book is going to have a fat character. Shamelessly fat. And she's going to own her weight and be proud about it and still feel a little worried, a little insecure, but in a way you know. A way you understand to your core. And this fat character? She's going to be fabulous. A pageant contestant and Dolly Parton fan. She's going to be all that I wish you could see. Because if you could see Miss Willowdean? She would rock your world and your perspective of how amazing and beautiful and fat you can be.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy is going to embrace everything you want to be. You want to be fabulous and confident and loved with a great gang of girlfriends - but you wanted to be skinny while doing it. Willowdean is okay being fat and doing it. She's okay being fat and having attention. She's not always comfortable with it, but she lets it happen. And all your fears about somebody loving you while you're fat? She has them too. She knows them. She does what you would do and has to learn from it. Because you can be fat and be loved, Teen Julie. I promise, you can. 

I can't give you Dumplin'. My time travel machine isn't that fancy. But I can read it now. I can read it over and over. I can meet Julie Murphy and collect multiple copies and gush about this book. I can learn from this book, even if I'm not still a teen. I can make sure other teen girls learn from this book since you couldn't. I can make sure other fat teen girls learn that they can be loved and fabulous and fat. And that's what I'm going to do for you. 

Hang in there,
20-year-old Julie

Monday, 24 August 2015

Scandalous Liaisons by Sylvia Day

Scandalous Liaisons
by Sylvia Day
Summary: Stolen Pleasures --Sebastian Blake, Earl of Merrick, long ago fled the responsibilities of his title to become the infamous pirate, Captain Phoenix. But the booty he’s just captured on a merchant ship is a fierce tempered minx who claims to be a bride…his bride, married to him by proxy on behest of their fathers. He could shame his hated family and return his beautiful wife untouched, but no treasure has ever proved more tempting to Sebastian, and making their marriage a true one–in every sense–is his one urgent desire …

Lucien's Gamble -- Lucien Remington’s reputation as a debauched libertine who plays by no one’s rules–in business or the bedroom–is well deserved. He gets what he wants, social repudiation be damned. But society can keep from him the one thing he truly desires, the untouchable Lady Julienne La Coeur. Until she sneaks into his club dressed as a man and searching for her irresponsible brother. Suddenly she’s in Lucien’s grasp, his to take, and his mind is filled with the most wickedly sinful thoughts. A gentleman would walk away from the temptation she presents. But then, Lucien has never claimed to be a gentleman…

Her Mad Grace -- Hugh La Coeur never wanted to be the Earl of Montrose. Wine, women, and a hefty wager are preferable to responsibility of any kind. It’s certainly preferable to spending the night in an eerie, neglected mansion owned by a legendary madwoman. The duchess’s companion, the fiercely independent Charlotte, is another matter altogether. Hugh would be happy to spend as many nights in her bed as possible. He knows she’s hiding terrible secrets, but for once in his life, Hugh has the desire to take on someone else’s burden as his own, no matter what the danger…
Sylvia Day is one of those authors I've kind of been avoiding. I kept seeing her name everywhere, kept seeing her book covers everywhere and people recommending her, and I guess I mistakenly assumed she was another one of those authors who became a thing after writing a book that caters to the Fifty Shades of Gray crowd.

I blame the covers of her books...they're all clearly meant to be reminiscent of FSoG and that appeals to some people, but it didn't to me, instead it had the opposite effect.

Anyway, that's my long and rambling way of saying I misjudged her books. Or, at least, her as an author -- I haven't read any of her other books to know if they'd prove that judgement right. I picked this one up because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and because I hadn't realised she'd written historical romance too.

And, well, I wasn't disappointed by it. I like her writing and it was fun and (mostly) fast-paced book, exactly what I needed to snap me out of my reading slump. I really enjoyed the first two stories (Stolen Pleasures and Lucien's Gamble), they were cute and entertaining -- predictable, but in a good way. The third story was just okay, I didn't enjoy it as much and found the plot and the characters to be a bit too bland and Charlotte/Hugh lacked the spark the other pairings had.

The only real issue I had with the book was that two of the stories were guilty of the kind of thing Julie and I discuss in this post.

I'd rate the book 3 stars out of 5. I enjoyed it enough that I've added some of Sylvia's other books to my to-read list.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Wrap Up (41)

On the Blog:

Pretending to be Erica exceeded all of Julie's expectations
Maus was a fantastic story but not really Lanna's cup of tea

Lanna:
So...I have a lot of books to mention here, but they're like a months worth of books? And I had a gift card? So even though I'm totally running out of shelf space, it's not that bad? Right? Okay!

All the pictures are from my book instagram because I can't be bothered finding all of the books right now to take just one picture.

For review

As Black As Ebony by Salla Simukka (review link above)
The Tattooed Heart by Michael Grant 
Stasi Child by David Young (netgalley)
Menagerie by Rachel Vincent (netgalley)
Monsters by Emerald Fennell (netgalley)

Bought


Going Over by Beth Kephart
Scandalous Liaisons by Sylvia Day
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Down Among the Dead Men by Michelle Williams
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Oblivion by Kelly Creagh
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Kindle

I think most--if not all--of these were free to download. I blame BookBub. And people giving me recs. And my lack of self-control...
Crystal Magic by Madeline Freeman
Turning Pointe by Katherine Locke
Ransom by Rachel Schurig
Little Love Affair by Lexy Timms
Loving Mr Daniels by Brittany C. Cherry
Haunted on Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase
Run Wild by Shelly Thacker
Aurora Sky by Nikki Jefford
Sex, Marry, Kill by Todd Travis
The Seduction of Sophie Seacrest by Mary Campisi
Girl's Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky
The Wedding Wager by Regina Duke
Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet
You Loved Me at My Darkest by Evie Harper7
The Boyfriend Thief by Shana Norris
What've you all been reading/posting recently? :)
Later.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between
Jennifer E. Smith
Poppy
[September 1, 2015]
ARC via Teen Author Carnival

On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they'll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

This new must-read novel from Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, explores the difficult choices that must be made when life and love lead in different directions.
I love Jennifer Smith and this was one of my most anticipated titles for the fall. In fact, there were two books I had to walk out of BEA with, and this was one of them. And while it was excellent, I didn't fall in love with it the way I usually fall in love with her books.

Don't get me wrong, I totally cried at the end. It was sweet and wonderful and meaningful and timely to my own life, as only Jennifer Smith always seems to manage to do. I picked this up less than a week after saying goodbye-for-now to a life I've spent three years building and knowing I was leaving my home for the past 11 years shortly. So, yes, a story about leaving home and the important people in your life and how much to hold on to was very, very relevant to me. But I think maybe while I was in a similar space, the space I was in wasn't the same place and I never had something close to that. My college was 45 minutes away from home and so were my friends. I never had to feel like I was leaving anyone behind. Maybe if I read it closer to leaving the country it would help.

My lack of important chemistry aside, this was beautifully written, as all of Jennifer's books are. It's split up by the landmarks they go visit and it's really fun to see how the night goes and evolves and I loved finding out the reason behind each landmark. It was really sweet but also very realistic as far as things teenagers do.

The romance was also incredibly sweet and meaningful. They had to have a lot of really big discussions about each other and the future and their relationship because of what night it was. And these conversations were thoughtful and honest. I loved this couple and seeing how they worked through their issues. It was adorable and heartbreaking.

It really is a great book with a super important and relevant topic. Well written, romantic, funny, and devastating all in one. I personally didn't click with it, but it has everything you want from a Jennifer Smith novel.

--Julie

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Mini-Review: Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Something Real
Heather Demetrios
Henry Holt and Co.
[February 4, 2014] 
Hardcover purchased
Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show's cancellation, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it's about to fall apart . . . because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™'s mom and the show's producers won't let her quit and soon the life that she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.
(Disclaimer: I read this book in February 2014 so...it's been a while.)

I'm fascinated by reality television. I don't watch a ton of reality TV regularly, but I do enjoy a handful of TLC and HGTV shows from time to time. But the idea behind it and the fact that we're so enthralled by it as a culture intrigues me. So when I heard about a book tackling the aftermath for a child reality star? I was all in.

Something Real exceeded all my expectations. It was a funny, meaningful debut with stellar characters. The sibling relationships were incredible and realistic and they played off each other so well. And Bonnie was such a great lead. She had an interesting perspective based on her previous experiences, the divorce, and the suicide attempt. It was nice to see a book where a character had mental health issues and a dark past, but she didn't let it rule her life. She had a sense of humor and had fun and was more than just her angst and depression.

I just really, really loved this book. It was fun and heartfelt and emotional and amazing. I've read Heather's books that have published since then, but this is still my favorite. 

--Julie

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Saying No to the Hero: Rape Culture in Romance

I've been reading a lot of romance novels lately. My summer has mostly been a giant reading slump so far and they seem to be the only thing that I can get through. But it's lead me to pick up on a certain trend.

"Your mouth says no, but I bet your body says yes."

No. No. No.

This trope is something used by rapists. It's people who convince someone that they actually do want sex after they say no, because their body is responding. I think it runs along the same lines as the people who use the excuse that somebody orgasmed to prove it wasn't rape. If they enjoyed it, than how could it be? Well it can be, because rape isn't about not letting someone enjoy something. It's about dominating and humiliating a person. It's about power.

I don't think romance authors are endorsing rape or that they want their heroes - in the books I've read, generally - to be considered dominating or power mad. In fact, the most recent novel that made me notice this trend was written by a bestselling author who has always been pro-woman and whose books in the past have often tried to put woman in powerful roles. I don't think anything was meant by this comment, but it keeps popping up.

This also becomes worrying because of the types of books I tend to see this in. Generally, it's in historical romances, because that's most of the romance I read. And in most historical romances, the women are sexually inexperienced - often virgins or only have one other partner/encounter - because it's true to the times. And this line often pops up during one of the first sexual encounters between the heroine and the hero. Basically, she has no real experience over this, but doesn't mentally feel ready and says no. He says the line, proves his point, and the heroine stops putting up a fight because it feels good and she's never felt this before. She lets it happen, despite saying no and never verbally saying yes. And the hero never checks in with her again. Then the novel progresses and everything's fine and the two have more sex and live happily ever after, because that's romance!

There are exceptions, sure! The hero listens when she says no. He does come back and check in regularly for consent. In many cases, the line doesn't come up at all. But it's unfolded this way often enough for me to notice and worry, even though I still don't read THAT many romances a year (At time of writing, I'm up to 12 in 2015, largely due to the number of slumps I've had this year). And normalizing it in our culture - meaning our books - and showing it as part of a consensual relationship in a romance novel that ends with the two together can send the wrong message. It says that it doesn't matter if a person says no if they're physically responding to it. It says it's not assault or rape if you love the person who does it.

Many might see it as just a line in a book and think nothing of it, but if they see it often enough, the message is going to sink in, consciously or unconsciously. Which is especially worrisome since many young women learn about sex through romance novels (because where else are they going to learn besides porn and fanfic?). I just really feel uncomfortable with how often I've noticed this line, or something like it. And I hope I'm not the only one.

--Julie

Lanna:

I really just wanted to add that I concur with everything Julie has said. I don't read a lot of the genre either but I do love it (like Julie, it's something that can help me through a reading slump) but of the romance books I have read? I see this crop up way too often.

The worst part is, I can love a book in spite of that -- and that's a problem. Because it shows how normalized it is to see characters be flippant about the importance of consent. We (or at least, I) have become so desensitized to it that something I should hate a book for doesn't hinder my overall enjoyment of it.

I said this to Julie already, but I think maybe the reason this is a thing that keeps cropping up in romances written by women is the same thing that makes people slut shame women -- we're still living in a society where women are often made to feel ashamed for being sexual. And so writers write these characters who are inexperienced and instead of just acting on their desires, they have to be seduced and convinced into it by men... They get to have sex, and enjoy sex, without fear of judgement.

There's also often that element of "you're not like other girls" from the male love interest that goes hand-in-hand with this (like, he likes that she isn't as willing as other girls, like those other girls were somehow inferior because they gave in too quickly or wanted to act on their desires). That's not okay either.

And I hate that that is a thing that women internalize, because we don't judge men in the same way and there's nothing wrong with being a "slut" (so long as it's all safe, consensual, and legal).

Or maybe I'm totally wrong. Maybe they're just aiming for historical accuracy? Or trying to cater to a certain type of fantasy? Who knows.

The TL;DR version: Julie is not alone in noticing this, and definitely isn't alone in having an issue with it.

Later.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Maus by Art Spiegelman

The Complete Maus
by Art Spiegelman


Summary: the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler's Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival - and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. 
This... This isn't an easy one to to review, because it's really hard to judge it as a graphic novel -- it's too difficult to separate the art work/writing from the subject matter. But, I'll try.

When it comes to what this story is about, I'd give it 5 stars out of 5, because it's a brutally honest story and it's a story that deserves to be told and should not be forgotten. So many stories of the Holocaust died with its victims...the survivors stories should live on because it's a part of history that needs to be remembered.

So, as far as that goes, the book is fantastic and worthy of all its praise. Not only for Art's portrayal of his families story but for showing what happened after -- so many stories about the Holocaust end when the war did, they don't show the way it haunts people, the way it changed them, the way the ripples of it are still having an impact on the lives of their children or the grandchildren. But this one did, this one showed that and it often did it in such subtle ways, like by showing day-to-day conversations he had with his father.

As for the art work -- honestly, it wasn't my cup of tea. I really appreciate what it did with the cats/mice thing, it was clever and creative and perfectly fitting but it was often hard to distinguish one character from another (perhaps that was intentional, I don't know) and because the book was so long and it was all these black and white panels...it's a bit much.

I also wasn't fond of the way it jumped back and forth between his fathers story of the war to scenes of him talking to/about his father -- I understand the importance of those scenes (as explained above) but it didn't make for a good reading experience and was the main reason it took me so long to get through this book...it felt kind of like being interrupted while reading, only it was the book you're reading that does the interrupting by abruptly pulling you from Vladek's story over and over again (and yet it wouldn't have been the same story without doing that).

Basically, the book was fantastic but it just wasn't my kind of thing because the format of it in general wasn't my kind of thing...but I respect and appreciate what it was trying to accomplish. I'm just more of a novel girl I guess, graphic novels rarely have the same impact for me. I am glad I read the book though because, like I said, it's something that shouldn't ever be forgotten.

Anyway, I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5.

Later.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

If you like X try Y

I've been meaning to do one of these posts for ages, and then booktubers started making videos sort of like this and I enjoyed those so... Finally getting around to doing this post.

I'm going to recommend a book and then recommend other things (another book, TV show/mini-series, movie, etc) that someone who liked that book may enjoy (also works in reverse -- if you've already seen the movie I recommend but not read the book that prompted the recommendation, maybe give the book a try).



 If you liked...

Eleanor & Park 
by Rainbow Rowell

try:

Book: Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

Why: Like Eleanor & Park, this is a story where the main character isn't slim and yet she still gets a love story and losing weight isn't park of her journey because she accepts who she is and finds someone who thinks she's beautiful just as she is. Also, while the romance isn't racially diverse, the male love interest is in a wheelchair so they are a diverse couple in their own way.


Why: Once again, going with the weight theme here... The main character of this show is overweight. She's dealing with mental health issues, family issues, she's confident in some ways and insecure in others. Her story is funny and it's heartbreaking and it's about friendship and love and acceptance and getting better -- and, again, she gets a love story. Plus! If you liked that Eleanor & Park was set in the 80's, this show is set in the 90's.


Why: Again, the time period -- flashbacks are 80's, movie is 90's so it has that similar sort of atmosphere that Eleanor & Park does. The main character isn't exactly overweight, but she's not one of the thin, model pretty, popular girls either and it's about her accepting who she is, getting over her high school traumas, finding love and all that nice stuff.

OR if you liked... 

The Duff
by Kody Keplinger

try:

Show: Awkward

Why: It has a lot of similarities to The Duff, like insecurity and self-confidence, like sexuality, like self-respect... I dunno, I just think they have a lot of overlapping themes but it's presented in a slightly more comedic way in Awkward. (Just a note though: the first season or two were definitely better, it lost a lot of its charm later on).


Why: Well, The Duff has its own movie so that would've been the obvious rec (except they do change a lot of the story)... But yeah, Ten Inch Hero (although, this rec really depends on your age) -- the characters are in their 20's and it's about friendship and realising you need to love and accept yourself and it's just really good and sweet and funny.

***I grouped those two together because they have similar subject matter so the recs for those two books are interchangeable***

If you liked...

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

try:


Book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Why: Heartbreaking WW2 story, beautiful writing. Female main character and the things she goes through and losses she experiences. Any hints of romance are only minor sub-plots, friendship and family are the heart of the stories.


Why: Spies during WW2, including female spies. If you liked that aspect of Code Name Verity, check this show out. Agent Carter, also because female spies although not set during WW2 and as she's a Marvel character it does have more of those comic book elements to it.

Mini series: The Crimson Field or Our Girl

Why: Crimson Field is actually set during the first world war, but it's about a group of women working in a field hospital in France. Our Girl is a modern story, it's about a girl who joins the army and becomes a medic and it shows her time in Afghanistan and how it is for her to be a female working in a male dominated setting. Basically, the theme of my recommendations here seems to mostly be women during wars.

Or if you liked...

Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys

try:

Book: The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Why: It's about a young girl in Russia during the siege of Leningrad. This is more of a love story than Between Shades of Gray, and while there are some overlapping themes (e.g. struggling to survive brutal conditions/starvation) they are very different stories...the reason I'm recommending it is because Between Shades of Gray told a story about a side of the war not often talked about/told in books (at least the ones I find) and I feel like The Bronze Horseman did the same.

Movie: Lore (based on a book, is on Netflix)

Why: This movie is subtitled but worth watching. It's about a young German girl and her siblings just as the war is coming to an end -- her father was a Nazi and it's about her disillusionment, her journey of coming to terms with the awful things he had done while struggling to get herself and her siblings to the safety of her grandmother. Again, it's a young girl trying to survive the consequences of war and a different side to the story.

***again, with those, similar subject matter so the recommendations are kind of interchangeable***

If you liked...

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

try:

Book: Me, Earl, & the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Why: I admit, I wasn't really a fan of this book. Strange way to start a recommendation, I know, but I've also seen mostly glowing reviews of the book from people on Goodreads and booktube and blogs...so, while it wasn't exactly my kind of thing, I do think it's one that might work for fans of TFiOS.


Why: This show was great and it was cancelled after one series but it ends in a good place. Basically, it's set in a hospital and it's about a group of sick kids -- their illnesses, their family issues and friendships and romances, the shenanigans they get up to, the nurses and doctors taking care of them. Plus, it's a pretty diverse cast (racially, and because of the illnesses of the kids). It has two kids with cancer (one of which has only one leg), a girl with anorexia, a girl with a heart condition, a boy with cystic fibrosis...all in the main cast.

Movie: Keith  (link to the trailer, but the trailer basically spoils the movie, jsyk)

Why: Keith is kind of the odd one out of these recommendations...with the other two, I chose them because they tried to show a more realistic portrayal of sick kids because movies and books and shows tend to turn them into these wise and smart beyond their years characters whose purpose is to change the life of the main character. And this movie, it actually does fall into the cliche, but it was still good in spite of that.

If you liked 

Throne of Glass
by Sarah J Maas

try:

Book: The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

Why: Well written high fantasy with strong female characters and they're both about people who have had their kingdoms taken from them/taken over and their fight to get it back.


Why: Legend of the Seeker because it's an epic fantasy series, it has strong female characters and magic and all that good stuff. Reign is a bit more grounded in reality as it's an attempt at making a show about Mary Queen of Scots (*is Scottish, is laughing*) but watching it really does feel more like watching a fictional fantasy show -- they've added subtle supernatural elements and it's not historically accurate and the costumes are incredibly pretty but laughably wrong...so yeah, female queen and her group of friends and their lives at court and all that good stuff.

If you liked...

The Iron King
by Julie Kagawa

try:


Book: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Why: Both are stories about girls pulled into the fae world.


Show: Lost Girl

Why: Again, about fae. This one is actually about a succubus and her human best friend/sidekick solving fae crime (there's more to it than that, and there's a larger fae story arc going on, but in the early seasons the episode arcs were mostly like them working on cases).

Mini-series: The 10th Kingdom or Alice

Why: While not about fae, both of these feature girls pulled from their own world into fantasy settings (in The 10th Kingdom, it's kind of Once Upon a Time-ish, where storybook characters are real...with Alice, it's an interesting take on Wonderland with a really adorable Hatter).

I have more of these written out, but I'll stop there.

If you'd like more of these posts or if there's a book/show/movie you want to see recommendations based on, just mention it in the comments (and what you want the theme of the recommendations to be, like similar subject matter, similar plot, similar atmosphere or relationships, etc.).

Later.

Monday, 10 August 2015

As Black As Ebony by Salla Simukka

As Black As Ebony 
by Salla Simukka


Summary: Lumikki Andersson must uncover a dark personal secret to outwit her bloodthirsty stalker.

Lumikki Andersson has a new boyfriend - easygoing, gorgeous Sampsa who adores her. But when her ex Blaze reappears, declaring his devotion, she doesn't know what to feel. She can't deny the chemistry between them, but does he deserve another chance?

Then the threatening letters start arriving, from someone who seems to know her intimately. Suddenly Lumikki is more alone than ever, and it's not only her life on the line. To stop the killer, she must uncover a dark secret that has haunted her family for years . . .

AS BLACK AS EBONY is the final dramatic chapter in the thrilling, contemporary 'Snow White' trilogy.
I've really enjoyed reading this trilogy and, in a lot of ways, this book was my favourite of the series...but, I did have some issues with it.

Whenever the character Blaze was mentioned in the previous books, I was dying to know more about him. I've never read a book where the love interest is transgender before so I was really excited to read about that...and in some ways, the book delivered, and in others not so much.

I did love the way Lumikki and Blaze's relationship was written. Whenever she talked about the connection she had with him I believed it (while a lot of books feel more tell than show) and I loved the way him being transgender was handled. The issue I had was that I never felt like we got to know more about him. We're told all about how she felt/feels about him, but he never really becomes a fleshed out character -- we know he's trans and we know he loves her and how she feels about him but that's it, nothing else and that was kind of disappointing.

And that was actually an issue with a lot of the characters (although it's something I mostly realised in hindsight instead of being something that bothered me while reading -- it didn't impact my enjoyment much, it just made the characters easy to forget once I put the book down).

I still liked the characters, but ask me to sort them into Hogwarts houses or which one would be most likely to say or do a certain thing and I wouldn't even be able to make a good guess. Even Lumikki, actually -- we're told a lot about things that have happened or are happening to her, we're told how she feels about certain people, but I couldn't explain her personality because I don't feel like we got to know that or really know any character.

Also, the dialogue was a bit off a times. I think maybe that's just a case of something being lost in translation -- something that probably sounded natural in the original language maybe comes across as very unrealistic and melodramatic when translated into English. It made a few scenes that should have been serious come across kind of like a scene from a cheesy soap opera.

The plot -- I like this one best out of the three, the only issue with it was that it required a lot of suspension of disbelief. Had this been the plot of the first book, it would've been fine but because it came last in the series it just became harder to believe this string of random bad things and coincidences could happen to this one person and that the timing of things was always just right (like, Lumikki thinks of someone and they appear, she goes through this random thing in the previous book which happens to trigger memories she had forgotten from her past, etc.).

...This review is seeming awfully negative considering I said the book was probably my favourite of the series. I think it's because I still loved it in spite of those negative aspects? And I also really love Salla's writing. Plus, the story hooked me more in this one than the other two and I really loved the way it ended, the resolution to her romantic troubles and her family troubles was a really good place to leave Lumikki's story.

I guess this is just one of those books where I can easily explain the problems I had with it but ask me why I liked it and I'll struggle to list the reasons...because, well, I just did. I'd rate this one 3.5 stars out of 5 and the series as whole 4/5.

Later.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Throwing My Hat In - ARC August

So, this is just a quick post to announce I'll be joining in ARC August, hosted by the lovely ladies at Read.Sleep.Repeat. I had been pretty much intending to do this as it was - I've been in a massive slump for most of the summer, but I've finished moving and I've got five weeks until I leave for England and I'm not bringing a single physical book besides my travel books and anything I might need for school, so I need to kick my butt in gear on my fall ARCs!

I'll post a picture at some point this week on Twitter and Instagram, but for now, I'll be mostly focusing on my BEA books, which you can find here. I've got 22 reads left from BEA, plus a few ARCs that have come in since or just before BEA and an egalley or two. I don't think I'll actually get to them all, but I'm definitely going to be trying!

I know, this is super boring and simple, but sign ups close in a couple of hours, so I don't have the light or timing to make this pretty (plus I think some of the ARCs are still at the old house - oops!). 

Anything in particular you think I HAVE to get to this month?

--Julie

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